The Denial Gene. On the Button: Myron Ebell and the BBC. Criminal Ecocide. Complaining is Not the British Way.

“Because of your culture of flaunting your ignorance, you can never admit you’re being played for fools…”

The denial gene

We used to keep chickens on our small farm.

A city-boy, I noticed after a while that when we tried to herd the flock into their house for the night, there was always one that would go in the opposite direction from all the others.

That can be a useful evolutionary tactic if you think the other 19 of your fellow hens are clearly going to their deaths, shut up in their house overnight, that they’re all making the wrong decision collectively and you’re going to be safer outside on your own.

We could hear the foxes licking their lips for miles around.

You humans, too clever by half!

I’ve concluded from Comments people post everywhere that there’s a rogue ‘denial’ gene affecting maybe 1 in 5 humans who simply refuse to study the world, to observe, to listen to others, to read and properly evaluate evidence and use the logic and reason God gave them; who actively despise people who do those things as ‘elitist’, imagining everyone will be better off like them: stupid.

Of course, you might not have television and medicine and nukes and a cellphone, but stupid is better, right?

Because of your culture of flaunting your ignorance, you can never admit you’re being played for fools by people who earn more money in an hour than you will in six months.

There’s a reason why Mr Rex Tillerson was paid £100 thousand dollars A DAY for running the huge oil company Exxon-Mobil. They have known for many decades that burning fossil fuels – coal, oil, gas – is a highly risky strategy; but have conspired to quash research into the alternatives because they like to make a lot of money, at which he was very good. Although millions of people in the non-developing world now lead more miserable and impoverished lives because of him and his shitty deals with corrupt states, at least we can keep on driving our SUVs to the supermarket.

Exxon is just one of many fossil-fuel companies that wards off demands for change by paying professional liars millions of dollars to make up stories undermining the overwhelming scientific consensus that the planet is heating to a dangerous degree; promoting the culture of ignorance among working folk, manipulating the media.

Blossom in DC, February

It’s only logical to assume that if we keep pumping billions of tonnes of warming gases every year into a finite atmosphere, it will warm the oceans and affect the weather; we have known it for over 100 years. All the science tells us is that what was predicted would happen is happening, only faster and harder. Data under constant revision are now showing the process of climate change – global warming – is going much faster than previously thought, and has not slowed down as the purveyors of highly selective interpretations have been telling us it has. There is no logical reason to think it might have, is there? Given that we are still polluting the atmosphere? Think!

How much of that money are they sharing with you, trolls? None, of course. You are as ass-poor as ever. Exploitation is, after all, their business and they are very good at it. They are playing you for fools, exploiting and encouraging the class of people who enjoy wallowing in ignorance, educational failures who imagine it’s cool to repeat simple stories that give them the comfort of feeling they’re superior to the many who can weigh-up the facts and come to rational conclusions we hope will save us from likely extinction within a generation.

Fine, if it’s only you pecking around in the dirt outside the hen house oblivious to your impending fate, feeling superior to the hens inside, too clever by half, safely shut up for the night.

I don’t personally give a shit what happens to you, the foxes can have you for all I care, you deserve it. I’m damned if you’re taking my children with you, you recrudescent Trumpish baboons, merely to celebrate your apathy, your ignorance and your fear of people who can actually think.

But, now your infantile trolling has official blessing, and we are losing hope.

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“In an interview on BBC Radio 4 in 2005, Ebell said that the UK’s Chief Scientist David King was “an alarmist with ridiculous views who knows nothing about climate change”. An early day motion deploring “in the strongest possible terms” Ebell’s “unfounded and insulting criticism” was raised in the House of Commons of the United Kingdom, and was signed by 66 Members of Parliament.” – Wikipedia

On the button: Myron Ebell and the BBC

God knows, I have been rude enough about the BBC’s unquestioning and uncritical acceptance of Donald J Trump as some kind of normal president, and the excessively ‘diplomatic’ reporting of their chief diplomatic correspondent in Washington, John Supine.

Radio 4’s increasingly bland and poorly researched presenter-fest, the Today programme, this morning (7 June) gave extensive coverage to Mr Trump’s imminent meeting with Vladimir Putin ‘for the first time’ at the foul-smelling G20 summit in Hamburg, and attempted a feeble analysis of his speech in Poland yesterday somehow without once mentioning the phrase ‘white nationalism’, or wondering how he managed to appear so coherent.

(Shielded behind bullet-proof glass, with two autocue devices, a bussed-in ‘cheering crowd’ and a speech 98% cleverly written by Steve Bannon for the benefit of East European white nationalists keen to receive the coded neo-Crusader rhetoric, is how.)

Between eight o’clock and nine o’clock I heard North Korea mentioned only once. No guest referred to the worrying co-operation between Russia and China over this crucial issue; no guest referred to the increasing provocations by the US Navy in the South China Sea and around the coast of North Korea, or the installation of missiles in South Korea, pointing north.

One guest, we forget who, did mention sanctions on Russia over the Ukraine thing, stating that they were being ‘raised’. No guest however referred to the Russian ‘rest camps’ on Long Island and in Maryland, closed down as rats’ nests of spies by President Obama, which Mr Trump has proposed allowing to reopen.

Certainly, no-one queried what or whose strategy lies behind Mr Trump’s new anti-Russian rhetoric increasingly contrasted with his previous support for the Putin regime; or on the likely outcome of FBI and Congressional investigations into Trump’s business goings-on, from which he has not yet divested, as a conduit for Russian and Ukrainian ‘dark money’.

Finally raising the subject of Mr Trump’s unilateral withdrawal from the Paris Accord on climate change, citing damage to US business interests, at ten to nine the 73-year-old veteran presenter John Humphrys introduced as a spokesman on the environment for the President’s advisory team, one Myron Ebell: a ‘climate-change skeptic’.

Mr Ebell is rather more than that, to say the least, as to be a skeptic one needs to start with some knowledge of the subject. But he is no stranger to Radio 4:

Ebell has been given extensive media coverage, frequently cited or interviewed by journalists in a way that presents a false balance by giving Ebell’s lay views equal weight with those of expert climatologists, and thus misrepresents the consensus of scientific opinion on climate change. – Wikipedia

Mr Ebell is not a climate scientist, nor indeed any other kind of scientist. He is a PR bunco artist from the deepest layers of the Washington ‘swamp’ of lobbyists, who has made a very nice living from lying publicly about the effects of continuing to burn coal, oil and gas. Corporations who have paid Mr Ebell very large fees to spread false stories about global warming ‘slowing down’, a ‘little ice age’, etc., and to do whatever he could to undermine public trust in science and promote the relentless poisoning for vast financial gain of land, sea and oceans include Exxon-Mobil, Dow Chemical and Murray Energy.

Mr Ebell has been connected with, or responsible for setting up, numerous imposing-sounding lobby groups, false-front policy ‘institutes’ working, for instance, against protections for wildlife, opposing the work of the Environmental Protection Agency. Responsible for the insulting pro-carbon slogan ‘They call it pollution, we call it life’, he has also lobbied intensively on behalf of the tobacco companies to prove that smoking is a healthy pursuit.

Almost every one of the vile causes this greedy little shit has espoused on behalf of his paymasters has been fabulously successful, inasmuch as they have provided inspiration for the bulk of the Trump administration’s pro-business policies and have Ebell’s bloodstained fingerprints all over them. It is so easy to press the buttons of dumbfuck Republican supporters desperate to validate their counterfactual ignorance and suspicion of the ‘authorities’.

What this lying creep was doing on the Today programme this morning, I have no idea. I had to switch it off, having previously learned that mental health services in the NHS are overstretched already.

Clearly the editors hadn’t a clue either, as they must have been unaware of the 2005 appearance cited above, that caused such a furore in Parliament, and could not be arsed to spend two minutes doing a background check on this douchebag or to obtain a balancing viewpoint before inviting him to squirt his pus all over the British public – again.

Please write in and complain to the BBC Board, for the sake of the earth.

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“He believes it is perfectly possible to go on pumping billions and billions of tonnes of poisonous and heat-retaining, long-lasting gaseous by-products from combusting carbonaceous fossil fuels year-on-year for two hundred years into a delicately balanced, complex – and above all finite atmospheric system and there will be no consequences to follow.”

Criminal ecocide

As we know, Mr Trump’s strange gameplan for governance has followed a two-track strategy.

One, fill as few middle-to-high-ranking posts as he can, making the administration of government agencies very difficult if not impossible, while at the same time blocking the publication of inconvenient scientific research; and two, put in as heads of departments only people to whom he owes favours, or his own family, inexperienced administrators with no qualifications in the field: people who are fully committed to sabotaging the normal administrative functions of government.

Why, almost anyone would imagine he was deliberately trying to bring down the State.

Why has Mr Trump gone along with this idea that destroying the jobs of people who make the country function safely is an efficient solution to what was probably a genuine problem of bureaucratic inertia? He has no policy to replace the existing system: it is a Year Zero plan, a nihilistic political philosophy that plays to his dumbfuck supporters but risks pulling the country down into a very scary place.

“Thanks for the job Mister President, I won’t let Exxon down.”

Perhaps mindful of his own incompetence in the environmental field, but well-briefed by ‘experts’ working for his paymasters at Koch Industries, Hamm, Devon and Murray Energies, the heavily compensated apologist Mr Scott Pruitt, feral-clown head of the Environment ‘Protection’ Agency, for instance, has just announced a plan Mr Trump would like.

He proposes to spend public funds on finding enough dissenting ‘scientists’ to form a committee to formally challenge the 98.5% of real scientists around the world, experts in many fields whose funding or university tenure does not depend on energy company blackmail, to ‘prove’ that carbon dioxide is not a greenhouse gas – denying a thoroughly researched principle that has been fully and widely known since 1889.

The Director has already declined to refill 57 of the 68 positions on the scientific advisory group that reviews genuine EPA research, and tried to lean on the chairwoman, Dr. Deborah Swackhamer when she was due to give evidence to a Congressional committee last month. to get her to say nothing about the probable effects of his destructive behavior.

Happily, an appellate court has struck down his plan to abandon controls due to come into force shortly on monitoring and reducing methane emissions from drilling and fracking operations, which are of an alarmingly high order; although it looks certain the ruling will be overturned by a Republican-packed Supreme Court, whose casting vote, so-called ‘Justice’ Gorsuch, has never once in his well-funded career on the bench ruled against a corporation.

Mr Pruitt is very probably mad, or has been driven mad by the weight of money shovelled down his fat gullet by vastly wealthy corporate interests. He is, to put it bluntly, a corrupted official, undeniably so according to the contents of many of the nine thousand of his work e-mails that finally surfaced owing to repeated Freedom of Information requests from environmental campaigners, just days after his appointment was hastily confirmed.

http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2017/feb/22/scott-pruitt-emails-oklahoma-fossil-fuels-koch-brothers

There is already a cottage industry of climate-change denial, led by lunatics like ‘Lord’ Nigel Lawson, the tendentious 103-year-old former British chancellor from the bygone Thatcher era, a ghoul who won’t lie down, whose entire knowledge of atmospherics is confined to expensive cigar smoke-filled rooms. Showing great cunning (or profound stupidity) Mr Pruitt does not argue that the climate is not changing, in ways ‘we don’t yet fully understand’. He merely refuses with ever-increasing stubbornness to accept that there is an overlying problem with burning fossil fuels of the kind his paymasters are in a new frenzy of ruthlessly exploiting, greenlighted by that other Nobel chemistry laureate, Donald Trump.

Pruitt, as Attorney General of Arkansas an enthusiastic executioner of black people using whatever materials came to hand, believes it is perfectly possible to go on pumping billions upon billions of tonnes of poisonous and heat-retaining, long-lasting gaseous by-products from combusting carbonaceous fossil fuels year-on-year for two hundred years into a delicately balanced, complex – and above all finite atmospheric system, and there will be no consequences to follow.

Or maybe he just believes in getting rich, it’s hard to tell.

A difficult point to make.

It’s kind of a difficult point to make at a time when Arizona is on fire and New York State is underwater. And, yes, when people are dying in heatwaves, floods and landslides all around the world, right now. Vast areas of central and southern Europe, central America, Russia, India and China are all currently stricken with a deadly combination of record heatwaves and record pre-monsoon rainfall. Methane is erupting from a warming Siberian tundra where wildfires are raging, contributing further to the CO2 overload in the atmosphere.

Yes, other factors are involved. Extreme events have and do occur naturally, of course they do, that’s the law of averages; but not all at the same time in so many places, within the same bands of latitude and with the increasing frequency and intensity we are now experiencing. Natural carbon ‘sinks’ kept the climate in balance until we started burning coal, and then oil, overwhelming the ability of the regulator to maintain a breathable atmosphere within habitable temperature zones. The planet has been warming detectably for the past 100 years but is now at a tipping point – many tipping points – beyond which it is difficult to see a way back; and which, researchers warn, will produce more abrupt and economically challenging changes still.

The energy industry, we know, has been well aware of the risks for decades and was beginning to accept that it needed to be part of the solution, not the problem – until last year. Since when, the entire tenor of the gerrymandered and Russian-sponsored Trump administration has been to let rip and to hell with the consequences – just as long as ‘America’ (meaning Republican politicians and their funders) makes a huge amount of money out of us before we all die. How long the courts can defy them, we don’t know.

It is, of course, beyond insanity; beyond understanding, that supposed human beings can act like this.

It’s criminal ecocide; a game of ‘chicken’ with only one outcome.

 

Weather news

The northern jetstream has broken up into several pieces (Paul Beckwith – Ottawa U., 7 July).

Six dead, 20 missing is the toll so far in an unprecedented storm over the northern part of Japan’s southernmost island, Kyushu, 5 July centred on the city of Nagasaki. Dozens of properties have been washed away in floods and landslides. 500 mm – 2 feet – of rain fell in just 12 hours.

56 people are dead after extensive flooding hit Guangxi province in China causing rivers to rise to never previously recorded levels. Over a million people have been evacuated. In neighbouring Hunan province another 1.4 million have been evacuated. Thirty-five people are believed dead. In Assam, India, 20 dead in the past three days. Four million people have had to find higher ground.

California is braced for another weekend of record heat. The temperature hit 122 deg. F., 50 C. in Palm Springs yesterday. Parts of Ulyanovsk in Russia are under 2-3 feet of water.

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“Civilians escaping right now speak of horrific experiences. They have been caught between aerial bombardment, artillery, snipers and car bombs. They live in fear; they hide in their homes without food or water … In Raqqa, too, hundreds of thousands of people are caught in the crossfire, with casualty numbers rising as a result of airstrikes as well as sniper fire and brutal executions carried out by the jihadists to intimidate those still trapped in the city.” Washington Post, 05 July.

Complaining is not the British way

Comparisons, as I keep saying to little effect, are odious.

None of us would wish to have been caught up in the dreadful fire that engulfed and gutted the Grenfell tower-block in west London three weeks ago. The shocked and in many cases destitute residents who did manage to get out, some 158 individuals and families, have lost everything. Many will have been traumatised by the sights and sounds of those who perished on the upper floors signalling for help that never came.

No way out for thousands.

But they are here, and they are safe. While Britain has disgracefully pulled up the drawbridge against the people of Mosul and Raqqa and the rest of Syria and other war-ravaged countries in the region, from where there is no escape; for whose traumatized people there is no relief. None of us would wish to be caught up in that either.

There has rightly been criticism of the inadequacy of the immediate response by the local authority to the social problems created by the fire. Heads have already rolled, but it was not surprising: the numbers and quality of staffing in most local authorities have been in decline for years, although Kensington and Chelsea is said to have cash reserves approaching a billion pounds.

My mother lived in the Royal Borough – indeed, your Uncle Bogler too was born and lived there many years ago.

At the age of 92, after 52 years in the same flat, new landlords took over. Rosie found herself trapped by infirmity and lack of money unable to go anywhere else, a rent-protected tenant alone on the top floor of an otherwise empty building she could not have escaped from in an emergency. Flats in the next-door building were for sale at £12 million each.

We pleaded less than a year ago with the council to rehouse her in sheltered accommodation, only to be told there was nowhere and, anyway, until she was actually evicted and on the street they were not legally obliged to help. She died in December.

Confronted by the immediate chaos of several hundred men, women and children needing immediate rehousing and other support, some of whom spoke little English and were fearful of the immigration authorities, or who may well have lost their jobs by now and moved away, I don’t suppose the council much appreciated the rash promise made by the prime minister, Theresa May, who was herself being severely chastized for her impersonal response to the disaster, of a ‘permanent home nearby within three weeks’, with the government possibly, maybe, someday to pick up the bill.

I don’t suppose it has penetrated through her filter-bubble that there is a grave housing crisis in London, partly brought about by the city’s insatiable demand for cheap migrant labour; and partly by the foreign money-laundering transactions that have been grossly inflating property prices for years, that successive administrations have been happy to turn a blind eye to despite it leaving tens of thousands of private properties unoccupied.

Where were these people to go? Seems a pretty fair question. In fact, it’s a bit miraculous that 139 family units have already been offered housing they are too picky to take.

Yes, look.

I fear there’s going to be a backlash any minute now, and it won’t be pretty.

Because to date, only 14 out of 139 households who have already been offered alternative accommodation have accepted the arrangement. The  others are refusing to move out of their hotel rooms and community halls, complaining that the council has failed to consult them properly about their needs.

I have no doubt their reasons are convincing – to them. Too big, too small, too high up, only temporary, the wrong area… One family were offered a flat in a block in another borough that’s due to be demolished next year and turned it down because they wanted a permanent home, another is on the radio complaining about the forms, the flat he’s been offered is 15 minutes away, too far, he doesn’t like the area – and only two bedrooms (it’s just him and his daughter).

“I can hear … shock-hacks like Katie Hopkins and Richard Littlejohn sharpening their quills”

Meanwhile the rest of the country is struggling with a major housing shortage, ever-rising rents – and over 600 thousand families, many with children, can’t find permanent homes at all or are forced to live many miles away from their low-paid jobs. Gentrification in London continues to push the low-paid out to the margins, increasing their travel costs.

At the mercy of private landlords, most people have no choice where and in what conditions they live.

The list of complaints of the Grenfell refuseniks may be just, their plight genuine, but that is not how it will play to the majority of people throughout the country. I can hear already the scratchy little noise of shock-hack columnists like Katie Hopkins and Richard Littlejohn sharpening their quills and dipping them in strychnine.

It sounds too much like ingratitude, stemming from a sense of entitlement that has been growing among not only the Grenfell Tower survivors, but among the residents of buildings around, the adjacent low-rise Grenfell Walk for instance, that has had to be evacuated because the joint heating no longer works, egged-on by political protestors and the media.

Yes, people will say, you had a terrible experience and you needed help. You’re being offered help, people are doing their best to help you in trying circumstances, large sums of money have been raised, clothing supplied, but nothing we do seems good enough for you.

Your endless complaining is not the British way.

A media storm started, for instance, when one surviving resident found that rent had accidentally been debited from her account a week after the fire, when the authority was supposed to have suspended payment of all Grenfell rents.

Well, good Lord, annoying I know but worse happens to the rest of us every day, struggling with miscalculated utility bills and lousy transportation, waiting three weeks just to see our GP, and all you had to do was point out the obvious mistake for it to be immediately rectified with apologies. Why make so much fuss, so publicly?

The sense must by now be growing in the country that the survivors have grown an exaggerated sense of entitlement, encouraged by media and politicians’ handwringing over social divisions and inequality.

It’s not their fault they’ve been caught up in a national debate that was long overdue and have become pawns in other people’s games; or that they’ve been blinded by the glare of the media spotlight.

It just looks like some of them are taking advantage, possibly for the first time in their lives.

 

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May wins: Election Special. Plus: Striking a blow for intelligent pensioners everywhere. And: The Guardian – Hell hath no fury like a 50-year-loyal reader scorned.

“I have accepted in the interests of national unionism that the earth is strong, stable – and completely flat.”

 

“…if they rumble me, already at 34 a lifelong Labour voter, I could end up as several trays full of bleeding, raw-meat canapés…”

Election Special

Three words I never imagined I would hear in my lifetime:

“Labour wins Kensington”.

This election has thrown up many wild surmises and strange portents, but the idea that one of the country’s wealthiest boroughs should in a thousand years by a majority of 20 votes have elected a Labour politician to represent it, the posh part of London where indeed your Uncle Bogler first drew breath and shortly afterwards inhaled his first Capstan Full Strength, is possibly the most unexpected.

I can only conclude that so much property has been flogged off at inflated prices to UHNW (Ultra-high net worth) foreigners laundering their ill-gotten gains, Qataris and so forth, that their much put-upon housekeepers, bored chauffeurs and window-box trimmers are the only ones actually living in Kensington during the week, who are eligible to vote.

I recall, indeed who could ever forget, being invited to an election-night party at the Knightsbridge cottage home of Lord St Aubyn, an old school chum of my stepfather’s.

It was 1984, and Mrs Thatcher was in the process of securing a resounding majority from a nation grateful for her torpedoing of the Argentinian capital ship, the General Belgrano, with the loss of hundreds of young lives, in a cowardly attack while it was steaming away from the Falkland Islands.

The tiny house – more of a pied à terre – was packed with identical-looking 30-something city boys wearing identical striped Jermyn Street shirts and red braces, their identically self-satisfied, blue-jowled faces flushed with champagne and the smell of power.

“They set up a terrible baying noise”

Each time the TV anchors announced another Conservative gain, they set up a terrifying animal baying noise and stamped their Gucci loafers like rutting stags. Rare news of Labour MPs clinging on to their traditional heartland seats produced a low, threatening rumble of hatred, boos and howls of derision – cries of ‘out with the smellysocks!’.

It was clear these Masters of the Universe were historically unaware of where their money had come from in the first place.

After about forty minutes of this I thought, God, if they rumble me, already at 34 a lifelong Labour voter, I could end up as several trays full of bleeding, raw-meat canapés, and fled into the chilly March night.

I don’t recall that Lord St Aubyn received a thank-you note from me, rude I know, but ever since that awful night when the scales finally fell from my eyes, I have hoped (in the Trumpian sense) to someday witness the beautiful sight of a Tory MP dangling from every lamp-post in Whitehall.

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“…I feel I have as much right to satirise the Golden Orb as anyone sipping cocktails in libtard snowflake Manhattan…”

 Too much of a coincidence

The election has been a satisfying victory for we conspiracy theorists.

Who would have dreamed last Thursday that Her Majesty’s Government would end up as the hostage of a tiny bunch of incomprehensible flat-earthers from Belfast?

Clearly, some hidden hand is engineering all these close-run things producing political turmoil around the world?

It is surely not a coincidence that the US Congress has found itself since last November in a similar situation, a minority government dominated by wealthy loonies who believe the world was created in six days and global warming will be fixed by God.

If you haven’t been keeping as close an eye as I have on the incredible events in America – perhaps you’ve not yet retired, I can recommend it – you will not for instance have heard Senator Mark Green of Tennessee defending the disastrous Trumpcare health bill, that on independent analysis threatens to deprive 23 million of the poorer sort of person of their affordable medical insurance while putting $ billions more in the pockets of the wealthiest, whitest 1 per cent.

Sen. Green’s thesis is that the poor don’t need health insurance because Jesus will take care of them. If they have insurance, he argues, they will be less inclined to go to church and pray for salvation; consequently if they get sick it’s their fault.

I assure you he is not the only Republican to express similar sentiments.

Indeed, we find Republican administrations all over the country emboldened by the election of President Trump to pass barbarically regressive legislation, for instance criminalizing the popular protest that is protected by the First Amendment.

Lawmakers in Elk Bend, Minnesota were forced to flee the building after passing a law enabling the county to arrest and charge protestors for the costs of policing demonstrations against themselves; such that had forced them to flee the building. In Washington, a GOP lawmaker recently introduced a bill that would consider protesters to be domestic terrorists (salon.com). North Carolina is hoping to make any kind of public protest illegal, Tennessee having already tried to pass a law protecting car drivers from prosecution if they accidentally run over and kill a protestor blocking the street.

Now, we all know that 97 per cent of the population of Tennessee wake up every morning in their coonskin caps to find themselves still living in the seventeenth century. They can count their lucky stars and stripes on the seven fingers of each hand for Jesus’ love and mercy every day of their blessed lives, and look forward to another sunny afternoon burning witches, scalping injuns, defending the Alamo and marrying their first cousins.

Draining the Swamp: Mr Trump goes to Wall Street.

But this is now the tradition proclaiming Trump as the Great Reformer, returning the US and indeed the world to the era of commonsense, no-nonsense, working-class, outdoorsy American exceptionalism; a viewpoint that is one thousand percent flat-out contradicted by everything the man has said and done since he bullshitted his way into office on a minority vote, appointed five Goldman Sachs executives to his otherwise oil-soaked cabinet and set about lighting a bonfire under every piece of socially progressive legislation that has ever helped the ‘common man’ survive the heartless brutalities of the ruling elite; while drilling the hell out of their cherished monument lands.

(There are currently moves to permit uranium mining in the Grand Canyon and fracking under formerly protected national parks. EcoWatch reports that the federal government is privately subsidizing with taxpayers’ money the already vastly wealthy fossil-fuel bidness to the tune of $700 billion a year.)

America: land of living history

Living in so many time-zones, America must indeed be a strange place. I’ve never been there, never had a desire to go there, but unlike President Trump I am in a very small sense a US taxpayer. I have an IRS number, thanks to a residual trust fund set up by the great-grandfather I never met, whose Irish daughter from Delaware married my gold-digging English paternal grandfather.

Consequently though with every word I write I drift further away from ever being allowed entry via General Kelly’s closing homeland security gates, I feel I have as much right to satirise the Golden Orb as anyone sipping cocktails in libtard snowflake Manhattan or snarfing at their own jokes and cynically milking the witless audience whooping it up on one of those terrible late-night ‘comedy’ shows.

While from the safety of distance I have observed pithily on the subject of time-zones that America has 21st-century technology, mid-20th-century infrastructure, a 19th-century political system, 18th-century justice and 17th-century religious beliefs, based on a 16th-century sense of entitlement to steal anybody else’s land in the name of God and the Crown.

Living history, indeed.

It seems too much of a coincidence, as I say, given events in the USA, that Theresa May has delivered her political agenda into the clutches of a tiny handful of politicians belonging to a minority party founded by that monstrous, bellowing bigot, the Revd Ian Paisley*.

As does the Republican-controlled Congress, so do DUP members of Parliament include proclaimed anti-abortion, anti-same-sex marriage, homophobic, Islamophobic, anti-Catholic, climate-change denying, alt-right fundamentalist Christian Bible truthers and six-day creationists (to be taught in schools, etc….).

Most importantly, they demand the return of loyalists’ right to have a British Union flag flying provocatively over Belfast City Hall – one of the most contentious issues of recent times. A campaign strangely reflected in the recent controversy over flying the Confederate flag and displaying the statues of heroic slave-owning Civil War generals in darkest Alabama.

You see where this has to go?

But at least the minority of DUP followers voted to Leave the EU, unlike the rest of the population of Northern Ireland, so that’s alright.

Strong and stable, then. Not a coalition of chaos.

*We do not forget, however, ‘Dr’ Paisley’s remarkable late-life conversion and friendship with the late Martin McGuinness, former commander of the Provisional IRA.

The flat-earth society awaits the arrival of the mothership.

A time of contradictions

Someone who will no doubt be delighted by this happy turn of events is Mr Jim Dowson.

The Pumpkin has previously commented at length, based on various press and webnews reports, on the activities of this Belfast-born, DUP-supporting, refugee-hunting, alt-right Christian ‘millionaire’ disruptor, who applied his US Patriot News website last year to helping secure both victory for Donald Trump and the Brexit vote – as he believes.

‘Now where did I put my pen?’ Mr Biros Johnson, author of ‘The Idiot’s Guide to Managing Stationery’.

Although Mr Dowson will be disappointed that thanks to significant Tory gains over the Scottish National Party he has been unable to secure a second independence referendum for Scotland, another of his disruptive ambitions, nevertheless Mrs May seems fixed on course for the ‘hard Brexit’ he has campaigned for (ie total economic separation from Europe and an end to EU immigration).

Assuming, that is, she survives the attempts by Boris Johnson, Michael Fallon, Amber Rudd and others to replace her as leader, there being no creature as feral as a Tory scenting blood-loss.

It is of course a time of contradictions, where the old left-right political certainties no longer hold. There is a problem with hard Brexit, specifically in Ireland, where the DUP is in fact supporting the idea of a ‘soft border’; a ‘harder border’ with the Republic would undoubtedly lead to a return to smuggling, gang warfare, IRA violence, Loyalist violence and the complete breakdown of the already fragile Good Friday agreement.

Mr Dowson might not mind that. As described on Wikipedia, in 2012 he co-founded the Protestant Coalition, described as an ‘anti-politics party’, in the wake of which there were violent demonstrations over the vote in Stormont to ban any flags from being flown over City Hall:

“Dowson, a Christian fundamentalist, also led an anti-abortion campaign, the UK Life League. In May 2011 he and (Paul) Golding had launched a new far-right, nationalist movement in Britain, Britain First, to protect “British and Christian morality” and campaign against Islam, immigration and abortion.

Dowson left Britain First, apparently feeling that burning mosques was ‘un-Christian’. At the same time there was some interest in his fundraising activities.

Nevertheless he has been videoed supposedly supplying equipment by night to a party of Bulgarian neo-Nazis hunting down Syrian refugees along the border. His Budapest office is home to his self-styled ‘Knights of Malta’ group, as well as to former BNP leader, Nick Griffin; the Knights’ funding, it’s reported, comes in part from Konstantin Malofeyev, a deeply conservative nationalist oligarch who is a patron of the Russian Orthodox church and yet another ‘spiritual advisor’ to President Putin.

So there’s plenty to feed your conspiracy theories there, guys.

Get to it!

x

Who guards the Guardian?

There are two kinds of people, aren’t there. People who read a newspaper because it reinforces their deepest prejudices, and people who read one because they love a bloody good argument before breakfast.

Were I entirely in the latter category, I should purchase a paper copy of the Daily Mail every day, however I don’t. I have an aversion to people who use words like ‘purchase’. The Daily Mail reinforces my deepest prejudice against the middle class, and against the half-human child-eating succubus who edits the paper on a salary of nearly £2 million a year.

Instead, I’ve been a Guardian reader for almost 50 years.

Much of the time I do it because of the pain it causes me. Guardian writers are so fucking smug. Yet their suburban university-educated liberal opinions broadly sit alongside and seldom disturb my own rather more furious vision of the world. I find them trustworthy on facts, anyway, whatever the angle.

Of course, I stopped buying the printed paper version several years ago, while trying simultaneously to give up drinking a bottle of wine every night. I came back to the online version, which is for now at least paywall-free (why call it a ‘paywall’, like something Donald Trump would insanely demand Mexico should pay for? Of course no-one is going to pay for something that prevents them from enjoying it. Call it a ‘special offer’ or something.)

However, I am getting sick and tired of The Guardian‘s prejudice against me.

Here, for instance, is Zoe Williams pontificating sonorously on the election outcome, having invented a new word, ‘subliminating’:

“It is entirely right that, one day, someone would have the genius idea of putting something in a manifesto that actually offered something to the under-60s. We have had decades of decisions made in the interests of the older voter, which have locked the young out of everything, from housing in their own country to the freedom to move to a better one.”

You see? I’m the one who’s been prevented by ignorant and deluded middle-class Daily Mail readers from moving to a better country by their grossly irresponsible, shortsighted and selfish action in voting to drag Britain out of the EU, preferring to transfer our precious ‘sovereignty’ to Boris fucking Kerfuffle Johnson.

Yet for the past year The Guardian has been moaning lazily in cliche-ridden article after cliche-ridden article that, because I’m in my late 60s, while squatting in toadlike isolation in my £1 million, five-bedroomed house and forcing my children to flip burgers to pay exorbitant rent for living in my wine cellar, I must have voted Leave and screwed it up for everyone younger.

Of course I bloody didn’t, and I don’t know anyone here of my own generation who did. What do you think, we’re stupid or something?

Fuck you.

I’m the one who can’t now risk selling up and retiring abroad as I’d been planning, to teach, paint, make music and live on flavourful ripe tomatoes, bread and artisanal cheese and rough red wine, in case I get chucked back out again.

Not only that, but here on the BogPo I was warning as long ago as 2013 that we were heading for the brink of the White fucking Cliffs of Dover. Did you take any notice, bloody Guardian? No, you just sailed on smugly imagining no self-respecting Islingtonians could possibly take issue with your remote-viewing psychic analysis of the state of the nation.

Then for a year after the disaster of the referendum your failed sociologists and Sir Simon Jenkins have wasted thousands of column-inches wringing your liberal hands over the poor misunderstood middle-class and desperately trying to work out what’s gone wrong with the nation when the fish-porters of Sunderland are able to pervert the course of the future?

Wankers.

Yet day after day The Guardian‘s well-paid columnistas continue to drip this ageist poison into the ears of the millennial libtard readership (that’s the second millennium, not the first, which I remember so fondly) whom they are hoping to cultivate beyond the inevitable paywall, insinuating – nay, declaiming that it’s the elderly who are responsible for their economic misery.

Bollocks to that, frankly.

On the one hand you have the Mail, edited by the bullying chauvinist son of a military service-shirker who, unlike Ralph Miliband, sat out the war in New York quaffing champagne with movie stars, blaming it all on the immigrants.

On the other, is The Guardian persuading my 20-something children by my second marriage that euthanasing the old man with the tiny house in the thundering outskirts of a busy seaside town and paying off his retirement mortgage is the only solution to their economic woes.

Well.

Guardian readers who are increasingly confronted with heartbreaking messages about supporting free journalism with voluntary (for now) subscriptions and cash donations, and who may have read with alarm that the title lost £69 million last year and is treating its journalists as if they worked for Sports Direct, need to know about an item that appeared in Private Eye a couple of months ago.

According to the Eye, the Scott Trust, that owns The Guardian and guarantees its independence, is sitting on a cashpile of £700 million.

The Boglington Post. Striking a blow for intelligent pensioners everywhere.

 

Postscriptum

“Hell hath no fury like a 50-year-loyal reader scorned.”

OMG. Only a day after I wrote this piece, the Guardian editor, Katherine Viner, has announced that as part of her extreme austerity agenda, it and its Sunday sister paper The Observer are to go … tabloid.

Her weaselly excuse being that it is somehow an inevitable development of print technology in the 21st century.

That is the fucking end of civilization as we used to know it. The Berliner format was a thing of rare beauty, that gave the paper its distinctive market appeal, branding its readers as a cut above.

If this was Ms Viner’s idea, she should be boiled in oil, doused in animal slurry and handed over to the Taliban for re-education.

Oh, sorry, she is the Taliban.

The paper was getting dire enough as it is, months of snide articles briefing against Jeremy Corbyn being followed in the wake of the election with a wave of sycophantic, hypocritical drool hailing him as the New Messiah; in most cases by the same writers, clearly under marching orders from the appalling Viner woman.

I vow here and now that I will never touch this scabby little organ with a bargepole, ever again. You have now totally fucked it with me and I am converting my laptop thing to the New York Times forthwith.

Hell hath no fury like a 50-year-loyal reader scorned.

x

A ruddy good show

A propos well-paid Guardian columnists, Matthew D’Ancona today contributes a bizarre piece confessing that he ‘radically’ failed to notice that there was a groundswell of support building for Jeremy Corbyn, ‘like many other Commentators’.

Yes, Britain is a long way from North London, isn’t it.

Having confessed that he doesn’t know what he’s talking about, he then goes on to anticipate – indeed, to request – in arrogant Guardianista fashion, publication of a timetable for Theresa May’s resignation.

Finally, on the topic of the inevitable Tory leadership backstabbing bloodfest, that has already begun, he writes thus:

“…do not discount Amber Rudd. In fact, give the home secretary the serious consideration she deserves. In the seven-way shouting match of the BBC leaders’ debate on 31 May, she stood in for the prime minister, though her elderly father had died only days before, and did so with poise, dignity and emotional intelligence as six other politicians berated her. She looked like a leader in waiting.”

Of course, he doesn’t fancy her. As leader of the charge to rehabilitate the saintly Ms Rudd, and sounding like a thoroughly polished and professional PR practitioner looking for a special advisor role in Downing Street, Mr D’Ancona has obviously failed to read the newspaper that has employed him for many years; he may be losing his memory, or he has a ‘radically’ different take on reality from most of us.

On 21 September, 2016, for instance, David Pegg and Holly Watt reported:

“Amber Rudd’s business career has come under scrutiny following a Guardian investigation that reveals her involvement with two companies in an offshore tax haven, and another where her co-director was jailed for fraud.

“The Guardian has also discovered new details about her previous career in venture capital during the boom and bust 1990s. One enterprise led her to become a co-director of Monticello, a company that was at the centre of a share ramping investigation.

“She was also involved in a company prospecting for diamonds in Siberia that was traded on a notoriously unregulated stock exchange.”

This was shortly after her white-haired old ‘venture capitalist’ father Tony had been investigated for the umpteenth time by the financial regulator and declared to be totally unfit to be trusted with other people’s money.

The authors of The Guardian report concluded:

“Though there is no suggestion she was involved in any wrongdoing, the disclosures may cause her some embarrassment…”

Well, if I were Michael Gove or Boris Johnson, Michael Fallon, Nicky Morgan – any Tory politician indeed circling just offshore scenting blood in the water, I’d say they just may.

x

And what’s the naughtiest thing Amber Rudd ever did?

No, not running through wheat. According to an old school chum, on their last day at Cheltenham Ladies’ College she tied the legs of the chairs together in the dining-hall!

And then became a merchant banker.

Lock her up!

The Pumpkin – Issue 20: The IQ Test; You sick sack of shit; How Trump is drawing us into war.

“Boris Johnson has said he sees no reason to rescind the invitation to Donald Trump for a state visit, despite the US president’s attacks on the mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, after Saturday’s terror attack.” – The Guardian, 6 June.

“I see no shits?”

‘IQ’ test?

‘I Quit’ is what we would all prefer to hear from this odious character.

As the Comments expressing horror and shame at what America has done to itself mount up on the web, many commentators are calling for White House staff to simply take away President Trump’s cellphone.

He previously had a Samsung, but has now apparently acquired a more American-sounding iPhone, manufactured – like his daughter’s fashionable shoe range – by slave workers in China. Separating him from his Twitter feed may be difficult. He seems to have an unlimited budget for replacement cellphones.

For, like your Uncle Bogler, he is at heart an overgrown teenage baboon in the first stages of dementia, who compulsively evacuates in 140 characters or less, a medium that might have been invented for an untreated ADHD individual with a 15 seconds’ attention-span, the thoughts produced by his diseased brain and spews them out into the world through the little magic window; a digital megaphone.

He’d sleep better without it, that’s for sure. But is anyone really receiving his thoughts?

It appears that, of the 30 million or so Followers of @realdonaldtrump Twitter feeds, almost half – over 14 million – are fake accounts.

You can go online and buy Followers? Yes, apparently, for a few hundred bucks you can pick up a million or so non-existent names, according to online newsmouth, David Pakman. And, mirabile dictu, there are other websites you can lookup, that tell you whether someone’s Twitter account is genuine or fake; and how many fake accounts they have, and 14 million is the figure they give @real.

Isn’t technology amazing.

And it doth indeed appear that Mr Trump, or someone ‘close to him in the White House’, the pizza chef, maybe, the butler who brings him his constant supply of fizzy drinks, Jared Kushner perhaps, has been buying up fake Twitter accounts to make the chemically poisoned Prez look better.

Whether the activity is designed to impress the public with his popularity which is about at rock-bottom; or just privately to bolster the confidence of the most insecure and thin-skinned leader since Caligula, or to boost revenue from his click-throughs or whatever (The Pumpkin does not entertain knowledge of the workings of social media accounts) is anyone’s guess.

But how bizarre is it, that he should be so obsessed with his personal popularity ratings, that he is prepared to lie even to himself about the number of people hanging on his tweets, that are mostly just incoherent late-night tirades of abuse directed at Meryl Streep, or Mayor Khan, or the ‘failing New York Times‘, or anyone else he’s seen on Fox News who arouses his foul-natured spleen?

Possibly not as bizarre as the deep denial of the majority Republican party that an elderly man with arrested development who sits up all night tweeting pathetically that everyone is out to get him, can possibly be considered unfit to hold the office of President of the United States a moment longer?

Ghastly and devious though the fundamentalist Vice-President, Mike Pence, may be, the ‘snow-capped walking advert for Anusol’ nailed to a cross, he at least isn’t a mad, childish buffoon given to sudden intemperate reverses of 70 years of US policy, directing a stream of complaints and abuse towards its allies, a diseased Emperor indulging in paranoid nepotism, blatant corruption, blabbermouth security breaches, vain and unwarranted boasting, launching hysterical attacks on his opponents, deliberately impoverishing his subjects’ life chances, compulsively lying, throwing screaming fits at his staff as though they were his own employees and not the Government’s – costing the taxpayer tens of millions of dollars in gratuitous holiday expenses* and keeping his wife a prisoner in a New York tower-block.

Nor is Pence entirely prey to the devious blandishments of the Iago of the Oval Office, Steve Bannon, and the Breitbart conspiracy.

The Vice-President does have the power through the 25th Amendment to the Constitution to remove the President, at pistol-point if need be, if he shows he is so unstable that he cannot be thought of as fit to continue as Commander-in-Chief.

Which he obviously cannot.

That would be quite in line with the First Amendment right of the People to protest and remove if necessary, an oppressive autocrat.

Trump’s revolting campaign of tirades against the mayor of London, Mr Sadiq Khan, are nasty and racist and personally motivated by hatred of a man who came out months ago with a comment opposing his eagerly anticipated State visit later this year.

It would be wholly inappropriate in the view of The Pumpkin for Trump to be entertained by the frail and ageing Queen, 92, as if he were somehow worthy of the honour of a State visit. He’s done nothing to deserve it. We feel sure she is dreading the occasion, being forced to eat steak with ketchup on, tune all the palace TVs to Hannity Guy and have the Buckingham Palace lawn turned into a putting green.

The Prime Minister puts out that Trump was ‘invited’ by the Queen, but the Queen does not issue those invitations, some aristocratic flunkey in Whitehall does that at the request of Downing Street. We imagine she would rather entertain a ruthless dictator like Robert Mugabe, a British-educated and punctilious man of her own age, than have the vulgar Trumps to dinner and sit through their unspooling marital disaster while waiting for the President to make some abusive attack on Prince Charles, a dedicated tree-hugger; or thrust the poor Duke aside to get to the front of a photo-op, wearing his fake ‘Presidential’ face like the late comedian Frankie Howerd being sodomised by a camel.

Nor do the British people wish to be obliged to watch the spectacle of this ludicrous, vain impostor swishing down the Mall in his hundred-ton motorcade, the all-conquering hero. Fuck that. (Worse still, he’s said to have requested a gilded coach… ’nuff said?) The best thing we can do to protest is just to not turn up at his parade, then he can spend the next six months mumbling and crying like a lovelorn snowflake over the non-existent numbers.

The President who rails against the ‘Fake News’ media is not above descending into the swamp of Fake News himself, fabricating (as he did when he called-out Obama for ‘wiretapping’ the Trump Tower) a libellous and paranoid case that mayor Khan is somehow responsible for encouraging terror attacks in London, fatuously challenging him to an ‘IQ test’.

‘IQ’? ‘I Quit’ is what we would all prefer to hear from this odious, self-serving character.

*Now totalling 23 golf vacations in 19 weeks, at a cost to the public purse of over $30 million….

x

A view more charitably expressed if in many ways more alarming can be found at:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j2jqohySZz4

You can stop at 12 minutes, where he goes to phoned-in questions. Reich – Robert Reich – is Professor of Public Policy at the University of California, Berkeley and Senior Fellow at the Blum Center for Developing Economies.

Not just some schmuck.

x

You sick sack of shit

“Additionally, the Donald J. Trump Foundation, which has come under previous scrutiny for self-dealing and advancing the interests of its namesake rather than those of charity, apparently used the Eric Trump Foundation to funnel $100,000 in donations into revenue for the Trump Organization.

“…while donors to the Eric Trump Foundation were told their money was going to help sick kids, more than $500,000 was re-donated to other charities, many of which were connected to Trump family members or interests, including at least four groups that subsequently paid to hold golf tournaments at Trump courses. All of this seems to defy federal tax rules and state laws that ban self-dealing and misleading donors.”

What’s this about?

Okay, so according to the highly respected financial journal, Forbes magazine, the Trump family has an extensive network of tax-exempt ‘foundation’ charities, and every year the Little Nazi, Uday (Eric), uses his personal foundation to borrow one of Orange Daddy’s golf resorts, he says for free, to host a fundraiser for a kids’ cancer charity, St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis.

All the money, he tells the wealthy attenders, goes to help the kids.

Only turns out it’s not exactly free. Orange Dad has been billing Eric for the use of the courses at an eyewatering rate, the money’s coming out of the celebrity and business attenders’ donations and instead of going to the charity is being siphoned off to other Trump ‘charities’, from where it’s been used to pay bills.

This, says the story, is not Eric’s idea – it’s the ‘billionaire’ President of the United States who is insisting on getting paid.

In other words, Donald Trump is reportedly bullying his own son to steal money from kids with cancer to line his own pockets.

And Eric Trump has just been on the ratings-loser Sean Hannity show on Fox News, telling the world that Democrats ‘aren’t even human’ because they attack his dad and make things difficult for him? The opposition party? Surely not!

This reinforces The Pumpkin’s theory that it has not dawned on the President that he is a Government employee, not the CEO of some giant corporation he has already admitted is too complicated for one man to run. The functionaries he is screaming abuse at in his mad tantrums are not his employees, they are his colleagues – other Government employees.

That’s because a President is not supposed to ‘run’ the country, he embodies the Constitution, a system of checks and balances that Donald Trump is racing to dismantle because it’s inconvenient and gets in the way of business.

If the story holds up, if they’re bilking genuine charities to fund their phoney ones, I don’t personally think these bottom-feeders should wait to go to hell before they start burning, do you?

http://www.forbes.com/sites/danalexander/2017/06/06/how-donald-trump-shifted-kids-cancer-charity-money-into-his-business/#d2602d46b4a3

x

“Western nations are totally out of their depth in the labyrinthine religious, tribal and political twists and turns of this intensely fractured region”

Does he really want the job?own c

The Syria situation has taken a very strange twist, as Saudi Arabia, Bahrein and the UAE, together with Egypt, have turned on their former ally, the tiny oil principality of Qatar, in a bizarre row over supposed Qatari support for Israel and Iran.

Qatar is a strongly Sunni country and, like Saudi Arabia, finances Wahabbism (rightwing fundamentalist Islam) all over the world. The same puritanical beliefs are also held to the extreme by so-called Islamic State and other groups, as well as the Taleban in Afghanistan, that appear to be fuelling a wave of terror attacks, not only in the West but in the Philippines, Indonesia and even as far away as Australia.

Yet Qatar is supporting to the hilt, the allied offensive against ISIS – as is Iran. Russia and Turkey are listed, too, as friends of the Qataris; both oppose Saudi hegemony in the region, and both are actively engaged in the US-led programme to eliminate ISIS while supporting or opposing other militias and the Free Syrian Army, that are also fighting ISIS; but which, beyond the fight against ISIS, are deeply distrustful of, and possibly even fighting against, one another.

In the view of The Pumpkin, this is not a situation in which the West should be involved.

Israel is – well, Israel, and Iran is a Shia theocracy, sworn enemy of both the Israelis and the Sunni Arab tribes. The idea of any Arab state suddenly deciding to support both its sworn enemies in the region against its friends is unusual, to say the least. However, it is Qatar’s perceived support for the universally hated Muslim Brotherhood, as purportedly expressed through Quatar’s global TV news operation, Al-Jazeera, that is uniting the Gulf states against them.

Seizing the moment, Trump has blundered along with the narrative and has been tweeting furiously against the Qataris, calling them terrorism funders, taking boastful credit for the new hardline stance by ‘the leaders’ of the Arab world against the progressive, pro-Western Emir and proclaiming fatuously that his speech in Riyadh was ‘the beginning of the end of terrorism’ – despite, as The Guardian describes it (6 June):

“While in Riyadh, Trump met regional leaders, including the emir of Qatar, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani. He said the US and Qatar had been “friends for a long time” and that the two leaders discussed the Qatari purchase of “lots of beautiful military equipment.”

Now he has performed a 180 degree flip, clearly in the hope of boosting his flagging ratings, or because he forgot, claiming personal kudos for another diplomatic disaster – yet (again) completely undermining his own credibility at the same time.

And he doesn’t get it. His vanity is blinding.

Far from being ‘the beginning of the end of terrorism, Trump’s speech was the starting-gun for Saudi Arabia to flex its muscles in the region, relying on a mountain of ‘beautiful military equipment’ to be supplied by the US arms industry.

Of course the oppressive Saudis are happy to blame little Qatar for all the terrorism, diverting attention from their own monstrous regime. And Qatar’s perceived attempts to mediate with Iran are a perfect excuse to substitute a little terror for all-out war.

Which is all deeply embarrassing to the US military, on the brink of the final ‘push’ against IS in Raqqa. For Qatar hosts the giant al-Udeid airbase, the most important facility in the allied airforces’ Syrian war armoury: and it appears President Trump has forgotten, or maybe never knew, the strategic necessity not to upset the Qataris just yet if he wants to impose the final solution on IS.

White House officials rehearse for Mr Trump’s forthcoming visit to Israel.

So, the Pentagon and White House ‘officials’ (whoever they now are, most have quit or are in hiding or, like Secretary Tillexxon, in constant movement around the globe to avoid encountering his abusive boss) are once again scurrying to distance the administration from deranged tweets fired off like cruise missiles from the iPhone of the lunatic upstairs.

Thus far the Arab states have withdrawn their ambassadors, imposed a blockade on food and other imports coming in over the border and closed most airspace around the small but wealthy city-state on the Gulf, a major oil and gas exporter. It’s pretty serious – about as serious as it gets without a fullscale war breaking out, that could draw in Qatar allies like Turkey, whose troops are already on the way.

But given the tribal and religious dimension, an alliance between Qatar – which has hotly denied the links with terrorism – Israel and Iran seems highly unlikely. While the major exporter of Wahabbist terrorism around the world is, of course, Saudi Arabia. So what could be the reason for the flare-up?

When you go on websites to try to find out what’s afoot in the region, one little word keeps popping up, that may well prove the eventual connection with all this:

Gas.

Qatar shares an enormous gas field with Iran. And we know the Russians are trying to limit output from the gas-rich Middle East to maintain a higher price for their own gas exports, hoping to maintain a strategic advantage over Ukraine and EU consumers and a possible stranglehold in time of conflict.

Similar shenanigans seem to be going on in the Eastern Mediterranean, where various companies including the US-based Noble Energy, a Trump-connected operation, are vying to pipe gas from Israel’s offshore fields under the sea, bypassing Syria and through Turkey, but are being blocked by an Israeli court.

Is part of the Russian rationale for its presence in Syria to prevent that?

Well, CNN has been reporting today that a Russian hack was probably responsible for starting the rumours about Qatari moves to reconcile, both with Iran and Israel.

“US investigators believe Russian hackers breached Qatar’s state news agency and planted a fake news report that contributed to a crisis among the US’ closest Gulf allies, according to US officials briefed on the investigation. The FBI recently sent a team of investigators to Doha to help the Qatari government investigate the alleged hacking incident, Qatari and US government officials say.”

http://edition.cnn.com/2017/06/06/politics/russian-hackers-planted-fake-news-qatar-crisis/index.html

Thus far The Pumpkin has not been able to confirm what that ‘fake news’ story was.

And today there have been two terrorism-related incidents in the Iranian capital: a shootout at the Parliament building and a suicide bombing at the tomb of Ayatollah Khomeini, founder of the revolution, with seventeen now dead. ISIS has claimed it, but the Iranian military is pointing the finger at the Saudis, who threatened them with just such an attack a month ago. Ooops. And in response, in a sinister and vaguely repulsive tweet the White House is blaming Iran as a ‘sponsor of terrorism’ for the attack on its own soil, at one of its most sacred shrines. Ooops.

Something is on the move, guys. Tectonic plates shifting. But what this whole murky affair reinforces is The Pumpkin’s thesis that Western nations are totally out of their depth in the labyrinthine religious, tribal and political twists and turns, the power-plays of this intensely fractured region.

Get the hell out, is our advice. We should surely have learned our lesson after 800 years of this.

But the arms industry won’t let you.

x

I’d like you all now to watch this interview and you will learn how Trump is drawing us into war:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lh16ZF1eWbc

x

While we’re linking to interesting and educational stuff, here’s a cogent demolition of our own depressing relationship with Saudi Arabia:

http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2017/jun/06/theresa-may-wants-to-talk-about-extremism-lets-start-with-our-ties-with-the-saudis

(Kindly note: Some of our links may no longer be live, if they ever were. Cut-and-paste, me hearties! Cut-and-paste.)

x

Live by the Saud, die by the Saud

In case you don’t get the point about Sunnis and Shia, the following report from Press TV news might help:

“International rights groups say Saudi Arabia plans to execute 14 Shia civilians following a “grossly unfair trial” over political protests.

“The rise in death sentences against Saudi Arabian Shia is alarming and suggests that the authorities are using the death penalty to settle scores and crush dissent under the guise of combating ‘terrorism’ and maintaining national security,” said Human Rights Watch’s Sarah Leah Whitson on Tuesday.

“Saudi Arabia carried out 153 executions across the kingdom last year….. Saudi officials execute convicts by sword and then dangle their corpses from a helicopter to make sure the public can see the result of the execution. According to Amnesty, Saudi Arabia has one of the highest execution rates in the world.”

Indeed. Higher than Arkansas. Higher even, probably, than ISIS.

 

And when I blow like this, bubbles come out. It’s so great.

When once we practise to deceive

With the election ‘n all, if you’ve not been glued to US cable TV news you might have missed the story.

In 2015, Candidate Trump leapt to the forefront of the so-called ‘birther’ campaign against President Obama, claiming his agents had uncovered earth-shaking evidence that 44’s birth certificate was indeed a forgery. Black Satan had in documented fact been born in Kenya, not as claimed in Hawaii, and was therefore not entitled by birth to be the President.

(The story gained further credibility when the original Hawaii births registrar lady died in a light plane crash.)

After a while some suspicion fell on this theory, as Mr Trump seemed almost as unwilling or unable to actually produce the goods on Obama’s origins as he has been over his tax returns. Nevertheless the story gained traction and was widely believed by the dumbfucks who support Trump come hell or high water.

An interview has however resurfaced from last year, in which Jared Kushner, Trump’s plastic toy son-in-law and now chastened former senior White House advisor and property billionaire debtor, battered and deep-fried in the FBI’s investigations into the Russia links, admitted that it was all made up; Orange Dad had not believed for one moment that Obama was not an American citizen.

He had, said Kushner in so many words (I try to forget the exact quote), explained that: ‘Republicans are so dumb they’ll believe anything’.

And they said Mr Trump was a refreshing change from real politicians.

 

It’s never going to end. Also: The rule of law as it applies to the Conservatives.

“Theresa May, as home secretary, sat through 55 national security council meetings on Libya between March and November 2011. The national security adviser’s “lessons learned” report makes no mention of any Home Office contribution to that body’s decisions, nor any mention of the implications for domestic terror.” – Paul Mason, The Guardian, 27 May.

Whouahaawhouaha… eerie flashback music (again. I know, but why wouldn’t you?)

I was working at Thames TV in London in 1980. Three years earlier I had been fired from my job as a news editor on a regional radio station under, shall we say, murky circumstances – undue influence and all that – and found myself on an industry blacklist, that meant I had to start my career over again.

I gained some insight into what it must have been like for those Hollywood scriptwriters and directors unofficially blacklisted by their studios for fear of persecution by the anti-Communist witchhunting McCarthy gang (which included Trump’s notoriously thuggish mafioso solicitor, the happily late Roy Cohn).

After almost a year out of work, an editor I knew took pity on me and offered me anonymous production shifts on terrible late-night phone-in shows. Eventually I was rehabilitated, and did some well-received work, but I was never able to get another staff job and had to keep freelancing, which I’m not very good at as I have no administrative ability, networking or self-promoting instincts.

Thus I had ended up on monthly contract as a lowly scriptwriter on the early-evening news show for Thames, the London ITV contractor.

One day while in a production meeting where story ideas were being pitched, I brought up the matter of the revolution in Iran. I had a very good Iranian friend, so I knew there was quite a large population of Iranian exiles in London who had fled the Islamist purges in the wake of the overthrow of the Shah; and a concomitant population of pro-Khomeini agitators, spies and informers working against them.

Should we not perhaps look at the London dimension, where assassinations and larger-scale acts of violence were a real possibility? I asked the editor. After the shocked expressions had relaxed a bit – lost dogs, celebrity visits, tube strikes and Ken Livingstone’s antics as leader of the Greater London Council being about the sum of the editorial scope of the show – the editor dismissed it with a ‘well, call Scotland Yard and see what they say’.

So I called the press office (for the benefit of US spammers, likers etc. there is in reality no ‘Scotland Yard’, the headquarters of the Metropolitan police has not been at that address for many decades, sorry to disappoint), and they said no, that is not something we’re looking at now or even considering thinking about, thanks.

Feebly, I dropped the story. It was far above my pay grade to follow it up; besides, I didn’t have time, or the contacts.

Three days later an armed unit of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard took over the Iranian embassy in Palace Gate and a week-long siege ensued, that was ended when masked SAS men abseiled from the roof and crashed in through the windows, hurling stun grenades in an epic act of grandstanding that Thames’ police reporter, Colin Turner managed to catch on film, scooping the world’s media.

The reason I recount this story is that it’s foolish to imagine lessons are ever learned.

Paul Mason has written in The Guardian that British foreign policy, especially on Libya, has not changed. We imagine, don’t we, that there are certain countries where it’s fine to intervene in their turbid politics to suit our own view of what is the best outcome for all, and that there are never repercussions or responsibilities arising as a result. No forethought is required, for we are invariably in the right.

We – that is to say ‘the West’ – were the colonial powers in Islamic North Africa, the Middle East, northern India, Afghanistan in the C19th, when Britain, Russia and America were playing what was known as the Great Game, to secure influence over the important trade routes and mineral resources of the region, and to countervail the declining Ottoman empire.

The possibility of Islamist terrorism was at that time very real, in the estimation of the nascent Western intelligence services, as it was feared the warring tribes might unite behind a mythical saviour known as the Mahdi, whom the ‘Twelver’ Shi’ites believed would be the final incarnation of the Prophet, the Twelfth Imam; and the End of Days.

But what have we learned?

The long history of British interventions in Afghanistan is one mostly of bungling incompetence, our epic defeats being matched only by the brutality of our reprisals.

British troops sent to defend Helmand in the 2000s were hardly aware of the legacy of bitterness the C19th wars had left. It’s a different culture, with longer memories. They imagined they would be welcomed as peacekeepers, a bulwark against the Taleban. Instead they were spurned as occupiers, colonialists. Increasingly trapped in their makeshift cantonments, with mounting casualties becoming politically unacceptable at home, they were eventually forced to pull out.

The generals could have warned the poor squaddies about the back story, as they tend to study these things in books, but apparently they didn’t: thus, the occupation of Afghanistan in support as always of the Americans (who have learned nothing about the futility of asymmetrical warfare from the Vietnam debacle) became a tragedy, a strategic blunder that few people immediately understood as the gung-ho media focus was all on the betrayal of ‘our heroes’, few things in Britain having changed since the 1890s.

In pulling the Raj out of the Indian subcontinent in 1948 and arbitrarily dividing mainly Muslim Pakistan from mainly Hindu India, like taking a can-opener to separate conjoined twins without anaesthetic, we allowed – some say encouraged – a horrible civil war to unfold in which over a million died and tens of millions were displaced.

The ramifications are still being felt today, as nothing positive was ever done to settle the position of disputed Kashmir; while East Pakistan – Bangladesh – moves ever further down the road of Salafist extremism.

Throughout the Middle East, before both World Wars Britain did opportunistic power-sharing deals with local tribal leaders and then broke our promises, that left a lasting legacy of mistrust. To secure the loyalty of Faisal against the Turks, in Arabia we virtually invented the monarchical ‘House of Saud’. In colonial Iran to secure oil supplies we promoted the corrupt Pahlavi family into a poodle dynasty, with a preposterous ‘coronation’ of the Shah-in-Shah in the ruins of ancient Persepolis.

We drew lines on maps and chopped up the Middle East into imaginary ‘nations’, regardless of local religious and tribal accommodations that had arisen over centuries, a history of which we appeared to be totally unaware. When yet another coup brought the nationalizing Colonel Nasser to power in Egypt, in 1956 we and the French co-operated in a poorly planned attempt to sieze control of the Suez canal before he imposed costs on our shipping and restricted the flow of oil from the Gulf; forgetting to ask permission from the Americans, who opposed the idea. It turned into a rout.

That humiliating failure of foreign policy is generally held to mark the end of the British Empire and freed the Americans to buy their way into the region.

And then there was Israel, created from the British Mandate, armed and supported by the US in its several wars against the resident Palestinians and their neighbours Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, Egypt; the rise of the PLO, later Hamas – the festering refugee camps, the massacres, the ghettoising of the native population, the illegal settlements, the militarised security that began as legitimate national defence but morphed into a rough repression of the Arab minority.

Yet like the British, the Israelis seem to find it astonishing that apparently random and unprovoked acts of terrorism on their soil have been committed in the name of Palestinian liberation. ‘Who, us?’ they say. ‘But we’re the good guys!’ Ignoring that their own terrorists, the Stern Gang, Irgun, bombed the war-weary British into conceding the mandate in the first place. We left without securing a proper settlement.

We should perhaps briefly consider that the attacks in London using cars and knives are based on tactics developed by Hamas in Israel over the last few years, deploying minimal, virtually undetectable weaponry in the hands of ‘Fida’i’ – those willing to die – to achieve the same terrorising effect as guns and suicide vests.

Later still America engineered the coup that brought Saddam Hussein to power, and supported him for two decades, including his horrible war against Iran – eight years of bloody attrition with poison gas and school-age conscripts brainwashed by Imams into carrying out suicidal ‘open-wave’ assaults across minefields, children against machine-guns, leaving almost two million dead: a war of which we in the West were scarcely even aware at the time and which nobody remembers today.

After he seized power in 1970, apparently a moderate, Westernizing autocrat (though also profoundly corrupt, creating an oppressive personality cult and a ruthless security state around himself and his extended family) we stood by and did nothing in Syria back in 1980 while Bashar al-Assad’s father, Hafiz, was killing thousands of ‘his own people’ protesting against his family’s corruption, and razing the rebel city of Hama to the ground – a penchant for medieval butchery runs in the family.

Later, Hafiz was credited with having created the concept of the ‘suicide bomber’, driving poor and hopeless young men and women to enter the enemy camp undetected and blow themselves up with hopes of salvation and riches in the life to come. Though of course this was nothing new: inspired by a living prophet known as The Old Man of the Mountain, the Fida’i or ‘Fedayeen’ were a quasi-religious order of fanatics who opposed the Frankish crusaders in Syria in the C14th and C15th armed with little more than knives and their own lives.

‘Jihad’ counts on its followers to be more willing to die for the cause than its enemies are.

The impossibly knotty power politics of postwar Syria – you can lookup the Wikipedia entry on Hafiz, but I guarantee you will give up long before the footnotes – resulted in a split in the Ba’ath party between Syria and Iraq and led directly to the rise of the Muslim Brotherhood and Salafism, a revivalist doctrine of purity in Islam that motivated Osama bin-Laden and his fanatical followers to transfer their undeclared jihad to the West, largely targeting symbols of decadence and irreligiousness and hoping to sow confusion, dissension and division.

During the 1940s and 50s, colonial France prosecuted a nasty civil war against Algerian aspirations for independence. Twenty years after it was over, homegrown French terrorists – white men, former legionnaires sponsored by wealthy nationalists – were still carrying out bombing atrocities and assassinations in France to protest the withdrawal. A long-running Islamist insurrection in Morocco followed decades of jostling between the French and the Spanish for control of the protectorate, with Britain anxious to weaken both in its determination to hang on to Gibraltar.

In 2004, a Moroccan cell of al-Qaeda carried out a devastating terrorist atrocity in Madrid, killing 191 people with ten bombs, to protest the invasion of Iraq. There indeed was a clear and direct link between foreign policy and terrorism on both the regional and international levels.

In 2013, young Libyans joined in the Arab Spring movement, peacefully protesting the oppressive regime of Muammar Gadaffi, who struck back with characteristic brutality. Here was another regional ‘strongman’, a megalomaniacal torturer and serial rapist the oil-hungry West played with like a toy, flattering him one minute, branding him a terrorist the next – even while he was arming the Provisional IRA and fomenting rebellions among his southern neighbours.

Instead of standing by and watching him massacre his own people – we always say ‘his people’, don’t we, ignoring that those ‘strongmen’ whom we put and keep in power as long as it suits our energy policy have their own tribal loyalties and do not necessarily regard everyone as ‘their own people’ – David Cameron and Nicolas Sarkozy got together and persuaded the Americans to help us send planes to bomb Gadaffi’s tanks and supply lines, his airbases, to weaken them and thus enable the rebels to take over.

Tripoli bombing. (Google images)

It didn’t quite happen like that. The bombing of Tripoli and the Benghazi road went on day after day, justified by the phoney pretext of ‘precision-guided weaponry’, causing heavy casualties; until, attempting to flee, Gadaffi was dragged, pleading for his freedom, from hiding in a storm drain and murdered by the mob, a bayonet thrust up his anus before being shot in the head.

His sons were hunted down and arrested, and with no coherent follow-up plan coming from the West, Libya descended into chaos. The ‘rebels’ we had imagined were Westernising moderates turned out to be a squabbling assortment of tribal and religious militias and criminal gangs, bristling with liberated weaponry, harbouring varying degrees of vicious antipathy towards each other and towards the West.

What a surprise.

Eventually two shaky rival governments emerged, in the east and in the west of the country, with lawless badlands to the south. A shame because, as Donald Trump has said, they had ‘the best oil in the world’. (Mr Trump has argued that, wherever US troops are engaged, they should be allowed to recoup the cost by seizing the oil. He is criminally insane, of course, but nobody has the guts to remove him. They have seen what happens when you remove dictators.)

In Benghazi, the local militia invaded the US embassy and shot the ambassador. That, of course, was Hillary Clinton’s fault. A branch of ISIS opened in Sirte, Gadaffi’s home province, but was quickly expelled as ‘too extreme’ by local militias. Not before IS’s Libyan gunmen had entered Tunisia and murdered 32 Western tourists irreligiously bathing on a popular winter holiday beach. Another inexplicable, random attack?

Having previously invaded Iraq but left Saddam in place, after he seized the oilfields in Kuwait (it appears he imagined the Americans would like it) in 1991, twelve years later on the false pretext that the 9/11 attack on America had been supported by the dictator and claiming that he had obtained chemical and nuclear weapons he was planning to use to bring down the West, the US, Britain and NATO allies toppled the dictator using overwhelming lethal force: ‘shock and awe’, that left perhaps 15 thousand dead.

After a long manhunt, Saddam was dragged matted and bleeding from a hastily dug underground bunker, put on trial and executed. A puppet, Nuri al-Malaki was put in charge of an artificially ‘democratic’ government that has conspicuously failed to govern for national unity ever since.

In fact, apart from Israel the only country in the region that seems capable of conducting ‘free and fair’ elections is Iran – one of George W Bush’s three ‘Axis of Evil’ nations he accused of exporting global terrorism (along with Libya and North Korea). The three so named should have been Syria (probably responsible for the Lockerbie bombing), Saudi Arabia and Pakistan, but they weren’t even on the target list.

Regardless of the possibility that Iran might be the best and most stable regional ally the West could have, despite its awful record on human rights, the US is gearing up for a lucrative new war; Britain is bound to join them and another foreign policy blunder of the first magnitude is looming.

With no plan for reconstruction other than to award lucrative contracts to companies owned by cronies of President George W Bush, that were never fulfilled – placing areas under the virtual control of Blackwater, an undisciplined private army – Iraq descended into virtual civil war between Sunni and Shi’a militias, proxies of Saudi Arabia and Iran respectively, under local warlords. The casualty rate continued to spiral into the hundreds of thousands.

The British in Iraq underwent another ignominious retreat, failing to comprehend the underlying politics of the Basra region where they were charged with maintaining the peace, our generals being anxious to believe they could sustain a ‘second front’ in Afghanistan, that would help them avoid further government cuts in manpower and materièl.

“It’s never going to end while Jingoistic cretins – Fallon, the disgraced former Defence Secretary Fox and the absurd, shambling, apelike creature, Boris Johnson – are in charge of the whelk stall….”

It may be noted that Britain is not, and has not for some time been, capable of sustaining these post-colonial entanglements, but our brain-dead political class dare not admit it to a populace of Daily this-or-that readers they imagine are still infatuated with dreams of empire.

Thus, every time they pursue some pointless and inadequately planned foreign intervention, they put our soldiers’ lives unnecessarily at risk – and those of civilians back home; failing to understand the nature, either of a virtually borderless world or of asymmetrical warfare.

And then there was Afghanistan, of course, again – and the rise of the Taleban, a political and Salafist (fanatically puritanical Sunni) religious army that was created effectively by the CIA when, in its clandestine attempts to destabilise Russian control of the country in the 1970s, it had financed, armed and trained a local militia, the Mujahideen.

The Mujahideen later grew and became more radicalized, and diversified into most of the terror-sponsoring organizations we have subsequently been ‘at war’ with in the Middle East and North Africa – Indonesia, and now seemingly also in the Philippines – employing sophisticated communications technology and improvised weaponry to good advantage, and who are still indirectly being armed by the CIA with free weapons passed on by so-called ‘friendly’ militias, as we seek to impose our ‘way of life’ (neoliberal consumer capitalism) on them, and they on us (the global caliphate).

Which is to ignore, too, the drugs trade, the poppy crop, of which The Pumpkin has little knowledge but which seems also to be part and parcel of the clandestine warfare run by the CIA in the 1970s, both in Afghanistan and in Colombia; and having made the economies of those countries dependent on it, it continues unabated today.

In God we trust

As a counterbalance to radical Islam, we are beginning to see in the USA, in rightwing nationalist countries in eastern Europe and in Russia, an equivalent militant fundamentalism arising, sponsored by ultra-orthodox Christian ideologues and financed with laundered money. Given that the new administration in the White House is deeply involved with the movement, the omens do not look good.

In Egypt, the Arab Spring movement failed to cohere sufficiently to replace the ousted dictator, Mubarak. This left a vacuum into which the Muslim Brotherhood stepped, winning the popular vote in 2012. Not long afterwards, President Morsi was deposed in an army coup and the American-backed General al-Sisi seized power, apparently with the approval of the Arab Spring moderates; since when he has instituted a repressive regime that has attracted a rising level of terrorist actions by both al-Qaeda and ISIS, including the downing of a Russian civil airliner over Sinai and attacks on Coptic Christian communities.

In the meantime, the USA continues to pour billions of dollars of armaments into Egypt, whose army has become, effectively, a separate ‘state within a state’.

So then, here we are back in Syria today, a complete bloody mess that threatens the security of the entire world; a maelstrom, a vortex of violence that is sucking the Great Powers once more into the incomprehensibly diverse politics of religious and tribal schisms, set this time against the exigencies of resource depletion, global crime and climate change; driving millions of desperate refugees northwards towards the razorwire fences of Hungary, Austria and Macedonia. (Five thousand refugees having drowned in the Mediterranean already this year.)

And the only response from the West, now joined enthusiastically by the Russians, has been to bomb, and bomb, and bomb again, not wishing to get our boots dirty, pretty much regardless of whose red lines we or they are crossing, not really knowing who we are supporting, who we are opposing, who we are bombing or to what end. Innocent women and children, poor villagers are dying by the hundreds every month, blown to smithereens in air raids and unmanned drone strikes – and for what?

It would be fair to say, I think, that the USA, Britain and our allies have been making a total balls-up of our foreign policy towards the Islamic world for over a century.

Do you seriously imagine they’re not going to fight back from a position of extreme ideological opposition to everything we stand for?

So, when a Tory thug like the Defence Secretary and former expenses-eater, Michael Fallon seeks to make election-bait out of the deaths of children on British soil by attacking a pacifist opponent in Jeremy Corbyn, branding him as some kind of flakey traitor who ‘excuses’ acts of terror by pointing with total justification to our shameful record of failings in foreign policy, who ‘cannot be trusted with the nation’s security’, unlike Theresa May (on whose watch this happened!), you just know, don’t you.

It’s never going to end.

It’s never going to end while Jingoistic cretins – Fallon, the disgraced former Defence Secretary Fox, the absurd, shambling, apelike creature, ‘Bigfoot’ Boris Johnson and the Press dictator, Dacre – are in charge of the whelk stall, and have their filthy, sanctimonious lips firmly attached around the prolapsed anal sphincter of a dangerously ignorant, aberrant monster, Donald Trump; around whom, it is increasingly apparent, has coalesced a Russian spy ring inside the White House.

To deny any connection between British and American foreign policy and Islamist terrorism is just crass, self-deluding propaganda. It is as stupid as claiming British policy in Ireland from the C17th onwards, through land-grab, famine, civil war and partition, had nothing at all to do with the rise of the Provisional IRA.

Terrorists do not emerge spontaneously from holes in the mud, as in medieval times it used to be believed swallows – migratory birds – did in summer. They have a cause, in both senses of the word.

Everything is connected. As Paul Mason goes on to write:

“It is now reported that MI5 was facilitating the travel of non-jihadi British Libyans to fight in Tripoli. The minister responsible for that decision would have been May. Did she ask about the impact of the Libyan fighting on the terror threat here? That would be something the newspapers, if they did their job, would be shouting at her today, instead of hurling insults at Jeremy Corbyn.”

I mention this, not for party political advantage, nor to ‘excuse’ acts of violence, but as yet another simple illustration of the carelessness with which our politicians dispose of the lives of people elsewhere in the world while accepting no responsibility whatever for the consequences for ‘our own people’, other than to further turn the screws of surveillance, censorship and armed policing in our nation.

It really will not do.

x

The rule of law as it applies to the Conservatives

Look.

I don’t understand the first thing about social media, unless you count this, muh li’l bogl. I don’t understand much about this either, especially why I can’t single-space the text, or why the spam filter asks me if I’d like to moderate the most obviously spam messages you couldn’t wish for. And it’s not that social. Five viewings today, all day, is quite a good haul – mostly the usual old stuff.

Comex Two, Stately Home, blah.

Thus I have no social media accounts, and I automatically delete unread any responses to the Comments I compulsively make on news threads like YouTube or the Grauniad. I am so not interested in this technoshit, and care so little about what people think of my opinions that I refuse to even read what they say in reply, complimentary or otherwise.

They are mostly illiterate baboons in any case.

But if you’ve been following the alternate Pumpkin threads on this site you’ll be aware by now that there’s growing concern about surreptitious political advertising targeted directly at wavering, inadequately educated young voters identified through analysis of their computer and phone usage, that they aren’t aware they consented to.

It’s developing from the same kind of personalized nonsense that meant that, after I bought a saxophone last year, I was bombarded with microtargeted pop-ups from people wanting to sell me more saxophones. How many could I need? Or that, having been forced to sign up to the BBC iPlayer site that used to just let you watch whatever you wanted, I now get only the programmes presented to me that they expect me to watch, based on my personal data (M, 67) and the uninteresting region where I live.

Surely I can make up my own mind?

This kind of automated campaigning by clandestine botnets has been identified in the USA as a factor in the Presidential election last year, the concern being that the data analysis may have been based partly on state-authorised Russian hacking in cahoots with the Trump campaign.

US, Britain and Canada-based data analysis companies owned by rogue multi-billionaire Robert Mercer, a core Trump backer, have also been implicated, in an excellent series of articles in The Observer newspaper by Carole Cadwaladr, in having tried to influence the EU referendum in favour of Brexit, against Electoral Commission rules.

There is apparent difficulty in obtaining research data on the usage, extent and effect of these campaigns as social media such as Facebook and Twitter are opaque to outsiders. Much of what we fear about the subversive activity carried by these ‘platforms’, enabled to increase their profit, is anecdotal or based on very small samples.

This week we read the following:

“The Observer has obtained a series of Conservative party attack ads sent to voters last week in the key marginal constituency of Delyn, north Wales. Activists captured the ads using dummy Facebook accounts after finding that their own ads – encouraging young people to register to vote – were being “drowned out” by the Tory ads.”

In other words, the Tories have been running a trial campaign online of fake news against their Labour rivals in an attempt to gerrymander a constituency, despite knowing that the Electoral Commission is investigating precisely this kind of advertising, that seems on the face of it to be in flagrant breach of the rules regarding campaign funding.

This, only days after they escaped prosecution in several constituencies by the skin of their teeth, after a lower court ruling that undeclared costs involved in sending a Central Office ‘battle bus’ to support candidates in marginal constituencies did not violate local spending limits; which, of course, any reasonable juror would conclude they did.

What a shameless bunch of cunts these Tories are, aren’t they? They will stop at nothing to retain power, even stooping to make political capital out of the heightened national insecurity in the wake of the murders of 22 children, parents and a policewoman in the Manchester Arena bombing only last Monday.

Although they’re the ones in government overseeing this failure of security, they seek to make out that it is their opponents who have allowed it to happen and who cannot be trusted to ensure it does not happen again.

And if you want to see where that goes, hop over to the USA and Mr Alex Jones’ ‘InfoWars’ website, where he reports the murdered children brought the Manchester bombing on themselves because they’re ‘liberals’.

Sick sons of bitches.

Well, thanks to the bizarre attacks their manifesto has made on poorer schoolkids, struggling tenants and the frail elderly, policies that could have come straight from the Donald J Trump playbook on how to crush a loser while guzzling Belgian chocolates and whining about the difficulty of getting planning consents for golf courses, plus the obviously ‘fake news’ that they plan to bring back foxhunting, already the Tories’ poll lead has plunged from 12% to 5% in less than a week.

Good, the BogPo hopes the lousy cheating bastards, the party of asset-skimming fund managers, land-subsidy junkies and rack-renting landlords lose, and lose bigly.

DO NOT VOTE FOR THEM.

This advertisement has been paid for through years of unrewarded toil at the coalface of documentary literature by your Uncle Bogler, 67.

 

Thursday’s Bogl in parenthesis: How is it Where You Are?

“A Texas man has filed a lawsuit against a woman for the cost of a movie ticket after she texted during their cinema date. Brandon Vezmar, 37, said the woman walked out of the screening of Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 2 when he complained about her persistent phone use.

“Mr Vezmar filed the petition in the state capital of Austin last week seeking $17.31 (£13.30), arguing his date’s behaviour was “a threat to civilised society”.” – BBC report

Hero.

Brandon Vezmar, 37, could well have just become the Saviour of the Universe.

Women who are congenitally unable to stop fiddling with their phones for more than a few seconds without breaking out in hives are indeed a threat, not only to civilization, but to the future of humanity. They need to be saved.

Wherever I walk li’l Hunzi, I am unable to shield him from the sight of approaching women pushing a buggy with one hand while delivering a running commentary on their vacuous thought process to some invisible friend via a small device held with the other. In a recent production of Shakespeare, the longueurs backstage were hardly enlivened by female members of the cast immediately pouncing on their phones after coming offstage, in case anything totally uninteresting had happened while they were distracted by having to do some acting.

If only there had been cellphone technology in the C16th.

By 2050 it will no doubt be reported that female babies are being born with a strange deformity of the arm, which is permanently crooked and attached to their right ear. In addition, they will have evolved hypermobile thumbs resembling small flippers with built-in predictive text.

Having said that, if my ‘paying date’ had dragged me to see ‘Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol 2’ after a slap-up $4 dinner, I’d have kicked him in the nuts and gone home to watch the box-set of Fleabag in the more intellectually stimulating company of my vibrator. A girl needs to feel valued.

But that’s just me.

x

“This lying fat orange shitbrains is just taking the piss.”

How is it where you are?

I’m hoping next time to make sure I bring the little stringy thing that connects this, muh annoying new laptop, to muh cellphone.

It’s ‘cos I have on it, some new photos of the astonishing Spring regrowth that has been erupting around us since the beginning of April.

I’d like to share them with you and may do so shortly. (Gottit!)

Eutrophication – warmer water containing added washed-down nutrients – has caused huge mats of green weed to cover the nearby river, such as I have never known. Meanwhile, a couple of rainy days have brought on the most astonishing efflorescence and a surge of green biomass such as we have never seen before, here in the river valley.

Huge clumps of wild plants are erupting either side of the rapidly disappearing footpath. Briar – fruits already forming – and nettles and cleavers and elder, Himalayan balsam, all fighting for light, tumbling over each other. Growth of grass in the verges has been rapid, dense, with the tall, undistinguished white flower spikes of plantain normally about 10 inches reaching two feet in height, vying for space with St John’s Wort, nettle, vetch and borage, Pennyroyal and cow-parsley.

Japanese knotweed stands already way above my head.

Notifiable – and  indestructible – knotweed growing three feet above my six-foot head.

Where the playing fields have not been closely mown there are vast mats of daisies, lying like late snow. In the wooded ares, daffodils, snowdrops, bluebells and harebells – all the flowers of spring – are already well over. Dandelion, buttercup and wood anemone are flowering vigorously. The gorse flowers, great acid-yellow swatches, that blazed all winter are dying off now. Bees hum on sunny days in the great pendulous clumps of mayflowers hanging from the hawthorn trees. Birdsong is everywhere.

It really is the most extraordinary Spring I think I have ever known. It began in early April. And it’s still only mid-May. In my tiny garden, I have one rose bush. It has put out three-foot-long greenshoots, each bearing heads of multiple flower buds they will be unable to support. Some flowered last week. It is still only mid-May.

This unprecedented abundance is probably because, for the first time in hundreds of thousands, maybe millions of years, Carbon dioxide – plant food – in the atmosphere is at 410 parts per million (Mauna Loa observatory, Hawaii) and rising.

On sunny days, of which we have had many, a cooling breeze blows gently in from the sea. Out of the wind, it has been comfortably in the low 70s F.

Other parts of the world are not so agreeable:

  • Twenty-seven tornados touched down in Wisconsin and Oklahoma yesterday, trashing a trailer park and killing at least two people. More scary tornado warnings are out tonite (19/05) across the midwest.
  • Donald J ‘criminal ecocide’ Trump has nominated an alt-right Christian fundamentalist, climate-change-denying ‘shock-jock’ radio talkshow host, Sam Clovis as Science Director of the US Department of Agriculture. Like Scott Pruitt at the EPA he has no scientific or sector administrative credentials whatsoever. This lying fat orange shitbrains is just taking the piss.
  • Carbon dioxide concentrations recently exceeded 560 ppm (NASA) in parts of West Africa and Central Asia, thanks to uncontrolled forest fires and annual agricultural burning. A problem with wildfires and crop-burning is that sooty particulates eventually precipitate out over ice fields where the darker surface increases melting of glaciers and sea ice.
  • Wildfires have destroyed 4,000 acres in northern Florida.
  • Record flooding with many casualties and mass evacuations has been reported just this week in Indonesia (Sulawesi/Borneo), Arkansas (state of emergency declared), Mississippi, N. Carolina (USA); Hungary/Romania; China’s Guangdong and four other provinces; Kenya and Kwa-Zulu Natal – South Africa; Chile (where over 1m acres were destroyed by wildfires in January); Haiti, Jamaica and Canada (state of emergency declared in Ontario province).
  • 137 mm of rain fell in 24 hours in Alicante, Spain; 280mm in Kamphaeng Phet province, Thailand. http://floodlist.com/america/usa/floods-arkansas-missouri-april-may-2017
  • Hundreds of pilgrims have been evacuated as heavy flooding hits the southern French town of Lourdes after days of rain.
  • A record-breaking 42 deg. C+ heatwave is affecting the Chennai area of Tamil Nadu, SW India for the second year running.
  • Two tropical cyclones are currently battering northeast and northwest Australia, with another Category 5 storm threatening Vanuatu, the second this year.
  • An earthquake ascribed to possible ‘isostatic rebound’ due to melting ice hit Greenland on May 8, triggering a massive release of methane. Methane levels have risen 256% from 1750 to 2015 and could double again by 2040 (Arctic News).
  • “The Global Seed Vault, buried in a mountain deep inside the Arctic circle, has been breached after global warming produced extraordinary temperatures over the winter, sending meltwater gushing into the entrance tunnel.” – BBC report. (The Norwegian-funded seed bank, said to be the most important reserve of plant genes in the world, was designed to last 1,000 years…)
  • While Colorado enjoyed heavy snow last night (20 May), some scientists are forecasting an ice-free Arctic ocean by September. Admittedly they have been saying this for the past four years. However, thanks to Arctic methane eruptions polynomial trendlines (best/worst-case scenarios) are pointing to possibly a global 3 deg. C. rise over 2018 and a potential, unsurvivable 10 deg. C. rise by 2021. (Arctic News).
  • April was the third warmest month ever recorded across the USA. Temperature in Washington DC yesterday touched 93 F.

The BogPo: Mrs May is the very embodiment of British ghastliness.

Thursday again… except it’s already Friday! (I’m busy.)

I’d like to start in the laziest possible fashion by linking you somehow (you’re smart, you’ll figure it out) to a Guardian Today article : “Theresa May’s Brexit Britain can no longer be considered a serious country”

http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2017/may/05/theresa-may-brexit-britain-uk-europe-liberal

Following which, ‘UltraLightBeam’ Commented:

Agreed. Just when you thought that there’s no further depths of stupidity for the UK to sink to, that we’ve finally reached peak stupid, a whole new vista of stupid yawns open.

The UK inexplicably voted to inflict serious harm on ourselves, and to inflict collateral damage on our closest allies. Now we’re simply amazed that the EU doesn’t just want to roll over and let us do what we want. But…but…we’re Britain! Don’t they know that? Why are they so vindictive? Why are they picking on us?

We choose Theresa May, the most awkward, stilted, charmless politician in recorded history to negotiate on our behalf. She predictably humiliates herself, and the UK, and then we blame the European press for pointing it out. Our own press foams at the mouth, spitting venom every day, but we expect the European press to be impartial. Why?

We disregard all logic and economic expertise, and make a stupid political decision to Brexit. Now we’re astounded that the EU are also prioritising political imperatives over economic ones, by making it difficult for us. Why do we expect completely different standards from the EU than we apply to ourselves?

There seems to be very little awareness in the UK, and definitely not from the government, that we’re the ones doing all this. The EU are just reacting, logically and predictably, to protect their own interests against our senseless, mindless, stupid actions. They’re not doing anything to us. We’re not victims here.

What’s happening now is what was always predicted, by everyone who knows anything about these things: the ridiculous fantasies of the Brexit campaign are coming into contact with reality, like a cruise liner grinding into an iceberg. And the magic beans salesmen who brought us here are busy blaming the EU for the mess they created.

I really could put it no better myself. Because I have done, many times – and was putting it, long before the referendum. Sadly, I have precisely 34 Followers – none of whom appears to be reading this, muh bogl, anymore. Most of them were only trying to sell me stuff.

And today, the BogPo had 17… spam messages from bots. An astonishing one-day record. And two Viewings. Yet we plough on regardless…

Led by a corporatist press that profitably descends into paroxysms of chauvinism at every turn, Britain has had a shameful record for many decades of whingeing and whining about our treaty obligations in Europe, always demanding special treatment and complaining of being bossed about, yet happy to benefit from our cut-price membership whenever decisions we help to make go our way.

As Helena Kennedy QC has pointed out, just one instance of the total, crass stupidity of the Leavers, no-one considered that the 27 remaining members are bound by the decisions of the European Court; so if we want to have new treaties enabling us to trade in Europe we will still be subject to European Court rulings – yet one of the principal arguments in favour of Leaving was that we would be free of the tyranny of the European Court!

And all the time this smug sense of superiority, even among the least cultured of us, shaven-headed, tattooed barbarians shagging in the gutters of package holiday resorts stinking of chips and good British vomit, that characterises the insular warrior nation reduced to a mere spear-carrier on the global stage.

There is just no self-awareness of how ghastly we are; and fittingly Mrs May is the very embodiment of British ghastliness, a woman for our time.

 

“…we are in the midst of a massive land grab for power by billionaires via our data. Data which is being silently amassed, harvested and stored. Whoever owns this data owns the future.”

– Carole Cadwalladr, writing in The Observer, 07 May (apparently, the only British journalist researching the story that you have been reading about for weeks in The Pumpkin – possibly the most important story you will ever read.*) Read it! Weep!

http://www.theguardian.com/technology/2017/may/07/the-great-british-brexit-robbery-hijacked-democracy

*So there’s a BBC Panorama programme on it tomorrow night.

 

 

 

The posh man in his tumbril, the poor man in his shed. Plus: The Art of the Steal. Dear Clive James.

“£25 thousand is not really all that much to spend on an attractive, habitable, craftsman-made garden feature: a faux- pastoral scriptorium for a literary troglodyte.”

“And now the news where you are….”

Hi.

This is where I am, right now.

It’s my little ‘garden room’, at the end of my not very long garden (you’re standing on the other end to look at it), where I work, rest and play, every day.

(As the fence is falling over you can’t really see, but the garden path continues on past the rotproof timber-clad structure to an area of wilderness, approximately two feet by six, at the back. Now read on…)

Annoying friends have borrowed the tiresome magazine lifestyle-column expression ‘man-cave’ to describe it; although a cave is possibly somewhat darker and gloomier than my well-lit 10′ x 12′ workspace and more inducive of brooding melancholy, even lengthy periods of hibernation. Only the self-indulgent electric guitar (mine’s a Gibson LP, yours is a Fender Strat) and the empty wine bottles might connect them.

Before condemning the perfectly satisfactory roof of the main house, thereby putting the kybosh on the sale (it was four and a half years ago. I’m still here; so’s the roof), the insensitive, semi-qualified building surveyor sent by a risk-averse Lloyds Bank on behalf of one prospective purchaser asked caustically, if I had perhaps constructed my second home myself, from a kit?

But no, moron. I had it purpose-designed and built by a faraway design-and-build company specializing in garden rooms ‘as seen on TV’. That’s why it’s so thermally efficient that if you shut the window you’ll be dead within the hour for lack of oxygen, because I couldn’t afford the extra £600 they wanted for air conditioning, and other expensive extras besides.

In fact the whole project, which I must stress was considerably hampered by the problem of obtaining access to the site either from the back – the garden is dropped by some eight feet from the road above – or below, you have to deliver through the house, with its ever-so tight turning off a narrow hallway – from a busy road where there is no stopping allowed on this side; and the additional constraint of working in a garden that’s only four feet wider than the building.

(Yes, I’m aware that the foregoing paragraph does not work syntactically. I’m trying to think of a way to fix it. Leave me alone.)

For that and reasons of opting for the best quality fixtures and fittings, the ‘high-performance’ self-cleaning double-glazing, the recessed downlighters, the tropical hardwood floor (if Ivanka Trump can specify extinction for the rainforest to adorn her dad’s palatial habitations in corrupt and rutted feudal demesnes around the world, so can I), the whole caboodle (not a kit) cost a shade under £16 thousand.

I went off on a jazz holiday and let them get on with it, else I should have become a nervy wreck.

But I’ve been making good use of it since. This is my 608th Post to the BogPo, and all Posted to you free of charge from my coffee-table in The Little House on the Prairie, as I’ve wittily named my shed. (The prairie, as you can just about see, being an area of grassland all of 10 feet by five.) It is my home-from-home, my sanctuary – my inspiration.

The reason I had it built in the first place is somewhat convoluted, but essentially my student son was living with me at the time and there was an overwhelming need to escape the sound of Rise Against! churning over the staccato death-rattle of computerised warfare. I had conceded that, since his bedroom was only eight feet by seven, plus a few inches, he should have the sitting-room (12’4″ x 12′) for use as his study area.

No sooner had the last workman departed, perhaps a little more satisfied with his handiwork than I’ve been, but never mind, Peter naturally moved out to live with his mates in a damp, mould-infested, £100 a week student hovel with stinking, stained carpets and broken furnishings, lacking any form of legal fire safety precautions, just across the road from a low tavern, taking with him his extensive collection of Rise Against! downloads, his post-ironic lava-lamp and his global gaming computer that he built himself from a kit.

Nevertheless, I have remained in the habit of saving electricity by not living in the house – other than to shit, cook and sleep, usually in that order. (There’s a handy drain for peeing in the garden.) I’m extremely attached to and perhaps even mentally imprisoned within my man-cave, my home office, my garden studio, my personal space, my eco-pod – whichever lifestyle magazine you choose to read will furnish you with an appropriate apophthegm.

What has not resulted from the commissioning of this practical and useful extra room, however, is a shitstorm of onlined criticism from the trolling community and Guardian columnistas whining enviously like so many bitches-in-the-manger at the non-public-spirited expense of it. While grimy little children yet queue at the workhouse soup-kitchen door, etc.

You know how it goes, the politics of envy.

A bunch of sheep

My old school chum, Dave Cameron, on the other hand has been widely ‘outed’ today for acquiring a genuine imitation Northumberland ‘shepherd’s hut’ – a sort of tumbril on iron wheels, for use as a writing hovel while he pens the memoir of his disastrous Prime Ministership that no-one is going to pay £25 to read in hardback; for which he has no doubt secured an advance equivalent to my entire lifetime’s earnings (envy not being the sole preserve of the illiterate).

The main complaint seems to be that he paid £25 thousand for it; not including the heritage Farrow-and-Ball makeover Mrs Cameron has given it. It seems a little harsh, even while one contemplates her disloyalty to George Osborne in her choice of decorative materials supplier. Twenty-five grand is hardly taking bread out of the mouths of babes and sucklings, you’d easily pay that nowadays for a Golf GTi or a wedding with kilts and a chocolate fountain.

The man was a low-range millionaire even before he became Prime Minister; he’s just come into another half a mill from his late dad; while Samantha is outrageously rich in her own right. They can easily afford it! Is that a reason why they should not have it? Only in nasty, envious, curtain-twitching little Britain would even well-paid journalists not only think, but actually dare to tell the former Prime Minister that just because he can afford a new garden shed, doesn’t mean he should be allowed to have one.

I feel that £25 thousand is not really all that much to spend on an attractive, habitable, British-craftsman-made garden feature: a faux-pastoral scriptorium for a literary troglodyte. From Sam’s point of view it gets her unemployed booby of a husband out of the house for a few hours each day; and it is the case that many famous writers have opted to escape from domesticity by the same means.

Roald Dahl, for example, wrote his lumpen prose for sick kids in a succession of garden sheds. Dylan Thomas had his boathouse at Laugharne, handy for the pub. I myself once visited Ayot St Lawrence in Buckinghamshire, home of George Bernard Shaw, with its modest, unpretentious structure in the garden. Shaw was a keen uptaker of new technology; so, while other writers have sought a solitude which the mobile phone now denies us, having perhaps the keenest sense of self-importance of all he had installed an enormous bakelite telephone in his shed; a detail that impresses me even 40 years later.

I imagine, too, that Leo Tolstoy probably kept an entirely separate country estate for the purpose of obtaining a little peace and quiet while penning the first few drafts of War and Peace. Is Suzanne Moore going to begrudge him that as well?

So, no. Unfair. On behalf of all solitary strivers in garden sheds great or small, dry-lined or planked, plain or fancy, with downlighters or guttering candles, I protest.

Mr Cameron is entitled to many things, eternal damnation for his optimistic miscalculations over the Brexit referendum certainly being the most pressing.

But a posh garden-shed is small reward for his years of service, however inept. It makes him almost one of us.

Leave the poor man alone!

 

The art of the steal

“The Tate (UK’s leading modern art gallery) has come under fire after it asked members of staff, many of whom are not paid the London living wage, to contribute towards a boat for the departing director, Nicholas Serota, just one week after their canteen discount was taken away.

“A notice which went up in the staff rooms of both Tate Modern and Tate Britain on Wednesday asked employees – including security, cleaners, and those (who) maintain the galleries and work in the cafe and gift shop – to ‘put money towards a sailing boat’ as a ‘surprise gift’ for Serota.” – Guardian Today, 28 April.

Whouawahwouaah… eerie flashback music….

We were all summoned up to the boardroom, where Mike, the MD, had prepared a long and lugubrious presentation, graphically showing us the bad news.

Yes, we had twice exceeded our collective annual sales target during the year. Indeed, we’d broken the target for the whole year during August, so the MD had DOUBLED it and we’d broken it again by December.

But sadly, all that extra effort had led to costly errors and money having to be passed back to the clients, all the extra activity we’d generated had doubled our cost of sales too, so we’d doubled our turnover at the expense of having made no profits at all.

Look, here’s a graph, and another one, and an even sadder one… see, how we’ve actually LOST money.

So the bad news was that staff wouldn’t be getting any annual bonus this year. But a bit of good news, we’d all be receiving a £10 shopping voucher with our company Christmas card.

Two weeks after Christmas I encountered a smiling Mike in the corridor. We hadn’t seen him around for a few days, so I asked him if he’d been anywhere nice?

‘Yes’, he said, ‘I was at the Boat Show’ – a major annual event for yachties held at the Earl’s Court exhibition centre in London.

‘Buy anything?’ I asked him, nonchalantly. ‘Yes’, he said, ‘I bought a new yacht for the business.’ (He kept a boat down at Cowes, on the Isle of Wight, that he faked VAT invoices for chartering-out to non-existent clients and used to ship cash over to a bank in low-tax offshore haven, Jersey.)

‘How much did that cost?’ I pushed on, regardless. ‘A hundred and ten thousand’, he replied, smugly.

‘In that case’, I told him, ‘you can stuff your fucking job.’ And I quit then and there – although he was a malicious little bastard and forced me to work out my notice and have a crappy leaving party I would rather not have gone to. (I got my revenge when my dog had a burst of diarrhoeia in the back of my unasked-for, embarrassing little company car and I handed it back covered in shit.)

Mike was mortified. He literally could not understand why I was so angry: the company was his, any money we made was his, he was paying us so we belonged to him, to the company, he had total ownership of our lives, our time – generally about 14 hours a day otherwise you got a bad-breath ‘hairdryer’ lecture about showing disloyalty.

I once asked for a raise, he glared at me with his fishy, pale blue eyes magnified by pebble glasses, as if I had crawled out from under a rock and asked me pointedly, ‘Who would you like me to fire so you can have a raise?’

Now however he buckled. He knew I was the agency’s profit-centre, a high-output conceptual copywriter wearing also a business development hat, whom he had under-remunerated from the start and who could now make a substantial case for a big profit-share.

‘You can have a directorship!’ he blurted. Well, for a start the idea of being in business with this bullying little creep, who liked to invite selected execs up to his house to watch porno on his big satellite dish that could get Danish TV, and was pimping his wife and 13-year-old daughter, I actually found pretty nauseating. Worse was to come.

‘Director of what?’ I asked.

‘I’m thinking of setting up a new company’, he explained earnestly, still trying to con people to the end. He outlined a business plan, until I stopped him. ‘You mean, you want me to be a nominee director of a shell company you can sideline your profits into so you can make a tax loss on the main business?’

‘Something like that’, he replied sheepishly.

A fortnight later I was offered a job with another agency, and took one of the account managers with me. (Dear Reader, we were married a couple of years later.)

Tate union rep Tracy Edwards said:

“Our members are on zero-hours contracts, they are struggling to pay the bills each month, so to ask them to donate towards a boat – well, I can tell you the staff are not happy at all. It’s really rubbed people up the wrong way.

“Another worker confirmed that the staff’s 10% canteen discount had also been taken away last week.” (Ibid.)

Yep, I know exactly how that feels.

Fucking shits.

x

Dear Clive James

Writing in last weekend’s Saturday Guardian, the venerated Australian polymath, TV personality and compulsive poet complains ruefully of a fellow Aussie, apparently; a troll, who has messaged him complaining that he is still alive.

If you are unfamiliar with the backstory, James, who must I suppose be in his late seventies, has been ‘dying’ for several years now, after being diagnosed with leukemia. Not to be unkind, or to put too fine a point on it, he has made something of an industry out of this precarious state of being, hovering as it were halfway between this world and the next, as if on a long-haul flight from Sidney.

James has written muchly and richly on the topic of his impending departure, churning out whole books and collections of self-valedictory elegiacs and a weekly ‘not dead yet’ newspaper column delineating the experience of living with Death’s shadow forever hovering in the corner of one’s eye, and here he is, years later, still at it.

On the one hand, obviously, we must be profoundly grateful James has thus far been spared. His literary output continues to be mordant, insightful, vastly knowledgeable, wry and reflective, as ever. His precarious state of health offers us a new appreciation of life. He is, in short, a bit of a national treasure; although perhaps eclipsed a little by his fellow Antipodean valetudinarian, Barry Humphries. I am yet puzzled that neither of these exemplary colonials has been rewarded with a knighthood – or, in Humphries’ case, a Dodgy Damehood.

And no-one would seriously wish anyone dead, who was not either a Conservative politician or, on occasion, John Humphrys.

Yet we know what the Aussie troll means, sort of, don’t we?

Clive James continues to deprive us of the tantalising reward he has been holding out for so long, like a parent refusing to part with the children’s Christmas presents before Twelfth Night, the opportunity of actually grieving for him, of celebrating the life well-lived. He subsists on our delayed gratification; our anticipation of sadly enjoyable Radio Four obsequies, favourite moments off the telly, contributions from past celebrities we had forgotten existed, the republication of past essays.

There dwells in our nearby town a certain person who too has gone about for several years now in a state of darkest morbidity, informing one and all of her imminent demise. ‘How are you today?’ one would ask solicitously. ‘I think I’m dying’, she would reply, ‘I feel awful.’ ‘Have you seen your doctor?’ you would ask, hopelessly. ‘They can’t do anything. They say I’m probably just depressed.’ To which there is no answer.

Turning 60, seven years ago I determined to take up two activities whose gratifications I had deliberately delayed since childhood, being the sole offspring of theatrical parents: to act on the stage, and to sing solo, again on the stage, in the jazz idiom.

Anticipating redundancy from my job, an axe that fell two years later, I wasted literally thousands of pounds of my pension ‘pot’ on musical instruments; acquiring guitars, a piano I cannot play – later exchanged for a more practical electronic keyboard; amplifiers, microphones, wobbling piles of sheet music. I studied with what teachers I could find, spending more thousands on attending residential workshops here and in France, acquiring dozens upon dozens of CD recordings.

Thus I have made a number of increasingly encouraging appearances on stage. Having had the foresight to grow my own, strangely woolly white beard, contrasting oddly with my otherwise still dark-brown hair and moustache, I have been consistently cast above my age range in comic parts, generally old sailors or pirates, ensuring a steady stream of unpaid work twice a year. I am currently playing the old Jew in Shakespeare’s Merchant of Venice, as sympathetically as possible I hope, being a non-Jew myself. (You can’t get the actors here.)

And in December I had my first and so far my only unpaid gig as a jazz singer, outside the supportive yet respectfully critical confines of professionally supervised workshops. It was not an unmitigated success, less from a performance point of view than because of the unexpected obstacle of having to compete with a woman selling ‘smoothies’ from a powered blender in the area next to us, in the awkward key of E; while the only member of the audience was a ten-year-old girl whose parents urgently dragged her away.

Halfway through the programme we had carefully rehearsed, my dying friend wandered in. ‘Oh hello’, she said. ‘Are you here?’ and, grabbing the microphone off the stand, announced that she proposed to sing ‘Autumn leaves’. It being, on reflection, quite an appropriate swansong; which she proceeded to warble while the pianist struggled to find her key and I prompted her with the actual lyrics. Happily, as one by one the leaves sadly fell, by the end she was still very much alive and wandered off again in a haze of antidepressants to continue her campaign of morbid disruption elsewhere.

I expect you have anticipated my feelings, then, on the subject of those who cling to this world like oversubstantial wraiths. While, as I said, one would not seriously wish anybody gone before their time, after all at 73 John Humphrys could simply hang up his soapbox and retire, the sound of their fingernails squeaking down the blackboard of life can sometimes be a little aggravating.

None of us can know the hour of our departure in advance, the random omnibus of Fate is even now charging towards us all from around the blind bend of Eternity, and so one cannot really blame those who succumb to an excess of premature morbidity in the exercise of their profession. It makes for a good story.

Journalists in particular have taken to biographising for our benefit, the remnants of their truncated lives lived under medical sentence; articles and broadcasts usually prefaced with misplaced regret that we do not ‘talk about death’ enough in our thoughtless pursuit of material happiness. A new Puritanism stalks the country.

And, oh my God, it’s a May Bank Holiday Saturday and once again the sports field half a mile away has come alive with the echoing, tinny cry of the tannoy, the splintered shards of unidentifiable muzak punctuated for the next 48 hours with unintelligible announcements, that shatters the relative peace of the valley and drills through the expensively double-glazed windows of my little garden studio.

There is no escaping the racket. Death’s silent dominion can seem too remote a consolation at such a time of year.

Spring. Who needs it.