The Pumpkin – Issue 54. Postscriptum: Donny and Kimmy go to Love island… An enigma wrapped in a mystery wrapped in 100-dollar bills… Long Essay: Farage, the smoking gun?… GW: venturing out nervously in gumboots and respirator.)

…in terms of the scale of its human rights violations, North Korea ‘does not have any parallel in the contemporary world.’

“In its report, the commission said it had found evidence of ‘extermination, murder, enslavement, torture, imprisonment, rape, forced abortions and other sexual violence, persecution on political, religious, racial and gender grounds, the forcible transfer of populations, the enforced disappearance of persons and the inhumane act of knowingly causing prolonged starvation.’”Washington Post, quoting UN Commission on Human Rights 2014 report.

“Really, he’s got a great personality,” Trump (said). “He’s a funny guy, he’s very smart, he’s a great negotiator.” Trump added in the interview that what was not surprising was that Kim: “loves his people.” Kim’s citizens show great “fervor” for their leader. His country does love him.

“You see the fervor” the North Koreans have for Kim, he said. – The Hill

 

“Piss in our time!”

Postscriptum: Donny and Kimmy go to Love island

The Pumpkin has not yet read the full text of the heads of agreement signed by the two dictators in Singapore, as Fox News hostess Abby Huntsman has apologized for accidentally calling them. He doesn’t read much and is waiting for the cartoon version to come out, with maps.

However he notes that no mention seems to have been made, either of human rights violations (in either country) or of South Korea, and any intention to convert the 65-years old armistice into an actual peace treaty, which would have been a relatively simple objective to announce.

This was the “Me too” summit, a Love Island photo op for the two biggest, most fragile egos and the most crooked salesmen on the planet, stitching together a deal to validate their own authoritarian regimes for the consumption of their cowed and worshipful dumbfucks at home.

To put it another way, had they moved too far in the direction of peace and liberality, even if that was the intention, and not just Trump sensing new marketing opportunities (no mention either of the Trump Pyongyang hotel, casino and golf resort? Ed.), although he has praised the beaches and their opportunity for hotel developments, neither dictator could entirely rely on their “nuke ’em now” hawks not to stab them in the front when they get home.

Just sayin’.

PPS it looks like Kimmy got everything he wanted out of their tryst, with Donny now offering to lift sanctions and stop those huge joint military exercises (“expensive”) with the South Koreans, and his power to summon even the American President being made evident to his worshipful people.

“That’s good, then.”

x“With great change comes great opposition.”

An enigma wrapped in a mystery wrapped in 100-dollar bills

The triumphal Singapore love-fest draws near and Childe Donald, sulking over the disrespect six of the country’s leading international trading partners and global security allies have been showing him in Montreal – a G7 minus-one summit to which the mafioso man-infant turned up insultingly late and left an entire day early, before issuing a tirade of abusive tweets – goes all out to woo the headline writers with almost anything other than news of his henchmen’s indictments at the hands of the remorseless Bob Mueller, whom he seems to be outplaying daily on the PR front.

It’s worth reminding ourselves then that, whatever concessions he wins from Kimmy, or claims to have won, and whether or not the sainted fools of Stockholm award him their joke Peace prize, he is still “Trump”, the compulsive, narcissistically disordered “made-for-TV” cartoon business thug, and not someone to be regarded as normally presidential or creditworthy in any way.

Further evidence of his deep disrespect for the rule of law emerged last week at a meeting of the cabinet in a bunker-like, windowless room in the White House, where he commanded his subordinates to join him in offering their unstinting praise and admiration for his profoundly corrupt EPA administrator, Scott Pruitt – the Butcher of Oklahoma.

Pruitt’s sins pile upon him like Peleon on Mount Ossa. No sooner had we finished reeling from the news that he had ordered an aide to set up a mysterious meeting with the CEO of a fast-food chain called Chick-fil-A, possibly the world’s crappiest ever brand concept, only for it to leak out that the purpose was to use the power of his office to persuade the poor man to give Mrs Pruitt a restaurant franchise because they love the food so much, than we learn that he got his security detail to drive him around the neighborhood drugstores to hunt down a bottle of his favorite body-lotion, as available in Ritz-Carlton hotels; and spent $1500 buying $100 pens for his desktop.

Mr Pruitt has denied what was patently the case, that he waved through tens of thousands of dollars in unearned pay raises to two staffers he brought with him from his previous job as Attorney-General of Oklahoma. He has apparently also spent $3.5 million on additional security personnel, several motorcades above and beyond what his position entitles him to. He has incurred other non-legitimate expenses, such as the $43 thousand he spent on having a bug-proof phone booth installed in his office; blown who-knows how much on private, military and first-class flights for himself and Mrs Pruitt, $40 thousand on a beano with seven of his pet staffers purely for the purpose of persuading the Moroccan government to import propane gas from a private monopoly firm part-owned by a then-Trump cabinet member, the grizzled billionaire Carl Icahn – who was himself obliged to resign over a $30 million ‘windfall’ profit he made selling a company ahead of the President’s announcement on steel tariffs.

The monopoly bottled gas provider, Cheniere Co. of Houston, Texas, also happened to be a client of lobbying firm Williams & Jensen, from whose senior partner’s wife Mr Pruitt was notoriously renting a trashy Washington apartment for the princely sum of fifty bucks a night. Another W&J client is the Canadian pipeline company Enbridge, to whom Pruitt granted a controversial development permit last year. The New York Times reported (2 April, 2018):

“The signoff by the E.P.A. came even though the agency, at the end of the Obama administration, had moved to fine Enbridge $61 million in connection with a 2010 pipeline episode that sent hundreds of thousands of gallons of crude oil into the Kalamazoo River in Michigan and other waterways. The fine was the second-largest in the history of the Clean Water Act.”

An act which Pruitt has been instrumental in abolishing, along with the Clean Air Act and other Obama-era abominations.

Not only is Pruitt existentially shameless and an abuser of his office: he is also showing signs of being barking mad. Another aide is reported to have been briefed by him to investigate the possibility of buying a used mattress from a Trump hotel. Its purpose is yet to be disclosed, but might, The Pumpkin suggests over skinny lattes, involve DNA evidence. He also engages in paranoid secrecy:

“Breaking with all of his predecessors at the E.P.A. for the last 25 years, as well as other members of President Trump’s cabinet, he does not release a list of public speaking events and he discloses most official trips only after they are over. Mr. Pruitt doesn’t hold news conferences, and in one episode, journalists who learned of an event were ejected from the premises after an E.P.A. official threatened to call the police.” (NYT)

Mr Trump has asserted on several occasions that Mr Pruitt is doing “a great job” at the EPA, which still has 700 posts waiting to be filled, where there have been a number of high-profile resignations over his singular management style, and whose scientific research policy is now firmly in the control of energy-sector lobbyists and industry executives. It is not certain therefore what “great job” Mr Pruitt is specifically believed by the President to be doing, other than helping him to dismantle any and all protections previously accorded to the environment, turning America into one vast polluted, overheating shithole. (See GW, below.)

FOI requests from environmental groups such as the Sierra Club are continuing to turn up thousands of official emails demonstrating Pruitt’s extreme avoidance of public scrutiny and his ongoing relationships with large energy-sector corporations.

Pruitt’s grandiloquent response to all this unfounded criticism?

“With great change comes great opposition.”

You bet, Swamp-man.

(Did he get that quote from the i-kerChing? lolz. ed.)

 

Hangin’ up now….

As a little extra fillip to the story, Mr Trump’s fine-dining companion, the equally demented Fox News conspiracy-monger and slum landlord, Sean Hannity went on the record last week publicly urging anyone connected with the Trump administration to smash their cellphones before Mueller can subpoena them.

He hasn’t been arrested for obstructing justice, yet. I’d guess that darned old First Amendment makes a bonfire of Fox’s martyrs unlikely.

Nothin’ to see, move on….

Oh, while I have you on the line, not a lot has been reported in our supine media about the pits-to-pipelines Koch Brothers’ low-key divorce.

Clever workaholic Charles has forced dimmer brother David to take early retirement at 78. The New Yorker magazine reports it should make no difference to their meddling in US politics, just like Russians; a project on which the aged neoCons have lavished billions funding climate-change deniers and buying politicians like Paris Hilton buys chihuahuas.

David, said Charles, 82, with regret, has been “nodding off” in meetings lately and it’s time he settled down for the good of his health. Forbes magazine estimates that each brother (there are more, less famous Koch brothers minding the stove at home) is worth approximately 60 billion dollars, making them only the joint 9th richest men in America.

Way to go.

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Long Essay

“…that leaves the question: if the Mercers, Banks and other disruptors financed this attempt at a paradigm shift in Western democracy, where do the Russians fit in?”

Farage: the smoking gun?

Whether or not the dogged Guardian/Observer reporter, Carole Cadwalladr brokered the latest twist in the story that she has been pursuing for two years, of where the money to fund the Leave tendency in the European referendum came from, both our most respected Sunday papers have carried front-page news of having “seen evidence” that UKIP founder, Mr Arron Banks, had many meetings at the Russian embassy in London prior to the Brexit vote.*

Not only that, but he was introduced, it’s said, by the ambassador himself to a “Russian businessman” who, in a fairytale twist, offered Banks the opportunity to invest in a company owning six gold mines in Russia. An investment which, it is alleged, Banks was told would net him “billions”. And Mr Banks went on record soon afterwards to vaguely indicate that he had some potential new interest with gold mines, although he now denies having any business interests in Russia.

Now, where have we heard that before? So many elements of this story echo statements, denials and ultimate revelations in America.

What gives the story some credibility is that Mr Banks does in fact partly own gold mines in South Africa, although it is said they are not all that productive. These, and his primary businesses of insuring motorcyclists and other uninsurable vehicle owners, were said to have made his personal net worth a modest £22 million.

OpenDemocracy.org however (and others) has been pursuing the financing of the Brexit vote too, and writes that the authorities in Gibraltar have been somewhat lackadaisically investigating reports that Banks’ businesses – registered there for tax purposes –  were so hard up, they were lending each other money in advance of their audits, in a game of corporate pass-the-parcel.

Somehow, nevertheless, it’s reported that Mr Banks managed to invest £12 million – over half his “net worth” – in funding and loans setting up Leave.EU, an unofficial campaigning vehicle commanded by Nigel Farage, MEP, that has been subjected lately to inquiries concerning some of its untraceable finances, funneled via Northern Ireland’s militant Protestant party, the DUP, who seem immune from investigation as a result of their £1.5 billion deal with the May government to boost her tiny Commons majority. Money well spent, given Mrs May’s close-run thing resisting Brexit amendments proposed by the House of Lords.

What all this is leading to, is the conclusion that Russians made substantial contributions to derailing Britain’s relationship to the European Union.

It is not really a surprising conclusion, but as Mr Banks now appears to have lied to Parliament about his connections with the Russian government, and has an opportunity shortly to go back before the toothless culture committee to set the record straight, we may be starting to understand something of the giant conspiracy that resulted in Britain’s fumbling, ill-advised attempts in a fast-changing global environment to withdraw from a complex raft of mutually supportive and largely useful treaties negotiated over many years with our European neighbours.

As Mr Banks is at the second stage of denial – so important is he, in his view, that he may have had “drinks” with the Russian ambassador a couple of times and exchanged a bit of bantz around the samovar – it may take a while, we lack the American dynamism, but clearing away the acrid smoke pouring from the blog of  the juvenile director of the rival official Vote Leave campaign, Mr Dominic Cummings (who, like Mr Trump, is having difficulty getting over the fact that he won), we should eventually get to the truth of how the referendum was fixed.

That will, of course, depend also on whatever is ultimately discovered about the role of Cambridge Analytica, Aggregate IQ and others in using stolen data to micro-target wavering voters with personalized anti-EU messages. A difficult process, depending as it does on whistleblowers competing with corporate liars, and egregious breaches of the Data Protection Acts of many nations.

(One wonders, too, who exactly is behind enormous data breaches, like that revealed by Dixon’s Carphone Warehouse this morning, of five million customer records; data theft that never seems to result in actual criminal actions but which presumably provides someone with a mass of consumer information?)

Multi-billionaire US hedge-fund manager and computer whizz, Bob Mercer gives no interviews and seemingly does not regard himself as a member of the human race, as he never responds to questions, but is alleged to have said at one time that he and his Sarah Palin-lookalike daughter Bekah were attempting to build a “radical free-market, small-government, home-schooling, antiliberal, gold-standard, pro-death penalty, anti-Muslim, pro-Christian, monetarist, anti-civil-rights political movement in the United States.” (London Evening Standard, 23 March, 2018.)

It seems they were also hoping to build one here.

Because if there is a “smoking gun” in the FBI and Justice Department investigations of Russian collusion and US corporate interference in the 2016 elections, it is Nigel Farage himself, declared last year a “person of interest”.

Farage is the obvious link, the go-between for disruptors hoping to swing the Brexit vote and the highly dodgy crew of chancers working with the Trump campaign. Funded by Banks, with cash from who-knows what source, Farage was connected with Mercer, of whom he was frequently said to be an unlikely “friend”; with Bannon and the Breitbart crowd; with Trump personally, at whose rallies he made over-the-top ultraconservative speeches and with whom he was gleefully photographed in the Golden Elevator at Trump Tower; and with Assange, whose Wikileaks organization fenced the data stolen by the Russian GRU from emails in the private files of Clinton, Podesta, Weiner and the Democratic party.

This veritable Zelig has popped up at every stage of the conspiracy on both sides of the pond. Perhaps he needs to be looked at more closely by the security establishment: unfortunately, despite the belated creation of the National Crime Agency, we have far weaker investigative bodies in this country even than in the United States; preferring to rely on 1940s “Dixon of Dock Green” community policing and barely sentient Parliamentary committees to solve immensely complex and sophisticated international crimes.

The Mercers of course funded Breitbart News, several of whose contributors, including the atavistic Hungarian neo-Nazi party supporter, Gorka the Gormless, and Bannon himself were injected by Mercer into the early Trump administration. They funded Cambridge Analytica, whose bullshitting fantasist Old Etonian CEO Stephen Nix has given up denying the testimony of his former executives that they stole data from the accounts of 87 million Facebook users in the USA, with the help of an Anglo-Russian computer analyst.

They also funded the Trump campaign, to the tune of many millions of dollars; giving the lie to his oft-repeated claim that because he was so rich, he was financing his own campaign. Of course he wasn’t.

But now the Mercers have withdrawn from the whole thing in disappointment, disavowing Bannon and the creeps and charlatans who conned them into supporting the Brexit and Elect Trump! conspiracies. It seems they are deeply disappointed in how liberal and progressive Trump has turned out to be. I wonder where they will turn their attentions next?

But that leaves the question: if the Mercers, Banks and other disruptors (see previous Posts) financed this attempt at a paradigm shift in Western democracy, where do the Russians come in? Were they in league?

You know, at this point my shoulders slump and I think maybe it’s time to walk the dog.

Seventeen US intelligence agencies signed their anonymous names to a report stating unequivocally that “Russia” was involved in hacking emails and in testing the water when it came to exploiting data from the voter rolls (possibly to assist the Republicans to edit the voter rolls in marginal wards) and possibly fixing the US’s poorly designed computerized voting lobbies. The FBI has asserted that they now have proof of over 60 contacts between Trump campaign officials and Russian diplomatic/intelligence agencies and individuals during 2015/16. Contacts that were extensively lied about, even by the President himself.

Numerous media investigations have shown, pretty much beyond doubt, that Trump had business connections and aspirations in Moscow, and longstanding relations with corrupt oligarchs and property investors suspected of involvement with organized crime in Russia. The Special Counsel, Bob Mueller has indicted 14 Russian individuals and three companies in relation to election tampering and money-laundering, in association with Trump’s former campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, a sometime consultant to the ousted Ukrainian kleptocrat Victor Yanukovitch, who faces charges of money-laundering, acting as an undeclared foreign agent, witness-tampering and fraud.

Trump’s former National Security Advisor, Gen. Mike Flynn, has already been indicted on charges of lying to the FBI and acting as an undeclared foreign agent for, among others, Russian business interests. A special team on the Trump campaign tasked with tracing Hillary Clinton’s “missing” emails was set up in the wake of the 6 June, 2016 meeting at Trump Tower between Donald Jr, Manafort, Jared Kushner and a team of Russian money-laundering specialists, GRU agents and the Kremlin lawyer, Veselnitskaya – who later attended Trump’s inauguration. That team of hackers, one of them Russian-speaking, reported directly to Flynn.

Then there was the Steele dossier, a 35-page compendium of current allegations by Russian officials and MI6 assets in Moscow concerning the President, mostly prior to his candidacy, commissioned originally by the Never Trump! wing of the Republican campaign and then passed on to the FBI and the Democrat election committee. Most of it has checked out to be true, and led to gleeful media speculation that Trump is profoundly compromised, either by a sexual scandal or his huge debts to banks ultimately controlled by Putin – possibly both.

It’s all looking pretty murky.

When the name George Papadopoulos emerged early on as that of someone on the Trump team who had made a bargain with the Devil, the Mueller investigation, to lighten the charge against him of lying to the FBI about his Russian contacts, the general reaction was “George who?”

Mr Trump also expressed total ignorance of Mr Papadopoulos’ existence, until video emerged of a committee meeting at which the guy was plainly seated just four places down the table from the Orange Emperor himself. Trump then changed his story, claiming Papadopoulos was only the office boy who fetched the coffee.

In fact, and can we call him “P.” from now on, my fingers hurt, George P. is of importance in two significant ways.

P. claims he was approached in London early in 2016 by a mysterious “Bulgarian professor”, in fact an FSB agent who told him that over 30 thousand of Hillary Clinton’s private and official State Department emails had been deleted from a private server, and the Russians had gained knowledge of their existence. Later, while mildly drunk in a bar, P. says he let the story slip to a junior attache from the Australian embassy, who had passed it on via his superiors to Australian intelligence, who in turn told the FBI, thus triggering the Feds’ interest in the Trump campaign team’s contacts with the Russians – or the “witch hunt”, as Trump insists on dismissing it at every opportunity.

Nothin’ to see, folks. North Korea? Sure, why not?

Despite Trump’s latest conspiracy theory he can’t let go, that an FBI “spy” was in his camp during the summer of 2016, it seems loose-lipped, mildly drunken George P. was the man responsible for the whole can of worms, the “Russia thing” opening up. Perhaps.

Except that Dutch intelligence, I believe, and subsequently the Czechs, the French, the Germans, the Spanish and Britain’s GCHQ listening post had all intercepted and been monitoring calls between Trump associates Roger Stone, Carter Page, maybe also Michael Cohen, Flynn, Manafort and others, and Russian intelligence agents since the summer of 2015, and had told the FBI long before George P.’s leak, only for President Obama to tell them to sit on the story so as not to be seen to be interfering in the upcoming presidential election; thus giving Trump the plausible assertion that it was all a plot against him, cooked up by the criminal Clinton campaign.

Make of that what you will, it’s where the Pumpkin and I run into soft sand and head off for a cold beer.

The second area of interest in the boy, George may be that, far from being the office gopher, people have already forgotten in the never-ending melee of Trump-related bullcrap that P. was on the team originally as an environmental advisor. An alumnus of the powerful Hudson Institute, a notorious energy-industry-funded think-tank dedicated to burying climate-change science, George P. was working as a lobbyist for a Texas-based company, Noble Energy, in which Trump was reportedly a minor shareholder.

Now, Noble in turn was lobbying the Israeli government over a franchise to exploit natural gas fields in the eastern Mediterranean, off the coast of Israel – but more importantly, the coast of the Gaza strip, making the project a political and legal nightmare. The case was dragging slowly through the Israeli courts, and P.’s presence in the Trump/Kushner camp was clearly designed to use their personal connections with Netanyahu to speed things up; while Noble were also hoping to construct an undersea pipeline to Europe, via the Turkish end of Cyprus, bypassing Russian and Iranian-controlled Syria. Was that what Gen. Flynn’s PR company was being paid by a Dutch businessman with energy industry connections to lobby for with the Erdogan regime in Turkey?

As it turned out, the whole deal collapsed when Israel decided to sell its gas to Egypt instead.

The words Russia and Iran are, of course, synonymous with enormous gas reserves, Russia being the largest supplier of natural gas to Germany and western Europe. In addition to the strategic implications, both nations would, one imagines, be keen to stymie competition from Israeli and American interests in the region; while American and Israeli animus towards Russia’s ally, Iran, can be framed in terms of competition for global markets for their vital energy resource.

Neither your Uncle B. nor The Pumpkin has the brains to work out how all this fits together, so we’ve ordered another beer.

Back in London, languishing in the basement of the Ecuadorean embassy, a fugitive from an EU arrest warrant, which is probably why he was happy to work against them, is the Great White Worm, Assange – an arrogant, self-publicizing, self-pitying narcissist, another “friend” of Farage and fulcrum-point for all kinds of internet mischief.

His Wikileaks operation has, admittedly, broken some useful evidence (the Snowden files) of the other global conspiracy, that of the US “Deep State” and their intrusive surveillance operations, which we are slowly realizing are irreversibly intertwined with the commercial interests of the major internet service providers; hence, the theft of data from Facebook and its weaponization for political purposes.

Nevertheless it was Wikileaks that collaborated with the Russians and the Cambridge Analytica/Mercer nexus to undermine the Clinton presidential bid, with Farage – who “does not remember” the purpose of their meetings – acting as go-between for the Trump campaign and Assange.

And then to complete the Big Picture – more like an enormous, deflating barrage balloon – there are the activities of European alt-right, “white supremacist” Christian disruptors.

Some are plainly financed by Russian oligarchs allied both to the Kremlin and to the Orthodox Church; and from the money-laundering scams (mainly through overinflated property markets controlled by, among others, the Trump and Kushner families) of actors like Deutsche Bank, to whom Trump allegedly owes a third of a billion dollars; and Bank of Cyprus, formerly owned by ex-Deutsche Bank chairman Joseph Ackermann and – among other major investors, mostly Russian -Trump family ‘consiglieri’ and now US Commerce Secretary, Wilbur Ross.

Another of BoC’s investors, Russian oligarch Dmitry Rybolovlev, the “Fertilizer King”, was involved in a suspicious Florida property deal that netted Trump a clear $45 million, and seems to have attended at least one of Trump’s election rallies; the one at which he went off-script to announce that the USA would not, under his presidency, be arming the Ukraine government forces against the Russians. (He now says he feels sure he would only have to ask Vladimir privately to leave the Ukraine alone, and he would.)

And among these white European disruptors, as the BogPo has reported before, are several deeply conservative British “millionaire businessmen” like Banks, with anti-Islamic Russian and other East European connections – Banks’ wife is Russian – like Jim Dowson, and other wealthy, self-interested business tycoons and investment managers with declared hostility to the European Union, its supposedly repressive legislative, anti-business, pro-tax regime, its equality agenda promoting women and gays, and its willingness to tolerate a large Muslim presence in our midst.

It’s a vast and rambling conspiracy to defraud the voters of Britain, the USA and other countries where we have seen the fingerprints of Russian interference in democratic processes – with the proviso that Russia is not the only bad actor in this scene, there are these traitors in our midst, imagining that their duty is to cleanse the Augean stables: the obsession of authoritarian paranoiacs down the ages.

I doubt there is even a mastermind behind it: it’s rather a movement of the wealthy against the poor, the degenerates and the despised “ethnic minorities”, planning to leave themselves in command of a depleted but nonetheless still materially gratifying world redesigned for their kind: powerful, white and Christian.

And there bobbing about like a cork at the heart of it all is Farage, although he claims now to be hors de combat and is making self-pitying noises about being separated, broke and soon to be jobless. While the UK media puzzles over the emerging evidence of a Russian connection to Brexit, few people as yet seem to be joining the dots and realizing it is all connected; and that the real collusion with Russia has been that involving the billionaires who control our data.

If there is a smoking gun proving collusion between Trump and the Russians, it’s Farage, the man in the Golden Elevator.

Going down?

Now I think another beer is in order.

*According to Private Eye, sometime Sunday Times hackette, Isobel Oakeshott, author of the Brexit Bad Boys, a semi-biography of Banks, had been sitting on evidence of his visits to the Russian embassy for several months and was pissed off when Cadwalladr broke the story, so she gave the info to the ST as a spoiler.

Miaow.

Writing in the Guardian, Monday 11 June, Matthew D’Ancona says:

“We have known for two years that Arron Banks, the pro-Brexit tycoon, and his closest henchman, Andy Wigmore, visited the Russian embassy in November 2015, just as we have long been aware of the links between Leave.EU and the Trump campaign. What has now been revealed is the sheer scale of these contacts – including a lunch between Banks, Nigel Farage and Alexander Yakovenko, the Russian ambassador, just three days after the Leave.EU team had been granted an audience with president-elect Trump in November 2016.

“It appears that there were multiple meetings between Banks, Wigmore and senior Russian officials between 2015 and 2017. … This does not seem, in other words, to be routine schmoozing or glad-handing. It has the whiff of a nexus, suggesting a purpose, or multiple purposes.”

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Wailing and gnashing

“Greetings from Amazon.co.uk.

“We are writing to confirm that we are processing your refund in the amount of £10.79 for your Order from Amazon US. This amount has been credited to your payment method and will appear when your bank has processed it. This refund is for the following item(s): (etc.)

“Reason for refund: Damaged during transit.”

But I have not asked for a refund! I have not yet received the Order! There must be some mistake! The Order (a rare Chet Baker album) was only dispatched last night for 20 June delivery! I have no idea whether the Order has been damaged in transit or not!

And Amazon offers you no way to contact them to ask what the fuck is going on, other than an infuriating “we put the words in your mouth” FAQ. (Was this helpful? No. Well, tough, thanks for the info, we will use jt to improve our services.” Cunts!

Jeff Fucking World’s Richest Man Baldy Bezos, are you there? Hello, anyone? Help!

x

GW: venturing out nervously in gumboots and respirator

Pacific: The Western Hemisphere’s first major event of 2018 is Hurricane Aletta. “Aletta put on a remarkable display of rapid intensification overnight Thursday (7 June), with the winds increasing by 70 mph in just 24 hours. Aletta was merely a tropical storm with 70 mph winds at 11 am EDT Thursday, but by Friday at 11 am, the hurricane had morphed into a fierce Category 4 storm with 140 mph winds.” Its forecast track is out into the colder waters of the Pacific with little chance of it making landfall anywhere; although an identical feature is forming just a few hundred miles behind. It’s the sixth earliest Cat 4/5 ever recorded in the Eastern Pacific basin, kicking off aways from the coast of Mexico. (The Weather Channel)

Gulf of Mexico: On the other side, a relatively low-key storm now blowing between the Yucatan peninsula and Cuba has a terrifying prognosis, a possible repeat of last year’s “super-soaker” Hurricane Harvey. Several NOAA hurricane center models show it picking up rotation in the Gulf, developing winds up to 120 mph with a huge precipitation potential, as a very slow moving Cat 3 or 4 hurricane stalling for possibly 24 hours over the Texas/Louisiana coastline at Beaumont by next Saturday pm, 16 June. (Satellite forecast as noticed by weather blogger, MrMBB333)

…. 11 June: “Mexico’s weather service warned yesterday of storms, heavy rain and strong winds … as Tropical Storm Bud intensified into a (115 mph) hurricane. Coastal areas were also warned of storm surge of up to 3 metres. Severe weather affected parts of Jalisco state in Mexico during the afternoon of 10 June. Areas around the city of Guadalajara were the worst affected. Around 65 mm of rain fell in just a few hours on Sunday afternoon. Elsewhere, heavy rain was recorded in the state of Guerrero, where 97 mm of rain fell in 24 hours.” (edited from Floodlist) (This is the system closely following Aletta, on Mexico’s east coast. Its forecast track takes it straight up the Baja peninsula towards California.)

Africa: The death toll from heavy rain and flooding across Kenya, where it has been raining since March, has risen to 186. An estimated 800,000 people have been affected by flooding. As many as 300,000 people have been displaced and nearly 100 injured, … heaviest rain recorded in 50 years. (edited from Floodlist)

China: Up to 250 mm rain from Typhoon Ewiniar in 24 hrs triggered landslides in the city of Yunfu, causing houses to collapse, killing 5 people. 1 person is still missing. 73 thousand people were evacuated ahead of the storm. Ewiniar made landfall in Hainan and Guangdong earlier in the week, bringing heavy rain and strong winds. It then moved back into the South China sea before making a third landfall, again in Guangdong, on 07 June. The storm had earlier caused heavy rain in parts of Vietnam, with landslides and flooding. (edited from Floodlist)

Europe: Severe weather, including heavy rain and flooding, has continued in France and at least 2 people are thought to have died in the last two days. After hitting northern areas, in particular Brittany and Normandy, earlier this week, flooding has now affected areas of southwestern France. Heavy rain from 05 to 06 June caused major flooding in parts of northeastern Spain. Emergency services in Catalonia received over 300 calls for assistance during 06 June. (edited from Floodlist)

Arctic: UK Business Insider reports (08 June):

“The Trump administration said on Thursday it would spend $4 million on construction projects in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in preparation for oil drilling in the nation’s biggest wildlife park.

“The tax-overhaul bill passed by the U.S. Congress last December includes a provision mandating two oil lease sales, each offering at least 400,000 acres (161,874.26 hectares), within seven years.

“The 19-million-acre (7.7 million-hectare) Arctic refuge, the largest in the U.S. national wildlife refuge system, contains some of the wildest territory in North America.”

Your Granny wonders idly, which of many scandals, tweets, Mueller indictments and presidential gaffes covered in the fake news media last Thursday enabled the EPA to bury that news?

Boglington-on-Sea: Guys, it’s been really hot here. Occasional light shower, but mostly sun the past six weeks. Not normal for Wales!

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Terminal news

Hawaii: A USGS report on the Mount Kilauea eruption reveals that “6 to 9 million cubic meters of magma” is spewing DAILY from Fissure 8 alone, and the event could continue for years or decades, presumably rendering much of Big Island uninhabitable, while producing a new island off the coast. Many people evacuated over the past few weeks will never be able to go home.

The island’s second largest freshwater lake has been boiled dry by a lava flow. Acid rain is killing off swathes of forest and vegetation cover. The vast crater within the caldera of the main volcano is collapsing in on itself, with accompanying explosions. A new eruption on Thursday morning (7 June) accompanied by a M5.6 quake produced a 10 thousand feet-high ash cloud and filled the air with tiny particles of glass, triggering a warning to residents to get indoors. (Mary Greeley/ Dutchsinse/ News US/ USGS)

Southern Africa: 9 of the only 60 known oldest Baobab trees in the world have died, prompting speculation that the changing climate is making conditions too harsh for them. The iconic, oddly-shaped, flowering trees were between 1,500 and 2,500 years old and the largest reached 100 feet in height and 35 meters in girth. (Guardian, citing Nature Plants journal)

Nature Bats Last: in his latest podcast, the world’s most depressing – and terminally depressed – man, professor emeritus of natural resources and ecology and evolutionary biology at the University of Arizona (suspended from teaching!), Dr Guy McPherson warns us that the coming financial crash – September is the favorite time for financial crashes – will so reduce global industrial activity that the protective blanket of smog around the earth will rapidly fade away, leaving us exposed to the full glare of the sun, as it did for three days when commercial aviation was suspended in the aftermath of 9/11. Runaway warming will ensue within days, he advises, wiping out all life on earth.

We have four months remaining of human history.

If you’re still not depressed, follow this link:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p03kwgj0

 

 

 

 

 

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Where does it go from today? A ruminative speculation based on nothing and no-one… Pots, kettles (but no blacks)… Business welcomes transition deal… GW: just drifting on by.

Big hands! Putin wins fourth term in Kremlin shock! Will soon overtake Merkel as world’s longest-serving dictator.

 

We need to ask John le Carré what it was all about, but I doubt if even he knows.

It smells to me less like a conspiracy of the entire West led by wicked witch Theresa May to make life difficult for Putin by embarrassing the Russians, as they’ve been moaning it was in Moscow, and more like a hastily concocted cover story for some other skulduggery that went horribly wrong.

A sleepy English county town is the stage for an attack by evil Russians.

Certainly we’re not getting the truth about the apparent assassination attempt in Salisbury two weeks ago on former KGB/GRU Col Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia, are we. Why would we? It’s a spy story!

The problem being that, unlike the Litvinenko case where two FSB goons were rapidly identified, in this case there is still no human suspect: there are victims,  we have motives aplenty, there is a smoking gun, but there is still no credible theory as to who exactly might have pulled the trigger. Er…

We may never really know. Just remember, however, this horrible stuff was designed by them to be used on us….

Nothing adds up!

 

Chapter 1: Wiltshire Circus

What was ex-KGB Col Skripal doing, living apparently in comfort, quite openly, in a quiet cathedral city at the heart of one of the most militarily sensitive areas of the UK – Porton Down, the MoD tank ranges, Qinetic defence industries’ HQ, RAF Lyneham, Portsmouth naval yards – Stonehenge (greatest mystery of all… was it a stone-age ICBM launcher?)

Who put him there, with his flashy BMW, and why? Was he really a free agent, entirely at liberty after being spy-swapped for some of his fellow countrymen in 2010? Surely he’d still have been on George Smiley’s string? Or “Karla” Putin’s?

The police have enough to do, micromanaging society, but how aware are they of foreign exiles living in our midst, whose history makes them potential security risks in the event of attempts on their lives, who are simply plonked down in the midst of our peaceful rustic communities by shady quasi-governmental agencies (Quaggas)? What protections can and do they afford them?

Why was Skripal chosen to be in the prisoner exchange? The single spies he was being swapped for hadn’t egregiously betrayed their own country, as he had. Did he really deserve a comfortable, middle-class retirement in an agreeably leafy, sleepy, half-timbered British country town, in Putin’s shifty eyes? Without a quid pro quo?

Why were his family allowed to constantly come and go between the UK and Russia while apparently being bumped off one by one? Why did they continue to do that? How was his son allowed to be flown back from St Petersburg and buried here after his sudden death from liver disease (endemic in Russia), if Skripal’s treachery was still so raw in the Kremlin that, eight years after his release, they would come looking for him, armed with the unnecessary complication of an obsolete compound neurotoxin – “just add water – and an egg”, as the Betty Crocker Cake Mix ads used to say?

As some Russian media spokesmouth observed, he could more easily have just been made to disappear.

What was in the timing?

Why has Putin been playing nice to the traitor, an exchanged double-agent, supposedly – for so many years before acting against him, if simple revenge were all this is about? He could have had him whacked anywhere, anyhow, at any time.

Does the former KGB Colonel Vladimir Vladimirovitch Putin like to keep a pool of exiled traitors, live lobsters in a restaurant, to be eliminated publicly one by one as and when politically required to send a signal? Or was Col Skripal, the neighborly and jovial consumer of Lottery scratch cards, back in the GRU fold after all?

Suspected of being a triple-agent, might not the relevant Whitehall travel agency have wanted to make it look like the Russians had caught up with him, using a bag of old Soviet stuff from the stores at Porton Down as the most easily traceable weapon? Might that not at least be a better theory than a huge political conspiracy to draw attention from… what? the rest of the usual shit? Brexit? Stormy Daniels? Surely the Daily Mail is perfectly capable of that?

What was so important about the timing, was it as everyone says a Kremlin black-op to create international animus against Russia in order to stir the patriotic fervor of lethargic voters in today’s presidential election, whose result was always a foregone conclusion? Certainly, the sneers and pathetically transparent inventions of the Russian State-controlled media and tame politicians amplifying the outrage would suggest so.

But could that in turn be covering for something else?

Smirk and mirrors? Smersh and grab? (enough spy puns. Ed.)

 

Chapter 2: another toxic German car?

How was the red BMW car the apparent focus of the contamination, when they had parked it for several hours and gone to lunch before they were found?

If the car was the focus, how did their house become so contaminated while they were not at home but were out in the car, that entering it could injure the only other person to have been seriously affected, Det Sgt Nick Bailey?

And if as is thought the agent was in powder form, why would anyone enveloped in a cloud of the stuff blowing from the car’s heater not notice it? Skripal was trained in black ops, he would surely know. And why did the toxin then take so long to act? The BBC’s ‘explainer’ about Novichok claims the version that’s suspected is virtually instantaneous. It doesn’t let you go to lunch, followed by a stroll in the park.

If the investigators think the focus was the car, but the house was sufficiently contaminated as to injure Sgt Bailey, then the Skripals must have been heavily contaminated before driving into the city and would almost certainly then a) not have been capable of enjoying lunch at Zizzi’s restaurant and a drink at a pub, and b) would surely have transferred considerably more nerve agent to the environment and the innocent shoppers and diners around them than they appear to have done.

The timelines we’ve been getting in the media seem all wrong.

 

Chapter 3: Alarm call

Det Sgt Bailey was described as a ‘first responder’, yet he is said to have become contaminated at the house, not at the scene where the Skripals were found.

If someone had called 999 on the basis of two unknown persons found unconscious on a park bench, two uniformed officers would normally have been dispatched; not a detective. How would the despatcher know to send a mid-ranking detective, that it was more serious than a couple of drunks? Why would Det Sgt Bailey have been called a ‘first responder’, when he was apparently not at the scene, but had gone to the house? Why are all the photos of Sgt Bailey in the media showing him in dress uniform? Detective sergeants don’t go around in uniform.

How would Bailey know to go to the house, even know where it was, if he or other ‘first responders’ had not first responded by searching the victims’ pockets for ID (unless he already knew who they were and where they lived?) They were unconscious! But he was not apparently at the scene where the Skripals were found, so could not have discovered their ID, unless someone had called him. And even then, why would he go straight to the house – unless he was already there?

How did he know to go to the house, and – given the victims were right there on a park bench and he was the ‘first responder’, why? Who sent him to the house? What was he supposed to find there? Why would someone call him, especially, to go there?

Nor, surely, would Sgt Bailey have gone to the house on his own as part of a follow-up police enquiry. If a chemical attack was suspected before he went, there would have been a whole team wearing full hazmat protection and carrying guns. Not just one detective. Sgt Bailey appears to have had no protection. He could not have known the house was contaminated. If he knew the house was relevant to the enquiry it must have been on suspicion the house was contaminated. Why would he go there alone and unprotected?

Was he perhaps part of a security detail protecting Col Skripal, who already knew the family and where they lived? Why would that need to be kept a secret? Were the Skripals under surveillance? After all, Yulia had arrived from Moscow with a mysterious package only the day before. It’s inconceivable her arrival would not have been picked up at the airport.

But why then would Sgt Bailey have gone directly to the house after they were found? Someone, surely must have sent him. Why, what was it supposed to achieve? What was he even doing there, unless the police knew the house was immediately relevant to their enquiries? And why did they subsequently seal it off so tightly for ten days, apparently without anyone else going in, that the Skripals’ cats and guinea-pigs (??? wtf) died of dehydration?

What was behind the widespread media release of a days’ old CCTV image of former KGB Colonel Skripal innocently buying scratch cards at a corner store? What did that add to the story, apart from an element of incongruity?

Nothing makes sense.

 

Chapter 4: Medical mystery tour

Why were no other first responders, paramedics eg, contaminated through primary contact with the victims in the park, before the use of a nerve agent was suspected and protective measures taken? How was it first established that they were the victims of an attack by neurotoxin? Some substance must have been visible.

No-one who came into contact with the Skripals on that park bench is reported to have been hospitalized, even though it would not have been realized at first that a nerve agent was responsible and so no-one responding to their plight would have had any protection to begin with. Yet the only people affected – until the police identified 131 others who had been in the pub and the restaurant, none of whom has been hospitalized – were the primary victims, and the mysterious Det Sgt Nick Bailey*. What was his role in this?

When was it first realized that a deadly neurotoxin was involved, and who by? Knowledge of Col Skripal’s background might have given responders a clue, but who would have had that, before he could be identified? At what stage was the warning given to take extreme hazard precautions, and why were those who attended the scene before that warning went out not themselves badly affected by the toxin?

According to the BBC: “A doctor, who was shopping with her husband in the city centre on Sunday, said Ms Skripal was “slumped in her seat, completely unconscious” and had lost control of her bodily functions.” Did this “doctor” not attempt to offer immediate medical assistance? Why then is she not also in hospital?

Is the Novichok toxin designed to biodegrade so quickly after use that those who come into contact with it later will not be seriously harmed? Judging by the evidence trail still being uncovered, that doesn’t seem likely. If so, how to account for the effect on the Skripals and Sgt Bailey so many hours between the car being parked or the house contaminated and the victims being found? Were the Russian designers in the 1980s clever enough to give the toxicity of their poison a half-life?

* It now appears there was a second, unnamed police officer who was contaminated at the house. Why has he or she remained anonymous while Bailey was immediately named and hailed in the media as a ‘hero’? Was he or she another of the Skripals’ close protection detail?

 

Chapter 5: Half-life

One possible “signal” being sent by whoever was behind the attack might be a reminder that we seem to be entering a new Cold War, since Novichok was developed back in the 1980s and is supposedly by international convention no longer in military use. Less fashionably “retro” means of assassinating States’ enemies are now available, such as the VX agent used to kill Kim Jong-Nam, inconvenient half-brother of the North Korean tyrant.

Given the Novichok program involved around 100 different substances and was terminated decades ago and all old Soviet-era chemical weapons stocks verified (technically, at least) as destroyed, how did ‘Porton Down’ identify the substance so quickly and with such assurance, unless the chemical signature is held on an active database, presuming therefore that the Russians are suspected not to have destroyed their stocks?

(How is it the Russians imagine their heated denial of this weapon’s existence can possibly be believed, given the Soviet chemical weapons program was destroyed under international supervision and all items therefore presumably identified first? It’s absurd!)

…or unless the independent existence of the particular batch of toxin used was known about beforehand? A Guardian story suggests, for instance, that someone who had worked on the development program was involved in an attempt by organized criminals in the 1990s to make a batch of A232, some of which may have been used to assassinate a Russian banker and his secretary.

If that were the case, and the Russians were said to have complied with the conventions on chemical weapons, was Britain also reproducing these weapons or holding stocks in contravention of the conventions, or do the conventions allow multiple countries to retain samples for analytical purposes, for use in the production of antidotes (or illegal successor weapons)?

Was there something in Skripal’s KGB history linking him with the Novichok program, to make it an appropriate murder weapon? Did he for instance pass the formulae on to the British?

In which case, could the substance used indeed have come from Porton Down, as the Russians are now alleging, just eight miles from the scene of the crime? How? Who would have had access to it, and why that particular sample?

Was it needed in a hurry, that toxic substance directly traceable to a 30-years-old Soviet weapons program?

Two guinea-pigs? Cats, yes, very Ernst Stavro Blofeld… but who under the age of 13 still keeps guinea-pigs as pets?

And why?

 

Chapter 6: Assembly line

The nerve agent we are told was a highly active two-part compound for assembly immediately prior to use that would have had to be handled by someone extremely well trained and protected.

I don’t know what the original delivery system was supposed to be, an artillery shell possibly, but the idea of some Kremlin goon mixing it manually in the bedroom washbasin and then placing it somewhere the Skripals just might come into contact with it, without wearing a hazmat suit and respirator throughout the operation, is surely absurd.

Unless there’s a dead Russian agent slumped in a genteel B&B somewhere in rural southern England? (I’m still wondering how Dmitry Lugovoi managed to smuggle in enough radioactive polonium to kill Litvinenko and leave a glowing slime trail all over London for several days, yet not kill himself in the process?)

Could the Skripals have been making it themselves, for use in some other context, and fouled up? Would that explain why only they and Sgt Bailey were affected? Would it explain what was in the package Yulia Skripal had brought in from Moscow days earlier? Not a booby-trap, but the Novichok precursors ready for them to make up the final weapon? So who was the target? One week later, The Guardian reported:

“The family of the murdered Russian businessman Nikolai Glushkov have said they are devastated at his death and are helping counter-terrorism detectives with the investigation. The 68-year-old was found dead at his home in New Malden, south-west London, on 12 March (exactly a week after the supposed attack on the Skripals) and a postmortem showed he …”

Yes, the former finance director of Aeroflot who embezzled millions of dollars and served time for it had been strangled manually and then strung up to make it look like suicide – the method probably used to kill his billionaire business associate, Boris Berezovsky, at his home in Sunningdale in 2013.

Well,

Given the effectiveness of the polonium method (or VX, sarin, manual strangulation, or just a bullet) at causing a lingering public death, why revert instead to this old neurotoxin, that has not as far as we know been used anywhere else for a similar purpose, unless it was all there was to hand, in which case how so, or unless it was of some special significance in the coded world of Anglo-Russian espionage?

Were the Skripals on a mission to pay Sergei’s final debt to the GRU?

 

Chapter 7: Three-ring Circus

The Russians have offered no explanation on demand to the UK government, incurring the anger of politicians and a pretty fruitless exchange of diplomatic punishments and reprisals.

Mr Boris Johnson has put his foot in it yet again, stating that he had been categorically assured by “the guy” at Porton Down that the Novichok had been traced back to Russia. Shortly afterwards the Director of our loveliest weapons establishment went public with a statement saying they had not established where the stuff came from, it wasn’t their business to do that sort of thing.

The Russians had a field-day with that at the UN.

It appears then that Johnson was trying to hide the fact that British intelligence in Russia had passed the information through to MI6. Never a good thing to admit, since the Iraqi “Weapons of Mass Destruction” debacle, that we have agents abroad who could find their own feet.

Equally the UK government has refused to provide the evidence to the Russians they are accusing of a serious breach of international law. Why not? (The BBC is speculating we might have evidence, but just can’t admit it without being kind to Jeremy Corbyn, who has suggested everyone should look at it first. Politicians, eh?)

And why could we not wait the statutory ten days before hastening to conclusions and accusations, as mandated in the conventions? It has been said, the counter-terrorism forces’ investigations may go on for months, yet we rushed to judgement within hours, almost as if the story were pre-prepared.

Why? What was the timing about, why was it so critical – apart, that is, from having to get a story out fast enough to prevent a possible public health crisis and a panic once it had all gone wrong?

 

 

Chapter 8: Send in more clowns

At the time Skripal was apparently turned as a double agent by the British, was Christopher Steele not the MI6 bureau chief in Moscow, or some such?

Steele was the private security consultant responsible for digging up, on behalf it seems in turn both of the Republicans AND the Democrats via an obscure research outfit in Washington called Fusion GPS, what possible ‘dirt’ if any the Russians might have had on Donald Trump prior to his election. Information that could have been used in the US for good or ill – in the event, both.

In 2016, perturbed by what he was finding (his version goes) Steele sent the CIA and the FBI the controversial, so-called ‘pee-pee’ dossier – an uncollated set of 35 pages of previously unverified information supposedly gleaned from his Russian contacts that has substantially since been verified (to howls of “fake news” from the Trump camp) and is now a key part of the Mueller investigation into possible election fraud and financial crimes by the Trump team: an investigation Mr Trump seems almost recklessly keen to have shut down, for whatever reason.

My pet conspiracy theory is that Trump is desperate that it should not come out that he was compromised years ago, not by the Russians but by US intelligence, and was informing on his criminal Russian contacts.

Prudently, but perhaps also melodramatically, when the existence of the dossier became public knowledge in the USA, leaked to BuzzFeed, Steele “disappeared” with his family for several weeks before re-emerging, having seemingly been debriefed by the FBI. Clearly, there was some threat to their lives. But where from? And who spirited the Steeles away to a safe house? If it was his former friends in the security service, why would they do that?

Was Skripal one of Steele’s contacts? Could the attack on him be a warning to any others who might give information related to the Trump “conspiracy” and the part played in it by Mr Putin or possibly other, even more sinister criminal elements in the Kremlin?

I refer you to a curious interview by Emily Maitlis on the BBC’s Newsnight last Friday with longstanding Putin critic and fabulously wealthy exiled oligarch, Mikhail Khodorkovsky, whose view is that Putin has become the prisoner, the sock-puppet, of a gang of evil actors, mafioski he initially surrounded himself with but who have essentially been running things in Russia for the past few years.

I then refer you to a John Sweeney BBC Panorama documentary from 2016, and many other reports alluding to Mr Trump’s alleged financial connections with the Russian mafia, whose terrifying capo, Simeon Mogilevitch is said to have invested heavily but alas, disappointingly in his Atlantic City casino operations and other Trump properties; but must ask you not to jump to any conclusions.

For, here we find on a website called USNews.com, from January 2018: “Fusion GPS founder Glenn Simpson testified (to the increasimgly fractious and disorderly Senate Intelligence Committee) that the real-estate mogul built relationships with Russian gangsters, who were themselves tied to the Russian government.” (http://www.usnews.com/news/national-news/articles/2018-01-18/trump-had-ties-to-russian-mob-figures-fusion-gps-founder-testifies)

And over the weekend, it has emerged that the Cambridge, UK-based data analytics firm backed by Bannon’s former mentor Bob Mercer, allegedly involved in clandestine election-rigging ops using, effectively, hacked Facebook data – including the Trump campaign, Brexit and others – and connected with Wikileaks, purveyors of the Clinton emails – was also tied to Kremlin-backed oil giant, Lukoil in an apparently global attempt to “change the culture”.

At the very least, these revelations represent a rampng-up of the new Cold War rhetoric and a reason for these tit-for-tat sanctions, targeted assassinations (by no means confined to the UK), and punitive measures, to hijack the news agenda.

I finally rest my case on an interview on RT with veteran lefty investigator, John Pilger, who believes Theresa May has concocted the whole thing to make herself look competent and paint the poor Russians into a corner, or some such Pilgeresque paranoid drivel.

Is it all a case of a self-driving conspiracy, with no human agency at the wheel?

Mr Putin is later today being re-elected for another 6-year term as President. Once that formality has been completed we shall no doubt see where the Skripal saga takes us next.

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The thick plottens…

“The information commissioner is seeking an urgent court warrant to enter the London headquarters of the elections consultancy Cambridge Analytica after the firm was caught in an undercover sting boasting about entrapping politicians, using honey traps and running fake news campaigns. Cyber-security consultants … who had been engaged by Facebook to do (an) audit, were at CA’s office in London on Monday evening when the ICO asked them to leave so the authorities could pursue their own investigation.” – Guardian

The ICO has been flagging up heavily in the media for the past 24 hours that she will be ‘seeking’ a warrant to invade Cambridge Analytica’s data files. If you were investigating breaches of the Data Protection Act and possible electoral finance offences, would you give a computer firm two days’ clear notice in which to scrub their files like a coalminer’s doorstep, if you didn’t for some reason want them to come out looking whiter than white?

What in God’s holy name is going on?

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When not in Rome

Within hours of the incident unfolding in Salisbury, on the basis of secret intelligence, no doubt, British politicians including the bumptious oaf, Boris Johnson, and the new Defence Secretary, Gavin Williamson, an unindividuated teenager who keeps a pet tarantula in a vivarium in his office, were already pointing the finger at Vladimir Putin for ordering yet another targeted and messy assassination attempt on British soil.

Meanwhile in Nottingham, police have no idea weeks after the event if (in an incident caught on camera) an Egyptian engineering student, Mariam Moustafa, was the target of a racially aggravated assault, or what the motive was, after being chased off a bus and severely beaten while being racially abused by a gang of white girls.

They are keeping an open mind, apparently.

Mariam died in hospital three weeks later. The Health Board is “investigating” whether her death might possibly have been connected with the assault. The post mortem examination was “inconclusive”, the coroner has brought in an open verdict.

The BBC reports, her family is here (they live in Rome, where Mariam was born) looking for answers.

Good luck with that.

 

 

Pots, kettles (but no blacks)

Attorney General Jeff Sessions said the “extensive and fair investigation” had concluded that Mr McCabe “made an unauthorised disclosure to the news media and lacked candour – including under oath – on multiple occasions” – BBC News

“Detestable lahs you are tellin’.”

Mr Sessions, who has previously admitted lying under oath about his communications over sanctions with the Russian ambassador, is obviously unaware that McCabe’s job description as acting director of the FBI made him specifically the person who authorized statements to the press on behalf of the agency.

Any disclosures he himself made or (as in this case) requested a spokesman to make on the agency’s behalf, would therefore have been authorized by him, no?

In the meantime Mr Trump has spewed out another in his weekly series of paranoid Sunday breakfast tweets today, accusing everyone of being traitors to America, unfair to him, of being in the pay of Crooked Hillary Clinton and the DNP, and libelling people he hates, McCabe, Comey, Special Counsel Bob Mueller, calling them out as liars and fakers of evidence. “NO COLLUSION!”, he screamed.

He gets more like Nixon by the hour.

His despairing lawyers are entirely unable to stop him doing it, but he is clearly unaware that as a result of his attempts to halt the Mueller investigation without actually firing Bob Mueller, a prima facie case for obstruction of justice is piling up behind him tweet by tweet like a vast heap of shit ready to topple and bury him forever. Not to mention the tiny question, what’s he trying so desperately to hide?

My treasured Follower, Mark Smith may have one possible answer, his Comment is on the previous Post.

I couldn’t, possibly.

(I have a theory that Mark C Smith is a collective pseudonym for GCHQ, I can’t be certain. All I know is, my Views for this and Pumpkin 48 have reached almost virulent numbers today. Starting from quite a low base, you understand.)

 

Bidness groups warmly welcome transition deal

The CBI has welcomed the deal in Brussels as “A victory for common sense”, insisting that it brings a welcome degree of certainty to British businesses. According to The Guardian:.

“…the transition deal is conditional upon there being a withdrawal agreement. As David Davis, the Brexit secretary, admitted recently, there is a possibility that the withdrawal agreement talks could collapse without a deal at the last moment. In those circumstances, there would be no transition…”

So, good, we’re all certain about that, then.

Davis and Barnier announce breakthrough agreement on Brexit transition.

 

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GW: just drifting on by

Canada: Alberta blanketed with 30 cm snow after two storms collide. Houses buried to the eaves under 20ft drifts.

USA: Storms land on both coasts. Heavy snow blankets Massachusetts in the east, Oregon in the west. An ‘energetic Arctic jetstream’ is threatening another Nor’easter this week, catching Alabama in the middle with ‘tornadic supercells’ with a high chance of damaging hailstorms. And another ‘Pineapple Express’ atmospheric river is set to bring big rain, possibly triggering more landslips on wildfire-damaged hillsides, to southern California.

Italy: Lit-up by exploding electricity substations, a huge tornado rips through Caserta, near Naples, on the night of 13 March.

Romania: Extensive flooding from rain and snowmelt. Croatia: heavy rain and snowmelt trigger mudslides, carrying away houses.

Ireland: Under several yellow warnings for extensive flooding following intense rainfall, 14 March.

Britain: greets curtain-call of the Beast from the East March 17/18 with two days of freezing weather and snowfalls disrupting schools, traffic and flights.

Australia: Cat 2 Cyclone Marcus kicks off the season, nibbling at northern coastal areas around Darwin and Kimberley with 130 Km/h windspeeds, uprooting large trees and damaging cars and buildings. Meanwhile… Sydney swelters in early autumn 40C, 104F heatwave, a lightning storm puts a power station out of action at Terang and rural properties are lost to an “out-of-control” wildfire burning around Brega in Victoria state.

(The NOAA 5-day forecast track for Marcus seems to be showing a slight possibility that having now headed out into the Southern Ocean, it could swing back toward land somewhere north of Perth, Western Australia state.)

Thailand: ‘freak’ storm with cyclonic wind, hail causes floods, damage. Indonesia: Java flooding.

Africa: floods in Kenya, Uganda and Lesotho, where 5 people died in an intense hailstorm. Madagascar, yet another cyclone, Eliakim brings strong winds and flooding.

World: Despite the Beast and the Nor’easters, February managed 6th warmest on record globally, thanks to persistent heat anomalies in the Arctic and across Africa, Australia/New Zealand and central Asia. It’s been a wild winter in the northern hemisphere, but as March progresses there seems to be some flattening-out of the global extremes and some cooling-off in the Arctic that is extending the icefields again, although larger temperature anomalies are appearing in the Antarctic now.

The good news for Europe at least is that the polar jetstream that wandered all the way down to North Africa for months, bringing very cold conditions, may be slowly making its way back north again. Of course, that would bring heat up from Africa, presaging another extremely hot European summer, with more wildfires and probable crop losses.

Climate & Extreme Weather News #103, pt 2, citing Euronews/ Wunderground

The BogPo: Back in your box please, Norman. Now… This Revengers’ tragedy has gone far enough… Assholes is as assholes does… GW: skating on thin ice.

“Hmm. Can’t have the party leader telling me which way to vote…”

“I know, I’ll abstain…”

Back in your box please, Norman. Now.

Another distressing old ghoul from the 1980s-era Thatcher cabinet, a zombie dripping with soil and maggots, ‘Lord’ Norman Tebbit of BALPA has risen untimely from the snow-covered earth and raised his sightless skull to howl at the moon.

His former cabinet colleague, ‘Lord’ Heseltine (they’re all Lords, Time-lords presumably since they all ought by rights to be dead by now, along with their unholy mistress) went on record the other day as saying it might be preferable to have a Labour government under Jeremy Corbyn, than to endure the kind of nonsensical, damaging, divisive Brexit Mrs May might be proposing – if anyone, even she, knew what she is proposing.

While it is almost certainly preferable that Hezza is in opposition to the tight-knit cabal of power-hungry pantomime villains in the Tory party, the Bakers and the Patersons, the Redwoods and the Bones, the Duncan Cunts lobbying tirelessly (the Undead never sleep) for the hardest kind of Brexit, i.e. no deal with the remaining EU states, a new British Empire rising from the sea, free from the garlic-munching constraints of one of the most profitable open-border trade deals we have ever had, his remark kind of damns the future with faint praise.

It’s also a tad off-kilter, because Corbyn is just as much of a Brexiter as any cretinous empire-loyalist throwback and neo-Thatcherite, ultra-liberal plotter on the Tory benches. If he wasn’t, he’d be in Downing Street by now, the woolly-pated old clodpuddle who just can’t resist rebelling against the party leadership, even when he IS the party leadership.

And we wouldn’t be headed for a life of servitude under the restrictive domination of the World Trade Organization and its secret court of arbitration; recast as a cut-price offshore tax shelter under the control of US corporations, owned by billionaire fund managers, hanging our fiscal arse out for anyone who wants to come by and pay tuppence to fuck it; proudly waving our second-class blue passports as we queue at the Aliens’ counter of once welcoming vacation destinations (there being some corner of a foreign airfield that is forever England…)

Tebbit’s spectral threat, however, is chilling. He asks of Heseltine: “It must call into question whether his loyalty is to the UK or a foreign power.”

Wow, that’s vintage Trump. Our dead white politicians are clearly learning.

Which “foreign power” would that be, Norman, you loathsome, rotting corpse, you? You always were a bit of a Goebbels figure. Not possibly the “foreign power” that bankrolled this clusterfuck in the first place? If anyone’s loyalty is to the Kremlin, it must surely be yours.

Back in your box please, Norman.

Now.

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This Revengers’ tragedy has gone far enough

Well-known throughout the English-speaking world, the American writer/broadcaster and “feuilletoniste” par excellence, Garrison Keillor has been fired by the obscure local radio station he put and has kept on the map for the past four decades, Minnesota Public Radio, for putting his hand on a female colleague’s back, as he admits, finding bare skin – and as both originally described it, to console her over some unhappiness she was sharing with him. He would, he avers, have done the same for anyone, female or male.

How to destroy a popular franchise with a few well-chosen weasel words. (Photo: futureperfectpublishing.com)

But she seemed a little leery about it at the time, so, as far as both of them were concerned, she settled for his apology, verbally and in writing, and Keillor thought no more of it until the woman’s lawyer weighed in a few days ago, on (literally) the back of a lot of other, seemingly trivial, vexatious and opportunistic complaints that have followed, among them admittedly more serious allegations, many affecting the broadcasting industry, since the “outing” by more than 20 women two months ago of predatory Hollywood producer, Harvey Weinstein.

Since when, it has turned into a blamefest that is playing into the increasingly unseemly political “debate” on both sides of the channel, proving so easy to get rid of opponents with a well-judged swipe of a lipstick.

“On Wednesday he (Keillor) wrote a column saying there was no reason for Senator Al Franken, who is accused of sexual misconduct and was photographed groping a sleeping broadcaster, to resign.” – BBC report.

And five minutes later, wham! He’s toast.

There’s nothing like guilt by association to improve a news item, is there. Even if it is libellously inaccurate. So now it’s not acceptable to offer any kind of a defense of someone you think has been pushed to the brink over allegations of minor misconduct you believe have been blown out of proportion, at a time when past flirty behavior is all of a sudden being treated as a serious category error of which all men are automatically guilty without due process? Great.

So here’s my defense of Mr Keillor, and Sen. Franken, for what it’s worth:

The additional reporting on this story perpetuates the allegation that Franken “groped a sleeping broadcaster”. But Franken himself was part of the broadcast! The woman wasn’t “a broadcaster”. “Broadcasters” aren’t generally found “sleeping” on the job! Nor did he actually “grope” her. The story is bullshit.

Before he ran for Congress, the senator was a TV comedian. Such is the American Dream.

The old photograph of him “groping” the woman depicted what was obvious horseplay, apparently on-set during a rehearsal for a skit in a TV show. The woman was not a “broadcaster”, she was another comedic actor taking part in the skit. A BBC journalist should know the difference.

Franken was fully aware of what he was doing, it seems, as he was mugging at the time into the lens of a camera which, if you have genuinely sinister intent, you certainly would not do. His hands do not appear to touch the actor, but hover suggestively over her breasts, which were covered for whatever dramatic purpose with a ridiculous, pointy, armored metal brassiere! She was not “sleeping”, she was pretending to sleep: ACTING a part. Franken was not “groping”, he was simulating “groping”, for comedic effect.

But she has since recalled that he later tried to kiss her…

Whatever else he may have been accused of, however tedious or infantile the joke, Franken was not “groping” the woman. He was pretending to. Comedy was clearly the intent. If he later tried to kiss her, well, silly him. Is it that serious? Actors kiss everyone, all the time. People kiss actors. Kissing is a social thing, it isn’t rape.

Politicians too: I seem to recall Tony Blair disgracefully snogging Col Muammar Gadaffi, a serial rapist and pedophile whose supply of Semtex to the IRA had killed hundreds of British citizens. I was on a course recently, we all hugged goodbye at the end and a woman I was not physically attracted to and had shown no sign of interest in, someone I barely knew, kissed me full on the lips. Should I call my lawyer?

We don’t know the precise circumstances; only that a woman many years later says she was so outraged, so humiliated, so… sexually assaulted by a fumbled kiss from a colleague? that the man has to end his political career on her say-so. Why? Well, because she’s a woman. Surely enough evidence for anyone: women can’t possibly be expected to cope with a little flirtatious attention. And if Franken was a bit flirty, a bit gropy, a bit louche, so what? Millions of men are, always were, it’s what makes the world go around. Ask Simone de Beauvoir. Ask Collette, Anaïs Nin… (Strangely, French women seem to get it… Americans derive their matriarchal power from not getting it.)

There was a time when flirtatiousness between men and women was an expression of human sexuality rather than a patriarchal power-fantasy. It cut two ways – women had their stratagems – and was not just tolerated: it was a game of two halves, as someone once said about soccer.

What is really disturbing is that it is no longer a defense to point it out. It’s okay for a woman to put on 3-inch denim hotpants, 6-inch heels and a boob tube, drink a pint of vodka and stagger out into the nighttime streets to get sex off any drunken guy they fancy. No, it really is. But why is it now a retroactive, career-destroying offence for a man to flirtatiously put his hand on a woman’s knee in a bar at a political convention? Is it a crime to want human contact? We’re programmed to. Is it a crime to point that out?

Because “inappropriate sexual conduct” such as wolf whistling or propositioning or casual touching in a non-threatening manner are not criminal offences: they were bad manners; now they’re a political policy.

We should perhaps remind ourselves from time to time that whoever resurrected this “evidence” of past misconduct that – among later accusations of similarly flirty masculinist behaviour –  drove Sen. Franken to resign would have been well aware that he is a Democratic senator, that the Republicans have only a slender majority in the Senate, they have difficult and frankly lousy bills to get passed and they know too that their irascible President has been accused of, and is self-confessed to, far worse predatory sexual behavior, from which some distraction is required.

Of course they are going to make the most of it; especially in the light of accusations against their equally appalling candidate in Alabama, the unspeakable Roy Moore. (Unfortunately, his sexual peccadilloes have occluded his vile racial and religious bigotry.)

Oh, and did I mention that when the ‘Golden Showergate’ dossier came out, Trump joked that he knew all about the form of blackmail known in Russia as “Kompromat” because he too owned hotels; hotels perhaps not dissimilar to the one in which his son-in-law, Jared Kushner’s dad compromised his own brother-in-law, filming him secretly with a prostitute and sending the tape to his wife, his own sister, to get him to drop his testimony in a fraud trial? And that the President is now accused of having sex with porn actresses after only one year married to Melania, women he’s bought off? And nothing is going to happen as a result, because it’s not illegal?

There are surely degrees of offense, some of which seemingly require that the supposed offender should be blackmailed into a course of action favorable to the blackmailer. There will however be voices raised in support of Charlie Kushner, disapproving of prostitution, or hotels, or something.

Did Keillor masturbate, like Weinstein, allegedly ejaculating into a plant pot in front of this woman? Did he emerge naked from the hotel shower and ask for a “massage”? Did he threaten to destroy her career if she didn’t have sex with him? Did he call her up like Bill O’Reilly of Fox News used to, and tell her he was playing with himself while they talked? Did he make gratuitous remarks about how she had great tits, push her up against a wall and kiss her, or try to “grab her by the pussy”? Did he exonerate himself by claiming she was too ugly to have bothered with, or impose a legal gagging order threatening her with financial ruin? (All allegations have been denied by the men concerned.)

No, according to Keillor he touched her on, as he thought, a “safe” place (as we men have been taught to regard various supposedly non-erogenous zones of a woman – given that it is impossible and psychologically inadvisable to go through life without sometime touching at least one other person) on the small of her back, in what he claims was, and she accepted at the time was, a sympathetic gesture of solidarity. But of course, he’s a middle-aged white man, so we can’t possibly believe his version of events.

And now she’s gone and terminated his career, one imagines through her lawyer demanding the not-for-profit station pays them both off handsomely over this singular incident, which – according to the report – did not involve any actual impropriety, other than a hand patting or rubbing or pressing on her back, which can often be misinterpreted as a perfectly innocent, decent human gesture. Nice person.

Nor is Keillor yet being painted as a serial rapist – give it time:

“The station said it did not know of any allegations involving any other staff.” – BBC report. (That’s after 42 years with the station.)

Nevertheless, in stark terror MPR said it would:

  • end its contracts with Mr Keillor and his companies
  • stop broadcasting his syndicated show The Writer’s Almanac
  • stop rebroadcasting highlights from A Prairie Home Companion
  • change that programme’s name
  • separate from an online catalogue and website associated with him.

Over this one incident that allegedly took place, its propriety in retrospective dispute, we know not how long ago.

From all that we do know, this grotesque, Stalinist un-personning of Keillor, this cowardly airbrushing of their star performer and his folksy shows that millions have listened to with pleasure for over 40 years, would seem so egregiously over-the-top and so unnecessary, so unfair on the listeners, so hedged about and justified with weasel words, that it surely now behoves every male on the planet, even the gay ones, especially the gray ones, to come forward dressed in chains and kneeling in contrition, to renounce their jobs and dismantle their families, who ever engaged in any physical contact whatsoever beyond air-kissing and cooing ‘Hugs, babe!’ from a safe distance with a female of the species.

I’m sorry, I may be entirely wrong, I’m not an advocate of harrassment, but we seem to be gripped by a collective insanity involving a vituperative historical revisionism, in this case of what formerly passed for normal interpersonal behavior until the rules were arbitrarily changed last November. I sense a feeling of triumphalism about the #metoo movement.

We might as well die out. We deserve it in so many ways.

 

Assholes is as assholes does

Trump… Weinstein… Kim Jong-un… Rodrigo Duterte… Boris Johnson.

Stuart Jeffries has an entertaining piece in the post-Boxing Day Guardian, about how 2017 was the Year of the Asshole, according to a book: The Asshole Survival Guide: How to Deal With People Who Treat You Like Dirt, by Robert Sutton (Penguin Books).

Generally, assholes (in the American spelling) are people who abuse their authority to diminish others, while themselves acting like complete dicks.

Whaddaya mean, my tie is in your tea? (photo: forfreepsychology.com)

Like the MD of an ad agency I briefly worked for, who would give you a hazing, snarling at you with his stale breath and fishy, pale-blue eyes magnified tenfold by pebble lenses, from a distance of two inches, seriously questioning your loyalty and why you needed to go home before eight p.m. after working a 14-hour day.

As the most profitable creative in the building, I once asked for a raise and he snapped back with: “So who would you like me to fire, so they can pay for you to have more?” And then pocketed the entire staff bonus pool for the year, lying to us that we had made a loss, to buy himself a yacht.

And the time he sent his most cowed and creepy fellow board director illegally round to my house, to check that I really did have a horrific sweating virus with a temperature of 108 and wasn’t just malingering.

Or the MD of another company I briefly worked for, who was so organizationally conflicted he needed three PAs just to even try to keep his appointments and his over-generous promises to clients on-track.

This asshole would order the most junior person in the office to phone a supplier to negotiate a discount after the supplier had already delivered and invoiced the job, standing behind them screaming: “Tell ‘im ‘e’s a fuckin’ cunt an’ if ‘e’ doesn’t give us 30 per cent I’ll fuckin’ destroy ‘im…” And once on the way to a meeting, realizing he’d double-booked his appointments, he asked me in a panic to take over with one of the clients, promising me a bonus if I screwed the guy for a £5 thousand budget for a project. I came out with £10 thousand, but of course I never saw the bonus.

A man seemingly without qualifications or any redeeming features, he eventually achieved the Holy Grail of assholery – 100 per cent staff turnover in one year.

And then there was the editor of a terrible freesheet newspaper I freelanced on out of desperation as a subeditor one day a week. This baboon had been a printer, or ‘stone-hand’ as the troglodytes called themselves, on The Sun and had no journalistic background. He would sit brooding in his glass fishtank, from where he could monitor all our screens, before erupting four times a day like a Pixar octopus to scream at some unfortunate, occasionally me (my limited typesetting expertise had been gained in book publishing): “Oi pays you fuckin’ Fleet Street rates (he didn’t) an’ Oi ‘as to do all the fuckin’ work meself!” before correcting some tiny discrepancy in the alignment of the text across the gutter of the pages and slithering back to his dark and watery domain.

I once observed him brutally firing a raw recruit, a young trainee who had foolishly given up his tenancy to travel 250 miles to a new town and a new job. On his first morning the “editor” had told this kid to go and interview a publican who had ejected a drunk from his bar the previous night, having called the police – and to take a photographer and come back with 20 usable shots. Of course there was nothing to see but a self-satisfied bloke and a building and not a lot to say, the story having already been widely reported, so he instantly and loudly fired the kid, who left in tears.

I decided at that point that the only way to treat this “bosshole” was with serene detachment, because he was really a comic character, the perfect caricature of a ruthlessly efficient Alpha male presiding tyrannically over the world’s most dysfunctional weekly: a disgusting piggery of a newsroom filled with broken equipment, burnt-out screens, unsorted piles of paper, old food cartons everywhere and pervaded by the sweaty smell of fear. The day I quit, he looked at me with horror and asked, piteously, “Why, was it something I said?”

Ironic, then, that a thread of quite witty and profound Comments inspired by Jeffries’s piece should be summarily terminated after only 134 entries by an asshole on the Guardian Comment staff posting imperiously:

“Comments here were opened in error and will be closing shortly. Thank you.”

Thus denying your Uncle Bogler the opportunity to get in early with a merry quip. “Opened in error”. Why, was it not considered a prize piece of assholery to censor Comments on a popular and amusing subject? Was there something political, did people suddenly start attacking immigrants or Brexit remoaners? What “error” caused a supposedly grownup, independent, liberally-minded national newspaper to flee from its responsibility to allow a reasonable opportunity for public comment? Fuck you!

I don’t respond to 20-something Guardian editor Kath Viner’s tragic daily pleas for money to keep going. I did once, about a year ago; sending her a grateful blogging pensioner’s tenner, before I read in Private Eye that the Scott Trust, the holy body that owns the Guardian, was sitting on a cashpile of around £600 million. What’s more, the sanctimonious pricks at The Guardian act like an institutional asshole toward their own journalists, operating with a minimal staff, imposing on them low-paid, zero-hours contracts that include provisions like a compulsory annual month off, which thereby excludes them from pension rights, and so on.

And what are the Grauniad hacks minimally paid to do? Why, to offer a reasoned daily post-feminist critique of über-capitalism and the gig economy!

This could just be the year I wean myself off an adult lifetime’s dependency on all such assholes.

Thank you.

x

GW: skating on thin ice

UK: “…findings from power research group MyGridGB show that renewable energy sources provided more power than coal for 90% of 2017, figures up to 12 December show. British wind farms produced more electricity than coal plants on more than 75% of days this year. … In April, the UK had its first 24-hour period without using any coal power since the Industrial Revolution.” Snow has closed roads and airports, ahead of Storm Dylan (30 Dec.)

Malta: a private jet belonging to Britain/Belize’s tax-dodger-general, Tory donor Lord Michael Ashcroft, was picked up and blown through an airport fence, crashing into an office building Thursday, by a powerful gust of wind. Struck back in August by a ‘Med-icane’, the island has again been hit by a powerful storm system, with 5-meter waves, thunderstorms, hail, torrential rain and a single-digit cold snap all in the forecast.

Australia: SE Queensland swelters through a Christmas heatwave, until powerful storm cells bring strong winds, heavy rain and hail, smashing up homes, breaking car windshields and causing power blackouts. “Cricket-ball sized” hail batters the small town of Athol, near Twoowoomba (just as England’s Cook was battering cricket-ball sized, er, cricket balls for his 244 in Melbourne). More storms are forecast for the New Year’s weekend.

Philippines: the death toll from Typhoon Tembim (TS Vinta) stands at 240, with 107 still unaccounted for. Whole villages were washed away or buried. The remnant typhoon, downgraded to a TD, is now battering Vietnam.

USA: Much of the eastern mid- and NE US is experiencing record cold and snowfall in a huge swath from the Arctic circle down to Florida. Erie, Pennsylvania is under five feet of snow, that fell in a day and a night. “3 to 4 more feet” is the forecast. 50th State, Hawaii has had near-record rainfall and flash floods; 6-in fell on Maui airport in 24 hours. Meanwhile, heatwave conditions persist in the far SW and California, where the Thomas fire is 80% controlled.

And as for Alaska… temperatures this December have been “20 to 30 degrees above average”. 2017 is likely to be the costliest year ever for the US in terms of weather disruption. 700 scientific staff posts are reportedly vacant after a wave of resignations at the US Environment Protection Agency.

Oceans: “…on December 21, sea surface temperatures were as high as 31.7°C or 89°F north of Australia. In line with rising temperatures caused by global warming, sea surface temperature anomalies are high across the oceans. … temperature anomalies over the Arctic Ocean could be as high as 30°C, 54°F.” (Shome confusion here… 30°C is 86°F, not 54°F, which is 12°C. Ed.)

BBC News/ Climate & Extreme Weather News #88, citing CBS News, RUPTLY, Maui Now, et al./ Wunderground/ Arctic News

 

Final word

There’s a cat outside our house…

West Yorkshire police report that they took a hundred thousand completely trivial “emergency” 999 calls in 2017, ranging from: “There’s a cat outside our house and it won’t move, what should we do?” to: “My mum’s at the hairdresser’s and they’ve tinted her hair the wrong colour”. (BBC report, 28 Dec.)

Well, really, if the police don’t have the manpower or the time to send someone to sort out these very real humanitarian crises, where is the country coming to, after eight years of Tory rule?

No wonder people are voting for Brexit.

The BogPo, a Trump-free zone: Old Bigot writes (The rules of cricket)… The old one-two… So deport me! … GW: Your gran, rescued in a rubber dinghy by three handsome firemen

Well, almost…

“You’re May, right ?”
“I am. And you must be Nuts…” (Photo: The Independent)

 

“God help us if war broke out, we’d be too busy to defend ourselves, worrying what to call the enemy without causing them offence…”

Hello again.

Old Bigot writes:

You know, at this time of year as the nights draw in and the snow lies crisp and even; as robin redbreast poses fleetingly on a spade handle in the irridescent twilight and is gulped down by next-door’s cat, we may sit by the fire, staring into the flickering flames, wondering why some of them are red and some blue, and contemplate the complete fucking insanity of the modern world.

In writing about it, I might be guilty of contempt of court, although God knows these days I wouldn’t be the only journalist courting that risk for a good story, but I have been struck by one particular example in particular, the case of the England cricket all-rounder, Ben Stokes*.

Ben, a fit-looking young fiery redhead, was (it is alleged) caught on CCTV outside a Bristol pub (or club, I’m a bit vague on the details) taking a poke at one of a bunch of local idiots who had been persecuting his party, probably calling Ben’s teammate ‘gay’ and/or other such words that if we said they were insults would inevitably upset one or other group identifying as such-and-such; and thus technically being the possible cause of a minor affray in which no-one emerged either with much credit or very much bruising, as far as one can tell.

Nobody died. (PS: I now understand a minor orbital fracture was involved.)

Young, and sometimes not-so-young, mildly drunken, testosterone-fuelled British working-class lads, well-paid sportsmen and pumped-up squaddies from the military have been causing similar affrays with fisticuffs outside hostelries from Land’s End to John O’Groats on a Saturday night since God were a lad. It’s what we men do, let off a bit of steam after a hard week at the coalface. It’s totally British Values. Someone spills your pint, eyeballs your girlfriend, insults your team, it gets out of hand, then wallop, it’s finished and off home to beat-up the wife before Sunday roast.

Similar retaliations on a national scale are not unknown to history either.

Only not any more, it seems.

The ‘alleged incident’ happened weeks and months ago, but the press is still snouting around excitedly, Mr Plod is still ponderously ‘investigating’, ‘charges’ are still being weighed by the Public Prosecutor, a ‘trial’ is still being contemplated, poor Ben is still suspended from his rather valuable job and without him the England cricket team have had to put up with yet another sound ten-wicket thrashing by Australia, the Hated Ones – only none of their quick bowlers or century-smashing captain Smith has been ‘arrested’ and ‘questioned’ and ‘cautioned’ and ‘charged’ over it, they get away with that sort of violent affray down under, every time the old enemies clash at the riotous Gabba stadium in Sydney. Cricket, it ain’t.

So what the hell is there to ‘investigate’? The guy evidently punched someone on a provocation. Okay, his bad. But when did we stop banging-up battered and dishevelled miscreants for the night, parading them bleary-eyed before the magistrate in the morning, letting them plead guilty to “drunk and disorderly”, fining them 50 shillings with a caution, bit of compensation possibly ordered if at fault of injury, end of story?

Police officers relax after a hard day wasting public money. (timbrink.nl)

What on earth has happened to us as a society? What happened to our practicality, our robust pragmatism? Where’s our commonsense ability gone, to just sort things out firmly but if possible fairly? Why can we no longer manage our complex human behaviours without an appeal to some authoritarian, overworked third party? Why are the police and the DPP and the courts squandering vast amounts of precious time and public money on this totally trivial incident? Just because Stokesy’s newsworthy, a sporting celebrity?

It’s an absolute outrage. Just tick him off, pocket the money and let the poor man get on with his life, win a few matches for us, can’t you?

But, oh no, we’re changing the name Britain to ‘Bythebook’. It’s enough to make anyone of my generation weep, we’ve turned into a nation of pathetic plastic snowflake dwarfs, terrified of our shadows. God help us if war broke out, we’d be too busy to defend ourselves, worrying what to call the enemy without causing them offence.

And as for the ludicrous, pointless, heartbreaking, multi-million pound cost and waste of immensely valuable, desperately needed, strategic crime-fighting resources in the face of cut after slashing cut in the police budget, hundreds of trained men and women spending thousands of wasted hours raking over the cold, dead embers of lurid allegations made by instantly discountable ‘survivors’ of ancient sexual improprieties against long-dead politicians and tottering old celebrity ‘entertainers’, unable just to say no for fear of upsetting genuine victim groups in the current fugue of moral outrage, I won’t even start.

Who’s that poor sod, Leslie, a superannuated TV kids’ show presenter, “put his hand up a woman’s skirt” at a hen night party in a club about thirty years ago? And now hauled up in court over it? How many years in choki at the taxpayer’s expense is that worth? Why’s he even having to bother denying it? Can’t they let him say sorry, he doesn’t remember much, and everyone move on? And that gropy old US Senator who was a washed-up comedian, Franken, he’s been forced to resign while his accusers make Time magazine’s Persons of the Year cover. Only Trump survives, with his gagging orders and non-disclosure clauses.

For Pity’s sake, what have we come to? Are we to cram the remaining interstitial spaces in our rotting understaffed Victorian gaols with elderly rakes who once put their hand on a young intern’s knee, or patted their bum at a party? In a world where militarized mass rape, starving cholera-ridden stunted children, state-sanctified murder and ethnic cleansing are the order of the day, and we do nothing about it so as not to upset the fucking arms manufacturers? This is really a decadent first-world luxury, this sort of vindictive moral crusade designed to ‘deliver a lesson’ most of us dreadful old men got, thank you, years ago.

Has the Director of Public Prosecutions never been to a hen night? I expect she probably must have. Did she put her hand out to touch the thrusting, gold Lurex-clad groin of a male stripper ‘for luck’? And regret it in the morning along with the seventh Jägerbomb? Or does that sort of serious criminal assault only happen in the North?

I’d hate to upset anyone’s feelings, but.

‘Free Ben Stokes’, is my motto for the week.

And he doesn’t wear Lurex.

*For the benefit of my many American readers, Russian Spammers, etc. the rules of the English national game of cricket were first codified in the late 18th century. Old Bigot writes:

The laws of cricket, explained

“Cricket is played with flat-faced bat and hard leather ball between two teams of 11 players, the object being for the fielding side to break the ‘wicket’ (a structure of three upright wooden sticks, or ‘stumps’) of 10 of the batting side while giving away as few runs as possible. Runs are scored by the two batsmen who are ‘in’ (hence, an ‘innings’) exchanging ends between the two wickets or striking the ball across a boundary marker.

“Batsmen must defend their wicket against the bowler while scoring as many runs as possible, but may be dismissed by being ‘bowled’, ‘caught’ (the ball not first having touched the ground) ‘run-out’ by a fielder breaking the wicket with the ball before the running batsman has safely gained the ‘crease’ line, or trapped ‘leg-before-wicket’, the umpire determining that the ball was impeded by any part of the player’s body. The bowling end is changed ‘over’ every six balls.

“The side with the most runs or the most wickets in hand at the end of the allotted number of ‘overs’, within the agreed time limit, or having dismissed the opposing side with fewer runs, wins. Owing to the weather, too many longer matches (a ‘Test’ is scheduled to last up to 5 days) were ending inconclusively in a ‘draw’ and so a measure known as ‘Duckworth-Lewis’ was devised to produce a statistical result. (Tea is taken at 4 pm.)”

Play!

x

(Warning: too much information.)

“I stand, head leant against the cold tiled wall, dreaming of sleep, holding on to the heated towel rail that stupidly only heats up when the central heating is on, which is almost never. The towels are never quite dry.”

The old one-two

One:

A wrenching pain splits my chest.

I fear I may be having a heart attack, or have burst my aorta. Or I have collapsed my lungs, or my diaphragm is torn and I will never sing again. Sundry other aches and pains briefly twinge and twang, then subside.

Actually, I am pushing down as hard as I can with every muscle I own into my pelvic floor, desperately trying to birth a few more dribbles and drops of urine through my crimped and crushed urethra. It’s 2.20 am and I’ve been in here for nearly an hour since being woken from a dream for the second time in the night by an urgent need to empty the bladder that merely mocks me.

Was it even full?

Virtually nothing dribbles out, each visit a teaspoonful, if that, and I need to relax through the throbbing pain and wait another three minutes before trying again. In the meantime I am taking sips of water. The danger is, if I cannot empty it I could burst my bladder; but the alternative is wizened, dried-out kidneys and a life on dialysis, so. Your choice.

I have stuffed a wad of toilet paper in my bottom to absorb the dribbles and wet farts, the blowback from the effort of straining to piss.

An entire night of this torture stretches ahead.

Lying down in bed only makes it worse. I am up every two minutes, schlepping back and forth to the bathroom, trying not to step on the dog. He is worried about me, hearing my feeble groans, and won’t leave the bedside. Please, God, this time…. Dribble-wibble, throb.

I wonder, should I call for help? It’s the recommended procedure, technically a medical emergency, but an entire ambulance? At this time of night? For an exhausted junior doctor to stuff a catheter up my pipi to drain the swamp? I’m too over-the-limit to drive myself, although not in the least bit drunk. What a waste of good whisky. And who would look after Hunzi and his li’l friend, Cats?

The tile floor is cold – it’s freezing outside but there’s no heating, I refuse to use it. Nor do I need lights, the Highways Agency pays to light my house with its bright new LED streetlights banishing both night and stars.

So I stand on the bathmat, head leant against the cold tiled wall, dreaming of sleep, holding for life to the heated towel rail that stupidly only heats up when the central heating is on, which is almost never. The towels are never quite dry.

This time I feel we are in for the long haul, my flabby and complaining old bladder, ‘Blad the Impaler’ and I. So I bring in a copy of the new Private Eye magazine, the When Harry met Meghan issue,  and read disinterestedly about bent politicians and city slickers, media shits and shysters, and groan at the unfunny cartoons and prep-school jokes, squinting at the tiny print by the light of the shaver point.

I have prostatitis – ‘benign prostatic hyperplasia’. It comes on like this about once a month, or whenever I travel and need to perform on stage, and often depends on what I’ve been drinking: in this case, last night a quart of Scotch. I call it my period.

There’s a chance it’s been brought on, not by whisky, but because we’ve just finished a run of Dickens’ A Christmas Carol – a musical production in which I played the leading character, the miser Scrooge, in a physical performance you would not believe for a man of 68 who takes no exercise normally. It has taken its toll on me, I fear, in various ways.

But there’s almost nothing you can do with an enlarged prostate gland, except laser the tissue away – and in 70% of cases the operation leaves you leaking permanently into a bag strapped to your leg with a catheter in your groin. I’m already impotent from atrophy of the blood supply to my penis, so that side-effect is irrelevant.

Mr Aniya the hospital urologist has been up there, “where the sun don’t shine”, several times with various diagnostic tools and tells me it’s okay, it’s not cancer. He has an 18-month waiting list for appointments, so that’s a historic comfort. He sent me off to a clinic run by a very pretty nurse who I gather is married to a man even older than me, she made me piss into a funnel and agreed, I have almost zero pressure.

Just dribble.

I stopped taking the pills he prescribed two years ago. It seemed the only difference they made was to increase the panic attacks I get in the supermarket, with the bustle and the lights and the terrible cover versions of Taylor Swift-type twinkie-shit, or Queen, and what the hell to eat this evening when you’ve tried everything before?

Still, the upside is, the drought never lasts more than one night, before…

 

Two:

Next morning, on the return leg of our walk, Hunzi and I.

I sensibly had a pee before we left the house but the thought has just crossed my mind a mile further on that we may need another one anyday now…. There appears to be no urgency, but we head toward the Texaco gas station where there is a capacious disabled loo, just in case.

I have a vision of arriving home, just a few hundred yards along the street, only to have my usual minor calamity on the doorstep while fumbling hurriedly for the right key (of two, it’s a decision), hurling the shopping bags and the confused dog’s leash and the keys to the hall floor and rushing upstairs, ripping off my coat, fumbling with buttons, praying to Blad not to let go just yet, just a few more steps….

Too late.

There are certain places now that act as Pavlovian trigger points. Entering the kitchen down the steps from my studio is one; making that first coffee of the morning; running the water for the washing-up; the front doorstep another, where before I can even think of getting upstairs to the bathroom or using the handy drain out behind the kitchen, wrenching at these damn buttons, the stupid layers of clothing beneath, how does anyone ever manage to commit rape?

…disobedient muscles contract and release involuntarily, the hot pee starting to trickle down my leg.

The gas station is another such place, producing anywhere in the proximity of the toilet an immediate letdown reflex. It holds other terrors too, for the cubicle is often Out of Order, or busy… several times as the warm, dark stain spreads down my jeans we’ve had to run around the back of the building, behind the terrible Costcutter convenience store, where I’ve let go in the corner of the carpark. Probably in the full glare of the security cameras, but I don’t care. It’s a medical emergency, your Honour. It just… emerges.

Today we hobble home, an uncomfortable, rapidly chilling wet patch (it’s another cold day) spreading down the front of the most expensive pair of jeans I’ve ever bought, darkening down as far as my shoes. We have 300 yards of public street still to walk, crossing shamefacedly to the side facing away from the cars, hoping we don’t meet the neighbours coming the other way.

There was a guy, Tom I think, who used to come to choir. He would always sit next to me, because someone had told him I was the go-to person in our section, the bass section, if you weren’t sure of the notes. And he stank so badly of old piss, and after three weeks I had to excuse myself and quit the choir altogether. He’s long gone, I hear, but I haven’t been back.

Because now I too stink of old piss. It’s one of those evocative smells that never leaves you. Every now and again you get a whiff. You smell it just thinking of it. I’ve learned to wash out my chapfallen old feller more often, but it lingers in the crotch of every pair of trousers, in my underpants, my pajamas, my bedclothes

…accusing me of getting older by the hour.

x

“My knowledge of life in modern Britain sadly did not extend to remembering exactly when the War (sic) of the Roses broke out…”

So deport me!

I was just reading a BBC News article about poor Meghan Markle and the crazy hoops she’ll have to jump through (surely not! Ed.) to obtain British citizenship.

Surely Border Force  wouldn’t send her packing?

While I’m sure she’ll have absolutely no problem declaring that her fiancé ‘earns’ more than £18,500 a year (apparently Harry trousered a £20 million dividend from the Duchy of Cornwall last year, that’s a lot of organic biscuits), as a global ambassador of this-or-that she may struggle with the proviso that she has to spend a minimum of 270 days a year trapped on this dark and dismal island in the meantime, watching us tear one another apart like cannibals; while having to attend an interview with some bootface at an office in darkest Croydon is surely cruel and unusual punishment, even for a foreigner.

I doubt somehow that failure to complete the questions would result in her being immediately seized and delivered to Yarl’s Wood Detention Centre for Women and Babies. In fact she could become an avatar for a more compassionate approach. What we have here is the Princess of Migrants!

So, as you probably do, I instantly followed the link to a website where you can take the immigrants’ British Citizenship test for fun or practice. And as you do, almost certainly, I failed it; correctly guessing just 14 out of the 24 answers.

My useful knowledge of life in modern Britain sadly did not extend to remembering exactly when the War (sic) of the Roses broke out, in the fifteenth century, although I do know why and between what parties; nor precisely when Britain first became geographically separated from the Continent (Midnight, March 31st, 2019?), as I was born shortly afterwards.

I’ve turned out to be confused about the constituent parts of the national flag, assuming wrongly that the red cross bit is England. Apparently not. Nor, to my deepest shame, as I live there, did I recall that it was Henry V111 who first forced Wales to become part of the UK, as the Act of Union of 1707 which created the UK post-dates him by 160 years and I’d assumed that was when, but apparently it was Scotland.

I could not agree with the setter that pool is a ‘traditional pub game’ in Britain, as it is a more compact variant of snooker imported, I thought, from the USA. Not many Muslims would know much about pub culture, I imagine, especially as almost no-one drinks in a pub anymore, they’re closing at the rate of two a day. I do know that a coalition is a combination of two or more political parties in government, however the question betrays a certain ironic detachment on the part of the question-setter as we have not had a coalition government since 2015; unless, I suppose, you count the present shameful arrangement with the cave trolls of the DUP.

I was, frankly, shocked.

  • Which of the following is not a common swearword?

No, htat’s not a question, but seriously, nothing in the quiz appeared in the least bit relevant to life in Britain today: nothing on Brexit or pornography, nothing on Coronation Street, Bakeoff or Strictly Come Dancing, nothing about The War, the law, the weather or the honours system, the Royal Family (the Beckhams); how to buy stuff on credit or a seat in the House of Lords, how to get a quickie divorce or complain to BT about your broadband – why you need an Oyster card to get around London – but contained some awful, embarrassing, smug, self-congratulatory flammery, like asking the sitter to select five from a list of six statements with which they agree about how free and fair and decent and tolerant Britain is, which (apart from being a lie) is what any country will say about itself, even the worst flyblown dictatorships and rutted feudal demesnes; just tacky propaganda.

Not even the rules of cricket!

So I went on the Comment thread and tried to post the following:

“This so-called test is an insult, frankly, to earnest, honest, decent, hardworking people who just want to be part of our nation. It has no practical application or value whatsoever.  And we need them here. Now, give me the Guardian crossword… and where are the questions on football? Pop music? TV soaps? Shopping? Benefits? The things that truly matter to normal people, as opposed to whatever obsesses junior civil servants and their elevated political masters in their filter bubbles?”

(I didn’t mention the Wars, plural, of the Roses, 1455 to 1485, a dynastic tussle that ended with the Battle of Bosworth, my kingdom for a horse, and the enthronement of Henry V11 Tudor – a Welshman.)

And was asked to Log In, and went to do so, only to discover that a) I had to have a Facebook account before I could post my comment, very ‘free and fair’, and b) the website had already decided I was not me, but my son.

One of the ‘rub-your-foreign-nose-in-it’ questions was ‘Who invented the Worldwide Web?’ I knew the answer had to be Tim Berners-Lee, although there is a shade of opinion that suggests he didn’t quite, depending on your definition of what the Worldwide Web actually is. But as he was the only one on the list with a knighthood it was a no-brainer.

Anyway, I’m thinking of asking him to try again, because there is absolutely no reason for a website I’ve never been on before to identify my IP address as that of my son, who has his own trail of superannuated communication devices to play with.

Perhaps they’ll deport him, rather than me?

I’d love to be sent somewhere warmer, with nicer people, but I’m getting a bit old for that sort of thing.

x

GW: Your old gran, rescued in a rubber dinghy by three handsome firemen

Western Malaysia: “has been affected by flooding over the last few days. Around 13,000 people have been evacuated to special relief camps. Local media report that 2 people have died in the floods.  One area of Pasir Mas District in Kelantan recorded rainfall above 400 mm each day for 4 consecutive days from 25 November.”

Thailand: almost 400,000 people are affected by flooding in the south of the country. The department for disaster prevention reports at least 5 dead and states of emergency have been declared across a wide area. More heavy rain is forecast.

Australia: “December will commence on a volatile note across eastern Australia (Canberra area) with flooding rain and powerful thunderstorms expected. Residents should prepare for disruptions to travel, outdoor and weekend activities. The strongest thunderstorms may be capable of causing damage.”

Spain: “A short period of heavy rain in Andalusia, southern Spain, caused flash flooding in the provinces of Malaga, Granada, Seville and Cadiz on 29 Nov. A train was derailed near Seville with at least 21 people injured, 2 of them seriously. Local media said the derailment was caused by the heavy rain. Houses were damaged in several areas.”

Albania: “Torrential rain has caused flooding in central areas of the country, prompting dozens of families to evacuate their homes. A man died after he was electrocuted in flood water. Roads have been blocked, flights cancelled and schools closed. Over 70,000 homes have been left without electricity. Emergency services have evacuated 200 people after they were trapped inside a flooded shopping centre in Kashar. Heavy rain has also been reported elsewhere in the region, including in Macedonia, Croatia and Montenegro. More heavy rain and thunderstorms are forecast…”

Italy: a huge waterspout formed off the coast comes ashore as a tornado and trashes the town of San Remo.

USA: Good news; the official Atlantic hurricane season ended today, 30 November, with no last-minute major disasters. “Preliminary death toll from Harvey is 84, and 95 from Irma. Hurricane Maria, though, may be responsible for over a thousand deaths. New research that has not yet gone through peer-review puts the indirect death toll from Maria in Puerto Rico at 1,085 and rising, according to a story published Wednesday at vox.com”

Thanks, Tweety-Pie. Oh, but I got an A+ from FEMA. The fuck you did. Useless asshole.

Total damage from this last, most busiest hurricane season has been estimated at $207 billion, comfortably beating an adjusted-for-inflation total of $185 billion for the second-most expensive ever hurricane year for the US, way back in 1893. On the same metric, Typhoon Ruby, that hit Hong Kong in 1964 killing nearly 800 people, might alone have caused $241 billion in damage. These are insured losses and capital recovery project costs only, there’s no accounting for the rest, hoi polloi.

No figures have been added, however, for an extended flood-and-wildfire season; and the effects of prolonged drought across most of the midwest. Hurricanes tend to edge other extreme weather events out of the news, but cities like Houston, New Orleans, Kansas City, Charleston and Las Vegas were all hit by severe flooding from other weather systems during the summer, while the California wildfire season was the worst ever in terms of damage and casualties.

Floodlist/ Wunderground/ Accuweather/

 

The end of Days

Mount Agung, eh? What a prick-teaser!

The Parade’s Gone By… Careless tweets cost lives… Granny W. with her skirts a blowin’ about her ears… Thursday’s Post under construction (because you had that the day before…)

“Golden words he will pour in your ear – But his lies can’t disguise what you fear – It’s the kiss of death – from Mister Goldfinger…” (Newley/Barry/Bricusse) (photo: twitter.com)

Since San Juan, Trumps approval rating has fallen to 32%.

 

“I am going to take my life in my hands and contend that the desire of a powerful man to have sex with an attractive young woman is entirely normal.”

The Parade’s Gone By

Forgive me for introducing this topic again, but I’m beginning to feel a little sorry for Harvey Weinstein.

I know, I know.

But look. A pretty starlet is invited to his room and he appears from the bathroom in a bathrobe. There’s a bit of leery, expectational stuff and she leaves. His PA apologizes. And this, about 20 years later, is described in the Guardian as the poor woman undergoing a terrifying ordeal. Do me a favour!

I experienced far worse assaults by dressing-gown at my British public-school in the 1960s.

What does anyone expect, being invited to the hotel room of a bigshot producer late at night? Many people, not just men still see sex in the classic literary terms of a game of ‘pursuit and conquest’. Whole websites exist only to enable people to copulate with a different partner every night; or to meet people with similar perversions – or just to watch.

But make an actual pass at someone… ho no, it’s jail time for you.

I’ve heard (women) interviewees expressing the ‘matronizing’ view that 22-year-old actresses are just vulnerable, unsuspecting children. And the preoccupation of the world’s media for days with this one obnoxious sex-pest, his dressing-gowns and his power complex, the ‘Savilization’ of Weinstein, the emergence from the woodwork of so many ‘victims’ – some of whom may have just cause, but have not gone public for twenty, thirty years – others possibly bandwaggon-jumping, expressing faux-outrage over their own inconclusive encounter with the Beast of Hollywood, explaining their career hiccup away as a result of offending Harvey, if that’s not too unfair, has made this one somewhat outlandish figure into a nightmarish symbol of patriarchal oppression – rather more than he deserves.

‘Harvey, the Movie’ cannot be far in the future.

Hollywood moguls have been doing this stuff since the days when no-one thought anything much of it; although now you might raise an eyebrow at the career-defining opportunities that went on, and the career-damage that might have greeted a spirited denial of facilities. Nevertheless, purely transactional sex does go on, the power-plays, the gold-digging, and not only in the movie business.

The time to say no is in the restaurant.

Yes, ‘Hurricane’ Harvey appears to have done some worse things. Forgetting to put the bathrobe on is one. I haven’t heard yet that he ever greeted a starlet in his room with his dick in his hand, publicly masturbating, as Fox News’s Bill O’Reilly is reported to have done with some of Murdoch’s more attractive soubrettes; as his boss, Roger Ailes, also reportedly did*. I shouldn’t be surprised, but ladies, that’s when a man is at his most vulnerable.

Nor has he seemingly murdered anyone. Roscoe ‘Fatty’ Arbuckle was an inadequate man, a successful comic actor and film director from an abusive family background who ended up on trial in 1920 for the rape and murder of a starlet, Virginia Rappe. There had been a party, drugs, sex, illicit booze… Enormous quantities of shit were thrown, ambitious lawyers and politicians grandstanding for weeks, ‘witnesses’ extorting money, Hearst’s yellow press in full cry.

Nowadays it would be invidious to point to Rappe’s pretty terrible sexual history, the many abortions, the heavy drinking, the fucked-up life; the erratic testimony of witnesses, the lack of medical evidence of rape (the prosecution alleged that Arbuckle was impotent) and the endorsement of colleagues like Chaplin, who had known the 300-lb Arbuckle for years as a shrinking violet – whose own sexual conduct had not exactly been spotless. The cause of death was nothing more lurid than peritonitis, which the prosecution tried to put down to Arbuckle lowering his gross tonnage onto the poor girl. But there was no evidence. Arbuckle was acquitted, though his career never fully recovered.

Something similar happened to the mysteriously popular British entertainer and game show host, Michael Barrymore after Stuart Lubbock, 31, drowned in his swimming pool during a wild party in 2001. Problems with alcohol and press reports that the married Barrymore had come out as bisexual, together with evidence that Lubbock had had anal sex before death, created a whirlpool of suspicion and innuendo from which the host was unable to extricate himself for several years, at the cost of his career. Barrymore recently won a damages action against the local police.

Let’s face it, entertainers have egos. Why else would they be driven to parade themselves? The life of most actors is pretty frustrating: very few make it to the top and even fewer stay there. Most are insecure: they need to match themselves in real life with their heroic onscreen personas. They demonstrate their affairs publicly to prove how attractive they still are. As a British actor, the late Michael Bryant (a notorious shagger) once commented, if you were a heterosexual male in the British theatre, you had it made. There weren’t many of those to go round.

Does that presuppose a generalized abuse of patriarchal power? Because if so, it also denies women the power of their own sexuality, their needs and desires, and makes victims of them all. Predatory white middle-aged males are not always the problem: not many young soubrettes wanted to be alone around Coral Browne, or Marlene Dietrich. And I don’t suppose I’d like to be a young black woman involved in the rougher end of the rap music video scene; or who encountered Bill Cosby at the height of his career.

Showbiz is, to put it bluntly, about sex, and sexiness.

But there are now at least five allegations of actual rape against Weinstein, which he denies. If true, it is admittedly far more serious. It’s possible he was overpowering, violent, but it doesn’t yet sound like it. He seems from some testimony to have been amenable to being told he was a naughty boy and should stop. The impression given by the media, of an old man leering and leching over young women, is titivating – until you stop and realize that thirty years ago when this stuff seems to have started, he too was 30 years younger.

Let’s face it, Weinstein is no oil painting; maybe a Francis Bacon. He is probably the ugliest man ever. A caveman. That’s only judging from still photos – we don’t all look our best without that animated twinkle in our piggy eyes, the movement that catches the light or sets our massive jaw in a more attractive profile; the responses to other people, the power.

‘The smiles, the frowns, the upside-downs…’

Alfred Hitchcock was no oil-painting either; barely a pastel. But he had a rather tragic addiction to unavailable Nordic-blonde actresses and seems to have been just as unsuccessful at winning their hearts as Weinstein; not for lack of trying. Nor is there any suggestion that Weinstein tortured his victims, as Hitchcock did to Tippi Hedren, star of his overrated horror film, The Birds, when he relentlessly shot five days of unnecessary footage of her being attacked by hungry starlings until the blood ran down her pretty face, after she refused his advances in a taxi.

But Weinstein? Probably not. Although there are women no doubt who would see past the stubbly, prognathous jaw, the slobbery mouth, the piggy eyes, the hairy fat gut and the chubby white legs with (probably) unattractive stocking suspenders, to the sensitive millionaire movie producer beneath… women who marry very ugly men for a million reasons: power being one. Aristotle Onassis was no Adonis, but he owned a shipping line, he bagged Jackie Kennedy. And Weinstein had a very attractive British wife, a former model, who has now baled on him. Was she entirely unaware of his sexual predelictions? Did they matter, until the world’s media showed up?

This whole affair is taking on the dimensions of a pack of wolverines in pursuit of one fat, ugly, late-middle-aged, wealthy American Jew, probably grown as desperate for female approbation as Trump is desperate for actual voters, with an underdeveloped teenage Philip Roth-level appetite for having his pudding pulled, who through his own craven admissions and apologies and promises to take counselling and go to rehab and mend his terrible ways and do better in future has almost certainly terminated a career that produced many quite fine films – a stunning gaffe on the part of his PR people.

I introduce the word Jew advisedly, as there is an obvious antisemitic trope threading through the expanding field of opprobrium surrounding this poor, ugly schmuck, now known in the British tabloids as ‘The Beast’, whose intellect and strength of purpose are being essentially sacrificed to the new Puritanism, as redefined by the lexicon of abuse and victimhood, of ‘safe spaces’ and premarital pledges; a reaction to the dark side of human existence, which is never going to go away; nor can one quite see why it should.

The thing about Weinstein is, he was the best in class at playing the game: Bigshot Hollywood Producer. The lecherous stuff, the casual brutality, the payoffs with non-disclosure clauses – the disrespect for the legions of wannabes goes with that: it’s out of Central Casting. And now he’s taking the hit for all the others, and one is not allowed to express the slightest concern for him: the way James Corden and Woody Allen have been shredded for what seemed like prevarication is like watching Tippi Hedren being pecked to death by starlings.

I am going to take my life in my hands and contend that the desire of a powerful man to have sex with an attractive young woman is entirely normal, and this is a huge fuss about a badly behaved but very wealthy, entitled and well-connected slob who imagines women find him attractive without his bathrobe, but probably doesn’t care overmuch if they don’t. If the rape allegations prove true, well, I’ll take most of it back.

Tonight, in the wake of BAFTA’s withdrawal of his credentials, the Motion Picture Academy of America is debating expelling Weinstein from their honoured ranks and Macron is taking away his Legion d’Honneur. (Yes, he was that good. While being bad, of course.) Petitions are being got up, police reluctantly stirring their bones to start raking through the muck of many lives. Not, I venture to suggest, because of the unique nature of his sexual predation, which is pretty much par for the course in the movie business; but because they know, they just fucking know, that this kind of thing has been going on since the silent movies started in the 1910s, probably since showbiz began in the 17th century, and they’ve ignored it until they couldn’t any longer.

This is not about injured women: it’s about the Oscars, about their ‘reputation’ which is, as it should be, scandalous.

As for ‘Hurricane’ Harvey, well, if he wasn’t so shy and retiring and was more ambitious to save his nation from lousy trade deals, it could be him in the White House, the police would not be investigating his gropings, and even high-minded women with PhDs and housewives in Peoria would be voting for him to grab their pussies.

Just sayin’.

*Oh sorry, we now have an account of Weinstein jerking off into a plant pot. Oh well. It takes all sorts.

x

Commander-in-Brief

As a record number of wildfires break out (probably set deliberately – arrests have followed) in northern Portugal and the neighbouring Spanish province of Galicia, despite all his problems with Catalonia the Spanish prime minister, Mariano Rajoy is rushing to his native region to oversee the firefighting and rescue operations (more than 30 people have been killed, adding to the 65 who died in fires in central Portugal last July.)

To date there is no record of US ‘Commander-in-Chief’ Donald Trump being bothered even to express sympathy and solidarity with the people of northern California, where over 40 are confirmed dead and ‘hundreds’ remain missing after fires driven by hot, dry winds devastated whole communities, destroying over 5 thousand homes around Santa Rosa. He has merely rubber-stamped an order sending the overstretched and underbudgeted FEMA emergencies management administration swinging into helpless action.

Googling “Trump visit California” brings up only: “Donald Trump will attend a dinner with Friends of Abe, a group of Hollywood conservatives, during a stop in Los Angeles.” Oh, sorry, that was NBC in July 2015.

Santa Rosa. A Mexican name…

Or could it just be that Trump lost the Sunshine State by 4 million votes on 08 November 2016, and hates Californians?

x

“How aware is Trump that his more intemperate and vengeful messages are being amplified by hostile actors to bring his country down…?”

Careless tweets cost lives

The Pumpkin drew your attention last week to the Rachel Maddow show on MSNBC and her summation of the latest media reports on the growing awareness of the extent of Russian interference in the US elections last year.

It’s clear the experiment goes on, as Tom McCarthy reports in the Guardian (Saturday 14th Oct):.

“What has now been made clear is that Russian trolls and automated bots not only promoted explicitly pro-Donald Trump messaging, but also used social media to sow social divisions in America by stoking disagreement and division around a plethora of controversial topics such as immigration and Islamophobia. And, even more pertinently, it is clear that these interventions are continuing…”

http://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2017/oct/14/russia-us-politics-social-media-facebook

In case anyone shrugs and says, oh well, what do you expect? It’s just trolls and bots and stuff, political advertising isn’t illegal. No, at least it is if it’s paid for by a foreign government – hence the use of ‘dark money’ funneled into politicians’ PACs via untraceable shell companies and laundered through US property deals – but there’s evidence that Trump’s frankly infantile and increasingly delusionary tweets are acting as a trigger for Russian fake social media accounts to amplify his bizarre messages in order to deepen the divisions in US political discourse.

“…social media accounts linked with Russian influence operations appear to have taken cues directly and immediately from the @realdonaldtrump Twitter account, according to analysis by the Washington-based Alliance for Securing Democracy…”

And on Bannon’s advice, Trump is already fundraising for “Re-elect Trump 2020”. The campaign has already started.

One example given was the spat between the fatuous orange oaf and the beleaguered Mayor of San Juan, Carmen Julin Cruz, over the humiliating ineffectuality of the Commander-in-Chief’s failed aid operation in the wake of hurricanes Irma and Maria, with stories spreading on Facebook about failures by the authorities on Puerto Rico, that hadn’t happened. Similar agitprop followed Trump’s much criticized outburst about the NFL ‘Black Lives Matter’ protests, calling San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick a ‘son of a bitch’ for refusing to stand for the national anthem.

How aware is Trump that his more intemperate and vengeful tweets are being amplified by hostile actors to bring his country down?

Indeed, was Trump not aware that Puerto Rico is an American dependency and that its residents have American citizenship? Not at first, it appears – hence, his contemptuously dismissive comments about them being a drain on the economy, how much worse had been the death toll from Hurricane Katrina (so with only 16 dead they should stop complaining), how they should pay back the money they owed America before he would support Congressional funding to improve their infrastructure, and how he ‘knew many Puerto Ricans’ whose migration to New York in the 1960s had ruined whole neighbourhoods.

If he is not completely ignorant about the status of Puerto Rico and its 3.5 million American citizens – many of them white – then the man is, in short, a racist fucking pig.

Does he understand that Facebook group pages such as Secured Borders, Texas Rebels, Being Patriotic, LGBT United and Blacktivists, specialist sites which put out a subtle mix of propaganda messages from fake accounts targeted at hundreds of thousands of real account holders identified as likely being either pro- or anti- the causes seemingly espoused, and which have been re-amplified to hundreds of millions of accounts, are all fake news – constructed by Russian intel operations?

Probably not. If he does, he’s a traitor and should be duly arraigned and jailed.

But apparently, it’s not against the law to conspire with a foreign state to rig your own election, provided of course you don’t tell the leader of that state in advance about your nuclear plans, or give away the intelligence secrets of your foreign allies…

Ooops.

But it appears the Russians aren’t the only ones playing Infowar-style games with the netizens of other countries. In a separate report, The Observer newspaper has been attempting to get to the bottom of a secret British campaign to influence Russian-speaking populations against the Putin regime in the border countries – Latvia. Lithuania, Belarus, Ukraine. Populations who might, as in Ukraine, welcome Russian expansionist moves. And they’ve discovered it’s so secret, a Parliamentary oversight committee can’t even find out where it’s being conducted:

“Britain’s broader package of assistance to Ukraine, which is engaged not just in a bitter conflict with Russian-backed separatists but also a propaganda war with the Kremlin, included £2.4m to help the Kiev government improve its communications strategy. The Observer has established that the money came from the £1bn-plus conflict, stability and security fund (CSSF), a source so secret that a committee of senior MPs and peers meant to be scrutinising it have been denied access to the names of the 40 countries where it is spent.”

Meanwhile, British intelligence has been ‘confirming’ that Iran was behind a cyber attack on the emails of British MPs back in June. It was thought to have been a Russian or North Korean operation, but now the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps is in the frame it will surely add fuel to Mr Trump’s anti-Iranian fire, in case British MPs are ever called upon to vote to go to war on his coattails.

We should note in passing, that since the Cameron government transferred the cost of running the BBC’s World Service broadcasts from the Foreign Office to the TV licence-payer in 2014, saving £46 million, the number of country-by-country services has been drastically reduced – North Korea among them. Now however it seems we’re ploughing £1 billion into a budget to transfer our black propaganda activities to the internet.

‘O tempora, O mores’, as someone once said. Boris Johnson, probably.

x has been tryhing to delve into a secret campaign Britain is running in the

Granny W. with her skirts a blowin’ about her ears…

 

Republic of Ireland: Three dead, property damage, tens of thousands without power after “ex-hurricane” Ophelia transits the entire island from SW to NE. US National Hurricane Center abandons attempt to track it as no storm has previously survived that far east as a hurricane in the Atlantic. Unusual ‘orange sunrise’ observed, owing to particles sucked from the Sahara and Portuguese wildfires. But it may not be over yet:

“A broad area of low pressure was located about 200 miles north of the Turks and Caicos Islands at noon Monday, and was headed north at about 15 mph. This system (92L) has the potential to develop into a tropical depression by Tuesday night as it moves near Bermuda. … long-range model runs predict that the remnants of 92L will be absorbed by a powerful extratropical low-pressure system later this week, which will go on to give Ireland another battering on Friday and Saturday, as a 960 mb low-pressure system.”

Antarctica: Only two Adelie penguin chicks have been spotted alive out of more than 40 thousand of this season’s hatchlings, owing to ice formation that has extended the normal foraging range for the adult birds by 100 km; while unusual amounts of rainfall have caused endemic hypothermia among the starving chicks. It’s the second time an entire hatch has been lost in the past four years, threatening the survival of the species*. Scientists are struggling to understand this counterintuitive weather pattern but suggest rapid ice melt on land and from the shelves is increasing the fresh water extent around the continent, fresh water freezing at a higher temperature than saline.

Autumn colours at Winston Churchill’s Blenheim Palace. (BBC)

UK: “The BBC weather report was presented by Sarah Keith-Lucas today who looked absolutely stunning in a plum jacket. Wrapping up her incredible figure in the outerwear, she stepped in for Carol Kirkwood and delivered the forecast from Hyde Park, London. The 35-year-old told viewers it will be a fairly cloudy start but temperatures will be on the rise.”

So clever! Not only is this the sort of antediluvian crap journalism we have to put up with from the Daily Express newspaper (the item was written by a woman), the forecast going on to promise drier, sunnier weather later on was spectacularly wrong! It’s been raining all day here in the West, overcast with continual drizzle punctuated by heavier showers. But as is often their way, on alternate days when there’s nothing rude to say about politicians who don’t want the hardest possible Brexit, the Excess is front-page forecasting the apocalypse on Monday when Hurricane Ophelia makes land.

Who knows what fetching colours editor Hugh Whittow (age 14 3/4) is wearing today.

On the subject of Autumn, having bogld extensively last Spring on the astonishing acceleration of biomass in our valley, I’ve been meaning to mention how early many of our trees have dropped their leaves without bothering first to look pretty. It’s nothing like Blenheim! Usually it takes a sharp frost to sever the axils of the leaves from the twigs, but there’s been no frost at all yet, it’s been unusually mild and it’s already mid-October. I suspect trees know when a windy Autumn storm threatens to blow them down if they don’t quickly shed some of that bulk.

*Here’s a modest proposal. Penguins need rocky foreshore to feed and breed, but the meltwater in the Antarctic continues to create too much ice. Polar bears need pack-ice to fish from but dry land to breed, and they’re drowning as the Arctic melts. Why not round up enough polar bears and penguins to create viable breeding colonies and transpose them: penguins to the Arctic and polar bears to the Antarctic, where the habitat remains suitable for each to thrive?

Vietnam: Following days of heavy rain and over 30 deaths (Sat: 54) due to a tropical depression, northern Vietnam is now in the path of Cat 1 typhoon Khanun, forecast to weaken slightly to a tropical depression by the time it makes landfall on Tuesday.

Philippines: one dead as main Luzon island battered by Tropical Storm Odette bringing strong winds and heavy rain.

Thailand: large areas of Chiang Mai city and the capital, Bangkok, underwater due to heavy rains.

Bolivia: Massive hailstorm batters Sucre. City streets turn to surging rivers of ice, etc. State of emergency declared.

Portugal: “…hundreds of wildfires (fanned by strong winds from passing Hurricane Ophelia) have forced residents to flee from towns and villages in the country’s worst weekend of the year – more than 500 fires broke out on Sunday, most suspected deliberately set. The national civil protection authority said 27 people had been killed in central and northern Portugal; three people have been reported dead in northern Spain. The death toll is likely to rise.” (Edited report)

Portugal and Canary Islands both experiencing record high temperatures for October, around 37C, 98F. Midday temperatures in the eastern USA, SE Australia, Saudi Arabia (40C, 102F), west central Africa, central China and up in the Arctic remain anomalously high for the time of year. UK temperatures also in the mid-20sC, high for the time of year, and setting record nighttime levels up to 17C (62F).

BBC News/ Wikipedia/ Weather Underground/ Climate and Extreme Weather News #73/ The Guardian

 

I am somewhat put out

The BBC’s excellent new Sunday-night drama series, The Last Post is set in Aden in 1965, at the time of a local rebellion against the British occupation.

The sun sets on the Empire. (Thesun.co.uk)

I was, I confess, 15 years old at the time, a recalcitrant teenage schoolboy. I didn’t have much notion of what young conscripts not much older than myself were getting up to in far-flung corners of the British empire, but the stuffy, rectitudinal attitudes and stiff upper-lips ring true, as does the somewhat matey relationships between the NCOs and enlisted men and the officers stranded on their army base, with only alcohol, smoking, adultery with the officers’ wives and leisuretime at the ‘BP Club’ to relieve the monotony – until some tribal blows your head off from 300 yards and vanishes into the endless desert.

Anyway, 1956 and the Suez debacle did eventually put an end to all that, and by the time I left school both conscription and capital punishment had been abolished and the Sexual Offences Act introduced. Saved by the bell. While the contemporary music that threads through the episodes – Dusty Springfield, Ketty Lester – and the furniture whose reproductions 50 years later I have been acquiring to improve my little cottage, ’60s retro being fashionable now, have immediate resonance with me. It’s all part – a small part, nevertheless a part – of my makeup.

Which is why I’m somewhat put out to see that The Last Post is listed on the iPlayer catch-up service under ‘Period Drama’…. Is that me now?

Period?

 

 

 

The Pumpkin – Issue 23. Grenfell: Oven foil. Trump: Blood libel. Cough Please, That’ll be 50 dollars. Plus: Voters on a roll; and: Putting all his eggs in one Brexit.

“Aw, Miliband only had to eat one sandwich and it was curtains for him.” (Mr Mogg takes tea at the Leadsoms.)

Photo: Ken McKay/ITV/REX/Shutterstock

Oven foil

“Its chief executive, Robert Bond, is understood to have told Gould in a letter that her “inflammatory statements are highly damaging to our reputation and our business and will be defended by us in the strongest terms possible”.” – The Guardian, 30 June

Thus the firm that fitted the lethal cladding to Grenfell Tower responded to the leader of Camden Council, Ms Georgia Gould, with a threat to sue her for ‘damage to their reputation’, after she expressed disappointment that the polystyrene-filled aluminium-foil panels Camden had paid them to fit on their own high-rise blocks had failed safety tests, along with the interiors, resulting in the evacuation of hundreds of residents in the middle of the night.

Irony is truly dead on both sides of the Atlantic.

Mr Bond is clearly unaware of what his lawyers wrote in reply, otherwise he would surely have removed the word ‘inflammatory’ before clearing it for press release.

He seems also to be unaware that regardless of the outcome of the inquiry his company no longer has a ‘reputation’, certainly not of the kind he would prefer, and will have to start building one all over again.

There are reputation-management agencies that specialize in putting these things right, if he cares to Google one. He can form an orderly queue behind Kensington and Chelsea Council’s jug-eared leader, the impermeable Mr Nick Paget-Brown.

Postscriptum: Five minutes after saving this Post, in a fast-moving news environment Mr Paget-Brown has obviously seen what I wrote and announced that he will do the honourable thing as soon as anyone else can be found who is too cloth-eared and rhino-skinned to refuse the opportunity of hauling the Royal Borough through the rest of this unholy mess. Deputy ‘Rock’ Feilden-whatever has also announced he is stepping down. I don’t suppose knighthoods will follow, but at least they’ll escape the twitstorm.

Claiming that time would show there had been no lack of help or leadership from the council in the wake of the fire, last night Mr Brown terminated a cabinet meeting rather than face questions from his own councillors, having just discovered there were journalists in the press gallery. Journalists who had had to get an emergency High Court injunction to be allowed in; unlike the relatives and survivors kept outside for fear of ‘disturbances’. This morning word came from Number Ten: Theresa is displeased.

Our public officials and company directors are just completely fucking clueless, aren’t they?

Being largely white, middle-aged, conservative boobies-in-bubbles, they obviously have no idea of the way the world has been changed by social media to ensure that no-one can now get away with these kinds of incompetence, evasions, bluster and bullying. Their lives and those of their blameless ghastly wives and children will become a perpetual misery until they throw their hands up and resign.

The current issue of Private Eye magazine contains a horrifying litany of Tory refusals at local and national government level over the past seven years to pay the slightest heed to public and expert concerns about fire safety in social housing and schools, largely on the grounds that any regulation is bad for business. Not just refusals, but actual sneering at people’s wimpish requests for antediluvian safety standards to be updated.

Thus, the strategy of the Brexit leave campaigners, of Trump, to put about the nonsense that the needs of the ‘business community’ (a bunch of undereducated, overpaid sexist bores in bad suits, with bad-breath and dandruff for brains, basically) must necessarily for the sake of the nation be placed above any consideration of human life and dignity. (It’s not, incidentally, something which the majority of business owners in the UK insist on, it’s just Tory dogma that they do.)

The current Communities Secretary, Mr Sajid Javed, for instance, who now finds himself having to oversee the government’s response to the Grenfell Tower tragedy, was responsible previously as Mr Cameron’s Business Secretary for a Tory initiative to deregulate, among other sectors, the building industry, the ‘red-tape challenge’, in a race to the bottom of the heap to save £10 billion.

His predecessor, the morbidly obese Mr Eric Pickles, is said to have responded to a possibly costly Welsh Assembly initiative to fit sprinklers and save lives in social housing with a witty tweet: ‘Will the last housebuilder driven out by Labour from Wales to England please turn off the cement mixer?’

Fat cunt, as the trollers say.

Rock on

These fatuous and cynical, self-serving oafs will, one assumes, never share any of the responsibility for the disaster. Meanwhile, we are learning that the safer type of cladding originally specified in the Grenfell Tower contract was substituted at the last minute by one costing £293,000 less to please the deputy leader of KCBC, the improbably named Mr Rock Feilding-Mellon, who had been moaning about the budget and the colour scheme.

The report is in The Times but you have to pass a paywall to read it.

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“He is seriously psychotic and must be removed from the White House immediately. This is no longer funny…”

Blood libel

Childe Donald has been at it again.

Only women bleed.

In a bizarre early morning assault on cable news channel MSNBC’s soon-to-be-married presentation couple, ex-Congressman ‘Morning Joe’ Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski, daughter of former Carter White House security advisor, Zbig – holder of the Order of the White Eagle (‘officially instituted on 1 November 1705 by Augustus II the Strong’) – among a fusillade of childish insults Trump tweeted that they had begged him to visit Mar a Lago ‘for three days’ at Christmas but he wouldn’t let them stay because she was ‘bleeding heavily from the face’ after having plastic surgery.

In fact, age 50 she had recently had a chin-tuck; rather less surgery than most residents of Palm Beach. Photographic evidence shows no sign of heavy bleeding, but we know what Mr Trump thinks of photographic evidence and we are surprised he has not convened a commission at public cost to examine the evidence for signs of tampering. Mr Trump too, seems remarkably taut around his demented old eyes for a man of 71.

Mika B’s offence had been to poke fun at the notoriously thin-skinned president, alluding to a request from Time magazine that Trump take down a fake cover he seems to have had designed-up with his own face on it, framed copies of which had been found adorning the walls of several of his tacky golf resorts; a story that originated with the New York Times, adding copyright theft to his list of many crimes.

On the show this morning, the couple contradicted Trump’s version, saying that he had invited them (shades of Guess Who’s Comey to Dinner?); that Joe had gone alone but Trump had insisted in his best Godfather style that Mika also came, that she interviewed Melania (‘who I like very much’) for 20 minutes and then they left.

The story got weirder when Scarborough revealed that someone on the Trump team had previously tried to blackmail him, telling him in a phone call that the notorious fake news tabloid the National Enquirer had a salacious story on the couple ready to print but they would spike it if he stopped criticizing the President. Followers of the show look away, but Scarborough was a big Trump supporter until the scales fell from his eyes as things started to get really, really bad.

(You’ll never hear any of this from the BBC, that continues to maunder on appreciatively as though Trump was not a significant risk to humanity and a cannon so loose you’d never catch up with it, but just the President of the United States on a normal day at the office.)

Where it all shades into a Stephen King novel is that, according to Scarborough today, Trump had previously gone off on a rant about Brzezinski in front of an entire room of Republican politicians, again fantasising about her bleeding from her ‘eyes, from her ears’… Something, Joe said, his informant had found ‘frightening’.

Then there was that other precedent when, after one of the candidates’ debates, he described the interlocutor, Megyn Kelly (late) of Fox News, who had asked him a pointed question about his referring to women as ‘fat pigs, dogs, slobs and disgusting animals’, as a ‘bimbo’ and claimed she too was bleeding: ‘she had blood coming out of her eyes, blood coming out of her – wherever’.

He is seriously psychotic and must be removed from the White House immediately. This is no longer funny. To have elected a president who openly fantasises about women bleeding from the eyes and the vagina, and who has frequently boasted of assaulting women in the belief that they welcome it because he is so rich and powerful – he’s not actually wealthy, he appears to be a net debtor, along with his entire shitty cut-price TV crime-family – is a devastating wound on America that has to be cauterized.

That the revolting old slug almost certainly relied on the furore his tweets would create – indeed, even many leading Republicans were appalled, although they don’t dare impeach him for what it might do to their funding – to draw attention away from any other disturbing things he might have been doing since yesterday, the Muslim ban perhaps, ‘Trumpcare’, Russiagate or his renewed threats against China and North Korea, against Germany and NATO, where do you stop?, is not a reason to doubt that the very real nature of the disturbing sexual fantasies which he shares with the nation ought to result in his being removed to a secure unit, pdq.

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A half-Nelson with dumb stuff

In advance of the G20 at which he has been booked to go head to head with his macho money-idol Mr Putin, Mr Trump has stepped outside the ring of Presidential gravitas with an internet video ‘meme’ he has had produced, portraying him (in a suit) at a wrestling bout assaulting and overpowering a character with a CNN logo for a head, before being victoried with a raised arm by the hunky black wrestler in the ring.

The 45th and last President of the United States of America counts to ten. Missing nine.

He has actually spent your and my tax dollars on this witty but somewhat crapulous ‘meme’, a one-man party-political his dumbfucks are just going to love, so illiberal and unelitist is it, so not at all clever, so redolent of their own fuckwittedness. Dumb stuff rules, okay?

It’s a bit liberal snowflakey of me, but I know, and you know, that when their parents and kids start dying from curable illnesses they can’t afford to pay tens of thousands of dollars to treat, just maybe a tiny light will go on in their mushy brains.

But by then the Tangerine Dream will have told them, it’s all Obama’s fault.

And they’ll go yeah, right. Obama.

He was a bad dude. Re-elect the Orb!

Death is good.

 

Postscriptum: The Pumpkin recently speculated that billionaire Republicans might be planning to escape from the uninhabitable cinder their greed is turning the world into, by starting a colony on Mars. Lo and behold, Commander Trump yesterday held a hastily convened conference to announce that he is reviving a long-defunct quango, the National Space Council, to drive toward a colony on Mars.

“Our travels beyond the Earth propel scientific discoveries that improve our lives in countless ways here,” Trump drivelled, listing “new industry, technology and space security” among the benefits. (Washington Post)

Odd, coming from a President who has signed countless Executive Orders in his first weeks in office destroying scientific research, raising trade barriers and putting heavily polluting dinosaur industries centre-stage of his doomed plan for economic revival.

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“Even other Republican Congressmen hadn’t seen the ‘final’ version until it was announced on Tuesday night…”

Cough please. That’ll be fifty dollars

According to a KFF Kaiser Foundation poll, only 38 per cent of Americans have so far understood that the so-called Obamacare replacement health bill currently in front of the Senate provides for $800 billion cuts to their basic Medicaid care program.

Sixty-two per cent have no idea what is in the bill. Many Trump supporters among them still believe his pre-election campaign promises to substitute Obama’s ‘failing’ (actually, pretty successful) American Healthcare program with something much, much more beautiful and have not bothered to check the horrifying truth.

That the Affordable Healthcare Act is going to force – not 22 million, the latest estimate is 32 million – mostly children and elderly people and people with pre-existing medical conditions from the poor and lower middle-class – out of health insurance altogether; while it gives carte blanche to the drug companies and clinics to raise prices.

The cuts in the Medicare and Medicaid safety-net programs to fund a tax giveaway to the top 1% will then finish them off; the implication being that this is yet another Republican attack on the black and ethnic minority communities, to go with their attempts to force such people off the voting rolls in many states.

‘Obamacare’ took seven years to pass both houses of Congress and underwent hundreds of amendments and thousands of hours of debate. The AHCA – ‘Trumpcare’, has had a paltry few hours of consideration by a select cabal of conservative Republican Senators in closed-door sessions. Even other Congressmen hadn’t seen the ‘final’ version until it was announced on Tuesday night, and it’s actually worse news than the original bill that passed the house of Representatives last month; a bill even Mr Trump derided as ‘mean’.

So ashamed of this shit was the supine old Trump-sucking leader of the Senate, Mitch McConnell, that he had to postpone a final vote scheduled for last Thursday over the 4th of July holidays to allow for some reconsideration.

Meanwhile, many house Republicans are now deeply worried that if they don’t pass the bill, billionaire backers allied to the notorious Koch Brothers might defund their hugely expensive re-election campaigns next year; while if they do support it, the voters will eventually cotton on to what they’ve done and kick them out anyway.

So in the meantime, two things have happened.

One, Mr Trump is luxuriating in the furore created by his over-the-top disgusting campaign of insults and blackmail tweeted at the MSNBC presenters Joe and Mika, which is ongoing. This has provided helpful distraction from criticism of all the other disgusting things he has been doing, of which more in a mo.

Two, it is diverting media attention from the Wall Street Journal story that an elderly party fixer called Peter Smith, who died in March, had given them an interview in which he confessed to having put together a ‘team’, including computer specialists and a Russian interpreter, to try to get the Russians to release the Hillary Clinton ‘private server’ emails to the Republican party – and that he was reporting to, among others on the Trump campaign, General Flynn.

Mr Smith, it seems, was responsible twenty-three years ago for masterminding a Republican campaign to discredit President Bill Clinton. In what came to be known as the Troopergate scandal, two State troopers were persuaded to lie about escorting the married President to private assignations with a number of women and standing guard while he, er, dallied.

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“The Nuremberg Race Laws formed the cornerstone of Nazi racial policy. Their introduction in September 1935 heralded a new wave of antisemitic legislation that brought about immediate and concrete segregation.” – Holocaust Encyclopedia

On a roll

Resistance is reportedly growing among State officials to a letter demanding that they hand over to a special inquiry Mr Trump has set up to look into ‘voter fraud’ at the last election, complete lists of voters amounting to more than 200 million registrations, including details of their religious and voting affiliations, social security numbers, military service records and much, much more.

Appointed by Mr Trump to head the inquiry is Mr Chris Kobach, an obsessive anti-immigration campaigner who has lobbied assiduously for a national register of Muslims, similar to the one ordered of the Jews by the Nazis in 1935.

“As Secretary of State of Kansas, he has implemented some of the strictest voter ID legislation in the nation and has fought to remove nearly 20,000 properly registered voters from the state’s voter rolls. After considerable investigation and prosecution, Kobach secured six convictions for voter fraud; all were cases of double voting.” – Wikipedia

Insane, clearly. Another one.

Faced with a revolt by 44 state governors, one of whom suggested Mr Kobach could ‘go jump in the Gulf of Mexico’, a furious Mr Trump has come out with a strong statement demanding to know what they have to hide?

More to the point, what is he hiding?

It is yet another of Mr Trump’s famous diversionary tactics, an irrelevant accusation making the Governors the villains and inciting his dumbfuck supporters, who will undoubtedly interpret just the question as clear evidence of wrongdoing, there being no smoke without fire. (The smoke/fire principle of course does not hold good in relation to the FBI’s protracted investigations into their golden hero’s murky financial dealings and possibly treasonous activities, of which there is obviously not a shred of proof.)

The answer is probably nothing, as Mr Trump’s claim that ‘three, maybe five million’ illegal voters deprived him of an overall majority of the popular vote, which went to the hated rival Hillary Clinton, has already been thoroughly investigated by independent experts and found to be wholly without foundation.

The number of duplicated or illegal votes, they found, was vanishingly small.

Mr Trump, however, has never accepted that he did not win, both in the Electoral College (which he won) and overall in the popular vote. Like a dog at a bone, he cannot let the knowledge go that Mrs Clinton proved more popular with 2.8 million voters, it sears his soul that he is not universally loved and admired for his great successes.

Meanwhile as the farce continues, in which Mr Trump’s fragile ego syndrome hogs centre stage, the Middle East is falling apart; relations with the Chinese have sunk back into South China Sea, North Korea remains unresolved, Gen Mattis still wants to invade Iran and over a thousand administrative posts remain unfilled; including 500 at the State Department, where Secretary Tillexxon is tearing his hair out for lack of support.

So, as with everything he does, you are left wondering whether the Orb is just vindictive, untutored, thin-skinned, childish and senile, or whether there is some underlying rationale, some strategy behind the endless self-incriminating abusive tweets, the rain of Executive Orders (many of which cannot be carried out without a vote in Congress), the huge waste of public money and growing loss of confidence among America’s allies around the world, the mounting contempt and shame at home for his Presidency, reversing all the limited progress made under his hated (more popular) predecessor.

If you want to know where this obsession with voter numbers is headed, what this unprecedented and probably illegal demand for supposedly private voter details is about, remember two things:

One, it is the clear aim of the Republican majority to gerrymander the vote in their favour by disenfranchising tens of thousands of Democrat voters, kicking them off the rolls before next year’s midterms. This was partly what the Russian intervention was about, to get at the voter data. The information which Kobach initially said would be publicly available, but has now rowed-back and said will be confidential (except to the security forces, Russian hackers and anyone who will pay for it, presumably), is invaluable in the process of controlling the mass of the American people.

And two, Mr Trump vowed many times on the campaign trail to remove all Muslims from American soil; a policy clearly espoused by the likes of Steve Bannon, funded by the spectacularly rich alt-right orthodox Christian fundamentalists, Bob and ‘Bekah Mercer, and others who have espoused the cause of a holy war against both the forces of Islam and scientific modernism in the USA.

To date, in six months a furious Trump has managed to force through almost none of his legislative program, which is why the Healthcare bill means so much to him. He complains that the opposition Democrats keep inconveniently opposing him, he continues to blame Obama for everything (when he is not screaming abuse at his staff), he refuses to initiate any action over Russia’s role in the election… blaming Obama for that as well.

And he is a bad enemy to make. For, as Melania’s PR has tweeted, you hit him once, he hits you back ten times. A true son of Roy Cohn, the ruthless Mafia solicitor ‘friend of the family’ who figured so large in the young Donald’s business education, let’s hope she is not speaking from bitter experience.

Nevertheless he is determined to force through somehow, by hook or by crook, all the absurd, overblown promises of Bannon’s nihilistic, destructive policies he made last year to the dementedly screaming, hate-filled dumbfucks in a hundred aircraft hangars across America; egged on by Flynn and his Russian observers.

So to find out what happens next, after Mr Trump and the Republican party fixers get to know exactly who is voting where, how and out of what conviction, and to what religious creed they affiliate, you should turn to:

http://www.ushmm.org/wlc/en/article.php?ModuleId=10007901

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Steel yourselves

‘And finally’… only joking, finality is a pipedream.

Despite overwhelming evidence and advice that it would be a disastrous move and lead to a global trade war, the Golden Orb has announced yet another inquiry, this time into how Chinese aluminum and steel prices are destroying American jobs and are thus A Bad Deal for Murca.

It is simply impossible to believe this disastrous tangerine effigy actually cares a damn about American workers, otherwise he would not be so keen to kill them all off. So one has to assume he imagines slapping a 20% tariff on imported Chinese steel, of the kind he uses in his own construction businesses and his new friends, the Kochs, use in their tar-oil pipelines, will somehow benefit their employers. (Things go better with Koch.)

“China has many predatory practices in the way they deal with us, with intellectual property and trade barriers for us.” – said Trump, reverting to his old gripes against China after a brief period in which he was being nice to them in the hope that his new ‘friend’ Mr Xi would clobber North Korea for us.

Mr Xi has clearly made the mistake of not fulfilling the loyalty pledge Mr Trump squeezed out of him over sticky chocolate cake at Mar a Lago.

These are presumably the same ‘predatory practices’ in ‘intellectual property’ that have seen Mr Trump and his non-US slave-employing daughter, feminist icon Ivanka, gain more than fifty exclusive product licences between them – including one for Trump-branded prostitution – using a Xi-ordained fast-track that might otherwise have taken them millennia to obtain.

There’s no gratitude among oligarchs.

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All his eggs in one Brexit

Richard Cuck, seen wearing second prize at the Portadown horse show.

Does this slackjawed man look genetically damaged to you? No, he doesn’t much to me either. Just a mite depressed. You don’t get that Louis Vuitton luggage under the eyes at his young age by not imbibing copious drafts of misery juice.

No need to worry, though. Mr Richard Cook (for it is he) won the EU referendum. We’re leaving, God knows how – when, or why. Possibly it was due to an unexpected donation to the Leave campaign from Mrs May’s new friends in the Democratic Unionist Party, who are refusing to say where the money came from.

The caption to the photo in The Guardian says : ‘Richard Cook, the chairman of the Constitutional Research Council, which has no website, publishes no accounts and is not obliged to reveal its donors.’ Photograph: Universal News And Sport (Europe).

The CRC appears to be a by-blow of Mr Cook’s own small business, Cook Consulting, and a temporary parking-lot he registered, Five Star Investments. Another director of CRC/Five Star was listed as Mr Peter Haestrup, a Dane.

According to The Guardian: “Haestrup was named in an investigation into an arms scandal in 1995. Hundreds of AK-47s, anti-tank grenades, pistols and rocket launchers were dropped from a transport plane into West Bengal in what the Indian authorities described as “the biggest crime in the country’s history”.

No wonder Mr Cook looks so worried. Vengeful Thuggees might emerge at any moment from the undergrowth with death in their eyes.

Entirely concidentally, Richard – a former vice-chairman of the Scottish Conservative and Unionist Party –  also has interests in former West Bengal. Fancy that! The Guardian reports once more: ‘In 2012 his company, Cook Consulting, signed agreements to deliver environmental projects in Karachi worth more than £600m.’

A 13 July, 2012 BBC report reprinted what reads like a stock press release hailing the agreement, which mainly consisted of a £550 million desalination plant to provide drinking water to the city. The story gave no indication as to where Cook was getting the money: another blind alley. Mr Cook’s sources remain just as opaque four years on.

The absence of any evidence of Mr Cook’s finances is linked with a substantial donation, almost half a million pounds, in advance of the Brexit vote, via our new friends the Democratic Unionists (DUP), to the Leave.EU campaign and current Go On, Let’s Leave the EU as Painfully as Possible minister, the freshfaced empire-loyalist Tory baboon, Mr Steve Baker.

In default of a Leave vote in Northern Ireland, the money is said to have found its way to the UK mainland via a special dispensation that says donations received in the Six Counties don’t have to be declared to the Electoral Commission, in case they explode or perhaps come from one banned organization or another.

“In his register of interests, Baker states: “As chair of the European Research Group (ERG), I accepted £6,500 from the Constitutional Research Council to fund hospitality for ERG members and their staff at an event on 19 December 2016.”

So that can’t explain the total donation of £435,000, most of which according to The Guardian was spent on printing and distributing a ‘wraparound supplement’ to the Evening Standard newspaper, a modest enough project urging Londoners to vote Brexit – which they didn’t by a majority of 2:1, so that was a bit of a waste. Never mind! We’re OUT!

Ah, these think-tanks. Endless hospitality, ’tis a wonder they have time to think. You often wonder, too, where they get the money – who from, and what for. Possibly from wealthy speculators keen to advance their private interests, bypassing the tedious framework of democracy? Who can say.

While, bizarrely – perhaps like Alan Bennett he is 40 years older than he looks, or just one of those people you occasionally see written-up in colour supplements as having an unusual hobby – Cook:

“…like Baker, has been a supporter of the Freedom Association, the organization founded by a group of Tory MPs alarmed by the rise of trade unions and Irish republicanism.”

Neither cause has been exactly fresh in the public mind since the Thatcher era. But you know Unionists, easily alarmed.

Not all the money appears to have filtered through Northern Ireland to the mainland, though. Some went west.

According to Open Democracy UK, there appears to have been a payment of £32,000 to a Canadian company thought not to be many miles through snow-tracked wastes from Aggregate IQ, an obscure data analytics firm and referendum fixer whose ownership is, according to the Observer (articles passim), traceable to Mr Robert Mercer, the multibillionaire hedge-fund manager, ultra-orthodox Christian ‘disruptor’ and IT whizz behind the Breitbart News website.

The exact origin of the money remains shrouded in the misty Celtic twilight. Except that the third director of Cook’s short-lived Scottish-registered company, Five Star Investments – now wound up – is a known Saudi Arabian intelligence officer.

Now, a noted conspiracy theorist, I can imagine any number of reasons why the Saudis might want us out of Europe, but it’s hard to articulate one.

The Pumpkin should have thought the deal might possibly have attracted a more productive investigation as a possible case of money-laundering, than as a breach of the pathetic and toothless Electoral Commission’s barely enforceable rules on cross-border political donations and election spending.

Luckily, the Serious Fraud Office is being wound-up also and merged with the stationery purchasing department at Mrs May’s whizzo new National Crime Agency, so the DUP can sleep easy on their £billion pile, another cash bonanza from the endlessly gullible British taxpayer when it comes to Northern Ireland.

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All Change…

In the space of four days:

  • More than 35 wildfires are burning across the SW United States. The uncontrollable fire at Brian Head in Utah has consumed over 54 thousand acres and continues to spread. The forecast is for continuing 95 deg. heat and rising windspeeds. (Less than a month ago, the governor of Arkansas was declaring a federal emergency owing to extreme flooding and storms.)
  • A flash flood has left parts of Mexico City underwater. (A number of people were killed the previous week including eleven trapped in a bus in floods and landslides in Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador.)
  • Multiple wildfires are reported in Siberia as the boreal forest and tundra continue to blaze due to record temperatures ‘not seen in the past 10 thousand years’, according to Russian meteorologists. Krasnoyarsk sweltered in 37 deg. C. last week and is still in the mid-20s this week. In the North Caucasus, record rainfall has caused devastating flash floods. Moscow has been hit for the second time in five weeks by an abnormally violent thunderstorm, leaving two dead and a dozen injured.
  • Gerona in Spain was battered on Friday by a freak hailstorm, leaving rivers of ice two feet deep flowing through the streets. Watch it at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sqfa6do4u50, at 25’30” in, it’s a most bizarre sight. 150 mm of rain falling in a few hours has left parts of Berlin underwater.
  • Greece has a 42 deg. C-plus heatwave, with wildfires and melting roads.
  • The city of Chennai in drought-stricken Tamil Nadu state, India, has run out of water and rationing has been tightened. North of there large parts of Assam state are underwater, as are neighbouring areas of Pakistan, with deaths reported.
  • More severe flood warnings are out across Hunan province, central China, but the list of Chinese regions afflicted with major floods is over 40, too long to include.

(Climate and Extreme Weather News #39, 26-30 June/Floodlist.com)

Our money or your life. A thing of beauty is a joy until the neighbours move in: Welsh news. Meanwhile, in faraway Portugal…

The prophetically named Torch building in Dubai. Nobody died.

“The lifts weren’t working so we had to walk down 72 flights of stairs with everyone, that took about 10 minutes as there were people carrying their children and babies and people who just weren’t fit enough to get down the stairs.”  

– The Telegraph.

London, North Kensington, 15 June, 2017? No… Dubai, the Gulf of Arabia, 20 February 2015.

 

“The speed with which the fire spread has been paced by the speed with which politicians and the media have rushed to take up entrenched positions.”

Our money or your life

Look. The BogPo isn’t going to minimise the horror of what happened at Grenfell House two nights ago. Nothing could.

It seems unlikely that if the fire brigade and the police ever do manage to locate and recover all the remains of those who died and identify them, that the death toll is going to be less than 100. It may be a lot higher – there were possibly up to 600 people in the building. Most of them would have been asleep and known nothing of the fire until it was too late.

Virtually no-one escaped from above the 18th floor. There was no fire alarm, no sprinkler system – only one stairway all the way to the 24th floor. We believe Britain is one of the few countries in the world that permits this. It appears that refurbishment works may have included a new gas main installed for speed and cheapness within the supposedly fire-resistant stairway and not fireproofed. Fire barriers may have been removed to facilitate pipework and not replaced. If there was a smoke-clearance system, it failed. Perhaps mercifully: the victims would have been unconscious before the fire reached them.

The safety advice was to stay put and wait to be rescued. It was the wrong advice in the circumstances, although it has worked in tower-block fires elsewhere; fires that were contained, deliberately, by the design of the building.

Certainly, something caused what the extraordinary firemen who ran into that inferno could not explain at the time, the pattern and rapid spread of the fire. If the whole building had acted as a gas burner, with a forced draught up the open stairway, it might possibly explain it; giving rise to the unthinkable image of a giant fan-assisted oven.

Media attention, however, has focussed on two main aspects: the fire that visibly took hold of the cladding of the building; requiring, one feels, no further ‘evidence’ to present to the cladding industry – and the idea that it was all the fault of the rich people living in the des-res Georgian squares around about, a symptom of our Victorian attitude to the working-class.

But really, it has been ever thus: and how else does our market-led economic system allow things to be? What did we expect? Poor people have been dying in shoddy buildings since the Romans were here.

Yet the Guardian‘s veteran socialist, Polly Toynbee, approaches her column thus:

“That tower is austerity in ruins. Symbolism is everything in politics and nothing better signifies the May-Cameron-Osborne era that stripped bare the state and its social and physical protection of citizens. The horror of poor people burned alive within feet of the country’s grandest mansions, many of them empty, moth-balled investments, perfectly captures the politics of the last seven years. The Cameron, Osborne, Gove Notting Hill set live just up the road.”

The idea that, for instance, the Thatcher or even the Blair years guaranteed the happy, healthy lives of all our citizens until neoliberals and well-heeled Tory bastards betrayed the working-class and made them less safe is vacuous political claptrap. Yes, London, the ‘Great Wen’ is an otiose example of economic inequality; it always was, and always will be. It might be of interest to know how much Ms Toynbee’s own residence is worth, at current value? Does she feel it makes her personally responsible for the residents of Grenfell Tower?

***

As may be seen from the photo above of the fatefully named Dubai ‘Torch’ building, at 79 storeys one of the highest residential blocks in the world, the cladding is well alight. What you’re not seeing is the fire taking hold of the whole of the interior, as it did with Grenfell Tower. Clearly, from the photographs it looks as though in the Grenfell incident there were two separate issues, with the fire spreading both inside and out. Could the new double-glazed windows also have been a factor? Photographs show the uPVC frames  comprehensively melted, allowing the windows to fall out and the blazing cladding to enter the rooms.

(Postscriptum – it seems otherwise difficult to understand how a fridge-freezer bursting into flames in a kitchen, now the official line on the source of the fire, would have ignited the external cladding?)

Plus, of course, there is the third issue, which is that local authority-owned Grenfell Tower was refurbished in perhaps too much of a hurry, and, perhaps, as cheaply as possible: £8.7 million, to bring a 1970s block of 124 flats up to something resembling modern standards; while management of the building was farmed out to a privatized entity, the Kensington and Chelsea Tenant Management Organisation.

This was a typical local authority fudge designed to save public money at a time when government austerity measures, of which the country has grown tired after eight years – and an ideological commitment to the free market – have led to a mad belief that the private sector will deliver where the public sector cannot. In fact, it’s only led to worse cost-cutting and a loss of control and oversight, visible as much in the built environment as it’s been invisible in the social care sector for several years.

Yet it has to be taken into account that there is enormous pressure on London local authorities to find accommodation for the 100 thousand overseas workers who arrive every year to service the insatiable needs of a city growing in wealth and power; virtually a state-within-a-state, yet one which has failed – especially during the eight-year reign of the mayoral buffoon, Boris Johnson – to make adequate provision for its less well-off inhabitants amid the ‘garden bridge’, the ‘Crossrail project’ and the whatever it is, cycle ‘highway’ – vanity projects that have brought chaos to the gridlocked city.

And you have to admit, Kensington and Chelsea council did authorize the money, were spending £8.7 million pounds on IMPROVING conditions for their lower-paid workers, did presumably act with the best of intentions, however ultimately disastrous. They could not have known, although their consultants must have foreseen, that the building was absolutely not safe to sign-off. They did not set out deliberately to murder possibly several hundred residents through the malign application of inequitable standards for poorer people, that is not what local authorities do, by and large. They do their best with what they’ve got.

While the cladding was obviously a cosmetic improvement on the bare, rain-stained 1970s brutalist concrete, making Grenfell less of an eyesore for the rich folks in their leafy squares and for motorists coming in on the Hammersmith flyover, there was a clear benefit in that the flats were previously very poorly insulated; a health risk. The main function of cladding is to improve heat retention and make the units more, not less, habitable: social progress, of a sort.

Nevertheless the rightwing press is blaming the ‘green’ movement: EU environmentalism gone mad – for the addition of the panels. How confused can normally rational people get? It’s a safety issue, were the panels fireproof or not? It’s not a reason to keep the less well-off trapped in cold, damp, unhealthy conditions; or sweltering in summer behind windows that can’t be opened, just to confound the Brussels bureaucrats.

The speed with which the fire spread has been paced by the speed with which politicians and the media have rushed to take up entrenched positions.

This led, for instance, to the ludicrous pasting of communities and local government secretary, Sajid Javed on the Today show this morning. The past-retirement-age presenter John Humphrys (73) angrily demanded to know why it was taking the Government more than one day to get round to emailing every tenancy management company in the country, if indeed they were doing that, given we’ve just had an election and the PM had only finished making her appointments the day before, to find out if four thousand similar tower blocks had unsafe cladding and what did they intend to do about it?

“The Guardian’s notoriously thin-skinned leftish liberal columnists were already hard at it, bravely demanding social change”

The BBC optimistically imagines that tenancy managers all around the country would naturally take only one day to respond, if at all, to a potentially incriminating government request for complex information about building materials. Of course they wouldn’t be calling their lawyers! It’s all so simple when you’re sitting in a studio in London! Mr Javed must realise the urgency of the situation? Well, yes he did, but… The BogPo’s views on the tendentious humbuggery of Mr Humphrys are well established. He is a man with a mind like a forensic tortoise, born with a soapbox on his shoulder, who will climb onto it at the drop of a hat.

But he is far from the only one. While fires were still breaking out and firemen, not knowing if the building might collapse at any moment, working 12-hour shifts because the capital is short of 600 firefighters thanks to cuts imposed under the gilded buffoon, Johnson, were still working their way flat by flat, floor by floor, to find any survivors, The Guardian‘s notoriously thin-skinned leftish liberal columnists were already hard at it, bravely demanding social change – even that tower blocks should be outlawed, which would certainly precipitate a housing crisis. How many of them employ cleaners, gardeners, nannies?

The statistical evidence according to fire chiefs is that there are ‘two or three’ fires in high-rises every day. Seldom if ever do they result in mass casualties and the immolation of entire buildings. As the men who went in reported, there was something unique about Grenfell Tower.

Which brings us to the fourth issue: despite the urging of local authorities and residents’ associations, building safety regulations have not been reviewed in Britain for more than ten years; building owners are only lightly regulated, with little oversight. The price of land in London is driving developers to build more and more high-rise towers; while it seems that nobody much is paying attention to the use of materials banned in other countries. (It has since been claimed by the Chancellor, Mr Hammond, that this particular type of cladding is banned here too… although the BogPo suggests that he is confusing a ban with a guideline that it should not be used on buildings over 10 storeys high.)

Simon Jenkins asks rhetorically in The Guardian today: “How could people still die in this horrific fashion in one of the world’s richest capital cities?” The answer is, somebody’s fridge overheated (possible fake news alert) in a multiple-occupancy tenement building that didn’t meet safety regulations. No more, no less. Rich or poor, people die in fires. But not that often.

High-rise flats were originally designed, not to honour the minimalist 1930s French architect Le Corbusier  – a man who has done probably as much social damage in the world as St Augustine of Hippo – but by Sir Denys Lasdun, to save space while warehousing low-paid workers and aspiring young arrivals taking their first steps on the ladder in one of the most expensive cities in the world. High-rise was a new dawn, ‘vertical streets’ the quickfire answer to the problem of replacing grimy old, worn-out, bombed-out back-to-back Victorian workers’ terraces without bathrooms, inside toilets or privacy. It could all be done industrially, systematically. Lego building had arrived.

With the demolition of the terraces, the loss of community cohesion was total. Making it easier twenty years later for Mrs Thatcher to start the process of destroying trade unionism. But for the newly housed occupants, life had become a lot more convenient, more comfortable, cleaner. No more scrubbing doorsteps until the stone wore away! And that made it easier for women to go to work. Until we started using these grim concrete towers as places bereft of hope, to store the new underclass: drug-dealers, the mentally unstable, the ‘problem kids’ moved in, took over.

***

What Dubai shows us is that even comparatively rich people in ‘signature’ buildings with spectacular views and one-room flats starting at £165 thousand can be caught up in disasters; the story is the same: cheap flammable cosmetic cladding, lifts not working, fire warning systems switched off because of annoying false alarms…

“The Torch, situated in the glitzy Dubai Marina area, stands over 1,000ft tall and is one of the world’s highest residential buildings. The fire broke out on the 50th floor of the 79 floor building, while the majority of the residents were asleep…”

And no-one died. Everyone got out. But to claim as much of the media is doing that putting people in high-rise apartment blocks that can catch fire is a conspiracy against the working-class and evidence of the corruption and failure of Conservative party politics is pretty tendentious. It can happen elsewhere, and to people in higher income brackets, in thoroughly modern buildings.

The Dubai Torch fire of 2015 was followed by another in January last year when a fireworks display set fire to cladding on the 63-storey Address hotel and spread to the interior. Sixteen people were injured, but there were no fatalities. The building was badly damaged. In July last year there was a third tower-block fire in Dubai’s Sulafa tower. There were no casualties and the fire was extinguished in a couple of hours. Again, though, cladding caught fire and pieces of blazing material were falling into the street and threatening surrounding buildings.

“Phil Barry, a fire safety consultant with Gloucester-based CWB Fire Safety who has worked extensively in Qatar and the UAE, said: ‘No-one has died yet, but there will be fatalities sooner or later.’ He described Dubai’s many tower blocks as ‘an accident waiting to happen’.

“At the heart of safety concerns is the use of polyurethane and aluminium composite cladding on buildings throughout the height of the emirate’s building boom. The material was … outlawed by new building regulations in 2013.”

(Reports: Gulf Times, The Telegraph)

So somebody should have been alert to the dangers. It should not have been left to the residents of Grenfell Tower to complain of their fears in meeting after angry meeting last year, only for nobody at the management company to take any notice. (It’s been reported that two of the victims were being threatened with prosecution over their allegations against the management company.) In the light of those fires, the experience of Dubai and others in France and Australia, why was this type of composite cladding, containing a chemical producing lethal cyanide gas, still permitted in Britain at the time Grenfell was refurbished in 2014?

A safer variant of the same system, using rockwool, is said to be virtually fireproof. This was known about. But it costs fractionally more. Those lives might have been saved with the expenditure of, literally, £5 thousand: £2 a square metre.

***

“We tried for two months to get her rehoused, forming the impression that Kensington and Chelsea housing department’s diversity policy included too many people with learning difficulties…”

So, was a 40 per cent cut overall in local authority budgets and savage cuts in London’s fire services, the result of seven years of austerity budgeting, also to blame?

My mother was a resident of the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea, until her death last year at the age of 92. A private, rent-controlled tenant in receipt of housing benefit, for over fifty years since their divorce she had lived in increasing poverty and ill-health as her acting career waned, trapped in the flat my stepfather had first rented in 1946, unable to afford to move.

Just three hundred yards from Harrod’s glitzy department store, two-bedroomed flats in the newly rebuilt block next door, demolition and building work she’d had to put up with on the other side of the wall seven days a week for two years, were on the market at £12.8 million each.

The upgraded wiring… 300 yards from Harrod’s.

Until 2014 when the housing department finally stepped in, her landlords, hoping she might get out and let them achieve a more commercial rent but maybe not realizing she couldn’t, had failed to carry out any repairs for over thirty years. Single-glazed, leaky, pre-war metal-framed windows – no central heating, the flat was damp and mouldy, the carpets worn through, floor tiles lifting, half the electrical circuits dangerously out of order. She used a torch to go to the bathroom.

When the building changed hands in 2016 the other tenants moved out, leaving Rosie alone in the flat, increasingly immobile on the second floor, unable to negotiate the five flights of stairs to the front door – unable to escape in the event of a fire. No risk assessment was done by the new landlords, apart from a standard letter asking if the flat had a gas supply? She never answered it.

The new heating system. 300 yards from Harrod’s.

Until then for years she’d refused to leave. Now she became desperate, fearful. We tried for two months to get her rehoused, forming the impression that Kensington and Chelsea housing department’s diversity policy included perhaps too many people with learning difficulties who never returned our calls or passed on messages, but unless or until her new landlords actually evicted her, an imperious, independent 92-year-old woman with all her marbles, a smoker who could walk painfully only with the aid of a frame, the Royal Borough was not obliged to do anything to help.

There was a two-year waiting list for sheltered accommodation. By the time Social Services had managed to scramble together the funding for a care package that involved returning her to the flat, with no nighttime cover, she had conveniently for everyone given up living after two sleepless weeks in a frantically busy hospital ward: a terminus to the next world where anonymous, chalk-faced old women were wheeled in, died – usually in the night – and wheeled out again before the next patient arrived.

The hospital apologized just last week for losing her teeth. I cannot even begin to think of a reply.

Back at the flat, a letter on the table from her GP practice announced that she had been struck off their list, for ‘failing to attend appointments we have made for you’. With the return of an old breast cancer, she had a massive secondary on one lung, a collapsing spine, constant unmanaged pain, self-medicated with alcohol – £94 in her account and owed £9,000 on a credit card the bank had been silly enough to approve. They ended up writing off the debt.

Boxes full of other letters – she never threw away a piece of paper – betrayed the secret, that she had lived for many years by selling off items of jewellery, vintage couture dresses – my stepfather’s remaining artworks; having been been virtually bankrupted in the great Lloyd’s of London reinsurance swindle of 1986.

Perhaps that’s why, living 250 miles away, I never fully realized quite how bad things had got, on any level. She had been an actress, after all.

***

“It was yet another PR fail…”

Mrs May, under criticism for what is perceived to be her usual bloodless response to human need, visited the site, spoke briefly only with emergency service chiefs, shunned the survivors (on ‘security’ grounds!) and the exhausted fire crews, the cries of trapped and burning children indelibly imprinted on their souls, rushed back to Number 10 to declare an immediate public inquiry into the disaster, and a £5 million relief fund to rehome the survivors.

Today (16 June) she made tightly controlled visits to a hospital and a church shelter behind a wall of police who had to surround her car to keep the angry crowd at bay. Later, she hijacked BBC’s Newsnight programme to go public in a bid to set the record straight. The interview was a disaster: a stiff, overcontrolled, misjudged, scripted and uninformative performance from a Prime Minister too reticent in her manner to cope with the exigencies of the job. Truly, as one North Kensington resident told the BBC, whatever was going on inside her head, she came across as a cold fish.

The announcement of an inquiry suggested that the Government doesn’t want anything too embarrassing to come out: judge-led inquiries are slow, expensive and not required to compel witnesses or provide narrative verdicts on individual deaths, nor to allow the relatives to testify, as would be the case in an open inquest.

Compare the morning-after photographs. The Torch is only lightly damaged. Grenfell Tower is a smouldering, gutted tomb. (Reuters/Getty).

 

 

 

In any developing country in the world, one suspects the private management company’s senior executives, the cladding manufacturers, the building refurbishment contractor and the council’s housing inspectorate would be in police custody by now, negotiating tricky questions.

But it’s not the sort of thing we do here. A ‘criminal investigation’ has been started, but without a full report on how and why the incident happened, who was involved and when, with no evidence of corruption – only perhaps inept practice, inadequate materials and poor oversight – it is hard to see where it would go. As time drags on, the most likely outcome will be a civil prosecution by the Health and Safety Executive, a fine and a rap over the knuckles.

‘Lessons’ will no doubt be ‘learned’, in the same way they undoubtedly weren’t after the last major tower-block fire in London, at Lakanal House, Camberwell, in 2009. In 2013, The Guardian reported: “Deaths of six people in UK’s worst tower block fire could have been prevented by proper fire safety checks, inquest concludes.” The outcome of the four-year inquiry? Southwark council pleaded guilty to four counts of ‘breaking fire safety regulations’.

None of the specific recommendations for safety improvements that came out of that inquiry, such as the retro-fitting of sprinklers in all local authority high-rises and public schools, were ever implemented. The Southwark coroner’s verdict? the fire was “largely caused by botched and unsafe renovation work and the council’s failure to inspect the building.” Officials and ministers refused point-blank to meet community representatives and fire service chiefs. They included the then-minister, Gavin Barwell. He is now Mrs May’s chief-of-staff at Number Ten. Claims that the recommendations were being implemented were lies.

And once again amid all of the post-electioneering claptrap, the moral outrage, the over-hasty demands for instant answers, instant solutions, ‘lessons to be learned’, social reforms required but never to be delivered in our lifetime, individuals to be held accountable, politicians to be blamed, the 7-plus victims at the heart of it remain lost and anonymous, desperate friends and relatives scratching hopeful or loving messages on the wall downstairs, flowers and tributes piling up, knowing the worst.

The BogPo wonders, idly, with so many foreign migrant workers and refugees escaped with nothing more than a dressing-gown or a T-shirt, with no papers or passports or other ID, everything destroyed, how will they re-establish or even prove their immigration status, or maintain their asylum applications? Will we shortly be seeing reports of ruthless Border Force officials raiding the church refuges, mosques and school gyms, where desperate survivors are waiting with no news from the mostly absent officials, to be rehoused? There is no report of them being granted special immunity.

As with the World Trade Center, Grenfell Tower will one day be demolished, many of its former residents perhaps still entombed inside, mothers huddled together with their children, words of hopeless reassurance burned into the scorched concrete; never identified, never found.

Maybe never even known.

For they were the faceless ones; the office cleaners, the sweepers, the Transport for London staff, nursing auxiliaries, the daycare providers my mother never saw, Uber drivers, the pizza deliverers, the refugees in ‘temporary’ accommodation.

Some place to end up.

 

Chutzpah award for abysmal PR likely to bring a business to its knees in ten seconds or less

Harley Facades, the company that fitted the panels to the building, said in a statement: “At this time, we are not aware of any link between the fire and the exterior cladding to the tower.” (Photo: Daily Mirror)

 

Postscriptum:

Sunday, 25 June: Out of 34 samples of tower-block cladding so far sent for analysis on the orders of the Communities and Local Government department to the fire safety authority by local councils and housing associations around the country, as of 23 June, 34 – one hundred per cent – have been found to be unsafe.

With residents already evacuated for their own safety from several blocks in North London, this is threatening to become a hugely expensive national emergency.

x

“We were far kinder to the Welsh than ever we were to the Scots and the Irish…”

A thing of beauty is a joy until the neighbours move in

As indeed is Boglington-on-Sea, the traffic-ridden seaside town I have been trying to leave for the past five years, but which will not let me go.

Down the road from me is a pair of semi-detached cottages. Cheaply built in the 1930s, single-breezeblock construction, like too much Welsh property they are in poor structural condition, not helped by the flood of 2012 when the residents – a couple with children renting next door to the old woman who owned both the houses and lived in one, had to be evacuated and never returned. As you walk past them in winter, even with doors and windows closed you could smell the damp coming out of the houses. The woodwork is rotting, the quarry-tiled floors white with mildew.

All around the back, the garden had gone wild. It was romantic, but you could see how the old planting was being lost under exuberant piles of brambles, nettles and knotweed. Visible just were still a few apple trees, a carmine-red Camellia sinensis flowering abundantly in February. To one side of the house was a large and lovely Magnolia soulangeana, mature and stately, a glorious sight in spring, covered in flamboyant blush-pink and white, tulip-shaped flowers. Hidden inside the overgrown front hedge, the rusty carcase of a small grey Austin car from the 1960s occupied the collapsed remains of a wooden garage.

Recently, there have been signs that people are hoping to move in, work going on – but no professional builders, just a young family and a middle-aged man with a van. The old woman’s heirs, I’d imagine. Welsh properties almost always come down to lengthy ownership disputes within families. They’d started last week to clear the garden, I assumed of its overgrown undergrowth. Today I walked past and saw to my horror, they had hacked down the lovely Magnolia and were busy cremating its remains.

Involuntarily I blurted out, no, no! A blonde woman, early 30s, came out. What’s the matter? Your beautiful magnolia tree! I exclaimed. You’ve cut it down! So what? she snapped. It’s my garden, I can do what I like!

So your garden isn’t supposed to give pleasure to your neighbours? So that’s right, just kill it, I called out. Kill everything, why not!

As you can imagine, I am a little overwrought these days, what with Brexit, Trump and May and the encroaching darkness. I imagined that, because the tree – which was not in the way of anything other than maybe a two-car park or a concrete patio with a nice barbecue, not cutting out light to the house – is not still in flower, they probably didn’t even know what it was. Nor cared.

And that, gentle reader, is why (as I have bogld in the past) I hate my neighbours.

Now, after 16 years in the country I have many very nice Welsh friends. Well, a few – I don’t socialize much. But there’s another sort I would move a thousand miles to not live next to: the working-class Welsh of mid-Wales. Resentful, selfish possessiveness is deeply ingrained in them; a natural response no doubt to being invaded by the Norman English king Edward 1 in 1282, an event etched in the memory, never forgotten. The national chip on the shoulder.

Despite lopping off a few traitors’ heads we were far kinder to the broody Welsh, still smarting over being conquered by the Romans twelve hundred years earlier, than ever we were to the Scots and the Irish, whom we massacred and starved and commandeered their farms for shooting estates and booted them off to America with gusto, for centuries. They don’t hate us. Yet for some reason, perhaps because sometime in the 1530s king Henry V111 banned the Welsh language, the Welsh just cannot get over it: we English who presume to live in a united kingdom are still known, sotto voce, as the ‘colonialists’.

In the course of my work I have met a few fanatics who simply refused to discuss anything in English, even though my Welsh is too rudimentary to address the points at issue. You could warn them they were in imminent danger of being run over by a truck and they still wouldn’t budge until you hired a translator; yet there is not one person anywhere in Wales who can’t speak and read English perfectly well, unless they are maybe Polish.

I once applied to a local publishing company who were looking for an editor for their English-language editions, only to be turned down for the job because I don’t speak Welsh, the language in which the company insists on conducting everyday business. That’s despite six years’ experience editing books and twenty-five years’ more working as a news editor and copywriter.

With these obdurate people it’s always: ‘my tree, my garden, my house, my land, my country, my impossible language, my music, my pretty awful food, my terrible old van, my bible-black, prodnose chapel culture, my burdensome morality. And no-one else, especially the English, is to be invited to share in the beauty of the country or any of the better things it has to offer. It’s my beauty, I don’t want you appreciating it and I can destroy it if I like. It’s my futile gesture; my ugliness.

Welsh women, especially, are the worst: harridans, termagents, Furies. I have vowed never to become entangled with one. There is no gainsaying them; they are invariably right on every point, mistresses of every issue, refusers-to-back-down in any argument, holders of the moral high-ground regardless of the illogicality and unreason of their position; their ignorance of the facts.

I briefly worked in the advertising department of the local newspaper. Evilly underpaid, nevertheless I had some years previously been the Creative Director of an advertising agency. But no, the dumpy housewives who manned the advertising department would not, under any circumstances, allow me to correct or improve the advertising: the client had signed off on their mistakes, it was not my place to question them.

“It was like meeting Donald Trump in a provincial Welsh suburban cul-de-sac.”

Last Christmas, I drove down to my ex-wife’s house to drop off some chairs we’d inherited from my mum. The street is narrow, there’s parking on one side only, it was all taken. Across the street is a concrete apron where people sometimes park. So I pulled onto the forecourt, intending to stay only for a few minutes.

There were two women, one old, the other older, gossiping on the pavement a little way away. Immediately I got out of the car, the older woman rushed at me.

Who gave you permission to park on my space? she demanded to know. I tried to explain: I’m just delivering something across the road, I’ll only be a minute. Do you mind? Well, you got no right to park on my space, so just move! she said, the ‘bloody English’ neon sign flashing brightly over her head. You’re always parking here! (I have done once or twice over the years, no-one has ever objected before.)

But you don’t even live here! I made the mistake of pointing to the empty building. Or maybe it was the mistake of arguing with her at all. Out came the soapbox: Yes I do, it’s my house. (She doesn’t!) And you don’t even have a car! I persisted. And it’s Christmas! Doesn’t matter, you’re not having it. It’s my space, now move on!

So I ended up carting the chairs by hand all the way around the block, fury in my heart. These dimly illuminated country folk are just so possessive, disobliging – so unnecessary.

And now the uncouth Young Philistines had cut down a precious thing in a dying world, a beautiful flowering tree, just to show who owned it and what they could do with their property if they liked. We may be depressing, ignorant environmental vandals, but we have the power!

It was like meeting Donald Trump in a provincial Welsh suburban cul-de-sac. “I’m the President and you’re not!”

Aren’t other people entitled to enjoy beautiful things regardless of who owns them? I demanded pathetically, as we shuffled on, Hunzi and I. But there is no gainsaying a Welsh woman, is there. She stood her ground, Furie-like.

We can’t ever go by there again, I thought. We’ll have to go all the way round now. Fucking idiots! I called out, halfheartedly over my shoulder, anticipating the arrival of an irate husband, fisticuffs, the loss of my expensive dental bridge, as we rounded the corner of Simon’s house opposite.

He’s an environmentalist. He’ll understand, his garden’s a mess.

Somebody for God’s sake get me out of here, I thought.

Not for the first time.

x

“We are literally seeing now, the final stages of a race to the death: money versus the human race.”

Our money or your life #2

At the same time as an unknown number of people have died in a terrible fire in London, possibly over 100 on present figures, the death toll in Bangladesh from floods and landslides in a non-stop monsoon the past few days has topped 156.

Where are the Guardian columnistas challenging the neoliberal politics of the region? Why are we not furious that poor people in muslim countries are exposed to worse conditions than the rich? Why are we not demanding inquiries into the safety standards of Bangladeshi housing?

Watch the video from about 7.40: the incredible rains in Maharashtra, India. See idiot motorists commuting through rising floodwater, as if they do not recognise the consequences of what they are doing. Watch a motorcycle float down a river that was a street. Watch many motorcycles floating.

Vast areas of China, too, are underwater. Yet southern India and northern China are suffering severe drought and continuing 40 deg C.-plus heat. Food production is affected. (Postscriptum: 25 June, rescue workers are trying to find 120 people missing after a 2km-wide landlslide engulfed a village in Sichuan during heavy rain.)

Why is the Daily Mail not bemoaning the lack of environmental measures, I wonder? Why have Mr Trump and Mr ‘$100,000 a day’ Tillexxon not been arraigned on charges of criminal ecocide and failing to return their on-deposit soda bottles?

Possibly because, as the BogPo is reading in a new book called ‘Horsemen of the Apocalypse: The Men Who Are Destroying Life on Earth–And What It Means for Our Children’, by Dick Russell, exposed by a remarkable coalition of the extended billionaire Rockefeller family there has been a forty-year cover-up and disinformation campaign costing hundreds of millions of dollars by the boards of Exxon-Mobil, Koch Industries, Devon Oil and other giant energy corporations, of the fact that their own research departments in the 1970s predicted exactly this outcome if we continued to burn fossil fuels at an ever-increasing rate; and they deliberately suppressed it.

People have been purposely confused, undermined, lied to for years by false-front ‘think-tanks’ and cynical PR men who have become millionaires in the process; by glib pork-barrel politicians who have had their mouths stuffed with cash.

We are literally seeing now, the final stages of a race to the death: money versus the human race.

And money is winning.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pv-gY4Nc9wg

‘It’s the same the whole world over, ain’t it all a bleedin’ shame? It’s the rich wot gets the pleasure, and the poor wot gets the blame.’

On the subject of wealthy America, where of course the administration’s response to Hurricane Katrina set the benchmark for official nonchalance, let us remember an incident, not much reported here, back in February when, after a weekend in which fifty tornadoes ripped through Georgia and Louisiana, killing 22 people including a toddler sucked into the air and never found, desperate pleas for federal help from the counties affected fell on deaf ears.

So yes, it’s good that we are holding ourselves now to a higher standard. These tragedies are always accompanied by the hollow sound of stable doors being bolted, ‘lessons’ being ‘learned’, but this time the floppy sound of handwringing over social conditions and inequality might begin to move our political logjam a little further downstream.

I say ‘might’.

 

Meanwhile, in faraway Portugal…

Many parts of the world are starting to look like this.

The death toll in the forest fires that have consumed much of Beiras province in central Portugal over the weekend has topped 60, with many more injured. Families burned to death in their cars as they tried to evacuate their villas and villages along winding mountain roads.

The fires have followed days of 40 deg. C-plus temperatures and no rain for weeks.

Today’s running story in the British press is, obviously, the Grenfell Tower fire. There’s much discussion of the cynical refusal by successive governments obsessed with austerity to vote enough money for recommended safety improvements in public housing, or for local authorities to maintain fully co-ordinated emergency services.

A typical headline in The Observer asks: “Why does it take a tragedy like Grenfell Tower for ministers to put lives above saving money?”

You could extrapolate that sentiment on a global scale. The BogPo has recently been reporting ad nauseam on the alarming coincidence of extreme weather events all around the world. Hundreds of people have died already this year in floods and ‘once in 100 years’ storms; millions are threatened by drought.

There is no doubt whatsoever that the world is heating to danger level, with consequent effects on the weather. Fossil fuel companies like Exxon-Mobil have known this would happen since the 1970s. Yet despite increasing divestment by concerned institutional shareholders they continue to pour $ millions into campaigns to promote public confusion and denial that there is anything wrong. With $35 trillion still in the ground and over a billion cars in the world they feel they have no choice, even if it means we don’t either.

And while they proclaim their ‘green’ credentials by spending a token amount on renewables (projects that also make them money) and post lovely images of healthy crops benefitting from their wondrous developments in poisonous chemical controls, crops in the real world now shrivelled and drowning, they continue to suppress their own research into alternative methods of carbon-free power generation and engine technology by squatting on thousands of undeveloped patents.

The question therefore ought to be rephrased:

“Why does it take many tragedies like Portugal for global corporations to put lives above making money?”