The Pumpkin – issue 115: Quote of the Week… Corona v. Us… The madness of King Donald’s friend Rudy… American hero… Fancy that, a policeman!… GW: a hard rain’s already falling.

QotW….

“What country before ever existed a century & half without a rebellion? & what country can preserve its liberties if their rulers are not warned from time to time that their people preserve the spirit of resistance? Let them take arms. The remedy is to set them right as to facts, pardon & pacify them. What signify a few lives lost in a century or two? The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots & tyrants. It is its natural manure.” – Thomas Jefferson, 1787.

I didn’t say that myself, nor of course would the BogPo ever approve of what was said, even by such an historic eminence, but it was clearly not illegal to say it in 1787, when it was obviously said in jest, ho ho.

The above quote was supplied as a salutary reminder of the patriotic citizen’s duty by a Comment contributor to a Buzzflash article, 14 Feb., proclaiming Trump as a dictator enabled by political feebleness, the pursuit of sensationalism and cheek-turning on the part of the media and the opposition party. “Banana Republic Fascism: Don Corleone Trump Hijacks Department of Justice to Help Out His Criminal Cronies and Punish Truth Tellers” is the somewhat rococo title, if you’re interested.

Sure, and haven’t we been warning people about this very thing for the past three years? And would anyone listen?

Now all we have is Jefferson.

 

Corona v. Us

Update: Saturday 15 Feb., cases 67,186; deaths 1,527 – including the first outside SE Asia, a patient in France. Recovereds: 8,500.

Sunday 16 Feb., cases 69,269; deaths 1,669. Rate of increase within China said to be slowing. More cases aboard Diamond Princess as US moves to evacuate 280 citizens.

Monday 17 Feb., cases 71,337; deaths 1,776. Continuing to slow. Another 99 cases confirmed aboard the cruise from Hell, the Diamond Princess, at Yokahama as 300 American passengers are flown home, obliged to wear masks which doctors say are probably useless. 14 of them have already tested positive.

Coro news…

Quarantine periods in Henan province south of Beijing are being extended to 21 days because of two anomalous cases of patients testing positive long after coming into contact with cases in Wuhan

The Chinese stock market has fully recovered from its initial 8% drop due to the Covid factor, as Bank of China is printing money to keep investors happy. and stocks are soaring once more. Western commenters describe the trend as ‘ludicrous’.

Two hundred attendees at the 2020 UK Bus Summit in London, including several transport-related MPs who were hoping to curry favor with the bus-obsessed little boy in Number 10 are being contacted about a Chinese delegate who attended the event and has tested positive.

The Tokyo marathon is being restricted to professional runners only; Japan is preparing for a heavy number of potential cases. Beijing is thinking about cancelling its annual Party congress.

The WHO’s choice of “Covid-19” as the official name of the virus has annoyed the USB cable manufacturer, Covid – strapline goes something unfortunately like: “Guaranteeing more effective transmission worldwide”. Still, they do say there’s no such thing as bad publicity. (Source: The Late Show)

Africa has recorded its first case. An unnamed “foreigner” is in isolation in a Cairo hospital.

Furious British passengers trapped aboard the Diamond Princess at Yokahama are demanding the Foreign Office gets off its butt and rescues them too. So far, the government hasn’t commented.

Passengers all got a special Valentine’s Day free bottle of wine, courtesy of the cruise company, which must have pissed them off even more. A number of Australians have been flown home.

 

The madness of King Donald

…is contagious. His friend, Rudy Giuliani…

The madness of Trump’s friend Rudy

…went on Fox Business the other day, and asserted that nameless “Ukrainian oligarchs” had stolen over $5 billion in US aid, which explained why the £391 million military aid package had been held up by the president. He omitted to mention that the notorious quid pro quo had, until he said it, had nothing to do with oligarchs! Unless you consider Biden to be one.

Nor has he apparently noticed that the Senate has already found the president Not Guilty of extortion, obstruction and abuse of power, so they can all move on to the next criminal conspiracy.

This was an entirely new slant on the impeachment story and an allegation no-one had made before, or during the so-called trial in the Senate.

Meanwhile, an internal investigation into the Fox channels’ claims about Ukraine has branded them as “disinformation” and Giuliani as “too susceptible” to the Trumpsucking conspiracy bullshit peddled by Fox’s millionaire fantasy-show hosts like Hannity, Ingraham and Kilmeade.

An INTERNAL Fox inquiry!

“How do you think they became oligarchs?” he challenged the world to answer – Rudy frequently appears drunk on TV, and at this point he made weird munching and gnawing noises – and then went on to claim that he was “terrified” that the Democrats were “literally” planning to have him assassinated.

 

Meanwhile, freshly acquitted of extortion in the Senate, where the hopeless Senator Collins from Maine changed her guilty vote at the last minute on grounds that she was ”Sure the president would learn a lesson” from the experience of being impeached, instead Trump has tweeted the Governor of New York, Andrew Cuomo, a threat that unless he persuades the city’s courts to drop their investigations into his dodgy finances, he will defund a federal program subsidizing tourism to the city.

D’you ever meet one of those stroppy, 9-years-old, back-of-the-class lawyers, who’d say, “Nyah haa, I can do anything I like and you can’t touch me!”?

 

American hero

Many US commentators are expressing a raised degree of alarm that, this week, as it became abundantly clear that Trump has lassoed the Department of Justice and is using the law as a weapon to take revenge, to intimidate and harass his opponents and exonerate his friends, while himself remaining untouched by it, a line may irrevocably have been crossed into authoritarian dictatorship.

No longer in theory, the subject of nervous humor and furrowed examination but – as the Border Patrol has been transformed into armed snatch squads being sent this very weekend into so-called sanctuary cities in defiance of local authority ordinances, to batter down doors and haul away undocumented workers – in actuality.

With the cooption of the Senate and the Republican party into his grand scheme, the emasculation of law enforcement agencies and the packing of the judiciary with Trump appointees, there is now no longer a single institutional body other than the National Assocation of Funeral Directors, who must surely have a coldline to the Grim Reaper, that can curb the actions of the criminal president and bring him to account: excepting only the American people. The electorate.

And even they, worries Thom Hartmann, may already have unconsciously crossed their own moral lines to become a part of the new paradigm that Trump has brought about; just as ordinary Germans did in the early 1930s, they became Nazis without noticing that anything had changed. In Kafka’s novelette, Metamorphosis, Gregor Samsa wakes to find himself transformed into a giant insect: while asleep, he has compacted with the State and is now entirely and willingly serving its ultimately self-destructive agenda.

In the TV coverage of Trump’s recent rally in New Hampshire, in the background of what I call human wallpaper, serried ranks of hand-picked dumbfucks forming a cheering, gurning red, white and blue backdrop to the overweening vanity, the posturing, the nauseating self-congratulation, the snivelling self-pity and the many, many lies, can be seen a child of about 10. He is enthusiastically joining in on cue, all the hate-calls to lock up “Crooked Hillary” and Nancy Pelosi, parroting the nativist Trump catchphrases, booing at the word “impeachment” or hostile mentions of the “fake news” press gaggle perched uncertainly at the back of the hall; giving the thumbs-down sign at the mention of the name of the Jew, Soros.

This heavily indoctrinated little bastard needed no prompting from his dad, proudly sitting next to him in his MAGA hat. And he’s not alone: there’s been a recorded increase in bullying of minority children in schools, observers noting that much of it is accompanied by the verbal tropes of Trump’s unending round of well-drilled nativist rallies.

How long will it be, I wonder, before he’s riding around in a Humvee, stringing up Muslims and Jews and Mexicans, shooting them into pits?

Because that’s what’s going to make him an American hero for the 21st century, and he’s loving it.

 

Fancy that, a policeman!

British citizen Tony Camoccio has been released from Egyptian custody after paying £1,000 in bail and related fees. He was arrested after patting a policeman ironically on the back following a patdown and search of his belongings at Cairo airport. The policeman insisted he had been sexually assaulted and that CCTV footage would prove it.

Now who in their right mind, what horrible pervert, but only a British man would sexually assault an immigration official in full view of his colleagues? And indeed, after refusing to hand over the tape for independent review, Egyptian officials grudgingly gave in and admitted there was no assault. Why therefore Mr Camoccio has had to pay out £1,000 for the pleasure of touching up a copper seems to be just one of those things you might expect in al-Sissi’s Egypt – corrupt and mad to the core.

Don’t go there, is my advice.

 

GW: a hard rain’s already falling

British Isles: “the Met Office has issued a “danger to life” weather warning as the UK braces itself for Storm Dennis – a second weekend of gusty weather. Storm Dennis is forecast to batter large swathes of the country with 70mph winds and up to 140mm (5.5in) of rain in northern areas. The Environment Agency (EA) said the flood impact from the weather system is likely to be worse than last weekend’s Storm Ciara due to rain falling on already saturated ground.” (ITN)

Saturday 15 Feb., “…the observed pressure falls are more than double the threshold for bombogenesis. Pressure change during the past 24 hours has been unprecedented, from 987 mb to 936 mb at 06 .00 UTC today – a  remarkable 51 mb drop. Dennis will continue deepening at an extreme rate for another 6-9 hours before it reaches its mature stage, likely to push the lowest pressure slightly below 915 mbar.” (Severe-weather.eu) The cyclone is expected to weaken again before making landfall.

Note: here in Boglington-on-Sea it’s been a bit wet and windy, but by dinner time on Saturday nothing out of the ordinary. Some weather forecasters are in danger of crying Wolf too often. But there are a couple of Red warnings out Sunday a.m., further south of here. Many communities in the northeast and south midlands are flooded.

Dennis is gradually weakening as it moves eastwards but is bringing strong winds and ‘excessive’ snowfall to western Norway. Severe-weather.eu warns of maybe 2 meters of snow!

Fujiwara: the Fujiwara effect is what happens when Storm Dennis gets caught up by another intense cyclone in the middle of the North Atlantic that goes into orbit around it and then merges into it…. producing hurricane-force winds and 80-to-100-ft waves and another blizzard-battering for Iceland. DO NOT SET SAIL IN THIS! The remnants of the huge storm will push through north of Scotland on Monday and could in theory dump up to 3-ft of rain on the west coast of Norway.

The good news is, TWO MORE cyclones are intensifying behind Dennis, and will repeat the Fujiwara effect together on Wednesday, bringing heavy seas, high winds, more rain and some snow to the British Isles. These intense lows coming in multiples are unprecedented events in the annals of North Atlantic storms, according to weather-watcher site, Weather Decoded, and are the result of ferocious stratospheric winds ripping the jetstream to pieces. Wow.

Except that this report is looking like bullshit as in the wake of double-Dennis, high pressure is building across the Atlantic, 17 Feb.

Southeastern Europe is in for a new heatwave early this week, according to Severe-weather.eu, with temperatures 16 to 20°C above the average.

Mozambique: “heavy rain has caused further damage and flooding in central parts of the country just weeks after at least 28 people died and 58,000 were affected by floods in January. 2 people died in Manica province, around 500 families in need of food assistance and temporary shelter according to local media. Chimoio, the capital of Manica Province, recorded 175mm of rain in 24 hours to 12 February.” (from Floodlist)

Australia: “heavy rain continues to fall in Southeast Australia, with flooding affecting parts of southern Queensland over the last few days. This follows severe flooding in parts of New South Wales after days of heavy rain from 07 February. Marcoola recorded 231.8 mm of rain in 24 hours to 11 Feb. Queensland Police reported that the body of a person was found in Conondale. A woman is missing. Meanwhile, northern Queensland is experiencing severe to extreme heatwave conditions that are expected to stretch into the weekend”, ahead of Cyclone Uesi. (Floodlist)

15 Feb., 9 News reported, 25 million trees were flattened by Cyclone Uesi when it hit World Heritage site, Lord Howe island with winds gusting to 155 km/h. The Guardian records that 800 residents and tourists appear to have had a lucky escape. Both Sydney and Melbourne were threatened over the weekend with more heavy storms and potential flooding.

The next existential nightmare to hit SE Australia’s fire- and flood-ravaged coast is expected to be a plague of mosquitos hatched by the exceptionally warm, wet weather.

Peru: “further heavy rain has affected parts of Huanuco department. The department saw a series of flood events during the first half of January this year.” Dozens of people have been displaced and red warnings are out in several areas where rivers have overflowed. (from Floodlist)

 

Tunnel approaching….

Over a quarter of all US domestic “cheap” home-lease car loans are in default. $1.2 trillion dollars is outstanding on credit cards and a further $1tn owed in potentially non-recoverable student debt. These are all sub-prime areas bearing the highest lending rates, where investors bored with poor returns from conventional instruments are getting back into the debt-swaps and derivatives game, that brought the entire banking system down in 2007/8. No lessons were learned.

The mortgages market is next, as excess consumer borrowing is secured against homes; the stockmarket is a bubble unrelated to the real economy, fuelled by the Fed printing money and corporate stock buybacks using tax cuts – money that isn’t trickling down into higher wages or jobs; while US government and corporate debt is the highest in history. (Summary of Trump’s booming economy on Thom Hartmann, by Prof Richard Wolff.)

Cabinet reshuffle: Baris Johnson’s new Chancellor, Rishi Sunak is a millionaire former Goldman Sachs exec. and bankbusting derivatives salesman: a high-stakes gambler who owns a hedge-fund. His new Attorney General, Suella Braverman is reportedly an active member of an extreme Buddhist cult in North London whose 93-year-old guru has been accused of sex crimes against young male acolytes.

The Observer reports that press agencies are complaining that Johnson has been allowing access to key events, such as the signing of the EU withdrawal treaty, to the Number 10 “official” photographer only. This follows on from the notorious walkout by the Number 10 press corps after Cummings tried to bar several reporters he has taken exception to.

Welcome to New Britain.

 

The deaths of small towns… 9.00 am Tuesdays always pass me by… Postscriptum: the outcome…Something’s got to give… The Hallelujah Chorus… GW: Maybe the weather isn’t over, after all…It’s all blowing off… Trust us to lead you.

Thought for the Day

“Were I, or anyone, able to somehow get hold of a cosmic vacuum-pump and suck out all the uneventful, blank bits of our lives, like evacuating all the air from a Bell jar; and heat the rest up over a Bunsen burner, how much of a brown powdery residue of achievements and adventures and excitements would be left in the bottom of the tube?” – Uncle Bogler, in a previous Post.

 

“For God’s sake, Boris, come down and stop showing off, the bus has gone!”

The deaths of small towns

(A message to Brexit boobies)

“(Crispin) Odey, one of the most outspoken of the Brexit-backing hedge fund managers, holds a short position in Intu – the owner of shopping malls – that represented £33m worth of shares in the company at the end of last week.

“He also holds a position against struggling department store Debenhams that is worth £5.3m. The firm also appears to be betting that Britons’ appetite for cars will fall … The firm has short positions against Lookers, a large dealership chain, and Auto Trader, the online used-car directory.

“In total, his hedge fund, with headquarters in Mayfair, has taken out £436m worth of declared short positions against British companies, of which nearly £150m are consumer-facing entities.”

Why is the billionaire Mr Odey doing this? Because of the lovely lucrative uncertainty you have brought about by your incurious nonsense. It’s exactly what these money-breathers – and Vladimir Putin – have been hoping for. Hedge funds stand to make billions out of uncertainty in markets.

But before you voted you’d never heard of hedge funds, right? No idea what they do? What ‘shorting’ means? Well, think of an each-way bet on the gee-gees. You hope you’ll win more than you’ll lose, or at least get back some of your stake, if your horse doesn’t come in first. (Generally, the bookies win.)

But just the act of betting enough money against those companies’ shares going up will help to drag them down. That’s when the hedgers cash-in. Hedge fund managers are punters; but they’re also the bookies: the odds are 101% stacked in their favor. That’s why they’re billionaires and you’re not.

That’s why they invested £millions in supporting the Leave campaigns; the lies you fell for. Because disrupting the relationships between trading partners is the ideal way to create uncertainty in the markets.

Wait, there’s more….

“At the same time, Marshall Wace, one of the UK’s largest hedge funds with $35bn (£27bn) in assets under management, holds declarable short positions equivalent to just under £1.4bn – more than any other investor in Britain.” (Guardian Business)

You get the idea? They’re betting huge sums of money that more of our high street stores and other British businesses listed on the Stock Exchange will go under as a result of Brexit chaos.  Money you will never see back. Stores you will never see back. Jobs you will never see back. Boarded-up shops – the deaths of small towns.

You think they care?

Meanwhile, clever old George Soros, the everso liberal-minded philanthropist frequently accused of plotting with his Jew friends the Rothschilds to control the world, who in 1992 nearly pulled down the entire British economy on “Black Wednesday” by betting against the pound, is holding a £10 million side-bet that WH Smith, the venerable High Street stationers’ shares will fall.

What do you tragic clowns who voted to leave the relative safety of the European Union because you were miserable and wanted to “send a message” think was the prime mover behind the Leave campaigns: your sovereignty? Your shabby, disempowered, drug-ridden, hopelorn former industrial communities? Ha ha ha. Fooled you.

Well that’s just gone by the board as Theresa May has abrogated the power of Parliament to even vote on the leaving agreement she herself has negotiated, so afraid is she of losing the vote. What now?

More lovely uncertainty. And as stock markets plunge, thanks to the uncertainty created by the greatest disruptor of them all, Santa Trump, hedge funds will be raking it in this Christmas.

So much for your ludicrous, Union flag-waving ‘sovereignty’, you’ve voted to live in a dictatorship. How many times in history has a promised Parliamentary vote been cancelled because a hopelessly divided Government has no confidence in its ability to win it? …er, possibly at the start of the Civil War? This is a major constitutional crisis you’ve unleashed, in your ignorance.

You poor fucking turkeys have voted to cancel Christmas, for the foreseeable future. But nobody was listening. Chip-chop….

Well, not you personally, BogPo readers, safe here in our cozy filter-bubble, or whatever the current expression is, as outside the anarchic working-class dons its yellow vests and prepares to fight for the hedge fund managers.

I’m preaching to the converted. This message is for those who aren’t reading it:

You’ve been had, and you’re fighting the wrong enemy.

“Any minute now I’m going to take off this latex mask to reveal… Underwoman!”

9.00 am Tuesdays always pass me by

I realized with a start about half an hour ago that today is Tuesday.

Who knew?

Instead of trolling idiots on The Guardian website, in my usual day-long haze of viciously barbed self-righteous indignation punctuated with coffee and mince pies and duty-walks with Hunzi, I should have been a) at an early practice and b) going on to sing carols with my old choir at the old folks’ drop-in center in town.

I’d have missed the early practice anyway as I didn’t get up until gone 10.00, having already forgotten about it, despite receiving a reminder the evening before.

The days go by here, I no longer know what they’re called; they’re all the same.

I had agreed to do those things to help out, and once again failed. I hate myself, I am always doing it, it shows my isolation and that I probably just don’t care enough.

This is a choir I sang with for many years, but which had drifted in a direction of which I disapproved, away from robust World Music to hippy-dippy shit: moons and stars, feminism and futile appeals for peace; Zulu campfire songs, as I call those three-line chants with crunchy harmonies and untranslatable lyrics (repeat until you hyperventilate) that “Natural Voice Practitioners” learn in wimmen-only summer camps then fan-out far and wide to spread the gospel to community choirs made up of doughty veterans of Greenham Common and CND; and never the same stuff two weeks in a row.

It also had begun to irk me considerably, that a “training choir” originally for people who thought they couldn’t sing had so many long-time members who after years still had no confidence, who still had no idea about harmony, who still had no knowledge of basic musical notation and who still held the other sections up endlessly while they giggled and nattered and faffed about, pretending it was all too difficult, oh dear.

Why was I always the only one who would volunteer to take a solo?

Now I have a hospital appointment for next Tuesday, apparently, to have this desperately uncomfortable and inconvenient catheter removed, connecting my bladder directly via my elderly feller to a bag strapped to my leg, that sometimes brings on contractions, and leaks so that I have to wear a nappy.

Over time, my house has begun to smell of a curiously medicalized smell of fresh pee. “Trial Without Catheter”, they’re calling it. TWOC actually has its own printed leaflet. Although I have come to appreciate that not having to dash to the nearest loo or find a handy tree, wetting myself on the way, has been a bit of a boon, this damned tube is always pinching and snatching, sitting is hell, while putting on shoes is a trial….

The tube was inserted in an emergency back in July, but such is the nature of the National Health Service that appointments for anything inessential are often months away. My trial was not until the end of February next year, but this morning the hospital phoned with the offer of a cancellation, so naturally I grabbed it: this damn thing is the main reason I wasn’t going to visit family over Xmas as a 6-hour drive there and back the next day was not going to be pretty.

My worry now is, it’s another Tuesday morning – 9.00 am.

And 9.00 am and Tuesdays always pass me by.

Postscriptum: the outcome

So I made it on the dot for my TWOC (Trial Without Catheter – apparently, it’s a thing). I sat for an hour and nobody came. There was only one other person also waiting; the hospital seemed curiously deserted; the staff well trained to avoid eye contact.

Eventually I approached the receptionist to ask why I was there, and an elderly male charge nurse popped out through a doorway behind Reception, most apologetic, all the operating theatres were full as they had to clear the backlog of delayed surgical cases before the holiday.

But I don’t need an operating theatre! It’s just a simple procedure, a nurse could do it! Yes, but that’s what’s been booked, so that’s what we have to do, and we haven’t got the availability. We’re ever so sorry, can you come back at the end of January?

Since then my widely distributed family whom I am not now going to see at Christmas have been bombarding me with giftwrapped parcels from up the Amazon, so maybe it’s not such a bad outcome after all.

 

Something’s got to give

Do you want the good news, or the bad?

Well, they’re the same. USGS has announced the find of a huge 20-year reserve of oil and gas under the New Mexico desert, stretching across into Texas.

The specter of mile upon mile of nodding derricks intruding on the dramatic upland desertscape is appalling; but inevitable, as the vile Trump administration trumpets America’s noble self-sufficiency and low gas prices forever, while going all-out to drain its resources to the profitable lees as quickly as possible – before the planet burns down.

The only hope is, this is another load of oil-industry bullshit and it’s not as exploitable as they’re pretending. It was probably known about for years already but had been consigned to the 10% of “maybe someday” reserves. The argument for leaving this stuff in the ground is overwhelming; but not as overwhelming as the shareholder greed that will see it exploited by hook or, more realistically, by crook.

Yesterday there was a halfhearted intervention at the UN climate conference in Katowice as the US delegation got up on its hind trotters and began once again preaching the benefits of Trump’s fatuous “clean coal” fantasy. The Polish police have been notably successful in muting protest. It’s estimated, subsidies to the fossil fuel industries will soon run into the trillions of dollars in the effort to keep Exxon-Mobil, Koch industries and all the other ecocidal polluters afloat.

You can try and put a yellow vest on energy taxes, but you’re still paying in a roundabout way through your income tax and – the most regressive of all – VAT. M. Macron has announced a $114 a month raise in minimum wage to assuage the anger of the French “gilets jaunes”, the voices of the disempowered and the disappointed “squeezed middle” of provincial France, but that’s only going to increase the proportion of the tax take that gets passed on to the energy sector; meanwhile, lower fuel prices raising demand.

Something has to give, and soon.

 

Hallelujah chorus

Women in Guatemala are only one vote in parliament away from facing from five to ten years in gaol if they cannot prove in court that their miscarriage was a natural event. Otherwise it will be assumed they have behaved irresponsibly, or have had an illicit abortion.

Same-sex marriage is about to be made illegal, as are civil marriages. Any kind of “promotion” or teaching in schools and even universities on the subjects of homosexuality or gender identity – any lifestyle “incompatible with the human being’s biological and genetic features” – is to be outlawed, and acts of discrimination against the LGBTQ “community” legalized.

The country will also withdraw from any international conventions aimed at protecting the rights of minorities identifying as non-heterosexual or having transitional genders: “We are preventing Guatemala from engaging on any convention on gender diversity, says MP, Elvis Morena, who is pressing for the changes to the constitution.

The vote is currently postponed, owing to wrangling over the budget bill.

What it will effectively do, if passed, is to seal the growing power of the Evangelical Christian churches in Guatemala, where their pernicious form of far-right “Christianity” has been gaining a death grip.

As Diana Cariboni writes on Open Democracy:

“Bill 5272, proposed to ‘protect life and the family’, “is the first bill drafted by the evangelical churches in Guatemala”, said its drafter, Elvis Molina, a lawyer and pastor with the Iglesia Cristiana Visión de Fe (Christian Church Vision of Faith).

“It was introduced in Congress last year as a popular initiative supported by 30,000 signatures, and was immediately endorsed by 22 legislators led by Aníbal Rojas, a member of the evangelical party VIVA (Vision with Values).

“The draft law was then approved by a constitutional committee in Congress and passed two reading sessions on the floor. It’s now just one plenary vote from becoming official legislation.”

Welcome to Evangelical Disneyland.

And consider this: hugely wealthy Evangelical churches and their billionaire fellow-travellers in the US and Russia are bidding to gain the same kind of power over legislatures around the world – in the USA, where poor agnostic Mr Trump is obliged by his Evangelical Vice-President Mike Pence to endure a hand-waving, breast-beating, eye-rolling prayer service every Sunday at the White House, thanking God for extreme corrupt Republicanism – in Africa, especially, where in some countries same-sex relations carry the death penalty; in Russia, where Mr Putin is an enthusiast; and even in Britain, where the sanctimonious, sweaty-fear aroma of US and Russian Evangelism has been detected in the funding of the Brexit “Leave” conspiracy.

You have been warned, these people are vicious, arrogant and dangerous; seeking, in their most extreme manifestations, to impose their own patriarchal version of Sharia on a world reduced to mute, barbaric incomprehension and Biblical subjection to the most atavistic, superstitious belief in the non-existent Sky God and his imaginary Son.

Intolerant, authoritarian, controlling, loveless and fixated on the transfer of wealth from the very poorest to the very richest, this Millennarian death cult is not a version of Christianity recognized by many Christians.

But it’s coming our way.

Alle fuckin’ lujah.

GW: Maybe the weather isn’t over, after all

Indonesia: Heavy rain caused flooding and landslides in several provinces of Indonesia, leaving at least 9 people dead. Damaging floods were also reported in West Sumatra. It’s not been a good year. A government spokesman acknowledged that between 01 January and 10 December 2018, there had been 2,374 disaster events across the country. As many as 4,211 people are dead or missing, almost 7,000 injured and 9.95 million people displaced or affected. (Floodlist)

Vietnam: “at least” 2 dead as flooding and landslides have damaged roads and railway lines. Schools have been closed in some areas. Further heavy rain of up to 200mm in 24 hours has been forecast for central areas. (Floodlist).

Cyprus: At least 4 people died when their vehicle was swept away by flooding near the city of Kyrenia on 05 Dec. Damage was also reported in the capital Nicosia and roads and schools have been temporarily closed. The flooding was triggered by heavy rain that has fallen since 04 December. (Floodlist)

 Israel: Heavy rain from Wednesday 05 Dec. caused flooding in several areas, including Tel Aviv, Yavne and Rehovot, where dozens of children had to be rescued from their flooded preschool building. No injuries were reported. (Floodlist)

 UK: The Met Offfice is warning people to stay home and watch old movies tomorrow, Saturday 15 Dec, as unusual freezing rain is expected to make conditions treacherous for Xmas shoppers. Up to 40 cm of snow is expected in the Scottish highlands. Then on Sunday it’s all going to warm up again. (BBC)

 Canada: Flash flooding on 11 Dec. caused severe transport problems in parts of Vancouver. Emergency crews responded to at least 30 flood-related emergencies. Between 30 to 60 mm of rain fell in a few hours in parts of Vancouver. Port Mellon, 35 km NW of Vancouver, recorded 77mm of rain in 24 hours. Heavy snow is forecast for British Columbia.

 USA: Another storm over California and mudslides shut down parts of the Pacific Coast Highway, prompting evacuation orders in wildfire-scarred areas. Severe flooding was reported in the city of Costa Mesa. Downtown LA recorded its highest amount of rain in one day (06 December), 1.9 inches (48mm) beating the previous high of 1.01 inches (25.65mm) set in 1997. Heavy snow forced the closure of Interstate 5 between Los Angeles and the San Joaquin Valley. (Floodlist)

Preliminary research by precipitation expert Dr. Kenneth Kunkel of the North Carolina Institute for Climate Studies, has found that the three highest-volume rainfall events in the U.S. in the last 70 years have occurred since 2016. (Wunderground)

 Australia: Destructive “zombie cyclone” Owen with 200 K/h wind gusts is bearing down on the north of Australia with coastal residents being told to brace for the worst if the system reaches Cat 4 today. The “very destructive and severe” cyclone continues to increase in strength as it heads back towards Queensland, promising to deliver a deluge in its wake.

It comes as the southern end of Australia receives record-breaking levels of rain in Victoria and flash flooding with authorities warning “it’s not over yet”. People have had to be rescued from the roofs of their cars. 100 motorists are stranded close to the freeway at Wangaratta while the State Emergency Service has received 400 calls for help. (News.com.au

 

 It’s all blowing off

Prof. Paul Beckwith, a renegade Geographer semi-detached from Ottawa University who has devoted his life, his intricate website and Facebook page to explaining climate change issues and interpreting the latest research, has done his own investigations into warnings posted recently by other, less qualified satellite watchers, and confirms

“The unrelenting increase in global levels of atmospheric methane (this autumn – even today) went literally off-the-charts used to display methane for the Copernicus Atmospheric Monitoring Service (CAMS)

“Methane levels were so high that they swamped out the colour scheme used in the map legend, causing saturation in large red blobs with little detail. The colour legend was shifted by 100 ppb to more clearly show the detailed structure of where methane was being emitted

“Methane release in the Arctic from thawing terrestrial and marine permafrost, and from methane clathrates on shallow continental shelves are a huge and ever increasing risk.

Just so you know.

Because the recent, watered-down reports from IPCC and others giving “urgent” warnings that aren’t urgent enough, are mainly concerned with warning governments about CO2 emissions from human industry and don’t emphasise the main danger, from natural methane emissions exacerbated by runaway Arctic warming.

But of increasing concern, are rising methane outputs over the Himalayas – India and China. So far, those very high readings are unexplained.

 Endispeace

Trust us to lead you

Borderline insane, avowed racist and homophobe Senator Steve King of Iowa, returned in all his seedy glory by dumbfuck redneck yippee-ki-oh voters at the midterms, was in a session questioning Google’s high-powered CEO, Sundar Pichai about various conspiracy theories to do with the internet – whatever that is.

In addition to demanding a list of Google employees broken down by religious affiliation, presumably to prove his theory that they are a Godless bunch, the good Senator brandished an iPhone and demanded to know why it was showing his 7-year-old grandaughter his picture.

Google of course has nothing to do with iPhones.

Taken with the Georgia Republican senator who last year expressed the view in a hearing on climate change that sea-level rise is caused by rocks falling into the water, you finally realize, the age of extremely dangerous dumb is upon us.

Many of these clueless, uneducated legislators don’t believe anything that isn’t in the Bible.

And that’s God’s honest truth.

Grenfell, a bonfire of the sanities… We can’t hear you, Mr Secretary – a letter to Rex Tillerson… Fore!… GW: warming her gnarly fingers by the light of the burning windmills… Dissertation: On the Tedium of Buying Stuff From Builders’ Merchants.

Two thousand liters of water are needed to produce just one kilo of avocados. – Guardian

This may explain why Avi, my avocado tree, has yet to produce fruit. She’s lucky to get a couple of pints a week…

x

Grenfell

A bonfire of the sanities

It is clearly not good enough nowadays to know what you are talking about.

Any “expert” who fails to court the approval of the Sun newspaper and the rag-tag and bobtail herd of self-publicizing, technologically unsophisticated and overpromoted windbag MPs is doomed to be ground to dust and scattered to the winds of history.

The BogPo has previously noted how the aptly named Professor Nutt, among the world’s leading experts on the neurological effects of recreational drugs, lost his post as head of a commission set up to review the regulatory framework when he published a scientifically determined recommendation that certain drugs could safely be declassified to save policing costs and cut the prison population, thereby incurring the predictable wrath of a scientifically unqualified but clearly panic-stricken Home Secretary.

Then there was the Attorney-General of Northern Ireland, who sensibly proposed abandoning an almost entirely fruitless and seemingly unending inquiry into the 30-years-old crimes committed during The Troubles, ordered in the wake of the Good Friday agreement to bring “closure” to victims’ families, as it was badly draining police resources sorely needed to fight today’s crimes. That cost him his job in a welter of Cameronian outrage.

You would think that these so-called “experts” would know better than to make sensible suggestions based on advanced knowledge and years of research. Would it not make perfect sense to save money by not having an education system at all, but to put children directly to work in call-centres?

(Subsequently a number of MPs have called for the Northern Ireland investigations to carry on, while demanding the inquiry overlook the clandestine role of the security services in well-publicized political assassinations. There clearly needs to be one law for the baddies and another for the good killers. It’s an insult to our brave boys to pursue them for their murky conspiracies after all this time. After all, there was a war on.*)

So, this morning a report is published by a leading engineer and public safety specialist, looking into the use and application of the building regulations in the wake of the Grenfell Tower fire.

This was not the fabled, judge-led “inquiry” into how 72 people came to lose their lives in that towering inferno, which hasn’t even started yet*, but merely a supportive technical report into building safety, human accountability and the regulatory environment.

Before anyone could possibly have read, let alone understood all 350 densely argued technical pages, the media and politicians – experts all – were stridently demanding the head of Dame Judith Hackett on a platter for failing, seemingly, to do the obvious thing.

Scrap 349 pages of the report and use Page One to call for an immediate ban on the filthy stuff: yes, killer cladding….

Cladding helped spread the fire. But was its use already banned?

Never mind that there are already explicit legal controls on the use of flammable materials in high-rise buildings. Controls that are not being properly enforced, as Dame Judith cogently reports, with local authorities, architects and builders cutting corners and costs. The point being that they need to be properly enforced through a thorough overhaul of the systems for specifying, testing and applying these materials safely, making certain people accountable for failures at every stage of the planning and construction process.

It’s not a cladding issue, so much as an enforcement problem. And Dame Judith argues that until the regulations are more tightly enforced and people made accountable, no amount of banning is going to help.

Tell that to the Marines, as they used to say.

Dame Judith is a serious academic and so failed completely to comprehend her role in all of this, which was simply to go along with the unlettered emotional demands of the lawyers, survivors and families of the victims of the fire, the media and Labour’s shadow housing secretary John Healey, and BAN the filthy stuff, whatever it is.

Just magic it away.

Why they don’t get sick-bitch Katie Hopkins or Trevor fucking Kavanagh of The Sun or Owen Jones and Polly Toynbee of The Guardian to handle these investigations – “experts” who understand that the real issues  are too much immigration, too little social equality, Tory indifference – is not immediately obvious.

It didn’t help either that, when asked three times on BBC Radio 4’s Today show why she did not call for a ban on flammable cladding and solve all of the problem forever, as if Martha Kearney was the only one who had thought of it, Dame Judith stupidly tried three times to explain that banning it was not really the solution, until it sounded as though she was suggesting setting fire to all high-rise buildings.

Sometimes people are too clever for their own good.

It does not help that she is a former director of the Energy Saving Trust, an organization that in the past promoted the use of a similar type of plastic cladding insulation to that which contributed its toxic fumes to the high death toll at Grenfell House. (Guardian report)

Notwithstanding, the regulations already state that it must not be used on high-rise buildings, and Dame Judith’s point is that someone had been responsible for ignoring the regulations, while others had failed to implement safety measures recommended by previous inquiries, such as the mandatory retrofitting of sprinklers, which certain politicians still in office had determined would be too expensive to waste on the poor. Banning polyisocyanurate foam (PIR), she argues, will not help if people were simply going to break the rules.

A subtle distinction which, I fear, does not lend itself to the construction of crowd-pleasing headlines and sensible political statements free from electioneering and media-driven hysteria, pandering to the general ignorance of the public, promoting further socially damaging mistrust of people who do at least know what they’re talking about.

*

*Okay, it started the next day. By one of those astonishing synchronicities for which The BogPo is justly famed, this story resurfaced in the news just 24 hours after I posted the paragraph above about Northern Ireland, and in pretty much the same format as the original, in 2014:

Prosecutions for Troubles-related murders should be brought to a halt, according to Northern Ireland’s former Director of Public Prosecutions. Barra McGrory denounced proposals for a new Historical Investigations Unit (HIU) as “convenient politically”. But he added it had not been properly thought through. In response a UK government spokesman said it was “committed to building widespread consensus and delivering better outcomes”. (BBC News)

Let’s see how long McGrory lasts. Longer than this government, one hopes.

x

A Letter to Rex Tillerson

Former US Secretary of State, retd.

Dear Mr Secretary

You were, I believe, the Secretary of State for the United States government in 2017 exactly a year ago, when President Trump made his much-hailed visit to Riyadh, the capital of Saudi Arabia – and then on to Tel Aviv, the erstwhile capital of Israel?

And the Secretary of State is, correct me if I am wrong, the senior diplomat, consulting on and implementing, if not always driving foreign policy?

Trump waggles his weapon. Was Qatar shafted to the hilt?

I am wondering therefore how you have responded, in your reserved and private fashion, to the emerging news of what might have happened, there in Riyadh and afterwards?

I am referring, obviously in the first instance (we’ll leave Israel out of it for now), to the Qatar affair.

For it seems that while you were supposedly in command of international diplomacy, being constantly undermined by your boss, the following narrative was playing out, very probably without your knowledge.

Qatar, Mr Trump assured us at the time of his visit, was a good friend of the USA and a key ally in the fight against ISIS. He met the Emir, vague promises of $billions in military sales were made for the cameras – it should be remembered that Qatar already hosts the biggest US military base in the Middle East, al Udeid, the forward operations headquarters of Centcom.

On the basis of what is currently suspected rather than definitively known, however, behind the young Emir’s back – and apparently yours, Mr Secretary –  Mr Trump was doing – or soon afterward did – one of his famous “deals” with the Saudis.

The presumption has to be, does it not, that he offered to go ahead with abrogating the Iran nuclear pact in Saudi’s regional hegemonic interest, in exchange for certain services?

(He is, as you well know, apart from Messrs Bolton and Pompeo, two convenient anti-Iran “hawks” he appointed to the senior security and foreign policy posts in his administration just before announcing US withdrawal, the only person in the foreign policy establishments of more than half the world who thinks it is a good idea to abandon the Iran treaty.)

The deal, I believe, was much as follows:

Saudi Arabia under its new Crown Prince, a US shoo-in, and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) would agree to put intolerable pressure on Qatar to meet certain, may we say incoherent, objectives. Economic and trade sanctions, a blockade of essential supplies, closure of the Al Jazeera news services, even military invasion were threatened. America would not be directly involved, but would explicitly support those actions.

Mr Trump in turn would make speeches to his not very bright support base, accusing Qatar of this and that, being a major funder of global terrorism, a secret ally of Iran, etc., etc., undermining their global credibility – especially that of their wealthy international investment community, to whom his comments were clearly addressed.

But why pick on poor little oil-rich Qatar?

Perhaps because Mr Charles Kushner, father of Trump’s son-in-law and “senior White House advisor” in charge of Middle East peace negotiations, the shining booby Jared, had – it’s reported – been lobbying the Qatari sovereign wealth fund, touting for a half-billion dollar investment to bail out his failing property empire in the States.

The Kushners were desperate for cash.

In 2007, while Kushner Sr was in gaol over fraud and witness tampering charges – he sexually blackmailed his own brother-in-law – left in charge, pathetically eager to please, Jared had done a hasty and ill-considered deal to acquire a massive piece of Manhattan real estate, 666 Fifth Avenue, and had caught a serious cold with the financial meltdown that year, incurring debts approaching two billion dollars from which he’s never recovered.

Chinese banks had originally offered rescue finance, but withdrew. On that basis, Qatar felt the Kushners’ credit was not good enough, and also withdrew. Two weeks later, the threats from Riyadh began; boosted in April this year by a further threat, directly from Washington to relocate the vital al Udeid airbase and its 10 thousand US service personnel to another country.

But then, by a fantastic stroke of luck, or in a sensible and informed change of heart, the New York Times reports, having granted Saudi Arabia its reward, not to mention Israel’s, this month Mr Trump began once again hailing Qatar as an important friend and ally. The UAE is backing off and all’s right with the world.

A sudden and, observes MSNBC News, a remarkable turnaround. Well, and how did that happen?

So, Kushner Companies are presumably celebrating the news from Bloomberg that the Qatari sovereign wealth fund is “looking again“ at the many obviously advantageous opportunities presented by becoming a part-owner of Manhattan’s most prestigious, near-empty office block.

Could it be there’s a connection? Nah, it’s too far-fetched. The President start a war just for personal gain? Preposterous! A conspiracy theory. Fake nooze.

(A building, incidentally, over the marketing of hard-to-shift units within which Jared Kushner and his wife, Ivanka Trump were to be indicted for sales misrepresentation – until Mr Trump’s election, when the charge simply melted away, along with all the District Attorneys in New York.)

Mr Secretary, I wonder what you think of this criminal shakedown of a sovereign nation by the most corrupt US president in history? A nation which, we might mention, competes aggressively for major real estate deals around the world?

To bend US government policy to the fraudulent acquisition of public wealth might in some unimaginable but possibly plausible universe at least have benefited the nation.

But to conspire to extort foreign finance purely for the private benefit of his son-in-law, a government official to boot; to blackmail and threaten the existence of a sovereign nation, to risk a regional war leading to a greater conflagration and the security of a major US military facility purely for a sum of money which Mr Trump has extensively boasted he has in his own bank accounts, and much more, is surely a criminal and treasonous enterprise worthy of condign punishment?

Will you please, Mr Tillerson, for God’s sake and that of your benighted Republic, speak up about what you know, or suspect you know about this squalid “deal”?

We can’t hear you, Mr Secretary.

 

Fore!

And why wouldn’t Trump extort money from little Qatar, when as a quid pro quo he’s ordered his consigliere, Wilbur Ross at the Commerce department to lift sanctions on ZTE, a giant Chinese telcoms company he previously accused of ripping off US tech firms, when by an amazing coincidence the Bank of China has just agreed a $500 million loan to finance a resort project in Indonesia featuring Trump-branded hotels and golf courses?

Let’s stop pretending, if we ever did, shall we? His modus operandi is becoming clearer by the day: he is abusing the power of his office and the might and global reach of the USA to extort vast sums of money from corporations and even nations for his own personal gain and that of his crime family.

(The latest one is Ukraine, whose government has reportedly paid $400 thousand into the Cohen slush fund for access to the White House.)

The President of the United States is one big, fucking crook. Not in the usual sense they all have been, one way or another. No, actions speak louder than words. Trump’s methodology is to run the world misusing US foreign policy as a vast protection racket. And to co-opt the American people as his accomplices in crime.

It’s doubtful that even the vast and rambling Mueller probe is going to unseat him, or even prevent him running for and probably winning, a second term in 2020.

Because, like all the best mobsters, Trump is untouchable. His lieutenants may go down, his wheeler-dealing may look heinous, the corruption blatant: but so far, nothing seems to be linking him directly with any actual crimes.

And even if it did, the constitutional issue of whether a President can be indicted for any common criminal activity short of treason remains an open one.

x want to extort money from Qatar

GW: warming her gnarly fingers by the light of the burning windmills

Afghanistan: “At least 40 people have died and 4 injured in flash floods over the last 7 days. Many areas of the country are still struggling with drought conditions after an unusually dry winter. The number of people forced by drought to migrate within the country has reached more than 20,000″ (Edited report from Floodlist, 16 May.) PS: 21May,

An update by Afghanistan Natural Disaster Management Authority (ANDMA) of 20 May reported that the total number of flood related deaths now stands at 72. “The flood situation has worsened over the last few days as heavy rain has continued to fall.”

India: “At least 80 people have died as powerful storms swept through northern India, demolishing houses, uprooting trees as winds turned the skies brown with dust and sand, officials said Monday. More storms are expected in the region this week. Less than 2 weeks ago, similar storms caused 134 deaths and injured another 400. The extreme weather comes amid withering summer heat and approaching monsoon rains.” – Wunderground

Sri Lanka: The “Department of Meteorology said that Anamaduwa, Puttalam, North Western Province recorded 35.3  cm of rain (1 ft) in 24 hours to early 21 May.” (Floodlist). Possibly 5 people have died as a result of flooding and landslides as the island is battered by storms, dumping up to 15 cm of rain a day over several days.

“Far East”: US scientists at NOAA are trying to track a major unexplained source of the globally banned ozone-killing refrigeration-to-aerosols chemicals, CFCs, detected as a result of research showing the ozone holes created in the 1980s aren’t repairing themselves fast enough.

S Korea: flash-floods in and around Seoul, 1 dead, 1 missing as 20 cm of rain falls in 36 hours.

Syria: Heavy rainstorms caused flash-floods in parts of the country, including Banias and Aleppo, on 12 May.

NE Africa: A rare tropical cyclone, Sagar is concentrating in the Gulf of Aden between Yemen and Somalia. Sagar’s main threat is dangerous flash flooding in the deserts of southern Yemen, northern Somalia and Djibouti into the weekend. (The Weather Channel) … “Severe flash flooding and river flooding across the region will lead to a loss of human life, livestock, and the destruction of crops, property and infrastructure. Very heavy rainfall occurring across Western Yemen (linked to, although not directly from the cyclone) is likely to promote cholera infection rates in the weeks ahead.” – (UK Met Office)

16 dead, many missing. On Sunday, forecast models indicated that a disturbance dubbed 92A could develop into an intense hurricane-strength cyclone this week, possibly threatening Oman by late in the week.

N Africa: the town of Setif in Algeria experiences flash-flooding following a heavy rainstorm.

Hold that taiga! Siberia burns, as seen from space. 15 May.

Russia: Vast plumes of smoke are visible from space along the Amur river near Komsomolsk and around Chelyabinsk, blowing towards the Arctic, as Siberia continues to burn out of control after a month of wildfires. (Siberian Times report)

USA: “Severe storms caused major damage in Northeastern USA on 15 May. 2 deaths were reported – an 11-year-old girl in Newburg, New York, the other in Danbury, Connecticut (where 4 tornadoes, 3 at max. TF-1, touched down on 17 May) – as a result of falling trees. Almost 400,000 people were without power in New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Connecticut and Massachusetts. Heavy flooding was reported in parts of Maryland, in particular Montgomery and Fredrick counties, where up to 6 inches of rain fell during the storm. Hail up to 2.5 inches (63.5 mm) was also reported.” (Edited report from Floodlist, 16 May. More “severe” storms are forecast for the midwest at the weekend.)

USA: “…the California Energy Commission has unanimously voted to approve measures requiring solar panels on all new homes, condos and multi-family buildings up to three stories high beginning in 2020. The requirement is a historic first in the United States and is in keeping with the state’s ambitious zero net energy goals to reduce greenhouse emissions.” The decision emerged the same day a 350-page report was released, highlighting rapidly accelerating climate change in the region. – (The Weather Channel.)

Alabama Senator, Mo Brooks distinguished his Republican self in a committee hearing when, while browbeating a climate scientist, he attributed sea-level rise to rocks and stuff falling into the water, “like the White Cliffs of Dover”…

Colombia: severe thunderstorm inundates Medellin. (CEWN #118)

The scene in Guatemala yesterday (Photo: Red Cross)

Guatemala: 10 cm rain in 24 hrs, floods. 2 dead, 80,000 flooded out. (Floodlist, 19, 21 May)

Europe: It’s been snowing in the highlands of central France, the Alps and over into the Balkans. Up in Scandinavia and northwestern Russia there’s a record spring heatwave, with temperatures in Finland and Sweden touching 30 deg C, 85F. Lapland is bracing for its worst spring thaw floods in decades. Severe thunderstorms and torrential rain have brought flash-flooding to parts of the Netherlands and Germany. The town of Bistransky in Croatia was underwater. (CEWN #118)

Germany: on 16 May, during a powerful storm two people were injured by a huge tornado that hit Viersen, near Dusseldorf. (CEWN #119)

UK: Good news, bad news…. “Britain’s windfarms provided more electricity than its 8 nuclear power stations in the first three months of 2018, marking the first time wind has overtaken nuclear across a quarter. Wind power produced 18.8% of electricity, second only to gas …. At one point overnight 17 March, wind turbines briefly provided almost half of the UK’s electricity.” However…

“Funds going into renewable energy fell more than 50% in 2017, having dropped by 10% in 2016, bringing annual investment in the sector to its lowest since the financial crisis in 2008. The environmental audit committee said (16 May) that the government would be unable to meet its pledges on carbon emission reductions if the collapse continued. The MPs also said the government was failing to implement policies to cut emissions. (Reporting: The Guardian)

As if that were not enough, British Environment Secretary, Michael Gove was summoned to Strasbourg earlier in the year to explain Britain’s failure to do anything much about NOx pollution:

“On Thursday morning (17 May), after an apparently unconvincing performance and an extension of the deadline to come up with policies, the UK has now been referred to the European Court of Justice, along with the other big polluters: France, Germany, Hungary, Italy and Romania. The limits set out on air pollution under EU Directive 2008/50/EC had to be met in two stages, by 2005 and 2010, but are still being breached by the referred states as of 2018.” – The Independent.

Insectageddon

Mildly drunk, I’d left some of the dog’s meat out uncovered on the kitchen worktop overnight. This morning it was still there, gently oxidizing, and not a fly to be seen.

Normally after a week of warm sunny weather it’d have turned to fly-egg pie by then. There wasn’t a pregnant bluebottle anywhere in view; not even an egg. It’s late May, and 17 degrees.

Later, I took Hunzi for his usual walk. Apart from a few gnats, I saw no flying insects. No butterflies on the sedum flowers, no bees on the clover. There’s not much out by way of pollen-rich wildflowers, but there’s enough. This time last year we had a minor plague of click-beetles and false-wasps of various kinds feasting on the rotting umbrels of cow-parsley flowers.

No cow-parsley flowers.

Botanists using standard measurements for this and that say Spring is arriving 26 days earlier now than 100 years ago. This year it arrived 26 days late. The last trees – mainly ash – are only just coming into leaf now. Many have abnormal leaf development, while conifers around the sports ground here are massively overproducing cones, often straight out of the bare wood, and the Corsican pines all appear to have developed some kind of browning-off disease.

I think the reason for the lack of insects is not insecticides – we have no commercial or arable farming locally for miles, just sheep. It’s the dislocation of the seasons. Everything evolved in synch, now we have winter arriving in spring, wetter summers colliding with warmer, dryer winters; shorter autumns. Insects and plants evolved to emerge at times beneficial to each other: now the clock is broken.

Either that, or it’s those darned chemtrails. Plus, of course, Planet X Nibiru and the Hawaiian volcano.

A propos of which:

Hawaii’s Big Island increasingly resembles the pit of Hell. But the residents are mostly staying put. (Photo: Express)

“Lava destroyed four more homes and isolated dozens of others in the shadow of the volcano Saturday during a “very active” morning, according to scientists from the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory. It advanced at rates of up to 300 yards per hour.

“It then entered the Pacific Ocean, forming lava haze, or “laze,” as the hot lava hit the ocean, the Star-Advertiser also reported. Residents were warned to stay away from any ocean plumes, as laze sends steam and hydrochloric acid peppered with fine glass particles into the air.”

22 fissures are now spewing molten lava into the air and a major eruption is still a possibility.

Awesome footage:

weather.com/news/news/2018-05-02-hawaii-kilauea-volcano-activity

x

Dissertation

On the Tedium of Buying Stuff From Builders’ Merchants.

When our two nearest branches of the B&Q consumer DIY supplies chain closed two years ago (to “increase our consumer choice”, according to the press release), it left in the town no midrange supplier of useful materials for light amateur building work.

If you needed to buy things like bricks, paviors and fencing panels, timber, doors, paint or sheet materials, the choice came down to, either housewares stores and garden centers stocking none of those items, or the full-blown builders’ and agricultural Trade merchants, with their grudging back-store bins of tools, ironmongery, creosote and useful unexplained small architectural items.

There’s nothing inbetween.

So my new garden wall, all six feet ten of it (it’s taken ten days to get that far) that’s reached its final brick course with just two more bricks still needed – one-and-a-half, actually – and no more cement mortar, was sitting there in the sunshine on a Saturday morning before work (yes, I have work, for now!), inviting me to spend a few hours completing it, had I the requisite supplies (it’s always a fine calculation between ordering too much and too little).

Accordingly, as I wasn’t really needed in an exam room with only ten candidates still sitting, I took an unpaid hour off work to get to a local builders’ merchant I’ve been using for the project in time before they closed – at noon.

Arriving at ten minutes to, I found the front gate half shut. A surly young man warned me to turn around, as they were closing in “two minutes”. Can I have fifty bricks? I asked, having the previous week pre-purchased 250 to finish the wall but, having nowhere they could all be delivered to and stored simultaneously, suggested they hang on to them and I would collect them as needed. “Fifty?” he demanded, incredulously. “But we’re closing now!”

Eventually he relented and started loading the car. There were some other small items needed, but I thought better of going in to the Trade counter and even daring to ask, when obviously they were all hoping to fuck off early, presumably to catch the Royal Wedding… lolz.

This deliberately offensive recalcitrance is just so typical of the builders’ merchants’ anachronistic business model.

It is of course designed to suit the traditional bare-buttocks Trade builder, who doesn’t work weekends. Or doesn’t he? The Ukrainians putting up the 12 million-pound flats next door to my old mum in London worked weekends, evenings too. Drove her barmy. The times, they have a’ changed. Except in the wholesale supply business, obviously.

Who else still closes at 5 p.m. weekdays and noon on Saturdays, just when hardworking householders have done their supermarket shopping and are thinking about getting out and doing stuff around the garden? Here is an obvious consumer market opportunity being missed to suit the recidivist and curmudgeonly jobsworths who populate the building supplies trade.

Usually three or four blokes are hanging around the office area behind the counter, doing what looks suspiciously like nothing much. A phone will be ringing off the wall but no-one takes any notice of it – nor of the two or three crumpled-looking, dust-covered, boiler-suited customers – and you, trying to catch their eye. Instead, the customers catch yours, observing how your lack of a well-filled toolbelt and steel toecapped boots, your unlined face, plaster-dust-free hair and soft hands indicate you’re just another householder imagining you can do a man’s job and thereby save yourself a pittance.

Huh, little do you know!

One sales assistant will be listlessly doing something on an aged computer running Windows 6; another making tea, a third drinking his slowly. A fourth will be laboriously browsing through a trade catalog to find the price of the thing someone asked for, half an hour ago. The phone will be ringing off the wall. None will actually be assisting.

Every request is greeted with much sucking of teeth and rolling of eyes. “Ooh, dunno mate, was it the triple-flanged 4 mil. squiggled wonkin you was wanting, or just the double? Only they don’t make those in brown anymore, purple do you?…”

Endless forms will be generated in triplicate, to be taken along by hand to the warehouse, way across the nine-tenths empty yard, as proof of purchase, plus VAT, where three more blokes doing nothing much will scan them for several long minutes before emitting deep sighs of frustration. “You want it cut to length? Here’s a saw…” Later, they will all guffaw over your CCTV footage.

It’s like finding yourself back in the early 1960s.

How do they do it? B&Q would have been open until 8 p.m. Saturday, and 4 p.m. on Sunday. Even the local recycling center, with its bolshy operatives and Hitlerian foreman is open on a Sunday. With five builders’ merchants in and around the town it’s a miracle how at least four haven’t gone out of business years ago, owing to their infuriatingly lackadaisical approach to customer service and short supplies of almost everything.

Yet miraculously they survive, while the Bs & Qs of this world are increasingly going under. Overpriced and poor quality, it’s no wonder we can’t build affordable homes that don’t leak.

I’d guess the key is, don’t try to be a supermarket unless you’re a supermarket. Builders’ merchants have understood the principle well, and there they still are, curse them, sitting on their grim industrial estates, resolutely closed at every opportunity.

The British love and deserve nothing better than to be monumentally frustrated, a service the builders’ merchants deliver with aplomb.

 

Banking on the IT crew… GW: Oh, but no, look, it’s another Ice Age!… Striking miners: Scargill vindicated!…Been good to know you…

“In the course of four months, I spoke with twenty current and former staffers on Trump’s National Security Council, and tried to answer an unsettling question: What does it mean to be national-security adviser when one of the greatest risks facing the country may be the President himself?”

  • Patrick Radden Keefe, writing in The New Yorker about his profile of former National Security Advisor, Gen. McMaster. The picture painted of life in Trump’s White House by those staffers is somewhat horrifying, you have been warned. I thought I’d worked for some lying, bullying, pig-ignorant, dysfunctional money-grubbing cretins in my time, but this….

 

Vogon

 

Bolton

Banking on the IT crew

In the wake of the 2007 banking crash, in 2012 I received a letter from Lloyd’s Bank, of whom or which I had been a client for over 35 years: man, couple, homeowner and business tycoon, informing me that to “increase my consumer choice” my account was being moved, along with those of a couple of million other indigents at the bottom of the wealth heap, to a relaunched subsidiary, the former Trustee Savings Bank, TSB.

Judged by the somewhat basic “vanilla”quality of its logo and general one-color in-branch design scheme (depression blue), it was clear that things would not always go well for us. But I was relieved to find that the familiar faces had remained at my local branch and were happy to lend me money where the old Lloyd’s wouldn’t even let me have a check (cheque) card.

I chose therefore to eschew the benefits of online banking and phone apps, and resolved to continue dealing personally with my torturers, there being a point of crossover between brand loyalty and Stockholm Syndrome.

It seems like a wise decision in view of what happened last weekend.

A few days earlier, customers of TSB had received a text, warning of a suspension of online banking facilities over the weekend. The bank was “upgrading” its computer systems, but would be back online by 6 pm, Sunday.

“Hahaha”, I thought. Yeah, right. For I had been a victim of a bank computer upgrade before, back in the 1990s, when a PPI failure led to the Beneficial Bank of America demanding I repay £2,500 owed on a credit card, immediately. Difficult negotiations followed.

Eventually, two truths emerged: one, that they had fired the insurance company that had been paying off the interest on my loan under the PPI policy after my company went bust, but had not told anyone, so that the payments had stopped without my knowing; and two, that they had then lost all their customers’ records in a computer “upgrade”, that had been kept equally hush-hush, and so they had no recollection of our existing agreement for me to repay the loan on a monthly basis.

On Wednesday I went into the town branch of TSB and asked the cashier if I should perhaps withdraw all my savings in cash? It was a joke, sort of. “Oh no”, she said, brightly. “There’s no need for that. The bank has been running tests on the new system for weeks, nothing will go wrong.”

Nevertheless, I took the precaution of transferring £500 into my current account, and getting a printout of my balances.

This morning, the complaints were flooding in to the news programs. Half the customers said they hadn’t been told, they couldn’t make payments or withdraw money… one guy said he’d been credited with £35 thousand he didn’t have, and had been sent another customer’s account details… other people’s mortgages had been paid off, a curious complaint – and so it went on.

When are these vital institutions going to wake up and understand, the IT crew are just a groaning heap of useless baboons who have been at the fermented fruit again?

Get it into your woolly old bankers’ heads: nobody understands this stuff. They just pretend, take your money and hope for the best.

You’d do better to ask the Russians.

It’s a race, frankly, between catastrophic global warming, food insecurity, nuclear war and the total collapse of the overcomplicated systems we have created to try to manage our tottering civilization, as 250 more people are being born every minute, all requiring bank accounts with 24-hour service.

Postscriptum: It’s been a week now and thousands of TSB customers still can’t access their accounts online as the company has taken its online banking offline and called in a new team of beanbags from IBM to try to sort the problem out. The latest is, it could take YEARS. Good luck with that.

x

GW: Oh, but no, look, it’s another Ice Age!

As the record cold and snow persisted over the northeastern states and Canada into the weekend, firing up the YouTube Global Cooling/Grand Solar Minimum community, heatwave conditions and strong winds continued to support wildfires in the SW states, and temperatures continued to rise all across Europe, Central Africa, India and China. Edging 29C, 84F, Southern England had its warmest April day since 1949, the average anomaly for the month to the 21st being +2.5C. Running the London marathon in honor of his late father, award-winning young Cumbrian chef, Matt Campbell collapsed in the heat and died. The great Mo Farah could only finish third.

No Ice Age here, then.

USA: rain at the weekend helped firefighters contain Oklahoma and Colorado prairie blazes that have consumed over 1/2 million acres and more than 50 homesteads. 2 dead.

Indonesia: New flooding rages through Bandung, East Java.

Russia: 1 dead, several injured as powerful storm batters Moscow. Russian far east burning again already – new Siberia wildfires seen from space.

Serbia: Meteoalarm has severe weather warnings out for the Balkans for high temperature (up to 30C, 85F) and thunderstorms.

India: on 19 April, the mercury hit 45.4C (113.7F) at Chandrapur, Maharashtra state. But up in the north there’s been some unseasonal snow in Kashmir, with landslides and power cuts caused by heavy rainstorms.

Kenya: “At least 72” people are known to have died in a worsening flood situation over the past month.  More than 200,000 people have been displaced. “Wide areas of farmland are underwater and thousands of livestock have been killed. Dadaab refugee camps, which host over 225,000 refugees, have also been affected and there are concerns over cholera and other water-borne diseases. About 50,000 people are stranded in villages near the border with Ethiopia …. They have reportedly not been able to access food and water supplies for 10 days.”

Rwanda: “At least 18 people have died (23 to 24 April) as a result of floods and landslides triggered by heavy rain.” There’s also flooding in several regions of Somalia, where rising river levels are threatening a number of towns.

Chad: The mercury in Moyemtoro touched 48.2C (118.7F) last week. 46C is the forecast for Thursday.

Japan: 30C, 85F described as “more like July”.

 

CEWN #112/ Floodlist/ Meteoalarm/ Daily Mail

 

GW: Attribution, a note from the Editor

Likers, spammers etc. will know, the GW feature (Granny Weatherwax’s Global Warming diary) attempts to show every week just a fraction of the extreme and – for local communities – devastating weather events around the world that go largely unrecorded by the mainstream media, or are tucked away in obscure corners of their online platforms, where you have to know what’s going on before you can find the information.

The aim then is to raise awareness of the gravity of the situation as regards the earth’s changing climate; partly because the BogPo is a UK publication and, to date, the British Isles continue to enjoy relatively benign conditions – albeit that it’s raining miserably outside again, and Spring is still tentatively arriving more than a month behind schedule – making it easy for our home readers to remain blissfully unaware of the cumulative threat to our way of life that is rapidly manifesting elsewhere in the world.

That also goes for dimwitted middle-Americans, who can’t think further than their own backyard.

For this purpose, we rely on a variety of sources. These are normally attributed at the bottom of each weekly article, their content abstracted and lightly edited (where not original to GW) to remove extraneous detail, some of it indicative of attribution to primary sources such as regional or national weather bureaux, TV stations and news publications. Where known, these sources too may be identified here, or they may be obscure (we don’t read Indonesian, e.g.) and hence, unattributed. For which we would like to apologize, but in our view the information comes first.

In short, there is already an informal network involved in disseminating news of storms, floods, landslides, fires, heatwaves, ice-melt and related statistics, and we acknowledge the tireless work both of the originators, and of the researchers and editors in collecting and collating the secondary information on which we mostly rely.

GW hopes and trusts that the sources we quote won’t mind this sharing on a ‘creative commons’ basis – plagiarism and copyright issues are not the point here, we feel, and readers are respectfully asked to do their own lookups of the sources mentioned if you are interested in gleaning further information; thus benefiting them in whatever way they are able to monetize and support their activities.

We make no apology therefore as we stress the urgency of the global situation for reprinting in its entirety, below, this morning’s menu from issues #113 and #114 of the Climate and Extreme Weather News (Understanding Climate Change website), an important source collating visual evidence – mainly raw cameraphone footage from all over the world – of what is happening right now, publishing on YouTube every four days or so. We shall of course go into more detail of the events listed in the next issue of the BogPo/The Pumpkin, based on this and other sources.

So for really depressing viewing, go to: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Zvhx0coFxfU where you will find video posted of the following events:

00:14 Indonesia: Cilegon, Cianjur & Bumiayu floods 13:06 Tropical Cyclone Fakir 16:09 Bangladesh: Dhaka storm 19:18 Egypt: Cairo flash floods 22:35 Israel: Storm & flash floods 24:56 Saudi Arabia: Storms & flash floods 28:48 Algeria: Flash floods 34:04 Kenya: Floods 35:53 Rwanda: Floods and landslides 36:24 South Africa: Cape Town flash floods 36:54 China: Anhui floods 38:11 Brazil: Maceio flood 39:00 Mexico: Toluca hailstorm 40:43 The USA: Southern storms 42:44 India: Heatwave…00:12 Syria: Damascus flash flood 06:57 Jordan: Zarqa flash flood 11:02 Israel: Flash flood 13:10 Kuwait: Dust storm 16:00 Honduras: Tegucigalpa storm & flash flood 19:47 Panama: Flash floods 21:51 Somalia: Floods….

It’s a lot to take in. Just realize that this chaos is going on, month after month, day after day, around the globe – and it’s coming for you and me.

x – and it’s coming for us.

Striking miners: Scargill vindicated!

“The UK has not generated electricity from coal for more than three days – the longest streak since the 1880s. The new record comes just days after the last record of 55 hours was set, National Grid said.” – BBC News.

x

Been good to know you…

Arctic: a new scientific paper from geologist, Dr David Page looks at direct comparisons between the thousands of mysterious “frost-mounds” that have been appearing all over the Yamal peninsula in Siberia for the last 20 years, and a similar feature on Mars that non-geologists have always thought were just volcanic cones. Not so, says Page. They’re the same – methane fartholes. And Mars, as we know, is a dead planet.

The good news is, we don’t know how long it might take before global warming causes the Siberian mounds to go off pop – they’re full of the gas and some are already exploding – but the bad news is, Page calculates the Martian mounds all triggered one another within a period of years rather than centuries.

Oh, and that the amount of methane ours contain, if released in a continuous cascade effect – only six are known to have blown up so far, since 2013 – will put previous estimates of 50 gigatonnes of possible permafrost emissions in the shade, triggering runaway warming. The key to the problem being, no “civilization” has ever heated their planet up this quickly before. We’re in uncharted territory.

Latest CO2 daily readings from the Mauna Loa observatory in Hawaii give a global level around 413 ppm, already 3 ppm above March’s figure. Prof. Sir Peter Wadhams of Cambridge U. remarks that CO2 is rising faster than ever before. Readings from the Siberia wildfires raging along the Amur river were as high as 974 ppm. Prof. Paul Beckwith of Ottawa U. reports from satellite observations that methane clathrates seem to be outgassing from the shallow seabed off Novaya Zemlya. On 22 April Arctic sea ice extent was 13.552 million km², another record low for the time of year – and the sun is rising.

Arctic-News, 22 April, citing ‘A candidate methane-clathrate destabilisation event on Mars: a model for sub-millennial-scale climatic change on Earth’ published last week in  ‘Gondwana Research’ / “A Conversation with Peter Wadhams”  youtu.be/SIBoJWDAg00/ Paul Beckwith “Methane venting into air over Arctic” youtube.com/watch?v=FntMMsyGXvU

Meanwhile, from the Sputnik News website, two days ago:

“The residents of a village located on Russia’s Taymyr Peninsula were in for quite a surprise when they discovered a rift filled with warm water emerging from the permafrost near their settlement, according to Russian media reports. The emergent body of water is about 30 meters in diameter and emits a strong sulfurous odor.”

Sulfur baths might however be good for tourism. Eyewitnesses also reported experiencing warm air currents in the area, adding that the lake appears to be slowly sinking into the ground, giving a ride element to the experience. “A scientist” commented: “Things change… the permafrost is not permanent.”

GW however comments: “Assuming it is sulfur and not methane they can smell, as methane is odorless, the likelihood is more that there is a reserve of crude oil underneath.”

Meanwhile, Sputnik News also reports on an Icelandic disaster in the making:

“The ice-covered Öræfajökull volcano, which has been dormant since 1727, has recently woken from its slumber and experienced a major earthquake on October 3. Since then, increased biothermic activity has caused ice to melt and form lakes around the volcano. The melting water reported reeks of sulfur, which might be yet another token of the activity.”

A yellow warning is out to local communities as “experts” fear a repeat of the Eyjafjallajökull eruption in 2010, emitting an ash cloud which left air traffic grounded for days throughout much of Europe and newscasters floundering with their pronunciation skills nowhere in evidence. One consolation: volcanologists don’t have a very good record when it comes to predicting the scale of eruptions.

Cheers!

Is what you see what you get – was it ever? Oops, there goes another bank. Enemies of the People. Plus: Granny Weatherwax report – Obituary: Exxon Mobil.

“Scientific reports and articles written or cowritten by Exxon Mobil employees acknowledged that global warming was a real and serious threat. They also noted it could be addressed by reducing fossil fuel use….”

Of which, more later…

 

“That rich, creamy texture, the luxurious mouthfeel of your Black Cherry yoghurt dairy product is entirely due to the addition of flour, mashed potato and fat.”

Is what you see what you get? Was it ever?

Corn flour. Rice flour, Dried potato…

Making nachos? Tortilla maybe? Something Tex-Mex, anyway?

No, just peering more closely for the first time at the tiny-print list of ingredients in a Morrison’s ‘The Best’ yoghurt.

In recent weeks I’ve become semi-addicted to these smaller, 150g pots, as a quick snack you can’t pig on. They have great flavours: I’m hung up on their new Raspberry with Amaretto flavour, which has succeeded my thing for Key Lime Pie. I’m also a big fan of Corsican Lemon, you can taste the Corsican in it (of course he can! Innit?).

But my campaign to get rid of this medicine-ball I am carrying around on my front does not seem to have advanced much, despite the sacrifice for the past whole month of my nightly bottle of Merlot.

Now I know why.

I suppose I asked for it, really. The corn starch, the rice flour, the dried spud, the non-specified ‘flavourings’, the ‘carrot concentrate’, the salt, the dextrose, the ‘mono and di-glycerides of fatty acids’ that go to make up a healthy dairy product.

It’s all part of our increasingly dystopian present, where nothing is what it says it is on the front of the pack.

And in some ways a return to the bad old days, when grocers would adulterate comestibles like flour and sugar with cheaper ingredients or just, basically, stuff to make up extra weight on the scales. That rich, creamy texture, the luxurious mouthfeel of your Black Cherry yoghurt dairy product is entirely due to the addition of flour, mashed potato and fat.

During the war, the second one that is, coffee was rationed pretty well everywhere in Europe, on both sides, and so people of ingenuity started grinding up acorns instead of coffee beans.

It must have become an acquired taste, because after the war (UB personally dates from 1949) the BogPo remembers a filthy brown liquid substance that looked like runny Marmite, sold in bottles and marketed as ‘Camp coffee’.

God knows what it was made from then, but today the good news is you can still buy it! Mister Tesco writes:

“Chicory & Coffee Essence with added sugar. Camp is a firm family favourite as a hot drink when mixed with warm milk. Pack Size: 241ml.

  • Same servings
  • Less mess
  • Easy pour and store
  • Suitable for coffees, cakes & more”

Camp. Accept no substitute.

I’m not sure we have many firm families left nowadays that you can mix with warm milk, but more good news from the comprehensive World of Google, there’s a Camp Coffee Club you can join! “Your one stop shop for delicious recipe inspiration. We’ve got recipes for cakes, bakes, drinks & more, all with one key ingredient …” yes, New Added pathetic marketing bullshit!

But we shouldn’t attack this obvious national treasure of a brand, this democratic institution, this Great British Values coffee substitute made from a bitter salad vegetable with added sugar, in a world where you can buy 250 different delicious single-estate varieties of real ground coffee beans from every continent – albeit a Scottish invention and manufactured north of Hadrian’s wall – for doing so will bring down upon your head the wrath of Dacre, he of The Mail:

Camp coffee forced to change label by the PC brigade

Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-404516/Camp-coffee-forced-change-label-PC-brigade.html#ixzz4qVHUTvG8
as I’m sure you will want to, because this is really disgraceful. (It’s also ten years ago. Get over it. Ed.)

See, those dastardly Europeans with their garlic-chewing, sovereignty-swallowing PC police had complained that the label showing a turbanned Sikh provendering a British soldier of the Raj wi’ his nightly cup o’ Camp Coffee made with Warm Milk was RACIST!

“The makers of the chicory-flavoured essence are now using an image of a Scottish soldier sitting side by side drinking coffee with a turbanned Sikh.”

(Nothing about homophobic too.)

I’m not sure whether the objection is based on the original objection, or whether the very idea of a white – more probably ginger – man sitting down to share an unhealthy sugary brew with a brown man in a turban is the problem. I should have thought the image of interracial fellowship would have been a cause for celebration, but apparently not. Certainly not at The Daily Mail, to which all foreigners are anathema. (Or as young people now say, haram.)

As with all Mail headlines, it repays the offended reader to look more closely at the story. In which case, you will read that the makers of Camp were entirely silent on the subject of political correctness: “A spokeswoman for Camp Coffee now owned by the giant McCormick foods group refused to reveal if the race criticism was the reason for the changes in the labels…”

However, it appeared that in a re-run of the Indian Mutiny of 1854, anonymised random ‘Asian shopkeepers’ were refusing to stock the brand, citing Sikh abuse.

Thus an absurd comment from The Central Scotland Racial Equality Council has welcomed the latest updating, claiming that it will “help change the mentality of young people to see how different races now relate.”

Yes, I’m sure all young Scots learn their civics from obscure product labels, especially now the schools have given up teaching the subject, and will change their mentality accordingly. Unless, that is, the Sikhs are playing for the wrong team, or queuing alone for the late-night bus.

To be fair, the list of ingredients does begin with ‘Yoghurt’ (milk). It is also 18 per cent Raspberries; which, as they are even at the height of summer still priced at an unseasonal £2 for about 20 in a plastic tray, flavoured with botrytis mould, represents excellent value; and two per cent Amaretto. So for 65 pence – 2.3 pence a gramme – you’re not getting something that’s completely ersatz; whatever ‘flavourings’ means.

However, as climate change continues to change the climate, and yearly floods and droughts drive avocados and iceberg lettuces from the shelves, keep an eye on those changing labels. Let me know when you come across your first product made with added acorns, that isn’t an actual oak forest.

Because you never know in these changing times, what you’re getting for your money.

 

“…companies need to start paying people properly”

Oops, there goes another bank.

With shades of Northern Rock, the secondary lender Provident Financial has shed 75% of its stock market value overnight as it downgraded its profit forecast from £60 million to a loss of £120 million, following the departure of the nominatively deterministic CEO, Peter Crook.

Optimistically, Mr Crook paid himself – correction, was quite properly remunerated by the committee – £6.3 million last year, while presiding over a major change in the business model of the ‘doorstep lender’, specializing in lending money at high rates of interest to people no-one else would lend to, obviously because they couldn’t pay it back.

Rocky 2? The Great Northern Run.

Less than two years after the gibbering idiots of business welcomed it in to start trading its incredibly overvalued shares on the London stock market, Provident Financial (an oxymoron if ever there was) has withdrawn its proposed dividend to shareholders, who now get nothing.

It remains to be seen if the ailing bank can remain on its feet, as there is no money left at the Treasury for bailing UK banks out to the tune of £1.3 trillion, as they did in 2008. Fortunately the loan book isn’t all that huge, about £500 million. If PF does collapse, other banks will snap that up: bad debt is good news, especially for the hedge funds.

The collapse follows a saga in which the FSA, the Financial Services Authority, expressed concern that PF relied on an army of untrained, commission-only local volunteers to sell its high-priced loans to family, friends and neighbours. As they would have no idea about the rules and regulations, the Authority recommended that PF should switch for safety to a professional salesforce. Instead, they decided in a spirit of 21st century modernity, no doubt egged-on by consultants, to go all-electronic, and the recovery rate of their loans fell off a cliff.

In addition, they’re being investigated over the propriety of a product offering to freeze people’s credit card debts – for a substantial fee, naturally.

It’s probably not the start of another major run on the banks and a new, even worse recession.

Not yet. But it’s a bellwether warning: financiers have got to learn to stop messing with these toxic products.

And companies need to start paying people properly, so they don’t have to fall back on this lethally dangerous money just to make ends meet.

Happy Birthday to Us

The newly-late SciFi author, Brian Aldiss’ readers may recall a short story of his, in which a giant advertising agency decides after a lengthy ‘blue sky’ creative session to mark the 100th anniversary of the atomic bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki by rolling out the mothballed Enola Gay and repeating the exercise.

Calendar-watchers will no doubt be appreciating the synchronicity of Provident Financial’s precipitous spiral into near-death, coming as it does exactly 10 years to the week since French giant BNP Paribas first put its hand up to ask nervously, where all the money had gone?

 

Granny Weatherwax

Obituary: Exxon Mobil

The New York Times, in a comprehensive study for Environmental Research Letters, has for the first time commissioned a comprehensive analysis of communications issued by and within one of the world’s largest oil and gas exploration and supply companies over the last 40 YEARS. This is what they have to say to the self-important little ‘look at me, I’m so in-denial’ troll-wankers, bought politicians who don’t give two hoots what happens to your grandchildren as long as they’ve got lots and lots of money, fake scientists and fossil-fools, the Lord Lawsuit liars of the planet:

“Our findings are clear: Exxon Mobil misled the public about the state of climate science and its implications. Available documents show a systematic, quantifiable discrepancy between what Exxon Mobil’s scientists and executives discussed about climate change in private and in academic circles, and what it presented to the general public.

“Scientific reports and articles written or cowritten by Exxon Mobil employees acknowledged that global warming was a real and serious threat. They also noted it could be addressed by reducing fossil fuel use….” – NYT, 22 Aug.

(Research was funded by Harvard University Faculty Development Funds and by the Rockefeller Family Fund, which also helped finance the reporting by Inside Climate News and the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism, which published its examination of Exxon Mobil with The Los Angeles Times. Top photo: Romeo Ranoco/Reuters/The Guardian)

Now watch the lawsuits fly!

http://www.nytimes.com/2017/08/22/opinion/exxon-climate-change-.html?ref=opinion&wpmm=1&wpisrc=nl_todayworld

19-23 August

USA: Hurricane Harvey intensifying to Category 3 in the Gulf with sustained windspeeds of 115 mph. Thousands evacuating low-lying coastal areas. First major hurricane to make landfall in 11 years.

“An incredible amount of rain, 15 to 25 inches with isolated amounts of up to 35 inches, is predicted along the middle and upper Texas coast, because the storm is expected to stall and unload torrents for four to six straight days. The National Hurricane Center said it expects “devastating and life-threatening” flash flooding.”

Six inches of rain overnight 21st causes flash-flooding in Kansas City for the second time in two weeks, all-time record river highs. One dead.

India: 2 million displaced by floods in Uttar Pradesh, 72 dead. Rivers reach record highs. Death toll in Bihar rises to 253 since flooding first began after continuous heavy rain from 10 August. Almost 7,000 villages affected, 700 thousand people displaced.

Sierra Leone: 820 people still missing after Regent landslide, near Freetown. What caused it? Nearly 81.3 mm (11-in.) rain fell in 12 hours, 70mm in 7 hours. Weather bureau calls for better planning resilience.

Somalia famine bites. (Keydmedia.net/Google)

Somalia: deaths from starvation being reported by charities struggling to save millions trapped in three-year drought also affecting northern Nigeria. “More than 6 million Somalis — about half the country’s population — are in need of emergency aid, UN says.”

China: Typhoon Hato makes landfall near Macau. 12 confirmed dead, dozens injured, properties damaged by 128 mph gusts. Macau under 3ft of water. “The most powerful typhoon to hit Hong Kong in five years has forced schools and businesses to close, and hundreds of flights to be cancelled.”

Italy: “The incredible moment a car melted … has been captured on camera by a British tourist… The Renault Megane was parked in the coastal town of Caorle in northern Italy, as temperatures hit 37C (99F). ‘We drove past and just couldn’t believe what we were seeing. Bits of the car were literally dripping off on to the road’. The heatwave … has claimed the lives of more than 100 pensioners.”

Croatia: new wildfires raging around the town of Dubci. Wildfires burning also in Republic of Georgia.

  • Please understand: in addition to massive quantities of greenhouse gas emissions emanating from wildfires these are some of the most scenically beautiful parts of the world we are destroying, with terrible loss of wildlife.

Turkey: torrential rain on the 22nd causes violent flash flood in Kuruçasile. Roads, bridges washed away.

Switzerland: 8 people missing after “landslide on Wednesday morning sent mud, rocks and dirt flooding into the village of Bondo, near the Italian border. About 100 people were evacuated…”

UK: Heavy rainfall causes flash flood in Northern Ireland. 120 rescued, roads washed away.

World: hottest places this week include California, Medina (Saudi Arabia), Algeria – all with local temps at 106F (NB in Algeria it’s 20.00, Saudi 22.00, those are evening temps!). Lake Havasu, Arizona 104F, Conceicao Do Araguaia (Brazil), Mauretania at 102F.

  • It’s minus 62F, -52.2C at the Scott-Amundsen base, South Pole, so much for global warming, haha!

Climate and Extreme Weather News #57/ Floodlist/ Washington Post/ Sky News/ Daily Mail/ BBC News/ WX.Now

x

“I dug deep into the festering piles of songbooks under the piano and there it was…”

Without a song…

I was raised on The Great American Songbook, as musicians like to call that vast body of work produced in the 1930s, 40s and 50s in what used to be known as Tin Pan Alley.

My parents being theatricals, they and their frequently gay actor friends had camp tastes in music. It was the beginning of the 12-inch LP age, and we had acquired a smart new radiogram with a six-stack autochange Garrard turntable. I grew up listening to Ella Fitzgerald, Frank Sinatra, Rosemary Clooney, Tony Bennett, Lena Horne, Marlene Dietrich – later, Barbra Streisand.

I thought later on when I first came out of the closet as a jazz singer that I knew pretty much most of it, that’s still performed, and could recall most of the lyrics, about 70 per cent – and the melodies, about 90 per cent – maybe 60 songs, some of which I endeavour to learn properly these days in order to perform them on the rare occasions, usually in workshop situations, when I get to sing at an audience. (If only I could find a piano player locally who knows the canon and doesn’t want paying!)

Which is why I’m constantly surprised still to be stumbling across songs I’ve never even heard before, that have been around for decades, and everyone else seems to know them and I don’t.

For instance, there’s a beautiful song by Raph Rainger, lyrics by Leo Robin, from an instantly forgettable film called Rose of the Rancho, starring John Boles and Gladys Swarthout (Who they? Ed.)

The New York Times critic wrote of this 1936 remake of the 1914 Cecil B de Mille silent original: “Gladys Swarthout’s voice can be heard, if you listen carefully, above the groans and bone-creakings of the plot”. The song has fared better. I ‘discovered’ If I Should Lose You only a couple of months ago when I heard a heartstopping instrumental version by Chet Baker on an album of duets with the Canadian pianist Paul Bley, and thought, I’ll bet there are lyrics to that….

My search for them turned up literally dozens of interpretations of the song on YouTube from artists as diverse as Nina Simone, Carmen McRae, Charlie Parker, Sadao Watanabe and even Archie Shepp.

It was an eye-opener. Yet after failing to find anything more than a chord chart on the indefatigable iRealPro app, nor in the vasty reaches of the internet thing, I dug deep into the festering piles of songbooks under the piano and there it was, in the second edition of the first volume of The Real Vocal Book, the green one (the cover’s actually turned blue with age), on page 161.

So now I know it.

I think one of the strangest ‘new’ musicians I’ve stumbled across like this in my ongoing online researches (that usually end with me calling in to the Amazon store and ordering the goddam CD, which is why I’ve had to give up drinking) is ‘Simone’ (Bettancourt de Oliviera), singer, basketball player and Rio club owner.

Simone: Brazilian legend.

I came across her (?) only yesterday while browsing through dozens of versions of another song I’d never heard before, that everyone else apparently is intimately familiar with. This, despite my years of listening to, collecting and singing Brazilian jazz from the 1960s and 70s: The Island (in its English translation – ‘Começar de Novo’ in the original) is seemingly an unbelievably well-known song by the popular singer-songwriter, Ivan Lins.

Simone is incredibly famous in Brazil. She’s made over 32 albums, worked with all the greats of Brazilian music, was described by Quincy Jones as one of the greatest singers in the world (I expect he says that to all the girls), and reportedly once attracted an audience of 150 thousand to a stadium concert. ‘Começar’ is listed as her greatest hit.

Yet as I approach my 68th birthday I’m ashamed to say I’d never heard of her, or the song, before. And it’s been recorded by people like (actually there were never any other people like) Sarah Vaughan, Johnny Mathis, Shirley Horn, Patti Austin, Barbra Streisand – and in a smoochily erotic version, by Jane Monheit*. The English lyrics by Marilyn Bergman are almost pornographic, as the song is in fact the theme to a long-running, steamy TV soap-opera detailing the lives and loves of an oil-industry dynasty. (No, it’s not Dynasty. Keep it together.)

And here is Simone too, on YouTube, singing Começar de Novo alongside Lins at the piano. She has a habit, it seems, of kissing all her collaborators daintily on the cheek – look, there she’s doing it again to the great Milton Nascimento, possibly the most unlikely-looking singing star ever, the Brazilian equivalent of Ed Sheeran – the strange thing being, a former national team basketball player, Simone looks to be over six feet tall, she’s got a deeper voice than I have, and I’m a bass-baritone.

Not for nothing, therefore, does one suspect that this glamorous, sequinned Caster Semenya of the music world – middle-of-the-road, heavily orchestrated jazz, I suppose – with (if I may say so in this day and age) a pleasingly well-developed cleavage – well, as it says in the warning note at the top of her fulsome Wikipedia entry, This article has multiple issues.

It’s truly a great song, but the chords look horrendously difficult. I may not be singing it anytime soon.

*People often stop to ask me, what has happened to Jane Monheit? One of the most beautiful voices in jazz, ever; technically accomplished, now 40 Jane seems sadly to have been swallowed up by the plangently-orchestrated, slushy middle-of-the-road commercial end of the industry, guesting on US TV ‘specials’; perhaps understandably, since there’s no money in jazz – while her much commented-upon body dysmorphia problem has rather pushed her out of the limelight. Shame.

x

Enemies of the People

Mr Trump’s latest ‘poor little me’ assault on the enemies of the people, the bad, bad mans in the failing fake news media who hate America and say such nasty lies about him lying about stuff and supporting bad Nazis, some of whom are great people, is fine in my book.

I’m pissed off (again) with the BBC.

If Brexit means that British businesses are going to have to cut deals with the remaining 27 countries of the EU, either collectively or individually, it’s pretty bloody clear, isn’t it, that their exports and activities on the faraway Continent are going to have to come under the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice.

The ECJ is the ultimate arbiter of actions brought inside the EU. Twenty-seven countries seem perfectly happy with that. The 28th isn’t.

That’s us. So we’re leaving.

So let’s say you’re a manufacturer in Nuneaton of – I don’t know, tins of beans. And you sell a tin of beans to a housewife in Latvia, and it’s full of botulism and her kids get sick.

Is some Empire Loyalist lunatic in the failing conspiracy known as Brexit, Peter Bone or John Redwood, some dismal throwback like Rees-Mogg going to stand up red-faced, waving his little Union flag, and shout Shame! Give us back our Sovereignty! when the case finally arrives at the ECJ, rather than the Supreme Court in London?

The best these useless cunts (Conservative and Unionist Neo-Thatcherites) can manage to save the day for their dumbfuck Brexit supporters is to propose that we set up an arbitration service, obviously not a court, somewhere in the middle of the Channel, providing lucrative work for indigent QCs who aren’t judges, no, really not, but who will arbitrate or, as it were, judge with, er, foreign counterparts in disputes involving British poisoned beans in Latvia, cases that have come up through the lower courts in, er, possibly Riga.

In other words, the exact counterpart to the ECJ, which at the moment has British judges on the panel and arbitrates in legal disputes. Only we shan’t be losing control of ‘our laws’, our superior ‘British laws’, that won’t apply in Latvia….

This is all so fucking infantile. Embarrassingly so. Toys out of the pram time. We have perfectly good arrangements already to arbitrate in appelate courts all the way up to the Supreme Court in the UK, just as they may do in Latvia, or in any of the rest of the EU, and only rarely is it necessary to appeal above everyone’s heads to Luxemburg, and the Supreme Court really doesn’t mind, because that’s how courts work and it’s more jobs for the boys and girls.

The only people who mind are the cunts, because they’ve promised the dumbfucks that Britain is going to be Great again, and that means total isolation from the Continent, 26 miles away, and its 450 million garlic-munching foreigners.

So I do rather object to the fatuous questioning by Mr Ed Stourton on The World at One today, in which he repeatedly pressed his ministerial guest to break down and confess that the official government position was now that we would still be ‘subservient’ to the ECJ’s decisions after Brexit,  thwarting the legitimate demands of the British People, was it?

It is as if Britain is, what? So fucking great, so important, so superior, so deserving, so – English, that we simply cannot believe in the necessity of economic and security co-operation with neighbouring countries in a globalizing world unless we make the rules. Christ, it’s so sickening, this barbed-wire British exceptionalism: ‘regaining control of our own laws’, our ‘borders’…. It’s a nonsense, and Brexit memes like: ‘none of the foreign students ever goes home’ have been shown by the Home Office finally releasing accurate figures to be gross lies.

Brexit is a complete fraud, a myth served up like a dish of kippers for the minor myriad of dumbfucks who thought it was all going to be so easy, that they only had to tick a box marked Leave, all the hated foreigners would do exactly that and Britain would immediately be Great again, after years of shameful ‘subservience’ to the inferior species across the water.

Stupid, stupid, stupid.

And so completely fucking pointless.

 

But…. Special Inaugural Issue of The Pumpkin

The Pumpkin, 15 January

a-peeled-pumpkin-allows-for-amazing-shading-and-extreme-levels-of-detailGoogle images
Pumpkin (n): a bulbous, orange-coloured fruit of the cucurbit family, a gourd; capable of being grown to weights in excess of 1,000 lb. Often hollowed-out and carved into faces for scaring children on Halloween (cf).

 

STOP PRESS!!!

It’s Rhexit for Rebellious RI!

From our roving correspondent, Jim Questions ©1700, @what’sthis?ohyes.

ri_fl“Residents of the state of Rhode Island have voted overwhelmingly by a margin of 397 to 396 to Leave the United States of America.

“News of the vote in a snap referendum called overnight by Governor Gina Raimondo has produced shockwaves across the timezones of this great continent as day follows night.

Live feed: Attorney General Peter Kilmartin: “The people have spoken and we are out. Independence is the name of our capital city, and independence is our game. It’s always been in our blood. This is the finest hour in Our Island Story. It’ll be great, believe me.

“Henceforth we shall go, er, forth unto the shining, sunlit uplands, free from oppressive rule by the do-nothing, donut-munching federalist debt-monkeys of Washington DC. Once we have regained control of our borders, American migrants will no longer have  freedom to steal our jobs, sponge on our private insurance-based medical facilities and rape our womenfolk. Our internationally renowned jewellery industry will be free to trade under NAF… I’m sorry, under WTO rules, at cost, with the likes of India and Swaziland, wherever.”

“Asked whether Ms Raimondo favoured a hard or soft Rhexit, Mr Kilmartin joked, “So, she’s a woman, you do the math! Either way, those stars will have to come off!”.

A flurry of incoherent Tweets is expected shortly from President Trump, who is known to favour the breakup of the Union and segregation from the majority black South, together with the abolition of the minimum wage. Or any wage, come to that.

“This is Jim Questions for BBC News, Expenses-in-the-Mailbox, Rhode Island.”

 

But…

From our Washington insider, Golda Rayne ©2017 @splashpoint.org

“Washington has been rocked by intelligence agencies’ conclusion that Russian president Vladimir Putin ordered a covert effort to interfere in the election to boost Trump and harm his opponent, Democrat Hillary Clinton.

“But in an interview with the Wall Street Journal, Trump hinted that he might scrap Obama’s retaliatory sanctions against Moscow, and said he was prepared to meet Putin after taking office on Friday”. – BBC News

Spot the one tiny, glaring anomaly in this extract from a BBC News website report today (15 January).

Yes, it’s that naughty little conjunction.

‘But’.

So, despite the intelligence agencies’ (note the plural) ‘conclusion’ that the order to hack the party organisers and get some useful dirt came directly from the top honcho in the Kremlin, ‘but’ Trump is happy not only to do the business, ‘but’ to REWARD Mr Putin for his efforts to sway US voters, provided some unspecified deal can be struck down the line.

‘But’….

Clearly, Trump has no beef with the Wall Street Journal, as he does with half the other press publications and websites in the USA he doesn’t like and has publicly threatened to destroy. Fake! Witch! Chinese plot!

He won’t do press conferences anymore, probably, but he does patronise loyalty, until it no longer suits him.

He’s happy to plant his own disinformation in the heart of downtown capitalism, the home for instance of rapacious global investment bank Goldman Sachs, whose executives appear to have been given the keys to Capitol Hill in the opening salvos of Mr Trump’s long heralded swamp-cleansing operation.

This, despite his many Trumpist followers imagining they elected him to reverse the globalisation of their jobs and wages.

Ain’t happenin’. So good.

Is Goldman Sachs the bank the ‘billionaire’ is said to owe $billions to? Well, no, we don’t think so, that’s Deutsche Bank, whose wallet-crunching $14 billion fine from the Securities administration for one kind of finagling or another largely went away last month (http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-38412816)

Today, he’s quoted as tweeting that unnamed intelligence ‘insiders’ – note that, folks, he’s penetrated deep inside his own security services, he’s not getting it from untrustworthy official briefings from the Hillary-flunkies at the top – have dismissed the ‘golden showergate’ dossier as garbage.

That’s presumably because it was compiled by the 30-year time-served MI6 Russia specialist, Chris Steele, mainly on info gleaned from… ‘intelligence insiders’. Believe me, you can trust ‘em!

Plus of course Steele was paid by dissident Republicans to write those horrible, nasty things about someone else called Donald Trump. You can never trust people where there’s money involved.

Thus we have a President-to-be (on Friday, God help us) who has both accepted and denied that Russia attempted to interfere in the election, which he initially said was rigged against him, but which turned out to be rigged against his opponent.

Anyway, he knew somehow that it was rigged.

And who has denied – despite accepting the first premise – the second premise, that he is the victim of a ‘kompromat’ sting operation – although it’s thought by Westminster ‘insider’, the spy novelist and MP Chris Bryant, that Putin has been digging the dirt on most western political and business leaders over the years, and Trump would be no exception.

(And how do we imagine did former Home Secretary and hence spymistress, Theresa May, persuade the neo-Thatcherite Brexit plotters to butt out? Knowledge is power, they say.)

Mr Putin agrees with his friend, it’s all bollocks. Why would Trump need to buy prostitutes, when he can, er, buy any woman he wants? (Although, of course, boasts Putin, Russian prostitutes are the best in the world. Are these people real?) It seems Putin has a sense of humour, too.

It may be a stretch from there to the idea that Putin has so much actual dirt on Trump that he came to own the candidate and rig the election, especially at the nomination stage – ‘but’ Trump does nothing to help himself by constantly singing Putin’s praises. Too soon to be revealing his pro-Moscow hand.

It may be too, that it’s good policy and politically advantageous to appease Moscow, to treat Putin as a trustworthy ally capable of accepting a deal, to nip the new Cold War relationship in the bud, to talk-down NATO and bait the Chinese leadership with crude hints about their One China policy, although few Republicans would agree with any of that.

It may be good policy to want (for obscure reasons) to destroy the Mexican economy; although it’s arguable that two outcomes will inevitably be an increase in illegal migration (you can’t keep out invaders with a wall, it’s never been done) and redoubled efforts to push more revenue-earning drugs into the white barrios of crumbling US cities.

And it may be good business to send bullying threats to car manufacturers, even German ones, to stop building cars in Mexico and export jobs instead to the USA. Although it’s difficult to see what business it is of his where VW or Mercedes choose to build their cars?

Perhaps it’s the first stage in building a Trumpkin world.

As we know, the Trump-Clinton election has thrown up a mass of such contradictions, all of them leading back on themselves. That Trump, for instance, was claiming the election was rigged – and when it came to it, and he’d won, we’re beginning to understand that it was rigged – only not against him.

How often he pardons his own misdemeanors and denies accusations through clumsy and inadvertent attempts at misdirection – usually after the obvious trick has been performed. He just can’t let criticism go, to the point where he only draws attention to himself as the probable miscreant. Delivering a confused version of events that suggest he does in fact have something to hide, when silence would be the best defence. Hey mom, look, you didn’t catch me with my hand in the cookie jar! That’s ‘cos I’m smart!

But he doesn’t do dignified silence. Patience is not one of his many virtues.

You might for instance accuse me of robbing the store down the road, and instead of saying no, I didn’t rob the store, I was dining with friends (a checkable alibi) I might say: well, if I did rob the store I’d be the best store-robber ever, and you know, robbing stores is so bad, Hillary robs stores, she should be in jail.

His vanity and solipsism simply won’t allow him not to try always to usurp the power of his accusers, to feel superior to the miscreant he’s accused of being, even if it proves him to be that miscreant. Is that maybe because he is? Is he the one maybe who secretly feels he should be in jail?

It’s a psychological manifestation known as ‘transference’ Whatever happened, if it’s good I must have done it, whoever did it, because I’m the best at it; if it’s bad I’ll say you did it, although I’d be better at it.

And now he has the nuclear codes. Let’s hope Obama slips him the wrong ones.

 

Is it a coincidence that Davos was the name of a Dr Who villain?

It’s like we’re seeing parallel universes today, one behind the other, where the mighty and privileged are able to access different levels of reality through their own private wormholes, moving freely between dimensions whose portals are denied to the rest of us.

The billionaires move comfortably and with assurance in their own continuum, passing through us like neutrinos, as if we were but shadows. The richest eight men in the world are said by Oxfam to own as much wealth as the bottom 50 per cent of the world’s population. How did that happen? Yes, we all bought an iPhone.

Once upon a time we would have acceded to this bullshit, maintaining our bowed, serf-like position, tugging our forelocks, cheering the procession and knowing our place in the grand scheme of things.

‘But’ – the men who stole the world are also eating it up and poisoning our atmosphere at a terrifying rate. Scientists increasingly despair that it could all be over in the next 20 years. Gone. We have the technological means and the knowledge to organise against it, don’t we, and we’re mad as hell, aren’t we. Honest. Now what’s on TV?

And here we are at Davos once again, the migratory feeding-ground of the super-rich, where the talk is all of carving up the world, with some maybe lifting their well-coiffed heads from the swill bucket long enough to offer through their hardworking PRs, a passing flicker of liberal anxiety about those they’re leaving to fry or drown.

‘But’ this year, they have snow! How good is that, Exxon?

Is this so-called ‘post-truth’ world one manifestation of the insane belief of these Godlike beings that they can easily escape the worst consequences of the coming holocaust, whose seeds they have irreversibly sown?

Is there any version of events that the rest of us can now either untangle or believe?

Oh, ‘but’…

The fear is, people may soon remember Mao’s maxim: power grows out of the barrel of a gun. Maybe Trump will one day regret his late endorsement of the much misread and misinterpreted 2nd Amendment.

 

Hindsight is a wonderful thing, especially in advance

How would the Brexit crazies have voted, I wonder, if they had realised the British government was going to have to suck it up practically forever from the Presidential germophobe, Donald ‘The Pumpkin’ Trump, in the hope of getting some slippery, one-sided trade deal putting US corporations in charge of our economy and legal system and ensuring they pay no tax in the UK, that the Tories can spin as our brighter future out of Europe?

With the hardest possible Brexit looming, do they not understand that the old Springboard UK system cannot possibly work, as the US is not going to want its goods crossing the Channel via Harwich with a 45% trade tariff slapped on at Calais and Rotterdam.

Following on the heels of the appalling Nigel Farage and his sickening photo op joshing with the Pumpkin and sundry alt-right crazies in the sparkly elevator of doom, the speccy little swot and arch-Brexit plotter, Gove has become the second ‘important’ British representative to jet over, doing a servile  ‘interview’ for Rupert Murdoch’s The Times with the Louis 1Vth of Queen’s, before Trump has met even gobby Boris, the official Foreign Secretary and feral Brexit clown.

Meanwhile, in a petty act of revenge for her humiliation at the European summit last month, when she wasn’t invited to dinner and had to make do with a can of Stella and a kebab in the foyer… no, sorry, got that wrong: as a token of our anticipated reduced contribution to European affairs, we have Eurostarred three junior civil servants from the Foreign Office over to Paris, where actual foreign ministers and John Kerry are meeting to try to cobble together a last-second two-state solution to the Arab-Israel conflict before Trump gets into office and fucks it all up.

Signs that that might happen are that he has already said he wants to roll-back the UN declaration on the illegality of Jewish settlements in the West Bank; he’ll support Netanyahu if he wants to move the Jewish capital symbolically to multi-faith Jerusalem, ending all hope of a Mid-East peace deal forever, and abrogate the US’s signature on the Iran nuclear treaty.

Britain’s downsized junior delegation, the Children’s Crusade in miniature, is in fact just an early step in a campaign of cringing supplication to the Orange President to graciously invite Britain to be ‘first in the queue’ for a free-trade deal (the word ‘queue’ is used only in symbolism, a word the British will understand as we are famous for our queues, there is no ‘queue’ as such, it only means ‘within the next seven years’).

Mrs May has a delicate balancing act, on the one hand to convince the Brexit boobies we are open for business outside Europe, so great, and on the other to not upset the Trumpkin too soon by sending Boris to Paris to referee the ‘kikes v. wogs’ match; a fixture I imagine Trump and the armaments industry would prefer to see permanently rained-off.

After all, you can do business with the Israelis. Those Arabs are just sore losers. So sad.

Further info: http://www.theguardian.com/politics/2017/jan/15/uk-snubs-middle-east-peace-summit-in-paris-to-keep-trump-onside

 

Silence is Golden

But hark, what is that we hear?

Nothing. Golden silence, is what.

We hear no donkey noises from the ass, Farage. Perhaps he is taking a Christmas break from worshipping at the manger of the Christ-child?

No braying he makes at his friend, Mr Gove’s clever extraction from the Sun King of an unexpected admission that his majesty believes Brexit to be A Thoroughly Good Thing, and that Britain has thereby regained its precious national essence.

How strange, by contrast with Mr Farage’s bitter, if not practically racist outburst, following President Obama’s mild and intentionally helpful intervention in the runup to the referendum last June.

Mr Farage indeed moaned longly and loudly about Mr Obama’s right to express the official view at the time of the US Government, that Brexit would be A Bad Thing Altogether.

It was, Farage opined, an outrage that a US president should interfere in the affairs of a foreign state, failing to agree with Farage.

‘The Spirit of Britain’ stopped short of using the uppity n-word expression, but only just. The clear implication wa that Mr Obama was, in some sense possibly racial, inferior to the Great White British People whom he dare not lecture on the subjects of law and politics – Mr Obama’s career specialities, as it happens.

But the Trumpkin is a different matter.

The God-King-Emperor over the Water is welcome to come and manage the entire Brexit process if he so wishes, ensuring no backsliding from the triumvirate of snowflakes agreeably living it up in Chevening House. The Trumpkin understands Brexit better than anyone else. Why, at Xmas he sent Mr Davis, Mr ‘Dr’ Fox and Mr Boris free giftwrapped signed copies of his little gold book, The Art of the Deal. ‘Pour encourager les hors d’oeuvres!’ he wrote in the flyleaf.

Interference? Why, bless you, Sire, it’s no hardship to be told we’ll get a quickie trade deal as a reward for covering the country with large, tasteless hotels and loss-making golf courses nobody plays on, to hear such welcome threats of tariffs on German cars (as if the EU wouldn’t immediately respond with tariffs on British-made cars, especially Fords and Vauxhalls built in Britain by US manufacturers – there being no British carmakers anymore*) and to have our fear and loathing of refugees and other foreign elements expansively pandered to.

*PS Rolls Royce, the engineering company that no longer makes the German-made Rolls Royce cars, has reportedly paid someone an eyewatering seven-figure sum, close to £ a billion, to get off a Serious Fraud Office charge of bribing wogs to win contracts over the last 25 years (see a Post on the subject, passim.)

You see how great Britain could be if we weren’t subject to these sorts of intolerable controls from Whitehall?

 

Fake News

Trump to lead Space-X Mars mission

Inventor and entrepreneur Elon Musk has announced that President Trump is to pilot the first manned expedition to the red planet.

‘Who in the world would possibly know more about piloting missions to Mars, now that Gene Cernan has gone to that great lunar crater in the sky?’ asked Musk rhetorically at a press conference in Davos, Thursday. ‘Let the President slip the surly bonds of Earth, this is a result for pumpkins everywhere.’

Believed to be the world’s first actual trillionaire, Musk has been developing the Space-X thruster for several years and recently conducted the successful launch of a small, hand-powered rocket in the Mohave desert, after a series of earlier mishaps.

‘We are confident that this will be the one’, said Musk. ‘One leaping giant man, a man-kind stepping on a giant, to coin a phrase.’

Led by the President, the one-way mission to establish a permanent colony on Earth’s nearest planetary neighbor will be crewed by his son-in-law, Mr Jared Kushner, sons Eric, Donald Jr; 12-year-old Barron von Trump as ‘Cabin boy’, and daughter Ivanka as ‘Stewardess’. All of them are highly trained space-mission people, with years of experience watching Star Wars.

A ticket to fly to the Red Planet is expected to cost ‘at least’ $698,000,000. Among the jet-setting passengers on the nine-month journey will be a number of multi-billionaires: the Russian president, Vladimir and Mrs Putin; Mr and Mrs Bashar al Assad, Mr and Mrs Rex Tillerson and their ex-son ‘Bright’ Bart; King and Mrs Charles 111 of England – and Mr and Mrs Michael Gove, as ‘The Little Couple’.

The ‘Stowaway’ has been named as Mr Nigel Farage.

The aim on landing in the Cosa Nostrum will be to continue the human race while the Earth goes to hell in a handcart. Quipped Musk: ‘It’s shit or bust. Now get out, His Majesty doesn’t like newspapers. No press! Doesn’t read ’em, either!’

Commander Trump, who stated in support of his application that he scored the highest ever number of points playing Space Invaders,  was not available for comment.

 

 

Where’s the fucking money?

“Data from 98 of the 151 local authorities in England with statutory responsibility for social care show that they met only 218 (42%) of 515 targets to improve social care in their area and missed the other 297 (58%).” – The Observer, 11 December

By: Health correspondent Julian Sick ©2016 @holby.gen

The question that occurred to me while just now walking Hunzi in the dogshit-strewn exurban space that passes for our local park was this:

Where’s the money?

Slipsliding along a muddy part of the footpath by the river that sometimes floods leaving puddles people have tried getting around, trampling the grass, spreading the misery, I briefly thought it might be nice if the Council were someday to complete the paving and rustic-bridging of the whole length of the path.

Immediately the answer came: that’s absurd! They haven’t got any money for that sort of thing!

They can afford to pay PriceWaterhouse Cooper’s consultants hundreds of thousands of pounds for a generic report (only the names are changed) telling them how to save money, naturally.

They can close care homes and spend £1.5 million on a fully equipped day-centre for the elderly, only to pull it down again to make room for a Tesco development.

They can take pleasure in granting permission for a Pizza Express restaurant in a listed building, just across the way from Domino’s Pizza, in a town that already consists almost entirely of fast-food joints, pop-up hairdressers and charity shops; but whose only ethnic Welsh bookshop has closed.

But frivolities like cleaner streets and a couple of hundred yards of cinder track to keep people’s feet dry, no, sorry.

They’re not unique in these regards. I’m reading daily of care-home closures and abandoned support services, that have been brought about as a result of former Chancellor, George Osborne’s well-intentioned institution of the Living Wage, which he brought in without thought to what might happen to private care-giving businesses on fixed-price contracts to provide services to local authorities, who can no longer afford to pay their care workers at all.

I’m reading about the accelerating collapse of ‘care in the community’ as more and more elderly people are thrown onto the good offices of NHS hospitals already groaning at the seams with diabetics and cirrhotics, sclerotics and other lifestyle victims.

Amazingly, my mother’s local authority has voted her the unlimited funding required to put in place a palliative care package, so that she can go back to her virtually uninhabitable, top-floor city flat, where the landlords are just waiting for her to die before sending in the decorators. At present she is ‘blocking’ a hospital bed, alongside many identical chalk-faced, semi-conscious, moaning old ladies being wheeled in and out all night, and they’ve lost her dentures; but there’s nothing more the NHS can do for her, other than provide round-the-clock nursing care they need to free up beds for people they can cure, so she has to get out.

Age 91, she will get all the physical supports she needs: a special bed, a portable loo, a walking frame – anything; plus four one-hour visits a day, each with a team of two carers, who will cook and clean for her, shop for her and collect prescriptions, bed-wash and toilet her, provide pain relief, switch things on and off. (Although bizarrely they can’t provide any care at night, and will have to leave her alone and vulnerable in the building, armed only with a bedpan.) This, for a feisty woman who until this Autumn was still gamely independent. All her bedroom furniture will have to be moved out, only they don’t do that, I have to arrange it somehow myself in a strange city, on a busy street, living as I do 250 miles away.

Is it so wicked of me then to more than half-wish she might just not wake up tomorrow?

She might spare herself, the care teams, the local authority – and poor old me, six hours away on the train, hauling my protesting prostate across town through the dangerously overcrowded underground network to visit every week – the immense cost and difficulty of providing all this, a slow-motion existence of physical pain moderated by cigarettes and alcohol, just so she can have ‘one last Christmas’ at home – a dismal apartment from where, after 51 years, she was begging me only a few weeks ago to get her out – with me, her closest surviving relative and really poor company, when she could just go into a properly equipped nursing home, or better still a hospice, to enjoy a chat and maybe access to, or a view of, a garden, grass, trees, sky for her remaining weeks or possibly months?

And there’d still be turkey and a paper hat.

But she’s already ordered the food. Masses of it, more than I could eat in a month. Lobster! More than she can afford on her pension credit.

Naturally, M&S’ salespeople don’t ask telephone customers: ‘hang on a mo while we just run through some questions to determine if you’re a bit doolalli and haven’t really thought this through?’*

Who is going to cook it all? I suppose I shall have to cook it. Who is going to eat it all? I shall have to pretend to eat it, before throwing most of it in the bin. And then she will die anyway, as you do, and there will be the whole process of disposing of everything: the bureaucracy, the paperwork – telling her bank manager he was a fool to lend her the money she will never pay back – dealing with 50 years’ worth of junk, unburdening the fridge of its jars of furry things and arranging any obsequies. We don’t have money for a funeral, so she’s said she wants to leave her body to science. What the cancer leaves of it first. They won’t necessarily want her, however. Then what do we do?

And who will there be in the flat, to take delivery of the food? My mum can no longer walk as far as the door. Care workers will have to take delivery.

It’s that moment you’ve been dreading for the past ten years, and now wish you’d done more, anything, to plan for it before it arrived. She seems rational, although she’s not, she’s quite cognitively impaired and not making a lot of sense. Only I can tell!

But at least there appears to be a support service, liaison between the specialist nursing staff and the local authority social services, professionalism, outcomes – genuinely caring people – money.

I read about the tens of thousands of elderly patients elsewhere in the country left to rot in their own piss and shit, to go undernourished (some care services simply dump a fortnight’s worth of ready-meals in the fridge and then leave, where there used long ago to be daily ‘meals-on-wheels’), drug-addled and abused in so-called care, granted one ten-minute ‘hi-and-bye’ a day from a foreigner on sub-minimum wage, because their local authorities aren’t among the wealthiest in the country like the one where my mum has lived most of her adult life.

Why are other local authorities so strapped that they cannot provide this level of care everywhere? Have they spent it all on consultants? Where is the money?

It seems there is a huge mountain of money in our country.

The UK is about the fifth or the sixth largest economy in the world. British-based businesses are sitting on a pile of uninvested cash worth nearly a trillion (thousand billion) pounds. How much more is stashed in places like Panama we simply have no idea. UK house prices, rents and commercial offices are soaring out of reach of ordinary working people, which means even richer people are buying property, forcing up the value. Just the national private housing stock two years ago was estimated at over £5 trillion; commercial property added another £2.3 trillion.

The total value of financial assets in the UK, basically what’s in the bank vaults, is reportedly over £8 trillion. And another – wait for it – £4 quadrillion is traded annually (largely untaxed) through the City of London. Would half-a-penny in the pound really have been so burdensome that Goldman Sachs would have moved its office and junior money-baboons to Frankfurt?

‘Black Friday’ last week saw our so-called ‘Just About Managing’ lower-middle-class spend £2.9 billion on seasonal Chinese junk their kids can use to send each other pictures of their pubescent sexual organs. Employment – jobs – is at its fullest and highest since 1971. Wages are rising at 2.3% a year. Unemployment continues to fall. Consumer debt is said to be £1.5 trillion, equivalent to the entire annual GDP. VAT – purchase tax – continues to produce £105 billion a year for the Treasury. The DWP is spending half-a-billion pounds a year on French and US contractors profiting mightily from gouging the disabled.

The Government has over £100 billion in ‘infrastructure projects’ on the drawing board, including more ships for the navy, a polluting and destructive new runway at Heathrow, a pointless train-set that will gobble up half a million acres of land, homes and villages just to suck money from Birmingham to London 20 minutes faster than the perfectly adequate service there is already.

Replacing our four ageing Trident submarines with the already outmoded Successor-class submarines we could just buy from the Americans but instead have to build ourselves to retain a few thousand jobs in Scotland to keep them from leaving the UK will cost at least another £68 billion. There’s the cost of leaving the EU, probably another £59 billion (not to mention the unlimited bribes being offered to foreign investors to stay in Britain after Brexit, and the cost of replacing EU subsidies to farmers, regional development and the R&D sector).

All this shit is apparently funded out of cheap government debt; higher than ever. Even all those wasteful billions of project-pounds are barely a pimple compared with the trillions of pounds Britain is worth: yet 90% of the local authorities in the country can’t afford to provide decent basic care services to the elderly; while (apart from inworkers) the population is fast ageing. And the Government says, oh, sorry, there isn’t enough to go round, you’ll just have to cut back some more, or raise more taxes locally from the very people you need to help.

What they mean is, as with energy policy, they haven’t been planning for this, they plan only as far as the next election.

This is irresponsible governance, for which the Prime Minister should take responsibility – but she won’t.  She’s just splashed out a thousand quid on a pair of leather trousers. Having recently sold some more furniture, after 68 years as an Equity union member my mother left precisely £633.

So I’m going to ask you again, crapulous Treasury cunts, political tossers, Mr Carney and the private finance baboons:

Where’s the fucking money?

*And, as it turns out, it was a fantasy: she hadn’t actually placed the order after all.

Sad news

Monday, 5 December

My mother died in the hospital this morning, eight days short of her 93rd birthday.

 

A leap in the dark

We’ve been told 97% of the universe is ‘dark matter’, powered by ‘dark energy’. I have written before, speculating therefore about ‘dark time’, though as no-one reads this, my bogl, no-one has yet attempted to discover it.

Perhaps it’s time we thought about ‘dark money’, and what it is threatening to do to our world; our grandchildren.

Trump, egged-on by his pet British arselicker, Farage, a noisome, self-promoting political nonentity of whom he would never have heard before the publicity-starved succubus arrived in Mississippi to gatecrash his convention, between the latest of his 31 appearances on the BBC Question Time panel, has leaned heavily on Brexit as an example of how people are fed up with big government.

Yet he has shown no intention of honouring his campaign pledge to burst the Washington insider bubble in his stumbling appointments to his cabinet of some very scary insiders indeed, dismal hokey cretins from the southern swamps, white supremacists, bloodthirsty ‘Mad Dog’ militarists with fundamentalist Christian views, financed from the shadows by lobby groups acting for Fortune 500 companies opposed to all environmental, public health and human rights legislation, willing to risk extinction to promote the US arms and highly polluting energy industries.

In his approach to China, little Donald McRonald has already shown that he is a dangerously loose cannon, utterly ignorant of international affairs; a spoilt brat who has been told he can’t have a big red fire-engine for Christmas. But because he affects the charmless personality of a mercurial shapeshifter, it may be that he is deliberately provoking confrontation to please the Dumbfucks and the Pennsylvania coalminers, we can’t be sure. He’s not even been sworn-in yet.

In fact, it appears that while he has been pre-insulting the Chinese leadership and enjoying cosy chats with Taiwanese president Tsai, one of the few women whose pussy he has not yet grabbed, crossing one of the fattest and most vividly red diplomatic lines on the planet, he has been lobbying Taiwan privately behind the scenes to build more Trump hotels, confirming that a Trump presidency is designed entirely and absolutely to make Trump great again, and fuck you middle-America, you losers.

His unfortunate VP, the Christian fundamentalist (how similar Christian fundamentalists are to Islamic fundamentalists!) Mike Pence, has been struggling with the media, without a lot of conviction, to justify Trump’s infelicitous and, frankly, infantile outbursts on Twitter, a medium purpose-built for unreconstructed teenage baboons to put their cretinous views out into the twatosphere in the middle of the night in 124 characters or less; avoiding the need for extensive, thoughtful analysis.

I voted to remain in the EU – I’m 67, part of the age group blamed for voting to leave, although I know no-one here of my age who did vote to leave – not for boring economic reasons but because I prefer to remain part of what remains of human civilization.

Yeah, so what was that Brexit thing about, I hear you ask?

Imagine, reasoning Americans, you were part of a 43-years-old organization uniting you with all the autonomous states in somewhere we’ll call Canada, that gave you the right to trade freely, travel, live and work in Canada, full citizenship rights; but which involved paying a proportionate subscription according to your annual GDP to cover the costs of administering common consumer protections, cross-border policing, worker safety and product standardisation, umbrella trade deals with the rest of the world; and provided finance to support agriculture and development of your underperforming economic areas.

Following an election, some rightwing politicians on the make, people who don’t like business regulation, pressure your Congress into calling for an early referendum, claiming (falsely) that Canada is in effect ruling America through unelected and unaccountable institutions; and that millions of Canadians are pouring across the border to live and work in the USA because it’s so much better and they get free social benefits at taxpayers’ expense (actually, you need their labour to grow your economy – your population is ageing and underqualified).

So a bunch of disaffected miners in Pennsylvania, brainwashed by years of propaganda in a populist press dominated by corporate interests opposed to Canadian antitrust laws, voters facing the inevitable death of their hideously polluting, underinvested rustbelt industries, tip the balance of the vote in favour of abrogating the treaty, having no knowledge whatever of the technicalities and the consequences of getting out; regardless of whether or not Canada is responsible for their economic decline; heedless of the fact that Canada is actually providing funding for redevelopment in the stricken areas while resisting the onward march of the big tax-dodging corporations who have globalised their jobs.

They just want to ‘send a message’, that they want bigger TV screens and more sale-bargain sofas in their lives, and they don’t like politicians, although they cannot say what they would replace them with. So they throw their iPhones out of the pram.

That’s the actual situation we’re in with the EU. Any attempt to oppose this historically irresponsible and permanently binding vote, that threatens to destabilise the entire postwar political consensus, is howled down by the bully boys dominating a supine and craven media, that in turn whips up its phoney patriotism to ever greater excesses. Even our Supreme Court judges, who are merely being asked to consider a High Court ruling that the executive needs final Parliamentary approval to reverse the treaty, are being subjected in advance to a vicious smear campaign in the Brexit press; branded as ‘traitors’, their families receiving death threats on social media.

It smells horribly of fascism sponsored by powerful interests, the crony capitalism of the Bilderberg Group and the chummy billionaires who foregather in Davos every year to carve-up what remains of the world between themselves, and to hell with the rest of us. How easy it is to play the immigration card, to get everyone believing that ‘foreigners’ and obscure international institutions, the ‘worldwide conspiracy’ is responsible for all your economic woes!

As in America with Trump, opponents of Brexit are bullied and stigmatised; targeted for elimination. A pro-Remain MP, 42-year-old mother of two young children, Jo Cox, was shot and hacked to death by a crazed white supremacist in the street outside her office, only two weeks before the referendum last June; fifty thousand ugly, slobbering morons tweeted their joyous approval; Farage has accused her widower, who started a campaign for tolerance, of running a terrorist-sympathising organisation. The Government and the security services have since stood by and done nothing.

We live in increasingly dark times. Please understand that behind the rise of  the Brexit baboons are some very nasty, very wealthy – very greedy people indeed; and they will stop at nothing to continue raping our world until human civilization and all life on the planet (other than their own) is ended; which may not be very long now (Arctic temperatures are up to 33 deg C above normal for November).

http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2016/nov/30/donald-trump-george-monbiot-misinformation

Plagiarism corner

In a Christmas commercial for a credit card company, a couple of ordinary middle-aged women are fantasising about what they will do with the money, when one announces that she plans to buy another saxophone.

As readers of this, muh bogl, and of scabrous Comments I have made on The Guardian news pages, may recall, I have long been pointing out the silliness of Big Data-type advertising pop-ups on this, muh li’l laptop, offering me more saxophones, after I bought one online in September.

I wrote, how many saxophones can one person use, who doesn’t yet play the saxophone? It seems that in this post-truth era, it’s not a relevant question.

 

All’s well that ends well

If you’re still not certain about the place of 2016 as one of the weirdest years in history, consider the following story:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-northern-ireland-38205945

Shoppers in Carrickfergfus, Northern Ireland, panicked on Saturday morning as a stray goat rampaged through their shopping precinct, jumping onto cars and terrorising shop staff, principally by looking strangely at them. A pensioner, whose name was given as Billy, was butted in the rear and sought refuge in a shop, where the manager is quoted as follows:

“The manager described how the goat began eating flower baskets outside the shop on Victoria Road and then frightened staff and customers as they tried to get into the building.

“It was into the baskets eating all the plants and running round the car park, I thought: ‘you’ve got to be kidding me!'”

Oh, yeah? he said that? Really?

It just shows the Irish can still make hideous puns in the face of terrible adversity.

In the end, anticlimax: the capricious beast’s owner turned up, took it by the horns and led it peacefully away.

As you do, when you own a goat.

Which I have.

The people have spoken, and other insults to the intelligence (Obituary: Dave the Worm)

Who’s Moaning now?

The High Court has ruled that the Executive does not have unlimited powers to act without the consent of Parliament – one of the most important constitutional decisions since the Great Reform Act.

Poor Nigel Farage, he’s like a demented dad at a Saturday league match, jumping up and down on the touchline yelling abuse at the referee, who’s just yellow-carded his child.

UKIP’s only reasonable-sounding mouthperson, Hermione Gingold lookalike Suzanne Evans, is calling (she’s not as rational as she sounds) for the three High Court judges (one of them the most senior Law Lord in the land), who ruled that the Prime Minister doesn’t have a legal right to abrogate the Treaty of Rome without a vote in Parliament, to be sacked, presumably on the grounds that she doesn’t like the law. (Judges don’t make law, they interpret laws made in Parliament – at least that’s how it used to be.)

Mr Dacre (67, son of a draft dodger) of the Mail has outed one of the judges on his front page as ‘openly gay’, another as a member of a chambers that operates in Europe… and has described all three as ‘Enemies of the People’, in good old 1930s Völkischer Beobachter, National Socialist style. Sadly, none of them appears to be black or Jewish, but it was a close call. The Sun‘s vilely racist front page brands the Brexit litigant, Mrs Gina Miller as both ‘foreign’ (she is black) and ‘wealthy’ – an Investment Manager no less (not unlike Mr Philip May and Ms Amber Rudd, the Home Secretary, in fact!)

Meanwhile I imagine Mr Murdoch and Mr Rothermere – sorry, Viscunt, whatever –  and Mr Desmond of the Excess, former publisher of the hardcore porn site Asian Babes (not racist but racy!), the proprietorsof those scurrilous rags, must be urgently consulting their Investment Managers as to what to do about their depreciating £pounds.

Sooner or later, some wag in a wig will also point out that the Referendum Act specifically states that the result need not be binding on Parliament; while Lord Kerr, who actually wrote Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty, the clause relating to countries leaving the EU, has been trying to make his voice heard above the hubbub. He’s been trying to tell everyone that Article 50 is not irrevocably binding, but the howling, moaning Brexit mob aren’t in a mood to listen.

And the speculation is that Mrs May will now have to call a General Election to get a popular mandate to govern the country without reference to the Parliament whose ‘sovereignty’ millions voted to repatriate from Brussels, imagining it was hiding over there (it was only visiting on expenses). Otherwise she will have to obey the sovereign will of Parliament by asking them first, and that would never do, she might actually have to come up with a policy for leaving the EU.

The problem being, that she can’t call an election without an Act of Parliament, because Parliament has already got an Act that says we can have general elections only once every five years.

If we had a Reichstag, it would be in flames by now.

“Every area of Government policy must now be subordinated to fulfilling the wishes of ‘the British people’ to sever our ties with Europe; bar that of encouraging, nay begging, European companies to remain in Britain.”

If you have to ask the price, you can’t afford it

The Serious Fraud Office has revealed in a BBC Panorama report in association with The Guardian, that it is investigating a global network of so-called Agents in relation to possible bribes paid to middlemen to secure contracts for Rolls Royce, possibly the most prestigious name in British engineering.

This famous ‘British’ company, synonymous with excellence in manufacturing, has a troubled history and a labyrinthine company structure, of which it is difficult to make sense. What we can say is that the famous Rolls Royce marque is no longer made by Rolls Royce. It’s not even British anymore.

The business had been in public ownership since it went bust in 1971, crippled by the development costs of the notorious RB211 aero engine. In 1987 the government sold its shares to a private investment consortium, Rolls Royce plc. The company was split up, the auto-engineering businesses and brands sold in a complicated deal to two German owners, BMW and Volkswagen. ‘Rolls Royce’ no longer makes the famous cars.

All which is quite fascinating, demonstrating the awful complexity of modern business and the impossibility of sorting out anything to do with EU trade in less than ten years.

Be that as it may, I’ve just been reading several stories on the Guardian‘s online news site relating to the SFO investigation of what the Government still likes to pretend is just the kind of  ‘Great British company’ that will enable us to prosper mightily after Brexit.

There’s speculation that, just as the SFO investigation of British Aerospace was quashed by Tony Blair on grounds of ‘national security’ (the Thatcher family was rumoured to be implicated in the bribe of $60 million paid to a Saudi intermediary to secure a contract for fighter-jets), Mrs May could well find a good reason to quietly kill off any unhelpful poking around in the affairs of our flagship engineering business, whoever owns it. After all, don’t all companies with aspirations to be global players not have to bribe their way to success? Haven’t they always?

Every area of Government policy must now be subordinated to fulfilling the wishes of ‘the British people’ to sever our ties with Europe; bar that of encouraging, nay begging, not to say bribing, foreign companies to remain in Britain.

Nobody believes the protestations of Business Secretary Greg Clark that the Government has not offered Nissan Motors a blank cheque to continue manufacturing in Sunderland; the heartland of the Brexit vote, yet an area that would be economically devastated by the loss of 7,000 jobs if the Japanese carmaker decided to jump ship to somewhere more favourably located in the tariff-free Eurozone, as it had threatened to do.

And of course, outside the EU we ought in theory to be free from any constraints regarding Government support for business.

It seems the British taxpayer is going to have to find £billions to retain jobs in the manufacturing, banking and other sectors if a hard Brexit prevents us from remaining in the Single Market and the Customs Union; and will have to swallow the very considerable cost of living rises resulting from a permanently weaker pound, that respectable government advisory sources predict will cost up to £3,000 a year for each family.

Ooops. Silly Brexit fuckwits.

But no, I mustn’t disparage your ‘democracy’. The people have spoken.

Something achieved, at least

Two days before he was due to hang for a murder he does not even know he committed – nor is he aware of the sentence passed on him and its ratification by the Pakistani Supreme Court – Imdad Ali has received a temporary reprieve while the Government in Rawalpindi reviews the verdict.

Imdad has been diagnosed with severe schizophrenia and lives in an entirely separate reality. Arrested in 2002, accused of killing an Imam, he has been on Death Row since 2014, when capital punishment was restored in Pakistan after a major terrorist incident and a large number of capital cases (including some for blasphemy) were reviewed in the light of the change of policy. A number of prisoners formerly sentenced to prison terms have been executed, not all of them terrorists.

Bizarrely, the Appeal Court ruling contained the news that schizophrenia is not a recognised mental illness and so there was no plea of diminished responsibility possible.

I mention the case, not only because it seems extraordinarily unjust, but because I was one of over 30,000 people around the world who signed a petition organised by the Reprieve charity to halt the execution, which we probably all considered utterly barbaric. Only we were too polite to put it in those terms, it would have been counterproductive.

Imdad is not entirely saved yet. But at least we have achieved something, it seems – and a new defence is being arranged.

Good for us. Now for everyone else….

 

The Irony Lady

I’m getting bored with leaping to defend Margaret Thatcher, as she was pretty ghastly (in public at least – people who knew her privately say she was kind and thoughtful) and left a lasting legacy of bitterness; although, to risk being boiled in oil, I have to say as a single pensioner I’d rather have had the poll tax than pay £120 a month so my local authority can take away two black binbags and waste £100s of thousands paying PriceWaterhouse Cooper’s consultants to do their job for them.

It’s just that her premiership seems to haunt so many people and has become a ‘meme’ almost of demonic possession in the 27 years since her downfall.

This typical remark is from a Comment thread on a George Monbiot piece on the Guardian website today, about the mental-health consequences of social isolation:

“Palming it off as the human condition is bullshit. Remember Margaret Thatcher: “there is no such thing as society…”? That’s what she ensured with her policies and everyone else has built on it.”

So even today, she still drives people mad. Literally, it seems.

The point I keep trying to make about her policies is that they were less ‘sui generis’ than ‘sui temporis’.

In other words, it isn’t clever or good enough to blame her personally for what we can now clearly see was her policy response to a wider world already trending towards neoliberalism and the cult of the individual.

The full quotation from a Woman magazine interview (where she probably thought she was on safe ground as middle-class women tend to think more like this), courtesy of rightwing website, The Commentator, goes:

“I think we’ve been through a period where too many people have been given to understand that if they have a problem, it’s the government’s job to cope with it: ‘I have a problem, I’ll get a grant.’ ‘I’m homeless, the government must house me.’ They’re casting their problem on society. And, you know, there is no such thing as society.

“There are individual men and women, and there are families. And no government can do anything except through people, and people must look to themselves first. It’s our duty to look after ourselves and then, also to look after our neighbour. People have got the entitlements too much in mind, without the obligations. There’s no such thing as entitlement, unless someone has first met an obligation.”

In other words, it’s standard Tory Christian thinking, not some evil plot to pull the rug out from under the working-class. Quite the opposite, it enshrines working-class values of thrift and mutual support. It prefigures, for instance, Cameron’s ‘Big Society’ theme; countering the Labour vision of the Big State, it’s an attempt to divest some of the increasingly unsustainable social responsibilities of Government onto other institutions; starting with the family. It was not an appeal to individual greed, but to personal self-reliance.

And, yes, it ignores the plight of the poorest (poverty as I have sometimes experienced is actually quite difficult to escape from even with all your resources of mental strength and resilience intact – opportunity does not always come knocking), but that wasn’t what she was banging on about. It’s a different issue, and while whole communities were being destroyed through de-industrialisation, she did not pull away the safety-net of social security (basic and grudging though provision was) in the way that Cameron, Osborne and Duncan Smith did during the coalition years of 2010-2015.

Her privatisations, Hayekian Chicago-school monetarism, rowing-back the power of Trade Unions*, deregulation of the City of London and the liberation of markets to run rampant over (yet curiously to become more responsive to) consumers, can all be lumped together as Thatcherism if you like, but none of them was her original idea: those things were already happening, here and elsewhere, and it cannot be argued that, despite the casualties, they didn’t make rusty old Britain a more competitive, diverse and tolerant nation in the end.

Sadly, that consensus seems to have fallen apart in recent months.

Subsequent problems such as child poverty, epidemic mental health issues and half a million people relying on food banks have been the fault of successive Governments failing to engineer reform, to support fiscal responsibility and to extend social obligation into the business sector. They are not the intended consequence of Thatcher’s ‘tough love’ policies, but of political faiblesse in standing up to corporations.

Thatcher would not, I suspect, have gone along with the cuts and caps in social welfare prescribed by Osborne and Duncan Smith as the cure for the nation’s ills; but would have sought some means of forcing companies to invest rather than sit on their huge cash piles, waiting out the never-ending crisis. Nor would she have pulled Britain out of the EU, with the consequent economic uncertainties of a weaker pound and possible trade barriers.

Already, according to her stated objectives, with May we are seeing the reversal of neoliberalism ‘red in tooth and claw’. Yet Thatcher would I feel have been horrified by May’s refusal to put Brexit to a vote in Parliament. The 2008 crash revealed that the markets had no trousers on, and not a lot has changed. Hopefully then as we’re not going to get another Labour government for many years, we might arrive at a synthesis between interventionist policies and ‘compassionate Toryism’ to mitigate the worst consequences of austerity.

Mrs Thatcher was less a fan of austerity than, like poor Gordon Brown, of housewifely ‘prudence’. I think you’ll find the welfare bill increased substantially during her reign, whatever her views. She was not advocating the dismantling of ‘society’: she was expressing the view that there really is no such thing.

You can argue that ‘society’ is in essence the culmination of communitarian qualities such as altruism, neighbourliness, mutual reliance and resilience – based perhaps on self-interest – charity, and that these things ultimately result in broader governance based on a pact between government and the governed (that is now in real danger of breaking down) to provide for everyone’s needs; but that there is no intermediate institution called ‘society’ (except in the upper-class sense, that she wouldn’t have known about).

It’s not really such a controversial observation.

*While believing in the importance of Trade Unions, I couldn’t help but give Thatcher one cheer as, twice in my life, union restrictions and mulish obstructionism fatally impeded my career prospects; and when on the one occasion I needed the support of my union, to whom I had been paying dues for several years, they told me to get lost as they considered me to be ‘management’; although I had just been unfairly dismissed.

So actually, I couldn’t give a fuck about the unions.

 

Obituary

Horrible, horrible science persons

On the morning of 4 November Britain woke to the news that a lovable, record-sized earthworm had been found in a garden in Cheshire.

At 15.7″ ‘Dave’, as the son of his finder christened him, was a monster in earthworm terms; certainly for a wild worm. Annelids of a not dissimilar size have previously been bred in captivity, under ‘ideal conditions’ (badger- and blackbird-free).

Outrage ensued, and a Twitter campaign has been mounted (#JusticeforDave) – alas, too late – when it was revealed that, on receipt of the living specimen, the evil scientists at the Natural History Museum promptly had Dave ‘euthanased’ and pickled him for further research and display purposes.

If they can do that to an earthworm, the humblest among us, what can they do to us, I wonder?

http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/entry/dave-the-worm-outcry-as-uks-largest-earthworm-is-killed-for-science_uk_581c5d15e4b09d57a9a83da2

By total contrast, proving the milk of human kindness has not been entirely replaced by UHT, another BBC report tells us:

“Park rangers have given mouth-to-mouth resuscitation to a number of fish (ornamental Koi carp) after the tank they were in was slashed. Forty-five “much loved” fish died at Castle Park in Colchester, Essex, on Wednesday while their pond was being cleaned and they were in a container. Park staff rushed to save a number of fish, managing to successfully resuscitate some of the larger ones.”

An 18-year-old man has been arrested.

 

Postscriptum

Ice-rink officials in the Japanese city of Kitakyushu are to hold a special memorial service for thousands of fish, to apologise to an incensed public for marmorialising the fish in the ice as a form of decorative embellishment for the amusement of skaters.

According to officials, the fish were already dead when they were frozen.

Meanwhile, nothing is seemingly being done to stop the unbelievably cruel ritual each September of herding and slaughtering hundreds of dolphins in Taiji bay by the atavistic baboons of Wakayama, a peculiarly Japanese obscenity which is apparently still tolerated on ‘cultural’ grounds.

 

Boris is an honourable man, and other thoughts on inequality

The problem of unconscious bias

To be charitable to Boris Johnson, and why not?, the horrible, horrible Moaning re-twerk in The Sunday Times of an article he wrote just two days before he declared for the Leave camp, apparently rejected for publication, advocating that Britain should remain in the EU, is a ‘so what?’ moment.

Have I ever tried to deceive you, gentle Spammers, Likers, Followers and Those No Longer Reading This, Muh Bogl, about the true intentions of the Leave tendency? That the referendum had less to do with Europe than with the political ambitions of a small but determined bunch of neo-Thatcherite crazies? Did I ever try to persuade you that Mr Johnson was an honourable man – like jolly old Brutus?

I don’t think so.

And what is his response? After consulting Donald Trump’s special explanations unit, Mr Johnson replies that he was just batting around some different ideas in his customary quasi-satirical vein before finally making up the golden glow that passes for his Classically trained mind.

I understand the Daily Telegraph was paying £29,000 a month to Mr Johnson to work through a few unpublishable ideas for them once a week. It’s enough to turn anyone’s gloriously straw-textured head.

Elsewhere in Brexitville, I’ve had two annoyingly sarcastic earworms buzzing around my elderly brain all morning: The Bachelors’ ‘Bremoaner – They’re wringing-out our song of love’; and the Monkees’ ‘I’m a Breleaver – I couldn’t leave her if I tried.’

I’m also trying to imagine what happens to the global economy if the Dumbfucks prevail, and we wake up on 9 November to a Trump presidency, with Hillary eating minge for 20 years in Sing-sing?

The minor perturbation in the Earth’s orbit caused by Brexit might look more like the proverbial North Korean nuclear test in that event.

What happens when, in the wake of a rash plebiscite, one currency, let’s call it the Pound, slides dramatically in world markets to a historic 180-year low against another currency, we’ll call it the Dollar; only for the Dollar in turn to slide dramatically to a historic, 180-year low against all the other currencies?

I’ve only got Economics A-level, guys, I don’t know. But I’ve instructed my broker to switch my entire offshore Trust out of Panama into the Azerbaijani Manat.

Best be on the safe side.

Tick where applicable

This questionnaire culture is getting out of hand.

Agree strongly… Agree a bit… Can’t agree… Total rubbish!

A company in the USA, where else, Compas has developed a secret algorithm that uses a ten-point questionnaire to decide instead of a judge, how long ya goin down for. It’s being adopted, it seems, particularly by state jurisdictions that have been subject to criticism in the past for alleged biases in sentencing.

The idea is that answers to questions like: How law-abiding/generally black are you and what further risk do you represent to America? can be used to decide the most appropriate sentences in any criminal case.

Because Compas refuses to release details of how the computer makes its decisions, based on the standard questionnaire, this approach has led to accusations of hidden bias. For instance, ‘how many people in your family have ever been arrested?’ could well bias for race, as black people are seven times more likely to be arrested in parts of the country as whites or hispanics.

And because no-one can argue with a computer, the sentences it prescribes cannot be appealed. (I seem to remember at one time Americans developed a naive enthusiasm for ‘scientifically unshakeable’ lie-detector tests, that have subsequently been utterly discredited.)

Personally, I regard all forms of standardisation of all forms of judgements in all situations, depending on responses to a set list of questions, as manifestations of the modern tendency to monumental, self-regarding stupidity.

As we lose faith in our established institutions, so a kind of mumbo-jumbo ‘expert systems’ mentality is taking over, that leads to such idiocies as the belief being hawked around the police forces of the world by  ‘Dr’ Joe Sullivan of Texas, that you can identify paedophiles by the sort of clothes they wear. We are voluntarily surrendering our hegemony to robots, way in advance of their capacity to out-think us.

Would any sane society base its immigration policy on a reader poll in the Daily Mail? Could answers to a questionnaire in Cosmopolitan determine the outcome of a rape trial? Would you instantly abandon 43 years of complex treaty obligations to other countries on the basis of an in-out popular referendum (don’t answer that…)?

In a moment of wild enthusiasm – I’m addicted to filling-in forms – I signed up to a website promising me money and goodies if I was happy to answer a few questions every so often about my consumer preferences. It seemed harmless enough and, identifying as a retired person with time on my hands, a way of passing it.

It was only after ploughing my way through many pages of preliminary questions about my age, income group and awareness of different TV distribution channels that I began to realise I am no longer a member of the human race. Nine times out of ten, the algorithm was deciding that I’m not a fit person to be consulted on any matters of opinion concerning modern media, and closing me down.

Not only were the questionnaires all biased in favour of a subject I know or care little about – something that was not vouchsafed to me at the beginning – but they were biased against me on sociological criteria, without telling me which questions I had ‘got wrong’. I do have an opinion, but it was not apparently the ‘right’ opinion.

That hasn’t stopped the promoters from emailing me twenty times a day to ask with tender concern if perhaps I am not completing enough questionnaires because I fear I may not earn enough money if I do? The automatic bias here being that most people are only interested in money.

Frustratingly, the questioner has not thought to ask if I am not completing questionnaires because the fucking algorithms won’t let me? That’s simply an answer you can’t give.

Many of us will be familiar with the banking sector’s ‘security questions’ nightmare, a Catch-22 of simply cretinous proportions, where you cannot be told which question you got wrong because you got one of the questions wrong. (I should know the date of my own birthday, but apparently the computer knew different.)

Another point of extreme annoyance with online questionnaires, that you choose to complete out of the goodness of your heart, is the compulsory follow-up question you can’t answer, because you have previously given the answer ‘None’. This generally arises when you have wasted the previous ten minutes answering inane questions about social media to the best of your ability.

Then, of course, there are those ‘please review our performance so we can improve our service’ questionnaires that appear to have been compiled by the client browbeating the PR agency into biassing the questions so that it’s impossible for the customer to breathe a word of criticism.

And the ones with the dropdown menus that don’t give you a ‘don’t know’ or ‘other’ option; the ones with a menu of places that doesn’t list the place where you actually are… that haven’t heard your administrative county changed its name thirty years ago…. The one that spat out my address as ‘gibberish’ because it’s got Welsh words in it (‘We’re sorry if you feel you were discriminated against…’).

There’s also the problem of self-incrimination, a form of bias that comes from a hidden desire – inculcated in schools from an early age – to please the question-setter. I scored very highly in the online Baron-Cohen: ‘Where are you on the autism spectrum?’ test, principally because I felt a profound obligation to identify as autistic in sympathy with other, rather odd, people like myself.

Often the questions appear so tendentious that the intention behind them is clear; although you may find they’ve done that deliberately to fool you. The exercise then becomes a game, not exactly what you want when your answers could get you thirty years in Leavenworth.

Humans construct algorithms, so the obvious question to Compas is, for how many decades or centuries does your programmer think people should be vengefully caged-up in a brutal correctional facility for stealing food when they’re starving, or for hacking the Pentagon for fun from their bedroom in North London?

Was your question-setter just batting around some different ideas in his customary quasi-satirical vein?

Let’s just admit it

“The death of a baby boy mauled by a family dog is “unlikely” to be treated as a criminal investigation, police said.  Archie Darby, aged four months, died after being attacked in Colchester, Essex, on Thursday afternoon. The owner of the dog – the children’s aunt – has been named as a serving police officer … 31-year-old PC Clare Ferdinand.” – BBC News

Now, look.

As a dog owner, the thought of my gentle and lovely Hunzi mauling a baby to death and maiming his brother for life is not one I can readily contemplate. But it’s not a risk I would ever take, to leave a baby alone with a dog in the room – any dog.

Hunzi is a Border collie. He was given to me by a farmer who couldn’t persuade him to herd sheep. Bless. The farmer would otherwise have had him killed, but I have never regretted saying okay, why not? The dog in the report is – or perhaps by now was – a Staffordshire Bull Terrier. I like Staffies a lot, but the clue’s in the name. They were bred for baiting bulls for sport. Bulls are very large and dangerous 1800-lb animals armed with hoofs and horns and general meanness.

Staffies are  not on the banned Dangerous Dogs list but their cousins, the pitbulls, are. I’m not one who believes certain breeds are more likely to attack a human than others, it depends on their training – but also on their breed temperament and their physical capacity to inflict devastating injury. The ‘2nd Amendment’ NRA argument, that it’s people who kill, not guns, should not be allowed to cloud the fact that every year in Britain, dog attacks are on the increase as dogs bred for fighting have become more popular – both as status symbols and as weapons of defence.

And as ‘family pets’….

Many people trust their dogs to care for their children, possibly influenced by Nana, the nursemaid golden retriever of Peter Pan fame, I don’t know. According to the expat website UKandSpain, “Each year, approximately 28,000 facial dog bites are reported in the UK, with just over 19,000 of them requiring serious plastic surgery.”

And each year too, a number of people – I can’t find out exactly how many but it’s probably about a dozen – go to jail for keeping a dangerous dog after it has killed a child, or even a vulnerable adult.

So there’s another, wider issue lurking here, isn’t there.

“There were 718 cases brought against dog owners or handlers in magistrate courts from June to December last year, compared with 444 during the previous six months (up by 62% over the previous year). Over the same period, the number of successful prosecutions increased by 71 per cent, with lawyers securing 553 convictions compared with 325.” – Mail Online, June 2015

In other words, if your dog attacks someone, resulting in death or serious injury, you’re almost certain to face prosecution. I wonder, how many of those 718 dog owners coincidentally weren’t serving police officers?

And that’s my point.

The more newspapers like the Daily Mail like to talk-up the terrifying increase in danger on our streets (not borne out by any statistics) from immigrants, Muslims, terrorists, schizophrenics, feral clowns and other people who would have been safely locked up if Social Workers were only doing their job, the more they have to try to persuade us concomitantly to acknowledge the special role in society played by the security forces; whose casualties are infinitesimal compared with those of ordinary citizens.

Perhaps that’s what makes them a special case.

I’ve blogged before about the inequitable difference in treatment between the minuscule number of cases where police officers have died while trying to apprehend car criminals,  resulting in a murder charge; and the much larger number where car criminals (and innocent passers-by) have died while being pursued by police and no charges have resulted.

There is currently a campaign in the tabloid press to have the law changed relating to serving members of the armed forces, so that they cannot under any circumstances be investigated for possible breaches of the Geneva Conventions and international laws against war crimes, to which Britain is a longtime signatory. It has been reported, possibly accurately, that Theresa May is considering the idea seriously.

“An SAS hero is facing murder charges after the Ministry of Defence launched an investigation into his ‘mercy killing’ of Iraqi soldiers 13 years ago. Sergeant Colin McLachlan, who starred in the Channel 4 series Who Dares Wins, could be jailed…”

This front-page lead story in the Mail on Sunday (16 October) was headlined: ‘Despicable betrayal of an SAS hero’. It reveals a curious attitude to the potential commission of war crimes, and a bundle of fairly awful prejudices growing out of the popular resurgence of British exceptionalism.

Sgt McLachlan had recently admitted in a book to the ‘mercy killing’ of wounded enemy combatants, but without reading the details the newspaper story makes a number of completely unwarranted assumptions, principally that he ‘faces murder charges’ when he has not been charged at all; while refusing to consider that what he himself claims he did is, in law both international and British military, a criminal offence; and it is the statutory duty of the MoD to investigate.

It’s an appalling piece of journalism; in fact, not journalism at all, but a travesty: egregious propaganda. A TV show, a book… Sgt McLachlan seems to want to make the most of that ‘hero’ tag. He may indeed have performed heroically, we shall never know as SAS operations are official secrets and anything written in popular books by ex-SAS men is therefore thinly disguised fiction, that has to be cleared by the war office.

Lock ’em up!

A Storyville documentary aired on BBC 4 TV last night featured a lengthy interview with Moazzem Begg, one of four British Guantanamo detainees released without charge in 2012.

Begg is an elusive character. Apparently just an ordinary citizen, yet wherever there’s trouble anywhere in the world involving Muslim insurgents he keeps popping up in the role of concerned ‘witness’, and finds himself being arrested – or sometimes kidnapped in the middle of the night and rendered to places you, I and the editor of the Mail on Sunday would probably rather not go.

Yet there’s no evidence whatever of his involvement with Islamic terrorism, which he insists he does not support. He has only ever once been charged in a court of law (with helping to supply a generator to a Syrian medical charity – maximum sentence 15 years), and was acquitted only after spending seven months in Belmarsh, our own special detention centre for top-security terror suspects – many of whom under the Blair regime were detained indefinitely without trial. He is not in any sense a ‘radical preacher’, that demon of popular headlines; nor any sort of agitator, as far as we can see. An intelligent man, he avoids hate speech; indeed, he seems to harbour no ill-will. It’s hard to say what he is, other than a voice of conscience.

Regardless of what motivates him – and he appears sincere in his claim to want to persuade fellow Muslims to rise above the violence – when it comes to the hysterical, near insane behaviour of US and British forces towards Muslim detainees snatched off the streets seemingly at random, institutionalised bullying to the nth degree, his testimony is shocking in the extreme; and entirely believable.

Begg’s refusal to act as an MI5 informer also ensures that his family life has been dogged by police and anonymised security agents, one of whom – ‘Andrew’ – crops up everywhere he goes like a waking nightmare, even in the illicit interrogation rooms of the CIA.

Perhaps it’s time we just give up the rule of law altogether, and admit that ‘there’s one law for them, another for the rest of us’.

There’s a war on, you know! (Several, actually. Nothing to do with me.)

 

End Times

Two consecutive headlines on the BBC News website today:

‘Why the battle for breakfast is hotting up’

‘Battle to retake Mosul from IS begins’

The first battle, as you would expect, is higher up the Views list, concerned as it is with our trendy cafes replacing egg-and-sausage with foreign granola, as opposed to worrying about the actual slaughter of women, children and doctors on what promises to be a grand scale.

It’s nice to know we British, who helped to create the fuck-up in Iraq, have got our priorities straight.

Food and its preparation seems to have become the number one obsession of the British middle class; almost akin to a new religion, the food cult dominates the colour sections of the weekend media. Millions are glued to TV shows celebrating culinary mastery and excess.

Salutary to think, therefore, of the fourfold increase in reported cases of malnutrition and associated medical conditions, the existence of ‘breakfast clubs’ for hungry schoolkids, the over one million people reliant on food banks, owing to the actions of one man, Mr Iain Duncan Smith.

Secretary of State for Work and Pensions in the last coalition government, in order to maintain a low tax environment for the wealthy Smith imposed a brutal regime of benefit sanctions on claimants failing to abide by petty bureaucratic regulations designed to trip them up.

Mr Smith in my view should be detained, taken to The Hague forthwith and charged with a crime against humanity.

And if his gaolers forget to feed the little tortoise-headed bastard, so be it.

A race to the bottom

STOP PRESS

Ground Control to You-know-who

So, farewell then, David Bowie (69). International treasure and pop icon.

I guess you changed a lot of people’s lives with your colourful clothes and hair, dramatic songs and multiple stage personalities. You weren’t a great actor or singer, but everyone’s saying what a nice bloke you were, which is good. And you kept the show going, macabrely right to the end. With your last album, released only days ago, I hear you’ve arrived at Death simultaneously with Jazz. That’s the spirit. I’ll have to buy it.

To be honest, I never really ‘got’ the Bowie legend. I was more into Motown at the time. You caught on quickly to new trends and made them your own with a few deft costume and line-up changes. Your music owed a lot to Lou Reed, Brian Eno, Elton John, Kraftwerk. You were intelligent and well-read, a self-made, self-contained man. You always acknowledged that, but still people thought you were an original, a one-off – maybe because we all like dressing-up. And musicians followed your styles.

What was that ‘Ziggy Stardust’ space alien, starman thing? It didn’t seem all that clever or original an idea: pop star, star-man….

But it worked for you. I guess most teenagers feel they must be aliens from another planet at some time or other, or they wouldn’t kill themselves listening to Morrissey. I know I did. Still do. And you got the part as an alien in Nic Roeg’s The Man who Fell to Earth.

And now everyone is joking, oh, so Bowie reinvented his character again, this time as a dead pop star? Along with all the trimmings: the shocked faces, the tears, floral tributes, candlelit vigils… the old albums racing back up the charts.

It’s tasteless, but kind of encouraging.

 

What I’ve been doing

So, we missed last Thursday’s slot. Happily, because I’ve been working! For muney!!

If I wasn’t pacing up and down an exam room, looking alternately fierce and avuncular, supplying spare pens for young baboons who (although supposedly intelligent third-year undergraduates) have brought only one ballpoint, not functioning; rousting out those who might, at a pinch, be rapped over the knuckles for Unacceptable Academic Practice, as we must all now call cheating, then I….

Oh dear, I have lost my way in the syntax. If I wasn’t doing that, as I say, then I was at my ex-wife’s new house for a day, earning a free lunch putting up a cat-fence in the garden, with topographical and structural difficulty, between rainstorms. Happy days.

And then I have been immensely depressed. In fact, I was reduced to actual tears on Thursday evening, to find yet another letter on the hall floor from the Student Loan Company, badgering me for more pointless ‘evidence’ of extreme penury.

Just when you thought there couldn’t be anything else to show them, regarding the same very small amounts, here’s another cruel and timewasting demand to cope with.

I’ve been trying for three months now to persuade these privatised successors of the local Education Authority, with which I never had a problem, of the simple fact that my income for the year 2013/14 fell far short of the threshold above which parents have to make contributions to their children’s university grant.

And like all newly privatised quangos, they’ve been anxious to impress the Treasury with their diligence at kicking cans down the road, hopefully forever.

Their latest wheeze has been to reject an official IRS account of some small investment income I get from the USA, worth in total about £1,800 a year, on grounds that, as the US tax year runs briskly from January to January, as years tend to do, while Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs is basically still a Christmassy heap of groaning, hungover baboons until April, when the UK tax year finally cranks into motion, the fund must have somehow accumulated an extra £7,000 in interest and sent it to me secretly during those missing three months.

Yet they have my HMRC consolidated account for the UK year to look at as well. Just a glance at my bank statements, with their empty Credits column month after month, the little OD notes denoting incipient bankruptcy next to each of the steadily mounting Debits, all to Messrs Morrison’s supermarket’s wine department,  might have convinced them, but no. Not as long as there was something, anything even fractionally anomalous, that they could sink their venomous, savings-quota-hungry little fangs into.

This arrant nonsense has gone on and on, week after week, while my poor boy struggles to finance his rent, woo his lovely friend and maintain his rusting motorbike. Is it so much to ask? Oh look, here’s that form again, that they’ve sent back after three weeks for me to mark ‘n/a’ in each of the many non-applicable boxes, instead of merely ignoring them. But surely, would he not have entered the information, were there any to be entered? No, he must be an idiot, who has clearly forgotten the day he received an emergency support grant from the Church!

What made it even more tearfully depressing is that I’d already spent months in the autumn going over and over the same few pathetic scraps of paper with another Government waste-bin of human ambition, the Department of Work and Pensions. They used the selfsame tactic of repeatedly punching me in the face until they finally had to agree on the basis of exactly the same evidence, from the same year as the others, that I was, essentially, a harmless economic basket-case deserving of a paltry (and very temporary) handout.

It all amounts to gross abuse by bureaucracy, but it is the modern way of life in Gideon Osborne’s austerity-ridden Britain.

Meanwhile,

  • Millions of unemployed foreigners are arriving on our shores and before their no-longer fashionable shellsuits are dry are being handed houses and benefits and Masters Degrees and pensioned sinecures for life and cars and fresh young English virgins and £50 Amazon vouchers and gold-plated iPhones with 300 free minutes, on no other evidence than the production of someone’s EU passport.
  • Five hundred City bankers trousered over £1 million each in bonuses for 2015, while the Financial Conduct Authority investigation into their greed and criminality has been aborted with no coherent explanation.
  • A certain special football manager has been sacked, reportedly with a contract buyout amounting to £40 million, for no other reason than that his players, some on £300,000 of cocaine a week, thought he was being a bit of a self-aggrandising arsehole and went on a goal strike.

And today, two winners have each been treated to £33 million Lottery money in the biggest ever grab-bag finale to a Camelot publicity stunt, designed to reassure us all that the recent changes to the ticket numbering were not designed to make winning statistically impossible; only to prove that the greed, gullibility and desperation of the average Briton know no bounds.

Something is profoundly wrong somewhere.

I’m even sure what.

 

A race to the bottom

After a week of shuffling in embarrassment, it is finally beginning to occur to one or two liberal-minded herrenvolk that the appallingly misogynistic behaviour of rampaging mobs of young men, said to have been of North African origin, sexually assaulting and robbing random women on the streets of German cities over the New Year, does seem rather a fortuitous coincidence for the resurgent parties of the Right.

Perhaps forgetting that their parents managed in 1990 to absorb the entire population of East Germany into West Germany, lots of younger Germans are dusting off their grandparents’ copies of Mein Kampf, the best-selling cookbook by A. Hitler, which is now being allowed back into the school curriculum, and are railing against the admission of a million asylum-seekers whose main disqualification appears to be that they are foreign.

The other half of the population is trying very hard to be nice to these refugees, most of whom have a genuine reason to be fleeing the post-apocalyptic urban wasteland that is now much of the Middle East, in search not just of a better life, but of any life at all. Perhaps these kind Germans have been reminded of the state in which their own cities were left after WW2, seven million displaced survivors wandering stunned and starving amid the rubble, selling sex for Hershey bars, who were eventually settled somehow. (Perhaps the unkind ones don’t want to be reminded.)

The problem being, that state institutions have been caught off-guard and understandably lack the money, staff and facilities to ensure the smooth and efficient absorption of so many refugees in such a short time; while hundreds of thousands more will soon be on their way. They are perhaps reluctant to put them in camps. It’s a recipe for ethnic conflict on a worrying scale.

Suddenly, into the midst of this hitherto polite controversy erupts an unpleasant demonstration of macho male aggression, seemingly perpetrated by newly arrived young Muslim men, ‘economic migrants’ who have brought their ignorant foreign ways and abusive bad-manners with them, in a most un-Christian display of sexualised violence against defenceless German womanhood.

What a strange coincidence. After all, Germany has taken in hundreds of thousands of migrant Muslim workers down the decades to fuel the Wirtschaftswunder, and they’ve never had this problem before, certainly not on such a scale and in such a flagrant way. Why, it could almost have been the old racist trope of the oversexed n-word re-orchestrated to discredit Mrs Merkel and her humane response to the crisis threatening to overwhelm European institutions with a swarm of sexually incontinent brownfaces speaking in barbarian tongues and bowing down to Mecca five times a day. Surely not? Germans would never dream of using such a tactic to demonise an entire ethnic minority. Nor, I feel sure, would the police have just stood by, doing nothing.

Judging by the speeches at a rally yesterday in Cologne, starring the British former leader of the English Defence League, who on the basis of the news clip we heard would in Britain have been arrested for inciting racial hatred, this is now more about exploiting fundamental differences of race and religion for political ends than it is about protesting the bad behaviour of an unwanted horde of unreconstructed wogs (even though their labour is desperately needed, especially the ones with MBAs and medical degrees…).

And thanks to a hideous anti-immigrant publicity campaign in the rightwing press, seizing on every instance of possible criminal behaviour by a microscopic minority of the migratory millions to prove that they’re all fifth-columnists for the IS, ‘send them back!’ is a paranoid rallying cry developing on a broader scale throughout the EU, although there is nowhere to send them back to. (Postscriptum: 27  January, plucky little Belgium has called on the Greeks to, essentially, throw the refugees back into the sea. To think we bailed these miscegenated frittes-eaters out twice.)

Would we tolerate it if they were Jews?

With IS mavericks on the loose; Russian-supported Shi’a Iran and US-backed Sunni Saudi Arabia eyeball to eyeball across the burning corpses of Syria, Iraq, Yemen and Libya; Turkey and Russia affecting mutual disagreeability – not to mention the aggressive, Saudi-funded  Salafist militias brutalising the populations of other failing states in the former Caliphate, economic stagflation everywhere, rock-bottom oil prices and plunging markets, yet another major faultline is opening up across Europe in the complex geomorphology of Armaggeddon.

A race to the bottom between Us and Them.

 

My brother Esau

Delicious, gimlet-eyed, posh TV prof. Lucy Worsley reminds us of how, after Peter the Great, Tsar of All the Russias, returned to Moscow from his 1697 tour of Europe, much of which he spent working as a boat-building apprentice in Deptford, Sarf London, he decided to modernise the aristocracy.

Accordingly, as well as insisting on a European dress code that left Muscovites shivering in the perennial snow, he slapped a tax on beards.

Given the current popularity of enormous shaggy appendages reaching almost to the waist, surprisingly odd-looking among rugby players and cricketers, and the general paranoia surrounding tufty Muslims, it’s unusual that our uniformly smooth-faced Tory government (not counting Theresa May, of course) has yet to think of this scheme as a means both of cleaning-up the nation’s generally hoboish appearance and paying down the national debt.

Were they to, I should have to rethink my own image. I first grew my beard out five years ago, when it looked as though the part of Captain Cat in Dylan Thomas’ Under Milk Wood was up for grabs. It came in handy again this autumn when I was cast as three different pirates in Treasure Island*. Inbetween times, and since, I have simply run the clippers over my whole head once a week using a Number Two comb, fondly imagining how much more actorly I might look with matching short hair and strangely felted, tri-tone, seven-day growth of beard.

My beard is of course a signal to the ladies that I am no longer available as a late-life sex-object. Imagine my delight, therefore, when a certain, quite a lot younger, lady expressed to me privately during our all-too short liaison last summer that she prefers men with beards.

Perhaps I shall keep it after all.  Although it sometimes makes me look like Jeremy Corbyn, far too old and stubborn and depressed and much put-upon by reasonable people, in the right light it’s quite debonair. Or should that be ‘debon-hair? Ha ha face.

Shame nothing else works.

*And we’re doing Peter Pan this year. So I guess I’ll have to keep the fuzz on as I’m clearly doomed to play Hook….

 

Here comes the you-know-what

Good Lord, is that sunshine outside my window?

It was raining when I came out, shame to spoil the perfect rainy weather record – every day since the second of November.

But now, well, I think that’s the sun, it’s hard to remember. Unless it’s another of Kim Jong-un’s crazy stunts. Maybe I should dive under the table?