Quote of the day:
“The man who was Brexit secretary until 10 minutes ago now reckons the Brexit deal is worse than staying in the EU. Yes, mate. The great spectacle of the past two and a half years has been watching allegedly very clever people realise this incredibly slowly.” – Marina Hyde, writing in The Guardian
Rain Man visits Paradise, Ca.
The sands of time
Matthew Hedges, the British PhD research student gaoled for a minimum of 25 years in Abu Dhabi on espionage charges, has been offered the possibility of “clemency”, following a fairly robust intervention by the new British Foreign Secretary, Jeremy Hunt.
Update, 26 Nov.: Mr Hedges has been granted a “pardon” in the upcoming National Day list of prisoners to be freed and is expected home “once formalities have been completed”. This is far from the end of the story, however….
The BogPo suggests he was lucky Boris Johnson is not still the Foreign Secretary, the useless and lazy gumboil who sank the chances for release of Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, the British national imprisoned on trumped-up charges by the Revolutionary Guard in Iran, blurting out in Parliament that she was probably doing exactly what she was accused of (i.e. teaching Iranian women how to become citizen journalists).
A pardon from the Emir would of course require Mr Hedges to confirm the court’s perverse ruling that he is guilty, and presumably require him to sign an NDA on any mistreatment he has suffered.
Mr Hedges, attached to Durham University, was arrested while leaving the country, where he has lived on and off since the age of eight. Perhaps unwisely chosen, his research thesis was on the Arab Spring, to which end he had interviewed participants who might be seen to be controversial.
It is frankly quite easy for a noted conspiracymonger such as the BogPo to imagine that this story seems rather convenient, but we’ll press on….
After six weeks of enhanced conversations, allegedly, Hedges was held for six months in solitary confinement and is in delicate health. During his time in prison, under interrogation, he was forced to sign what turned out to be a confession.
The document was in Arabic, which his partner says he does not read. It’s the oldest play in the shithole countries’ police entrapment book. He was denied the benefit of a translator, or legal representation. The court in Dubai last week sentenced him to life after a five-minute hearing at which, again, he was allegedly denied representation or the right to make a defence; although he now has a court-appointed lawyer; and with international media interest generated by his partner, has come the FO’s belated intervention.
Dubai is not on the list of countries the British government likes to upset by confronting them over their pretty rank human rights record.
Any normal human briefly considering the case might conclude that someone who does not speak Arabic is not going to make a very good spy. These primitive desert dwellers are still entirely dependent on Western technology, so what exactly Mr Hedges was supposedly sent to spy on is not clear, given we’ve already got more of whatever it is than they have.
The Foreign Minister of Dubai has described the abysmal proceedings as the fair exercise of justice, but says the Emir might look favorably on an appeal. Frankly, we should lock up their ambassador and pull his toenails out. But that’s not how we do things: we just extract their oil money instead.
My advice to anyone thinking of visiting this luxury tourist trap – lots of shiny skyscrapers, flood-prone artificial island estates for Western celebrity taxdodgers, air-conditioned golf courses and indentured slave labor; nevertheless still home to tribal societies barely out of the Stone Age – country is, don’t. Why go, when you could summer in Margate? Don’t give them the satisfaction of your interest, your money.
Only, the fans of Manchester City have. Britain’s most up-and-come Premiership soccer club followers have reportedly rallied to the flag, the flag of Dubai that is. So happy are they about the scads of oil wealth that have pumped up their formerly failing kickabout enterprise with a plethora of hugely well-paid immigrant talent, that doubts are being raised on their Forum or whatever about Hedges.
It appears from what they are saying, that he must have been a spy after all.
And indeed, that is what the Emirati are saying. An official described Hedges as “50% PhD student, 50% businessman and 100% in the service of British intelligence”, claiming Hedges was trying to get information on the uptake of technology in the state – odd, since presumably one only had to look at the shopping lists they regularly send us.
Was there some tiny hint of a possible suggestion there, then, that Hedges was hoping to find out what, if any, shift in policy there may have been towards favoring China as a future trading partner, or some such possibility? Just speculatin’.
Anyway, the BogPo has detected one curious anomaly. In Hedges’ supposed “confession”. The BBC reported, he had claimed to be “a captain in MI6”. MI6 of course does not operate a system of military ranks, unlike the Russian GRU. Was this perhaps a piece of false information Hedges had inserted before disappearing forever into a Dubai dungeon, to draw attention to the absurdity of his statement and the compulsion under which it was made?
I doubt we shall know, as the detail has not subsequently been much mentioned, other than on the trite satirical BBC panel show, Have I Got News For You. Which I am sure is watched by many MI6 officials.
For a more cogent briefing on what to expect if you fall foul of the Emirati, go to:
Our vanishing world
Let’s pause for a second to pay tribute to John Allen Chau.
Okay, second over. This brainwashed American booby bribed some Indian fishermen, now being held in custody, to ferry him within kayaking distance of the shoreline of North Sentinel, one of the Andaman islands now owned by India. He stepped ashore brandishing his waterproof bible (the pernicious evangelical movement has thought of everything), singing hymns, and began immediately trying to convert the natives to Christianity, proferring gifts of a pair of scissors, some fish, and a soccer ball, according to his diary – all his grieving mother has left of him.
Was ever Jesus bartered so cheaply? Mr Chau wrote: “Lord, is this island Satan’s last stronghold where none have heard or even had the chance to hear your name?” And that, after 200 years of occupation by the British! These awful prodnoses not only need their heads examining, they need to be taught a little history.
The Sentinelese, as the tiny community of aboriginal tribespeople are called (because nobody knows what they call themselves) enjoy special protection, their numbers having been decimated by years of contact with the trigger-happy, disease-ridden Raj. Outsiders are forbidden by law from landing on the island. The authorities are now pondering what to do about collecting the remains of Mr Chau, perfunctorily St Sebastian’d with arrows and buried on the beach.
The Twittersphere’s verdict? Basically, good riddance. Retailing the tragic story, however, the Washington Post reminds us, Mr Jair Bolsonaro, the newly elected fascist President of Brazil, and a dead-ringer for Rudolf Hess, the Nazi war criminal, has a manifesto commitment to tear up the agreements permitting Amazonian tribes – roughly 100 are left – protected access to their reservations, as he licences more vast areas of the rainforest to be cut down and burned to make space for his business cronies to grow more soybeans to sell to China.
Mr Bolsonaro’s religion is, of course, money – lots of it. He was elected on a platform to end corruption. Why do voters fall for this bullshit every time? It is the best argument I know against extending the franchise to the common people, who do not, as the theory goes, possess even one ounce of native wisdom or percipience when it comes to the horrible bastards they regularly put in power in the pathetic belief that “strong leadership” will save them from the hopeless condition in which they are kept by the very same lying politicians they noisily support at election time.
It’s acknowledged to be one of life’s mysteries, why they do that.
Okay, BBC, get over it.
So you’ve discovered women.
Not only is veteran newsreader and Antiques Roadshow presenter Fiona Bruce slated to take over from Dimbleby at Question Time, and the entirety of Radio 2 being presented by Zoe Ball and Sarah Cox, we now have perky standup, Lucy Porter “guesting” on R4 as presenter of The Now Show in place of Hugh Dennis.
But behind every successful woman there’s a little man, they say… the main writer’s credit still goes to Steve Punt.
“The efforts of King Cnut spring to mind.”
There is no hope whatever of surviving this
Anyone fancying that we can change our way of life just in time to prevent the coming Age of Extinction events needs to imagine that they are Mr Andy Southern, a resident of Bath Spa.
An elegant, compact Georgian city in the West of England, Bath is a UNESCO World Heritage site that is being eaten away by pollution. Laid out long before the arrival of the horseless carriage, it sits in a hollow depression, where trapped traffic fumes contribute to a noxious atmosphere in which thousands of residents are suffering from asthma and other lung conditions. And Bath is a traffic nightmare.
The surrounding topography makes the construction of a bypass problematic. Solutions such as tunneling under the city are ruinously expensive. And so, on the direction of central government, that has legally binding emissions targets to meet, the council has proposed introducing a £9 a day charge; creating a low-emissions zone for diesel vehicles, just as there is in London, to help cut down toxic Nitrogen dioxide and micro-particulates; also, the pernicious Sulphur dioxide which, when combined with rain, is eroding the soft sandstone out of which the city was made.
Naturally, there is massive local oppostion to the proposal. Quoted in The Observer, one interviewee among many to voice similar sentiments, Mr Southern says:
“I have a diesel car that will fall foul of this. It’s going to cost me £2,200 a year. I agree we need to improve air quality but this scheme will hit families like mine.” (Guardian)
I agree we need to improve air quality but this scheme will hit families like mine… precisely encapsulates the irresolvable dilemma that is condemning the majority of species on earth, including our own, to extinction; certainly within 100 years, although the process has already begun, is fast speeding up and no-one knows how quickly the web of life and human society could collapse. Some scientists give it less than the next decade.
If you agree we need to improve air quality – I imagine Mr Southern has children – then what the fuck else does he suggest we do, than force diesel car drivers off the road? I’m sorry he can’t afford to switch to a car that runs on unleaded, I can’t either. Even that is not going to save us. He and I need to stop driving altogether and switch to public transport (I can no longer sit a bicycle saddle, thanks to an enlarged prostate). You do too.
But we won’t. Not until we’re all dead.
Bizarrely, in Washington the Trump administration is frantically backpedalling on its own 1400-page report, compiled from contributions from over 300 government scientists, that points in great and specific detail to ever-advancing environmental destruction, food shortages and huge economic damage from chaotic weather patterns and rising seas, toward a 2100 timeline for the end-time.
The response from the White House?
“The White House said the report – compiled with help from numerous US government agencies and departments – was inaccurate” (BBC News). A Trump person spokesplained that it fails to take into account the as-yet unproven assertion that technology will provide the solution just as long as we go on exactly as we are.
Having met with some skepticism toward Lyin’ Sarah’s version, the WH later amended its opposition to claim that the report’s conclusions were based on a worst-case scenario. They weren’t. Quite the opposite.
Meanwhile Trump continues to double-down on his fatuous denials, hailing the sharp arrival of winter in the eastern United States last week as evidence of his theory that climate change is probably a hoax, and if it isn’t it will soon reverse itself. This is a story that is apparently believed by 47% of Republican voters.
A “hoax” that was presumably therefore perpetrated way back in the 1880s when atmospheric warming by CO2 was first demonstrated and has persisted in secret among tens of thousands of scientists from many different disciplines and in many different institutions in dozens of countries, who have been warning us ever since, to no apparent purpose.
The efforts of King Cnut spring to mind.
With these petro-cretins in charge – the claim that the report is “inaccurate” is based on no evidence whatsoever, let alone scientific evidence – and with the prevailing social attitude – also evident in France, where popular riots have followed a proposed increase in fuel duty – that: “I know we have to change, but it will hurt me personally so I’m not going to”, there is no hope whatever of surviving this.
GW: Slip sliding away
Vietnam: Typhoon Usagi is just crossing the Vietnamese coast, Saturday 24 Nov., headed for Saigon. To the north, Typhoon Man-Yi is weakening as it approaches the Japanese islands, but the Philippines is threatened by a frontal system bearing torrential rain.
USA: Death toll in the Camp Fire that incinerated the town of Paradise now standing at 84, with 475 still unaccounted for. 14 thousand homes were destroyed. Torrential rain has turned the ash to sloppy concrete making the search for more bodies difficult. Warnings are out for mudslides on steep slopes denuded of tree cover. The fire is now 95% contained; the Woolsey Fire around Malibu to the south of LA is also nearly out, 1100 people still under evacuation orders and 3 confirmed dead.
Update 25 Nov. : the Camp Fire, deadliest in California’s history, is finally out.
This weekend marks the 68th anniversary of the great Appalachian snowstorm that dumped 64 inches over Coburn Creek, Pennsylvania between 22 and 28 November, 1950. Winds in New Hampshire gusted to 110 mph. The temperature in Pellston, Michigan fell to minus 23 F (-30.5C). “A curious extreme occurred in Virginia: the state’s monthly high in November 1950 of 90° at Buccs Island Dam on the 2nd and low of -3° F at Burkes Garden on the 25th were respectively the hottest and coldest temperatures ever measured during November in Virginia.” Between 160 and 350 people died. (Christopher Burt, Wunderground historian, proving that extreme weather is not always the product of a changing climate.)
Australia: “Australia’s east is facing a weather double whammy with both an unprecedented heatwave and flooding rains as two systems roll across the country. Cairns sweltered through its hottest day ever recorded as the mercury peaked at 41.3C. The forecast comes as bushfires punish Queensland with … an out-of-control “monster” blaze focused on the state’s central coastal area. Hundreds of residents have fled their homes.” (News.com.au) Meanwhile an atmospheric phenomenon, known as a gravity wave, has appeared over Melbourne. 100 mm of rain is anticipated in central New South Wales.
Bangladesh: Village women on the coastal margin too poor to afford the bribes to obtain building plots further inland are suffering a higher rate of miscarriages which, researchers believe, are caused by increasing salinity in their drinking water as rising sea-level displaces their fresh water sources and pollutes their crop-growing areas.
Europe: “Excessive” rainfall was again forecast for parts of SW France, Italy and the southern Balkans over the weekend. 4 tornadoes were confirmed touching down around Cortone in Calabria and up into Puglia on the afternoon of the 25th, video showing they were alarmingly large, causing significant damage, and produced several “big hail” events.
UK: A revised forecast from the Meteorological Office suggests that by 2070, summer temperatures across Britain will range from 0.9 to 5.9 degrees hotter, with a 1-in-2 chance of a summer as dry and hot as 2018. Average summer rainfall is predicted to be up to 47% lower. It’s amazing what you can come up with while playing pin the tail on the donkey.
Dust: What’s your preferred color? A huge wall of gray dust has engulfed the city of Zhongye in northwestern China, driven off the Gobi desert by strong westerlies. Sydney, Australia was choked with orange dust from the outback at the weekend. More red dust is to be found on Mars, where the latest NASA mission, the Insight Lander, was due to touch down Monday evening (26 Nov.)