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?”

 

The Pumpkin – Issue 21: What is WRONG with him? Kill them all. Everything. Just kill it, okay? More weatherballs.

Sessions in lah-lah land

“With that ambassador ah did naht have intracourse. Dee-testable lahs you are tellin'”

“…meanwhile, he was “100 per cent” prepared to testify that he is innocent of whatever it is he is not being investigated over.”

What is WRONG with him?

Having fired the FBI director James Comey last month, the Sun King from Queen’s found himself in a quandary.

Firing Comey would not make the Russia thing go away. He would have to shut down the entire FBI to do that. Which would look a little suspicious.

He needed someone who would kiss his ring and swear undying fealty, while thrice proclaiming Trump’s innocence to the world from a podium in the White House garden.

For, Comey never said Trump himself IS NOT under investigation. He said he was not AT THAT TIME under investigation. That’s what cost him his job, his refusal to say whether or not Trump MIGHT BE currently being investigated.

Pretty clearly, because Comey would not say he isn’t, but obviously could not say he is, if he was, Trump himself now is under investigation. But dimwitted Fox newsmouths like Ann Coulter, and the flabby-faced GOP Senator Graham continue to parrot Trump’s delusional claim that Comey’s testimony “vindicated” him.

While this feeble propaganda campaign continued, continuing to insult Comey by tweet as a “liar” and a “coward”, once again implicating himself through Freudian transference, the incandescent, panicking President cast about for a replacement for Comey he could characterise as even more ‘strong and stable’ – not a liar, at least.

And meanwhile, he was “100 per cent” prepared to testify that he is innocent of whatever it is he is not being investigated over. He said so at a well-attended press conference, on camera, four days before his press-weasel Sean Spicer told another well-attended media gaggle yesterday that he never said anything of the sort.

Spicey is unravelling fast; a dead spokesperson talking. A spoke.

One of Goldenballs’ first picks for top G-man (there have been five so far) was Joe Lieberman, who had the virtue of never having investigated anyone much. After the failing fake-news media pointed out that Lieberman was a partner in the firm of Trump’s own defence lawyer, Mark Kasowitz, thus creating something of a conflict of interest given the obvious Russia-thing connection, Lieberman resiled himself.

He didn’t need to wait around for the story to get out that he had at one time lobbied for a Libyan businessman linked with the militia group that murdered the American ambassador in Benghazi – one of the many crimes for which Trump felt his opponent, Mrs Clinton, should be locked up.

Trump’s latest pick is Christopher Wray, a Yale Law School graduate – who has never been a policeman, which is a start. Wray’s credentials are, according to the five a.m. tweet from the White House, “impeccable”. USA Today reported: “He has had a decades-long distinguished career as a federal prosecutor and high-level official in the Department of Justice.”

Unfortunately, the euphoria lasted less than a day. USA Today went on to say:

“The most troubling issue that Wray may face is the fact that his law firm — King & Spalding — represents Rosneft and Gazprom, two of Russia’s largest state-controlled oil (don’t forget gas – Gaz is the clue. Ed) companies.”

The Pumpkin enjoys the use of the word “may”.

You would think, wouldn’t you, that Trump might have bothered to discover that before putting Wray in an impossible position? Unless he considers working for the Russians an impeccable credential? (In fairness, we do not know if Wray worked on either account, but as a partner in the firm it doesn’t matter, there’s an automatic conflict of interest.)

Both companies are at the very heart of the Trump regime’s links with Russia; Rosneft in particular having reportedly offered Trump a 19 per cent share of the business if he could get the Obama sanctions lifted, that have been holding up a $500 billion deal with Exxon-Mobil to drill the bejasus out of the rapidly melting Arctic.

Doer of that deal at the time was Texas Rex Tillerson, former CEO of Exxon, holder of the Russian Order of Friendship medal and now Trump’s peripatetic Secretary of State.

The Pumpkin also has a query of his own over the relationship with Gazprom, as the prospective  supply of gas from the ample Israeli offshore and Iranian/Qatari fields through Turkey to the West, bypassing Syria, seems to be a bone of contention with the Russian gas giant, that is naturally seeking to maintain the world price in order to prevent the Russian economy imploding.

Is Trump’s inexplicable turnround on Qatar something to do with the pressure of Gaz? Or – a theory just beginning to twinkle like a candle in the eye of a pumpkin – has Ukraine been plotting to set up an alternative supply pipeline through Turkey from Israel, to break the Russian stranglehold? Does that explain why there seems to be as much of a Ukrainian connection with Elect.Donald as there is a Russian one? What Manafort was doing setting up offshore companies through Panama with Ukrainian money? And what Flynn was doing in Turkey while being paid by a Ukrainian businessman through a Dutch subsidiary?

Whatever, there’s more…

USA Today goes on:

“The law firm’s representation of Gazprom raises even more serious conflict issues for Wray. Gazprom was a partner in RosUkrEnergo AG (“RUE”), which is controlled by Ukrainian oligarch Dmitry Firtash. He is under federal indictment in Chicago for racketeering charges, has had numerous financial dealings with former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort, and is generally considered to be a member of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s inner circle.”

http://www.usatoday.com/story/opinion/2017/06/08/trump-new-fbi-director-chris-wray-russian-ties-rosneft-gazprom-column/102603214/?utm_source=feedblitz&utm_medium=FeedBlitzRss&utm_campaign=usatoday-newstopstories

The internet was abuzz today with speculation that Trump is considering also firing Robert Mueller, the Special Prosecutor – claiming that he is too close to Comey. (Others might suggest it’s because he’s getting too close to Donny. The Pumpkin couldn’t possibly comment.)

The gamble would have to be that what, as described by David Frum of The Nation magazine, would be like hiring a small plane to write in smoke above the White House: ‘I’m Super-Guilty!’, will not discountenance his Republican acolytes for more than a day or two, and not disturb his dumbfuck supporters or Ms Coulter at all.

Mr Trump has of course tweeted that he is not considering any such thing, so expect Mueller – who has only been in office three weeks – to be gone before the end of the week.

The next difficulty being, only the man who put him in office, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, can fire him. Attorney General Sessions is too busy giving sworn testimony about why he lied about his Russian contacts to the Senate intelligence committee as this article goes to press.*

And if Rosenstein refuses, and resigns, there are so few appointees in the Justice Department it looks like Trump will have to find the cleaner to do it, as the next in line. (16 June, now he is tweeting out, threatening to fire Rosenstein anyway, for letting him be under investigation for obstruction of justice. The man is clearly nuts.)

The Pumpkin needs to ask again, with the greatest of respect:

What is WRONG with him?

 

*STOP PRESS: Sessions assures the committee the suggestion he collaborated with Russians during his four meetings with the Russian ambassador, that he lied about, is a ‘detestable lie’.

Did he really offer to testify just for that? Is anyone telling the truth?

STOP, STOP PRESS: Someone, ‘officials’, has confirmed to the Washington Post today that Trump is indeed under investigation over the Russia thing. Trump’s Fred Karno team of lawyers has hysterically blamed ‘leakers’ in the FBI, but no-one is buying that.

The news, however, does make it a lot harder for Trump to fire anyone connected with the investigation, such as Special Prosecutor Mueller, without another obstruction charge being laid at his door. And saves the Justice Department, especially Deputy A-G Rod Rosenstein, from having to do the dirty deed.

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Kill them all. Everything, Just kill it, okay?

Mr Trump has not yet signed a Steve Bannon ordinance requiring that ten thousand kittens should be doused in gasoline and set alight on the Supreme Leader’s birthday. (Which happens to be today. 71. They say only the good die young.)

We can however expect it any day.

Mr Trump’s latest reversal of any legislation already on the statute book protecting civilization from total destruction has come in the form of an Executive Order lifting restrictions on fishing nets, mesh-size limits that were aimed at protecting endangered marine mammals such as whales, dolphins and dugongs from becoming by-catch.

Added to the one permitting hunting of she-bears with cubs and during the hibernation season, the shooting of wolves and elk from helicopters with automatic weapons, things hunters have clearly been dying to be allowed to do for years; the ones permitting the polluting of rivers with coal slurry, removing restrictions on methane releases from drilling activities and lifting the cap on vehicle ‘tailpipe’ emissions in cities, and so many, many more, and you have just a frenzied, pathological onslaught on the planet that must, surely, end with the arraignment of this gross, inhuman old monster on charges of crimes against humanity.

Indeed, it is impossible to see what will be accomplished by them?

The minor massacres that have seen various warlords and nationalist leaders held to account at The Hague pale into insignificance compared with what this money-breathing sonofabitch is doing to our planet.

But why? Why is he doing it?

It goes way beyond the obvious influence on his presidency of the energy-industry donors and their hugely well-remunerated lobbyists, disgusting human centipedes like Myron Ebell, his Exxon-fuelled energy advisor. Those people have known precisely the effects of burning carbon in the atmosphere for over 40 years. It’s cost them hundreds of millions to hush it up.

It goes beyond, too, any concern the four-times bankrupted Great Businessman, with his billion-dollar unpaid debts to foreign banks may have for a business community hedged about and fretting with unnecessary restrictions; conservative policies one might at a pinch just about make sense of. Trump has no knowledge of economics beyond running a medium-size family business and a TV show; by ‘running’ I mean just flying by the seat of his pants, bilking his creditors, getting by through having hysterical screaming fits and uttering threats and lawsuits if things don’t go his way.

Even the business community is reeling at some of the things he has done, as his actions will in fact hinder economic progress. The majority of voters, over 70 per cent, many tech billionaires, State governors and even energy-industry giants like the Secretary of State, Rex Tillexxon (former salary as Exxon-Mobil CEO £100,000 – A DAY), have tried and failed to persuade Trump to stay in the Paris accord, as it is non-binding and will not, as he appears to imagine, damage the economy; in fact it offers unrivalled opportunities for growth.

His huge giveaway tax-cuts to the wealthiest one per cent haven’t gone down well either. Even the business community understands that you need a thriving middle-class to buy more stuff. Giving their children asthma, poisoning the water and knocking points off their IQ is hardly going to endear him to them. His approval rating is now 60 per cent NEGATIVE.

Yet even as his presidency unravels in the total chaos of his administration amid numerous investigations of criminal wrongdoing, and the power-crazed Chief Executive resorts to a cult of personality and makes mafia-style demands that his people bow down and worship him with grotesque expressions of love, loyalty and lavish praise for his many invisible achievements, his popularity, a sure sign that he is as crazy as a box of frogs; even as he fails to get a single significant item of his program passed by the Congress, the US economy is moving ahead so fast that the Fed has had to hike the interest rate again.

How is that possible?

Well, it’s a sort of vindication of the Bannon doctrine, a logical development of Friedmanomics, the full realization of Ayn Rand, of Atlas shrugging, isn’t it: Government is just a waste of resources, a waste of money, and entirely unnecessary to an economy that, given total freedom and the removal of all laws and taxes, the total suppression of dissent, the manipulation of public opinion, the cynical abuse of democratic institutions and the disenfranchisement of the poorer class, will run itself.

Either that, or the country will disintegrate in a welter of violence and confusion that can only be good for the well-defended billionaires hunkered-down in their subterranean playgrounds, to emerge as Lords of the Universe and rebuild the smoking ruins in their image.

Trump is the summation of all the evils being perpetrated by these crazy bastards, a devil-child, and the more power he accumulates the crazier and more lethal he’s going to get.

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Dumbfuck news

A teacher in Maryland has been suspended for Photoshopping the name Trump off the T-shirts of pupils whose photos appear in the school yearbook. Parents are furious, although one suspects other parents might have been equally furious if the propaganda images had been left in.

There is, of course, a question over whether political slogans of any kind ought to be permitted on school property: if they allow this, how would they stop a pupil supporting something more worthwhile, like Rise Against, Jeremy Corbyn, or Podemos?

And how are the kids going to feel in years to come when they proudly open their yearbook and remember they were just little dumbfucks being taken for a ride by the most spectacularly self-interested criminal failure of a US President since Warren G Harding? Especially if their parents have died from uninsured cancers?

It doesn’t appear to have occurred to the terrified Principal, who is presumably expecting a knock on the door at 4 am from one of the many local militias now assisting police with crushing dissent. After all, the new Education Secretary, Betsy DeVos spent a lot of money buying the Presidency for her friend, Mr Trump.* Who knows what Cruella DeVil could do to a school?

Anyway, if you don’t want to see a before-and-after photo of what a Trump supporter looks like while it’s still in high school, look away now:

A citizen of tomorrow.

*Footnote: a report out today (14 June) concludes that you can buy an election online for $400,000. Betsy must be kicking herself: she and Dick threw $22 million at it. (Trend Micro)

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“…these events are not in themselves so far out of the ordinary that they have never been observed before. But reporting them individually may be masking the global effect.”

More Weatherballs

I’m sorry to bang on about it, but turning to the BBC world weather news you’ll just get bland assurances that everything is normal, everywhere – and it bloody isn’t.

It just isn’t.

What evidence?

Well, it’s been snowing quite heavily over the weekend in northern California and Nevada, where ski resorts are enjoying a late flurry. It’s mid-June. While there’s a record 95+ deg F. heatwave building over almost all the rest of the United States east of the Rockies. Thirty wildfires are burning across Arizona, more in Colorado. Nine hundred there already this year.

It was over 105 deg F. in the daytime in Phoenix all last week; cooler today at only 96. The Telegraph reports: “The United States is experiencing its widest-spread drought in 56 years. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration reported that some 55 percent of the contiguous United States, particularly in the Midwest, suffered from drought last month.”

Although, as we reported, there were widespread floods elsewhere in the midwest.

In the Pacific Northwest, up to a foot of snow was forecast for the Mount Bachelor area, with an inch or so expected in Portland; by contrast, 86 deg F. in Hudson’s Bay north of the Arctic circle doesn’t look too hopeful for the permafrost and its volatile burden of methane.

Western Cape province, S Africa, the fires we reported on last week are still blazing. Despite the record-breaking storm that started them, the region has only 26 days’ supply of drinking water.

In Zhengzou province, SE China, 240 mm of rain fell so fast, it knocked down houses. 100,000 people were evacuated in the path of Typhoon Merbok, that crossed Hong Kong to the mainland yesterday. Exceptionally heavy monsoon rains and storms have killed twelve people in Maharashtra province, India (that’s Mumbai).

More floods are expected in New South Wales, Australia, as 200 mm rain falls in 24 hours. Not for the first time this year. Tropical Storm Calvin made landfall in Mexico, with heavy rain and landslides. 61 people have been killed in landslides after heavy rain in Bangladesh. Omsk in Russia is underwater following a spectacular storm featuring a powerful and not very usual tornado.

Oh, and it’s been snowing in Greece.

Now, these events are not each in themselves so far out of the ordinary that they have never been observed before. But not all at the same time! Not all with such intensity, such as the 120 deg F. heatwaves across India that are now a regular summer occurrence. And not in living memory in some of the places observed. Reporting them individually or even disregarding them entirely may be masking the global effect of an average rise of just 1.5 degrees.

Taken with reports over previous weeks of floods, storms, droughts and wildfires all around the world they paint an increasingly aberrant picture of a climate spinning out of control.

What’s even odder is how normal everything seems to be here, where I’m sitting, writing. Apart from the astonishing florabundance and vibrant health of the vegetation cover in our valley, the weather just couldn’t get more normal for western Britain, completely unremarkable for at least the past two years.

Which is weird in itself, don’t you agree?

(Main source: Climate and Extreme Weather News, #33)

Where will the billionaires go? (Maybe Bilbao? Whoops, BA!)

“Lo, there shall come unto you an Orange One bearing shafts of fire, and the poor shall be royally shat upon.”

“…unto every one that hath shall be given, and he shall have abundance”

But it says so in the bible…

There are numerous internal contradictions in the bible, as we know. One of the strangest is in the ‘parable of the talents’ (a talent was a coin, not the ‘X-factor’).

Jesus, we are supposed to believe, was all in favour of poor people, to whom would be given the Kingdom of Heaven, and less so of the rich, whose camels would find it easier to pass through the eye of a needle than for their owners to enter his father’s house.

We know too of his rage at the money changers setting up shop in the temple.

And yet we find this at Matthew 25:29….

“His lord answered and said unto him, Thou wicked and slothful servant, thou knewest that I reap where I sowed not, and gather where I have not strawed: Thou oughtest therefore to have put my money to the exchangers, and then at my coming I should have received mine own with usury. Take therefore the talent from him, and give it unto him which hath ten talents. For unto every one that hath shall be given, and he shall have abundance: but from him that hath not shall be taken away even that which he hath.”

Are we supposed to take from this, that Jesus was advocating taking everything away from the undeserving working poor and giving it to the rich, with their distressing tendency to reap what they have not sown?

Or was he merely describing how bad things are in the world, and somehow the bit where he repudiates the economics of regressive distribution got left out?

It sounds more like the former.

Certainly, the rich seem to take comfort from this passage, especially at the idea that instead of sticking his talent under the mattress, if he couldn’t run a profitable business the poor servant should ideally have let an asset fund-manager invest the money (and cream a fat commission off the top).

I’d guess it’s this passage, too, that led to the whole cultural thing where Jews lent money out for profit, that contributed quite a lot to the growth of antisemitism in Europe in the middle ages when Christians were banned by law from lending with interest. The medieval Jews were like the Wonga of their day: despised, but occasionally necessary.

Something similar once happened to me.

I was hired as the gardener at a dilapidated old country house with dry rot and no garden (I should have been suspicious at that point), whose owners lived 8,000 miles away on the dark side of the world.

Sensing a business opportunity, they told me by email I had to singlehandedly run it as a £100 a night hotel, that hadn’t been refurbished for thirty years and was mostly used for illegal raves.

They refused absolutely to spend a penny on replacing the old coffee-wine-and-worse-stained mattresses, the historic chipboard furniture, the broken dishwasher, unless I earned the money first. The sewage system was 200 years old, the place was running with rats, hopping with bedbugs, there wasn’t enough hot water for a bath and the advertising budget I was given for three months wouldn’t cover one quarter-page insertion in the minority-interest local edition of the national tourism brochure.

They moaned at me piteously because I couldn’t make enough money from their wonderful home to cover the heating bills, and accused me of pocketing all the money. Thou wicked and slothful servant. After seven years they paid me to leave.

In Jesus’ book I’d have done better to sell the house and invest the money in blood diamonds or crack cocaine. Actually, that’s pretty much what I advised them to do, but I was only the old gardener. Who listens?

Ripping-off the poor is the rich man’s pleasure.

And Christianity seems to provide a perverse excuse for the ‘winner take all’ philosophy that is so prevalent today, as around the world vast inequality is creating gaping rifts in the fabric of society and Trump the senile warlord, the slumdog billionaire reigns rampant over the remains of civilization.

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A climate of concern

Google images

You might have heard of the Hudson’s Bay Company? They’re the boys who used to trade furs with trappers beyond the Arctic circle, in the 1800s?

Well, on 6 June the temperature on Hudson’s Bay was 89 deg. F.; while a temperature of 56 deg C., 132 deg F. was recorded in Sistat and Baluchestan province, Iran. (Arctic News, 6 June)

Adding to the list of environmental problems caused by man-made climate change, the latest bulletins from the Climate and Extreme Weather website, #28 & #29, report that Tamil Nadu province in SE India is experiencing its worst drought in 150 years. They’re having to plant ever-smaller areas of crops as there is nothing available to irrigate them, and many villages have less than a month’s supply of water in the reservoirs.

By contrast, only a few hundred miles to the south over 180 people have died in flash floods and landslides in Sri Lanka as record monsoon rains arrive early. India has had to send over emergency support services. Flooding in Manipur, NE India, has killed two. June 2: a ‘stationary front’ brings 600 mm of rain (two feet) to Taiwan in 12 hours. Major flooding also reported on the mainland, ‘tens of thousands’ evacuated.

I see by contrast that Capetown in South Africa is running desperately short of water – Western Cape province has been declared a disaster zone in the midst of the worst drought in a century and water rationing has been introduced in the city. La Paz in Peru is similarly suffering. Northern Bangladesh, too, is experiencing a dangerous heatwave and drought; as is Kenya, where thousands of cattle have died and villagers have no food after a three-year-long drought. Landscape views show not a tree or a blade of grass left for miles.

Saintly reputation fast putrefying in the SE Asian air.

Weirdly, however, in other parts of Kenya there are floods; while Cyclone Mora has caused the evacuation of 350 thousand people in the Ganges delta area of Bangladesh; and has trashed two enormous refugee camps for the Burmese muslim Rohingya minority, now suffering a genocide denied by the formerly heroic Aung Sang Suu Kyi, whose fragrant and saintly reputation is fast putrefying in the steamy SE Asian air.

Aljazeera news reports that millions of people are on the verge of starvation in Somalia, overflowing refugee camps that have no supplies because the NGOs have run out of money. Thank you, America. Large parts of Guyana, however, are helpfully underwater. Sulawesi in Indonia has been flooded twice in the last month.

Flash floods have caused hundreds of people to be evacuated in Germany and in Hungary; there are more floods in Greece; major flooding in Serbia, flash floods in Switzerland; but a 30 deg C.+ heatwave is forecast for central Europe up into Sweden in the coming days. Tennis players at the French Open are dropping like flies. Moscow: 12 people have died in the most powerful storm to hit the city in ‘100 years’. In Stavropol, southern Russia, five million homes are reported flooded and 60,000 people evacuated; thousands of acres of farmland have been affected. We are seeing ‘100-year’ events almost everywhere now.

In the USA Salem, Indiana is underwater again for the second time in ten years and a state of emergency has been declared across three states. Lake Poopoe, the second largest freshwater lake in landlocked Bolivia, has dried up completely for the third year in a row, and is not expected to recover. Lake Titicaca is suffering a potentially ecocidal pollution crisis, destroying tourism. Severe flooding leaves 8 dead, 40,000 evacuated in Pernambuco, Brazil. Villahermosa, Mexico, Tropical Storm Beatriz kills five. 253mm rain dumped in 12 hours.

Tuesday 30th: Phoenix, Arizona, 102 deg. F. (5 June, 108 deg. F.) Tampa, Fla 95 deg. F. Houston, Texas 89 deg. F.

Wednesday 31st: Turbat province, Pakistan, records 53.5 deg C., 128.3 deg. F.

Project Midas (Swansea University) reports a rapid elongation of the 150m wide crack that threatens to calve the world’s biggest iceberg from the Larsen C ice-shelf in Antarctica: 17km in four days. The crack is now less than 13 km from the sea at the one end where the shelf is still attached. Loss of an area one quarter the size of Wales could herald the breakup of the entire shelf. I have to lookup how big is Wales, it’s very folded.

The Washington administration meanwhile is budgeting for a massive reduction in overseas aid spending through the UN, to fund tax cuts for the poor richest 1% in America, who now own only 82 times the wealth of the bottom 50%. On his visit to Europe, Mr Trump declined to join the rest of the G8 in reaffirming the Paris accord, saying he would have to think about it; although it is known he is incapable of rational thought.

Stop Press: Wednesday 31st, he repudiates Paris, falsely arguing that it ‘damages American jobs’.

Mr Trump is, wittingly or unwittingly (he is startlingly ignorant of many things, especially business economics) on the verge of becoming a world criminal.

An ecocide, on whom responsibility sitting for the extinction of life on earth within a generation is not a fanciful notion or an exaggeration, as he has the power to act to stop it, or at least to try, albeit so late in the day; but, to please his billionaire backers who insanely imagine they can buy their way to salvation, will not.

If he pulls out of Paris, Mr Dump should be taken from the White House, by force if necessary, put on trial, convicted; strapped to a gurney and clumsily executed by lethal injection. His director of the EPA, former Arkansas Attorney-General and energy business shill, Scott Pruitt, knows all about how that’s done.

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Where will the billionaires go?

I cannot believe the billionaires do not have some desperate plan up their sleeve to survive the coming climate apocalypse.

Just think.

Sustainable eco-domes like the Eden Project in Cornwall offer UHNW families temporary hope of survival, but at a cost.

If you earned a million dollars a year and never spent a penny, it would take you a thousand years to become a billionaire. I don’t think I’ve made a million dollars in my lifetime. Had I done so, I would need a thousand lifetimes to be a billionaire. If you won a million pounds on the Lottery, and declined to celebrate with a champagne cruise, you would still have to win 999 more Lotteries to become a billionaire.

So you have to be pretty smart, pretty determined, pretty lucky in who your dad was or pretty crooked to become a billionaire in the first place. And some people are billionaires many times over. How is that?

These UHNW (Ultra High Net Worth) individuals are growing exponentially in number as we ordinary losers keep shoveling money at them in exchange for such important, everyday items as this year’s model of iPhone, internet subscriptions, exorbitant rents, personal data or dubious financial advice. They know, surely they know, that we are all doomed, probably within a generation.

As the planet warms, feedbacks are triggered; polar ice vanishes, gigatons of methane erupt from thawing tundra and seabed, crops now glutted with CO2 can’t take up any more and die off, giving their CO2 back to the atmosphere; the oceans warm and acidify to the point where they no longer produce oxygen, the food chain collapses. Sea levels rise inexorably. Warmer air becomes heavy with water vapor, insulating clouds trap more heat. Weather systems become wilder, more unpredictable, more energetic.

As desertification begins to impact the temperate latitudes more wildfires consume vast areas of woods and scrubland, adding to the burden of greenhouse gases: CO, CO2, SO2, NOx – H2O. More and more of the human-habitable zone rapidly becomes uninhabitable, fragile economies collapse, millions flee in desperation to more northerly and southerly latitudes: migration wars break out.

If this sounds like the stuff of futuristic fiction, you need to wake up: it’s happening now, and it’s almost certainly already too late to stop it.

We’ve already fucked the atmosphere to the extent that if we stopped polluting right now, stopped everything: cars, planes, power plant, TV, air conditioning units, overnight, it would take 100 years to clear the excess CO2. But if sooty particulates in the stratosphere precipitated-out tomorrow, we would experience another 1.6 degrees of runaway warming within days. There is no science, no engineering solution that can stop it in time, that would not make things worse in the long run.

A growing number of perfectly respectable scientists are joining the ‘Extinction 2030’ club. But the models are starting to show an even worse-case scenario: it’s possible we could see 6 degrees of warming by 2021. And that’s not survivable. The planet hasn’t been that hot in the past 200 million years. Realistically it should take longer. No-one knows, exactly. But that doesn’t mean it isn’t happening now.

Three billionaires – Musk, Bezos and Branson – are racing to build a rocket ship that will take humans to Mars. But Mars is not a habitable planet, it’s all desert. It barely has an atmosphere: CO2. It’s very cold, giant dust storms last for weeks. There’s frozen water, but little solar energy to generate air and power indefinitely. You get there, put up a small tent, and that’s it – the future of Mankind in the universe, reduced to one tiny spark of optimism with not a lot around to catch fire.

It’d be pretty bleak.

Nor does the Martian ecosystem guarantee the resources needed to survive for long in a small colony without hard work, which billionaires are not used to doing; yet their gardeners and housekeepers would be hugely expensive deadweight on the nine-month journey. Robots would be needed. It’s all taking too long, and there are too many billionaires to accommodate.

A Mars mission would be fatally limited in scope: it would be like Scott’s last expedition to the Antarctic, a failed heroic gesture based on poor and hasty planning, inadequate support. Google will be our obituary: ‘thus far and no further’ etched in the Martian sand.

The solution for our threatened billionaires therefore probably lies in constructing terrestrial eco-domes: enclosed, controllable, self-sustaining environments like the Eden Project in Cornwall.

With plentiful solar and wind energy to provide air conditioning, refrigeration, oxygenation, composting of poo and recycling of waste water, these ‘living bubbles’ would enclose hydroponic farms to produce green crops, underground laboratories where proteinacious meat-substitutes could be cloned or manufactured from fungi, and medical facilities.

To go outside, protective suits and oxygen tanks would be required; especially in view of the likelihood that the highly radioactive cores of hundreds of unattended nuclear power stations around the world, deprived of their water coolant, would be melting-down.

The domes would of course have to be defensible. Unless there’s enough methane to snuff us all out, human extinction is not going to be an overnight success. There will be an enormous residue of buildings, fuel, vehicles and general ‘stuff’ to pillage, weapons stores, for useful items. It will take a few years, during which bands of starving survivors will represent an existential threat to the billionaires in their fragile domes.

Private armies will be required, well-armed, possibly with armored vehicles and even small ‘battlefield’ nuclear weapons, and they will naturally demand a share of the food and sanctuary offered by their employers. Unless their services can be supplied from the outset by robots, some means of eliminating the security people when they are no longer necessary will need to be built-in as they become a drain on resources.

Ultimately, however, no system is really self-sustaining to the extent that would be needed to support a viable colony of, say, sixty persons. Besides, unless a means of abandoning the dead planet could be found, to go out and explore the many planetary systems we are only just discovering in our galaxy, to try to find another Earth, what would be the point of surviving? It would take hundreds more people to accomplish than could be housed in the domes.

Breeding more humans in the domes would be counter-productive, as more and more resources would be needed to keep them alive. That can’t work in a closed system, we’ve tried it. You would have to initiate a ‘one-in, one-out’ policy. As the useful staff members – doctors, technicians, gardeners, cooks, maintenance people – their equipment deteriorates and their skills die off, who will replace them?

Billionaires are even now funding serious research into immortality. Lifespans in the hundreds of years may soon be achievable as we find a way to keep our cells replicating healthily. But there’s a catch in Domeworld. Their servants would have to become immortal too!

Boredom and futility would be the final killers, in a limited world of sterile pleasures where there is no more money to be made, no more challenges and goals for these alpha-males and females, other than sheer survival in a series of small, covered habitats flimsily insulated from a hostile environment inimical to all life bar the rats and cockroaches – and no Facebook!

With no more mountains to climb the billionaires would surely go crazy.

(And, lo, the very day after I wrote this little piece, hath appeared the following sign in the Heavens:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/bbcthree/item/183995d2-8d56-4028-9ca5-73394d695e10?intc_type=singletheme&intc_location=bbcthree&intc_campaign=bbcthree&intc_linkname=article_apocalypse_contentcard30 )

x

“So, for £20 I can put in a plug for British Airways?”

“In January 2011 BA merged with Iberia, creating the International Airlines Group (IAG), a holding company registered in Madrid, Spain. IAG (turnover £11.4 bn) is the world’s third-largest airline group in terms of annual revenue and the second-largest in Europe.”

Come, don’t fly with me

As you can probably guess, I have a computer.

It’s just a li’l laptop, with some peripheral things plugged in: a big screen, a mouse, some speakers, a printer.

And for what, £20, £25, I acquired a five-point switchable power-socket bar to distribute the electricity to them all, a kind of power-bar with a special little doohickey, a transformer, a power-sink, whatever, inside it, providing built-in surge protection.

So when lightning strikes or a nuclear bomb goes off somewhere, or when everybody switches their kettle off all at once, or when it’s a bank holiday, an unexpected power-surge is hopefully not going to derail my latest project by wiping my data or worse, blowing-up the operating system.

The ‘motherboard of all bombs’….

And it seems to be working okay so far.

Out there in PR land, they have a speciality a bit like my special power-bar. It’s called ‘crisis management’. Or sometimes, ‘reputation management’.

It’s about knowing what you have to do when your business fucks-up bigly, so you don’t permanently lose your reputation and thence, your business.

Like when British Petroleum blew a hole in the floor of the Gulf of Florida and had to confess, they didn’t have a stopper that fit. Millions of gallons of oil continued spewing out for days, weeks… it began to look like the end of the world was nigh. The marine life died, the fishermen were going bust, the compensation cheques got bigger and bigger… the Chief Executive was replaced but the share price kept on going south….

The eventual bill exceeded $60 billion and the loss of reputation was almost terminal. Not every big business can see the point of reputation management until they need it. And sorry seems to be the easiest word.

Self-styled crisis-management experts go around companies to provide training in how to prevent things going bad for your business, and how to deal with it when they do – as you can’t always count on things not going badly, the bigger and more complicated a business gets. Everyone knows that.

Nearly everyone.

It starts with a risk assessment. You all sit down together and blue-sky all the things that could possibly go seriously wrong, like a lightning strike or a nuclear bomb creating a power surge that takes down your entire information system, company wide.

Maybe no-one wants to seem so stupid as to mention the possibility of a bank holiday?

You draw up a plan to manage every situation, so everyone knows what they have to do; and some rough scripts, for what you say to the customers, the press – your shareholders.

Then you ask an engineer, how do we stop this happening?

And the engineer will say, well, it’s a very rare situation, hardly ever happens, but you should ideally make sure we have a backup system in case the main one goes down.

(Or, there’s this guy in Boglington-on-Sea who writes that for £20 you can get one of those special power-bars you plug your system into, that soaks up any power surges and stops your entire worldwide information nexus from going down at the same time.)

But what happens if we choose not to spend the £20 or bother having a backup, let’s just go with Microsoft Windows XP from Computer World, that’s always reliable, maybe fire all the IT people and outsource the whole damn thing to a wooden shack in Tamil Nadu, save ourselves some money?

Well, then, says the engineer, whoever took that decision is going to have some serious questions to answer if your entire information system goes down at the same time and you can’t operate the business.

But, how serious can it be?

Like I said, it happens very, very rarely.

Yeah, okay, let’s go ahead and ignore it.

But, worst-case scenario, you could find you have twenty-five thousand families jammed into airport lounges in many countries, no planes taking off, all not knowing what’s going on, on the busiest day of the year, a hot day, after they sweated for hours in traffic, at the start of the half-term holiday you just totally ruined for them and their kids, with nothing to eat, nowehere to go but home, and then you’d have to pay them maybe £100 million in compensation?

It’s never going to happen.

But what if it did, who would take responsibility in a situation that bad?

Not me, amigo.

I’m only the Managing Director.

It’s not my fault. It was a power surge…a bad reaction to a power surge… I dunno, it’s technical.

How many times have we heard this, top management refusing to resign over the most horrendous cock-ups on their watch?

“No, I can’t go, not me, I’m the only person on earth who can be trusted to fix the problem I created.”

It’s understandable, the amount these guys are paid. We recall the head of the Health Board on £250k a year who refused to go for weeks after an inquiry found that horrendous things happened, people died. She had to be dragged kicking and screaming from the building while huge cheques were being written to retain her as a consultant, only for that plan to be abandoned too in the face of a public outcry.

Now she lives on a gurney in a corridor somewhere, her worldly goods stuffed in bags underneath.

“Alex is 50 years old and originally from Bilbao in Spain.  He has a degree in industrial engineering from Central Michigan University, an MSc from the Ohio State University, and a Business Management & Administration degree from the Cox School of Business in Dallas.”  – See more at: http://mediacentre.britishairways.com/factsheets/details/86/Factsheets-3/26#sthash.7yKOPLX4.dpuf

Yes, but he’s also a Spanish omelette, no? It never even occurred to him that the flying circus would break down on a bank holiday, the putz; and that people wouldn’t see their bags again for a week.

Because he of all people should know, with his MBA, it’s over. He’s on his way, and no amount of special pleading is going to convince the ruined shareholders and the desolate holidaymakers of Britain, from where the British in British Airways (our national flag carrier) derives, albeit it’s now a rapacious, corner-cutting private Spanish company with serious staffing isues, that he should stay on.

I should know, I worked in PR. The internet will get him in the end.

Better book your ticket to Bilbao, Alex.

There’s a Ryanair flight leaving in an hour.

You can rely on it.

(PS As of Tuesday morning, £500 million has been wiped off the share price of BA’s parent company, IAG.

And now (Tuesday pm) it’s recovered, now the MD refuses to go. And by the end of the week it’s up further. That’s markets for you, completely irrational.)

x

The quality of mercy, slightly strained

The other day we at the BogPo reported on an Australian woman who walked free after her baby died in a hot car, thanks to a psychologist who testified there was such a thing as ‘Forgotten baby syndrome’.

Well now, Australia isn’t quite the liberal country of popular imagination, is it.

A Sudanese refugee who drove into a lake with her three children in the car has pleaded guilty to manslaughter with diminished responsibility, after two of the children drowned.

The judge was totally sympathetic to the fact that she was suffering from severe depression and flashbacks, having seen her father murdered in the civil war in Darfur. The children’s father spoke of how she had been a good mother who would never have intentionally harmed the children.

The judge said Guode had been suffering post-traumatic stress, signs of depression and feelings of isolation from the Sudanese community. “In my opinion, your actions were the product of extreme desperation, rather than any form of vengeance,” he commented. (BBC report)

Then he sentenced her to 26 years and six months in jail, with a no-parole period of 20 years, and said it was likely she would be deported after serving her sentence.

I’ve never really loved the Antipodeans, have you? They can be a bit, well, dry? Like their ageing tennis hero, the homophobic racist Margaret Court, possibly?

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But what have we learned?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tripoli bombing. (Google images)

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

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

What a surprise.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

In God we trust

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It’s never going to end.

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

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

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

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

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

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

It really will not do.

x

The rule of law as it applies to the Conservatives

Look.

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

Comex Two, Stately Home, blah.

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

They are mostly illiterate baboons in any case.

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

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

Surely I can make up my own mind?

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

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

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

This week we read the following:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sick sons of bitches.

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

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

DO NOT VOTE FOR THEM.

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

 

The Pumpkin essay: They hate our way of life. (‘I never mentioned Israel’).

“The fact that no British politician other than poor Mr Corbyn dares to admit that we have been bringing this on ourselves for 150 years …. is itself the very root and branch of last night’s tragedy.”

They hate our way of life

The suicide bombing that killed 22 young concertgoers and waiting parents in Manchester last night was a filthy atrocity that is still raw and resonant in the light of dawn. The Pumpkin debated with itself long and hard during the sleepless toothaching hours of this morning whether or not it was too soon to share certain thoughts with our Spammers, Likers, etc. that rose to the surface about, particularly, the timing of the attack.

The Pumpkin however is not known for the longevity of its memory and so felt it better to set matters down now. If you don’t wish to be irked today, come back some other time.

It was possibly just fortuitous. Some commentators pointed to the fact that it is the fourth anniversary of the murder in London by extremist Islamic ‘converts’, two African men of low intelligence, of Fusilier Lee Rigby, an off-duty soldier seemingly victimised at random as the symbolic target of some incoherent malcontent.

But the two events seem barely tangential and there is plenty else going on to explain an outrage at this time, if explanation is required (which, as I go on to explain, it isn’t… at least, it will not be encouraged).

The circumstances are as they are: the identity of the perpetrator will no doubt be pieced together in the coming hours, their contacts file raided before dawn, possible accomplices arrested, CCTV and phone images and witnesses interviewed, photos of the tragic victims sourced – the media will (indeed, judging by the headlines emerging from online press it already has) brush down the narrative of the ‘men of evil’ who ‘hate our way of life’.

Amid the hand-wringing pieties, the COBRA meetings (that must be getting a bit repetitive by now) and defiant rhetoric of politicians who have nothing left to say we shall no doubt hear the sound of stable doors being resolutely bolted to ensure that ‘nothing like this ever happens again’, while knowing in our heart of hearts that of course it will.

The one thing that can be done to honour the dead will not be done: end the war.

The last criminals to bomb Manchester were the Provisional IRA in 1996, a huge demolition job that injured over 200 people but, thanks to a partial warning given in advance, led to no deaths. The IRA were less interested in killing people en masse than in demonstrating that they could if they wanted to. Though, of course, ‘regrettably’ people were occasionally killed, three thousand on all sides over 20 years, the conflict was eventually ended not with semtex and the Armalite, but by negotation and seeking the other person’s point of view.

Some other people will draw moral equivalence between this random attack on our children and the many, many instances of civilian collateral deaths in the so-called war on terror, that is visiting appalling hardship and mounting casualties daily on poor villagers from what is inaccurately claimed to be ‘precision-guided’ aerial bombing in Syria, Iraq, Yemen, Afghanistan – aimed (but not very well) at terrorising the fanatical army of Abubakr al-Baghdadi – IS – into submission.

An army born of Western interventions and supplied by America’s persistent arming of the Gulf states and supposedly friendly militias.

Appalling, but no longer, by example, unimaginable. From time to time we feel the backlash and gain a glimpse. Or rather, we don’t. Our ‘glimpse’ of their pain is invariably subsumed by the authorities into a narrative of inexcusable hatred of ‘our way of life’ – as if we don’t hate theirs back. Any other response is considered profoundly unpatriotic.

It might all make more sense if the authorities – the government – would openly admit to what the national policy in Syria and Iraq actually is; the problem being, they don’t know. There isn’t one. It’s all about blindly following some agenda set by ‘the West’ – whatever that is – that we have passively gone along with for decades since ceasing to be the imperial power in the region.

Perhaps the real crime is that what is being done there in our name makes so little impression on us here, three thousand miles away, where we go about our business in denial, blind to the suffering of others – until the refugees arrive on our doorstep and the media and the politicians conspire to affect surprise and consternation as they force shut the gates against them.

Perhaps they have not rejected the refugees because of who they are, but in order not to alarm the population too greatly as to WHY they are.

The Pumpkin regrets that, whatever the historical justification, the official version, the uncomfortable fact is that there is a war on, and that the inexplicable, evil ‘terrorist’ acts are also acts of war is simply not an argument it is permissible to make in our country. Let us just say then that the number of civilian deaths (including many ‘beautiful babies’ and wedding parties inadvertently reduced by Allied ordnance to unidentifiable body parts) in those one-sided conflict zones has increased markedly since the arrival in office last January of President Trump. (See link below)

In his determination to impress the dumbfucks with his toughness and singleminded ambition to ‘make America great again’, Trump has removed even the flimsy cover of the rules of engagement, while imposing the equally flimsy cover of a news blackout on military affairs. But does it amount to a strategy? We can see how this may be giving certain elements on the opposing side, which appears to be losing its grip both on human unreason and conquered land, cause for yet greater anguish; while, from a British dimension, Mrs May’s unconsidered support for Trump’s circus of the grotesque will not have gone unnoticed (see below).

While Mr Trump insists that his intensification of the Kissinger doctrine of ‘just bomb the shit out of them’, encouraged by the manufacturers of bombs, will ‘keep people safe on our streets’, elementary logic dictates that it will have precisely the opposite effect – and elementary cynicism suggests that that is precisely the intention.

Safe streets do not require the imposition of authoritarian regimes through dubious stratagems well-funded by uber-capitalist billionaires hell-bent on extracting for themselves the last ounces of wealth from a dying planet.

Rather than looking to the anniversary of the killing of Fusilier Rigby, one might look to the more contemporaneous speech Mr Trump delivered in Riyadh three days ago to the representatives of the Arab world, a speech written (it’s said) by his notoriously Islamophobic, obnoxious young advisor, Stephen Miller, calling for a final push to end violent extremism.

As if!

The Pumpkin respectfully suggests that as long as there is a cause for extremism there will be extremism. Trump could bring about the ‘beginning of the end’ of the war on terror by calling off his bombers first and not selling another $300 billion-worth of armaments to Saudi Arabia, a medieval terror-sponsoring autocratic patriarchal petrodollar state hagridden with hypocritical royal princelings, that seems to thrive on glut.

Instead, he brings the terrorists within his own limited compass, describing them as ‘losers’.

For Trump, life is simple: you are either rich, or you are nothing. A winner, or a loser. The president is sick beyond redemption, scarcely even human: a brash, vain money-breather with a brain made from congealed greed. Yet in a way, he has hit the nail on the head. Violence is the last refuge of the ‘loser’, when economic power is denied them and the violence of superior wealth, the violence of the winners, is visited daily on their nation.

(It should be pointed out respectfully that if it should prove to be the case that the Manchester bomber was a Muslim, he or she will almost certainly have been inspired by one or other branch of the faith that has its roots in Sunni wahabbism as practised, promoted and financed by Saudi clerics, and not in Shi’a or Sufism. Thanks to its insatiable demand for oil, America has always had great difficulty in determining who its real enemies are.)

We are living in a very odd time, are we not?, at which our rulers are prosecuting a war over our heads, largely hidden from the sight of the population at large; so that it is only brought home to us that ‘something is going on’ when atrocities are perpetrated on our own soil, in our concert halls, whereupon they are invariably represented to us as somehow inexplicable and random instances of ‘evil’, devoid of meaning or context.

It is simply not permissible to question the nature of this ‘evil’ or even to suggest it may have roots and cause and reason; as to do so would be to start to pull aside the veil. All that may be said of it is that there is an ‘enemy within’, who might be the hateful stranger next door; fear is turned against us and we are helpless in the face of it, reliant entirely on the State apparatus, on State power and secret knowledge, to ‘keep our streets safe’.

And when, inevitably, it is brought home to us – thankfully very rarely, this was the first bomb attack (we are told) on the UK mainland since 2005 – that our streets are not so safe, and can never be, the first instinct of the State is to add extra layers to the cocoon of platitudes that stifles rational debate.

No-one suggested the bomber wanted to destroy British values, Mrs May. That’s you talking out of your book of post-outrage homilies. It seems far more likely the bomber wanted to make a point by destroying Western children, which is why he targeted a concert for the young fans of Ariana Grande.

But yes, the element of Salafism, the religiously motivated Puritanical disdain for our soft, decadent pleasure-seeking, our lotus-eating lifestyle, which we indulge briefly in the few hours between work and work, in much the same way as Saudi wahabbists love to come to London and New York for the brothels and the casinos, that’s enough to say ‘they want to destroy our way of life’.

Which is another way of saying: they have a clear target and a cause they can use to recruit disaffected young men to attack it in pursuit of their war. It’s not such a difficult idea.

It takes perhaps a more sophisticated understanding of the nature of modern ‘hybrid’ or asymmetrical warfare than has yet caught up with the majority, fed on stirring tales, who may still think of a war as a confrontation formally declared and conducted between States with armies and navies and airforces, between ‘our boys’ and their ‘terrorists’ (our ‘heroes’, their hate-filled ‘murderers’) along more or less equal lines.

The so-called ‘Gerasimov doctrine’ however introduces precisely the mix of random and inexplicable events as elements of a wider picture, of present and future conflicts conducted in many ways and on many levels wherever opportunity arises, through computer hacks and disruptive malware, propaganda coups, ‘fake news’ and confusion, financial chaos and the encouragement of political instability, inexplicably shifting allegiances and illogical interventions; yes, occasional ‘terrorist outrages’ too – with only the thrust and parry of actual armed conflict from time to time to indicate that anything is going on.

As this ‘war against terror’ as Mr Bush defined it has no State enemy, is prosecuted in our name under a cloak of secrecy and deniability wherever the State chooses to pursue it, in whatever way, it is simply not possible for us to address the underlying narrative, the historical causes, of the violence – perhaps even to end it – to put finite limits on it without admitting that, yes, there is a reason, there is a cause, a historic injustice to which the word ‘unacceptable’, that favourite epithet of politicians, cannot be applied without undermining everything we are told we must stand for, our sacrosanct ‘way of life’, against which all argument such as this essay is ‘unacceptable’ – treason.

‘Our way of life’ is code for an increasingly fractious and irresponsible society where glaring inequality, economic stagnation for the many, unprincipled accumulation of wealth by the few, ersatz kultur, gargantuan waste and the growing signs of unsustainability are skated over, as the supermarkets struggle to keep up the appearance of infinite abundance in the face of rising commodity prices and crop failures; as the Arctic warms to boiling point.

Yet it is our government that has put our values, our ‘way of life’ on the line.

We are, it seems, here in Britain trapped in yet another election period, characterised by the de facto Prime Minister’s insistence that the principal motive for holding this election now, four years early, is to cement her in power, on the grounds that ‘only she’ can provide the ‘strong and stable leadership’ required to navigate us through the choppy waters ahead.

How many times have we heard this same bullshit from the vain and the overweeningly ambitious?

Mrs May has already demonstrated that she is not interested in Parliamentary democracy, by fighting a (losing) legal battle to deny Parliament the right of even a hint of a veto or any discussion over negotiations which she will personally oversee in order to obtain the best deal for Britain, a ‘red, white and blue Brexit’, in the minor matter of our shameful abandonment of our treaty obligations to 27 other European states, regardless of the damage to our long-term economic and security interests. Inasmuch as there is a long-term.

Indeed, so autocratic is the diffident lady that she has virtually abandoned her own Conservative party. There is almost no mention of the name in her communications with the public, who are henceforth to refer to the venerable party as ‘Team May’. Just what the hell is going on?, to quote former Candidate Trump. (Well, we now know, as details emerge of massive contributions to her election war-chest from three leading oil industry executives, while millionaire fund managers openly propose to buy politicians amenable to their profitably disruptive model of a ‘hard Brexit’.)

Three days ago, however, Mrs May’s seemingly unassailable poll ratings began to tumble, as she was forced through audibly gritted teeth to defend the presentation of, and possibly even backslide or even flip-flop on, a number of unthought-through promises contained in her manifesto, hastily drawn up by her exclusive inner circle of unelected advisors – including a former regional editor of the Daily Mail – policies that would have devastating financial consequences, both for poorer children and the frail elderly.

It is of course churlish to say what The Pumpkin is going to say next, outrageous and unacceptable, in very bad taste indeed; not the time, if ever there could be an appropriate time to discuss such an appalling event in such dishonourable terms. (There is of course not the slightest suggestion of any direct link or any such inference to be drawn here.)

But it is an ill wind, they say, that blows nobody any good.

Following the Manchester bombing, it would be invidious of some unscrupulous blogger fairly high on the Asperger’s scale not to point to the likely effect on the election outcome, which must surely now be beyond doubt.

The former Home Secretary, having presided over the security apparatus for six years previously; the architect of so much anti-terrorism legislation, despite successive governments having denuded the police, the military and the security services of the manpower and resources to actually implement the legislation or defend the country, Mrs May has created around herself an invincible aura: the impeccable credentials of a Boudicca who will ‘guarantee’ the safety of our streets.

The saintly and sanctimonious Mr Corbyn, on the other hand, has been ruthlessly tarred in a long-running campaign with the twin brushes of flakey pacifism and fraternising with terrorists – one of those Islingtonian libtard snowflakes who prefers ‘jaw-jaw’ to ‘war-war’ and thinks one should negotiate with one’s enemies before squishing them –  ever since he was first elected to the leadership of the Labour party.

Why, the hoary old traitor would even refuse to commit our US-controlled nuclear ‘deterrent’ to a British first-strike if pushed to it! He’d be too scared to press the button! How can such a cowardly man be allowed to run the country?

There is now, surely, no contest. The crux of the election will already have swung from ‘Brexit’ to the rhetoric of ‘safe streets’. Once campaigning resumes, only Mrs May, channelling Thatcher, than whom she is allegedly more popular, will be said to have the strength and stability to stand up to the men of violence, etcetera.

The fact that no British politician other than poor Mr Corbyn dares to admit that we have been bringing this on ourselves for almost 150 years of meddling in the oil- and blood-soaked affairs of the Middle East against the stony backdrop of a centuries-old history of violent schism within Islam, invasion and crusade, empire-building and collision, the gerrymandering of artificial states and the finagling of corrupt and brutal autocracies, is itself the very root and branch of last night’s tragedy.

‘Evil’ has nothing to do with it. ‘Evil’ is indeed part of the same delusionary medieval mindset as that of the fundamentalists on both sides who are prosecuting this filthy and in large part covert war; an unending conflict between proxies of greater Powers, petrol poured over it and replenished daily by the arms trade, inasmuch as life here on the Western front mostly carries on as if nothing was happening; until it does.

The Pumpkin has tried for several months now to point to the quasi-mystical aspect of the current political paradigm-shift in the West, driven in part by wealthy ‘disruptors’ linked to ultra-nationalist movements with roots feeding deep on past glories, when heroic knightly Christians and evil profane Moors collided with one another at the gates of Jerusalem, of Vienna, Byzantium, Granada and Omdurman; and partly by the ‘global laundromat’ of hot money.

It is simply folly to deny this history and not see the contemporary resonances. They may be largely symbolic nowadays, with the entry of gangsterism and drones into the equation; but symbolism has become the rationality de nos jours. And those people want war, they crave instability, uncertainty. It’s good for markets.

It would be folly, too, not to try at least to comprehend the enormity of; the incredible complexity, the tangled warp and weft, the thrust and plot of labyrinthine Mid-Eastern politics on so many levels; the role of Israel, the machinations of the energy business and the Deep States, with their endless lethal games; the ancient tribal power struggles… we interfere at our peril, we understand nothing. These ought not to be our affairs.

Atrocities such as Manchester’s cannot be reduced to the one simple absurdity, the old cliche of an act that is purely ‘evil’. People just don’t blow themselves up in crowded places because they are ‘evil’, they do it out of desperation, they go crazy and do these things because nothing else is available to them; no other remedy for the pain in their heart, the confusion in their head; not even the acknowledgment that they are fighting in a war which we have imposed on them: only the epithets ‘terrorist’. ‘Loser’.

We can manage our own atrocities, thank you.

Further reading: http://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/mar/24/mosuls-children-were-shouting-under-the-rubble-nobody-came

 

Postscriptum

And if you want to know how prescient is The Pumpkin, JC has indeed today (26 May) made a speech attempting to explain that there is a war on, just as I said – and if you want also to know what utter cunts the Tories are, here is the text of a reply from bully-boy expenses hypocrite, Michael Fallon:

“This is a very badly timed speech, showing some very muddled and dangerous thinking (That’s two ‘verys’, Ed.). He seems to be implying that a terorrist (sic) attack in Manchester is somehow our fault, it’s somehow Britain’s fault.

“Jeremy Corbyn is far to ready to ready to (sic) find excuses and far to (sic) slow to support the police and the security services. This is a man, by the way, who has opposed every piece of terrorist legislations (sic), who thinks we should talk to terrorists, and who’s even questioned should be right to shoot to kill (What? Ed.).

“You see the contrast today between Theresa May acting in the national interest and Jeremy Corbyn confirming that he’s simply not up to the job.”

So that’s what you get in wartime Britain for merely telling the truth. Of course it’s not the sort of thing you’d put past Fallon, to make political capital out of the deaths of children. He’s the most disgusting chinless apology for a human being, isn’t he?

Fuck them. DO NOT VOTE FOR THEM.

In the long run we’re all dead.

Isn’t he just priceless?

You may remember, there was a fuss the other week because, having fired the man investigating him over his dodgy Russian connections, the very next day Trump entertained the Russian foreign minister and the ambassador-spy at the White House, at the suggestion of Mr Putin?

And there, in front of a Russian photographer he blurted out information so secret that it came with a ‘Code-only’ security rating, that the US has ‘great intel’ such as was coming from right inside ISIS thanks to an ally in the region; the inference being that Israeli intelligence had an asset in Raqqa?

And when this was leaked, Trump got General McMaster, his head of national security, to deny that he’d given any secrets away? And then Trump went on TV and said he had an ‘absolute right’ to tell anyone anything he wanted, because he was the President. But he would never say where the intel came from, of course he wouldn’t?

So Trump is in Israel, there’s a press conference with Netanyahu, and the Trumpkin gets up and announces to the world’s press, ‘first I want to tell you, I never mentioned Israel. I never said it was Israel.’

And meanwhile it has emerged that Trump also informed his new buddy, the pockmarked litle thug Duterte of the Philippines, in a telephone call two weeks ago, of the whereabouts of two ‘very powerful’ US nuclear submarines.

This man’s IQ is very definitely somewhere in the 90s. Maybe lower. Immeasurably low. Especially when he tells the assembled Israeli ministers: ‘We just got in from the Middle East…’

And it appears that the lawyer he has briefed to defend him against the FBI’s investigation of his links with Russia is working for a leading Russian bank… his business partner is former GOP senator, Joe Lieberman, Trump’s (probably now abandoned) pick for director of… the FBI…

And it also appears that Comey was not the only one Trump begged to abandon the investigations into connections with Russia, a prima facie case for a federal charge of obstructing justice, but he also called the heads of the CIA and the National Security Administration and tried to get them to put pressure on Comey to back off the investigation into Flynn….

It’s like he’d rather be in gaol than in the White House.

What a loser.

x

xAmericans? Fuck ’em, says Trump

And if you want to know who really hates your way of life, please watch Senator Elizabeth Warren’s dissection of Trump and DeVos’s proposed $11bn education cuts in the federal budget, to pay for the Mexican border wall:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ma5AsvIgbhw

It is so shocking you will not believe it. So if you don’t believe it, catch the full version with Senator Chuck Schumer:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=98a3Uq3ML9A

(btw you may hear him refer to student loans. Mrs DeVos owns a company that buys up student loans and pursues students for payment with threats and property seizures.)

You may wish to conclude that Donald J Trump is a demented old orange slug and his placemen incompetent, self-interested, profoundly corrupted lunatics.

I couldn’t possibly comment.

The BogPo: wake up Britain, you’re being Disrupted! (Plus: A guide to Big Dada – and, NEW: “I am vindicated” syndrome).

“We needed stronger leadership, so I got Lars von Trier  to give me a fakeover.”

WARNING: DO NOT VOTE FOR THIS WOMAN.

Wake Up, Britain, you’re being Disrupted!

Okay.

We have less than a week to go before May triggers Article 50 to take us out of the EU.

Once that happens we’re bound on an irreversible course that will almost certainly lead to the breakup, not only of Europe, but of the UK. I bogld about that last bit in The Pumpkin – Issue 13, if you care to look; and how a Belfast-born political disruptor, anti-abortion fanatic and alt-right website owner based in Eastern Europe, Jim Dowson, backed by a Christian-right Russian billionaire close to Putin, is now set on splitting Scotland away.

Now.

“Millionaire” Mr Dowson also boasts of his work on-line, encouraging people to vote for Brexit. Have his claims resulted in the merest suspicion that the referendum may not have been conducted “on the square”, as the Freemasons put it? Or is it simply accepted that in a democracy people are free to campaign for any cause they believe in, in any undeclared, underhand way they please – even the overthrow of the State?

A clue to Mr Dowson’s activities and interests (other oligarchs are available) may be found in a Guardian article of 20 March. I warn you, they are somewhat incoherent:

“I have been a fanatical defender of the union, but I am a pragmatist, and England is finished. It is not just finished because of the Muslim problem and immigration, but also because as of now we are looking at permanent Tory rule … This is a global network that I believed helped elect Donald Trump and backed Brexit to win. “

theguardian.com/politics/2017/mar/20/jim-dowson-back-scottish-independence-patriotic-news-agency-far-right

So did Dowson interfere in the referendum process as an undeclared pro-Leave lobbyist? Was he acting alone?

Nobody picked up on it.

A few months ago, the BBC’s Chief Political Correspondent, Laura Kuenssberg, who has since been subjected to a campaign of vilification in social media, published a piece on the BBC website speculating about the clandestine use of ‘bots’ by the Leave side in the EU referendum campaign. This followed an earlier report in June of a disrupt:

“An online petition calling for a second EU referendum has been hijacked by automated bots adding false signatures. Posts on the 4chan** message board indicated that some users had scripted programs to automatically sign the petition. Thousands of signatures appeared to have come from people in Vatican City and Antarctica.

“The House of Commons petitions committee said it had removed 77,000 signatures and was investigating.” (BBC News)

Did this indicate a level of external interference in the referendum itself? Resulting, perhaps, in the crashing of the voter registration website in the last 48 hours of registration and the addition of another two million voters who appeared to come from nowhere?

Nobody picked up on it.

A couple of months later, an article in The Guardian referred to a US company, Cambridge Analytica, owned (possibly) by the Breitbart News backer and ultra-rightwing multi-billionaire IT whizz, Robert Mercer, that had apparently been ‘data-harvesting’ millions of voters in the UK, secretly analysing their likely voting intentions and responding with a flood of personalized disinformation bots on behalf of the Leave campaign (about whose real intentions the BogPo has already intensively, and with fruity swearing, speculated). CA has downplayed but not denied the allegation.

Cornell University (ironically founded by a great-uncle of Kathy Cornell Gorka, a White House advisor on the dangers of Muslims – See Pumpkin 13) has conducted a study of the use of bots in political campaigning: arxiv.org/abs/1606.06356

The opening summary paragraph states:

“Political bots are automated accounts that are particularly active on public policy issues, elections, and political crises. In this preliminary study on the use of political bots during the UK referendum on EU membership, we analyze the tweeting patterns for both human users and bots. We find that political bots have a small but strategic role in the referendum conversations: (1) the family of hashtags associated with the argument for leaving the EU dominates, (2) different perspectives on the issue utilize different levels of automation (i.e. it’s an iterative process. Ed.), and (3) less than 1 percent of sampled accounts generate almost a third of all the messages.”

Nobody picked up on it.

Now, all this activity is not illegal, but it’s unfair, because it’s not what people are used to. Voters get used to election tactics, but this is something new, when someone from your Contacts folder pops up to tell you, by the way, such-and-such a candidate is a child-killer and a drug addict, you’re inclined to believe it. False: it’s not anyone you know, it’s a bot. And when both sides are bludgeoning you incessantly with the phonus-bolonus, it can get wearing – people will switch off.

And that’s the idea. Boredom brings down democracies.

On Monday, Mr James Comey, the head of the FBI, answered a question at a Congressional hearing to obtain confirmation that the security services were investigating both Mr Trump’s claims of having been “””wiretapped””” by President Obama*, and possible ties between the Trump campaign and the Russians.

The question from the excellent inquisitor, Democratic Congressman Adam Schiff was, did he think the Russians were interfering elsewhere, as perhaps with the Brexit referendum?

And the equally excellent, and imposingly tall Mr Comey replied ‘Yes, I do’.

And nobody, not even the media, has picked up on it.

Now there is evidence that not only was Russian military intel, the GRU, ‘Guccifer 2’ hacking the Democratic party servers for info useful to the Trump campaign, but they then ‘weaponized’ the data against the Clinton campaign, using bots to flood social media with misdirection in response to individual voting preferences. They also did this to supporters of Bernie Sanders, with a massive campaign of disinformation helping to persuade his voters, who, you may remember, he had asked to vote for Hillary when he gave up his bid for the White House, not to vote for her.

So we know they can do it. And the aforementioned Irish  ‘millionaire’ Dowson (I can find no evidence that he is a millionaire. Where does that come from?), who has extensive East European, English nationalist and Russian connections, has boasted of the disruptive ‘meme’ he created on his US Patriot News website, alleging the existence of a worldwide paedophile ring involving Clinton. Did they do it here too?

Nobody in Britain has yet picked up on it, to join the dots; or seems to understand that the FBI believes the EU referendum was in all likelihood interfered with by the Russians as a disruptive tactic in their new-style hybrid warfare, as well as by rightwing US ‘disruptors’ linked with wealthy, non-official Leave campaigners in the UK; and that the BBC and the Guardian and even Cornell University know there is evidence the EU campaign was targeted in a campaign of disinformation by automated computer-generated bots masquerading as genuine information sources:

Yet nobody has picked up on it.

Because, as the following instructional clip from Rachel Maddow on MSNBC (21 March) explains,

That’s what the Russians DO.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Vy1vk1mZhiw

And for a more official summary nearer to home, of the unofficial ‘dark money’ campaign that helped swing the UK referendum for the Disruptors, read:

http://www.theguardian.com/politics/2017/apr/01/dark-money-threat-to-uk-elections-integrity?utm_source=esp&utm_medium=Email&utm_campaign=GU+Today+main+NEW+H+categories&utm_term=219998&subid=19570602&CMP=EMCNEWEML6619I2

So will somebody in authority, like Parliament, the police or MI5, the Electoral Reform Society – anybody – please pick up on it?

And quickly?

Because we’ve been conned!

Is the Government blind to this? Does it just not want to worry the British people that the Russians and their fifth-columnists on the alt-right are even now waging cyberwar on us? Have they just not picked up on it? Or has the Thing, this global crusade for racial and religious purity and the confusing disruption of our political, economic and social institutions funded by Russian ‘laundromat’ money, prising open the divisions and contradictions in our liberal democracy, already penetrated the higher echelons of the British government to put the blinders on – as it has the White House?

Mrs May, you were in charge of the national security apparatus for six years, can you tell us, possibly?

Postscriptum

And here’s another story worth reading, concerning Russia’s disruption tactics, on the BBC News website, two days after Article 50 got triggered – and no mention of interference in the referendum:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-39401637

Postscripta, please add to brain:

*Mr Trump is now claiming he was at least partly right about being wiretapped – having been informed by the CIA that, yes, they did listen in to some conversations in which he was a participant. Unfortunately for the President, a man for whom the word ‘consequences’ seems fraught with difficulty, it has not apparently occurred to him why his voice was inadvertently recorded on those CIA files?

It was because, not him, but the thus-far anonymous people he was conversing with, were themselves suspects under surveillance.***

Oops.

That did not however stop the sucky little asshole with the terrified eyes, Congressman Nunes, inexplicably Republican chair of the Intelligence Committee, from immediately running down to the White House on the orders of the doe-eyed Congressional leader Paul Ryan, who is in deep doo-doo with Trump over his crappy American Healthcare bill, that seems likely to disaffiliate millions of poorer Trump voters, to show Orange Satan the CIA report, in clear breach of his duty of confidentiality to the committee – and then unilaterally cancelling the second hearing.

Most of the unfolding disaster is being put down to ‘inexperience’. Right, we’ve never experienced incompetence and venality on this scale, anywhere.

**The 4Chan site has been linked to Internet subcultures and activism, most notably Anonymous, the alt-right and Project Chanology. (Wikipedia). An open website guaranteeing anonymity and storing no data, 4Chan is an ideal breeding ground for disruptors.

***And it now appears accusations of British snooping were also partly accurate, in that the initial intercepts of conversations between the Trump camp and the Russians came from standard traffic monitoring by GCHQ, who are miffed that they passed the intel on to the CIA, the FBI, the NSA in late 2015 and no-one took any notice, presumably because they were focussed on their own monitoring of Mr Carter Page, a deniable, no-account former Trump campaign advisor, self-imagined man of mystery and go-between on ‘foreign relations’.

Both Mr Page and Russian spokes deny Page ever met with ‘oil’igarch, Rosneft CEO Igor Sechin, which probably therefore means that he did.

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BIG DADA: A Guide

Who are the Disruptors?

The Pumpkin identifies disruptors as political activists with no party allegiance who seek to disrupt conventional channels of communication and institutions in order to bring about change in random and unspecified directions and create chaos, from which a ‘new politics’ will emerge.

Funded in part by a flood of Russian money, the Disruptor movement is being enabled and amplified by borderless communications and social media networks.

In that sense they resemble the artists, writers and musicians of the late 19th and early 20th century, mostly from Central Europe, inspired by political revolution and the emerging horrors of industrialized warfare, who promoted manifestos calling for the destruction of conventional society and the creation of a new order arising from the wreckage: groups like the Futurists, the Stridentists, Wyndham Lewis’ Vorticists, the Ashcan School and most successfully the Dadaists, building on the writings of Kropotkin and other anarchist or nihilist movements.

Some disruptors will by the nature of the activity simply be ‘merry pranksters’ – teenage hackers, acting with no more ultimate motive than to do some mischief and earn kudos. Others however find the internet and its influence on, especially, the millennial generation a useful vehicle for turning teenage anarchy to their advantage in putting forward an alt-right, Christian-right, racial purity, revivalist agenda.

There is in the view of The Pumpkin little difference in execution between the cynical radicalisation programmes of extreme Islam and the attempts by the alt-right, etc., to engage the idealism, naivety and adventurous spirits of young people via their social media for some dark project leading to supposedly exciting and beneficial social change, exploiting their hormonal uncertainty and natural altruism; like the recruitment tactics of religious cultists such as the Moonies and the Scientologists; the Hitler youth or the Comsomol.

(The symmetry between the Disrupt and IS is there to see. It’s always about the corruption of innocence.)

There is evidence of Russian, Balkan, North Korean and Chinese State involvement in disruptive tactics – not only the ceaseless hacking and probing denial of service attacks on banks and hospitals and utilities and local authorities and transport undertakings, but the further weaponization by the military of Big Data. Under the so-called Gerasimov Doctrine of hybrid warfare we will not be conquered by invasion, or by counterproductive nuclear strikes; rather by an insidious process of undermining our faith in our institutions.

Others in the background, ‘useful idiots’ – very wealthy (mostly) men – seek to advance their own private networks by destroying the centrist, liberal-democratic consensus they perceive is weak, failing – corrupted by multiculturalism – but which nevertheless persists in its attempts to rein-in their lucrative transactions. The suspicion must be that some at least of the $billions pouring out of Russia from the criminal skimming of former State-owned assets through dodgy banks, offshore trusts, insanely overpriced art auctions, arms traffic and property megadeals is being used to fund these willing and greedy Western accomplices in the takedown of the West.

Disruption is the modern equivalent of the old military tactic of  ‘harrying’ – mounting low-cost, lightning raids here and there along the enemy’s defensive lines, to disrupt communications and movements; to take a few prisoners, seize supplies; to demoralise and test the strength of the enemy. If my personal data were among the millions of mobile phone company records seized in some spectacular hacking operation, as I’m sure they must have been (I was a Yahoo! subscriber for years) I shouldn’t be too concerned: the Russians probably aren’t going to do much with the information, they just want to send a message that our Western technology is weak and cannot protect us; but they will use it if provoked.

This is polygonal politics: economic,  religious and cultural warfare in the internet era, and our politicians had better understand it and find ways to combat it, soon.

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At last, I am vindicated!

A woman in Australia has walked free from court after her baby died when she forgot he was in the car, on a hot day.

It is not a precedent one would wish to set, obviously. People have a natural attachment to babies, a protective, hopeful instinct that ignores the awful teenagers they will grow into one day, the drug addicts, jihadis, corporate lawyers and US Presidents they go on to become. People still get upset, hearing about babies left to die like dogs in hot cars.

It’s a brave jurist who exonerates a parent for such a careless approach to their duties. The poor woman, what was her name? Lindy Chamberlain, who battled for years to explain that they went for a picnic in the Outback and a dingo must have taken her baby while her back was turned? The poor woman went through hell for years, accused of all sorts. ‘A Psychologist’ had not yet been born who would tell the court, yes, there is such a thing as ‘Taken baby syndrome”.

Australia often has hot days, I’m told, so one might think the Coroner would have asked the obvious question; not: “Why did you forget your baby was in the car?” but: “Why did you leave your baby in the car in the first place?”

But then, I wasn’t there. I cannot account for the circumstances; unlike in my own situation.

The BBC reports:

“A psychologist told the inquest he believed Ms Zunde suffered a memory lapse called “forgotten baby syndrome”.

“If you are capable of forgetting to post a letter, you are capable of forgetting to take your baby out of the car,” said Matthew Mundy, an associate professor at Monash University. “Your memory is limited, it’s limited in the number of things you can remember at any given time, and it’s limited in the amount of time you can remember a thing for. Your brain at the neural level doesn’t discriminate between [posting] a letter, a baby or remembering to pick up your mobile phone.

“In his opinion the lapse could happen to anyone, he said.”

Exactly!

So my reprehensible behaviour in frequently forgetting to collect my infant son from his nursery during those months of turmoil, when my business was failing and I was stuck in meetings with the bank for hours while struggling to meet all my other commitments to creative output and to pay the staff wages, so that I would often of an evening find myself having to do a U-ey and hurtle at illegal speed the twelve miles back from my home driveway where the realization usually dawned, to find the poor mite cradled in the arms of a fuming ‘pudding’, as I called the dumpy little creche nurses, sitting locked-out on the doorstep, finally has a name! A syndrome!

That’s one in the eye for the wife:

“Forgotten baby syndrome”.

It explains, certainly, why I have no idea currently where I have left my mobile phone. I haven’t seen it for days. The battery will be flat by now, so there’s no point in emailing my son – about whom I still forget for long periods – and getting him to phone it, so I can identify its whereabouts.

Letters, too, sit in the Documents file on muh li’l laptop, unprinted – perhaps I have forgotten that the toner has run out again – or in envelopes ready to go, with expensive first-class stamps on, on the bureau, unposted, until I think better of sending them and tear them up. Complaining to utility companies and writing to my MP about the traffic makes no difference, they shrug it off, the world turns, a politely worded but anodyne defence is received, no action taken – why create all that aggro? Just forget it.

Unposted letter syndrome, lost phone syndrome… life’s a beach, ain’t it? I spent the better part of £600 on a new laptop three weeks ago. I still haven’t found the energy, the commitment to spend another week setting up all those files, the passwords, the lost data, the fumbling back and forth to read the instructions from one machine screen to another. It’s just sitting there, one tiny light winking futilely. Soon it will vanish under the pile of angry letters accumulating around, the cat sleeping on top of it and be forgotten.

“Forgotten laptop syndrome” will be added to the list of my many syndromes, exculpating me from the failing memories of my past, the unbidden responsibility to the future. Life can be so simple with the right diagnosis.

“Simple life syndrome”.

The joy of letting go.

 

The Pumpkin – Issue 12. The great wiretapping scandal: Pumpkin indicted by Grand Jury. Flynn-flam #2.

“Ya know, like this. “””Wiretapping”””. I speak, sick Black Satan listens. So bad.”

The President is really wired

It’s all my fault, as usual.

Several days ago, on or about 7 March, not long, anyway, after President Trump had sent his 4 a.m. Sunday 4th tweet accusing the 44th President of illegal wiretapping, and the FBI had said it was nonsense, I made what I thought was a joke. (It’s a habit of mine, I’m really, really sorry.)

I wrote on a Comment thread under a US cable TV story that the FBI must then have borrowed the UK government ‘listening post’, GCHQ in Cheltenham, to spy on the goings-on in Trump Tower.

I reasoned that, while it’s illegal in the USA to wiretap people without a warrant from a Federal judge or FISA, a ‘security court’ that handles this stuff, in Britain under the new Investigatory Powers Act – the so-called Snoopers’ Charter – brought in by former UK intel boss, the ice-woman Theresa May, it’s probably legal to snoop on anyone, anywhere.

Even your Smart dumpster bin is reporting your every movement. As for your microwave….

But I had no knowledge of that, it was just – I don’t know, a satirical suggestion – a joke. I watch a lot of clips from US TV cable news sites on YouTube. The more reputable ones, mind, not the crazies. Sometimes I make jokes or score points underneath. Bad (sick), I know. But I’m retired, I make my own reality.

And now there’s an incredible row going on at the highest level between Britain and America over sharing intel. We’re practically at war.

Hey, you know those cases on TV where someone goes missing and the police decide with no evidence they’ve been murdered, there’s no body, and they start a big murder inquiry, and the person eventually turns up in Guatemala unaware anyone was looking for them, after the supposed killer has already been jailed or worse? You know, it’s true, it was on, like, Inspector Montalbano or Murder She Wrote?

Well, it’s like that.

Here’s The Guardian story this morning, hold on to your hat. But before you read it, just bear one small fact in mind:

There was no wiretap at Trump Tower.

Okay, now go ‘head…

http://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2017/mar/17/white-house-will-not-be-repeat-claims-gchq-spied-trump-?utm_source=esp&utm_medium=Email&utm_campaign=GU+Today+main+NEW+H+categories&utm_term=217901&subid=19570602&CMP=EMCNEWEML6619I2

You see what I mean?

And it’s all my fault. I am so, so sorry.

 

“The unravelling Press flack, Sean Spicer, crawled once more to the battered podium, wounds visibly bleeding, to defend his Master’s madness, seizing on a morning panel show discussion on Fox News as the smoking gun”

24 hours ago…

So, Mr Trump has been a chump. It seems that one of his staffers slipped into his morning reading – The Beano, New York Post, Mad Magazine, National Enquirer, etc., a page pulled from Breitbart News, claiming Barack Obama had “wiretapped” the Trump Tower.

Mr Trump immediately went cuckoo-shit crazy. Instead of checking with the FBI, who would have been able to carry out the wiretapping only with a warrant and would therefore know if Trump had been eavesdropped or not, and would have had to tell him, because he’s the President, as we now know, at 4 a.m. on a Sunday morning he Tweeted out, accusing Obama of a federal felony.

Breitbart had most probably picked up the story from the clinically insane InfoWars website of Alex Jones (who – genuinely – believes Michelle Obama is a transgender male who had the comedienne Joan Rivers killed to stop her saying so); who in turn had got hold of it from another crazed rightwing radio shock-jock and millionaire motormouth, Mark Levin, who seems to be the one who originally made up the fake news; although who told him, we have yet to find out – if it didn’t come from the White House as a distraction from ongoing investigations into one or other of the President’s many crimes.

Confronted not only by the FBI director James Comey, but also by the leaders in the Senate of both Republican and Democrat parties, and the chairman of the Intelligence Committee, who all said the story was complete bullshit and without a shred of evidence, Mr Trump, who can sometimes be a fatuous, childish oaf, but with tenacity, dug in his little heels. Were these not his sworn enemies who were saying these nasty, unfair things? Of course, their denials prove Black Satan bugged his office! Why, for proof just look to Fox News! The New York Times!… er…

The unravelling Press flack, Sean Spicer, crawled once more to the battered podium, wounds visibly bleeding, to defend his Master’s madness, seizing on a morning panel show discussion on Fox News as the smoking gun. Did not no less a personage than former Judge Andrew Napoletano just say that it was the British GCHQ secret spy headquarters that had conspired with the FBI and the demon, Obama, to (frantic air-quotes) “”””wiretap”””” the Presidential candidate? (He has already explained that the President didn’t mean “wiretap” when he wrote “wiretap”, he meant just any old kind of surveillance we might find evidence for, like sentient microwave ovens.)

Don’t all Hollywood villains have British accents? Case closed!

And today GCHQ has gone public with not just a self-effacing British-type apology for not being guilty of the crime, but with a full 32-gun broadside that has resulted in an actual APOLOGY from somewhere in the Administration and a promise not to do it again. How dare the Colonials make such a ludicrous and damaging assertion, that GCHQ eavesdrops on people! Nonsense, the toroidal structure is just an indoor greyhound racing stadium! A particle accelerator! A starship left over from Prometheus!

And if you think about it, which Trump clearly can’t now allow himself to, even if he had the necessary apparatus under the thatch, because he criminally  libelled ’44’, the previous POTUS; and ‘Judge Nap’ clearly hadn’t thought about it either, before he verbally retweeted my Comment, any such request from the US would have had to come from the FBI via the State Department to the Home Office and thence on up to the Prime Minister herself.

Of course, as Wikileaks tells us, everyone monitors everyone else’s diplomatic traffic.

But if the Prime Minister of a friendly country had personally approved an illegal wiretap on a US Presidential candidate without a reason, such as an imminent security threat to the UK, we’d be at war by now. And if the FBI had obtained a warrant from FISA, it could only be because they’d been able to present convincing evidence of serious wrongdoing. And if that was the case, they would have confronted Mr Trump personally.

So the entire thing collapses into a puddle of liquid shit, quite honestly. But…

Oh. My. God.

Did Judge Napolitano possibly read my Comment?

I was only joking, honest, your Honor.

 

Postscriptum

And now I have meanly Googled Hizzonner ‘Judge Nap’, and it seems he is a member of Ron Paul’s slightly unhinged Libertarian Party and the author of a book comparing Americans to sheep, in which he asks why they are letting the Obama government get away with trampling over their Constitutional rights and ” systematically dismantling the rights and freedoms that are the foundation of American democracy”?

Should be an interesting conversation with Steve Bannon, then.

 

Oh God, make him stop!

Mr Trump has finally met Mrs Merkel, leader of the most powerful economy in Europe, after a flight delayed by ‘less snow than expected’.

And immediately made a comment remarkable for its cretinous banality and diplomatic ineptitude: “We have something in common, we’ve both been wiretapped… perhaps.”

No-one apart from Trump and 60 per cent of his pet Dumbfucks – no-one in a position to actually know, that is – believes his bollocks about wiretapping by President Obama at Trump Tower during the election campaign. He is just obsessed with symmetry.

It’s an election campaign Orange Satan is still running in his head, obsessively over and over – to the point where he keeps having to go out on the road to engage with aircraft hangars packed full of adoring, slobbering, AR-15-toting millennialist cretins, angry people with Bibles and frustrated, weeping housewives dying for him to grab their pussies with his little orange hands – as he can’t bear knowing he really lost and has to find someone to blame.

The head of the FBI and senior Congressional leaders have all said they don’t believe it. There is no evidence of “”””wiretapping””””, as Sean ‘Melissa’ Spicey calls it, with frantic wiggling of his little chubby fingers. Challenged to produce evidence, after two weeks Trump has come up with precisely nothing. Nada. Zilch. He has had to row back on speculation started by a feral pundit on Fox News (or ‘Fake Fur’ as it’s known in fashion circles) that it must have been British intel – he says we don’t know that, so, ya know…. No, Donald, we don’t.

Because it didn’t happen, okay?

There is not a shred of evidence that Trump Tower was bugged – other than probably by Trump himself, on behalf of the Russian FRS (Bogler, you’ve been warned! Ed.) – other than an article in Breitbart News based on the ravings of Alex Jones, a congenital moron with a toy website.

Fake news, in which the paranoid and delusional President increasingly believes. (Or does he? It’s a wonderful diversion, is it gnot, from the many and several FBI and Senate investigations into possibly treasonous criminal financial links between Trump, his campaign people and the Russkies, the Iranian National Guard, Beelzebub…. )

Mrs Merkel however was “””wiretapped””” – at least, her official telephone conversations were listened-in to. The evidence – the complaint and the apology – is all there for anyone to see. Admitted.

By the CIA. Probably via GCHQ. Or lizards from the ninth planet, Nibiru…  (Just shut up, Bogler! Ed.)

She was not impressed.

* If you don’t believe in conspiracies, pray tell me how, hours after making that last facetious comment, I got a ‘recommended for you’ in the YouTube sidebar, from some crazies offering me documentary proof that Earth is menaced by the planet Nibiru? Huh? Is The Pumpkin being tapped? (It sure as hell isn’t being read…)

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The Flynn-flam #2

And a new point of interest is set to emerge, regarding General Flynn’s relations with the Russians.

It appears from records supplied to MSNBC News by his agent that Flynn was paid $33 thousand for PR work – he claims, a speaking engagement – apparently by a defunct Russian airline in connection with the successful Russian bid for the Sochi olympics, in possible contravention of a rule preventing retired Army personnel from receiving payments from foreign powers without permission from the Pentagon. (That was when he was pictured having dinner with the Russian president, Vladimir Putin.)

During the Presidential campaign, it also emerged, he had been in contact with Russia several times, but had denied it when asked by V-P Mike Pence – for which he was later fired as Trump’s National Security Advisor. At the same time, his PR firm was also earning $530,000 for work on behalf of the Turkish government, requiring a special registration under restrictions on lobbying for foreign governments, for which Flynn applied only retrospectively. This was known to the White House, who then waited three weeks before doing anything about him.

It later emerged that this stuff only came to light because Flynn’s contacts with Russia had been under surveillance by the security agencies. Security agencies are by law only allowed to monitor US citizens on a warrant issued by a special court on the basis of evidence alleging strong suspicion of criminality or security concerns. But they can “””wiretap””” non-citizens, and as it takes two to make a conversation….

So what was it Flynn was supposed to have done, how if he was suspected of criminal associations or security concerns did he manage to obtain security clearance at the very highest level in order to become the man in charge of national security, and why did the White House and Congress approve his appointment seemingly without due diligence?

This information has been subpoena’d from the security agencies by Congress and is due possibly to emerge blinking into the light anyday now*.

I’m grateful entirely to Rachel Maddow at MSNBC for this story, broken yesterday, which I just thought I’d drop in here for you by way of a PS, on a ‘need to know’ basis, obviously, as The Pumpkin has previously shown an interest in General Flynn’s son’s PR activities in generating fake news about Mrs Clinton, a pizza restaurant and the worldwide paedophile ring.

From the ridiculous to the sublime, you might say.

*As of close-of-play-Friday’s deadline, both the FBI and the CIA were reportedly still refusing to release the information on Flynn demanded by the Congressional Intelligence Committee. A constitutional crisis appears to be looming.

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“The logical concomitant of this crazed theory is that Russia could conceivably outbid NATO for the use of America’s gargantuan and overbloated military forces.”

Mr ‘two-percent’

Asked whether the US would provide military defense to Baltic countries if Russia were to attack, Trump said: “If they fulfill their obligations to us, the answer is yes.” – Trump, interviewed at The New York Times. Guardian.

So, this will be the first pay-as-you-go war.

“You pay us two per cent of your GDP and we’ll defend you. If not, we’ll hand you over to the Russians.” It could make for a very interesting geopolitical strategy: they’d defend England, for instance, but not an independent Scotland – unless Scotland were to stump up the cash and England not. They’d let Russian forces leapfrog over the defended Baltic republics that have paid, to get to undefended Germany or Spain that hasn’t.

What the fuck goes through this bizarre man’s mind when he wakes up every day, not knowing what day of the week it is?

The logical concomitant of this crazed theory is that Russia could conceivably outbid NATO for the use of America’s gargantuan and overbloated military forces. If Russia offered Trump more money, America would come in on their side and help them conquer Europe.

(Oh, did I just say something? No, forget it.)

Not everything in the world is a purely financial transaction, Donald!

It is quite astonishing, not that Trump is an ignorant fool who has throughout his wasteful, boastful and selfish existence paid no attention whatsoever to anything outside his own desperately limited universe of ‘deals’, shitty TV shows with lots of ‘pussy’ and tax-avoidance scams, but that even now he has been handed the most important work in the world he cannot be arsed to brief himself on any subject related to the job.

It turns out that he has actually believed all along that NATO pays America to defend Europe.

Which is why he’s been bitching for months on the campaign trail that too many NATO members aren’t paying their way, to deserve being ‘defended’ by America; and that therefore NATO is a bad idea and should be replaced with something else.

Like ‘Trumpcare’, maybe?

Since he hasn’t the faintest idea of what a treaty is, it’s hard to know where to begin. Let’s just say, I’ve bogld before that ‘two per cent of GDP’ is a meaningless comparison between countries, as each spends its defence budget in different ways depending on its perceived defence needs. I wrote in those terms, because it had not occurred to me that Trump actually thinks the money has to be paid to the US treasury, or the Pentagon, or Boeing or something, rather than internally within the member countries; and that it’s an aspiration, a target – not a price ticket for admission.

Britain spends approximately 16 per cent of its defence budget – in turn, theoretically 2.1 per cent of our £1.5 trillion GDP – buying arms from America. Much of the money is wasted, as we don’t have the homegrown technical staff needed to build and operate the advanced weapons platforms America supplies us with, and rely on imported American personnel operating here. And of course, there are US bases on British soil. Does that count as a plus or minus, in terms of our GDP?

The two new aircraft carriers we have been building for years at monstrous cost, vulnerable, slow and outmoded coffin-ships gobbling money stripped from the old, the sick, the disabled and schoolchildren, are proving a disaster in trials: the best you can say about them is they do appear at least to float. The new Type 45 destroyers, the F-35s, all have had major and excruciatingly expensive teething troubles. If the kit doesn’t work, is our 2.1 per cent of GDP being better spent than Denmark’s 1.37 per cent ($3 billion) – bearing in mind, Denmark is a third the size of the UK? Whenever you see a NATO operation, the Danes are there, with their horned helmets and their axes.

You see, our defence capability depends on what ‘two per cent’ buys you. It doesn’t stop the Government from running down our actual force capability to the point where the generals have been warning it cannot meet our overseas commitments and defend the country against our invisible enemies.

But at least we’re spending lots of money, showing our colours, unlike those lousy freeloading Germans. No sooner had Merkel departed from Washington with relief predominant among the mixed emotions she clearly felt at having spent a day with the most bewilderingly ignorant and undiplomatic man on the planet, the orange loon Tweeted in his familiar, illiterate style:

…vast sums of money to NATO & the United States must be paid more for the powerful, and very expensive, defense it provides to Germany! @real donald etc.

But the US doesn’t pay ‘vast sums’ of money to NATO, it doesn’t work like that! NATO is a treaty organisation between countries guaranteeing mutual assistance, not an independent military force like Blackwater or Boko Haram. NATO’s budget is just to keep a bunch of bureaucrats in a building somewhere and hold the odd conference. When ‘NATO forces’ go into action, as they have in Iraq, in Afghanistan, as they did in Korea, on the side of the Americans, they are made up of scraps and units from lots of different countries within the alliance; they’re not some ‘European army’ as he seems to imagine, that he is paying for, that needs bigging-up.

He has no comprehension of history or international politics. And if anyone is advising him about this, who isn’t being paid by the Russians to ix things up, then he ain’t listening. But he certainly understands the concept of gouging the poorest people in the country to bloat his own military-industrial complex, pouring cash down the throats of the global corporate arms-peddlars for the greater glory of Trump Family Inc.

The tragedy is, his many adoring fans will never wake up to what he has done to them.

You’re being Dumbfucked, America.

Postscriptum

And then there is the entirely believable story that Trump handed Merkel a fake invoice claiming $390 billion to pay for the past 70 years of US defense of Germany.

The ‘joke’ was to point up that Germany spends only 1.7% of its GDP on defense. As I’ve bogld previously, Trump believes there is an arrangement whereby every NATO member has to pay the USA 2% of its GDP to belong. He has no idea what a treaty is, or what the Cold War was about.

The execrably stupid Mr Trump is not only unfit to be the President of the United States.

He is unfit, period.

 

Job for the boy

I’ve just learned there is a Mr Skellytanne Conway.

Yes, Trump’s vanishing factual advisor has a husband. And he’s just been given a job on the Transition Team, or wherever the hell we are after two exciting months trapped on the rollercoaster from hell. So there’s two of them now.

That’ll teach the ‘Enemies of the people’ not to make stuff up.