The Boglington Post: Grenfell: the envy of the masses; Wildfires, and floods: a choice of endings; See Beebies; Hips that pass in the night (Paranoia News).

UN reports 2.3 billion affected and 157,000 drowned in floods since 1995. The situation is worsening by the day.

(Photo: Gideon Mendel)

But first…

Angry questions were raised at a public meeting on Tuesday over the £20m raised by charities and individual fundraisers for the victims of the Grenfell Tower fire, with residents demanding to know why so little money had been disbursed to affected residents.

“Where is this money? It’s not reaching the Grenfell survivors,” shouted one person. “This is money that was given by Joe Public; where is it now? Who gives these people the right to say how this money is distributed?”

Grenfell: the envy of the masses

Just as the BogPo predicted three weeks ago, the bickering over the public donations raised to help the 158 families who escaped from Grenfell’s towering inferno a month ago has begun.

£20 million is a huge sum of money, especially to the typically low-paid service workers and disabled people who lived in the tower, and it would be absurd to argue that after what they have been through, both in the fire and its chaotic aftermath, they can look at it entirely objectively.

It seems, though – as we said – that no single organization has been responsible for collecting, auditing and fairly distributing the money, amounting to £126,500 for each family, whose total income may have been less than £15,000 a year. There is no coherent policy either as to what to do with the money: what it should be used for.

Clearly, most of those families have lost everything they owned. Some might have had contents insurance, most won’t. Would it be appropriate to try to put a value on the furniture and personal possessions of every individual family, the lost work time – with some attempt at compensation for the trauma – or does it make more sense to parcel the money out in grants according to the size of each family, or just award a fixed-amount per family unit in block grants, with a portion of the total set aside for contingencies?

Do the survivors who bought their flats under Right to Buy deserve more than those who were merely informal subletters? Their mortgage providers would surely have insisted on them having buildings insurance. And what about compensation for the surviving relatives of the (obviously many) more than 80 victims, many of whom would have been the sole breadwinners sending money home? Or will that come out of any public compensation due, following determination of blame?

According to the BBC, the Guardian reports, less than £800,000 of the £20m donated has been disbursed in the past five weeks. Clearly not enough is being done. But, as the BogPo recognises after many years of reading these reports, typically it never is. Squabbles over charity donations after such tragedies can go on for years. There needs to be a public administrator to hold all such donations in trust for the survivors, with a remit to waste no time getting them the help they deserve.

We need a public policy, Parliament please note. Remove your fascinated attention from the approaching nightmare of Brexit and your limited prospects for succeeding Theresa May and pay some attention please to what is going on now, in the country.

“We knew there was an inherent danger in the media turning the Grenfell fire into a casus belli for social change before the smoke had cleared. It wasn’t an issue for discussion, it was a fire…”

Reputational damage

Further to which, on 03 July the BogPo published a follow-up Post, expressing concern that unless the survivors began to show a bit more gratitude for the help they’ve already been given, a massive outpouring of community generosity and column-acres devoted to their disadvantageous social situation, seemingly abandoned in the midst of ‘the richest Borough in the country’, they might soon incur a backlash from the tabloid press and the public.

Hundreds of thousands of families in Britain face similarly challenging conditions as regards housing and the ability to properly feed their children. They may not have had to flee their homes in the night with nothing in the world but a pair of pyjamas, but their problems are not dissimilar – and they’re not being offered warm refuges, new homes, free clothing, hot meals and large amounts of cash in compensation. If they were being offered new homes, I somehow doubt they’d be turning their noses up at them.

What the BogPo feared has already begun.

A typical comment (of the politer kind – many are of the opinion that immigrants deserve to be burned to death) comes from ‘Audrey’ on Politico: “If these people were happy to live anywhere that would be fine. But to pick and choose is not right. I lived in a caravan because I couldn’t pick where I wanted. Its alright for some.”

The mainly leftwing commentators who have argued from a position of liberal embarrassment that the survivors’ condition is unique, their case more deserving, praising them for their fortitude in organizing against the forces of bureaucratic inertia, are caught in a trap of their own making. They refuse to  understand the ‘burning’ sense of injustice felt by many citizens who are equally hard done-by but are getting nothing – as they see it – in return. It’s a serious attitude problem, playing into the ‘immigrants always get special treatment’ meme encouraged by the corporatist tabloid media and rightwing websites, whose loathsome bottom-feeding editors are happy to push the immigration button at every opportunity. Nonetheless it is an attitude of which the broadsheet writers must be aware, especially after Brexit.

It’s not helpful of the metropolitan liberal elite (they do exist) to sneeringly dismiss the envy of the masses, to talk up the special nature of the problem. If indeed the low status and disempowerment of an immigrant worker does make them a special case for compassion, nobody cares. Millions of people are in the same boat economically. They may disagree on the reasons for their situation, lacking a broader perspective and insight into the underlying political conspiracy against them, but the internet has given them a medium to express their views and they are increasingly doing so in the ugliest terms.

We knew there was an inherent danger in the media turning the Grenfell fire into a casus belli for social change before the smoke had cleared. It wasn’t an issue for discussion, it was a fire in a building where lots of people died and many escaped, who have been in limbo ever since. A practical problem.

The reasons could wait.

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“The boreal forests in Siberia are burning at extraordinary rates, unheard of in at least 10,000 years. … Siberian boreal forests play a crucial role in the carbon cycle, making up nearly 10 percent of the planet’s land surface and housing more than 30 percent of the carbon on Earth.

“That means that when these forests burn, they are releasing vast quantities of carbon into the atmosphere. The loss of carbon absorption in combination with the release of carbon, creates a vicious cycle that leads to more global warming and, as a result, more wildfires.” – Sciencealert.com, 30 June 2017

As our relatively puny storms in the south of England in the last two days might serve to remind us, there are two main problems confronting the world at this moment in time. No, not Brexit, not Trump.

Wildfires, and floods: a choice of endings

The BogPo turns a dispirited eye every few days on wildfires and floods all around the planet, so you don’t have to.

The world is burning. Where it’s not flooding. It does at least give us a choice of endings…

Actually, it’s fucking depressing sitting here for hours watching endless uncut social media footage of people being burned out of their homes in drought-hit region after sizzling region, as desperate firefighters try to beat out thousand-acre conflagrations with besom brooms; while thousands more, sometimes not even that far away, as wildfires can cause storms, trudge chest-deep through filthy water towards government refuges on higher ground, watching their cars float away, indicators forlornly flashing, on the turbid brown tide.

God knows what it’s doing to agriculture, if we shall have enough food come the autumn. It’s like watching the end of the world. Oh….

You can catch up with previous issues where many more disasters are listed, but here’s today’s crop from the last six days:

  • State of emergency declared as ‘1-in-200-year’ floods inundate New Zealand’s South Island (22 July).
  • 100 sq miles of Mariposa County near the Yosemite National Park is ablaze. Thousands evacuated from town of Mariposa. Cal. Gov. Brown declares state of emergency. Dry heatwave (10% humidity) continues into fourth week over California and parts of western USA, elsewhere in US severe storms are causing flooding.
  • Ten drowned, incl. two children, in flash flood while swimming in a river gulch in Arizona. Large areas of the state affected by floods as well as heatwave.
  • Major new floods ‘unprecedented’ following storms in Maryland, USA, around Baltimore, and into Washington DC.
  • 150 fires still burning around Williams Lake, British Columbia; reptd. joining up to form larger ones. 40,ooo people evacuated.
  • CO2 level measured over BC: 743 ppm.
  • Croatia is an inferno after weeks of dry heat. City of Split menaced by huge fires. Vast areas burned out.
  • Violent storm, heavy rainfall with large hailstones floods parts of Istanbul, Turkey.
  • Flash flood inundates the town of Halkidiki, in Greece.
  • Villagers evacuated on Corsica due to wildfires. Fires still burning on Sicily.
  • 70 MILLION people now affected by flooding across northern India, seeking refuge. 100-plus drowned or buried in mud. Six die in flash floods in Kashmir.
  • Still vast areas of Hunan, Sichuan and other Chinese provinces, cities underwater. ‘Torrential rainstorms’ hit Shangxi city. 1 in. (32.5 mm) rain falls in 1/2 hour.
  • Violent thunderstorm, high winds, large hailstones batter, flood parts of Tokyo, Japan. Heatwave advisories across S Korea.
  • Widespread flooding in Timor, Indonesia.
  • Wildfires in Khazakhstan – and in Mongolia, where CO2 level measured at 873 ppm. Torrential rainstorm, hurricane-force winds, large hailstones batter, flood Kirov, Russia.
  • Hong Kong, major flooding from Tropical Storm Talas. 70 mm (2.7 in.) rain falls in less than 1 hr.
  • UK villagers and tourists evacuated as more storms hit across Cornwall and the south of England. 7 in. rain in three hours.
  • Oh, and we missed a storm with large hailstones and flooding that hit Beijing on 08/9 July, 1 dead.
  • Nearly 700 wildfires in Europe, EU area, so far  = 3 times the annual average since 2008. 70% crop damage in Spain, Italy.
  • These wildfires remember are venting huge volumes of carbon and other g/h gases into the atmosphere.
  • Parochial reporting on an event-by-event basis ignores that floods and wildfires are a unified, worldwide problem.
  • STILL PEOPLE WILL NOT ABANDON THEIR CARS!

(Climate and Extreme Weather News #45, 46. Arctic News/Floodlist)

Non weather-related disaster news, 21 July the earthquake swarm at Yellowstone is now in its 40th day. Almost 1500 quakes recorded to date – many not. Quakes getting shallower may indicate magma rising.

He’s annoying, obsessive, but there’s a rogue geologist who forecasts earthquakes online. His record is extraordinary, although the official surveys like the USGS have tried to get him shut down. If people knew about ‘Dutchsinse’, they might not have gone on holiday to the Greek islands – a predicted M6.7 earthquake struck the Turkish coast last night, 2 dead, over 1oo injured on Kos. Look for more activity in Italy. His 19 July forecast: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bCOYb_Q1xNQ. Global seismic activity is at a very high level currently.

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See Bawbees

Christ, no wonder the BBC can’t prise their tiresome ‘star’ presenter John Humphrys and other dead white males out with a crowbar.

When I worked for the BBC, I was paid about £4,000 a year on monthly contract as a bulletin writer, news presenter, continuity announcer and producer of creative programme trails on a regional breakfast show in London. That was in the 1970s. I too know what an awful life it is, stumbling out of bed at 4 am to be picked up in a chauffeur-driven Jaguar and conveyed bleary-eyed and crapulous to the studio to open up transmissions with a cheery 10-minute news broadcast at six. I do sympathise, but.

I seem to recall, there was a compulsory retirement age at the time, of 60.

Mr Humphrys is a hale and hearty 73.

Older than the BBC, and still at it – the legendary Nicholas Parsons, worth $12m.

That of course pales in comparison with the remarkable Nicholas Parsons, eternal juvenile comedy gameshow host of ‘Just a Minute!’, who is – I could look it up – 94? It’s all in the genes, as I’m sure he would say. I met him once, years ago at a charity cricket match my dad was playing in. Born three years before the BBC came into existence, his personal net worth is given as $12 million, I see – enough to keep anyone alive.

For reasons best known to himself, probably to do with the BBC’s usual craven fear of the ever-moaning Tory right, Director-General ‘Lord’ Tony Hall has chosen to post the salaries of his top 96 best-paid entertainers and presenters, making them targets of public envy and opprobrium – not to say rape and death threats.

Personally, I don’t give a fuck if they want to pay Chris Evans £2.2 million a year for a couple of hours a day, I’m sure he’s probably worth it just to keep the Terry Wogan memorial crowd fuming.

I do however quibble with autocue-readers on a quarter of a million pounds a year. “I can do that”, as someone used to say in a BBC drama series. “Gizza job!”.

Humphrys appears to be being paid £600 thousand a year. Well-more than three times as much as the Prime Minister, and five times what any of the stock politicians legally earn, of whom, it is said, he holds their ‘feet to the fire’ as the legendary Torquemada of the Today show.

I wonder how they will respond to him interviewing them now?

He is but one of a team of five (do we count Noughtie?) who alternate in pairs as presenters of the Radio 4 flagship Today programme. Without consulting the list, I seriously doubt that the two women on the show, the strike-breaking scab Sarah Montague (aka Lady Brooke) and Mishal Husein, who trans-medializes as a TV news anchor, earn even a third of what Mr Humphrys does; although he also fronts the popular and long-running quiz show, Mastermind, and is sent off on occasional junketing ‘special’ reports.

My beef with Mr Humphrys, for what it’s worth, which in my case appears to be fuck-all, is that he is a tendentious Welsh humbug, born with a soapbox in his mouth. No interviewee is ever allowed to put their case, no case is granted independent veracity, until they have signed the pledge, apologised profusely for their point of view and sworn to uphold Mr Humphrys’ Presbyterian values, to join him on the moral high-ground.

Furthermore, as a journalist he is an inveterate getter-holder of the wrong end of sticks. He will bang on at interviewees for many wasted precious minutes trying to extract some irrelevant detail or confession his researchers have told him is the point of the story, or that he has personally decided is the nub of the matter, when it isn’t, and then abandon the attempt, leaving listeners none the wiser.

He is awful. Tiresome; a bed-blocker. And at his age he doesn’t need £600 thousand a year. At 67 I live perfectly well on £14k. That, by the way, will be the tip of the iceberg: personal appearances, book royalties, ‘corporates’ and endorsements will push his earnings well past the £1 million mark. It’s past time he retired to his farm, see to the sheep.

I was probably pretty useless as a broadcaster, as I was at being a farmer, and in 1975 in youthful pursuit of creative opportunity and autonomy I committed the unpardonable sin of leaving the staid old BBC to go and work in a more senior, more exciting role in the commercial sector, and it didn’t pan out. I was never allowed back again.

So yes, John, this is sour grapes. They make the best wine.

(Dawn, and the women of the BBC are on the march. Tense confrontations have followed the discovery that they are paid virtually nothing – well, just a few hundred thousand pounds – compared with the middle-aged white chaps trousering millions. Bland but quivering-inside corporation executives are roasted by Kirsty Wark on Newsnight. Licence-payers aren’t too happy either.)

Postscriptum

A casual flick down the swill-bucket list reveals that the absolute best and most deserving of the BBC News journalists, especially foreign correspondents like the veteran John Simpson, £150k, who risk their lives filing copy from the world’s worst danger zones, are paid sod-all compared with gibberish-spouting sports commentators like Lineker (£1.79 million, not including commercial income) and the pretty-boy and pretty-girl autocue jockeys and ‘unscripted’ showbiz hacks like Strictly’s Claudia Winkelman (£550k a year).

It goes to show the BBC’s sense of priorities.

 

Helpful hints #1: Complain to the BBC

When complaining to the BBC, before keying Submit make sure you highlight the text of your complaint, Ctrl C, and paste it for safety somewhere else, like on a Word document. You may find submitting your text the first time causes it to disappear. Once gone, it is gone – there is no going back.

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Paranoia News

Hips that pass in the night

I went to bed in the early hours of this morning only mildly drunk, feeling everything to be in working order. Most things.

Which is why I was slightly surprised to find when I got up this morning, that my left leg would no longer bear my weight on the stairs. The hip, too, was sending shooting pains down my leg and up into my lower back.

Nor could I remember anyone’s name. In fact, some familiar names – I run through what and who I am going to write about each day while making breakfast – have only now started to come back to me, two hours and a pain-wracked dog-walk later. Being unable to recall the name of the editor of Private Eye, that you’ve known for years, is not something you can really take to the Accident and Emergency ward and expect any sympathy.

Was it a mini-stroke, or the wine – combined with these worn-out shoes I persist in wearing?

That the world had altered profoundly in the night was born out when I came to reawaken this, muh sleeping li’l laptop, only to find that someone or some thing had replaced my usual Firefox homepage – there, I remembered the word – the BBC News page, with an intruder called ‘Bing’. Firefox had been removed from the system, although the icons remain.

Bing, the obvious product I now realize of a non-specific Microsoft update I foolishly agreed to before toddling up to bed, appeared to offer no solutions as to how one might get rid of it and return to one’s comfort zone. There were no tabs visible, the dropdown menu offered nothing but trivial pursuits and a forwarding address to something called Edge.

What was happening to me?

The reet scary thing was, Bing would appear whenever I clicked the Firefox icon on the task bar. It had completely taken over my digital universe. How would I get back to all my usual haunts, email and YouTube apocalypse videos – the Guardian and the Washington Post – this, muh li’l bogl? Should I call my son, many miles away and busy with his dissertation? Could I bear his scorn?

What you are seeing now, dear Spammers, Likers, Followers and Those No Longer Reading This, Muh Bogl, is a workaround. Things are far from normal. The weather, too, has turned positively frigid today, rephrase that as negatively warm and humid, as it still was last night. Strangely shaped dark-grey cumulus clouds are rising like ragged columns of smoke from behind the hills.

It feels like snow in July.

 

Brexit: a thought

It ocurred to me that if we had voted by a narrow majority to Remain, the EU would have been so grateful, we’d be in talks now about how we’re going to reform it.

Instead of staring over the edge of the White Cliffs of fucking Dover down at the Long Drop, marvelling at the wondrous complexity of life.

Fucking idiots.

The Denial Gene. On the Button: Myron Ebell and the BBC. Criminal Ecocide. Complaining is Not the British Way.

“Because of your culture of flaunting your ignorance, you can never admit you’re being played for fools…”

The denial gene

We used to keep chickens on our small farm.

A city-boy, I noticed after a while that when we tried to herd the flock into their house for the night, there was always one that would go in the opposite direction from all the others.

That can be a useful evolutionary tactic if you think the other 19 of your fellow hens are clearly going to their deaths, shut up in their house overnight, that they’re all making the wrong decision collectively and you’re going to be safer outside on your own.

We could hear the foxes licking their lips for miles around.

You humans, too clever by half!

I’ve concluded from Comments people post everywhere that there’s a rogue ‘denial’ gene affecting maybe 1 in 5 humans who simply refuse to study the world, to observe, to listen to others, to read and properly evaluate evidence and use the logic and reason God gave them; who actively despise people who do those things as ‘elitist’, imagining everyone will be better off like them: stupid.

Of course, you might not have television and medicine and nukes and a cellphone, but stupid is better, right?

Because of your culture of flaunting your ignorance, you can never admit you’re being played for fools by people who earn more money in an hour than you will in six months.

There’s a reason why Mr Rex Tillerson was paid £100 thousand dollars A DAY for running the huge oil company Exxon-Mobil. They have known for many decades that burning fossil fuels – coal, oil, gas – is a highly risky strategy; but have conspired to quash research into the alternatives because they like to make a lot of money, at which he was very good. Although millions of people in the non-developing world now lead more miserable and impoverished lives because of him and his shitty deals with corrupt states, at least we can keep on driving our SUVs to the supermarket.

Exxon is just one of many fossil-fuel companies that wards off demands for change by paying professional liars millions of dollars to make up stories undermining the overwhelming scientific consensus that the planet is heating to a dangerous degree; promoting the culture of ignorance among working folk, manipulating the media.

Blossom in DC, February

It’s only logical to assume that if we keep pumping billions of tonnes of warming gases every year into a finite atmosphere, it will warm the oceans and affect the weather; we have known it for over 100 years. All the science tells us is that what was predicted would happen is happening, only faster and harder. Data under constant revision are now showing the process of climate change – global warming – is going much faster than previously thought, and has not slowed down as the purveyors of highly selective interpretations have been telling us it has. There is no logical reason to think it might have, is there? Given that we are still polluting the atmosphere? Think!

How much of that money are they sharing with you, trolls? None, of course. You are as ass-poor as ever. Exploitation is, after all, their business and they are very good at it. They are playing you for fools, exploiting and encouraging the class of people who enjoy wallowing in ignorance, educational failures who imagine it’s cool to repeat simple stories that give them the comfort of feeling they’re superior to the many who can weigh-up the facts and come to rational conclusions we hope will save us from likely extinction within a generation.

Fine, if it’s only you pecking around in the dirt outside the hen house oblivious to your impending fate, feeling superior to the hens inside, too clever by half, safely shut up for the night.

I don’t personally give a shit what happens to you, the foxes can have you for all I care, you deserve it. I’m damned if you’re taking my children with you, you recrudescent Trumpish baboons, merely to celebrate your apathy, your ignorance and your fear of people who can actually think.

But, now your infantile trolling has official blessing, and we are losing hope.

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“In an interview on BBC Radio 4 in 2005, Ebell said that the UK’s Chief Scientist David King was “an alarmist with ridiculous views who knows nothing about climate change”. An early day motion deploring “in the strongest possible terms” Ebell’s “unfounded and insulting criticism” was raised in the House of Commons of the United Kingdom, and was signed by 66 Members of Parliament.” – Wikipedia

On the button: Myron Ebell and the BBC

God knows, I have been rude enough about the BBC’s unquestioning and uncritical acceptance of Donald J Trump as some kind of normal president, and the excessively ‘diplomatic’ reporting of their chief diplomatic correspondent in Washington, John Supine.

Radio 4’s increasingly bland and poorly researched presenter-fest, the Today programme, this morning (7 June) gave extensive coverage to Mr Trump’s imminent meeting with Vladimir Putin ‘for the first time’ at the foul-smelling G20 summit in Hamburg, and attempted a feeble analysis of his speech in Poland yesterday somehow without once mentioning the phrase ‘white nationalism’, or wondering how he managed to appear so coherent.

(Shielded behind bullet-proof glass, with two autocue devices, a bussed-in ‘cheering crowd’ and a speech 98% cleverly written by Steve Bannon for the benefit of East European white nationalists keen to receive the coded neo-Crusader rhetoric, is how.)

Between eight o’clock and nine o’clock I heard North Korea mentioned only once. No guest referred to the worrying co-operation between Russia and China over this crucial issue; no guest referred to the increasing provocations by the US Navy in the South China Sea and around the coast of North Korea, or the installation of missiles in South Korea, pointing north.

One guest, we forget who, did mention sanctions on Russia over the Ukraine thing, stating that they were being ‘raised’. No guest however referred to the Russian ‘rest camps’ on Long Island and in Maryland, closed down as rats’ nests of spies by President Obama, which Mr Trump has proposed allowing to reopen.

Certainly, no-one queried what or whose strategy lies behind Mr Trump’s new anti-Russian rhetoric increasingly contrasted with his previous support for the Putin regime; or on the likely outcome of FBI and Congressional investigations into Trump’s business goings-on, from which he has not yet divested, as a conduit for Russian and Ukrainian ‘dark money’.

Finally raising the subject of Mr Trump’s unilateral withdrawal from the Paris Accord on climate change, citing damage to US business interests, at ten to nine the 73-year-old veteran presenter John Humphrys introduced as a spokesman on the environment for the President’s advisory team, one Myron Ebell: a ‘climate-change skeptic’.

Mr Ebell is rather more than that, to say the least, as to be a skeptic one needs to start with some knowledge of the subject. But he is no stranger to Radio 4:

Ebell has been given extensive media coverage, frequently cited or interviewed by journalists in a way that presents a false balance by giving Ebell’s lay views equal weight with those of expert climatologists, and thus misrepresents the consensus of scientific opinion on climate change. – Wikipedia

Mr Ebell is not a climate scientist, nor indeed any other kind of scientist. He is a PR bunco artist from the deepest layers of the Washington ‘swamp’ of lobbyists, who has made a very nice living from lying publicly about the effects of continuing to burn coal, oil and gas. Corporations who have paid Mr Ebell very large fees to spread false stories about global warming ‘slowing down’, a ‘little ice age’, etc., and to do whatever he could to undermine public trust in science and promote the relentless poisoning for vast financial gain of land, sea and oceans include Exxon-Mobil, Dow Chemical and Murray Energy.

Mr Ebell has been connected with, or responsible for setting up, numerous imposing-sounding lobby groups, false-front policy ‘institutes’ working, for instance, against protections for wildlife, opposing the work of the Environmental Protection Agency. Responsible for the insulting pro-carbon slogan ‘They call it pollution, we call it life’, he has also lobbied intensively on behalf of the tobacco companies to prove that smoking is a healthy pursuit.

Almost every one of the vile causes this greedy little shit has espoused on behalf of his paymasters has been fabulously successful, inasmuch as they have provided inspiration for the bulk of the Trump administration’s pro-business policies and have Ebell’s bloodstained fingerprints all over them. It is so easy to press the buttons of dumbfuck Republican supporters desperate to validate their counterfactual ignorance and suspicion of the ‘authorities’.

What this lying creep was doing on the Today programme this morning, I have no idea. I had to switch it off, having previously learned that mental health services in the NHS are overstretched already.

Clearly the editors hadn’t a clue either, as they must have been unaware of the 2005 appearance cited above, that caused such a furore in Parliament, and could not be arsed to spend two minutes doing a background check on this douchebag or to obtain a balancing viewpoint before inviting him to squirt his pus all over the British public – again.

Please write in and complain to the BBC Board, for the sake of the earth.

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“He believes it is perfectly possible to go on pumping billions and billions of tonnes of poisonous and heat-retaining, long-lasting gaseous by-products from combusting carbonaceous fossil fuels year-on-year for two hundred years into a delicately balanced, complex – and above all finite atmospheric system and there will be no consequences to follow.”

Criminal ecocide

As we know, Mr Trump’s strange gameplan for governance has followed a two-track strategy.

One, fill as few middle-to-high-ranking posts as he can, making the administration of government agencies very difficult if not impossible, while at the same time blocking the publication of inconvenient scientific research; and two, put in as heads of departments only people to whom he owes favours, or his own family, inexperienced administrators with no qualifications in the field: people who are fully committed to sabotaging the normal administrative functions of government.

Why, almost anyone would imagine he was deliberately trying to bring down the State.

Why has Mr Trump gone along with this idea that destroying the jobs of people who make the country function safely is an efficient solution to what was probably a genuine problem of bureaucratic inertia? He has no policy to replace the existing system: it is a Year Zero plan, a nihilistic political philosophy that plays to his dumbfuck supporters but risks pulling the country down into a very scary place.

“Thanks for the job Mister President, I won’t let Exxon down.”

Perhaps mindful of his own incompetence in the environmental field, but well-briefed by ‘experts’ working for his paymasters at Koch Industries, Hamm, Devon and Murray Energies, the heavily compensated apologist Mr Scott Pruitt, feral-clown head of the Environment ‘Protection’ Agency, for instance, has just announced a plan Mr Trump would like.

He proposes to spend public funds on finding enough dissenting ‘scientists’ to form a committee to formally challenge the 98.5% of real scientists around the world, experts in many fields whose funding or university tenure does not depend on energy company blackmail, to ‘prove’ that carbon dioxide is not a greenhouse gas – denying a thoroughly researched principle that has been fully and widely known since 1889.

The Director has already declined to refill 57 of the 68 positions on the scientific advisory group that reviews genuine EPA research, and tried to lean on the chairwoman, Dr. Deborah Swackhamer when she was due to give evidence to a Congressional committee last month. to get her to say nothing about the probable effects of his destructive behavior.

Happily, an appellate court has struck down his plan to abandon controls due to come into force shortly on monitoring and reducing methane emissions from drilling and fracking operations, which are of an alarmingly high order; although it looks certain the ruling will be overturned by a Republican-packed Supreme Court, whose casting vote, so-called ‘Justice’ Gorsuch, has never once in his well-funded career on the bench ruled against a corporation.

Mr Pruitt is very probably mad, or has been driven mad by the weight of money shovelled down his fat gullet by vastly wealthy corporate interests. He is, to put it bluntly, a corrupted official, undeniably so according to the contents of many of the nine thousand of his work e-mails that finally surfaced owing to repeated Freedom of Information requests from environmental campaigners, just days after his appointment was hastily confirmed.

http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2017/feb/22/scott-pruitt-emails-oklahoma-fossil-fuels-koch-brothers

There is already a cottage industry of climate-change denial, led by lunatics like ‘Lord’ Nigel Lawson, the tendentious 103-year-old former British chancellor from the bygone Thatcher era, a ghoul who won’t lie down, whose entire knowledge of atmospherics is confined to expensive cigar smoke-filled rooms. Showing great cunning (or profound stupidity) Mr Pruitt does not argue that the climate is not changing, in ways ‘we don’t yet fully understand’. He merely refuses with ever-increasing stubbornness to accept that there is an overlying problem with burning fossil fuels of the kind his paymasters are in a new frenzy of ruthlessly exploiting, greenlighted by that other Nobel chemistry laureate, Donald Trump.

Pruitt, as Attorney General of Arkansas an enthusiastic executioner of black people using whatever materials came to hand, believes it is perfectly possible to go on pumping billions upon billions of tonnes of poisonous and heat-retaining, long-lasting gaseous by-products from combusting carbonaceous fossil fuels year-on-year for two hundred years into a delicately balanced, complex – and above all finite atmospheric system, and there will be no consequences to follow.

Or maybe he just believes in getting rich, it’s hard to tell.

A difficult point to make.

It’s kind of a difficult point to make at a time when Arizona is on fire and New York State is underwater. And, yes, when people are dying in heatwaves, floods and landslides all around the world, right now. Vast areas of central and southern Europe, central America, Russia, India and China are all currently stricken with a deadly combination of record heatwaves and record pre-monsoon rainfall. Methane is erupting from a warming Siberian tundra where wildfires are raging, contributing further to the CO2 overload in the atmosphere.

Yes, other factors are involved. Extreme events have and do occur naturally, of course they do, that’s the law of averages; but not all at the same time in so many places, within the same bands of latitude and with the increasing frequency and intensity we are now experiencing. Natural carbon ‘sinks’ kept the climate in balance until we started burning coal, and then oil, overwhelming the ability of the regulator to maintain a breathable atmosphere within habitable temperature zones. The planet has been warming detectably for the past 100 years but is now at a tipping point – many tipping points – beyond which it is difficult to see a way back; and which, researchers warn, will produce more abrupt and economically challenging changes still.

The energy industry, we know, has been well aware of the risks for decades and was beginning to accept that it needed to be part of the solution, not the problem – until last year. Since when, the entire tenor of the gerrymandered and Russian-sponsored Trump administration has been to let rip and to hell with the consequences – just as long as ‘America’ (meaning Republican politicians and their funders) makes a huge amount of money out of us before we all die. How long the courts can defy them, we don’t know.

It is, of course, beyond insanity; beyond understanding, that supposed human beings can act like this.

It’s criminal ecocide; a game of ‘chicken’ with only one outcome.

 

Weather news

The northern jetstream has broken up into several pieces (Paul Beckwith – Ottawa U., 7 July).

Six dead, 20 missing is the toll so far in an unprecedented storm over the northern part of Japan’s southernmost island, Kyushu, 5 July centred on the city of Nagasaki. Dozens of properties have been washed away in floods and landslides. 500 mm – 2 feet – of rain fell in just 12 hours.

56 people are dead after extensive flooding hit Guangxi province in China causing rivers to rise to never previously recorded levels. Over a million people have been evacuated. In neighbouring Hunan province another 1.4 million have been evacuated. Thirty-five people are believed dead. In Assam, India, 20 dead in the past three days. Four million people have had to find higher ground.

California is braced for another weekend of record heat. The temperature hit 122 deg. F., 50 C. in Palm Springs yesterday. Parts of Ulyanovsk in Russia are under 2-3 feet of water.

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“Civilians escaping right now speak of horrific experiences. They have been caught between aerial bombardment, artillery, snipers and car bombs. They live in fear; they hide in their homes without food or water … In Raqqa, too, hundreds of thousands of people are caught in the crossfire, with casualty numbers rising as a result of airstrikes as well as sniper fire and brutal executions carried out by the jihadists to intimidate those still trapped in the city.” Washington Post, 05 July.

Complaining is not the British way

Comparisons, as I keep saying to little effect, are odious.

None of us would wish to have been caught up in the dreadful fire that engulfed and gutted the Grenfell tower-block in west London three weeks ago. The shocked and in many cases destitute residents who did manage to get out, some 158 individuals and families, have lost everything. Many will have been traumatised by the sights and sounds of those who perished on the upper floors signalling for help that never came.

No way out for thousands.

But they are here, and they are safe. While Britain has disgracefully pulled up the drawbridge against the people of Mosul and Raqqa and the rest of Syria and other war-ravaged countries in the region, from where there is no escape; for whose traumatized people there is no relief. None of us would wish to be caught up in that either.

There has rightly been criticism of the inadequacy of the immediate response by the local authority to the social problems created by the fire. Heads have already rolled, but it was not surprising: the numbers and quality of staffing in most local authorities have been in decline for years, although Kensington and Chelsea is said to have cash reserves approaching a billion pounds.

My mother lived in the Royal Borough – indeed, your Uncle Bogler too was born and lived there many years ago.

At the age of 92, after 52 years in the same flat, new landlords took over. Rosie found herself trapped by infirmity and lack of money unable to go anywhere else, a rent-protected tenant alone on the top floor of an otherwise empty building she could not have escaped from in an emergency. Flats in the next-door building were for sale at £12 million each.

We pleaded less than a year ago with the council to rehouse her in sheltered accommodation, only to be told there was nowhere and, anyway, until she was actually evicted and on the street they were not legally obliged to help. She died in December.

Confronted by the immediate chaos of several hundred men, women and children needing immediate rehousing and other support, some of whom spoke little English and were fearful of the immigration authorities, or who may well have lost their jobs by now and moved away, I don’t suppose the council much appreciated the rash promise made by the prime minister, Theresa May, who was herself being severely chastized for her impersonal response to the disaster, of a ‘permanent home nearby within three weeks’, with the government possibly, maybe, someday to pick up the bill.

I don’t suppose it has penetrated through her filter-bubble that there is a grave housing crisis in London, partly brought about by the city’s insatiable demand for cheap migrant labour; and partly by the foreign money-laundering transactions that have been grossly inflating property prices for years, that successive administrations have been happy to turn a blind eye to despite it leaving tens of thousands of private properties unoccupied.

Where were these people to go? Seems a pretty fair question. In fact, it’s a bit miraculous that 139 family units have already been offered housing they are too picky to take.

Yes, look.

I fear there’s going to be a backlash any minute now, and it won’t be pretty.

Because to date, only 14 out of 139 households who have already been offered alternative accommodation have accepted the arrangement. The  others are refusing to move out of their hotel rooms and community halls, complaining that the council has failed to consult them properly about their needs.

I have no doubt their reasons are convincing – to them. Too big, too small, too high up, only temporary, the wrong area… One family were offered a flat in a block in another borough that’s due to be demolished next year and turned it down because they wanted a permanent home, another is on the radio complaining about the forms, the flat he’s been offered is 15 minutes away, too far, he doesn’t like the area – and only two bedrooms (it’s just him and his daughter).

“I can hear … shock-hacks like Katie Hopkins and Richard Littlejohn sharpening their quills”

Meanwhile the rest of the country is struggling with a major housing shortage, ever-rising rents – and over 600 thousand families, many with children, can’t find permanent homes at all or are forced to live many miles away from their low-paid jobs. Gentrification in London continues to push the low-paid out to the margins, increasing their travel costs.

At the mercy of private landlords, most people have no choice where and in what conditions they live.

The list of complaints of the Grenfell refuseniks may be just, their plight genuine, but that is not how it will play to the majority of people throughout the country. I can hear already the scratchy little noise of shock-hack columnists like Katie Hopkins and Richard Littlejohn sharpening their quills and dipping them in strychnine.

It sounds too much like ingratitude, stemming from a sense of entitlement that has been growing among not only the Grenfell Tower survivors, but among the residents of buildings around, the adjacent low-rise Grenfell Walk for instance, that has had to be evacuated because the joint heating no longer works, egged-on by political protestors and the media.

Yes, people will say, you had a terrible experience and you needed help. You’re being offered help, people are doing their best to help you in trying circumstances, large sums of money have been raised, clothing supplied, but nothing we do seems good enough for you.

Your endless complaining is not the British way.

A media storm started, for instance, when one surviving resident found that rent had accidentally been debited from her account a week after the fire, when the authority was supposed to have suspended payment of all Grenfell rents.

Well, good Lord, annoying I know but worse happens to the rest of us every day, struggling with miscalculated utility bills and lousy transportation, waiting three weeks just to see our GP, and all you had to do was point out the obvious mistake for it to be immediately rectified with apologies. Why make so much fuss, so publicly?

The sense must by now be growing in the country that the survivors have grown an exaggerated sense of entitlement, encouraged by media and politicians’ handwringing over social divisions and inequality.

It’s not their fault they’ve been caught up in a national debate that was long overdue and have become pawns in other people’s games; or that they’ve been blinded by the glare of the media spotlight.

It just looks like some of them are taking advantage, possibly for the first time in their lives.

 

Some Like it Hot – interim musings on fire safety. Plus: Who is this guy, Shakespeare? And: Care in Chaos: where’s the money?

“the fire station officer’s report described the building as a ‘deathtrap’, into which he could not legally order firemen to go…”

Some Like it Hot

Having recently been made homeless, after several years’ helpful experience of hiring myself out between increasingly rare freelance consultancy contracts as a jobbing gardener and house cleaner I was fortunate in 2005 to land a job as the Estate Manager of a large and historic 18th-century country mansion, a Grade One-listed Palladian wedding-cake described by the heritage people as ‘an architectural jewel’.

Scarily illuminated by night, bats flitting through pools of garish yellow floodlighting into the deep black shadows all around, by day the mansion was revealed as a dilapidated Gormenghast, a cheap pattern-book building stuck as the result of a dynastic marriage on top of a probably more interesting and sturdy 17th-century manor house, from where Captain Johnes had mustered the militia to defend the castle against Oliver Cromwell’s men during the English Civil War, before judiciously changing sides.

A succession of eccentric and indigent owners over the years had left the place with a reputation for drug-fuelled raves and unpaid bills. Anything it had once contained of value: furnishings, collections, even fixtures and fittings had long ago been auctioned off, crowbarred out. Yet visitors found it all most enviable, I never understood why.

Infested with bedbugs to the discomfiture of the hotel inspector, who showed me his collection of angry bites but otherwise wrote kindly about us, it had, I think, 19 bedrooms (in theory – the top floor was derelict, making counting difficult). There were nine separate electrical circuits, in some of which nails were being used as fuses, and its water requirements were served by a single, half-inch plastic agricultural pipe that froze solid in winter and then burst, twice flooding the kitchen.

I lived in a sort of semi-furnished apartment at the back, three rooms and a galley (no fridge or cooker provided), on-call 24 hours a day. The pay was minimal, the hours and duties practically infinite. As the only permanent staff for much of the nearly seven years I worked there, in the otherwise empty building, apart from the rare occasions on which there were B&B guests and weekend wedding parties of up to 200 people, I was alone and responsible by night for chasing uninvited intruders out of the house and grounds. Usually they were looking for drugs, or hoping to photograph a ghost.

The new owners lived on the other side of the world and travelled incessantly on business, visiting for perhaps two or three weeks a year. They would arrive in a state of excitement, glad to be ‘home’, then rapidly tire of the limited facilities and tacky local attractions. Not having a clue about listed Georgian buildings and the horrendous repair and maintenance costs they constantly demand, they bought the house on an impulse while on holiday, grandiose but cheap, leaving the seller’s hardly unbiassed agent to commission for them a basic ‘second-gear’ mortgage survey that consisted mostly of small-print exclusion clauses.

What I saw alarmed me.

Still standing… the 270 year-old ‘jewel’ – a potential death-trap.

Beneath the floor of the impressive first-floor gallery was a four-feet high ceiling void that spanned the length of the building with no fire breaks. Through the voids of the disused rooms above ran thick bundles of old electrical cables, whose combined resistance I knew could cause them to heat up, in contact everywhere with piles of wood shavings and materials discarded from abortive attempts at restoration.

The addition of central heating had caused the fine old oak floorboards in the public rooms to shrivel, leaving gaps beneath which a centuries-old accumulation of fluff and dust was visible. The nightmare of a King’s Cross-style smouldering fire resulting from a dropped cigarette seemed inevitable*. Of course there was no sprinkler system: water might damage the historic chipboard furnishings, the crudely faked old masters.

To loud protests from guests and wedding organizers, I immediately banned smoking and naked lights anywhere in the house. It had little effect: people felt that as they were paying to use the facilities, they could do what they liked; especially the outside catering staff I had to bring in when there were too many guests for me to cook for and wash-up after on my own.

The brickwork lining the grand and ‘welcoming log fire’ in the hall was badly eroded. There was no fireback. Sparks were flying everywhere. Further up, where it could not be seen, a collapse had partly blocked the enormous chimney. For £10 extra, wedding organizers could book the fire on a winter’s night; but after the main feature of the house, its gilded rococo ‘music-room’ immediately above the hall filled with smoke one night, setting off the fire alarm, I decided it might be a good idea to stop lighting fires.

That didn’t go down too well either. It’s difficult to get people to think and act in their own best interests where money is involved. I suppose that goes for the world too.

The local fire brigade used to carry out an inspection once a year, bringing their rookie firemen up from town to show them the ropes: the derelict areas, the wiring mess, the grand wooden staircase with the flammable junkroom beneath, just by the main kitchen; where the water supply sometimes was, the decidedly dodgy alarm system, the main emergency escapes – there are seven – and filed a report, on which we were legally supposed to act.

No-one was ever able to find the fire hydrant. It was out there somewhere, beneath the brambles in the overgrown garden. I regularly used to dig it out and put the yellow marker back, until the next tradesman came along and parked his truck on top of it, and it disappeared again under a heap of building rubble. Plan B was to run hoses out and pump water from the lake a quarter of a mile away. It didn’t seem like a very good plan as the lake was in dire peril of silting up entirely.

I first became aware that experts shared my view of the safety of the building when in my second year, the fire station officer’s report concluded that the historic jewel was a ‘deathtrap’ – his word – into which he could not legally order firemen to go, not even to save life. It would, he explained kindly off the record, likely all go up in minutes. Nevertheless, we were permitted to go on using it for room-and-board lettings and public events, as the only alternative to making commercial use of the building was to do what the owners of most similar buildings in Britain have generally done, burn the place down.

The first year’s report I saw had allowed us to open to the public only on condition that certain works were carried out. I conveyed the information to them, only to be told I had to cover the cost myself by letting out rooms and organizing weddings and ‘cultural events’ such as rock festivals before they could spend anything on improvements. Sometimes it was hard to remember I was only the gardener.

Then in October 2006 the rules changed. The fire service was no longer responsible for certifying the safety of public buildings.  Owners and managers were expected to self-certify, any subsequent deaths being on their own responsibility. The safety industry became deregulated. Consultants emerged, mostly retired firemen with a limited grasp of English and £2 million of liability insurance. Firms sprang up to expensively service our fire extinguishers. The annual inspection was showing up more and more faults on the alarm circuits.

I wrote my own risk report and management plan, running to many pages. As it was quite beyond one person to carry out a proper search-and-evacuation, while if possible tackling the fire, it was a little optimistic in places; so to cover my back I engaged a consultant. For £150 his report was perhaps less fulsome, nevertheless it made more recommendations, including the addition of automatically closing fire doors, partitions, a new and fully functioning alarm system, etcetera.

Carrying out his instructions was going to be difficult. You could understand the natural resistance of the heritage people to screwing one-hour fire-resistant cladding to both sides of the original Robert Adam-style moulded internal door facings. Once again I emailed the report to the owners, and once again they ignored it, pleading poverty.

By this time we were getting grief, too, from the electrical contractor. Having rewired one wing of the house we had newly restored, giving me two more bedroom suites to clean, they were now refusing to certify the safety of the wiring in the rest of the house. It seemed like a ploy to screw more money out of the supposedly wealthy owners, a local sport, but I could see they had a point.

Having recently had to upgrade the 18th-century sewerage system under threat of a ‘cease and desist’, no-shit order from the Environment agency, who fancied our guests were polluting the local watercourse – there being no septic tank – the owners were not amused. They were starting to understand why the previous owner had walked away smiling.

Around that time I learned of a court case in which a chainstore had been heavily fined following a fire at their London Oxford Street branch, where the staff hadn’t thought about evacuating the shoppers as there was no proper management plan. No-one was hurt, but the implication of the ruling was that, if you knew there was a problem, you needed to fix it before anyone died.

The sentence could be two years in jail, I warned the owners.

The alarm was frequently going off, usually at three a.m. – a terrifyingly loud, panic-inducing, multitone klaxon that battered the senses. One such night, rousing myself from torpor, hurriedly pulling on clothes, tottering across to the office on the opposite corner of the building to switch off the racket, going upstairs to the unlit top floor, avoiding the many missing floorboards, to find and murder the offending smoke detector – dustfalls set them off – and then back out to the car-park to count the guests milling around in confusion, I found one was missing.

An elderly gentleman, he switched off his hearing aids at night, his daughter told me. Although it would awaken the dead, he hadn’t heard the alarm. That did it. I called our insurance broker and told him the full story: the reports, the wiring, the water supply – the putative dead guest. His reply?

‘I wish you hadn’t told me that’.

I emailed the owners, told them I was closing the house and would refuse any order to keep trading or put on any more events until they got the money together and refurbished the entire estate: house, falling-down outbuildings, dangerous grounds and all. I explained patiently that they were wasting thousands of pounds a year insuring an uninsurable asset. The insurers would never pay out, no matter what, and with no valid insurance and safety certificates the hotel licence was correspondingly useless, we were trading illegally.

My reward was to be downgraded. Having found and briefed the architects, I hung on for three more years, acting the part of the old ‘caretaker’ in my dark and freezing flat while contractors came and went, to the sound of power-saws and jackhammers smashing through historic brickwork.

Finally, as a hotel began to emerge they took away the apartment, that I had decorated and furnished at my own expense, to give themselves more rooms to let. I was paid off, to be replaced by a ‘proper manager’ and a battery of about twenty staff, including an obsequious greeter with an umbrella, something it had not occurred to me to put in the job description, one of my first tasks on being employed having been to write my own. It ran to many pages.

I spent the next eight years looking for another job like it, all over Europe. Although registered with more than a dozen snooty London agencies, I managed by my own efforts to get three interviews; one of which resulted in the offer of an impossible job in a boring part of France looking after an even bigger empty house and estate in even worse condition. On discovering that 95 per cent of the nearby town had been bombed flat by the Royal Air Force during WW2, I turned it down. Eventually I gave up looking and retired.

But at least, in large part thanks to my efforts, that damned old jewel is still standing.

  • In 1987, a lit match dropped on an escalator deep down under the London underground station, King’s Cross, ignited a fire in the oily detritus beneath that smouldered for an hour before bursting out in flames. Thirty-one people died and a hundred more were injured.

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Who is this guy, Shakespeare?

Evidence of the sheer cretinous-ness of Trump’s shrinking band of true dumbfuck supporters emerged over the weekend, when theaters all over America with the name Shakespeare attached received a barrage of abusive messages, rape and death threats indiscriminately aimed at casts, management and crews.

The Washington Post reports, the cause is apparently one single production in New York of Julius Caesar, its short run in Central Park now ended, which rather daringly had a leading character loosely based on Donald Trump – who, of course, unfortunately has to be assassinated in Act three.

Not having the faintest idea who Shakespeare was, 450-odd years after his death, the dumbfucks have rallied round to protect their abusive and emotionally undeveloped orange avatar against the heinous libel by going after the person who wrote da play, imagining in their drooling, cave-troll-like stupidity that this guy Shakespeare don’t respect the boss and oughta be taught a lesson.

…Shakespeare Dallas (Texas) artistic director Raphael Parry reported the receipt of around 80 messages including threats of rape and death and one suggestion, referencing the fate of Shakespeare’s Caesar, that theater staff should be “sent to Isis to be killed with real knives”.

“We just got slammed,” Parry told the Globe. “It’s pretty amazing the vitriol, the wishing we would die and our family would die. A whole lot of them say that we should burn in hell.” Directors said they were surprised by the threats, which Parry thought were most likely generated by a toxic mix of partisan anger and basic web analytics.” – Washington Post, 19 June.

It is of course beyond the bounds of reason that a diehard Trumpist dumbfuck could appreciate how interpretations of the works of the Bard might differ from production to production, and that (too many. Ed.) directors occasionally like to have a bit of fun with them. Sweet Will, I feel sure, would appreciate the grim humour of the situation more than most. He wrote a lot about rape and death.

In fact, Trump should be pleased, up to a point. Julius was a pretty successful general – ruthlessly ambitious, endlessly demanding of loyalty, he massacred hundreds of thousands of Frenchmen and Germans. Unfortunately he flew a bit too close to the sun back in Rome, politically speaking, where even his best mate thought it better to bump him off than let him become a king.

However, his name and deeds have flourished for over two thousand years, and he has lent his surname to an entire phylum of over-mighty, authoritarian bastards who have made people’s lives a misery down the centuries.

Beat that, Donald.

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“…it seems inevitable that one day people are going to start wondering where all the money has gone to? “

Care in chaos: where’s the money?

Simon Cowell, Andy Murray… the wealthy entertainers and sportsmen are all jumping on the bandwaggon, assuaging their guilt over the economic inequality that condemns London’s migrant workforce to live and die in crumby tower blocks, by holding fundraisers.

But is plowing yet more money into the melting pot really the answer?

Although we still have no idea how many died – the police put the number at 79 but it is likely to go on rising – we do now at least have an idea of how many persons or family units escaped the fire, the number being about 180.

By day two the public had already donated roughly £2 million, even before poor stilted Theresa May tried to save face by offering £5 million in immediate government support, with a grant of £5,500 per tenant*. That’s almost £40 thousand per tenancy, although it may need to stretch to cover compensation for the families of the dead, and any legal costs of the survivors having to re-establish their claims for work visas when all their paperwork has been destroyed.

Plus there are the free relocation services already being offered, that aren’t being terribly well handled; and the donations in kind, of food, toys and clothing. The public’s generosity has been overwhelming – and that’s the problem.

Mr Cowell’s aim of raising another £5 million, plus whatever our wealthier sports personalities can drum up, will double the money washing into the system, with seemingly no plan or guarantees as to who will receive what. The inevitable lawsuits against the management company and the renovation contractors will in future years also provide further large sums in compensation.

It all seems to me to be dangerously excessive, making superstar beneficiaries out of the Grenfell survivors – those, that is, who have not already melted away into the suburbs, unsure of their legal status – but not helping the thousands more tenants awaiting their fate in similar buildings across the country.

Coming so closely on top of the election, the whole affair was immediately politicised in ‘rich v. poor’ terms, although London has always been a city both of gross inequality and hopeful opportunity. The lack of leadership shown by the council and central government was shameful, but worse, it has left a vacuum that local community groups have had to fill. Such ad hoc arrangements post-disasters have in the past led to much undignified squabbling and resentful chaos.

In months to come, no doubt the media will be pointing fingers at the failure to create any kind of responsible, independent central administration to collate, control, disburse and audit the very large funds that are now growing unaccounted for.

The desire to help may be genuine, but given the disorganized nature of these appeals it seems inevitable that one day people are going to start wondering where all the money has gone to?

 

*Government charity is, as always, backhanded. £500 cash grants are being made, but the balance of £5,000 has to be paid into a bank account. That’s a great way of catching out the illegals.

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“As temperatures climb in Phoenix, Arizona, more than 40 flights have been cancelled – because it is too hot for the planes to fly. The weather forecast for the US city suggests temperatures could reach 120F (49C) on Tuesday.” – BBC.

Enjoy the end while it lasts…

  • Record 100 deg F. to 120 deg F. heatwave persisting across the southwestern United States. 25 deg F. anomaly over normal June temp. reported in California. 55% of US landmass now ‘droughted’.
  • Tidal flooding along Texas, Alabama, Louisiana coast; high winds and tornadoes, up to 1 ft of rain from Tropical Storm Cindy (see below).
  • Record 95 deg F. heatwave across France, Spain, Portugal. Expected ‘hottest summer on record’.
  • Huge wildfires as reported in Leiria, Beiras province, Portugal. Two thousand firefighters involved. At least 64 dead, others missing. 26,000 hectares of forest destroyed.
  • Fujian province, SE China – still underwater. Northern China: droughted. Heavy storm, flooding hits Beijing, Tangshan. 25 June: rescue workers battle to find 120 missing after landlide buries village in Sichuan province.
  • India: heavy rain and floods in Assam, Manipur.
  • 14 die in floods in Niger, West Africa. Northern Kenya, South Sudan, Somalia, Cape Province: all droughted.
  • Floods in Honduras, Central America; Brazil, Mexico, Chile (again, this time with snowstorms).
  • Floods, landslides in Guatemala kill 11. Tropical Storm Bret trashes Jamaica, Trinidad.
  • 14 June, egg-sized hail fell during storms that brought flooding to the northern Loire region of France. 1 dead.
  • Large temp. anomalies in northern USA, Canada. 78 deg. F. forecast for Fort Simpson, NW Territories.
  • Sudden powerful storm trashes the city of Red Deer, Alberta.
  • Quick check around the ‘permafrosted’ land edge of the Arctic ocean shows 30 deg. C. heatwave in arctic Russia/Siberia.
  • Wildfires… everywhere. Grassland fires over Great Plains area reported to be 300% up on 1980s.
  • Also up 300% since 1980s, extreme storms in the western Sahel area of Africa (UK Centre for Ecology & Hydrology, April 23)
  • Wildfires started by increasing numbers of lightning strikes ‘contributing to rising CO2’.
  • Tsunami caused by undersea slip kills 4 in Greenland. Possible cause: expected increase in seismic activity as land ‘bounces back’ due to icemelt.
  • Temperatures in some parts of the UK exceeded those in Los Angeles and the Bahamas on Monday (19 Jun) as the hottest day of the year so far gripped the country. In Lancashire, roads were seen melting in the high temperatures. – BBC.

Just in case it’s all over before you read this, for the aliens who arrive too late to save us I also need to report:

  • Potentially a monster storm brewing in the Gulf of Mexico, over the Yucatan peninsula, where there’s been extensive flooding. The chance of a cluster of powerful storm cells merging together has gone from 60% to 80% since Friday, according to USA Today and others, as the system is beginning to rotate ominously. A second tropical cyclone has formed off Belize, and a third is barrelling across the Atlantic from Africa: ‘an unusual event’ to have even two at the same time so early in the season.
  • An unusually long-lasting swarm of earthquakes in the Yellowstone Park supervolcano caldera over the past few weeks – 173 shocks of up to M4.2 recorded since yesterday alone, 500 since 12 Jan. Helium and sulphur gas emissions growing, large cracks appearing and venting. If it does blow, 28 million people will die within three days and the global economy will take fifty years to recover, if ever. Conspiracy theorists are wondering why the US Geological Survey has stopped reporting it.
  • Italian scientists are also concerned about an ancient supervolcano near Mount Vesuvius, right in the middle of Naples, called Campi Flegrei, that is showing signs of waking up.
  • Russia’s defence ministry has said it will treat any plane from the US-led coalition flying west of the Euphrates river in Syria as a ‘potential target’, after the US military shot down a Syrian air force jet on Sunday. Turkish troops have moved to defend Qatar against aggression by other states in the UAE, Saudi Arabia and Egypt.
  • A two-mile wide asteroid with its own moon avoided hitting the earth last week by just 15 million miles. It’s due back in 200 years. NASA is tracking ten more large near-Earth objects.

Bye, y’all. Love you.

Spring is bustin’ out all over: 2017 nature survey. Plus: We want our bins emptied: the hidden undercurrents of UK foreign policy.

A feeling you’re being swallowed-up by Nature

“It’s a landscape that would have set a writer like JG Ballard thinking.”

Hi.

Look, I know you’re probably not reading this. You’d rather be reading those old stories about the ill-fated Comex 2 expedition, or How to Live in a Stately Home, basically by becoming a desperately underpaid caretaker, that I Posted years ago.

But I need your help.

Wherever you live, and you should know, I’d like you to just take a few seconds next time you’re out on a walk in some countryside, assuming you don’t live in a city or a desert, to look around and tell me if you’ve ever seen so much spring growth, looking so healthy?

Because I’m well on in my seventh decade and I can honestly say, my walks with Hunzi are getting like we’re being swallowed-up by Nature. One day soon we might go out and never find our way home!

I try to tell people, but they just shrug and hurry on by, staring at the ground – hopefully, to avoid treading on snails.

I was born and raised in the city, but for the past 32 years I’ve lived either deep in, or right on the edge of, the west British countryside, where for some years I worked as a gardener and estate manager.

My location is only a couple of miles from the sea, where nothing is ever taken to extremes other than sometimes Atlantic storm fronts that come sweeping through, the tails of old Gulf hurricanes, in recent years with increasing violence; although this year I remember only one called Brian. It’s Goldilocks country: seldom too warm, never too cold. Never too sunny, seldom too wet. Perfect!

Bracken up to my shoulders – in early June (there’s a railway behind the gate, I think).

Over the past few years, however, I’ve noticed it’s been getting greener. Which is to say, there’s more vegetation coming up in spring, flowering or blossoming earlier, growing taller and more luxuriant; all tumbling over itself in the fight for light.

This year has been just phenomenal. It’s impossible to do justice to the scene using a cheap  cameraphone; anyway, in a photograph you’ve got nothing to judge by, no sense of time passing and little sense of scale. But I’m trying…

And so healthy! For years, our trees have been showing signs of stress. Ash die-back, chestnut canker, oak wilt… We’ve been hearing for a long time of terminal threats to the traditional British countryside. This year there’s no sign of those diseases in my local river-valley arboretum; no tragic spindly thinning of crowns, no sooty or powdery mildew on the leaves.

It’s frankly a little scary to see this and have no idea what’s really going on. There seems to be a lot more birdsong than usual, too. Nestbuilding started early, courtship flights in February? Maybe the birds can tell me what is going on? It’s even scarier that I don’t know anyone else who has really noticed those things until I raise the subject.

That’s why I need your help. Do please feel free to write and tell me if you’ve noticed it too!

My theory seems too way-out for anyone who doesn’t follow the unfolding story of climate change and what it is doing to the planet, or who doesn’t want to. I mention it, but they just look like they don’t understand, or don’t want to know. The weather here is so, well, normal, it’s hard to imagine what it’s like further south.

A while ago, I came across a mention of a report that said biomass – vegetation – has increased around the world by about eleven per cent since some appropriate time in the past, owing to increasing carbon dioxide – CO2 – in the air, encouraging plant growth.

Uh-huh, I thought, that seems to fit.

Mats of weed forming on the local river. I’ve not seen these before.

A little later, I read that atmospheric CO2 is now at 410 parts per million (I have no idea what a ‘part’ represents, by the way. I generally think in terms of measures as small: a large wine-glass, and big: half a ‘Wales’), about 50 per cent higher than at the beginning of the 1900s, thanks to burning oil, gas and coal; also, thanks to intensive livestock farming, which through the efforts of the intensive livestock farming industry doesn’t often get mentioned as the real problem it is.

A 100 per cent increase in CO2, to 570 ppm, would produce, experts say, about five degrees of warming globally. But much less warming, less than two degrees, might be enough to trigger massive releases of methane gas locked-up in the frozen tundra and under the Arctic sea. Methane, a form of carbon-plus-hydrogen, is an accelerant for global warming and it’s said to be reaching danger levels.

With a big enough methane release we could have a planet that’s ten degrees warmer by 2030, and that’s not survivable. Most life would go extinct.

Because it appears that plants can absorb only so much CO2.

Lots of supposedly reliable websites like the BBC and The Telegraph reported a while ago, research that shows plants are capable of absorbing more CO2 than was thought, and will therefore save the world. This sounds to me like one of those ‘fake news’ stories, misleading research that is put out by scientists and PR lobbyists working for the fossil fuel industry.

The helpful Skepticalscience.com website, however, paints a different picture, reporting that:

 “Too high a concentration of CO2 causes a reduction of photosynthesis in certain plants. There is also evidence from the past of major damage to a wide variety of plants species from a sudden rise in CO2. Higher concentrations of CO2 also reduce the nutritional quality of some staples, such as wheat.”

Shoulder-high clumps of wildflowers and weeds fighting for light

So, with reduced photosynthesis, do plants need to produce more leaf-area, more luxuriant growth, to get enough food from sunlight?

Also, says the report, more rapid plant growth requires more rainwater – not of the rapid, flood-everything kind we are increasingly seeing, but of the slow percolation, ‘little-and-often’ kind – and reduces soil fertility. It’s worth reading the whole article: Plants Cannot Live on CO2 Alone (skepticalscience.com/co2-plant-food.htm)

Other reports say 97 per cent (it’s always ’97 per cent’!) of warming to date has gone into the oceans, which has created different but equally problematic effects. It’s acidifying the water, killing the plankton at the base of the food chain that absorbs CO2 and produces most of our oxygen; causing sea-level rise through volume expansion, that’s already periodically inundating seaside communities like ours; and melting the polar sea-ice cover – which in turn creates wider ‘dark water’ areas that absorb more solar energy.

Another effect of the warming ocean is to iron-out the gradients between warmer and colder water. This has an effect on important currents like the Gulf Stream, which this year produced a worrying ‘cold spot’ in the north Atlantic; but also on the jetstream, the high-altitude, high-velocity winds that circle the globe, normally at latitudes defining the arctic and antarctic circles.

A riot of blossom on tree-high gorse.

In recent years the jetstream has been losing energy, meandering around slowly and allowing warm air to move into the polar regions and dumping frigid air on the USA and central Europe. Stronger winds at lower altitudes are creating bigger waves in the arctic, that are helping to breakup the thinning sea-ice; warmer water in the Southern Ocean is undermining the vast antarctic ice-shelves, causing them to breakup and disperse; meltwater is lubricating glaciers everywhere, speeding up their rate of travel and eventual disappearance.

Views of Antarctica are now, paradoxically, showing areas of the formerly ice-covered or barren, rocky land turning green with new forests of mosses.

So it seems we’re not going to win against the climate, and increasing numbers of scientists are advising us to say our prayers and enjoy life while we can.

But a walk through the magical new ‘subtropical rain-forest’ environment that is my nearby river valley, for however short a time it may last, is to step back into an era historians remind us was a time of abundance in the natural world that we’ve been missing now since our great-grandparents’ generation; and maybe hadn’t even noticed had gone by.

It’s a landscape that would have set a writer like JG Ballard thinking.

He liked a good apocalypse.

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Google images ‘Vote for a harder Brexit!’ (But the Tories tanked.)

x“…it may very well be that one of the first votes in the new Parliament will be on whether or not to go to war once again…”

We want our bins emptied: the hidden foreign policy undercurrents of the UK election

It’s getting bad.

Extraordinary arctic temperature anomalies, smog-laden anticyclones, supercell storms and ‘polar vortices’ descending as far south as Florida and even the Sahara (it snowed in Libya!), extreme weather events have been creating widespread and costly disruption.

There can be no question that climate change is now a permanent feature of life on earth and, driven by a warming climate, is having profound economic effects everywhere.

Against this background, President Trump has signalled US withdrawal from all measures to limit global warming in favour of a dash for profits for dinosaur American businesses.

While peoples affected by floods can expect the waters to abate and life to resume, there is an urgent need to rescue those suffering from seemingly permanent droughts and intolerable heat, in which normal agricultural production becomes impossible. Tens of millions are on the borderline of starvation, their condition ignored and exacerbated by corrupt governments in thrall to the fossil fuel extractors and the arms peddlars.

UN relief agencies have been crying out for support, as the flood of refugees – those who can manage to flee – becomes a tide; and the food runs out. But the USA under the criminal ecocide Trump is deliberately witholding promised financial aid to the UN.

What is their policy?

Other Western nations, egregiously Britain, but including ultra-nationalist, Islamophobic countries like Hungary, are forever moaning that these people need to look after themselves, demeaning their status and cutting aid while continuing to exploit their fragile economies with inequitable trade deals, erecting legal and physical barriers to forestall the inevitable point at which we will have to admit our policy is to let them all die; if we do not actually have to massacre them ourselves.

Thus climate change is an urgent foreign policy issue for every nation.

An issue that played absolutely no part in the UK’s customarily insular and parochial general election.

Nor, indeed, did the coming wars with Iran and North Korea, as the situation in Syria continues to spin out of control, that are threatening to engage the major powers.

Unlike Britain’s after eight years of pointless austerity, the economy of a resurgent and united European Union is on the rise. After her failed campaign aimed at securing a majority for a suicidal ‘hard Brexit’ negotiation with the 27 remaining members, Mrs May will struggle to maintain a government that is sufficiently ‘strong and stable’.

And it may very well be that one of the first debates in the new Parliament will be on whether or not to go to war once again, riding on America’s coat tails.

A war we have already shown in Iraq and Afghanistan we are ill-equipped to prosecute.

The extra money that always seems to be found for absurd military adventures in pursuit of lost glories will, of course, have to be denied to the collapsing social-care and health-service infrastructure, the schools already dumping teachers by the thousands and cutting free meals, the vanishing ‘early start’ childcare and youth apprenticeship schemes, the failing universities and adult education colleges, the closing women’s refuges – the disappearing bobbies on the beat.

The vanishing remnants of UKIP supporters will of course be delighted, but with even Romania’s economy growing at twice the rate of Britain’s, and our currency back on the floor, there will be no more economic incentive for EU workers to come here. We shall become increasingly a threadbare industrial and service nation, as it has long been a fantasy of the Right that there are millions of unemployed but fully deserving Britons willing to step in to take up the slack left by the hoped-for departure of the beastly ‘foreigners’ who have been undercutting our labour market.

There aren’t.

Foreign policy is inextricably linked to domestic affairs. Chickens tend to come home to roost. Theresa May’s hasty and ill-judged commitment to the epochally dysfunctional and malignant Trump administration may also shortly become another issue of foreign policy, a diplomatic train-wreck with which her bumbling apology for a Foreign Secretary, Mr Johnson (newly reconfirmed in his job. Why?) will soon have to deal.

That’s if he hasn’t made another bid for her job.

Dumping Trump

US politics receives massive coverage in the UK during their election periods, but almost none after.

‘Mister Trump’ as the BBC continues to refer to him in respectful tones, as if his corrupt, nepotistic and thuggish White House regime with its wrecking-crew of unqualified billionaire appointees were completely normal, is under intense Congressional scrutiny already, after only four months in office; while several criminal investigations continue to draw ever-closer to the cognitively impaired President as the centre possibly of a ring of money-launderers, disruptors and foreign agents.

He has found numerous ways to piss-off our trading partners and defensive treaty allies in Europe, which looks to The Pumpkin quite like Putin’s strategy, from whom we are foolishly hoping to detach ourselves with the minimum of damage to our economy. Brexit has not come at a good time, politically. Without Trump, without Mrs Merkel’s Europe, that can ‘no longer trust’ us, we could be finding ourselves a bit friendless and in a sorry state of growing irrelevance on the world stage.

It is incredibly serious.

Congressmen, pundits and the ‘fake news’ media in America are all in agreement: it’s already much worse than Watergate; which, let’s remember, happened during Nixon’s second term in office – not within days of his inauguration.

The President has continued to bluster, to lie, to threaten, to (apparently) attempt to pervert the course of justice, to fire investigators, to attack the media and the judiciary, to ringfence himself behind a battery of lawyers, to fantasize about ‘tapes’ of his mafia-boss-style conversations, mano a mano – and ultimately to sulk like a four-year-old, in an apparent attempt to push the investigations away from focussing on him personally.

Why? What has he been up to? What has he to fear? Why would an honest President not welcome an inquiry into possible wrongdoing among his campaign staff, if the strong suspicion arises?

So toxic is the Trump brand, four leading Washington law firms reportedly refused to take his case. Building owners have been removing his name from the facades of their Trump-sponsored hotels. He cannot find candidates to fill the more-than 500 vacant senior posts in various government agencies. Several of his closest aides have been implicated in the FBI’s investigations, even his son-in-law ‘Mister Kushner’ the ‘successful property developer’ who owes a billion dollars; and are under investigation for possible espionage, sanctions-busting and money-laundering, that is even now reaching out to figures in the UK with links to UKIP and the Leave campaign.

And like NATO, Trump doesn’t pay his bills – or his contractors. He is facing a mountain of lawsuits from aggrieved creditors; investigations are also ongoing into his possible misuse of private tax-exempt charity funds and his ‘Trump University’ scam; while he owes hundreds of millions of dollars, maybe billions, to foreign banks including sanctioned Russian banks, American banks having refused to lend him money for many years since he gained a reputation for suing banks when they asked for repayment.

And he is reportedly connected with wealthy oligarchs who may have found his particular business model helpful in managing their money. He seems vulnerable to pressure on many fronts.

There’s the in-fighting in the Oval Office.

Did Steve Bannon leak to the New York Times, the story that Kushner had meetings, first with Russian ambassador Kislyak and, shortly after, with the head of the VEB Bank – a Russian bank linked both to Putin and the FSB security service – who flew in specially for the meeting; and that he owes money to twenty banks? Kushner failed to declare the meetings on his security clearance form and dad-in-law has seemingly kicked him into the long grass over it, putting Bannon back at the centre of his advisory team.

Many of Trump’s speeches, policy statements and presidential ‘executive orders’ appear to support the theory that he is somehow beholden to, or in the pay of, President Putin; an idea that he has furiously denied in many seemingly self-incriminating tweets. He continues despite widespread criticism to give the impression of promoting Russia’s foreign-policy ambitions over those of the United States, and refuses to say a bad word about Mr Putin. Why? What is the connection? He refuses to say. He is certainly beholden to US energy billionaires and has made a frenzied assault on environmental protections.

Why, the Senate is demanding to know, did he meet with top Russian officials including Foreign Minister Lavrov in the Oval Office, excluding any US media from an unscheduled visit only a day after he fired the head of the FBI, James Comey? Comey now says Trump tried to stop him investigating his connections to the Russians; criminal interference with an investigation. What did Trump blab to the Russians about Israeli penetration of the ISIS network – a conversation publicly denied one minute by his security advisor, General McMaster, only to be admitted to in another self-incriminating late-night tweet the next?

Why did he insist on even his Attorney General leaving the room while he apparently attempted to secure a personal commitment of loyalty and a public statement from Comey that he himself was not being investigated, under the implied threat of removing the FBI director from his position? How did he imagine Comey could have given such an undertaking in the middle of an investigation without it compromising any possible future evidence that might have to be given in court?

And what was the purpose of the many meetings and phone calls the intelligence services are sure his aides had with Russian agents during and after the election campaign? Meetings which they denied under oath, but were later forced to admit to? Calls, intercepted by GCHQ and other European agencies? Why the secrecy? Why the cover-up?

Indeed, it appears that, even before the inauguration, efforts were being made to undermine the Obama regime’s sanctions against Russia; while top officials such as General Flynn and NSA head, Admiral Rogers who were dismissed by, or under investigation at the instigation of, Obama following intelligence intercepts, were immediately re-hired on the Trump campaign and transition teams and have continued to refuse point-blank to co-operate with Congressional committee hearings despite being held in contempt.

Why? What is their loyalty to Trump? Or is it because they too are under investigation by the FBI and cannot speak publicly without losing some promised immunity they may have been offered from prosecution? All the material has been handed over to special prosecutor Mueller; yet the Justice department refuses to confirm or deny that Mueller himself could, in theory, be answerable to the President for his job.

Why has Mr Trump not yet replaced the 47 circuit court judges he ‘retired’, some of whom were reportedly looking into his affairs; why did he fire Sally Yates, the acting Attorney General, immediately after she had warned his White House counsel about the concerns of the intelligence community, specifically about his National Security Advisor, General Flynn, and his connections with Russia? Why, having fired him too, does he continue to try to rescue Flynn from the investigation?

Why, having been forced to recuse himself from any Russia-connected inquiries after lying several times on oath about his meetings with Russian officials, is Attorney General Jeff Sessions still in his job as the head of the Justice department; and how then did he apparently have a hand in the firing of Comey?

It is all incredibly serious.

The talk is of enforced resignation, possibly on grounds of mental ill-health. Senator Al Green of Texas is a black man, and a Democrat, and is therefore suffering a social media shitstorm of threatened lynchings and rapes of himself and his family by Trump’s crazier dumbfucks, but yesterday he announced he was drafting articles of impeachment.

However, Trump is protected against most criminal indictments – even for betraying classified information to a foreign power, which he has now done three times, claiming executive privilege – as long as he is still in office.

So there’s a long way to go before Trump is dragged kicking, screaming and tweeting infantile nonsense from behind his desk and admitted to a secure facility. Throughout his business career he has been suspected and accused of criminal wrongdoing and having deep connections with international crime syndicates – Dark Money – and the vastly wealthy and corrupt individuals who run them from the shadows.

The ‘evidence’ is to be found all over the internet, in the form of perfectly serious media investigations.

So counter-litigious is Trump, so manipulative, that nothing has ever stuck.

Maybe getting himself elected President, with or without overseas aid, will save him; maybe it will be his Nemesis.

Either way, Britain’s ‘special relationship’ with America will be sorely tested, as it becomes clear his promises on trade are not worth the paper – remember: ‘America First!’ – and he drags us into military intervention on a dangerous path to a new world war.

So you see, foreign policy is not something politicians should ignore at election time.

But, who cares?

We want our bins emptied!

 

More weather news…

You might not want to be in Capetown right now.

After months of drought and water rationing in the city, a terrifying storm has battered the Western Cape coast. Eight people are so far dead. The storm surge sent seawater flooding communities hundreds of metres inland. Lightning killed a woman and three children in a car; and has set fire to thousands of acres of tinder-dry forest. The wind was strong enough to overturn parked cars and prevented helicopters from firefighting. Schools and a hospital are among hundreds of homes and buildings evacuated and burned down in the town of Knysna.

One witness said: ‘It looks like a war zone’. Another, his dashcam recording as he drives through fire, just keeps repeating: ‘Fuck!’

The forecast is for the storm to last several more days.

Raw footage and local news reports on http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sE1-Pdl4sXM

 

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

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

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

But it says so in the bible…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It sounds more like the former.

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

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

Something similar once happened to me.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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A climate of concern

Google images

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

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

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

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

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

Saintly reputation fast putrefying in the SE Asian air.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Where will the billionaires go?

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

Just think.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It’d be pretty bleak.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

x

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

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

Come, don’t fly with me

As you can probably guess, I have a computer.

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

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

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

The ‘motherboard of all bombs’….

And it seems to be working okay so far.

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

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

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

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

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

Nearly everyone.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But, how serious can it be?

Like I said, it happens very, very rarely.

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

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

It’s never going to happen.

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

Not me, amigo.

I’m only the Managing Director.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Better book your ticket to Bilbao, Alex.

There’s a Ryanair flight leaving in an hour.

You can rely on it.

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

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

x

The quality of mercy, slightly strained

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But what have we learned?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tripoli bombing. (Google images)

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

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

What a surprise.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

In God we trust

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It’s never going to end.

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

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

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

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

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

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

It really will not do.

x

The rule of law as it applies to the Conservatives

Look.

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

Comex Two, Stately Home, blah.

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

They are mostly illiterate baboons in any case.

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

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

Surely I can make up my own mind?

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

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

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

This week we read the following:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sick sons of bitches.

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

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

DO NOT VOTE FOR THEM.

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

 

Thursday’s Bogl in parenthesis: How is it Where You Are?

“A Texas man has filed a lawsuit against a woman for the cost of a movie ticket after she texted during their cinema date. Brandon Vezmar, 37, said the woman walked out of the screening of Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 2 when he complained about her persistent phone use.

“Mr Vezmar filed the petition in the state capital of Austin last week seeking $17.31 (£13.30), arguing his date’s behaviour was “a threat to civilised society”.” – BBC report

Hero.

Brandon Vezmar, 37, could well have just become the Saviour of the Universe.

Women who are congenitally unable to stop fiddling with their phones for more than a few seconds without breaking out in hives are indeed a threat, not only to civilization, but to the future of humanity. They need to be saved.

Wherever I walk li’l Hunzi, I am unable to shield him from the sight of approaching women pushing a buggy with one hand while delivering a running commentary on their vacuous thought process to some invisible friend via a small device held with the other. In a recent production of Shakespeare, the longueurs backstage were hardly enlivened by female members of the cast immediately pouncing on their phones after coming offstage, in case anything totally uninteresting had happened while they were distracted by having to do some acting.

If only there had been cellphone technology in the C16th.

By 2050 it will no doubt be reported that female babies are being born with a strange deformity of the arm, which is permanently crooked and attached to their right ear. In addition, they will have evolved hypermobile thumbs resembling small flippers with built-in predictive text.

Having said that, if my ‘paying date’ had dragged me to see ‘Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol 2’ after a slap-up $4 dinner, I’d have kicked him in the nuts and gone home to watch the box-set of Fleabag in the more intellectually stimulating company of my vibrator. A girl needs to feel valued.

But that’s just me.

x

“This lying fat orange shitbrains is just taking the piss.”

How is it where you are?

I’m hoping next time to make sure I bring the little stringy thing that connects this, muh annoying new laptop, to muh cellphone.

It’s ‘cos I have on it, some new photos of the astonishing Spring regrowth that has been erupting around us since the beginning of April.

I’d like to share them with you and may do so shortly. (Gottit!)

Eutrophication – warmer water containing added washed-down nutrients – has caused huge mats of green weed to cover the nearby river, such as I have never known. Meanwhile, a couple of rainy days have brought on the most astonishing efflorescence and a surge of green biomass such as we have never seen before, here in the river valley.

Huge clumps of wild plants are erupting either side of the rapidly disappearing footpath. Briar – fruits already forming – and nettles and cleavers and elder, Himalayan balsam, all fighting for light, tumbling over each other. Growth of grass in the verges has been rapid, dense, with the tall, undistinguished white flower spikes of plantain normally about 10 inches reaching two feet in height, vying for space with St John’s Wort, nettle, vetch and borage, Pennyroyal and cow-parsley.

Japanese knotweed stands already way above my head.

Notifiable – and  indestructible – knotweed growing three feet above my six-foot head.

Where the playing fields have not been closely mown there are vast mats of daisies, lying like late snow. In the wooded ares, daffodils, snowdrops, bluebells and harebells – all the flowers of spring – are already well over. Dandelion, buttercup and wood anemone are flowering vigorously. The gorse flowers, great acid-yellow swatches, that blazed all winter are dying off now. Bees hum on sunny days in the great pendulous clumps of mayflowers hanging from the hawthorn trees. Birdsong is everywhere.

It really is the most extraordinary Spring I think I have ever known. It began in early April. And it’s still only mid-May. In my tiny garden, I have one rose bush. It has put out three-foot-long greenshoots, each bearing heads of multiple flower buds they will be unable to support. Some flowered last week. It is still only mid-May.

This unprecedented abundance is probably because, for the first time in hundreds of thousands, maybe millions of years, Carbon dioxide – plant food – in the atmosphere is at 410 parts per million (Mauna Loa observatory, Hawaii) and rising.

On sunny days, of which we have had many, a cooling breeze blows gently in from the sea. Out of the wind, it has been comfortably in the low 70s F.

Other parts of the world are not so agreeable:

  • Twenty-seven tornados touched down in Wisconsin and Oklahoma yesterday, trashing a trailer park and killing at least two people. More scary tornado warnings are out tonite (19/05) across the midwest.
  • Donald J ‘criminal ecocide’ Trump has nominated an alt-right Christian fundamentalist, climate-change-denying ‘shock-jock’ radio talkshow host, Sam Clovis as Science Director of the US Department of Agriculture. Like Scott Pruitt at the EPA he has no scientific or sector administrative credentials whatsoever. This lying fat orange shitbrains is just taking the piss.
  • Carbon dioxide concentrations recently exceeded 560 ppm (NASA) in parts of West Africa and Central Asia, thanks to uncontrolled forest fires and annual agricultural burning. A problem with wildfires and crop-burning is that sooty particulates eventually precipitate out over ice fields where the darker surface increases melting of glaciers and sea ice.
  • Wildfires have destroyed 4,000 acres in northern Florida.
  • Record flooding with many casualties and mass evacuations has been reported just this week in Indonesia (Sulawesi/Borneo), Arkansas (state of emergency declared), Mississippi, N. Carolina (USA); Hungary/Romania; China’s Guangdong and four other provinces; Kenya and Kwa-Zulu Natal – South Africa; Chile (where over 1m acres were destroyed by wildfires in January); Haiti, Jamaica and Canada (state of emergency declared in Ontario province).
  • 137 mm of rain fell in 24 hours in Alicante, Spain; 280mm in Kamphaeng Phet province, Thailand. http://floodlist.com/america/usa/floods-arkansas-missouri-april-may-2017
  • Hundreds of pilgrims have been evacuated as heavy flooding hits the southern French town of Lourdes after days of rain.
  • A record-breaking 42 deg. C+ heatwave is affecting the Chennai area of Tamil Nadu, SW India for the second year running.
  • Two tropical cyclones are currently battering northeast and northwest Australia, with another Category 5 storm threatening Vanuatu, the second this year.
  • An earthquake ascribed to possible ‘isostatic rebound’ due to melting ice hit Greenland on May 8, triggering a massive release of methane. Methane levels have risen 256% from 1750 to 2015 and could double again by 2040 (Arctic News).
  • “The Global Seed Vault, buried in a mountain deep inside the Arctic circle, has been breached after global warming produced extraordinary temperatures over the winter, sending meltwater gushing into the entrance tunnel.” – BBC report. (The Norwegian-funded seed bank, said to be the most important reserve of plant genes in the world, was designed to last 1,000 years…)
  • While Colorado enjoyed heavy snow last night (20 May), some scientists are forecasting an ice-free Arctic ocean by September. Admittedly they have been saying this for the past four years. However, thanks to Arctic methane eruptions polynomial trendlines (best/worst-case scenarios) are pointing to possibly a global 3 deg. C. rise over 2018 and a potential, unsurvivable 10 deg. C. rise by 2021. (Arctic News).
  • April was the third warmest month ever recorded across the USA. Temperature in Washington DC yesterday touched 93 F.