Do we not have laws? A BogPo supplement. Breaking things… Nature Notes… GW: Not yet the last of the Phew!… Get planting!

Do we not have laws?

An American author claims to have had two speaking engagements in Britain cancelled because his “Jewishness” might incite protests. Your cynical Uncle Bogler suspects some publicist’s dark hand in this, but we’ll respond anyway.

Dear Richard Zimler

I was sorry to read a report in The Guardian that you have been no-platformed as a visiting writer by two unnamed cultural organizations in my country, apparently because you are too provocatively Jewish; although your fiction is not specifically connected with Judaism.

I see too that you have been nominated for many literary prizes but never won. Hmmn.

But, like Salman Rushdie, you have apparently been a little controversial in your latest work, imagining a dialog between Jesus and Lazarus, which is sure to offend anyone who wants to find a target for their bigotry. Frankly, as far as I’m concerned they are both fictional characters and fair game.

It seems not only ludicrous to discriminate against you on religious grounds, but surely also illegal. We do have laws against this sort of thing, I think, somewhere. It must have been something you said! But seriously, which are these organizations? It’s normal to out them. Do they exist? Please, this is too serious to be something your publisher’s publicist has cooked up.

I’m sure there are many Jewish writers and intellectuals who have not been no-platformed here – except for Marika Sherwood, a holocaust survivor who was no-platformed at Manchester University in 2017 entirely at the insistence of Israel’s ambassador Regev, an insufferable little shit who objected to her likening the Likud party to Nazis.

As if she wouldn’t know.

Generally speaking, it is still the antisemites who cop for the most criticism here, so please don’t abandon us entirely. Of course, they exist. But we are undergoing a dark night of the soul, hanging on the definition of the word antisemite. The Israel lobby has been extremely successful in sowing division where little existed.

There will always be dimwits who desecrate cemeteries and places of worship, Jewish, Muslim, Christian. The point is the desecration, not the religion. The dimwits know nothing of religions, they merely delight in transgression; just as many so-called pitchside soccer racists use racist tropes as a weapon to unsettle opposing black players, but do not (probably) share the ideology. Of course, that’s no excuse. While the British can be bullish, even at times heartily cynical, we are seldom to be taken at face value.

(In a new survey, 90.3 per cent of those polled agreed that Britishness is no longer a matter of color.)

And there will be people like myself who are justifiably concerned by the emerging apartheid state in Israel, a formerly progressive, technically secular nation now seemingly ruled by gangster capitalists and backward-looking religious extremists. We have a right to be heard and we do not wish our dismay to be howled down by paid apologists for a corrupt regime; nor do we wish to be branded somehow as haters of Jews because of it.

If we hated you, why would we care? We oppose apartheid and support human rights and justice everywhere. It’s a salutary exercise to revisit David ben Gurion’s foundation address to the UN in 1948 and compare it with today.

Unfashionably, Richard, I would still draw a distinction between the race-baiters and the race-haters.

The former category may weaponise difference for their own advantage, but when the chips are down, will put community before difference and side with those of whatever creed or colour are considered community against outsiders.

The latter will regard all and any persons of difference as outsiders to be refused admission to the community, even to be ejected, and focus their hatred and whatever violence they believe is licensed to them specifically on target groups. They are a very small, sociopathic minority who sometimes gain disproportionate notice by breaking things.

Some will argue, what’s the difference? It’s all discrimination and to be decried. Others might prefer benevolent discrimination and communautarianism, to ideological, racially-based violence, hatred and exclusion. All people discriminate, it’s in our nature. You’re never going to end it. It’s the intent that matters.

I was frankly unaware that we have many cultural organizations left, now that Mark Rylance has severed connections with the Royal Shakespeare Company over their sponsorship arrangements – being indebted to an oil company is attracting fashionable liberal opprobrium here – and now the Sacklers have been withdrawing their opioid-funded sponsorships – but it appears from what you say that the last two may have gone. No-platforming is a negation of culture, once it’s practised you replace it with barbarism. Institutions should remain neutral and not adopt the prejudices and weakness of their officers.

So, I’m sorry for what has happened – I’m trusting your word that it has genuinely happened – and hope that it won’t totally colour your opinion of us, but frankly I’m not too hopeful about the future of Europe, let alone Britain, certainly the English part of which I washed my hands long ago. Although there are some encouraging signs that populism isn’t everywhere rampant.

I had hoped in retirement to emigrate to Portugal myself, but I’m grateful now that I wasn’t able to. I expect you’re getting used to the extreme summer heat and the wildfires, but up here on the balmy west coast of Britain it’s still hard to believe that the most important issue we face is biting us in the ass, and it’s not cultural, or religious.

Shalom, Richard, take it easy.

 

Breaking things

“China has accused protesters who vandalised Hong Kong’s parliament on Monday of ‘serious illegal actions’ that ‘trample on the rule of law’.” (BBC News)

I’m sure they have!

Why does it not occur to the media and the Hong Kong authorities that the most obvious way to discredit the tens of thousands of peaceful protesters marching daily against a controversial extradition agreement with mainland China is to infiltrate their ranks with 5th columnists and ratchet up the level of vandalism and violence?

Maybe to the point where a direct intervention by Beijing is justifiable?

 

Taking us all for a ride

Variety magazine reports that Garrett Camp, a co-founder of the Uber “ride sharing” dial-up cheap taxi business, and his parter, Elizabeth Nguyen, have bought a $72.5 million, 4.7-acre mansion estate in Los Angeles.

That’s despite the strange fact that Uber, whose drivers – not a few of them homeless people who sleep in their cars – are locked in a dispute with the company over low-pay and abusive terms of employment, has yet to make a profit.

Mr Camp (net worth $4.2 billion – Forbes) owns a “portfolio” of other substantial properties in California and New York.

In a parallel Guardian article today, social justice campaigner and environmentalist, George Monbiot reports, the billionaire press in the UK has launched a savage campaign of lies and vituperation against him and five others, for putting forward a plan to mitigate the astonishing inequality growing between the ultra-high net worth individuals – the 1%, who “own” more than half the wealth of the world – and the rest, through a process of land reform.

And from a further report, we learn that the top 10 per cent of working people enjoy a median income of $7,000 a month; the bottom one percent, just 22 dollars.

The billionaires are fighting back hard against any suggestion that they might like to give up some of their ridiculous wealth, that many of them have gained for almost no effort by cannily monetizing the growing size and data content of mass consumer markets, or by employing armies of zombie workers on skeletal wages to perform menial services for the marginally better-off.

It’s estimated that owing to high housing costs and uncertain employment in the low-wage economy from which vulgar, parasitic creatures like Camp have profited mightily, more than ten thousand Angelenos are homeless and living on the streets. Not far from camp Camp, are the camps of the underclass, many of them women with chldren, whom the authorities are continually harrassing. It’s a less contentious strategy than housing them.

Mr Camp’s mansion purchase seems to be a sign that the new billionairism is turning conventional economics on its head, since this individual’s obscene wealth – and he is not alone, there are more billionaires than ever – is based on nothing more than a stock market bubble that grew from a brilliant business “idea” that people could use their cellphones to call for an unlicensed taxi whose sleep-deprived driver would get 40% of the fare and hand the rest over to Mr Camp and his mates.

I suppose the brilliant flash of inspiration that led to all these poor people hiring out their borrowed or shared cars and precious time to Mr Camp and his ilk at varying rates set by an algorithm designed to benefit only themselves had to be worth something. Despite putting many licensed drivers out of a job.

It’s known as hire and reward, after all – but the wrong people are getting the rewards.

 

Nature notes

Again today in Boglington-on-Sea we have wall-to-wall blue sky all day, although don’t be fooled: there’s a fine haze of traffic pollution. Nevertheless, it’s an agreeable 19.5 degrees C in the shade, with a barely perceptible breeze, and it’s half-past ten in the morning. Global warming? Fie! (Oops – 11.15 and it’s gone over 20.4C.)

Yesterday on our walk I did a bee count, and the news was still not good. At one point there’s a stretch along the path by the river where half a dozen large Buddleia bushes splurged into spectacular flower a couple of weeks ago. The cloying scent of the panicles of purple flowers filled the air, even to my feeble human olfactory senses detectable from fifty yards away. Your average bee couldn’t help but detect them at half a mile. Yet I counted only one honeybee grazing among the lot, possibly two but it might have been a wasp or one of those false-bee hoverflies, of which there seem to be quite a few this year. My eyesight isn’t improving, but even extrapolating by a factor of ten that I must have missed, it didn’t seem like there are many bees around.

Buddleia is also attractive to butterflies. I spotted none anywhere among the bushes, although later crossing a small meadow where the ripening grass is approaching shoulder-high (I’m six feet tall) there were three browns, and later a solitary tortoiseshell. Nevertheless, it has been such an amazing spring, mild and with just the right balance of rain and sunshine, masses of tumbling vegetation and wildflowers flowering early, that it does seem the insect population is recovering somewhat from last year’s disastrous start. There’s never a shortage of gnats here.

Who is it who keeps smashing down the two teasels growing beside the path? These amazing, self-sown annuals can grow to seven feet in a few weeks, their pale-green, serrated leaves on furry stems pointing upwards to the light, before putting out their multiple seed-heads, the familiar large burrs rustic weavers allegedly used in olden times to “full”, or comb the skeins of wool. Once ripened, they make interesting cut-flower ornaments for the vase. People spray them gold and silver for free Xmas decs. That’s if they’re allowed to flower. Every year, these two companions get to about four feet in height and some whistling moron comes along with a stick and bashes them down. If I ever catch them I will take a stick and bash them down.

The bee picture improved slightly when I took a glass of well-chilled Czech lager up onto the patio to contemplate my projects*. The tiny garden is bordered on one side by a magnificent privet hedge, whose top I cannot reach to trim even with the bloody awkward folding ladder thing, that gives your fingers blood blisters just looking at its stiff and snappy hinges. The privet is in copious flower and I counted half a dozen hive workers brunching on the nectar, their little legs stuck all over with pollen.

Another stripy hoverfly comes and stares at me for a while, wings going nineteen thousand to the dozen. It must take a lot of energy to perform that astonishing manoeuvre, of staying absolutely still like a hawk poised in mid-air for minutes at a time. You wonder why they bother? What are they waiting for? They rarely seem to land anywhere. I fancied it might be one of those new nano-sized military drones and that at any moment it would fire a tiny missile at my head.

 

*Huzzah! After all this time, the bricks to finish my half-built wall have arrived. The ones the yard sold on by mistake a year ago after I’d paid for them, and couldn’t get any more of. Until now. (Actually they’d had them in for months but it didn’t occur to them to phone me and say.)

Dimly sensing the throbbing of a heavy engine outside, I managed to changeover to my urine day bag and sprinted downstairs at a quarter to 8.00 this morning, just in time to stop the men delivering an enormous pallet smack in the middle of the path I share with the neighboring house, blocking it completely.

I’d spent half an hour yesterday clearing a space for them inside the garden wall, but they didn’t think the pallet would fit there and were nervous about parking on a bend. We could have been trapped for weeks! It merely required me to shift three bags of compost six inches to the right and they were able to guide the pallet into position for a perfect fit.

It’s no wonder the working people voted to Leave the EU. They all seem to be quite bereft of common sense.

 

GW: Not yet the last of the Phew!

Europe: Heat records at the weekend tumbled acoss a swathe of central Europe from Denmark in the north, to Switzerland in the south, as it was officially declared the hottest June month ever across the continent. In Germany, 34 all-time heat records were broken on Sunday, 1 July. At the river Saale in Bernburg, a scorching high of 39.6°C (103.3°F) was not only that station’s hottest temperature on any date in records going back to 1898, but the hottest June temperature ever observed anywhere in Germany. The previous record? 2018. (BBC Weather/The Weather Channel)

Northern Spain continues very hot, recording temperatures in the low 40s C, 102F-plus. Firefighters are still battling two large blazes, one moving at 7km/h has burned 3,300Ha and is in the outskirts of the capital, Madrid. England recorded its hottest day of the year on 29 June, the temperature reaching 34C (93.2F) at Heathrow airport. In Scotland, people found their power sockets had turned black after a series of lightning strikes on their houses. Hundreds of homes were without power for almost 24 hours following the storm on Saturday.

Iceland too has been experiencing an “unbearable” heatwave, with temperatures in places rising to 22C (72F). Residents are more used to the average June temperature of 7C. (Euronews)

USA: “Alaska, part of which lies inside the Arctic Circle, is sweltering under a heatwave, with record temperatures recorded in several areas, including its largest city. Temperatures reached 90F (32C) in Anchorage on Thursday (4 July), shattering the city’s previous record of 85F.” (BBC News, et al

Russia: 18 people have died – 17 drowned and 1 as a result of hypothermia, in record floods in Siberia. 8 people are still missing. Emergency teams have evacuated 2,200 people from the disaster area. Almost 1,500 people have sought medical help, with 221 hospitalised. Flooding first began around 25 June after a period of heavy rain that caused rivers and lakes to overflow, including Lake Baikal. Over 6,600 homes have been flooded, affecting over 30,000 residents. 12 bridges have been destroyed, dozens of roads damaged, as well as around 40 public buildings, including schools and medical centres. (Floodlist)

India: “Dozens” of people are reported to have died in flooding and landslides in Maharashtra province. 18 people have died and 6 others are missing after heavy rainfall caused a dam breach which flooded a village. Houses were swept away as flood waters engulfed Tiware Bhendwadi village. Mumbai has had its heaviest rain for over a decade, with localized flooding, and there’s more to come. Usual transport chaos – road, rail and air – as 375mm (15-in) falls in 24 hours. 18 labourers died when a wall weakened by 2 days of continuous rain fell on them.

Japan: At least 20 people have died and more than a million have been advised to leave their homes as monstrous rains once again lash the south island of Kyushu. 1,000mm (39in) of rain has fallen since 28 June, and Japan’s Meteorological Agency forecasts the rains will continue into next week. A further 350mm of rain is expected in the southern part of the island and 300mm in the northern part by 04 July, with some areas predicted to get more than 80mm of rain every hour. The agency said a month’s rainfall could hit parts of Kyushu in just 24 hours. (BBC News)

Vietnam: 2 people were killed and 3 injured on 04 July after a bridge in Thanh Hoá Province collapsed due to the heavy rain. After passing over Hainan Island in southern China, Tropical Depression ‘Mun’ dumped 366mm (14-in.) of rain in 24 hours. Further heavy rain could affected northern and central areas, including the capital Hanoi. (Floodlist)

Pacific: Plain vanilla Tropical Storm Barbara metamorphosed overnight into a huge, 130mph, Category 4 hurricane. The Weather Channel reports, it’s just sitting out in mid-ocean, not going anywhere – but Hawaii is potentially in its path next week. Happily, cooler water should take a lot of the force out of it by then, but high surf and severe weather warnings have been issued for Oahu. This increasingly common rapid intensification of storms is a clear sign of adverse effects of a warming world.

Cuba: Sunday 1 July was the hottest day in recorded history for the Caribbean nation, which recorded an all-time heat mark of 39.1°C (102.4°F) at Veguitas. (Weather Underground). 2 people have died and 3 are missing in floods in nearby Haiti. It’s the second spate of deadly flash floods in the space of 4 weeks. (Floodlist)

Tunnel approaching…

Fracking hell: Following a meta-analytical study of over 1,300 peer-reviewed research papers, Kathleen Nolan, MD, MSL, of Physicians for Social Responsibility and Concerned Health Professionals of New York, said, “Substantial scientific evidence now leaves no question that drilling and fracking cause serious harms to public health. Further studies will continue to illuminate the full extent of those ill effects and to define causal pathways in further detail, but it is abundantly clear that the practice is not safe and that no set of regulations can make it safe.” (PSR – Physicians for Social Responsibility – website, 9 June)

California: A M6.2 earthquake off the coast at Vancouver last night (03 July) translated 12 hours later along a known fault into a M6.4 in a remote area of southern California, that was felt in Los Angeles, where buildings swayed. At a depth of only 8 km, it was the largest earthquake in California for many years and happened in an ancient volcano field next to a deep-well geothermal pumping station. As we reported recently, the laBrea tar pits in the LA basin have been bubbling over, and steam eruptions have been reported, pushing up manhole covers. There have been swarms of smaller earthquakes north and south along the coast, linked to major volcanic activity in the Aleutians. Dutchsinse reports too, there have been now 27 magnitude 6 or higher quakes around the Pacific basin in the past month, many more than usual.

La terra trema… the M6.2 Ridgecrest quake was followed two days later by a M7.1 in the same location. Casualties, damage. A statewide state of emergency has been declared. The epicentre is not far from the Long Valley supervolcano caldera. Dutchsinse (Michael Janitch) points to human activity – deep drilling, fracking, pumping – in the fracture zones as a contributor. He forecasts that if the force pushing down from the north Pacific doesn’t transfer to the east along the edge of the North American craton, a third major quake is likely. He had warned his viewers of the quakes days in advance – the USGS is saying they had only 48 seconds’ warning of the M7.2!

Yellowstone: In the wake of the 6.2 Ridgefield quake, Greeley reports the seismographs are showing a huge intrusion of magma under the park. The meltline is the highest anyone has ever seen.

Three days ago: Steamboat geyser has gone off 25 times this year, 7 times in June alone, set to smash last year’s record of 32 eruptions. The biggest geyser in the park, the Steamboat normally records two or three eruptions in a year, but has recently become hyperactive. USGS say they don’t know why. Old Faithful’s regular blasts are getting bigger too… new geysers, mudpools forming – more earthquakes, rising temperatures, ground uplift reported. (Mary Greeley)

 

Get planting!

Possibly the most futile piece of research this year has come from Prof Tom Crowther at the Swiss university ETH Zürich, who has been looking into how planting trees removes carbon dioxide from the air. (Guardian report, 03 July)

Prof Crowther calculates that there is room to squeeze a trillion more trees onto uncultivated surfaces of the planet, that would remove two thirds of the CO2 – provided, of course, that we stop cutting down trees and burning more fossil fuels.

Both propositions seem something of a stretch. A trillion is a thousand times a thousand million. The energy required for nurseries to produce and for foresters to plant that many saplings – the survival rate of heel transplants is quite low, so perhaps two or even three trillion, pick a number – would be enormous.

Mr Gove, the Environment secretary, recently proposed planting 130 thousand more trees in British cities. There is no likelihood whatever of reaching even that modest target.

There would then be the obvious requirement to wait while the little trees grow into trees large enough to make a difference, perhaps ten to fifteen years – time we don’t really have. Meanwhile, Mr Bolsonaro’s friends in the Brazilian parliament are busy removing a hectare of the rain forest every minute of the day to graze cattle to make beefburgers for fast-food chains.

I don’t think, either, that Prof Crowther has taken into account that trees don’t absorb CFCs, methane or nitrous oxide, that are also increasing in the atmosphere and causing it to overheat; and that at least 1.5 degrees of warming is already baked into the system, mainly in the oceans.

But it’s a nice idea, well worth the grant.

 

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Breaking bad… There, their dear: some pointers for internet trolls… Generation Campervan… GW: Oh, I do like to be beside the seaside…

Quote of the week

“For me England is the model country in the western world when it comes to the triumph of neoliberalism and digital surveillance. You can find poverty in every one of the collapsing countries of the western world, but the unsentimental removal from sight of an entire part of the population because it is no longer of use in the value appreciation chain – that is unique to England.” – German dystopian SciFi author, Sybille Berg, interviewed in The Guardian, 30 June.

 

“While it was too soon to definitely attribute Europe’s blistering heatwave… to climate change…” – The Guardian, 29 June

“Come on, give me a break!” – Prof. Paul Beckwith, climate warrior.

Breaking bad

Of course, he’s right. I’ve been moaning about the BBC doing this, but it all comes from our ultra-cautious Meteorological Office, who like to measure summer daytime temperatures scientifically, in the dark. It’s regularly four degrees hotter in the shade where I am near the coast than the “official” temperatures they publish from a box just four miles up the road from here. I measure, not in direct sunlight, but at least in the light of day. It seems somehow more – you know, how people actually experience the world?

The logical position ought to be that as it’s getting hotter every year, and the increase is speeding up year on year, with effects that are self-evident, then there’s definitely a problem. (But you’re a frog, you can just lie back in your lovely warm water and ignore it.) That the problem might not demonstrably produce any given outcome is really a rather isolationist position to take. The current heatwave has shattered records. It is one of a rapidly warming recent series. Why would it not have been exacerbated by a warming world? We know the world is warming.

According to National Geographic magazine, Beckwith points out in a new video, Europe has had 5 (five) “1 in 500-year” summers in the last 15 years. Tens of thousands of additional deaths have accompanied the hottest – 56 thousand died in Russia in 2010 alone. Russia – in common with most of the rest of Europe – has an extremely low uptake of domestic air conditioning systems. It’s a problem!

These extreme heat events are all connected to a slower jet stream that locks weather systems into place, says Michael Mann of Penn State University. Mann co-authored a study last year that linked the slowdown in the jet stream—the band of high-altitude winds that sweep around the globe from west to east—to last summer’s unprecedented droughts, heat waves, wildfires, and flooding events across the entire Northern Hemisphere. And it is likely behind India’s weak monsoon rains and the widespread flooding in the U.S. Midwest this year.” (National Geographic)

And why is the jetstream slowing? You guessed it. Too soon to tell….

 

“All our Buddha’s are made by us using the best materials available.”

Tell me, what’s wrong with this commercial announcement? (I was looking for a large stone Buddha head for my little garden. I’ve actually found one, the garden centre sells quite nice ones, only the staff aren’t allowed to lift them, for reasons of Health & Safety, because they’re heavy, and thus cannot deliver them even to your car, which might explain why they don’t appear to have sold any.)

Yes, the plural “Buddhas” does not require the addition of a fucking apostrophe, okay?

“Grammar does not stultify, it enhances language.” – Me.

There, their dear: some pointers for trolls

I’m rapidly going bald, reading too many readers’ comments beneath articles written by journalists who, if not always right about things, and lacking the professional eye of a subeditor, that extinct species, so that mistakes often of omission or addition of entire words words are becoming increasingly common, are nevertheless qualified to set down coherent thoughts in writing.

But you seldom find a misplaced apostrophe in the Washington Post, or the New York Times.

For fuck’s sake, morons, what makes you think your crapulous opinions can possibly carry any weight if you can’t even put an apostrophe in the right place? I’m tearing my goddam hair out. It just goes on getting worse.

It’s its! ITS!! That’s if the subject belongs or attaches to something neutral, an object, a statement, it’s its! The possessive pronoun! If you plan to abbreviate “it is”, which is good practice in writing, then it’s it’s. Got it? If you wish to abbreviate can not, it’s can’t. Will not > won’t. Should not > shouldn’t. If you’re trying to say something belongs to Mr Dimwit, then it’s Mr Dimwit’s. Short for Mr Dimwit, his…

Christ on a BMX, it’s not that difficult, surely?

Oh, and you don’t apostrophize plurals. Got that too? It’s plurals, not plural’s, or plurals’. That’s known as the grocer’s apostrophe, because of so many misspelled handwritten signs you see outside grocers’ stores and on market stalls, reading “tomatoe’s $1” If there’s more than one tomato, it’s fucking “tomatos”, no apostrophe, no e either. Got that too?

To indicate possession, when the subject is singular, or when it ends with the letter s, the apostrophe goes before the possessive s (The s suffix is, in its turn, an abbreviation of hi(s), her(s), it(s), etc. As per: “Plato, his Republic” shortens to “Plato’s Republic”) So too: “Howard’s End”; “His mistress’s favors”; “Season’s greetings”; “Mr Dimwit’s latest Post”.

If the subject is plural, i.e. there’s more than one, then the apostrophe goes after the s. “Womens’ liberation”; “Readers’ comments”; “idiots’ grammatical delusions”.

The apostrophe is a long, Greek word for a useful little tick, a tiny bit of print punctuation (known as a diacritical) that helps to make sense of things.

But you should never (shouldn’t ever) use the apostrophe with possessive pronouns his, hers, its, yours, ours, theirs. Got it? Just leave them as they are, they’re fine.

And then there’s there. It’s not fucking “their”, unless it belongs to them!

  • There = prepositional adverb: there is an object. Not their. OR…
  • There = preposition: the object is there. Not their.
  • Their, or theirs = belonging to them. Not there.
  • There’s = there is. Not theirs.
  • They’re = they are. Not there, or their.

Just because there and their share a similar pronunciation, doesn’t mean they are the same, flexibly interchangeable word. Okay with that?

And while we’re about it, consider the difference between lose and loose, commonly confused. Not that you ever do. Consider it, I mean.

To lose something is to accidentally mislay it, surreptitiously get rid of it, or in a personal sense, sacrifice it, so that it is no longer in your possession or anywhere to be found. It’s a verb. (Not to be confused with the French city of Toulouse.) The related noun is loss. Loess is a type of volcanic soil; less means… er, less.

Loose is an adjective meaning free, unconstrained or untethered.

Lose and loose are not the same word. They’re not spelled the same way. They’re not even pronounced the same way. So why confuse them?

Nor are to and too the same, interchangeable word. Yet comment posters are more than inclined to too frequently interchange them!

I am going to… I am going too… these phrases have completely different meanings, because the words to and too do too. To (with one o) is a preposition, meaning in the direction of; toward. To is also an auxiliary adverb, when used in conjunction with the infinitive form of a verb: to go, to read, to think. It still suggests forward intent.

Too (with two os) is an adjective, meaning as well as; in addition (to), on top of; it’s a comparator, e.g “too much”, “too many”, “too stupid”. It’s not the same word as to, is it? Good, we may be getting somewhere.

And with the third person singular of the irregular verbs to go and to do, where an e is inserted for ease of pronunciation, it’s s/he goes and s/he does, not s/he goe’s and s/he doe’s, okay? For pity’s sake! Why make work for yourself?

Grammar does matter! It really does. (Not doe’s, as in belonging to a doe!)

Confusing words like there and their, to and too, misplacing apostrophes, cannot simply be dismissed as casual lapses, typos, carelessness under pressure of time. They are basic errors; evidence of ignorance.

Grammatical rules may be only longstanding literary conventions (note careful positioning of adverb only) but they exist to clarify text, to unmuddle thought, to convey meaning – not as tiresome distractions to embarrass the semiliterate and show them up in front of their betters. Grammar does not stultify, it enhances language.

If written language didn’t have rules – which include consistent spellings, albeit sometimes varied by dialect or editorial school but always consistent within them – we might just as well junk written texts altogether and communicate – as many around where I live do – by a system of grunts and clumsy gestures, or clubbing one another indicatively over the head.

Why let yourselves down? Do you imagine I care what you think about more difficult and complicated matters, about politics and philosophy and climate change, if you haven’t been bothered to educate yourself beyond the fourth grade to the simplest rules of English grammar?

 

Generation Campervan

As I was born sort of on the cusp of 1950, I wonder if the now faintly dismissive social designator “baby boomer” really applies to my personal demographic?

Although it sounds pretty much like the circumstances of my conception.

I think of myself more as Campervan Man.

Happy campers! (Pinterest)

When I was a kid, or child, as they used to be known, I used to watch the colorful cinema commercials (TV was still black and white, and there was only one channel with no ads, the one I still watch exclusively, despite its annually unexciting summer schedule) and badger my poor single mother endlessly to take me to Butlin’s for my summer holiday. (She wasn’t really single, it’s just that my father was being a glamorous globetrotting TV reporter, never home.)

It looked such fun! Compared with an only childhood in a small flat above a garage in Kensington, you had your own little chalet, and there were happy smiling people with bad teeth, not like the hoity-toity miserable wealthy kids I’d been sent to a posh pre-prep school in London with. It was always sunny! There was a big swimming pool with a chute! And you could line up and help yourself to food!

There were those ever-helpful, smiling, singing comedians in red jackets, the “Redcoats” (sad wannabe actors), and organized games, and a playroom for we (us) kids with a swing and a slide, while the adults held nobbly-knees and biggest-boobs competitions, ballroom dancing where they did the jive, and… and… everything! It was surely a Heaven on Earth!

My mother, however, had the sagacity to recognize these cut-price Communist workers’ paradises for what they were: indoctrination camps for the easily pleased. And took me instead to the more agreeable Ship Hotel in Brighton every year she could, because that’s coincidentally where her boyfriends also stayed.

Now, what seems like a lifetime later – oh, look, it is – I have an equally deluded fantasy, created I expect by clever admen to appeal to elderly romantics and supported by the endless stream of evocative little self-propelled white boxes trundling past my house in summer, to holiday for a week in the back of Morrison’s carpark, just a stone’s throw from McDonald’s. Some impressively not so little!

I can ignore the obvious lifestyle pull of joining the hordes of grey ponytailed, leatherclad, bitterly divorced men in their 60s, thumping in long lines past my house on their oversized, twin-pot 1200 cc Harley-Davidson motorbikes on a weekend away, after the long journey on challenging roads from Nuneaton and Daventry. After all, I already live here….

As the ad says, “There’s never been a better time to grab life by the handlebars and jump on a Sportster® Iron 883™.” Quite so (™, ®). Especially when you’ve got maybe ten years to live.

But I can resist the lure of two wheels, recollecting the desperate commuting days of my youth, when rain would pool soggily in your crotch as your little machine struggled up hills, impelled by willpower, and your visor would steam up and big 16-wheelers would thunder by in a cloud of spray, unaware of your existence. Besides, I’m not sure my prostate would allow it now.

I spent 15 years as an advertising agency copywriter, so I can happily stick two fingers up – and then down my throat – when I learn from their webthing of the ubiquitous Harley-Davidson Heritage Classic, that “If Bonnie and Clyde rode a Harley (™) motorcycle, this would be the one!”

But they didn’t. They rode – and died – in a Ford V8. A car. There’s no evidence whatever that they ever rode a motorcycle, unlike Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, who in the movie at least had a go on something in Bolivia but it wasn’t a Harley (TM). Now I think of it, it may even have been a bicycle. Some copywriters deserve the eternal fires of hell, others are just pathetically unimaginative. This kid sucks.

Sorry, got a bit sidetracked there. But I desperately want to own a campervan!

Why? They’re so totally declassé! And besides.

We should first of all make a distinction between the campervan and the mobile home. Neither, let us first say, is a caravan. Caravans are shit. Everyone hates you, you park them in a field, and. That’s if they haven’t been blown across the road on the way. Or you can pay for an expensive pitch and live in it on license for 90 days a year. It’s up to you, but I’d rather own a house, which I do. Mostly.

The only possibly interesting thing about caravans is the word “hoburn”. I have no idea where it comes from, America I expect, but it apparently refers to a gathering of caravans. Shit squared.

A campervan is a vehicle you can drive anywhere, park-up (even reverse!) and spend the odd night in, maybe at a festival or on a weekend fishing trip, but you wouldn’t want to live in it. It’s basically just a day van with extra windows and a folding bed and a Primus stove, and often you can’t stand up in it to do the washing-up, but it gives you a degree of freedom you never thought possible with your head on.

A mobile home, on the other hand, is a swanky palace on wheels, often with several rooms, a pool and a garage for a VW Up!. No, I kid you not, I’ve seen ads for touring homes in the wide-open spaces of the USA that are as commodious as any million-dollar Malibu beachfront house, and twice as expensive. At 8 mpg you’ll need unlimited money for gas, and also to pass a bus driver’s test. But you can move around for ever and never hit land. Bliss!

As with everything in life, there are, I feel sure, solutions inbetween, better suited to narrow, winding roads laid out according to the topography of the medieval strip-field system.

Aside from the likelihood that I’d never go anywhere – I have thought of it in terms of surviving the coming apocalypse, but then would you? – there are, of course, about a dozen good reasons not to buy a campervan.

First on the list is the knowledge that you would probably almost never use it. Try this test: if there’s nowhere you’d particularly want to go by car, train, plane or boat more than once in your life, then why imagine it would be helpful to go there in your campervan?

For the price of a campervan, you could probably enjoy several hundred nights in relatively comfortable, three-star hotels. But consider, there may not be one locally!

There you’d be, risking to be murdered by the local psycho in revenge for Algeria, while parked in a French layby, for how long before you discovered the auberge down the road? That there, tucked away in back of the nondescript café with the signed, blown-up photo of Eddie Merckz and the flyspecked Tour de France cycling posters, was the three-star Michelin restaurant gastronomique: something of an improvement on hot-soup primus-chic; and overhead, a comfortable bed for the night?

Then, there’s the price. You could probably acquire a 1993 Fiat Ducato van for about nothing, maybe fifty quid. Stick a Z-bed, a chair, a handbasin and some cupboards in the back, cover everything in purple floral moquette, and you’re talking £6,000. Just don’t look underneath.

Also in a range of hideous colors. The VW Transporter: not for swinging cats.

The popular VW Transporter format is an enclosed space: not one in which you would easily practise your cat-swinging skills. Yet my local car showroom, where I bought my trusty Citroen Berlingo – not that I’d planned to go to Berlin – has outside, this week, a relatively new, pre-loved, hi-top Transporter camper conversion, priced at only £34,500….

My eyes begin to water. For an equivalent sum, you could buy 34,500 entire medieval villages in rural France, including VAT, or a passionate night for two necking champagne on Richard Branson’s Necker Island.

Campervan lust is a form of insanity, I grant you. I think vaguely of the annual weekend I might spend at the Brecon jazz festival, which I have never been to, although it is not far away. A campervan would offer a free home-from-home, not only for me but for li’l Hunzi too.

And those music workshops we go to once or twice a year, how much might we save by not having to include the accommodation in the price? (Answer: not much, and no maidservice.)

I think too, of visiting my lovely daughter at her new home on the other side of the country. They could put me up, there’s a spare room, but wouldn’t you know, there’s also a demented, dog-hating cat, carelessly adopted from a shelter. Having a ‘van would allow us the extra, separate space we’d need to avoid a savage clawing spat and the embarrassment of having to continually apologize to my own daughter, “It’s alright, darling, I’m sure she’ll come home soon”, while secretly hoping the furry little termagent has been run over.

I keep reading that baby boomers have eaten all the pies, and because of my selfishness, Generation X or whatever can’t afford a life. Well, my lovely daughter married her university beau, they both have good jobs and have bought a house together, no help from me. I refuse to feel guilty, in my tiny cottage on a thundering main road in the fringes of a seaside town seasonally overpopulated by campervan dwellers and traversed by tragically sociopathic monster-bikers.

I look at them all, gray haired, lumpy 63-somethings, miserable couples with decrepit spaniels, and wonder: how the hell does anyone of the sort afford these amazing multicellular units, that cost from £60,000 to £120,000 apiece. Did they win the lottery? Did they cash in their bloated pension pots, sell their houses?

Probably, like me, they’ve got “pay nothing ’til you die” retirement mortgages. I should have used mine to buy a campervan, I was so desperate to, but there were other priorities and I drew back from the edge. Now it’s beyond me.

Could I really have envisaged myself taking the ferry to Calais, mooching around Europe with nobody to talk to, when I can just Google a virtual adventure at home? Campervanning is really more for couples who are past the age of speaking to one another.

But that’s me! Only single. A man and his dog.

Across the street, my neighbor Mr Hughes parks a vehicle called Monty. It’s to die for, a 1996 Autosleeper conversion of a long-wheelbase Peugeot Boxer, in delicately pale Nile green. They seldom go anywhere in it. I’d go to the eds of the Earth! I gibber lovingly everytime we pass it, and dream of the wide open spaces.

Stuck in a jam on the M4.

Have I really matured since those lonesome childhood days when I was transfixed by the fleeting promise of a different kind of life in the sun? Where I should probably have had seven kinds of shit kicked out of me by working-class lads with red knees and headlice, for being the posh kid who read books?

Is this just me wanting to go round again?

Butlins on wheels?

 

GW: Oh, I do like to be beside the seaside

Newshound

Many reports emerge today, 1 July, of a freak hailstorm that has buried Guadalajara in northern Mexico overnight under five feet of ice, after a day when the temperature had been over 30C. Two people were treated for hypothermia, cars were slowly borne away in the tide and 200 buildings were damaged. A precisely similar event happened two years ago at Cordoba in Argentina that was barely noticed in the press, but now we are all climate change enthusiasts.

“The vast expanse of sea ice around Antarctica has suffered a ‘precipitous’ fall since 2014, satellite data shows, and fell at a faster rate than seen in the Arctic”, records the Guardian. “The plunge in the average annual extent means Antarctica lost as much sea ice in four years as the Arctic lost in 34 years. Researchers said it showed ice could disappear much more rapidly than previously thought.”

“An area of Amazon rainforest roughly the size of a football pitch is now being cleared every single minute, according to satellite data. The rate of losses has accelerated as Brazil’s new right-wing president favours development over conservation.” (BBC News) More depressing still, Japan has resumed unfettered commercial whaling.

And as Europe swelters (satellite forecasts show the African heat returning next week with some potential for a 49C record in Spain on 11 July):

  • More flooding has affected parts of Ecuador, this time in the northern province of Sucumbíos. Around 600 people have been affected in the province in total, with 150 evacuated and 150 homes or buildings damaged. Landslides have blocked roads, stranding motorists.
  • Recent heavy rains in the Mopti region of Mali have caused floods, aggravating the already precarious situation of the 50,254 internally displaced persons (IDPs) in the region.
  • Over 700 people have been moved to relief camps in the state of Assam, north eastern India, after annual flooding caused by the overflowing Brahmaputra, Barak and Jia Bhoreli rivers. Monsoon flooding has affected around 5,000 people in 12 villages. Rail services have been disrupted.
  • Houses and infrastructure have been damaged in floods affecting large parts of northern Vietnam. Disaster authorities in the country reported that 1 person died after being swept away. 3 people are still missing in the floods. Another person died as a result of lightning strike in Dien Bien province. (Floodlist)

Dr Jeff Masters, of Weather Underground, comments that what makes last week’s heatwave over France so unusual is the extreme difference between the new records set and the old ones. He can find only one other incidence in weather history, of an old heat record being beaten by a margin as great as 5.9C, 10.4F, as at Montpellier last week. It happened in the US, in 1936, during the dustbowl drought emergency.

A new report expresses concern over increasing fluctuations in the level of the US’s Great Lakes, which contain a fifth of the world’s fresh water. Climate change is responsible for more damaging flooding around the shoreline, as both 2C of warming since the 1990s and the recent polar vortices, combined with storms and increased rainfall have been causing big surges in the water level. (Floodlist, citing University of Michigan)

Despite predictions of an above-average season for Eastern Pacific storms, not a lot has happened in the month since the season started. Storm Alvin has blown itself out, but Tropical Storm Barbara has a chance of reaching Hawaii next week as a hurricane. To the West, Tropical Depression 4 may strengthen before reaching Taiwan.

There’s still no sign of anything untoward in the West Atlantic and Caribbean, although of course the unusual chain of supercell thunderstorms breezing out of the Gulf of Mexico into Texas and up through the flooded Midwest into the Great Lakes region has not stopped since March.

 

 

 

 

 

The Pumpkin – Issue 78: Surviving Brexit… Intemperate outburst: an apology… Sympathy vote… GW: spinning a few more records (Mozambique cyclone LATEST)… EV phone home

 

Quote of the Week

“I’m struck, as the British parliament moves towards the endgame on Brexit, with the number of times Australia, Canada, New Zealand and India have been advanced by the Brexiteers in the public debate as magical alternatives to Britain’s current trade and investment relationship with the European Union. This is the nuttiest of the many nutty arguments that have emerged from the Land of Hope and Glory set now masquerading as the authentic standard-bearers of British patriotism. It’s utter bollocks.” – Kevin Rudd, former Prime Minister of Australia, writing in The Guardian.

16 days to go…. and Mr Rudd offers us a much-needed reality check, too late I fear: http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2019/mar/11/commonwealth-save-brexit-britain-utter-delusion-kevin-rudd

 

“Yippee, we won that one!”

Surviving Brexit

Never mind! Britain has signed a post-Brexit trade deal with the Pacific island of Papua New Guinea, as the government rushes to sign as many agreements as possible before 29 March. (from BBC)

Just what we wanted: more tariff-free shrunken heads. As if we haven’t got enough politicians already.

Here be weasels

In a caption to a video, 15 March, BBC News explains that children all over the world are expected to skip school today in a mass protest against political inaction on climate change.

Change that, a BBC journalist writes, is “expected to increase the frequency of extreme weather events – though linking any single event to global warming is complicated.”

Are these cowardly weasels going to go on forever pretending there is some “debate” about this, and include automatic red-flag caveats with every report that might frighten the horses?

Theresa May during the debate on extending the Brexit negotiating period, 14 March 2019

“Oops, no, we lost that one!”

Intemperate outburst: an apology

The maverick biologist, Dr Rupert Sheldrake most famously posited a theory of “morphic resonance”, that suggested an experimental way of showing that there are metaphysical connections between events in the world that can be explained on a quantum level, as if the Universe is capable of learning through experience and transmitting the information at a distance.

I resort to this idea now, when trying to explain an extraordinary and embarrassing – thing – that has happened. Without wishing to seem solipsistic, i.e. that in this rather isolated state in which I dwell among you, I have come to believe, like poor Mr Trump, that I am personally responsible for everything that happens and that the sun revolves around me.

Over the last couple of days I have taken to binge-watching videos of some of the finest moments in the public-speaking career of the late and much-lamented Christopher Hitchens, the leftwing, humanist polemicist famous for demolishing the absurd deistic arguments of all-comers, high and low, from the religious spectrum.

I have, perhaps, overdosed rather on his thrilling rhetoric and fierce mental clarity

Born in the same year, Hitchens and I come from similarly upper-middle-class, English boarding-school-educated backgrounds, which perhaps explains why we share the same animus towards arbitrary authority and undeserving entitlements. But where he was fiercely intellectual, erudite and widely travelled, I am a lazy, ill-read, cowardly and inarticulate old stick-in-the-mud. Where he liked to get out and take on the rabbis and the mullahs and the incense-sniffers head-on, I just crouch here behind the barricade and snipe.

I was doing exactly that, late last night, and regret it. Unfortunately, with three or four large Scotches under my groaning belt, in a mood of intense irritation (I shan’t explain it, but there were reasons) and in some discomfort from my catheter: both directly, being unable to sit for long without pain; and indirectly, having suffered an instance of unwanted and odoriferous leakage (not connected with the alcohol), feeling unpleasantly moist.

Thus, on a Comment thread beneath a YouTube video of Hitchens administering yet another series of “Hitchslaps”, as the cult that has grown around his memory calls his pithier arguments, to the proponents of supra-natural beliefs, I reacted furiously to some stories in the news, the egregious nature of each of which suggested to me that the religious establishment has lately been regaining the upper hand.

I have never been to Argentina, for instance, but it seems the Catholic church, that not long ago apologised through its Pope for the genocide between the sixteenth and nineteenth centuries of almost a billion native Americans, and now having to apologize again for thousands of acts of sacrilegious child-abuse by its celibate priesthood and its centuries-long cover-up by the authorities, continues nonetheless to exert its malign influence over the common people.

Recently, it was reported, religious authorities there had insisted on an 11-year old girl carrying a pregnancy to term, when she was obliged to give birth by Caesarian section to a child forcibly got on her by her own step-grandfather, after they had refused to sanctify the early-term abortion she and her parents had desired.

I hope this strikes you too as obscene. You should therefore consider, as Hitchens does, the horrible thought that in certain parts of the world, child-rape may result in the death penalty – for the child, caught in adultery, not for the older man. That too is a religious edict, directly mandated by God.

In another instance, one of the more exotic places in the world I have actually visited, a long time ago, is Iran. I had a very good Iranian friend at one time, and I continue to grieve for the Iranian people, regarding their theistic fascist regime propped up by the extreme violence of religious courts, secret police and a corrupt “Revolutionary Guard”, as a toad squatting on the face of humanity.

It had nothing to do with Islamophobia – people are free to think as they must – and everything to do with hatred of fascism in whatever form it takes. I had been horrified that morning to learn of the jailing by a religious court of a prominent Iranian human rights lawyer for an outrageous 38 years, with 150 lashes, merely for defending women opposing the diktat of the patriarchal mullahs that they must cover their heads in public; about which the Qu’ran has little or nothing to say, other than requiring female modesty.

These are the same calculating and devious authorities who are keeping a British-Iranian mother, Mrs Nazanin Zighari-Ratcliffe, locked up on a ludicrous forced confession of plotting to overthrow the State; and who have just rejected the latest attempt by the British government to have her conviction overturned through granting her diplomatic status. (Do not imagine Iranian courts permit accused persons to offer a legal defence. Or that Mrs Ratcliffe is the only person in her predicament.) So now their offence is against the British state, not that we intend to do anything about it.

And that same morning, we had learned that the Saudi authorities – I refer to their country as Saudi Barbaria – have dragged into court, with the aim of imprisoning, and/or perhaps brutally flogging, ten token women’s rights activists arrested and tortured despite the specific focus of their protest, the absurd law against women drivers, having recently been overturned by order of the Crown Prince himself.

I hope this strikes you too as utter, misogynistic hypocrisy. These creepy, closed-minded, madrassah-uneducated little men are terrified of women and use extreme, often sexual violence and a twisted version of religious law to keep them in their place.

Anyway, so I posted some fairly pungent remarks about religious abuse, one of which might if taken out of context be regarded as generally anti-Islamic; which was not my specific intention. And awoke seven hours later to the awful news that, at the very moment I had been firing off my ill-considered and intemperate Post, that at any other time would have passed among the general, on the furthest side of the world an appalling atrocity was being perpetrated against peaceful worshippers by a deranged and calculating Australian neo-Nazi, a psychopath in the Anders Breivik mould.

That man is not me. I hope.

Readers of this, my ever-lengthening bogl, must by now be fully aware of my instinctive opposition to violence in all its forms; to authoritarianism, and my detestation of racists. I am a passionate believer in social justice. Through a kind of “morphic resonance” overnight, however, my words coincidentally took or borrowed dreadful shape in the form of an actual bloody massacre of 49 people to whom I wished no harm.

To my mind there is no moral difference between a murderous and bullying regime carrying out daily atrocities in the name of their malign and vindictive God, imposing their wickedness on a cowed population; and the actions of one arrogant and murderous racist who takes upon himself the mantle of avenging angel to punish those who offend him, merely by their appearance. Both are clearly manifestations of that extreme form of psychosis which every normal person, even the non-religious and the atheistic, codifies as “evil”.

So, when I suggested that the Iranian regime was a horrible death cult who should, in that case, fuck off and die, it was not intended as giving licence and encouragement to an actual act of slaughter, which we understand was years in the planning; or as a random assault upon the entire global congregation of Islam.

Rather that, to paraphrase the words of the Christian gospel, in the case of these oppressors, the abominable priestly caste of whatever brand of faith who think they know the mind of their ineffable deity (whom I’m afraid I also insulted) and can therefore act with impunity as a law entirely unto themselves, to oppress others, millstones should be tied around their necks and they should be cast into the sea.

It’s a Biblical metaphor.

I hope that clears it up, to the best extent possible in the circumstances; and I sincerely apologize for any unintended offence.

The Pumpkin

 

Sympathy vote

During his bizarre, 2.5-hour-long homily to the US Conservative PAC conference the week before last, basically these days a bunch of overprivileged, college-educated neo-Nazis in Brooks suits, the Washington Post reports, a visibly sweating Trump (Nixon used to sweat heavily too) succeeded in telling over 100 fact-checked lies during his rambling, disconnected speech, that was all about himself, of course – along with the usual feeble, self-referential jokes and terrifyingly bad impressions of critics and opponents he likes to abuse publicly.

It was another of the impromptu speeches that, er, prompted the US media to wonder long and loudly again about the President’s sanity; or at least, his present state of mind, and whether it was safe to leave him home alone with matches.

His daily average lie count is now 22, up from six a year ago, to a total since being forced into office of over 9,500. It seems unusual that several media outlets should see the need to employ units of fact-checkers to monitor the statements made by the president of the United States at all, but when you elect a pathological liar I suppose it’s too good an opportunity to pass up.

The most extraordinary fact, however, is this. Since his failed summit with Kim Jong-un, the devastating 35-day government shutdown at Christmas and his failure to secure funding for a border wall which 65% of Americans say they think is a terrible idea, his poll ratings have actually been going up.

in November, he lost control of the House of Representatives. The economy is on a slide: on his watch the national debt is approaching $23 trillion, the trade gap is $100 billion wider than when he launched his tariff wars, North Korea is back to testing missiles, his former lieutenants have been testifying copiously to his instinctive criminality, his connections with Russia that he still strenuously denies have been laid bare, his Middle East policy is in chaos, he reportedly works less than 4 hours a day on four days a week and golfs the rest, he continues to promote his own businesses at taxpayers’ expense, sells access to himself, overrules his security service heads on almost every front, continues to waste public money on senseless inquiries into his election result and non-existent voter fraud, opposes the entire scientific establishment of the United States on the climate crisis, refuses to condemn right-wing violence (he’s threatening to invade Venezuela), has had his photo taken with a Floridan chinese brothel-madam who sells her clients access to him at Mar-a-Lago – and his 2020 draft budget proposal blatantly sets out to wrest even more money from the poor, children and the disabled to give to the richest 1%, sucking $1.3 trillion out of Medicaid and $800 billion out of Medicare over 10 years, defunding programs that support the poorest members of his own base, while giving another $25 billion to the bloated military and $8.6 billion to build the border wall he tells his dumbfucks he’s already built. (Oh, that’s a lie, by the way.)

Yet they continue to love and worship him as if he were a cult leader, or a god, whose every word is sanctified. That imagined person he boasted he could “shoot on 5th Avenue and not lose voters” is one of his own supporters, but they don’t mind. They are addicted to his power.

As many legal experts state, he has committed at least eight impeachable offences while in office, and many indictable crimes before. His frenzied efforts to obstruct the Mueller inquiry are unabashed and unabated; as are his undisguised attempts to rollback environmental protections as openly bought favors to his vastly wealthy donors in the Energy sector. He continues to ride on a crazy rollercoaster of White House staff, now on his seventh communications director; to spray out demented tweets savaging his perceived enemies, however trivial their complaints, to abuse the fallen and the dead, and to threaten and bully the media.

No president before has been so obsessed with making crude, disparaging comments, demeaning and abusing and threatening anyone who dares to criticize, in disjointed, whining, self-justifying 4 a.m. tweetstorms full of screaming capitals: NO COLUSION! LIAR COMEY! DEM PLOT! FAKE NEWS CNN! The novelty may have worn off, as no-one but his base seems to care anymore what he says. No president before has so repeatedly praised the actions against his own country of brutal foreign kleptocrats, or torn up so many treaties and abrogated so many common understandings and shared values with America’s allies.

Despite all of that, his arch-enemy, Democrat leader Nancy Pelosi has dismissed calls to impeach him, saying he isn’t worth the bother. It’s a calculated insult, but one that masks an underlying problem: the senior Democratic elders like Pelosi and Schumer are as implicated in the corporatist conspiracy and as far from the zeitgeist of the upcoming generation as the Republicans and cannot find a way out of it.

Now they have a new intake of younger congressmen and women with a more progressive, anti-corporate, anti-corruption, pro-environment agenda, the party may have trouble holding itself together at the polls. There is increasing concern that without an impeachment, whose success is far from guaranteed, Trump could be elected by default for a second, equally or more disastrous term.

Thus 44% of Americans now say they think Trump is doing a good job; of what, is not made clear,

Entertaining them, I suppose.

Watching someone gibbering and sweating in the throes of mental disintegration, someone whose delusions include taking personal credit for the corporate policy of the Apple corporation, then getting the CEO’s name muddled up, calling him “Tim Apple”, and then going to enormous lengths to have his people deny he actually said what the recording clearly shows him saying, another one of those “alternative fact” moments, as if it even matters, is such fun, isn’t it.

This is a man desperately clinging to the remnant shreds of sanity and in dire need of professional help. Impeachment would be a mercy. So severe are his symptoms, he will be the last to recognize it.

 

GW: spinning a few new records

Mozambique LATEST (Fri 2pm 15 Mar):  “Meanwhile, over the Mozambique Channel, Cyclone Idai had built waves up to 7 metres high. As a cyclone moves over water, it drives a storm surge in the face of it. In this case, the surge was about 2 metres. So, before Idai’s approach, the surface of the ocean rose 2 metres with waves rising regularly 7 metres above that – at worst, 9 metres. The weather station at Beira airport is 8 metres above sea level. The tide can rise to a surprising 7 metres as is the case forecast for Friday. Thursday evening’s tide was 5 metres and the storm surge from Idai arrived with it. The waves were driven on top.” (Al Jazeera) Meaning potentially 14 meters (46 feet!) of sea-level rise.

“Communications have been lost from the port of Beira since Thursday evening.”

In its early stages, Idai brought widespread flooding to southern Malawi and the adjacent Mozambique province of Zambezia. At least 80,000 people have been displaced and dozens of people killed. Idai has the potential to drop up to 500mm of rain on its way through central Mozambique. (Al Jazeera)

Further reporting (Thu, 14 March): “The number of people killed in heavy rains and flooding in southern Malawi has risen to 30, while the number of people affected is now approaching 500,000 with an estimated 30,000 of them displaced. Meanwhile the same weather system has also caused flooding in regions of Mozambique, where over 30,000 people have been affected and 7 deaths reported. Heavy rain has also affected areas of KwaZulu-Natal Province in South Africa, in particular around the city of Durban.” (From Floodlist)

USA: “Snow and gusty winds from slow-moving Winter Storm Ulmer continue from the Colorado Rockies to western South Dakota and much of Wyoming. Deteriorating weather with increasing snow and wind, including blizzard conditions, will intensify in parts of the central High Plains into the afternoon”… as the storm undergoes ‘bombogenesis’ – a rapid collapse in atmospheric pressure, to a hurricane-like 968 mb. Warning includes a swath from northeast Colorado, including Denver, to western South Dakota. Up to 2 feet of snow is forecast.

Updates: Over 1,000 drivers are stranded in cars along highways in Colorado and Nebraska as National Guard troops have braved 90 mph blizzards to rescue them. A state of emergency has been declared. One trooper has been killed and a motorist has died. 7 states are under blizzard warnings. (The Weather Channel)

This is now mid-March… and a poll in Kansas finds 96% of the population is getting fed up with winter! Ulmer has created record flooding in Ohio and Nebraska, some rivers many feet over former record levels (14 March). Meanwhile, further south “a line of severe thunderstorms is moving eastward through portions of central Texas this morning (13 Mar.) Damaging wind gusts hit 85 mph, trashing an Amazon depot at Fort Worth, and 5 people were injured by a tornado in Dexter, New Mexico.” Up to 4-in of rain is forecast.

And a new report from William & Mary’s Virginia Institute of Marine Science says the fast-flooding Texas and Louisiana coasts could see up to 2 feet of sea-level rise by 2050 (The Weather Channel). Property value losses owing to the threat of coastal flooding in 17 states from Maine to Mississippi between 2005 and 2017 have been estimated at $16 billion. But it’s okay, folks, President Trump says nothing to see, keep voting.

Bet you’ve never seen this before! Upside-down lightning over Ugljan, Croatia, 11 March. Photo: Jakša Kuzmičić.

Venezuela: As electricity blackouts continue to plague the capital, Caracas, into their second week, there’s a brief mention on the BBC News of 40C daytime temperatures there. Your Granny is unable to find any more details, sorry. Googling Venezuela 40C produces only a reference to postage rates.

Brazil: Heavy rain, severe flash-flooding and landslides affected São Paulo State from Sunday 10 March. At least 12 people have died and 6 have been injured. 1200 rescues were effected. Flood water was reported in several neighbourhoods of the city, blocking major roads and causing severe disruption to public transport. Santo André recorded 182mm rain in 24 hours to 11 March.” (From Floodlist)

World: It’s been a winter of extreme extremes, according to Wunderground. “On March 2, Dover, Tasmania, attained an all-time record high of 40.1°C (104.3°F), the hottest reading ever observed in that (furthest southerly) Australian state during the month of March. Just the next day (4 March in the US) minus 46°F (-43C) was measured at Elk Park, Montana, a new (preliminary) all-time record for cold in that state for March.

While the USA and Japan froze solid, many European countries had spells of record warmth for February. Down south, both New Zealand and Chile experienced their hottest-ever summer months: “Chile heatwave breaks all-time records at 10 cities, with temperatures ranging from 35.1°C (95.2°F) to 40.7°C (105.3°F). 40.7°C at Traiguen is perhaps the most southerly 40°C+ reading ever measured on Earth.” On 15 Feb, however, “42.4°C (108.3°F) at Traiguen. New national monthly record.”

And in Angola, bordering South Africa, 41.0°C (105.8°F) at Espinheira, Angola set an all-time national record on 15 Feb. for any month.

In the US, at the same time as a new February record was being set in the UK, of 21.6C (70.9F) (just four miles from where your old Granny’s new digital max-min thermometer was giving her a shade high of 24.1C, 75.4F), “Los Angeles failed to hit 70°F for the first February since records began in 1878.”

A comprehensive list of this winter’s many impressive new world records can be found at: https://www.wunderground.com/cat6/North-South-Winter-and-Summer-Record-Temperature-Extremes?cm_ven=hp-slot-4

Global greenhouse: “The rise in the levels of carbon dioxide (CO₂) in the atmosphere continues to accelerate. Over the past 31 days, CO₂ levels at Mauna Loa, Hawaii, have been above 410 ppm, while on March 3, some average hourly readings exceeded 415 ppm. The levels recorded in the year up until now weren’t expected to occur until April/May.” Rising levels of methane, especially over Antarctica and the Himalayas, and N20 (nitrous oxide, a GHG 300 times more heat-absorbent than C2) continue to give cause for concern. (Arctic News, 15 March)

 

EV phone home

Guardian Green Light reports: “At least a quarter of local authorities in England and Wales have put a brake on the expansion of charging networks for electric vehicles. More than 100 local councils (60 failed to reply) say they have no plans to increase the number of charging points they offer. Campaigners and politicians fear this could hinder the expansion of the UK’s electric fleet..”

Why is that? Because they can’t afford to do it and keep essential services like schools, libraries and garbage collection going.

Your old Granny is astonished. Why is it up to local authorities to instal charging points? On the Council tax many non-drivers and many more non-owners and can’t-afforders of expensive electric vehicles are obliged to pay?

Why are the lousy, cheating bastards selling environmentally ecocidal carbon-emitting fuel and paying PR men to lie about the consequences of burning it, not being FORCED to pay for electric vehicle (EV) chargers out of their obscene mega-profits, in their highly priced roadside filling station outlets?

They already have over a $trillion in fuel subsidies* and cheap concessions from rotten governments around the world, whose corrupt ministers pocket their share of the proceeds. Someone should tell them, that’s enough.

But it won’t be the Department of Energy. A Spokesmouth replies: “Our Road to Zero strategy sets out our commitment to massively expand electric vehicle infrastructure.”

Yes, at my expense, you cunts. Road to Zero is a great way of branding human extinction, as well as my bank balance.

*Latest figures show that 22 banks globally have between them subsidized the oil, gas and coal industries to the tune of $1.9 TRILLION since the Paris accord was signed

Welcome to the Resistance… What will it take for people to get serious?… GW: Let it snow, let it snow, let it… rain?… A new BogPo emerging

India’s prime minister, Narendra Modi, greets US president Donald Trump in 2017.

“Thank Vishnu, I’ve found someone even crazier than me!”

Photograph: Kevin Lamarque/Reuters

 

“In 36 days’ time there will be only resistance left.”

Welcome to the Resistance

In a month and one week from now, at midnight on Friday 29 March, Britain will leave the EU, almost certainly without a working deal for a transitional arrangement while a permanent settlement is negotiated.

At which point, it will be too late. Under EU rules, a permanent settlement will not be available after a Brexit without a deal. The settlement will be as it is: a complete and devastating break.

Forty-six years of co-operative engagement with almost the whole of the rest of Europe will end. Tariffs and visas and customs controls we thought we had done away with forever will be reimposed, food prices will rise, and the rights of visa-free movement and settlement and reciprocal free medical treatment will be abrogated, just like that.

Hundreds of British MEPs and civil servants will troop back to the UK and an uncertain future.

In time other rights, safety standards and product convergence we have long enjoyed will disappear, along with our obligations to our treaty partners; who are themselves, thanks largely to the British vote, under threat of divergence and breakdown.

We will default on the €39 billion it has been accepted we were already committed to pay, and walk away with no satisfactory arrangements regarding a whole range of issues it appears those who voted Leave had never even considered.

We shall enjoy only reduced security co-operation in Europe, and be faced with dealing with the probable consequences of a breakdown of the Good Friday agreement that has brought relative peace to the divided island of Ireland for the past 20 years. Co-operative agreements over science and technology, such as the Galileo GPS project, Airbus and the European Space Agency; the European Medicines Agency, will abruptly cease.

Hundreds of established foreign-owned companies employing thousands of workers have already made plans to relocate, either to Ireland or to the continent, in the event of No-deal. Companies needing to forward-order materials and components are struggling to stock-up; smaller airlines are facing bankruptcy. No reciprocal landing rights have yet been renegotiated: under a temporary arrangement, UK flights into and out of the EU will continue, but there is no agreement on internal routes.

We will enter into a protracted period during which our elected officials will struggle to obtain favourable trade agreements with a host of countries we already have reciprocal trading arrangements with under EU rules, faraway countries who owe us nothing and will add no value to any subsequent agreements, perpetuating the insane belief (or cynical lies) of politicians that Britain will again become the power in the world we once were.

(Mr Fox has just this evening confessed that he cannot rollover the same free-trade deal the Japanese have just agreed with the EU and we’ll have to start with them from scratch. To date just seven trade deals agreed include the Faroe Islands, Switzerland and Turkey, exports totalling £13 billion. Our current trade with third countries through the EU is £117 billion.)

The Government has already made plans for a security clampdown and the possible, temporary introduction of rationing of certain goods, food and medicines. The Army has been put on standby. Just this alone should tell you something about the situation Britain has got itself in.

We shall in a relatively short time become serfs to an unelected global criminal elite; subject to an international organized crime syndicate operating at the highest levels of many governments we propose to “do business” with, having its legitimized corporate and political roots in the rise both of the US mafia and the collapse of the Soviet Union – and, of course, global commodity interests: oil, food, the arms trade.

This ‘coup’ against the current world order involves an unholy alliance of far-right and far-left groups with agendas including the establishment of an apartheid, anti-abortion ‘white, Christian’ state in the USA; extreme anti-immigrant, antisemitic parties in European countries; those who believe, like Steve Bannon, that we are on a crusade against Islam before the Final Battle; those promoting Russian expansionism and the hegemony of the super-rich, the global corporations and those who oppose globalization.

Already, the threats are arriving. The US ambassador to Britain has instructed the government that we will have to accept US food imports produced to lower standards of safety and animal welfare if an overall trade agreement is to be put in place.

Against all that, the climate clock is also ticking down to a fast-approaching dystopia of economic and social chaos, prior to the probable extinction of most life on earth: the ‘sixth great extinction’ that has visibly begun; foreboding of which is clearly making us insane.

And they know it.

Everyone I meet who is willing to discuss this worrying situation is now in the final stage of grief, numb acceptance; wandering around in a dark mood of not really caring what happens next.

Sadly, I know of no-one who has more than just the normal dark suspicion of politicians, who understands how things have come to this pass: who it is that has secretly and deliberately advocated behind the scenes for ‘No-deal’ and why, and what the future holds.

But we should care, because as time has gone on, the extent of the treason and the true motives and identities of the shadowy funders of the project to replace the Western alliance become ever clearer.

The ‘No-deal’ option is, as we sort-of know, being nudged by a handful of Conservatives on the right and a few nitwitted fellow-travellers in the disintegrating Labour party – I hesitate to call them the Opposition – who have successfully co-opted Theresa May into their project with a threat to breakup the Party if she crosses their ‘red lines’.

Do you know why, and on whose behalf?

As the clock ticks down to midnight, the full extent of the conspiracy to steal Britain is only now emerging.

It is a story that has gained zero traction with the British people, because those journalists who are fighting to expose the shadowy plot behind the practised dissembling of a few front-runners – Johnson, Rees-Mogg, Davis, McVey, Baker, Farage and the others – are so easily dismissed, shouted down, disparaged as conspiracy theorists or traitors or liberal elites seeking to thwart ‘the will of the People’.

And of course the corporatist media – the Murdoch press, the Mail and titles like the Express and the Star, now under the aegis of Reach – formerly Mirror Group Newspapers – and their online surrogates – are not going to pick the story up and run with it, because they have spent decades preparing for this moment.

I urge you, if you value your freedom, to read and understand the following. It is quite a long article, because it concerns quite a big – and breathtaking – conspiracy:

http://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/brexitinc/peter-geoghegan-jenna-corderoy/revealed-how-dark-money-is-winning-brexit-influencing-ga?utm_source=Daily+Newsletter&utm_campaign=7a15ab4b9d-DAILY_NEWSLETTER_MAILCHIMP&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_717bc5d86d-7a15ab4b9d-408090269GW

In 35 days’ time there will be only resistance left.

You were warned.

 

“No wonder people are confused”

What will it take for people to get serious?

How will we continue to react to the accelerating story of global warming?

Certainly not in the news media, where there is a tradition of putting different categories of stories firmly into their own silos and failing to recognize any connection between them. Not a single report of, say, the political situation or war in the Middle East allows itself to be confused with the rapidly increasing extremes of temperature, the rise in the number of hurricanes in the Arabian Sea, or this winter’s extensive flooding throughout the region.

I first noticed the effect quite recently. Back in 2017, it was being widely reported on the news that our bumptious Foreign Secretary at the time, Boris Johnson, had managed to insult the entire Maori nation while on an official visit to New Zealand. There was no mention whatever of the fact that the area he was visiting was under a state of emergency declared in response to widespread, record floods.

More egregiously, last year the International Panel on Climate Change launched its notorious “12-years-to-act” report (basically, 12 years in which to do nothing) in the coastal city of Incheon, historic site of Gen. McArthur’s decisive invasion during the Korean War. Just the day before, several people had been killed in a ferocious typhoon that struck the south; one of many last year, in a part of the world that has also experienced killer summer heat each year for the past few years.

The irony obviously escaped the world’s media, as there was not one mention of it in the coverage of the conference.

All these opportunities being missed, to make the approaching extinction event even just a talking point, let alone the screaming banner headline news it ought to be.

A Guardian report today of a UN report warning that biodiversity issues are threatening world food security fails to mention that climate change is pushing agriculture northward and southward out of its traditional zones, where new varieties will need to be developed if production is to be maintained on poorer or less adapted soils. The grainbelt in the USA is moving northward at an alarming rate – as is the breadbasket in Australia moving south (toward the sea!) and shrinking fast as it succumbs to drought.

You would think that falling production in all of the main grain-producing areas of the world would exercise governments whose economies benefit from grain exports, as well as those reliant on imported bulk foods, but no, there are apparently more important things to worry about.

Over in India, a row has erupted between pressure groups over an ordinance forcing possibly as many as 5 million aboriginal tribespeople to leave their remote forest lands. While the authorities say that those who have title to the land can stay and they’re only pushing out overpopulating illegals who are destroying the forest ecology, other environmentalists are arguing that ethnic tribespeople have a right to pursue their rural economy unmolested by modern civilization.

It’s humans versus plant and animal diversity, again – the new Bolsonaro regime in Brazil is threatening to bring this clash to a head – with no obvious solution to a dilemma that is, in fact, affecting the entire planet.

Then we have the story of thousands upon thousands of French citizens donning yellow tabards and rioting in protest against a rise in the price of diesel fuel. There, we had a few mentions in the early days of the paradox that everyone knows we have to burn less fuel but nobody wants to be the one burning less fuel. A few people wrung their hands over this demonstration of the impossibility of getting nations to decarbonize; requiring us, as it does, to accept declining living standards. (The joke being, they are already declining anyway, that’s why the French are rioting!)

But your Uncle Bogler has seen little follow-up to this rather crucial point, given that environmental protesters and schoolchildren everywhere are on the march against climate-change inertia; while the somewhat blurred focus of the ‘gilets jaunes’ has moved from fuel to a broad range of social ills and a protest against the government in general.

The news media is a caravan that is always folding its tents and moving on. No wonder people are confused: is the threat supposed to be climate change, plastic bags, disappearing bugs, peak oil, antibiotic resistance, migration, overpopulation – what?

People are not going to understand the gravity of the situation while the media encloses these protests in a file marked ‘cranks’. Only when the climate change story becomes embedded in the wider news agenda and extreme weather events are seen for what they are – integral to the processes of social, economic and political change, not merely curiosities – it was a winter record18.5C, 65F in Scotland yesterday and the ski resorts are closing – only when they see how it is already affecting their lives and how everything is connected will people finally take notice.

 

GW: Let it snow, let it snow, let it… rain?

USA: Las Vegas, Nv. just had its first measurable snowfall since records began there in 1934. Up to 3-in was forecast, although with rain on the way it’s not expected to last. (CNN)

A huge storm system is moving up from the Gulf. “Significant flash flooding is expected in the South Friday, then severe thunderstorms, including the threat of tornadoes, are an increasing concern Saturday in parts of the South and Ohio Valley in what may be the most widespread severe weather event of this winter, so far.” A warning of life-threatening floods has gone out for the Nashville area of Tennessee, heading for its wettest-ever winter record. (From The Weather Channel)

Meanwhile, Winter Storm Quiana is already moving into position over the west coast, with forecasts of more heavy snow and blizzard conditions across the Plains and Midwest. Flagstaff, Az. just set a new record with 36-in. of snowfall, 21 Feb. Snow was also reported in Malibu, West Hollywood and Thousand Oaks, California, and at Rose Bowl Stadium in Pasadena, California. Even LA had 0.8-in (From The Weather Channel)

Pakistan: Heavy rain has brought flash flooding to several provinces over the last few days, with local media reporting over 25 fatalities. … At least 9 people were killed in three incidents of roofs collapsing after heavy rain in Punjab Province. The city of Multan is reportedly among the worst affected areas. (From Floodlist)

Ecuador: Disaster authorities say that around 250 people have been affected by flooding in Los Ríos Province since 19 February. Several rivers have broken their banks in Pastaza Province, causing damage to homes. No casualties have been reported. (From Floodlist)

Pacific: The typhoon season has got off to an early start this year. “Category 2 (100 mph) Typhoon Wutip is gathering strength in the waters to the southeast of Guam. Wutip is expected to pass 150 miles to the southwest of Guam as a Category 3 typhoon on Saturday night local time, bringing tropical storm conditions to Guam and Rota in the Mariana Islands.”

Meanwhile, “Tropical Storm Oma, was located on 21 Feb. about 500 miles east of the Australian coast. Oma was headed south at about 8 mph, parallel to the coast.” Weakening due to wind shear, “Oma peaked as a Category 1 storm with 85 mph winds on Tuesday, and is predicted to bring gale-force winds to the northeast coast of Australia on Friday and Saturday. The storm’s high waves and surge may bring coastal inundation up to a meter (3.3 feet) above high tide. (From The Weather Channel) Update 23 Feb: Oma stalled off the coast and is rapidly weakening – not before 25 beaches were closed due to huge waves.

Europe: Trapped between two very cold airmasses, “Very warm air with temperature 10-15 °C warmer than normal overspreads western and northern Europe, Arctic region and Greenland” over the next few days.” (Severe-weather.eu) Temperatures are well above normal in the UK: a record high of 18.3C, 65F was recorded in Scotland, 22 Feb. and for most it’s been shorts and T-shirts.

Much colder conditions however are affecting the eastern Mediterranean: “High temperatures on Friday will climb to around 16 C (60 F) in Athens, and struggle to reach 7 C (45 F) by Sunday” (Accuweather). Severe-weather.eu has: Greece is up for another intense snowstorm this weekend as a new cold outbreak is pushed across the Balkan peninsula. Locally up to 40-50 cm of fresh snow seems likely until Sunday, combined with huge snow drifts due to strong to severe winds. Blowing snow and blizzard/whiteout conditions are expected.”

Meanwhile, hurricane-force Bora winds gusting (at altitude) up to 230 km/hr (140 mph) were expected at the weekend over Italy and the northern Adriatic up into Slovenia this week. (Severe-weather.eu)

Yellowstone: new earthquake swarm, harmonic tremors, ground uplift continuing, ground shaking, bigger M3-M4 quakes in the park and outside in Utah, toward Salt Lake City and in Montana. Ground temperature rising – also “water temperature” now “over 100C”. (NB yes, I know, you can’t heat water above 100C under normal pressure as it tends to turn to steam! Unless you’re a Yellowstone watcher, in which case anything is possible.) (Mary Greeley vlog post)

“Don’t you realize that blacking-up at a penguin party is considered seriously culturally offensive, Senator?”

Denier time

“The world’s capacity to produce food is being undermined by humanity’s failure to protect biodiversity, according to the first UN study of the plants, animals and micro-organisms that help to put meals on our plates.

“The stark warning was issued by the Food and Agriculture Organisation after scientists found evidence the natural support systems that underpin the human diet are deteriorating around the world as farms, cities and factories gobble up land and pump out chemicals.” (Guardian)

http://www.theguardian.com/global-development/2019/feb/21/worlds-food-supply-under-severe-threat-from-loss-of biodiversity?utm_term=RWRpdG9yaWFsX0d1YXJkaWFuVG9kYXlVS19XZWVrZGF5cy0xOTAyMjI%3D&utm_source=esp&utm_medium=Email&utm_campaign=GuardianTodayUK&CMP=GTUK_email

Adjust the ticket

Parking meter usage records are being employed to provide a reliable guide to rising sea levels around US coasts.

Based on a research paper from Stanford University, Dr Jeff Masters at Wunderground explains that commercial areas of coastal cities experience a fall in traffic on days when high tides are encroaching on their activities. In the early 1960s, he reports, Annapolis had about 4 high-tide flooding days a year. In 2017, the small city on Chesapeake Bay experienced 63 “nuisance flooding” days, at an estimated cost of $176,000 a year in lost revenues. As a result of the finding, the city is planning to install pumps in its parking lots. (Weather Underground)

http://www.wunderground.com/cat6/Using-Parking-Meter-Records-and-Tweets-Local-Businesses-Sea-Level-Rise-Research

Teen spirit

Using parts he bought on eBay, 12-year-old Jackson Oswalt of Memphis, Tennessee has become the youngest-ever person to build a working nuclear fusion reactor, in his parents’ spare room. The Open Source Fusor Research Consortium, a hobbyist group, has recognised the achievement, although official verification is still pending. The previous record was held by 14-year-old Taylor Wilson, who is now working in the nuclear industry. (Guardian)

Welcome to a BogPo “Brexit- and Trump-free” zone! Knowing, “no-ing”, none… You said it, not me!… review: Hiromi. Is this a record?… Answers from the blue… GW: and the heat goes on…

Welcome to a BogPo Brexit and Trump-free zone!

750 coruscating Posts!

Quote of the week

“We were caught off guard by surveillance capitalism because there was no way we could have imagined its action, any more than the early peoples of the Caribbean could have foreseen the rivers of blood that would flow from their hospitality toward the sailors who appeared out of thin air waving the banner of the Spanish monarchs. Like the Caribbean people, we faced something truly unprecedented.

“… We are the native peoples now whose claims to self-determination have vanished from the maps of our own experience.” – Dr Shoshana Zuboff, author: The Age of Surveillance Capital

 

You said it, not me!

Judging by the reviews, #amazonshitcarshow (sic) is just about the right name for Jeremy Clarkson’s new series.

Oh, sorry, that’s “Amazon’s hit car show”! Why didn’t they say sooner?

Millennials, eh?

 

“I’m also quite concerned about going extinct before I die.”

Knowing, “no-ing”, none

An article in Psychology Today (12 Jan) attempts with an air of bewilderment to work out why it is that humans, when faced with an overwhelming existential threat that just might be averted by a radical rethinking of their current modes of behavior, prefer to go on flying long-haul as if nothing is happening.

My immediate response was to cite the tragic case of Deasy Tuwo, 44, a scientist working at a pearl-fishing farm on the island of Sulawesi, Indonesia, who died last week after being partly eaten by a 17-foot long, 740-lb crocodile she had been feeding as a pet.

What the fuck did she expect would happen? Personally, I take care around my cat; still bearing as I do the livid three-inch scar on my arm from when I tried to evict a stray from the house, thirty years ago. I would maintain a very healthy distance from a 17-foot crocodile, I assure you.

Thus, through the application of the precautionary principle I have attained my 70th year.

I’m also quite concerned about going extinct before I die. But unless you lot start to come around, there’s not much more I can do, other than keep writing the GW column in this, muh li’l bogl, for the benefit of my average five lovely Likers, Spammers etc., who are probably stuck in my echo chamber anyway. I’m really not reaching the unconverted.

One could instance probably millions of cases in which people act in their own worst interests, despite the evidence staring them in the face.

The death toll in the recent disaster in Mexico, where 73 people (so far) are known to have died while siphoning fuel from a ruptured pipeline is matched by the incident only the week before, in which 80-odd Nigerians died in an identical “accident”.

The only reason gasoline powers your car is because it’s flammable, dummies. It’s a highly volatile liquid, and you’re standing too close. But you didn’t know that, right? So you lit a cigarette, pleading poverty and fuel shortages as an excuse.

Then there’s Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh. Always a bit of a tearaway, giving new meaning to the phrase “advanced driver”, at the age of 97 he seems to have developed a death wish.

First, he overshoots his wife’s driveway at Sandringham, careers blindly across the main road into the path of an onrushing vehicle (endangering the lives of two women and a baby, to whom – being a royal – he refuses to apologize) and is sent rolling over and over. Aided by a passer-by, he drags himself from the wreckage unscathed, and the next day is back behind the wheel of an expensive replacement car taxpayers have magically produced for him – having then to be “spoken to” by Norfolk police for failing to put on his seatbelt.

What is he like? As they say. Well, whatever else he may be like, he is certainly in denial of something that ought to be staring him in the face. He’s past it, okay? Just accept it, mate. You must have plenty of chauffeurs hanging around, furtively smoking and speed-dialling the editor of Hello! magazine. Why not engage one?

Anyway, it seems that psychologists have begun banding together to see what’s to be done about the problem of mass denial.

The earth’s climate is overheating, the heating is accelerating (93% of it so far has gone into the sea), it’s our fault for continuing to burn vast amounts of carbon-emitting fossil fuels while denuding the globe of the forests that used to lap up the CO2.

The effects are already glaringly obvious. Food and economic insecurities are mounting, species are going extinct, the web of life is torn asunder and nobody will survive if the climate state should suddenly shift gear into runaway mode, which it will do when (not if) huge frozen reserves of potent methane gas are liberated by the warming we have already generated.

Rising sea level is the least of our worries.

But as long as one diehard attention-seeker continues to insist that we are instead watching the dawn of a new ice age, or that the warming is because the sunspots have disappeared; or who argues that the climate always changes and and will change back again, we are screwed.

So many people want desperately to believe the disinformation of those who imagine they can go on profiting massively from their current business models and who see no need to worry consumers. To change would, after all, affect “our way of life”, that capitalism has assured us is sacrosanct.

Let me assure you: it isn’t.

 

Review: Hiromi, “Time Control”

Is this a record?

I have a dreadful habit most evenings of hitting on YouTube clips of music by artists I normally like and sometimes whizzing straight over to the Amazon with an order for the CD.

Hiromi Uehara is possibly the most virtuosic and inventive improvisational pianist in the jazz canon, ever. People have compared her with, I don’t know, any of the great names listed as her “mentors” while a student at Berklee: Oscar Peterson, Chick Corea, I could go on endlessly with examples of great pianists she is compared to but I won’t. Comparisons, as they say, are odious. She’s pretty bloody good, is all one can say.

We all make mistakes in the course of our careers, though, and her 2007 album “Time Control” with her Sonicbloom group is possibly the most egregious I know of. Profoundly disillusioned, I have just binned my copy on first hearing and shall chalk the expense up to experience.

(The only other album I have ever bought and binned instantly featured the dreadful American jazz singer, Melody Gardot, with her nauseating, syrupy arrangements.)

The short excerpt from “Time Control” I heard on YouTube is, of course, great. I have several other albums and videos featuring Hiromi, as she simply styles herself, and they’ve amply repaid the investment in listening time and money.

Otherwise, the rest of the tracks on the album are just different takes on a childish post-funk noise experiment, exacerbated by the frequent annoying overuse of an electronic keyboard effect akin to the wah-wah pedal beloved of guitarists in the mid 1970s.

It reminded me of those ghastly, cutesy little chemically-dwarfed East European gymnasts wiggling their pert little asses at the judges on the mat at the Olympic games of about the same vintage.

It’s easy to understand how Hiromi, who usually delivers a stunning blizzard of notes firmly grounded in a metronomic left-hand, could possibly feel that a Steinway grand piano on its own just isn’t enough. I have heard it said, both of Bill Evans and Thelonious Monk, very different stylists, that as musicians they were seeking the spaces between the keys. In jazz, it’s easy to see why; you soon run out of notes.

On stage, Hiromi performs at the piano alongside a couple of synthesisers, sometimes playing both acoustically and electronically at the same time; then dives inside the piano to pluck at the naked strings, or resorts to a hammered percussion effect.

Anything, to relieve the monotony of her own brilliance.

Not being gifted, I can’t imagine what it must be like to be allowed to push your gift so far out into the universe, only to find there is an end to everything eventually.

In this case, I’m afraid the elastic snapped.

 

Answers from the blue

I have recently returned once again to attempting difficult crossword puzzles at bedtime. It’s a test, to see if my increasingly fragmented thoughts and memories thoughts and memories – see what I did there? – are terminal, or merely symptomatic.

The hardest one I find is the Genius-level crossword in The Oldie magazine. Hard, because it invariably contains lights that have no clues, or only part-clues, that you have to divine according to a convoluted rubric I barely comprehend.

The unclued lights generally include the name of a famous person, an author or artist, from history; and the titles of some of their works. The only key being their dates. You can sometimes guess what and who they are from the clues you can actually solve, but it helps to have a knowledge of art and literature. I must have skipped those classes.

Anyway, Saturday night and encroaching sleep left me stuck for any suggestion as to who the famous person was, two words, who was – so the rubric said – born 200 years ago next month.

The following morning just before 9 o’clock I turned on the radio. The annoying presenter of Radio 4’s Broadcasting House magazine, Paddy O’Connell, a grown man seemingly afflicted with ADHD, was giving his usual random rundown of the programme’s forthcoming content.

I was delighted immediately to hear him announce a feature on John Ruskin, the C19th polymath and art critic, born 200 years ago next month, because the name fit perfectly with the two letters I already had in the down lights, and we were off again (Googling is cheating. Okay?).

The universe works in mysterious ways. It never lets me win anything on the Lottery, or sell my house, but occasionally it delivers answers to tricky questions.

 

GW: and the heat goes on…

Australia: In the last ten days Oz has had five of its hottest ever recorded. The Bureau of Meteorology said preliminary readings showed daily national temperature highs averaging 40C. A high of 48.3 °C was recorded at Tibooburra Airport (NSW) (Severe-weather.eu) The town of Noona in New South Wales meanwhile recorded a night-time temperature of 35.9C. It was the highest minimum temperature ever recorded anywhere in Australia, the BOM said. And there’s no sign of an end: temperatures on Friday (18 Jan) will soar above 42C in “broad areas”, the bureau predicted. (BBC News)

Antarctica: Since December 25, Antarctic sea-ice extent has set calendar-day record lows every day for more than three not-so solid weeks. Satellite-based records from the National Snow and Ice Data Center go back to 1979. Typically, Antarctic ice reaches its minimum for the year in late February or early March (late summer). As of Monday, January 14, the extent was 3.979 million sq km, which is well below the value of 4.154 million sq km observed on that date in 2017. Land ice too is melting at an alarming rate. Scientists have reported a sixfold increase in the loss of Antarctic land ice over the last 40 years. (The Weather Channel)

USA: As California continues to be pelted by successive storms carrying heavy rain and feet of snow in the Sierras, causing mudslides and evacuations in the tree-depleted fire-zones of the last two summers, “Winter Storm Harper has already pummeled parts of the West with heavy snow and will spread its mess of snow, ice and wind into the Plains, Midwest and Northeast into this weekend. The storm will tap into cold air once it moves through the central and eastern states Friday through the weekend, delivering a widespread swath of significant snow (1 to 3 feet).” (The Weather Channel)

Russia: Temperatures plunged to -57.5 °C in Delyankir (Sakha Republic) in far eastern Russia last night. This part of Russia is the one of the coldest places on Earth and the coldest inhabited area – the (fairly) nearby Oymyakon holds the official lowest recorded temperature in the northern hemisphere: -67.7 °C on February 6, 1933. (Severe-weather.eu) Generally colder weather with more snow is forecast over western Europe up into the British Isles while a 10 degree warmth anomaly persists over Greenland.

South America: “At least 3 people have died in flooding and storms that have affected several provinces of Argentina over the last few days. Strong winds caused damage in Santiago del Estero. Record rainfall was recorded in Resistencia, Chaco. Authorities have warned that the Uruguay River could reach danger levels. The river has already broken its banks upstream, causing flooding in the state of Rio Grande do Sul in Brazil, where some areas have recorded almost 500mm of rain in the last 3 days. Stormy weather has also caused at least one fatality in the state.” Heavy rain has also affected parts of Uruguay, and there have been floods in Peru and Bolivia. (From Floodlist)

South Pacific: Severe weather brought by tropical cyclones Penny and Mona has affected several Pacific islands over the last 2 weeks. At least 3 deaths have been reported with a further 6 people thought to be still missing. Strong wind has damaged homes and crops, while heavy rain and storm surge has caused widespread flooding. Red Cross volunteers have been helping with evacuations and relief operations in the Solomon Islands, Fiji, the Marshall Islands and Kiribati. Flooding was also reported in parts of Papua New Guinea. (Floodlist, NB, some of this reporting dates from the last week while the BogPo was mostly offline.)

Africa: “Violent storms and flash flooding triggered by heavy rain have affected the south east African countries of Malawi, Zambia and Mozambique over the last few days. Over 20 people have reportedly died since 09 January, 2019.” (Floodlist) 18 of the casualties were caused by lightning strikes over Mozambique.

 

Disappearing acts

Yellowstone: with hundreds of cubic miles of magma still inexorably rising toward the surface, an unusual ‘screw-wave’ earthquake, or ‘Tornillo’ was recorded 48 hours ago at 6km depth under the Grant region of the lake. An almost identical seismic wave pattern heralded within days a major eruption in Iceland in 2011. (Mary Greeley)

Another problem being, the people at US Geological Survey who are supposed to be monitoring the Wyoming supervolcano’s increasingly alarming antics and advising people in the event of an impending cataclysm are on unpaid leave, thanks to Trump’s insane shutdown of parts of the government.

The Pumpkin – Issue 71: The strange crime of Paul Manafort… Lax financial regulation… Ha!… GW: Has it all blown over yet?

“Er, Houston, we have a problem… (bleep) stowaway on board… (bleep) says his name’s Musk…”

NASA successfully lands InSight probe on Mars

 

“Donald Trump has apparently succeeded in scamming the supposedly cast-iron Purple Heart ex-marine, Mueller; a minor victory that will undoubtedly give him great satisfaction as he shuffles bald-headed to the latrine to empty his night soil, avoiding the gaze of large negroes.”

The strange crime of Paul Manafort

Just when you thought the Trump presidency was running out of the most appalling words and deeds and mispunctuated Twitter characters, and the Orange Panda was losing touch with reality as the Mueller investigation closes in on him and his family, comes time to think again.

There is no bottom to the man.

The most astonishing twist yet in the whole “collusion” saga has emerged in the last three days, when NBC News reported that they’d received a bunch of papers, apparently authentic documents from inside the Mueller investigation; which, to date, has been as tight as a duck’s ass when it came to leaks.

(You may wish to regard this entire narrative as imaginative fiction, since I’ve certainly been putting together the twos I have been gleaning from the American media today to make five, and then some.)

The papers were an informal survey of potential indictments and a prospective plea-bargain relating to the minor crimes of one Jerome Corsi, a peripheral bit-player in the campaign saga, another self-publicizing has-been-or-never-was, but a claimed contact of the reptilian Republican party fixer and longtime Trump dirty-tricks specialist, Roger Stone.

Corsi had it seems agreed to become a Mueller “grass”, compromised by Mueller because he had information that Stone was in frequent contact with Wikileaks founder, Julian Assange, in London during the months before Wikileaks published the missing Clinton emails, that were hacked by Russian intelligence; and that Stone had tried to intercede on Assange’s behalf with the Ecuadorian government.

(Shitsplaining: Self-promoting whingeing narcissist Assange is in voluntary incarceration as an inconvenient political refugee in the basement of the Ecuadorian embassy, where he’s been holding court to the global disruptor community (and the foolish Pamela Anderson) for the past six years.*)

It was possible evidence linking Stone both to Russia and to Trump.

But suddenly, last week Corsi seems to have changed his mind about spilling everything he knew to Mueller, and instead made public the details of his arrangement with the FBI – and, more pertinently, the questions and issues that he knew from his interrogations that Mueller was most interested in. A move said to be unprecedented in US legal history.

It was information that has apparently already gotten back to the White House via Corsi’s and Trump’s lawyers, enabling Trump to lean on a few minor facts in order to tweet evermore furiously the story that the Mueller investigation is in disarray and fake news and a WITCH HUNT and all the rest of the cheeseburger-flavored smoke he’s been generating for almost two years, to try to make the horrid bad man go ‘way.

Who ordered the papers to be leaked so openly to NBC – Trump’s supposedly least favorite failing fake news channel? And why?

So, anyway, now it gets murkier still.

You’ll have heard the name Paul Manafort, in the news. Manafort (69, tall, confidently bulky, dyed hair, self-satisfied pug-eyed expression, expensive suits) had for a couple of decades involved his PR consultancy with shady political campaigns in Ukraine; being responsible, among other dirty tricks, for the demonization of former Prime Minister, Yulia Tymoshenko – gaoled in 2011 on probably trumped-up corruption charges – and the election as President of the now-deposed Putin crony and massive kleptocrat, Viktor Yanukovitch.

He was also deeply embedded with organized crime figures and other Putin oligarchs in Russia, billionaires seeking influence and the lifting of personal sanctions; and was paid many millions of dollars for his work, which seems to have involved a lot of money laundering and sheltering of illicitly obtained funds through offshore shell companies.

And Manafort was also present at the crucial 09 June 2016 meeting in Trump Tower with the Kremlin lawyer Veselnitskaya, Donald Trump Jr, Kushner and two other Russians, both with connections to money laundering and Russian intelligence. Shortly after which, Trump referred for the first time at an election rally to Clinton’s missing emails, and openly called on Russia to find them. Then, in July, Trump appointed Manafort as chairman of his election campaign – later claiming he barely even knew the man. (The FBI is now looking into a trove of “late-night” phone calls between the two.)

That was a lie, wasn’t it.

Seeking to establish connections between Trump and the Kremlin, Mueller and the FBI zeroed in on Manafort, and earlier this year indicted him on many charges, including failing to declare the income from his work in Russia, and bank fraud – the latter relating to a $10 million loan Manafort obtained from an obscure bank, on a promise that he would persuade Jared Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law and Senior White House advisor, to appoint the manager of the bank to the lucrative post of Secretary for the Army. (It was a con – he didn’t. And he never repaid the money.)

The loan was ostensibly for the purpose of repaying other money Manafort had previously offered to invest on behalf of a Russian oligarch, Oleg Deripaska – a Putin crony with suspected links to organized crime. Instead, Manafort had pocketed the money to fund his expensive taste in “ostrich-skin jackets” and his collection of apartments in New York.

All this emerged from the first of two scheduled trials, at which Manafort had unexpectedly pleaded not guilty – even though Mueller had him bang to rights, as they say. The jury duly deliberated, and found him guilty on eight counts – enough to put him away for the rest of his life.

Manafort then cheerfully entered the prison system to await sentence, where he’s being kept in solitary confinement for his own protection. But soon seemed to drop his tough-guy “no co-operation” stance and agreed a plea deal with Mueller to make the second trial go away and the possible life sentence be reduced in exchange for spilling everything he knew about the Trumps, Russia, Wikileaks and collusion.

Two days ago, however, a furious Mueller wrote to the court demanding the judge now execute the sentences for the original guilty verdicts and bring about the second trial, as (after giving him 10 days to rethink his statement) he had concluded that Manafort had been telling the investigators a pack of lies.

Warning: Here we enter the realms of speculative fiction.

Why would Manafort have spent two months pulling the wool over Mueller’s eyes, knowing that if found out, he would spend several more lifetimes behind bars? Lying to the FBI and obstructing justice are serious crimes in America.

Mueller has so far indicted some 32 co-conspirators, including a number of Russians he can’t get at; nevertheless, he has enough detail in the case to be able to compare notes and tell when someone is feeding him a plate of rotten fishheads. Surely, Paulie was living on borrowed time?

The key prosecution witness had either gone crazy, commentators said, or there must be a deeper motive.

Look at it this way.

Trump has the power of issuing Presidential pardons, but he’s mentally a mobster, basing his business methods on bad stuff taught to him by his mentor, the mob lawyer Roy Cohn. He may not really be a “made man”, as they call members of the mafia who come from outside the tight-knit crime families; nevertheless he’s done bidness with a few, and likes to behave like a mob boss himself.

Such a man would rather murder, than pardon anyone who snitches on them. So we can conclude that he would not even be considering pardoning the crimes of Paul Manafort if he believed for one second that Manafort had really spilled his guts to the FBI about Trump’s collusion with the Russians.

The only way Manafort could get out of his extreme predicament would be by serving the interests of the mob boss in the Oval Office: doubling-down on his many crimes by flim-flamming the Russia investigation; pretending to hold a weak hand; presenting a reasonably convincing false narrative to his interrogators, misdirecting them and causing as much delay and confusion as possible; ensuring he would be kept close to the team.

You know how a Lapwing evades its predators, by feigning weakness?

As a prosecution witness, by that “not guilty” plea and then the guilty verdicts making himself seem vulnerable and open possibly to turning informant, Manafort had cleverly managed to insert himself on the inside of the tightly controlled Mueller team, and – like Corsi – his plan was to feed through his lawyers, information about the investigation back to the White House, earning himself a full pardon for his crimes.

In fact, it was Corsi’s recantation of his plea bargain and the release of the documents that put the media onto the possibility of a connection with Mueller’s letter to the court, rescinding Manafort’s protected status. Was it the same plan? And have the written answers Trump gave last week to Mueller’s written questions possibly conflicted with something Manafort might have said?

The question now becomes: was Trump himself personally in on the act? How much did he know, and when? Was this his plan, to scupper the tightly controlled Mueller investigation by planting a man on the inside; making Mueller believe he was open to a juicy plea bargain? Well, as yet Trump has not described Manafort as “weak”, which is Trump code for “disloyal”, and applies in spades to “very weak” Cohen. We can take that as a clue.

Trump’s business history is littered with cleverly plotted scams that have reportedly netted him and his family millions of dollars over the years from so-called “pump & dump” schemes. The MO has been to schmooze the media throughout his career, to build a gilt-edged reputation for the Trump brand: the billionaire playboy/successful business mogul image, complete with a pumped-up blonde on each arm, that convinces his “marks” they’ll be adding value to their criminal money-laundering enterprises with a Trump or two on board.

These scams seem usually to be perpetrated in the so-called emerging nations; especially the former Soviet republics and other countries known for their corrupt politicians and businessmen, where the Trump brand of rackety glitz and bling is still regarded with some awe, still given currency by third-rate gangsters; where the Trump name on a hotel, casino or a leisure complex still guarantees the right kind of trade: punters willing to be fleeced!

Somehow, at some stage the projects all go belly-up and the Trumps walk away with the profits, protesting their complete innocence of any involvement beyond merely “licensing” the Trump name and sales of branded merchandise – for which he is also paid $millions by gullible local sleazeballs eager for the smell of Trump-flavored money to rub off on them.

But that’s just the small change. Without putting their name to the property deeds, the Trumps nevertheless “partner” the developers up until the point at which they walk away from the bankruptcy proceedings as beneficial owners of the company’s cash, which will have been long gone. But the deals always have total deniability. Funny, that.

Trump hustles, basically, crooks. He knows they’re the easiest marks; and that nobody much cares if he stiffs them. He doesn’t care where the money originally came from: in the case of a Trump-branded hotel in Baku, that never opened, it’s reported the source was a proscribed terrorist organization, the Iranian Revolutionary Guard. A lot of his “partners” in these scams seem to wind up in gaol.

Here, however, the lifelong grifter had succeeded, albeit temporarily, in getting inside the Mueller camp to find out just what was going on, what evidence the squeaky-clean, poker-rigid Mueller has on him and his feral kids. And still it looks like his involvement may not have touched the sides: his legal team may carry the can. Weird old Granny Giuliani already appears to be in complete meltdown.

If it could be proved, though, it would … well, obstruction of justice barely covers it. It would be Trump’s Watergate moment multiplied a hundred times: a President of the United States conspiring with a convicted felon to sabotage a legally constituted Special Counsel inquiry into collusion with a foreign power to steal an election, abusing the presidential power of pardon to induce a witness to lie under oath? He would die in gaol; unless he in turn could count on a pardon from his Vice-President, Mike Pence – who is also reportedly now under investigation.

Trump has already been named as an unindicted co-conspirator in the trial of his former lawyer and bag-man, Michael Cohen, over misuse of election funds to bribe women to silence over affairs with Candidate Trump. Some of those funds are directly traceable to lobbyists for Russian business interests; other money came from corporations tricked into believing they were paying for privileged access to the Oval Office.

Cohen has pleaded guilty to everything. He’d like to see his kids again in this lifetime, and has spilled his guts to Mueller, principally about Trump’s already well-known business connections in Moscow, presumably the Agalarovs, and confirmed what we’ve all known for years, that Trump had an ambition to see his name on a Moscow hotel tower – but Putin has been blocking it. But is he lying too, for a pardon down the road?

Strangely, this story has come out today and is blocking further interest in the far more serious Manafort case. Overwhelmed with news, the US media is running around like a headless chicken with ADHD.

Not to mention, the New York Attorney-General’s office subpoenas alleging corruption within the Trump Organization and financial irregularities involving the Trump Foundation: none of which is in the power of the President to pardon.

The Manafort case however threatens to detonate a thousand barrels of gunpowder under the White House.

The insertion of a spy into the Mueller camp in this extraordinary way is the mark of a master con-man, used to strategizing the fraudulent acquisition of large sums of money by both quasi-legal and contra-legal methods. Donald Trump has apparently succeeded in scamming the supposedly cast-iron Purple Heart ex-marine, Mueller; a minor victory that will undoubtedly give him great satisfaction as he shuffles bald-headed in leg-irons to the latrine to empty his night soil, avoiding the gaze of large negroes.

But Trump surely cannot now pardon Manafort, Corsi and Cohen without revealing his tiny hand as a pervertor of the course of justice; has Paulie miscalculated? To protect himself and his grimy family, Trump’s only out now will be to let the former campaign chairman he barely knew rot in gaol – where he’s probably safest anyway, with so many angry Russians on his tail. But that will risk Manafort at some stage recanting his recantation….

Is Trump now completely screwed? It may be the return of Christmas, which the made-for-TV president promised his dumbfucks, what seems like a lifetime ago.

But don’t count your turkeys.

 

*Former CIA man, Malcolm Nance entertainingly describes how Assange has been hacking the computers of the staff at the embassy even while the Ecuadorians have been monitoring all his visitors and communications through British IT contractors. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mgwegB34cGc It’s like the cartoon strip in Mad Magazine – Spy vs. Spy.)

 

“Why have I never made a penny when it seems so easy?”

Lax financial regulation

Company A and company B are both owned by Company C. Company A “borrows” $1.5 million from Company B. Company A “fails” to pay the money back and is sued by Company C.

Meanwhile, Company B borrows $1.6 million from a genuine investor to cover the loss and the loan is guaranteed by Company C which will pay when it gets its money back through the court, where a case is pending. (The odd $100 thousand goes to whoever as useful expenses, presumably. You know, brokerage.)

But when the investor politely requests the return of the loan, Company B is in liquidation. So the investor sues Company C. And the court finds that as there is a prior unresolved case between Company C and Company A, over money owed by the bankrupt Company B, the investor cannot sue Company C, which then makes off with the money.

Simples? Especially when the owner of Company C, and hence presumably Companies A & B, is linked with a business partner of Ivanka Trump.

Those Trumps, a magical name yet so unlucky in their business partners. I put it down to them being quite poor judges of character.

The Pumpkin is neither an accountant (he can’t afford one, either!), nor a grift specialist, thus he apologises profusely to everyone concerned, or unconcerned, if his simple take on some bad business that is described in much greater detail by Ben Shreckinger in GQ Magazine is confused and unhappy.

However if things are much as outlined above, it would be a classic “pump & dump” confidence trick.

Wouldn’t it? Oh dear, why have I never made a penny when it seems so easy?

In the meantime, GQ readers have also learned from Mr Shreckinger, a court acting for the Emirati-owned Commercial Bank of Dubai has quietly issued a subpoena to a company called Madison Avenue Diamonds, which traded until recently as Ivanka Trump Fine Jewelry, alleging that they may be unwitting accomplices to a fraud. Quite a large one, actually.

It seems that $100 million of diamonds may have been bought from a dealer in Israel by a pair of Dubai oil traders to conceal financial assets they owed to the bank, passed through various offshore shell companies and made into jewelry which – the inference is – may or may not have passed through Madison Avenue/Trump Fine Jewelry, obviously without their knowledge or permission, obviously, and then been sold and the money returned to the borrowers sparkling clean, stiffing the bank: a classic case of money laundering, it’s said (I wouldn’t know, at my age I don’t wash very often).

The director of Madison Avenue Diamonds is a real-estate developer called Moshe Lax, who happens to be the friend who introduced Ivanka to her shiny husband, Jared Kushner. How so? because he was Ivanka’s business partner and thought the couple would be perfect for each other!

Things, as they say, eventually went sour, and Trump parted company with Lax just last year, many months after she took up an interesting but somewhat vague position as an adviser to her father in the White House; where she and Kushner are alleged to have made over $80 million together during President Trump’s first year in office, although how is not explained.

Lax, as I have poorly understood these matters, is or was or is somehow also connected with Company C. Or was it A? Or B? I’m so easily confused, it’s lucky I have no money to invest.

Now, I hope I’ve understood that right, because I’m not an accountant or a diamond specialist; although I once had a client in the costume jewelry business and she was as bent as a paste brooch clasp on a clumsy Edwardian dowager. It appears, anyway, that the diamond dealer had spent time in prison a few years ago on an unrelated matter. Sorry if I have misunderstood, it’s quite complicated. Actually that doesn’t seem all that relevant, I think they threw it in just to add to the general air of criminality. Sorry, where were we?

Now, Trump herself is apparently not accused of anything untoward, as she merely “licensed her name” to Lax’s company, a family – sorry, familiar – story, and no longer runs Ivanka Trump Fine Jewelry, which seems to have gone out of business, although she probably did at the time the $100 million disappeared into the global laundromat. (Where in connection with Trump Organization, I wonder, have we heard that before?) Lax himself has been accused of involvement in all sorts, extortion and so forth, but no-one is saying anything.

Except that a house in New York owned by someone or other connected with the deal got torched the other week, NYPD is “investigating”, and nobody will say anything about that either.

All v. mysterious.

Look, if you’re really interested, here’s the link: http://www.gq.com/story/ivanka-trump-jewelry-business

And good luck understanding it, because I may not have got it at all right and have been foolishly jumping to conclusions. Sorry, and all that. I never was any good with money.

 

“An old dog, me, but a tricksy one!”

Ha!

Matthew Hedges, the British student, has arrived back in England after being released under an Independence Day blanket pardon by Crown Prince Mohammed of Dubai; a stroke of good timing, as (much to the consternation of the Foreign Office) Mr Hedges had just been handed a 25-year sentence for spying.

I hesitated to put the word student in inverted commas, because I don’t want to be accused of churlishness or anti-British feeling so near to Christmas, but certain facts in the case as reported in UK media do rather suggest that Mr Hedges is as much a student as Jamal Khashoggi was a “journalist”.

In other words, while writing a PhD thesis about the Arab Spring and a monthly column in the Washington Post’s mid- section might qualify both men for the descriptions, the terms “student” and “journalist” probably tell only a small part of the story.

Yesterday, in his alternate persona as The BogPo’s UB, The Pumpkin wrote:

“Was there some tiny hint of a possible suggestion there, then, that Hedges was hoping to find out what, if any, shift in policy there may have been towards the UAE favoring China as a future trading partner, or some such possibility? Just speculatin’.”

Because it seemed to me that there wasn’t much else worth spying about, given that the UAE buys all their top gear from us and the Americans anyway.

And today, highly paid experts at the BBC write:

“Crown Prince Mohammed … has also developed his relationship with both Russia and China. The UK is in danger of losing its favoured status in the UAE unless it can demonstrate that it is both a useful and reliable ally.”

Ha! An old dog, me, but a tricksy one!

Now look, I am not going to fuck-up somebody’s life chances by slinging speculative assertions around, so don’t take this the wrong way, but Mr Hedges doesn’t look to me entirely like a student, if one is any judge of character. He looks quite grown-up, and two “facts” about him, mentioned by a spokesman for the Emirates on the BBC yesterday just as the formalities for his release were being tied-up, were that he is a) also a “businessman”, and b) he spent much of his earlier life living in Dubai.

Whether those facts are necessarily correct, or grounds for concluding that British foreign intelligence might consider someone with those three strings to their bow as a potential asset, either permanently or merely opportunistically, I have no idea. His wife says he doesn’t speak Arabic. I find that hard to believe. As a PhD student – a very advanced educational level – with a speciality in Arab affairs, and having lived in the UAE “off and on” from the age of 8, so we are told, it seems, well – shall we say – less than likely. Although my son gave up learning the language, finding the writing too squiggly.

But I’m just an old bloke sitting in a chair, the cold rain teeming down outside from a leaden sky, a fitfully gusting wind, still strapped to a bag, a hard plastic tube pressing uncomfortably on my grumbling prostate, who can’t get an appointment to have it looked at for another three months; becoming increasingly testy as another Christmas on my own hoves into view. (I’ve already bought my present.)

Pay no attention.

Oh, though, if I may be permitted one small observation:

Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe remains incarcerated in an Iranian hellhole after more than two years apart from her young daughter and British family. One wonders, had she really been spying for MI6, might she too have been sprung by now?

 

It’s not happening

The Godfather of Pump ‘n’ Trump schemes, as Inside Politics kind of dubbed him, is meanwhile blithely denying that there is a word of truth in the 1,400 pages of a report legally commissioned by his own administration from fourteen government agencies and compiled by some 300 climate scientists, painting a bleak picture of a future powered on continuing high-octane fossil fuel production.

Quoting the catchphrase of the great Victor Meldrew, of “One Foot in the Grave” fame, Trump trumpeted:

“I don’t believe it!”

That supine old fanny, the BBC thus informs us that Trump “cast doubt” on the report.

WTF? Trump is such an ignorant fucking pig he couldn’t “cast doubt” on whether the crap in his gold toilet is his or some other orange asshole’s. You actually have to know something to “cast doubt”, and he knows nothing at all. Nothing. His – and our – problem is, he’s so stupid, he doesn’t know he’s stupid.

Flat denial is not a doubt-casting argument. But the BBC is so mired in fear for its future it cannot any longer maintain even a semblance of objectivity when it comes to any story whose fair reporting might put it in bad with the hard-Brexit politicians who hate it and could come to power if May’s government collapses.

Those, that is, who haven’t clocked that Trump has also today poured cold water on prospects for a US-UK trade deal post-Brexit, something they are desperately relying on to justify the banality of their evil.

Remember his “beautiful” steel tariffs? Well, they’ve just cost 14.5 thousand General Motors blue-collar Trump-voting workers their jobs, with another 18 thousand “voluntary redundancies” in the pipeline, but who’s noticing when he comes out with stuff like this? Everything he does or says is calculated to cover-up the last dumb thing he said or did. The man literally farts a cloud of cheeseburger-flavored lies wherever he goes, that swirl about him and hide the truth:

He’s mentally incompetent.

As evidenced by what he then went on to say, which was that climate change was not the fault of the USA, which was “record clean”, but of all the other countries that are signed to the Paris accord, which are not.

In fact, while India and China have higher aggregate emissions, because they have four times the population, the US has the second highest per capita carbon footprint of any nation, behind only Saudi Arabia.

A record of cleanliness – a “clean sheet” so to speak – to be proud of.

But this is the moron who believes “clean coal” means you wash it before burning. And that raking the forest floor will prevent wildfires. Who chucks paper towels and frankfurters to please hurricane victims. Who doesn’t know how to operate an umbrella, or that the President is expected occasionally to show respect to dead US soldiers. Who often doesn’t recognise his own wife. A six-times bankrupt man with skidmarks on his golfing pants and toilet paper stuck to his fucking shoe.

So, from what he says, abrupt climate change is both real and it isn’t. That’s increasingly the binary universe Trump is weaving from quantum entanglements, a kind of “both…and” Heisenbergian uncertainty in which two opposing propositions can be equally true at the same time.

The President, among whose very first actions in office were to issue a series of executive orders removing controls on polluting emissions to air, land and water, permitting drilling in nature reserves and banning the publication of climate research, later gutting and defunding the agencies responsible by putting unqualified energy corporation lobbyists in charge of the environment, has forgotten all that. It never happened.

He finds no contradiction whatever, has no embarrassment at all in announcing to the assembled media gaggle (after, as he says, reading “some of the report”; The Pumpkin concurs that the title page may often provide a clue to the contents):

Right now we’re at the cleanest we’ve ever been and that’s very important to me. But if we’re clean, but every other place on Earth is dirty, that’s not so good.

“So I want clean air, I want clean water, very important.”

Do you sort of get the feeling from that, that he didn’t really make it past fourth-grade? He certainly hasn’t read the report, as the cartoon version is yet to come out. It’ll be on the Christmas books pile when it does. He doesn’t believe it. Only he does. It’s a hoax, only it may not be, “some differences”….

It’s the method-acted Presidential certainty with which he makes the most illogical, inarticulate and uninformed pronouncements that really grates, knowing his dumbfucks will lap-up any smelly brown substance that dribbles from his rotting brain.

So now, go back to my fourth paragraph and take back your “I say, steady on! He IS the President of the United States after all… He must know what he’s talking about…. Let’s have a return to civilized discourse, old chap….”

Fuck that, matey. He’s a monstrous cretin, a deranged criminal ecocide, a caricature Mussolini and phoney game-show host, a lifelong business confidence trickster and serial adulterer beloved of slimy Evangelical Christians, who has to be removed from office immediately, before he kills us all with his ignorance, his stupid and fatuous lies.

If you have to pay him money to go, just do it. It can’t cost more than he does.

 

GW: Has it all blown over yet?

30 November sees the official end of the Atlantic hurricane season. The total of three Category 4 or greater hurricanes making landfall in the continental USA in the past two years is an all-time record. Michael was among the four strongest in history. Hurricanes seem to be changing their patterns and tracks, too. “Hurricane Leslie maintained hurricane status … to a location where no hurricane had ever been observed: just 200 miles west of Portugal. 3 hours after being declared post-tropical, ex-Hurricane )70 mph) Leslie made landfall on the coast. Damage was over $115 million, making Leslie one of their costliest wind storms on record.” (Wunderground)

USA: Winter Storm Bruce brought bone-chilling temperatures to parts of the eastern half of the United States over Thanksgiving last week. Once again the anomalies look kind of weird, it being much warmer than normal again over the far-western half with a sharp gradient inbetween the two systems. At least 21 low-temperature records were broken (CEWN #146), prompting Trump to ask what had happened to global warming? A stupid question he trots out every winter. Monday 26th, Chicago was locked-in by a fierce snowstorm: O’Hare was closed, and traffic became gridlocked as far west as Kansas City.

01 December: hundreds of households in burned areas of California are being mandatorily evacuated and roads closed as torrential rain causes flash-flooding and dangerous mudslides. (The Weather Channel)

Saudi Arabia: Powerful storms have once again brought flooding to the desert kingdom, with Mecca especially badly hit on 24 Nov. These countries are always in the news but you never hear about the many extreme weather events affecting the Middle East this year. (CEWN #146)

Greece: Reporting a bakeries federation warning that bread prices and other flour-based products are about to rise by up to 6.5%, a local source states: “Unprecedented weather conditions in Europe and America, combined with high temperatures, prolonged drought and heavy rainfall, have led to a large decline in the production of agricultural products such as grains… The daily adds that price increases of 20% have been already recorded in bread and goods based on flour in some European cities.” (Keep Talking Greece website)

Which is odd, because most wheat growing areas reported bumper harvests and lower prices this year. Except Australia, where the harvest was slashed by 50% owing to the long drought. Late soya harvests in the USA have been severely hit by the early onset of winter. Russian moves to close the waterway through the Azov sea could affect up to 2 million tonnes of grain exports from Ukraine. (AgriCensus)

Australia: two days after being covered in orange dust blown in from the outback, “Sydney has been deluged by the heaviest November rain it has experienced in decades, causing flash-flooding, traffic chaos and power cuts. Heavy rain fell throughout Wednesday, the city at one point receiving its average monthly rainfall in two hours. At least 2 deaths have been blamed on the storm.” (BBC News) The first week of December sees over 100 fires burning in Queensland, where temperatures are expected to be up in the mid-40sC, +100sF. A cyclone is possibly forming off the coast: the State premier has warned people to “expect anything”. (Guardian)

Welcome to the week’s only Brexit and Trump-free zone! : Remember God?… The Office of Petty Cash Deceits… GW: I could go on singeing…Dear Joanna Rowling…

Quote of the Week

“Seemingly every cabinet job these days is … a Pygmalion-like plot in which two unseen financiers have decided, for a bet, to pass off a rejected Family Fortunes contestant as a secretary of state.”

– Marina Hyde, writing in The Guardian (edited extrcat)

Welcome to the week’s only mostly Brexit and Trump-free zone!

Progress report:

7,162 households in the UK are still watching TV on black & white sets.

 

“I hadn’t quite understood the full extent of this…”

 

“This is getting really, really – like, bloody intolerably – intrusive.”

Remember God?

Uncle Bogler writes:

Can it be coincidence?

I’ve just been browsing idly through a story on the BBC News website.

It’s a piece, not very relevant to me, about the lethal air quality in the Indian capital, New Delhi, 20 times worse than the WHO limit, and how everyone fears the Diwali festival fireworks are about to make it ten times worse again.

But you know religion, right? God made fireworks compulsory for all Mankind. Interfere with that at your peril.

And I think to myself: I live right on a thundering main road in the outskirts of Boglington, a busy seaside town. It’s the main arterial route for all the commercial and vacation traffic that needs to come into town, as well as the school-run.

There’s no bypass.

Twice a day the traffic is backed up for an hour in either direction, engines idling. The rest of the day, trucks and tankers and vans and cars and huge, three-tiered animal transports reeking of sheep-fear come hurtling through, on a blind bend, at speeds well in excess of the 30 mph limit, and nobody does a thing to stop them. Every other main road in the county is emblazoned with traffic-calming measures: bumps and chicanes and active, flashing warning signs. Not this one.

I’ve been here almost seven years now, shouting in the street like a mad old man at speeding drivers, and have in the past few years suffered from streaming eyes and constant runny or blocked nose and minor chest congestion, that I haven’t had since I left the city, 30 years ago. The stonework in my front garden is black, the windows gray, and a fine dust drifts past the double-glazing to coat my frontroom furniture, muh li’l laptop.

All very minor, but a clear indication that pollution levels here in Boglington are probably not good.

Not as bad as Delhi, I grant, but not great. And I’m always reading that nitrogen dioxide (N02, that you get from diesel fumes) is a contributory factor to childhood obesity, asthma, Type 2 diabetes, cognitive impairment, Alzheimer’s, heart disease and various cancers; not to mention Scrofula, DuPuytren’s Contracture, Capgras’ Delusion and Blue Skin Disorder.

So, I know! I think (to myself, it’s just me and Hunzi and Cats here) wouldn’t it be a great notion to get one of those air quality sniffers and, if the results are bad enough, fire off a report to the local authority, cc our MP, The Guardian, demanding action? Sue someone, even, maybe?

And so I duly open up my desktop link to Amazon – which, along with all the other websites I regularly visit, has for some unknown reason taken to demanding I log-in again manually – and when I manage to log-on, before I have even turned to the Shopping page, it has already flagged up four offers on…

…air quality monitors.

This is getting really, really – like, bloody intolerably – intrusive.

“Google is both that all-seeing, all-knowing parental entity in the sky AND the creepy blueprint for the creation of a replacement planet…”

In an email exchange with my ex-wife yesterday, I explained that I had mislaid my phone, hence the silence, and she suggested phoning me to hear where in the house the ringtone was coming from, and Google instantly offered me, basically, an auto-reply message that said, ‘Yes, please do that’.

Get outta my face!

The other week, I was having an email discussion with a guitar dealer, we’d just got to the difficult money part and Google was already offering me: “I’ve transferred the money to your account.” (I hadn’t. I didn’t. I backed out, dear Reader, balking at the large commitment when it became clear, no more affordable deferred payment plan was on offer.)

Now, that intervention by a third-party entity that has no business in my business is, to my mind, a gross breach of client confidentiality, and Google must be made to understand, they cannot poke around in people’s financial affairs with impunity.

It’s like having a guest living in your house, who can’t resist interfering at every turn. If I wanted an Alexa, or Siri, or a fucking domestic robot, I would buy one. I don’t want one, which is why I haven’t bought one. Have you noticed that, Amazon? That there are more things I don’t buy, than stuff I do? That looking is not touching?

There is no such thing as a helpful intervention. It’s all just bloody annoying. If I want something, I know where to find it; know how to ask. I’m not a child. People say, oh, but you can switch it off! Just go into Settings! Well, switching off auto-reply doesn’t prevent the algorithm from capturing and analysing your emails in the first place.

You remember God?

You know, the universal gizmo that counts the hairs on your head and the sparrows falling from the sky? That knows absolutely everything about you and everything else? Like your mom?

That thing that never leaves you alone, always nagging you, offering you hope then whipping it away again with a hollow laugh, the tyrant that as a species we’ve only just begun learning how to rid ourselves of?

It seems to me, Google is both that all-seeing, all-knowing parental entity in the sky AND the creepy comprehensive blueprint for the creation of a replacement planet: Earth 11, when we’re through trashing this one with our Free Will and our restless and insensate acquisitiveness; our Shareholder Value and our consumer technology.

In the meantime, they’re using all that information to turn us into data and sell us to their advertisers, on the basis of some perfectly innocent enquiry on a completely different internet platform that their shitty algorithms have been slily watching you blunder around on.

As the Wise Ones say, if it’s free then you’re the product.

So now I’ve gone off the whole idea of a pollution monitor. A box of tissues and an early death will have to do.

If you’re reading this, Google, Amazon, I have a message for you.

You already know what it is.

 

The Office of Petty Cash Deceits

It’s almost impossible to beat the following heads of the story, reported in The Guardian, of yet another horrible Home Office clusterfuck, that appears to have arisen out of a policy of vicious domestic racism combined with positively Christian charity for the undeserving poor:

“The government has been ordered to make back-payments to victims of trafficking that are likely to reach more than £1m, after a high court judge ruled that Home Office cuts to their support payments were unlawful. The ruling followed the department’s decision in March to reduce support payments to people it accepted were victims of trafficking from £65 per week to £37.75, a fall of 42%.

“The Home Office defended the change by saying it wanted to bring levels of support to victims of trafficking in line with support levels for destitute asylum seekers.” (Guardian)

What? So the most “destitute” people deserve the lowest level of support of all? That’s helpful, especially when they’re not permitted to earn money. And a “victim of trafficking”, a concept of brutal sexual slavery poorly understood by your average Home-Office box-wallah, they’re to be made destitute too, are they? On less than forty quid a week? An indifferent lunch? Oh, thank you, kind Masters.

“K. was a 30-year-old Albanian woman who fell into the hands of sex traffickers after she refused to get engaged to a man her family had selected for her. She was subjected to sexual exploitation and forced prostitution in Albania then passed to two Albanian men who brought her to London in January 2017, locked her in a room, drugged her and threatened to kill her if she didn’t do as she was told. She was kept in isolation and forced to have sex with seven to eight men every day.

“The support levels were cut soon after the government announced in October last year that it was going to ‘radically improve the support for victims of human trafficking and modern slavery’.”

This Orwellian doublespeak is becoming quite terrifying. Mrs May blithely announces the end of austerity, Mr Hammond budgets a bit extra here and there, potholes and so on, but analysis after the media smokescreen clears finds austerity hasn’t been ended at all: 40 per cent cuts in vital areas affecting poorer people: local authority grants, the care sector and police spending are still going ahead; along with the mindbogglingly inept Universal Credit scheme that is beggaring thousands.

How much are the wealthy getting in tax breaks and loopholes for offshoring their ill-gotten gains and hedging their global casino bets, at everyone else’s expense? Where’s their fucking austerity?

And MPs, what was their payrise last year, an extra £12,000 a year, pretty much what I live on – in return for their pusillinimous support for Article 50, when two-thirds of the halfwits appeared to have forgotten they privately voted Remain in the referendum?

How long can this omnishambles go on?

Ah, well, you see, speaking from on high, a spokesman for God, Mr Jesus bar-Joseph defended the practise, explaining that, “It’s always been Tory policy that ‘unto him that hath, shall be given; while from him that hath not, even that which he hath shall be taken away’.”

Thank the same God, if you must, for the British courts, backed up as they usually are by the European Court of Justice on these matters. Basically, they don’t put up with this indefensible shit from the EDL skinheads at the Home Office, and neither should we.

But that’s now. After next March, Big Bruvver from Brussels won’t be watching.

 

Forever young

“Emile Ratelband, a 69-year-old Dutch “positivity guru” who says he does not feel his age, has started a battle to make himself legally 20 years younger on the grounds that he is being discriminated against on a dating app.” (Guardian)

He’s the same age as me! I’m so encouraged by this, I’m considering applying to a court to be legally declared dead, so I don’t have to live in Jacob Irish-Mogg’s 1950s Britain, tugging my forelock to Iain Duncan Cunt. There’d be no requirement to  receive more bilingual mailshots from Plaid Cymru, or for my next passport to have to have a blue cover.

Though I guess Heer Ratelband might not be so happy when the court says, fine, but you’ll have to hand your pension back….

A vision of Hell: Paradise, Cal., (pop: 27,000), made famous by the Joni Mitchell song, was almost totally destroyed in The Camp Fire.

GW: I could go on singeing

USA: “Conditions are ripe for explosive wildfire development over large parts of California. The most immediate threat on Thursday morning was a fast-spreading fire in the Sierra Nevada foothills a few miles east of Chico. Dubbed the Camp Fire, the blaze grew from inception to cover more than 5000 acres in just three hours, according to CAL FIRE. Much of the city of Paradise has been evacuated, and some motorists attempting to leave were reportedly stuck in gridlock (and had to run for thei lives). … More than 10 million people are in the extremely-critical risk area.” (Bob Henson, Wunderground)

Speedy update 10 Nov: Paradise has been almost completely incinerated, 23 confirmed dead, over 100 missing, 6,300 properties destroyed and mass evacuations are going on around Malibu, site of the Woolsey Fire, 2 dead, in the south. Kim Khardashian had to be evacuated, along with Lady Gaga, Will Smith and many other celebs. Reports of looting. 16 fires now burning in the state. Thousands of properties are threatened. Air quality in the San Francisco Bay area was described as “extremely dangerous” for people with respiratory ailments. Trump has approved federal emergency funding. (BBC, et al)

“California temperatures were the hottest for any July-to-September period in 124 years of recordkeeping. Sacramento is having one of the ten driest starts to the wet season in its history, receiving a meager 0.04” on the only day of rain since October 1.” (Wunderground) Large areas of California are experiencing what is known as “negative rainfall”, i.e. more moisture is evaporating from the ground than is falling from the sky. No rain is forecast for the coming week.

President Ignorant Fat Cunt tweeted: “There was no reason for these massive, deadly and costly forest fires in California except that forest management is so poor.” He also threatened to withhold funds, due to “gross mismanagement of the forests”. He does not have Clue One about it, but it plays to the dumbfucks.

Indonesia: At least 4 people have died in floods and landslides in two provinces of Indonesia over the last few days. 2 died during floods around Padang, West Sumatra. Heavy rain has also caused flooding and landslides in West Java. Flood water as deep as 1.8 metres was reported in some areas. 2 people have died and around 50 families affected. Roads have been blocked and bridges damaged, leaving some communities cut off. 231 mm of rain fell in 24 hours to 06 November in Pacitan Regency, East Java. (Edited from Floodlist report)

Middle East: “Unusually heavy rain has caused flash-flooding in Kuwait, Iraq and Iran. 14 dead. Bushehr in Iran recorded 67mm in 24 hours to 07 Nov. Mean total precipitation for November is 27.3mm. This is the second major flood event in the Middle East within the space of 2 weeks. During late October, 2018, heavy rain caused flooding in Syria, northern Iran and Jordan, where at least 21 people died.” (Floodlist). On 20 October, it was reported, Qatar experienced more than a normal year’s worth of rain in just 6 hours.

Brazil: 10 killed and 11 injured in a mudslide near Rio de Janeiro on Saturday, caused by heavy downpours. People were killed and injured when a large boulder rolled on top of six houses in the Boa Esperança neighbourhood. “It rained a lot over the past two days and a state of alert was declared. People were advised of the situation and were recommended to move to safer locations. Several families “refused to leave”. (Guardian)

Scandinavia: Parts of Norway experienced temperatures up to 19.3C, 66.74F, 8 Nov., as a plume of warm air pushed up across Germany into the Baltic. The average temperature in Norway for November is 5C.

Wales, UK: More than 1,000 properties were left without power during heavy rain and wind which brought flooding and travel disruption. Pembrokeshire and Carmarthenshire saw the worst of the weather with some homes in Milford Haven under 10ft (3m) of water. (BBC, 09 Nov.) Do we make a fuss?

Boglington-on-Sea: the weather feels pretty much like Norway here today. Promised a cyclonic storm was on its way, with 65 mph gales, high seas and heavy rain, we went out for our walk under a uniform gray sky. Soon, the cold breeze dropped and within minutes, even with the sun behind thick cloud I was gently perspiring in the November warmth. That was the upper half. Next thing, I wet myself; having forgotten to put on a nappy this morning while changing to a fresh bag. Catheters leak, making heavy rain and gales unnecessary to one’s discomfort. No, my clinic appointment hasn’t come through yet. Thanks for asking. Bit blowy out, 1.5-in. rain, nothing special.

Last Orders Please…

Yellowstone: Normally erupting once or twice a year, if at all, the big Steamboat geyser goes up for the 26th time this year on 09 Nov. Associated Arch Steam Vent turns to Arch Mud Vent – huge outburst, biggest since 1967, complete with “implosions” – sinkholes full of muddy water, sucking their own gas bubbles back down…

 

Magical Realism

It was reported yesterday that JK Rowling, the multi-millionaire author, is suing her former PA for £24 thousand she claims she abstracted in phony expenses, credit card overruns and cash transactions; including what seemed like strangely magical sums – £thousands said to have been spent on totally trivial, day-to-day items like make-up; and mailing out suspiciously expensive Harry Potter merchandise apparently worth hundreds of pounds per item, that doesn’t seem to have reached its intended destinations.

As nothing added up in the way one feels it should, raising questions about what exactly has gone wrong, it seemed natural to write to the well-remunerated but notoriously spiky auteuse with a mild Armistice-week rebuke on behalf of the downtrodden servant class:

 

Dear JK Rowling

I hope you don’t mind me writing to you, you must be frantically busy. This is not a plea for money; rather, the opposite.

I was born, as they say, on “the wrong side of the blanket” – my father had run away on the stage and met a beautiful young soubrette – into a wealthy banking family. I owe my education to my American grandmother, but I was miserable at my private schools and never went to university. In my career I pursued many opportunities, having short-lived successes in many fields, mainly writing and editing texts of all kinds.

In 1995 I suffered a business bankruptcy. We surrendered our home, took the children from their private schools and ended up, perhaps fortuitously, in a cottage on a remote hillside in rural mid-Wales.

We farmed sheep, grew veg., made our own electricity, pumped our own rat-infested well-water and entertained the children, there being no TV or internet, reading Dickens and, yes, one-by-one as they arrived in the local library, eagerly anticipated, all your Harry Potter books. (Our now 29-year-old daughter is still a mad fan.)

Finding work was difficult. I did gardening and cleaning jobs for £5 an hour; but the marriage didn’t survive. And then in 2005, I answered an ad in the local paper and the following week found myself occupying a set of sparsely furnished, unheated rooms at the back of a dilapidated, partly derelict Grade One-listed Georgian mansion hidden-away in a wooded valley, the live-in Estate Manager.

I was now “in service”. But at least there was a roof over my head (rather leaky!)

An East End boy made good, the wealthy new owner lived eight thousand miles away and travelled incessantly, descending on his “stately home” for perhaps two or three weeks’ of the year swanking about. The rest of the time, with one very underpaid part-time assistant, I was left entirely in charge.

Fully half of my munificent £14 thousand a year salary went on child maintenance and other family support. A few weeks into the job, as there was no-one else there, I was instructed to go to court and apply for the entertainments and alcohol sales licences, and open a hotel.

On-call 24 hours a day (the contract said 37.5 hours a week, but who else was there?), I took no holiday for five years. I’d became a hotelier, faute de mieux, rattling around a grim-looking, reputedly haunted house; operating with worn-out legacy equipment and tired, broken furnishings. One evening I heard a car doing a rapid U-turn on the driveway, and shortly afterwards the travel agent phoned to say her client was complaining that she’d been sent to an abandoned building. In vain, I protested that I’d just been awarded three red diamonds for hospitality by the AA!

My duties as “Peeves” now expanded somewhat. Here is an actual list:

  • Business manager
  • Hospitality manager
  • Wedding organizer
  • Marketing & PR manager
  • Housekeeper, purchasing supplies
  • Cook, of guests’ delicious organic breakfasts and occasional table d’hôte dinners
  • Waiter
  • Barman/”Designated Premises Supervisor”/potboy
  • Cleaner
  • Laundryman
  • ‘Plongeur’ – the dishwasher was broken. (Try washing-up for 150 after a 4-course wedding breakfast….)
  • Gardener/forester
  • Driver (for the owner, when present)
  • General maintenance man
  • Night security guard

The job description ran to eight A4 pages. I know, because my first job was to write it. I also had to deal with legal and local authority finance matters, environmental policy, market research, management planning, defining quality standards, sourcing and obtaining grants, appointing and managing architects and contractors, interior design specification; complying with the Licensing Act 2003 and many other relevant statutes, of which my employer had not the slightest idea.

Thanks to my knowledge of UK business and rural affairs, I saved or sourced £’000s for my employer, with little sign of recognition. An excited email to tell him I’d managed to get him a rarely available business development grant of up to £2.5 million was met with incomprehension: he didn’t want anyone going through his company books, so he turned it down. After three years I had a small payrise.

But he could read a balance sheet blindfolded. By repute, he ruthlessly micromanaged his core businesses, literally to the penny. Thus I was also expected to produce monthly accounts.

*

Despite giving my time endlessly for very little reward, I felt I was constantly under suspicion. The owner was not unfriendly; just excessively cautious. I confess, I have poor admin skills; I’m a doer, not a counter. But despite producing many costed reports and proposals, I was given no budgets to cover the many areas I now had responsibility for.

The owner’s maxim was always: “You make the money, then you can have the investment.” But hotels don’t work like that! The guests are buying-in to quality.

Of course, I wasn’t able to make money: there were only three habitable bedrooms to begin with. Obliged to use outside caterers, our profit margin was less than 4 per cent; heating bills alone were £1,000 a month – sixteen room-nights, as I saw it. Average bookings were fewer than six, although we could be busy during graduation week and at Christmas.

Then, when the C18th sewage system failed and we were overrun with rats, threatened with closure, I had to break it to the owner that he was in for a £60-thousand bill and weeks of upheaval… Something else I was never forgiven for, although somehow I kept the business running through it all.

To cover daily expenses, I’d been given a credit card with a spending limit of £1,000. Out here, few small contractors and service businesses take cards, and the debts of the previous owners were legendary: it was always “cash on the nail”, as it was with the casual staff, students I had to hire-in for weddings. But paying cash is illegal. I couldn’t put it through the books; while with such erratic custom, stock control was a nightmare, leading to considerable wastage.

Whatever I couldn’t cover from petty cash had to go on the card and somehow be explained. The owner had no real idea of the expenses the place ran to, his view was entirely rose-tinted. In everyone’s opinion it needed major refurbishment, but he would always plead poverty – refusing even to carry out the urgent safety measures recommended by experts year after year. (The fire station manager described it as “a death-trap”).

So, to (as I thought) relieve the pressure, I hired a part-time bookkeeper. The only applicant was a woman who affected to be a “hotel management consultant”. The moment she saw the house, her eyes widened. And that was when the whispering campaign started, that I was running off with the profits.

It soon transpired – I’m not an idiot – that a) this individual was basing her sly accusations on what she thought a “posh” country house hotel ought to be making, without any appreciation of the actual trading conditions; and b) she owed a business favour to a sleeping partner whose son had just graduated and was in need of my job.

Rapidly, the hooks went in to my absent employer. I found myself sidelined over matters about which, frankly, she hadn’t a clue. She was one of the most ignorant people I’d ever met. I realized then, the owner would always take the word of an outsider who charged him more for their advice than I cost on my lowly pay grade.

The card was taken away: it was cash or cheque.

At long last, I managed to persuade my employer that the building was genuinely uninsurable. No insurance = no licence. I warned that he could be legally liable to a huge fine or even prison if we kept trading. While he set about raising money to turn the place into the bookkeeper’s dream of a “5-star hotel”, I (the gardener!) was to appoint conservation architects and brief them to carry out the conversion works.

After two-and-a-half more years, living in what had become a building site: missing floorboards, constant hammering and drilling, frozen in winter, sometimes without water or electricity, my title downgraded to “Caretaker”, in 2012 I was paid off with just statutory redundancy. “We need”, the owner announced portentously, “a proper manager.” My successor required a staff of 12 and lasted, I believe, eight months in the job.

And that’s the story of how I found myself in private service, Joanna. Ten per cent of it. I spent years trying to find a similar position, with no success whatever; and eventually retired on the State pension.

Your relationship with Amanda is absolutely none of my business, I know, I have only the “facts” as presented in a BBC News report. But I hoped by writing to you at length about my own experience of being employed as a domestic servant, put in such an impossible position, that I might somehow make a difference; if there is one to be made. I can’t believe anyone actually enjoys being in litigation.

You know how, in Victorian romantic novels, the honest servant always gets the blame and ends up in the colonies, or the workhouse? Well, we don’t always thoroughly deserve it; although I will own up to borrowing a bottle of wine every now and then, when I had no money left to buy my own; subsisting at times on the leftovers from the meals I cooked, sometimes at 11 o’clock at night when the guests finally showed up.

One more short story:

In Gloucestershire we had a neighbour, the legendary TV producer Linda A., who’d sold her production company for many £millions and was living life in the Grand Manor next door to our mould-infested cottage. One day, her odd-job man left her brand-new, £40 thousand Mercedes unlocked with the key in the ignition (therefore uninsured) while he went to pay for petrol, and when he came back it was gone. Linda just shrugged, drank some more champagne and ordered another one.

So, I’m sorry for your loss, Ms Rowling. It seems relatively trivial, financially speaking; the broken trust is probably worth more to you, I concede.

I’m nevertheless firmly of the belief that if I have learned two lessons after almost 70 years on Planet Earth, they are: 1) never buy a listed Georgian mansion without a structural survey, and 2) never come between a wealthy person and their money. Oh, and 3) with forgiveness comes tranquility (it’s Armistice week).

I hope you can forgive my impertinence; no reply is necessary.

Sincerely, etc.

PS – More Cormoran Strike!

 

Trunk calls

Finally for real magic, there’s an artist from the north of England called Paul Barton.

Paul has a very strange project you’re gonna love. He plays classical piano to blind and retired elephants on a reserve in the Thai jungle.

I cannot think of a more worthwhile pursuit. It’s incredibly moving. Catch him on YouTube. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hYlfhKhPbe0 and more.