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.
“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.
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)
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)
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.