The Pumpkin – issue 109: The steady trickle of body bags… I know what you’re going to say… And deliver us from the 21st century… GW: Baby light my fire…

 

The steady trickle of body bags

I was disturbed, when I’m normally complicit in our mutual liberal-lefty echo-bubble, by last Friday’s edition of the Rachel Maddow hour on MSNBC. Rachel is a cool-headed analyst not normally given to hyperbole, but her rundown of all the terrible things that are going to happen to America as a result of the assassination of Iran’s General Suleimani played straight into the hands of Trump and his gang.

Autocrats – dictators and tyrants of whatever stripe – thrive on popular fear, and Trump set the tone right from his inaugural address three years ago, ramping up fears of immigrant crime and imminent social disintegration in a broken nation, that only he could put a stop to.

Americans are the most fearful people on the planet, as he well knew. Everything terrifies them, from supposedly foreign ideological constructs like the British National Health Service, to their own government.

But for some unfathomable reason, the majority of voters seem to have no fear of real things that are being done to them:

  • being stripped of their already limited opportunities for subsidized healthcare: 27 million Americans had no health insurance in 2019
  • seeing billionaires receive huge tax concessions when their own taxes are in some cases increasing and their modest wages remain stagnant
  • being supplied with polluted water and carcinogenic or climate-changing chemical emissions to benefit private corporations and corrupt public officials
  • watching the president play golf three days a week at a cost of, now, $120 million to the public purse while he and his family benefit to the tune of millions of dollars from clear abuses of his office
  • the deaths of 60 thousand Americans a year from opioid abuse promoted by rapacious pharmaceutical companies; 33 thousand more from gun-related crime and accidents
  • the egregious corruption of executives of institutions like the National Rifle Association and the department for agriculture, with its well-funded refusal to ban teratogenic chemical poisons
  • mass shootings in schools, churches and synagogues, mostly by white supremacists
  • the opening up of protected monument lands and popular hunting grounds to extractive industries in whose pockets their politicians sit stuffing their faces
  • the refusal to acknowledge scientific facts regarding dangerous shifts in weather patterns caused by climate breakdown, for the benefit of political funders in the extractive industries
  • the packing of courts with judges whose only qualification is loyalty to the president and his henchmen, the subversion of the Justice Department and attacks on law enforcement agencies
  • appalling patriarchal laws limiting women’s rights and criminalizing even natural abortion
  • the emergence into daylight of the influence of organized crime hand-in-glove with extreme fundamentalist Christianity going right to the top in national life
  • the rolling back of environmental protections and planning laws; the poisoning of their water supplies
  • the introduction of dangerous instability, bullying, extortion and brinkmanship in international relations
  • the lack of an effective opposition in Congress.

None of these public abuses and more seems to create anything like the terror in Americans as does the absurd implausibility of the suggestion that Iran might somehow invade or fire nuclear missiles which they don’t yet have at the United States in retribution for the extrajudicial killing of one of their leaders.

Certainly, if hijacked airliners were to crash into Trump Tower now, we all know who would be getting the blame, regardless of any and all evidence to the contrary.

Mr Trump’s – and by extension, America’s – rambunctious imperialist bullying only works with such smaller, less lethally armed and invasively inclined nations as are incapable of inflicting any real and lasting damage to the homeland.

Beware, however, the ability of ideologically motivated peasants in flip-flops to conduct asymmetrical warfare for years in their own lands.

The steady trickle of body bags.

 

Speaking of which, have you seen what that drone did to Suleimani’s car? He wasn’t alone – wasn’t driving. There were others in there, including the senior commander of Iraq’s Shi’a militias, a PR man and the driver.

I see the funerals taking place, the coffins – but I’m not convinced anyone knows who, what or how much is really inside them.

And, yes, okay, he was a bad guy. Was the poor bloody driver a bad guy too?

 

A tale of two shitties

Amid speculation on US TV about the decision to whack Suleimani, two stories may be true.

One, that Trump was going around for days telling everyone, including his higher-echelon ($200k a year) private members at Mar-a-Lago, with a conspiratorial smirk, that something really big was about to blow over Iran and they should keep an eye on Fox News.

So much for a rapid response to a threat of imminent attack. But it seems to have allowed his golfing buddies to get their lucrative bets down on the stock market.

The other, that the option of whacking Suleimani was just one on a list of a dozen ideas the Pentagon had sent over at his request. Apparently it was on the list only because they thought it was the last thing he would be dumb enough to do. Pompeo and Pence persuaded him otherwise.

The only press that has come out in full favor of Trump’s action has been Murdoch’s Wall Street Journal.

I wonder why. What could their readers possibly have to gain?

And a third shitty:

“A 2009 study conducted by researchers at Harvard Medical School found 45,000 Americans die every year as a direct result of not having any health insurance coverage. In 2018, 27.8 million Americans went without any health insurance for the entire year.”

The Guardian America story reports workers being fired purely over a medical diagnosis – Walmart imposes a strict limit on the number of days you can take off work – voluntarily giving up treatment and dying because their savings have run out.

Welcome to Trumpland, Brexit idiots.

 

I know what you’re going to say

Ha ha! After three days living with Alexa, I just called: “Alexa, please play…” and as I hesitated for one brief moment, she jumped in: “Here’s a station you might like – vocal jazz.”

It wasn’t exactly what I was going to say, Norah Jones is good if a bit C&W oriented, but a valiant first attempt at mind-reading. Also, it was a song about rain. It’s teeming down outside.

And rain is an anagram of…. Iran!

How spooky is that? 😉

 

And deliver us from the 21st century

I’m just now listening to some of my old vinyl records on my new £99 transcription turntable. You know, with the five-star reviews.

It took only about 40 minutes of working with the inexplicably small and useless diagrams I can barely see through my elderly vision impairments, using a torch, to figure out how to build the flimsy plastic Sony turntable from scratch, using matchsticks, an old cocoa tin and a skinny rubber band.

Surely to God they can sell these things in one readymade piece? Without nasty, crunchy little push-buttons? Maybe with a bit of hydraulic damping of the tone-arm? A spare stylus? And would a little LED light to show it’s operating really have broken the bank?

But I didn’t spot until I had already hanged myself in the garage, the little switch right at the back that frees the output phono plugs to talk to the phono plug inputs on my active speakers. I’d feared for a while there, I might have had to go back online to buy a separate amplifier and wait in another day for Hermes to deliver it.

As you can gather, rather like my old vinyl records I’m a bit scratchy today.

It’s partly because I’m being relentlessly pursued by a cheery email from Amazon, apologizing that they hadn’t been able to deliver my turntable because I was out when the courier called, only don’t bother replying to this email because it won’t be read. So I can’t tell them it’s already here.

The last time this happened,  they sent me another whatever it was in the post the following day. If I end up with two turntables, I thought, I shall take it as a sign to become a DJ, whatever, as I can’t see to drive to the recycling center.

I’d already determined in fact that the turntable hadn’t been delivered, because after I risked taking Hunzi out for 15 minutes to uncross his legs at lunchtime I checked the tracking information just in case, and it told me that the driver had called at 1.30 pm, a time when I know we were in, only apparently we were out and he hadn’t delivered it.

I could check the non-delivery note or go to their website and do ‘x’ or ‘y’ if I wanted more information. I would be allowed two more chances to be in when he called again.

I’d already determined that there was no non-delivery note, and going to the website I was unable to find an address for ‘x’ or a link to ‘y’ anywhere visible. So I gave up, trusting that they might just try again the following day, and began composing one of the worst one-star rancorous Trustpilot reviews that my spleen could manage.

At precisely 2.00 pm there was a knock at the door; whereon opening it, a courier presented me with a Sony-branded box containing a flimsy plastic £99 transcription turntable. ‘Did you try delivering that earlier?’ I enquired. ‘No, mate’, was the reply. ‘It’s only just arrived at the depot.’ He declared himself mystified, accepted my scrawled signature and left.

As I said at the start, I’m listening to a slightly collectible vinyl album recording of Mark Murphy’s Brazil Song on my new, flimsy plastic £99 transcription turntable. You know, the one they haven’t yet delivered. That took 40 minutes to put together and get working from the terrible tiny instructions after I found the tiny switch at the back.

But I now have a new record – as being someone who cannot be relied on to be at home when the courier doesn’t call, who needs to be pursued with more instructions that don’t make sense.

Anyway, it works, and the sound quality is not too bad, surprisingly.

Clever old me.

Except that, a few days after I’d ordered the thing, an Alexa Echo spy-in-your-home unexpectedly arrived, a Christmas present-cum-disability aid from my ex-family. ‘Alexa, play album, Brazil Song’, Mark Murphy….

Anybody want some old vinyl albums? Transcription turntable, almost new? Ready assembled?

(Aren’t vinyl albums annoying? You get only 20 minutes a side before you have to turn them over. No bonus tracks. No time for a snooze.)

 

GW: Baby light my fire

Israel: “At least 4 people have lost their lives after flooding swamped parts of the country following heavy rains on 04 and 05 Jan., 2020. 2 people drowned in an elevator. Dozens of rescues were carried out. 74mm of rain fell on Tel Aviv in 2 hours, around 20% of its annual rainfall.” (Floodlist)

Australia: may be grateful for a change for a tropical cyclone, Cat 1 Cyclone Blake is the first of the season for Western Australia and will bring heavy rain and strong winds to the Kimberley region, having made landfall near Broome, 5 Jan before moving briefly back out to sea and reintensifying to Cat 2. (Severe-weather.eu)

Angola: 1 person died in flash flooding after a continuous 12-hour downpour in Luanda province. Several hundred are homeless. (Floodlist)

Turkey: Floodlist reports, 8 Jan., “Severe weather including strong winds, rain and snow has affected wide areas of Turkey over the last few days.” 2 people died after heavy rain triggered landslides and flooding in the southern province of Mersin, where 165mm of rain reportedly fell in 24 hours.

Israel: “A second severe storm in 4 days brought more heavy rain and flash flooding to parts of northern Israel. 1 person died in floodwaters as he tried to rescue passengers trapped in their car. Emergency services rescued people from flooded homes and trapped vehicles.” (Floodlist)

USA: Accuweather is reporting on the potential for yet more storms coming out of the Gulf into  southern states later in the week. In Texas, Oklahoma and Louisiana, “millions of Americans are under threat for severe thunderstorms, including the potential for tornadoes.”

In South America once again, parts of both Peru and Colombia are under quite severe flood threat as rivers overflow after heavy rain, with many hundreds displaced.

UK: Thanks to the winter of 2010 when your Old Granny froze her skinny ass off in an unheated building undergoing refurbishment, despite a record number of heat records being set last year the Met Office has declared that the decade 2009/19 was only the second warmest in the temperature record, the honours going by a whisker to 1999 to 2009.

Observed over a gap of 100 years, during the period 1910 to 1920 as many cold records were set in the UK as heat records were set last year; the exact reverse was true too, with only one hot year record broken in the 1910s as opposed to 8 in the 2010s. The 10 warmest years – 2019 wasn’t even one of them, apparently – have all occurred since 2002.

Faroe Islands: 7/8 Jan., and it’s a rough old night in the North Sea. A very large, twin-core cyclone with hurricane-style low pressure – 940 mb and deepening – is centered over Iceland, bringing winds gusting over 140 mph and 50-foot waves to the Faroe Islands and the northern isles of Scotland.

Arctic: measured over Iceland in the past few days, the polar vortex high up in the stratosphere has recorded its coldest temperature in five decades of measurements, 600 km/h winds cooling the top at about 25 km altitude to minus 96 Celsius. Not sure what it means, but the clouds over Finland sure look pretty:

View image on Twitter

Photo: Thomas Kast. Story: Severe-weather.eu

Tunnel approaching….

China: “Health authorities in Wuhan first reported 27 cases of an unidentified pneumonia-like illness at the end of December, a figure that jumped to 59 as of Sunday. The patients, seven of whom are in critical condition, have been quarantined. There have been no reported deaths. Symptoms of the mysterious virus include fevers, problems breathing and invasive lesions to both lungs.” (Guardian)

Yellowstone: Newsweek reports, “In its monthly update of activity, the Yellowstone Volcano Observatory (YVO) confirmed there were 48 eruptions last year (2019). That’s 16 more than the previous record set in 2018, when there were 32 eruptions at Steamboat.” Up to then, the average activity at the world’s tallest geyser had been 2 to 3 eruptions a year, although 1964 set the previous record, with 29. At one time, 50 years passed without any activity at all.

Bushfires: An old Comment thread I found from October 2018 under a Guardian story on the great Australian drought has numerous contributions from ordinary citizens expressing profound concerns for a devastating season of wildfires that year. ‘Kickthismobout’, for instance, contributed:

“Between 1900 and 1970 there were 13 Major bush fires, which is 1.85 per decade.

  • 1970 – 1980 – 4 Major bush fires
  • 1980 – 1990 – 3 Major bush fires
  • 1990 – 2000 – 7 Major bush fires
  • 2000 – 2010 – 16 Major bush fires
  • 2010 – 2016 – 25 Major bush fires (15 Major bush fires in total, averaged out over projected decade, could be more).”

So let’s not pretend Canberra was not warned.

The 2019/20 season is about halfway through and already more than 800 fires – many merging together along fronts measured in hundreds of Km, to make calculating the numbers of ‘Major’ fires pretty well impossible – have burned uncontrollably through 6.3m ha – 15.5m acres – across four states, much of it forest rather than scrub. Around 2,400 properties so far, and 28 lives have been lost.

Tens of thousands of internally displaced refugees, mass evacuations, clogged roads and beaches, the military called out – toxic air quality in five cities…. It’s already the worst fire season in the country’s entire white history.

Presciently, ‘Kickthismobout’ asked: “What kind of disaster will it take to wake our bloody leaders up?”

Well, now we know. No kind of disaster at all. After days of inaction and gladhanding, reviled PM, Scott Morrison has eventually pledged Aus $2bn for ‘reconstruction’, and has gone on Facebook (along with the other fake news merchants) to advertize what a great job he’s doing.

Many other ‘bloody leaders’ have continued to deny that climate change even exists, let alone has any responsibility for the seemingly endless, lethal drought and are refusing calls to limit the burning and export of coal.

Whenever devastating wildfires are mentioned, with their huge contribution to the CO2 burden, almost nobody seems to have noticed that 16m Ha, 35 million acres of Siberia’s vast boreal forests also burned through between April and August 2019.

Perhaps it’s because not many people live there.

And it’s an interesting question, isn’t it. Are we causing these wildfires, or are they merely a perennial problem in nature?

Well, some are obviously the result of arson, or of carelessness while camping, or of accidents to man-made power lines and overheating compost heaps. But many more are set off by lightning, a natural phenomenon. And aren’t wildfires contributing to the CO2 burden, and therefore a principal natural cause of a warmer world – not us?

But if droughts in parts of the world are getting longer and deeper and average temperatures are increasing, leading to greater extremes, then there’s a pretty good connection with changing overall climatic conditions that are the predicted result of adding 37 billion tonnes of CO2 annually into an increasingly carbon-rich atmosphere.

And it is an unfortunate fact that the more CO2 is added to the atmosphere the warmer it gets, leading to further increases in the emissions of CO2 and 39 other warming gases.

The added CO2 emissions from wildfires are therefore part of a vicious circle, that begins with us.

 

 

A new BogPo emerging: Trapped in the work ethic… “Appointments Co-Ordinator”: The Angel of Death… Trump’s weird weather balloon continues to inflate… GW: It’s a hard rain’s gonna fall

Revolting Quote of the Week (Look away now…)

“Perhaps Iain Duncan Smith would be caught scraping wax out of his own ears and spreading it on a Jacob’s Cracker; or licking his own belly-button fluff off a stick as if it were fairground candyfloss; or sprinkling dried smegma flakes from beneath his foreskin on to a strawberry ice cream and saying: ‘Yum! Yum! I love eating smegma!’ Everyone will have the food they need.” – Stewart Lee in The Observer, 8 Sept., after former Tory leader and chief architect of the New Poverty, Smarmy Duncan Cunt was caught on camera in the Commons, picking his nose and eating the bogeys.

 

Trapped in the work ethic

There’s an excellent dissection of modern-day society on Open Democracy today (pub. 5 Sept.). Phil Jones writes on Millennials’ obsession with “Brand You” – the neurotic pursuit of “employability” that occupies so much of people’s leisure time – and, indeed, of their working time, as they concentrate on finding the next job, and the next.

“If work/life balance feels like a bad joke, the need to market oneself is even worse – a joke that goes on forever, never to deliver. Needless to say, the joke is on us as we spend our lives working ever-more to receive ever less.”

Jones regards it as a mental health crisis.

Actually, I’ve always thought that the universal activity of looking around for better opportunities is one of the more agreeable diversions from work, and probably one of the primary causes of our woeful lack of productivity in Britain: an economy shivering through an unending winter of employee discontent.

Your Uncle Bogler is no millennial, except in the sense that sometimes he feels like a thousand years old. But he regards himself as having often been years ahead of the game. He thinks back to his last job, and the one before that, and the ones even before those, as times of obsessively reinventing himself through successive redraftings of his CV – this was mostly before lInkedIn and Instagram and all the rest of it. “Brand You” was always “Brand Me”.

So maybe it’s not such a new thing. Because 30, even 40 years ago I always felt the need to move on was the ideal form of progress. And, having milked every employer I ever had of more and more responsibility, always working silly hours way beyond my job description, never feeling sufficiently rewarded for it, it wasn’t long before I would start looking around for something more interesting to do.

Every so often I would go off for a while and employ myself, although I was my own worst manager and employer, always hopeless at structuring my time, doing accounts, finding business, networking and the social politics of being preferred for jobs I could do standing on my head, over reassuring Yes-men. It was always a great relief to get off that merry-go-round horse and hop onto a passing ride; a dodgem car, or the ghost train.

Indeed, after what? seven years! of retirement, I still wake up every day wondering where my next career move is going to come from.

Seventy, as they say, is the new 50, and finding work at 50 was hard enough. Nobody wants to hire someone afresh at the peak of their powers, there’s always a suspicion, isn’t there, that if you’re looking to get hired at 50 there must be something wrong with you; and, if hired, you’re probably thinking you can run the place a lot better than the insecure twenty-somethings blundering about in charge, which of course they won’t appreciate.

I didn’t. But having been given my own department to run, a budget and a free hand with hiring and scheduling, even at the callow age of 24 I didn’t make the mistake of not hiring more experienced people than myself to deputize, more than to do the actual nuts and bolts work; making up for the gaps in my knowledge and providing reassurance to the directors.

I made sure some of them got paid more than I did. Some of them were even women! And yet there was never any question who was running the show: it ran on my probably lunatic ideas (it’s called “innovation”), my energy, my hours, my creative imagination, my (well-regarded) precocious, professional input. I endeavored to induce a sense of co-operation – collegialism, rather than the tired cliche of “teamwork”, that absurd militaristic or sporting trope, the fallback of too many workplaces run by managers trained, rather than educated.

It’s an attitude I can pride myself on, and with me free to concentrate on my own contributions to the end-product, rather than constantly having to keep an eye on the personnel (except in one egregious case, of one serial responsibility-evader – he was the annoying baby of the team), we rapidly earned the envy and hatred of our competitors, as well as higher ratings, which I regarded then as the mark of success.

Few people, I imagine, get the chance to do that sort of thing nowadays. I won’t go shelf-stacking in Morrison’s because of it. Five minutes into the job and I’d almost certainly be thinking of the Manager much as one might contemplate the promising intellect of a primate in a zoo, adept at winkling its earwax out with a stick, wondering why Head Office was so willing to put up with the glaring inefficiencies and sheer gutlessness of its regional systems, its risk-aversion, and – privately seething with discontent at the massive discrepancy in our relative rewards – itching to move on.

It’s not a good look, as we corporatists say nowadays.

http://www.opendemocracy.net/en/oureconomy/brand-you-how-employability-came-dominate-our-lives/?utm_source=Daily+Newsletter&utm_campaign=92c44be1e6-DAILY_NEWSLETTER_MAILCHIMP&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_717bc5d86d-92c44be1e6-408090269

 

Trump’s weird weather balloon continues to inflate

The bizarre story of how Trump has been defending, like an oversexed terrier clamped to your leg, his mistaken warning that Alabama was going to be hit by Hurricane Dorian, took an even weirder turn tonight when someone at NOAA, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric  Administration, issued a statement confirming that Trump had been correct, and that Alabama had been on the track list – albeit briefly – for 12 hours.

The Trump-affirming statement appeared to contradict the opinions of NOAA’s own scientists.

Trump called the press to the Oval Office on Wenesday and showed them a map that had obviously been doctored by someone, a person widely believed to be the 4-year-old child calling itself the 45th President of the United States of America, Commander-in-Chief of US forces and Leader of the Free World, by drawing an erratic extra bulge on a very early Hurricane Center track forecast with a black marker pen, to include Alabama, after the National Weather Service had tried to correct him.

Hurricane Dorian was going, they said, nowhere near Alabama. His claim, defended in a series of vindictive tweets savaging the media for trying to make him look bad, led to some panic buying in the state, while critics have argued that it may also have led to potentially lethal complacency in the Carolinas, far to the east, where the Category 3 storm did in fact track after killing hundreds of people in the Bahamas.

Certainly, there’s a law against promulgating false weather forecasts.

The point being, that Trump’s mental condition is now under serious scrutiny, as he had clearly made a simple mistake and it wasn’t, to begin with, of any importance; nobody would have cared, and he could just have brushed it off with a disarming apology, if he had an ounce of charm or good manners. Instead he is still doubling and tripling down on it with a series of increasingly disturbing lies, and what appear to be increasingly intimidatory tactics.

Now there’s a major rift between the nation’s various weather bureaux, with a spokesman for the National Weather Service’s employees calling the NOAA statement “disgusting and disingenuous” and accusing the NOAA of “managerial malpractise”, perpetrated for political reasons.

A quick call to Granny Weatherwax confirms, after delaying an appointment for many months, late in 2017 Trump nominated for the head of the NOAA, the former CEO of a private forecasting service, Accuweather, one Barry Lee Myers, a non-scientist.

Myers had previusly made a substantial donation to the campaign fund of a leading Republican senatorial candidate, the ghastly Rick Santorum, in an attempt to get Congress to sideline the National Weather Service and benefit Accuweather’s commercial interests by effectively outlawing free public weather forecasts.

He was not confirmed in post. So, according to Wikipedia, “since February 2019, NOAA has been headed by Neil Jacobs, as acting Under Secretary of Commerce for Oceans and Atmosphere and NOAA interim administrator. NOAA has not had a confirmed leader since January of 2017.”

Neil has a somewhat more impressive CV than Barry:

“Previously as the Chief Atmospheric Scientist at Panasonic Avionics Corporation, he directed the research and development of both the aviation weather observing platform and weather forecast model programs. He was previously the Chair of the American Meteorological Society’s Forecast Improvement Group, and also served on the World Meteorological Organization’s aircraft-based observing systems expert team. Dr. Jacobs holds a bachelor degree in mathematics and physics from the University of South Carolina and masters and doctoral degrees in atmospheric science from North Carolina State University.” (NOAA website)

Now all he needed to do was to tell Mad King Donald to just drop it, but sadly being only yet another “acting” head of department among many, he can’t. Because his position is unconfirmed by the Senate and still in the gift of the President, he just has to do what the demented orange infant – whose uncle, let us remember, lectured in electrical engineering at MIT, qualifying Trump as a scientist summa cum laude – tells him to do.

Just get him out. Forget who he is, concentrate on what he is, which is certifiably bonkers. It’s cruel to keep him there. Just send in the men in white coats, stick an anti-spit bag on his head in case it’s catching, the megalomania – and cart him off with his arms folded.

How hard can it be?

 

“Appointments Co-Ordinator”: The Angel of Death

The NHS over in England is instructing area health trusts to write to London’s GPs, telling them not to refer patients to specialist consultants unless it’s a matter of life or death. “A spokeswoman” is quoted as saying:

“Some ideas will affect clinical services and in putting forward our plans we want to emphasise that the safety of our patients and the quality of our services will always come first.”

The spokeswoman added that they would ensure no patient waited more than 52 weeks for treatment.” (Guardian)

52 weeks is, as my Likers, Spammers, etc. all kno, a year.  No patient will wait MORE THAN A YEAR for treatment. Some idea… Some quality, first. Is this a health service or a national extermination program? Statisticians have been reporting for some time now that life expectancy in Britain is no longer increasing. This looks like one possible reason, you might agree.

Commented Health Secretary, Matt Hancock: “zzzzzzz. Wake me up when we’ve Brexited”.

My own local health board in Wales has adverted instead to a different method of imposing the death penalty on patients. Someone naming but not signing themselves “Appointments Co-Ordinator” will write to you, telling you you need to make an appointment – whether you do or not.

Failure to respond by telephone within 14 days will result in them assuming you no longer want or need treatment, or you are no longer living in the area, or you’ve died, and unpersoning you. Telephoning will produce a recorded message, telling you there is a half-hour wait to speak to someone.

Last March, for instance, I ignored – well, I tried phoning first, and then I ignored the letter because I already had a consultant appointment, made directly through his office. But you can no longer do that. And in early May I had another letter, informing me that, as I had obviously died or gone away, I no longer had a consultant. Although I had been to see him, and had various procedures in the meantime.

So, I was forced to waste the time of my GP and my consultant getting myself put back on the list. I’ve since had another letter, demanding I make an appointment – for what sounds very much like a preliminary assessment to begin receiving the consultant support I’ve already been getting for my prostate condition for the past five years.

And, of course, if I don’t phone within 14 days, I’ll be struck off again. Which rather makes a nonsense of the huge expense of the various scans, tests, surgical investigations and clinical procedures I’ve already had, since they’ll need to be repeated.

“Appointments Co-Ordinator” is not, obvious to say, a clinician, but a bureaucrat. (That’s if they really exist and are not simply an algorithm.) “Appointments Co-Ordinator” has no idea if my condition requires treatment or not; or what treatment it requires. But it certainly requires treatment.

And in writing to people in late August, “Appointments Co-Ordinator” clearly runs the risk of encountering recipients who are away on holiday, as I was when the letter arrived.

I replied immediately by letter – it’s written evidence – asking “Appointments Co-Ordinator” to check with my consultant to see if the appointment was relevant or not, before wasting everyone’s time making it.

Needless to say, after 14 days I’ve had no reply. “Appointments Co-Ordinator” can dish it out, but she can’t take it.

Which you might understand fills me with anger. Striking patients off consultants’ lists while they are receiving treatment (I have never missed an appointment) without reference to the consultant or further investigation of the circumstances in which a patient has failed to respond in time – a follow-up letter, perhaps – is a gross breach of medical ethics and saves no money at all.

All it does is close cases on open files, when they may need to remain open – thus artificially and, in many cases, one suspects temporarily – shortening overburdened consultants’ waiting lists (and the lives of the patients) to comply with official quotas.

 

GW: It’s a hard rain’s gonna fall

Bahamas: “Health minister Duane Sands has warned of the probability of a very high death toll in Abaco and Grand Bahama as the catastrophe continues to unfold. He told people to brace for a ‘staggering’ final count, when speaking to local radio late Thursday. ‘The public needs to prepare for unimaginable information about the death toll and the human suffering,’ he said.” Grand Abaco is said to be virtually uninhabitable. The UN has called for aid for up to 70 thousand homeless survivors. (Guardian and others)

Chuntering up the coast, Dorian has been bumping into the Carolinas, back at Cat 3, bringing severe flooding to coastal regions, and is set to make landfall in a third country, Canada, over the weekend before spinning out across the Atlantic in pursuit of weakening Tropical Storm Gabrielle, heading for the British Isles later next week. Several other Tropical disturbances are reported in the Atlantic, although none is as yet favored to intensify – Dorian will have churned up a lot of cold water in its wake and left a turbulent atmosphere that should discourage more hurricanes for a while at least. One meteorologist is suggesting remnant Dorian could trigger a UK heatwave. (Express)

Vietnam: Tropical Depression Kajiki, which closely followed Tropical Cyclone Podul, has brought heavy rain to parts of Vietnam and Laos, causing further flooding and landslides. Authorities report at least 2 people have died and 2 are missing in Laos, while 5 fatalities were reported in Vietnam with 3 people still missing. Heavy rain in catchment areas has also increased levels of the Mekong River, which has reached flood stage in parts of Thailand, Laos and Cambodia.” (Floodlist)

Africa: Over 40 people have died and 70 thousand are affected by flooding in Niger, West Africa, where rivers have far exceeded Red level flood stage. Other countries of the region have also seen major flooding and casualties over the last few weeks, including Nigeria and Mauritania, along with Central African Republic and further north, Algeria and Morocco. (Floodlist)

India: Flooding caused major disruption to road and rail transport in Mumbai and areas of the surrounding state of Maharashtra. 214.4 mm (8.5-in.) of rainfall was recorded in 12 hours on 4 Sept. India’s public service broadcaster, said that out of 150 weather stations in Mumbai and Maharashtra, 100 weather stations received 200mm of rainfall within 24 hours. The rain cause massive urban flooding, clogging streets, damaging homes and causing transport disruption including bus, train and flight cancellations. (Floodlist)

Japan: Tropical Storm Faxai intensified rapidly Saturday (7 Sept.) to become, now, a Cat 3 supertyphoon, with 130 mph winds, heading straight for the main island. “Destructive winds are likely across southeastern Honshu, and destructive waves are possible on Japan’s southern and eastern shores. In addition, 3 to 8 inches of rain is likely in southeastern Honshu, with isolated amounts up to a foot possible. Flooding is possible in the Tokyo metropolitan area.” (The Weather Channel) The storm has delayed the arrival of teams for the Rugby World Cup.

Previously: Supertyphoon Lingling “skyrocketed from a CAT2-equivalent to CAT4-equivalent system in only 6 hours late on September 5th. Indeed, satellite imagery showed impressive structure, with a well-developed, extensive central dense overcast and an impressive, well-defined eye. Peak sustained winds increased from 105 mph (169 km/h) to 130 mph (209 km/h). It tracked directly across Japan’s Miyakojima island”, and will “track north over the East China Sea into the Yellow Sea in the next two days, likely retaining significant strength. Possible landfall in North Korea early on Saturday, although track is somewhat uncertain.” (Severe-weather.eu)

Update, 7 Sept.: 3 killed as 155mph Typhoon Lingling bumps first along the South’s coast, then smashes into North Korea. 8 injured. Flights grounded, and thousands without power. (London Evening Standard)

USA: “Record-challenging heat will make it feel like the middle of summer across the southern United States through the weekend. Dry conditions and plenty of sunshine will stretch from eastern Texas to Georgia on Friday as an area of high pressure settles over the region. Temperatures across much of this area will climb into the middle to upper 90s F, while farther west in Louisiana and eastern Texas, highs are expected to peak near 100 F.” (Accuweather)

“A raging wildfire near Quincy in Plumas County erupted to 24,000 acres on Saturday, forcing evacuations in the area, the U.S. Forest Service reported. The Walker Fire broke out Wednesday inside the Plumas National Forest about 11 miles east of Taylorsville. The blaze was at 2,000 acres on Friday morning, before strong winds in the area rapidly caused the fire to grow, burning over 17,000 acres by Friday night. As of Saturday morning, the fire had covered 24,040 acres and was zero percent containment (sic). (Sacramento Bee)

After the storm… Just where do you start?

Mexico: The Weather Channel reports “Tropical Storm Fernand is closing in on landfall in northeast Mexico where it will bring a threat of heavy rain and flooding. Tropical Storm Gabrielle has also formed in the eastern tropical Atlantic Ocean”, and is on a track that may see it spin nor’eastwards towards the northern British Isles later in the week, where remnant Dorian is also heading after passing over Nova Scotia with 75mph sustained winds… “But that’s not all: The National Hurricane Center (NHC) is watching two other areas in the Atlantic for possible tropical development as well.”

 

Tunnel approaching….

Yellowstone: The Blessed Mary Greeley reports, there’s been another swarm of more than 40 small ‘quakes up to M2.7 in the Mammoth Mountain volcanic area, to the north of the Long Valley supervolcano caldera in SE California, near where there was a series of major quakes 2 months ago, including a huge M7.1. The last “small” eruption, which created Mono Lake, was only 250 years ago; but the USGS says there’s only a one percent chance one of the volcanoes could erupt again in any one year. Which is to say, a one in a hundred years chance…. and it’s been 250 years since the last eruption? Ooops.

It’s believed the magma chamber – estimated at 240 cubic miles! – could be contiguous with that of the not far-away Yellowstone volcano in Montana (11.5 Grand Canyons’ worth), where there have also been swarms of quakes recently.

Australia: The government of New South Wales is evacuating fish from the lower Darling river – part of the country’s major Murray-Darling irrigation basin – ahead of predictions of another scorching, dry summer. Last year, millions of fish died and other river-dwellers were almost wiped out as the Lower Darling fell to record low levels, partly due to overextraction. Agriculture Minister, Adam Murray said: “We’re staring down the barrel of a potential fish Armageddon.” (Guardian Green Light)

The Pumpkin – Issue 95: Good luck with 2020… E Pluribus, Donald…Shits, hicks, hacks and charlatans… The Lucky Jew… GW: Slipslidin’ away.

Hi, The Pumpkin here. I’m trying to cram stuff in this week because I’m taking a short vacation away from muh li’l laptop next week and you’ll miss me when I’m gone. Sorry.

PS I’m going by train, as long as the virtue signals are working….

“But Greta, you didn’t tell us there’d be no more cauliflower!”

Quote of the Week

“We all know how Trump struggles to do the bare minimum of being a president but it’s still genuinely shocking just how much he struggles to do the bare minimum of being a fucking person.” – John Oliver, on Trump’s fumbled El Paso appearance.

 

Good luck with 2020

(This article first appeared in Tuesday’s Boglington Post but has been moved here because it’s better, okay?)

Further news reaches us of Trump’s continuing mental disintegration.

Japan Times reports, a number of countries have issued travel warnings to their citizens after the USA experienced 25 mass shootings in 2 months; including last week’s murders of 22 people at a Walmart supermarket in El Paso.

A perfectly responsible, normal reaction. Some governments feel a duty to safeguard their own citizens.

“Well, I can’t imagine that,” Trump said when told of the warnings. “But if they did that, we’d just reciprocate. We are a very reciprocal nation, with me as the head. When somebody does something negative to us in terms of a country, we do it to them.”

For someone so thin-skinned, he sure resembles a rhinoceros at times. Especially when he’s proposing to wreck his own tourism industry.

So reasonable warnings from civilized countries like Japan to their own citizens when in America to be careful and avoid the sort of Wild West arcades where the little mini-Trumps go to blast away at live foreigners and schoolkids, result in a “reciprocal” threat from the madman-in-chief to warn Americans they’re in similar danger abroad, or not to travel anywhere, shitholes, whatever.

That’s to countries that generally don’t have racist neo-Nazis, teenage paranoiacs and other psychopathic Trump true-believers running around with legally owned AR-15 assault rifles shooting people indiscriminately. (We have news today of a Trump supporter, a disorderly military veteran fracturing the skull of a random 13-year-old child he thought was “disrespectin’ duh national anfum”, by piledriving him headfirst into the ground at a fair.)

I imagine most normal Americans can’t wait to get out, warnings or no.

Who reacts like this, like some brutal mob boss, to any perceived slight? Who else imagines themselves to be personally insulted when someone passes a reasonable comment involving their country, or kneels when the anthem is played, when the appropriate response would be to try to reassure travellers that they’re perfectly safe with him in charge, and attend to the cause of the protest without fake patriotic melodrama?

Donald the fucking Sun King, that’s who. King Donald the Mad.

It’s not that long ago that Trump was tweeting abuse at London’s mayor, Sadiq Khan, for allowing one shooting and two stabbings over a single weekend, in a city of 7 million stressed people. As if he could do anything to stop them, apart from by not being a Muslim. Oh, and by not criticizing President-elect Trump over his efforts to ban Muslims. When was that? Three years ago!

And we’re not even his country. No yet, anyway. (I hear he’s considering an offer.)

Good luck with 2020, America.

You’re going to need it.

(I see that rotten stinker with the ludicrous ‘Mr Pastry’ mustache who likes to start wars and changes regimes more often than his fetid old underpants, John Bolton is in London today for talks with the preposterous PM, the craven weasel Boris Johnson.

Iran, here we come.)

Oh, and guess whose name has popped up in the Jeffrey Epstein saga, as another “friend of the late financier”? Why, trot forward on a pure white Arabian steed, Mr Trump’s young protege, Crown Prince Mohammed bin-Salman of Saudi Barbaria, no less. Epstein’s Rolodex must have been on fire! (New York Times: The Day Jeffrey Epstein Told Me He Had Dirt on Powerful People, 12 Aug.)

It might perhaps offer some kind of explanation as to why the Trump family is so assiduously putting about the fake news, that Hillary Clinton had Epstein killed in prison to protect Bill.

On the other hand….

 

E Pluribus, Donald

A rapper calling himself A$AP Rocky has been found guilty of affray and given a two-year suspended sentence by a Swedish court, following an attack on two young immigrant fans who were following the rappers’ party in a possibly annoying way.

The court found that Rocky had not acted in self-defense, as his defense lawyer tried to claim, but had joined in with two of his roadies in a serious but not gravely injurious attack.

This story would have been water under the bridge and certainly not had profile, had it not been for a bizarre tweet from the supposed President of the United States, demanding that Sweden drop the charge.

What Donald Trump thought he was doing, what right he had to interfere in the normal judicial process of another sovereign country over such a trivial affair, only God and the psychiatric community will ever know.

What we do know is that Trump has no regard whatever for the rule of law, in his own country or anyone else’s where he has no right of interference, other than for the arrogance of office.

This utterly bonkers individual actually threatened action against Sweden for persecuting a US citizen.

He tweeted: “Give A$AP Rocky his FREEDOM. We do so much for Sweden but it doesn’t seem to work the other way around. Sweden should focus on its real crime problem”

By which we assume he means the vanishingly small number of crimes committed by Muslim immigrants and refugees, on which he notoriously fixated in 2017, claiming by some miracle of foresight that there had been a riot, two days before a minor affray conveniently broke out in one of Stockholm’s migrant majority banlieus.

What he meant by “we do so much for Sweden”, is anyone’s guess. The USA does nothing for Sweden, so far as I know. Sweden is a grown-up, independent nation, a stable constitutional monarchy, and has been for hundreds of years. Longer, certainly, than the USA, where around the end of the C19th hundreds of thousands of ethnic Swedes made their homes.

Perhaps that’s what he meant. The USA had taken in 1.2 million ethnic Swedes by 1910, driven out by years of poor harvests and failed agrarian reforms. That’s what “we did for Sweden”. “We” depopulated the place!

A$AP Rocky is not a well-known personage in the UK, we suspect, but we must assume that someone sympathetic to his cause got to the White House. Could that possibly have been Trump’s friend Kanye West, a rap artist equally as damaged by having been larded with a great deal more money than his modest talents might justify, as Trump himself is?

Oh, right, sorry, I’m being slow today. “Don’t call me a racist, see what I do for you colored people!”. Get the black vote out somehow.

There’s always something transactional in everything this Grade One menace does.

 

Shits, hicks, hacks and charlatans

We just had to pirate this priceless Trump anecdote from a strange piece in The Guardian, 13 Aug., on celebrities and their moments with the Gilded Oaf:

“Charlie Sheen recalls running into Trump in a restaurant, just before he was to get married. Because he couldn’t make it to the ceremony, Trump removed his expensive platinum and diamond cufflinks and handed them to Sheen as a gift. ‘Six months later I was having some jewellery appraised and remembered the cufflinks,’ Sheen recalled in 2016. ‘When the jeweller took a look, she recoiled and said: ‘In their finest moment, they were cheap pewter and bad zirconia.’ They had ‘Trump’ stamped on them. I think that says a lot about the man.'”

It perhaps says quite a lot about Sheen, too, that he couldn’t tell the difference.

I feel sure that if everything everyone now knows about this appalling caricature in the White House were to have come out loud and clear in 2015, he would never have been adopted as the pet monster of McConnell’s monstrous Republican party. Would he?

It reinforces the point about how difficult it is to get everyone at the same time to understand what’s going on, so poorly are most people equipped to pay attention, glued as we are to our cellphones (I’ve just signed on for a new one… it’s got a big screen and a twin-lens many gigapixels camera thing! And you can watch Netflix movies in realtime and store hundreds of thousands of tunes!) (Oh, do get on with it. Ed.)

There’s always enough inattention and confusion to ensure the baddies get away with it.

He doesn’t even like killing people. (Just watch video of him desperately trying to ignore a Yazidi woman in the Oval Office, telling him how her entire family was butchered and she was raped and enslaved by ISIS… “And so where is your family now?”)

Surely, there must be an almost unbearable level of embarrassment even among that power-crazed, money-grubbing bunch of shits, hicks, hacks and charlatans, that they elected a half-daft fairground freak in a tinsel tutu?

Is it even fair to mock him for his cheap tackiness, his utter fakery – from his cufflinks to his hair, to his tan to his boasts about the size of his, most of the time, negative bank balance, his vast intellect, his astonishing golfing prowess, and his prodigious… “wherever”?

His weird way of acting all the time as if he himself were a newly arrived immigrant, striving for a place in the sun, a street-rat clawing his way out of the Bowery, doing and saying whatever it takes to survive, even at his age.

That peculiarly American, insatiable hunger for acceptance in a cold world.

Did he learn that from Grandpa Drumpf?

Mockery hasn’t done any good, he’s still there, squatting like a big orange toad on the face of American democracy – for what that was worth – hacking about in the rough.

Each successive week brings more and more evidence of calculating insanity. He so clearly qualifies for the 25th Amendment. Yet nobody dares lift a finger!

Why are you all so pathetic?

 

The Lucky Jew

A theatrical colleague has half-Polish nationality. She and her boyfriend went over to Warsaw on a brief vacation trip and to visit family. On her return, we were up at the Director’s house watching a film and she gave me as a little holiday coming-home present, a Lucky Jew.

This rather startling memento is a small, carved wood and painted figure, about 3 inches high, of a bearded gentleman garbed in black, with a large nose and an expression of humble servility, clutching a bag presumably of money and a golden plate.

The tribute was in honor, she explained, of my recent triumph in the role of Shylock, the multi-layered, much put-upon Jewish banking character from Shakespeare’s “The Merchant of Venice”.

Happily, I found the idea funny. I find most ideas funny.

It came with the explanation that the Lucky Jew is “a thing” in Poland. What kind of thing I’m not sure, a souvenir thing for tourists unaware of the difficult history, presumably. Searching it, I find no hidden corkscrew.

I might have found my Lucky Jew embarrassingly antisemitic, were it not for something that happened the very next day, for which I forgive its creator everything.

That was a Tuesday night. Wednesday was a day on which the latest issue of Private Eye magazine arrives in my local supermarket. It comes out fortnightly, and rather than flashing my contactless card at the tobacco counter lady for a silly small amount, £2, I add on a £2 National Lottery entry for luck.

And, guess what, Reader, it came up!

Okay, so it was only three numbers, for a prize of £30.

But I haven’t won anything on the Lottery since winning £2.50 about ten years ago. Admittedly, I rarely enter. As the brilliant Saatchi and Saatchi ad campaign used to say, “It could be you!”, about the most insidiously persuasive tagline I’ve ever read – and I used to write them for a living.

Winning anything on what’s now known with chintzy faux-affection as Lotto is practically impossible to do, since the cheating bastards increased the number of draw numbers, adding on an extra ten, lying that it gave us more chances to win, and doubled the stake. You have to guess six numbers from 60 for two quid. The odds against picking a full suite of six correct random selections out of a possible 60  are astronomical, let alone with the seventh Bonus ball you need to go full £millions.

They really don’t want you to win anything, so they can go on throwing money at netball players and obscure provincial orchestras, and the lesser prizes are pathetic, given the difficulty of winning one of them.

Lucky for Lotto, however, so many people enter so many lines that by the law of averages, one eventually scoops the jackpot. The resulting publicity is the only thing that keeps people betting. A fifty-grand prize won’t do (5 correct numbers!), although it would me – apart from me, everyone foolishly dreams of becoming an instant multi-millionaire. Little do they know.

So anyway, I went back to the store yesterday to pick up my winnings, and do you know what?

That’s right! More luck!

I did my shopping, and when I paid for it, it apparently triggered the requisite very large number of points accumulated over many shopping weeks, and the checkout guy handed me a £5 voucher with my receipt!

I’m not sure how long this run of luck is supposed to hold out, from my Lucky Jew.

Today I had a call from the cellphone store, my sparkling new Huawei cellphone we ordered yesterday had gone out on the courier run this morning but for some reason connected with the end of civilization as we know it, the courier had delivered it straight back to the warehouse instead of to the store, and we can’t get another delivery before Friday, and that’s the day I leave for London and I’m not going without a degree-level course in how to find the on-switch.

I’m a bit on edge today, to be honest.

Because there are two kinds of luck, aren’t there.

 

Cauliflower Fears

“The weak foreign trade performance and declining construction investment proved sufficient to bring the German economy to its knees …” A German economist responds hysterically to the news that Germany’s GDP shrank by a massive 0.1% last quarter.

Your old Granny comments: “We need to shrink GDP in all nations and by a lot more than tenths of a percentage point. Blind worship of growth figures is killing us.”

As if to rub in the point, after the Great Iceberg Lettuce Famine of 2017 and the Avocado Crisis of 2018, in August, 2019 Britain is facing an acute shortage and rising prices of – cauliflower. (Children across the nation cheer! And go on climate strike.)

The disaster is climate-related: “Heavy rainfall in June destroyed crops in Lincolnshire, and alternative European supplies wilted in last month’s heatwave. The shortages were described as “very concerning” by a spokesman for the Brassica Growers Association.

Expect to see more of this, we should.

Anyway, I’m sorry for Lincolnshire. The pickers all come from Romania, what are they going to do?

The BBC draws a veil over their plight.

Meanwhile, fearful of accusations of hypocrisy if she flies, Greta Thunberg has set sail on an oceangoing yacht, bound for a conference in the USA.

The media is reporting that it’s a zero-carbon voyage. Your Old Gran wonders if it’s a carbon-fiber yacht?

They mostly are nowadays.

 

Straight priorities

A 72-year-old Australian man is in a critical condition following an incident in which he intervened to save his dog from an attack by a large Goanna lizard.

It was at first thought the dog had died, but later reported that it had survived the attack.

The man’s wife commented that that was the best news she had heard all day. (Guardian)

 

“In 2010 the famous Eyjafjallajökull eruption closed down all airports in Europe. But its CO2 emissions were only about 150,000 tonnes a day, compared with human activity which is responsible for almost 100m tonnes a day.” – Andri Snaer Magnason, Icelandic author and glaciologist.

(Your Old Granny adds: Your weekend shopping trip from Heathrow to New York will cost the rest of us as much atmospheric forcing per head as the average Ghanaian emits in a year. Thanks for that.)

 

GW: Slipslidin’ away

Pakistan: “Monsoon rain and floods in Sindh province have left 26 dead. At least 16 people died in Karachi district, which was one of the worst hit areas. Heavy rain and flooding damaged buildings and inundated streets. Deaths were caused electrocution from downed power cables, drowning, lightning strikes and collapsed buildings. Karachi recorded 129.40mm of rain in 24 hours to 11 Aug.” (Floodlist)

India: “Heavy rain has caused flooding and landslides in the state of Uttarakhand in northern India. 6 people died on 12 August after landslides in 3 villages in Chamoli district. Major roads were blocked. (Some places received) up to 130mm of rain in 24 hours. The heavy rain is increasing river levels.”(Floodlist) Over 180 people have died in monsoon flooding and landslides in southern and western parts of the subcontinent over the last few days.

Japan: Typhoon Krosa (the third in 3 weeks to hit Japan) weakened to a tropical storm but still managed to dump more than 820 mm (32 inches) of rain on Shikoku, as of 15 Aug. Out of that total, 124.5 mm (nearly 5 inches) and 60.5 mm (2.38 inches) poured down in 3 and 1 hours, respectively. An elderly man died and over 40 people have been injured. (Accuweather)

Vietnam: In the aftermath of Tropical Storm Wipha, flooding that began around 8 Aug. has caused 10 deaths and displaced almost 2000 people. Kien Giang and Lam Dong are the worst hit provinces, where some rivers have reached record levels. (Floodlist)

Greece: “Fires have been raging through a “unique, untouched pine forest” on the Greek island of Evia as authorities fight to keep the flames under control. Hundreds of people were evacuated from nearby villages as the fire broke out in the early hours of (13 Aug.) Other wildfires broke out on the island of Thassos, as well as in the central region of Viotia and the Peloponnese. There was also a fire reported in Peania, a suburb of Athens. (BBC)

Switzerland: 2 people are missing, thought to have been swept away in their car, after flash flooding in the canton of Valais. The area saw violent storms on 11 Aug. Heavy rain from the storm caused the Losentze river to overflow, triggering flooding and mudslides in the commune of Chamoson. (Floodlist)

USA: At least 5 dogs have died after swimming in lakes affected by toxic algal blooms caused by heatwaves in Texas, Georgia and North Carolina. Torrential downpours are forecast for areas from northern Florida to southeastern Georgia and perhaps the Carolina coast later this week, at risk for multiple showers and thunderstorms on a daily basis.

A hailstone with a maximum diameter of 4.83 inches fell in Bethune, Colorado, on 13 Aug. The record was confirmed on Wednesday evening by the Colorado Climate Center. The previous state record in Colorado was 4.5 inches. (Accuweather)

Excessive heat warnings are out for 110 degree (43C) temperatures in central California, around Sacramento (The Weather Channel) CNN reported (22 Aug.): “Almost 50 large wildfires are burning in a dozen US states from Texas to Alaska. The McKinley Fire, which has now spread to more than 4,300 acres in Alaska, has destroyed at least 80 structures so far, the Alaska Division of Forestry reported Wednesday morning.”

Australia: unreal scenes as the Melbourne area of Victoria state is deep in snow. Videos have been tweeted of wombats shivering and kangaroos frolicking in the cold. Extraordinarily, the rare cold winter – storms, snow – accompanied bizarrely by many unseasonal wildfires in the parched interior – is given not one line of coverage in the Australian mainstream media today.

Wednesday, and News.com.au is reporting that the weather pattern in the southeast especially but really, all over the big island, is totally chaotic, with 38 degree days alternating with near freezing temperatures, rain and wind and then back again. Except they’re not using the word ‘chaotic’. And as winter turns to spring, the wildfire map is showing hundreds of outbreaks all along the coast from Sydney to Brisbane. They’re not mentioning those either.

Oz, you’re about as fucked as America is. And you’ve got the pols to go with it.

Postscriptum: 24 Aug., looking down on the Pole, a cyclone is clearly visible forming amid the chaos of the jetstream winds, bringing more heat and wave action to the Arctic today. (Climate Reanalyzer, courtesy of Arctic News)

 

 

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 children, 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, some whites 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 giant Fullers’ 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? July 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 so far 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 in the meantime.

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, about 15%, so perhaps five or even six 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.

 

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)