The Pumpkin – Issue (where are we – 18?): The Sabotage Diaries; “What Is Wrong With You?”; Did you hear the one about the ISIS asset?

Editor’s note: apologies for the delay in getting this issue down – I’ve been busy and then I got an abscess and off my face on painkillers. Still not too coherent, I fear, trifle wobbly, but we can’t let the fan down. Bear with.

 

Special “What is wrong with you?” Issue

You let Hillary lose? You’re FIRED!

The Sabotage Diaries

By Skellytanne Conwoman ©2017 #desperationrow

Can no end be put to the relentless sabotage of Mr Trump’s inspirational and well-run American government for all the people?

It seems a piece of non-copyright music was added to the soundtrack of a wonderful video Mr Trump has tweeted-out to his millions of adoring followers around the world, explaining his entirely logical reasons for firing the head of the FBI, the showboating, disloyal little garbage-snooper, James Comey.

We don’t know who decided to use the stirring theme, or why. Astute Twitterates have tracked the music to a library, from where the following description is available:

“… “News Anchor” …  Powerhouse news theme with a classic network vibe. Designed for news broadcasting, newscast, breaking news, special news reports, financial reports, Wall Street, election returns, corporate branding, trade shows and infomercials. Instrumental, News, News Openings”

Notice, there is no mention of the Fake News that so stains the reputation of our treacherous media, enemies of the glorious people. But ‘election returns’? Surely, they taketh the pee-pee? The vile baboons who added this snatch of subversive, disloyal muzak to the video while totally lacking a sense of irony must be found and fired.

The Pumpkin is not a member of Twitter and cannot find the video, in which – ABC News says – Mr Trump has personally recruited a montage of leading Democrats being rude about Mr Comey at the time the FBI chief treacherously swung the Presidential election against Mrs Clinton who, as you recall, was a notorious criminal user of a private Internet server not unlike Mr Trump’s own private internet servers that are not, I repeat NOT, in constant communication with Russi… sorry, start again.

Of course it is outrageous that Mrs Clinton should have won the pop… sorry, sorry. I just can’t seem to avoid not lying about this… despite Mr Comey’s best/worst efforts (delete according to how much sleep the old bastard had last night and whether he’s taken his meds today – xxxSpicey, Lt, USN res. c/o USS Carl Vinson, somewhere). And she really wasn’t elected, honest.

Nevertheless the President has been seething for months about the FBI meddling in his international relations, as that surely ought to be the job of the CIA, and detests Mr Comey for being six inches taller (probably better endowed) and disloyally refusing to tell the White House first, unlike the new Director of the FBI, Mr McCabe, what he plans to say about his investigations about the White House to the Senate committee.

PS I see Flynn has been subpoena’d by those devious shits in Congress. What next, Special Prosecutor? Impeachment? Ha ha, don’t-think-so face!!!

(Remind self – get back on the media, tell them they’re never again to criticise any decisions of our glorious leader, refulgent in his golden aura. Etc – make it up as you go. Keep ’em confused! Hail Trump. K-A C.)

Postscriptum

Mr Reince Priebus (what is that, white South African? I think we should see his birth certificate) the White House Chief-of-Staff, has let it be known that if this sort of thing carries on the President intends to repeal the First Amendment to the Constitution, that he regards as a traitor’s charter for all that boloney about free speech and not making Betsy DeVos’ Bible Trutherism the State religion.

Oh, and also the bit about Americans’ right to protest against and even remove lying, overbearing, biddable, corrupt and incompetent, pouting monsters in the White House if they don’t care to be governed by that sort, he especially doesn’t get that part.

HAS ANYONE SEEN THIS MAN LATELY?

$1bn REWARD, KILL OR CAPTURE . LAST SEEN PENNSYLVANIA AVE. DISTRICT, FRIDAY 5th MARCH.

WARNING: DO NOT APPROACH. MAY OFFER DANGEROUS OPINIONS FOR MONEY.

IF SEEN CONTACT THE NATIONAL SECURITY ADVICE SQUAD ON 0101 911911

In a daze

I’ve been in a daze since 3 a.m. Monday with a worrying abscess on one of the three remaining teeth to which my astonishing piece of bridge engineering, my entire smile is anchored.

It flared up either luckily or as a direct consequence only after my final appearance on stage Sunday night in our production of The Merchant of Venice. Some people have linked the two events, while I confess that having as yet no toothache, yet I had been unusually grumpy on Sunday afternoon, even for me.

The younger members of the cast I find particularly annoying as they’re either messing about, dancing around and chatting loudly, making too much noise backstage despite endless warnings from the director; or they’re coming offstage and straight on to their bloody mobile devices.

How the hell do you perform to your best level if you can’t concentrate on what you’re supposed to be doing for more than a nanosecond at a time? Those phones and tablets and even notebooks are a beastly distraction and yet, despite the entire history and culture of the human race being contained therein, no-one under 50 seems to know anything about anything anymore, being endlessly fascinated merely to gaze into the digital mirror.

Grrrr! (gnashing of elderly gums).

Looking up the range of side-effects of paracetamol, I can safely say I’ve had them all this week, only not yet death. Two 500mg caplets are supposed to give four hours’ relief, I was getting about 20 minutes. It became impossible to observe a four-hour gap between doses. I started to fly, my heart racing, saliva tasting – pee smelling – of paracetamol; chest pains, stomach pains, kidney pains, joint pains – rumblings and gurglings, headaches, tinnitus, shortness of breath and more.

The chemist pointed out that I could safely mix Ibuprofen between doses of paracetamol, so I started doing that. Then, one of those awful coincidences, in the supermarket I passed a newspaper stall and one of the tabloids was carrying a headline story: Ibuprofen doubles your risk of a heart attack.

I’m now on antibiotics and slowly coming down – as is my face, which yesterday swelled up like… a Pumpkin?, my top lip dragging downwards like a stroke victim’s, huge swellings on my gums, my left eye half-closed, my speech slurred like a drunk’s. At least the poison spreading from the root of my eye-tooth in finding an escape route through my sinuses had relieved the pressure on the nerve and, though tender, my top teeth were no longer firing darts of pain throughout my face, spreading through my body and keeping me awake in the throbbing small hours.

Anyway, I’ve been living on mush; soup, mashed potato, crême brulée. Anything that didn’t require teeth to eat. And, of course, no alcohol. 24 hours after my last fistfull of paracetamol I essayed an uncharacteristically small glass of Semillon-Chardonnay last night and slept until nearly 11 this morning. I forget what I was dreaming about, it seemed to go on for ages.

Which is all by way of saying two things:

  • First, I’ve been too mentally bewildered to write coherently about the latest, most amazing goings-on in Trumptown.
  • And secondly, even now I’m not sure I can keep up any longer, since every hour brings startling new revelations and reports of portentous signs in the sky. (I also find I am running out of pejoratives, can anyone help me there?)

Attorney-General Jeff Sessions ‘was present at the meeting’.

For instance, Mr Trump sent his notorious letter firing FBI Director James Comey, that he said was based on info given to him by Deputy Attorney-General ‘Rod’ Rosenstein, whereupon he had no option but to act urgently, but which it later transpired he had ordered Rosenstein to write in order to ‘cover’ his firing of Comey and the fact his supposedly ‘recused’ Attorney-General was present at the meeting which touched on the very matter, the Russia enquiry, he had recused himself from.

No sooner had Trump inserted another brazen lie, that Comey had assured him, like St Peter, ‘three times’ he was not personally under investigation, than MSNBC was reporting that the acting director of the FBI, the former Deputy Director Andrew McCabe, a 20-year man with a permanently worried expression, may have attempted to sabotage the investigation into General Flynn’s highly lucrative contacts with the Russians or otherwise broken ‘house rules’ by disclosing information about it to the White House.

In other words, he is not:

New FBI Acting Director McCabe Considered a Respected, Bureau Man

…as reported by MSNBC’s mainstream parent company NBC News, but is now – only one day later – said to have pedalled round to the White House on 14 February, two days after Gen. Flynn was resigned, in order to brief the President on the state of the investigations into Flynn (that may go on to compromise the President), and to reassure Chief of Staff Priebus that a report in the New York Times the previous day stating that the FBI was investigating ‘a number of’ Trump campaign staffers was ‘bullshit’.

Only it wasn’t. Numerous sources including British, French and Dutch intelligence, it’s now known, had been warning the National Security Administration of serious, repeated and ongoing contacts between members of the Trump team and Russian intelligence, since 2015. In the frame were Flynn, the reptilian ‘fixer’ Roger Stone, Carter Page (a minor go-between and energy ‘consultant’) and former campaign director, Paul Manafort – fired in July 2016, probably the first of Trump’s ‘bodies on the floor’: bodies connected with or looking too closely into the connections with Russia, Ukraine and the online sabotage of the election.

We know this, because NSA chief James Clapper told the Senate hearing so, two days ago. That’s the hearing at which Sally Yates, the former Acting Attorney General fired by Trump because she twice warned the White House legal advisor about Flynn, was finally able to confirm that Flynn, Trump’s ‘National Security Advisor’ – a man Trump tried for weeks to protect before ‘resigning’ him on a feeble pretext – a man who had previously been fired as unsound by President Obama – was possibly embedded with Russian intelligence.

The Pumpkin and a’ would like to know what Trump knew about Flynn while Flynn was merrily chanting ‘Lock her up! and encouraging the dumbfucks to revolt against the Obama regime, that had fired him. Was Flynn acting on his own, for his own PR company – or as a high-level go-between for Trump Campaign with the Kremlin? Or for Trump himself?

We now know, of course, that Obama’s expulsion of 35 Russian ‘diplomats’ in December 2015, a move curiously not resisted by the Kremlin after Trump condemned the move, was not because of the GRU’s hacking of the Clinton and Weiner emails, as the White House explained – but because of the ongoing direct contacts between Trump’s transition team, including Flynn, and Russian intelligence. Did Trump tip Putin the wink, that it was okay, he would put everything back again once in office?

And what did Flynn’s PR efforts have to do with lurid tales of a plot to kidnap and render Dr Fetullah Gulen, Erdogan’s nemesis, to Turkey. Was luring former CIA Director James Woolsey to that meeting just a way of ‘confirming’ a false-flag decoy operation? Was Flynn really working for Noble Energy to get an undersea pipeline built to sell Israeli gas to Turkey?

And why is almost everyone in this story called James? We should be told.

With the cadavers mounting up in the closets of the Oval Office, anyone with information possibly leading to his impeachment for treason, it surely has to be clear even to what Lord Chief Justice Denning famously termed ‘The Man on the Clapham Omnibus’, the definition of any reasonable juror, that Trump is in a state of blind panic and desperately manufacturing any nonsense to try to push the FBI and Senate investigations away from himself.

Careless talk costs lives

He seems too, to be rapidly losing support. He’s reported to have screamed abuse the other day at the reliable Gen. McMaster; while no-one has heard the name Steve Bannon mentioned for at least a week. And Priebus has apparently had to order staff to stop slipping fake reports to the President as he reacts instinctively to tweet out about everything that comes across his desk; a number of people have lost their jobs as a result of internal plotting.

Indeed, the Pumpkin might travel a stop beyond Clapham to ask whether the Trumpkin might not have had the chief reason in pursuing the presidency he’s never really wanted and is scarily bad at, being to obtain the one position in the USA where he might be immune from criminal prosecution?

The Pumpkin gathers too that Trump has hired a firm of rottweiler Washington lawyers to go after the press and anybody else who doesn’t think he is wholly innocent of what he has already admitted, that he has had dealings with Russia, maybe not ‘in’ Russia as he says, that may have seriously compromised his position.

Yet he continues to incriminate himself. In an embarrassing interview with NBC he prevaricated over which of two accounts he should give, saying both that Comey had requested a private dinner-meeting in January to discuss the Russia investigation AND that he, Trump, had requested the dinner. He has since also denied Comey’s memorandum of the meeting, saying he never asked Comey to declare his personal loyalty – a promise Comey as Director of an internal security agency with powers of law enforcement would obviously have had a problem giving, especially to the prime suspect.

Nor, one hopes, did he actually ask Comey about the possibility of locking up journalists guilty of writing unfavourable ‘fake news’ about him. Only Comey apparently thinks he seriously did.

And today Trump has invited to the Oval Office, Russian ambassador Kisliak and Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov. Right at the height of the fevered speculation of the world’s press as to his possibly compromised relations with Russia – or indeed about his fetish for pee-pee (if you think all this is planned policy for ‘improving relations’ with Russia and a Good Thing, get a brain).

Not to the State Department, as would be the normal protocol, but to the heart of the administration which Director Comey was beginning to prove they paid for. Is the President in their pocket, or just unbelievably stupid and reckless? And why was Lavrov there, what was the point of his visit?

But of course, Lavrov was going to be sent over to check on how much trouble Trump is really in. And Trump has already let slip that the meeting was arranged at the personal request of… Vladimir Putin, and that he ‘could not refuse’ it.

What, no horse’s head?

And the only media allowed in was the Man from Tass, following which Trump protested like a complete booby that he had been ‘tricked’ by Russians-who-lie into thinking this was Lavrov’s ‘personal photographer’. In fact The Pumpkin is not even certain if the Secretary of State, Rex Tillexxon was invited along, let alone the nurse who administers President Trump’s reality medication.

Yes, he actually invited an unknown Russian from a Kremlin-owned news agency with a camera and no security clearance into the Oval Office, along with the local chief spy and his Moscow handler.

And then boasted about his wonderful connections with Israeli intelligence, look, they’ve even got a guy inside ISIS who told us about the thing with the laptops you already knew about….

So dumb.

Donald, we all know you inhaled. It doesn’t matter, sweetie. Just come out with your hands up.

x

Four

For many months now Trump has been swearing and protesting loudly that he has and had no financial or business connections whatever ‘in’ Russia. It’s not a question of belief, everyone knows it’s a Big Lie. It’s more a matter of definition.

How do we know?

Because before his election campaign he was forever boasting about his connections with Russian oligarchs, having organized a beauty pageant in Moscow and attended a party where, he announced breathily, he had ‘met them all’

Yes, all those delightful, very smart, very rich people he owes money and favours to, but whom he sucks up to because they’re richer and more dishonest than he is. He just adores guys who get away with stuff the press wouldn’t let him. He admires people who kill people.

And because he has produced a letter, written a full two months before the accusation even arose, from some accountants in Washington swearing he has no links with or income from Russia – except for a few, and maybe just a bit. Why did he get them to write that? Oh, right. Flynn.

And because he has lavishly praised President Putin and had a strange financial relationship with Putin crony, ‘The Fertiliser King’ Dmitry Rybolovlev – a part-owner in Bank of Cyprus, a known money-laundering outlet with Russian and US shareholders and a direct connection to Deutsche Bank’s Moscow-based Real Estate investment branch, to whom Trump owes over $350 million of a $640 million loan he reportedly defaulted on in 2008.

And because he has borrowed money – hundreds of millions – from Russian (and Chinese) banks, both private and State – American banks will no longer lend to him, such a credit junkie is the President that he long ago maxed-out his Platinum cards in the USA – to whom (and others, including RBS) his son-in-law, Jared Kushner, also owes $1bn.

(If Trump is indeed a billionaire, why is his poor son-in-law, whom he has also brought inside the protective shield of the White House, having to finance his own property developments with massive unrepayable loans from foreign banks?)

This latter was confirmed by Eric Trump, the ‘Little Nazi’ who wonders why women don’t just put up with being groped, three years ago while unwisely playing golf with Arnold Palmer’s biographer, golfing writer James Dodson. According to a report in The Telegraph (07 May):

“Mr Dodson told Boston radio station WBUR: “This is the journalist in me, I said ‘What are you using to pay for these courses?’ And he (Donald Trump) just sort of tossed off that he had access to $100 million.

“So when I got in the cart with Eric, as we were setting off I said, ‘Eric, who’s funding? I know no banks, because of the recession, the Great Recession, have touched a golf course. You know, no one’s funding any kind of golf construction. It’s dead in the water the last four or five years.'”

“Mr Dodson claimed Eric Trump then told him: “Well, we don’t rely on American banks. We have all the funding we need out of Russia. We’ve got some guys that really, really love golf, and they’re really invested in our programmes. We just go there all the time.”

“We just go there all the time”…. To play pitch’n’putt on the Kremlin lawn? Maybe Eric was just being puppyishly naive in blurting out some nonsense he might have thought would impress Dodson? Maybe Trump was too?

Wikipedia reports:

“Golf in Russia is not yet widespread, not only because of adverse natural conditions, but also because the construction of golf courses requires large capital investments (a few tens of millions of dollars, usually more than a hundred). The first 18-hole golf course was built in the suburban area of Nakhabino in 1994, and remained the only one in the country for many years.”

Only a handful of Russians who ‘really, really love golf’ are professionals, maybe four or five. The Russian Open has been won pretty much every year by outsiders – few of them household names – since Konstantin Lifinov lifted the first trophy in 1993. There are only nine golf courses in the whole of Russia, with another ten ‘under construction’.

The question might then be, if Trump has to borrow to build, who funded the controversial Trump International course at Menie Park near Aberdeen, to the tune of $120 million? It’s obviously losing money, its Google entry is offering ‘no reservation fees’ and ‘half-price hotel’ deals.

Clearly Russia is an area the Trumps would like to get into, if they had the money.

Or might I put on a fiction writer’s hat and outline the latest James Bond plot, a conspiracy to launder $billions of Russian oil wealth through covering the free world in tasteless, unused golf resorts patrolled by thuggish staff, funded by sinister oligarchs, and bring down Western democracy in the process?

x

The wisdom of the innocents

Trump’s latest poll figures somewhat belie his claim that his first 100 days have been a rip-roaring success. CNN reports his overall approval rating at 35%, and when asked to give one adjective to describe the President of the United States, 38% replied: ‘idiot’.

“Businessman” was the word least associated with President Trump by those polled.

 

“Since taking office, Mr Trump has mounted a frenzied, hate-filled, childishly resentful onslaught on the Obamas’ legacy by every possible means, heedless of the immense damage he is doing to ordinary Americans in the process.”

38% of Americans believe this poor fellow is an idiot. Please give generously.

“What is wrong with you?”

The Pumpkin believes that Michelle Obama has struck, with customary charm and wit, upon the exact slogan The Resistance needs to confront this tyrannical and abusive old moron.

What indeed is wrong with you?

Since taking office, Mr Trump has blundered around, unable to concentrate for more than a few moments on any issue other than the precipitous nature of his election, making rambling, confused and self-contradictory, self-justifying statements blaming everyone and everything for things he just can’t do right, appointing certified cretins, racialists and sinister lobbyists to positions of power ranked according to wealth and insanity; screaming abuse at subordinates and trolling people and institutions at random with vacuous, illiterate Tweets.

What is wrong with you?

Well, we wonder.

His handling of the James Comey firing has been completely cackhanded, even for the CEO of a one-man business. After first driving his newly appointed Deputy Attorney-General, the formerly well-regarded Rod Rosenstein, to the point of resigning over a lie that he, Trump, had had to move against Comey urgently on the basis of a letter which, it transpired, he had forced Rosenstein to write (there’s always a letter), Mr Trump tried to shift the blame onto his hapless little Press Secretary, Sean Spicer.

Spicey has been effectively suspended for his abject performance (on ‘Naval reserve duties’ he is, as usual, all at sea) in attempting to defend his demented Master without being briefed about the circumstances and the reasons behind the precipitate decision. Mr Spicer was discovered by the press pack, hiding in the dark among the bushes on the White House grounds, imparting a Keystone Cops dimension to the story you could not make up.

This poor creature, once human, has been trapped for 110 days in the White House: Please Give Generously.

With further contradictory statements by the Vice-President, the snow-capped advert for Anusol, Mike Pence; Sarah ‘We hate Huckabees’ Sanders (Spicey’s unpopular-fat-girl-dorm-monitor deputy) and the increasingly loopy and defeated-looking Kellyanne Conway, the story was being spun everywhichway, including by the Orange Glow himself, even during the course of a single interview with NBC in which he as much as admitted what he didn’t want anyone to know, that it was to stymie the FBI investigation into his Russian connections.

What is wrong with you?

In the middle of the night he sits alone in the Oval Office, firing off dangerously abusive tweets about things that have upset him, that he has seen reported on Fox News, the unreliable TV channel he apparently watches obsessively all day, and which, aides say, is – along with the Breitbart News website – his principal window on the world as he refuses to receive briefings from actual experts: a clear sign of paranoia.

And – The Pumpkin is not a qualified psychologist but a nearly 70-year-old observer of human goings-on – to that amateur diagnosis must be added Mr Trump’s two main drivers of policy – if you don’t count the attraction of his weekly three-day golfing holidays at Mar-a-Lago, that have as of last weekend racked up a total of $27 million in travel and security costs to the taxpayer in only four months and cost the local community many more $millions in lost trade; which he has been told about, but does not care.

What is wrong with you?

One driver of policy is the unbearable knowledge that he really lost the election.

It preys continually on what remains of his mind, that he actually got 2.8 million votes fewer than his opponent, Hillary Clinton, despite the vitriolic campaign of hate which he and his team of fascist brownshirts, frustrated housewives and Russian agents spewed at her, unprecedented in modern politics.

He won the election, only because the numbers were affected in the Electoral College process by Republican gerrymandering in a few key ‘swing’ states, disenfranchising tens of thousands of potentially Democratic voters.

The campaign of dirty tricks included putting out fake-news messages on social media giving Democratic voters incorrect information about registration and polling dates; reducing the number of voting machines in poorer wards (sometimes through fake burglaries) in order to create unacceptable lines, and sending out to large numbers of mainly black and Latino voters who had previously been removed from the electoral roll without their knowledge ‘on suspicion’ of duplicate registration, non-valid polling cards. Such tactics affected tens of thousands of voters.

Nevertheless in his confusion, the 70-year-old Trump was told, presumably by Bannon, to keep tweeting that between three and five million unregistered immigrants had voted for Clinton – a completely preposterous meme that over 60% of his supporters came to believe; prompting ‘Morning Joe’ Scarborough on NBC to comment was the first case he had encountered, of a ‘sore winner’.

Add to Mr Trump’s equally neurotic obsession with trying to rationalize the relatively small number of people who turned out at his inauguration parade – for which he had raised $107 million in special donations (nobody knows where the money has gone, three times what it cost to bring out three times as many Obama supporters in 2008) – and the weekly ‘campaign rallies’ he keeps re-running all over the midwest, and you have a potent cocktail of grievance on which to endlessly brood.

His actual unpopularity haunts him night and day; indeed, he has been especially vengeful in shutting down the activities of the Parks Department, that reported the true official figures for his poor turnout and published the incriminating photographs showing an almost deserted plaza.

It is as if his great triumph in becoming President, the ultimate ratification of a life spent selfishly cheating people, never lasted beyond the moment of declaration and only the euphoria of that moment, the feeling of being swept along on an adoring tide, makes up for the sheer agony of having actually to do a job for which he is totally unprepared and unqualified. So many of his actions shout ‘Help, get me out of here’, even as he swaggers and bullies and lies his way daily deeper into trouble.

What is wrong with you?

There is no other route to political power in America, than through The Money.

His other great motivation is his equally strong hatred of the Obamas and their enduring popularity. How dare the uppity n-words get above him in social prestige? Especially when he and his dad invested so much in racially excluding tenants from their rack-rent housing projects.

President Obama was not quite the great black hope everyone imagined. Sadly, he is just another Wall Street white guy in disguise; a constitutional lawyer beholden to The Money. But what else could or should we have expected? There is no other route to political power in America, than through The Money.

Nevertheless, he is not a bad man. He did not try to grind the faces of the poor as the Republicans delight in doing, when they can be bothered to think about them at all between elections*. He genuinely did his best to bring about social reform, to extend free healthcare and to protect the environment. Despite his sorry record of extrajudicial killings, he is not thought to be an ecocidal money-launderer and serial bankrupt with connections to global criminal enterprises.

And Michelle has done sterling work all over the world in advancing the cause of public education and the advancement of women, a genuinely inspirational and gracious figure some say they wish would run for the Presidency.

Which is how she came to be at a conference in Washington yesterday on children’s nutrition.

Since taking office, Mr Trump has mounted a continued, frenzied, hate-filled, childishly resentful onslaught on the Obamas’ legacy by every possible means, heedless of the immense damage he is doing to ordinary Americans in the process.

He has attacked and attempted to rollback every single piece of legislation, every appointment the 44th President succeeded against the political odds in making during his eight years in office – including a tiny, inexpensive and inoffensive order requiring schools in the public system to meet proper standards of nutrition when providing pupils with meals.

When you consider that one State (Republican, naturally – what is wrong with them?) recently ruled that Pizza counts as a vegetable towards the ‘5-a-day’ target on account of it’s got tomato paste on it, duh, along with the processed cheese, you can see why it might be important to insist on a healthy balance of fiber, vitamins, minerals and other nutrients.

“We have a lot more work to do, for sure, but we’ve got to make sure we don’t let anybody take us back because the question is, where are we going back to?” Obama told a Partnership for a Healthier America summit in Washington.

“This is where you really have to look at motives, you know. You have to stop and think: why don’t you want our kids to have good food at school? What is wrong with you?” – Guardian Today report

It’s not an argument Sonny Purdue, the Agriculture secretary, would go along with, as, presumably in response to a Trump order, he has simply scrapped the requirement, the Pumpkin imagines in the face of lobbying pressure and much to the relief of the US’s vastly powerful junk food lobby, the ‘stuff everything with soya and sugar’ industry that is killing people around the world in large numbers for profit – another key plank of Republican policy.

What is wrong with Mr Purdue is easy to answer: he’s an asshole.

Mrs Obama’s comments, her appeals to Moms to fight this kind of Trumpenshit, apparently met with rousing applause; and not only from Jamie Oliver.

“What is wrong with you?” should be the question loudly demanded of every bribed Republican energy, arms, medical insurance industry and food-lobby shill in Congress, every member of Trump’s incompetent wrecking crew of billionaire Deplorables, every dumbfuck who voted to cancel their own healthcare, every supine journalist who goes along respectfully with the Office of President that is being daily disgraced and diminished by this lying, self-deluded old monster – and of the monster himself.

WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU, TRUMP?

*As, for instance, the disgusting old Senate leader, Orrin Hatch, who has likened single-payer healthcare to being ‘on the dole’.

x

Did you hear the one about the ISIS asset?

Every new dawn brings news of yet another Trump gaffe, yet another hastily cobbled-together attempt by his frazzled staff to put him back in his box. And still no-one has the guts to have him removed from office, by force if necessary.

That meeting with the Russians? The Washington Post and others have been reporting, like a large orange baboon-child he blurted out to Lavrov a secret so secret it has a higher security rating than Top Secret.

It can, literally, only be spoken of in code.

Hey, guess what, I’m the President! Gee whillikers, who’d a’ thought it? Did you hear the one about the ISIS asset? Yeah, we’ve got one! His name’s dtgjk,skjiudcgtudjk, right?

Now, the subject matter of the coded secret isn’t actually a secret at all, it’s been in the papers for days. We all knew selected national security administrations around the world were making airports ban travellers from carrying laptops onboard as hand-luggage because of a tipoff that IS were planning to bomb one or more aircraft.

It must have been a pretty specific threat. But the real secret is who leaked it? The highest classification was designed to protect the source inside the IS, who given the difficulty of penetrating IS may be one of the most valuable assets on the planet. Trump apparently gave Lavrov enough background to enable the Russians to identify the source.

Now, the Russians, the US, Iran/Hezbollah, Israel, Jordan, Turkey, the Kurdish PKK militias, Bashar al-Assad and many others in the grand coalition are opposing IS. So we’re all on the same side, right? Well, no. The US is opposing Iran/Hezbollah on behalf of the Israelis, and the Russians are allies of Iran – Turkey wasn’t an ally of Russia but now is, only it’s an enemy of the Kurds… God, it’s a complete mess and I’m not even confident of finishing this paragraph.

Somewhere in the mess is Saudi Arabia, the oligarchic C15th dynasty that barbarously decapitates more people for less reason than ISIS ever did, where Trump is off to on a grand mission, his first trip abroad, to kiss the ring of the senile King and sell yet more $billions of arms to slaughter and starve more children and doctors in Yemen. (But not before he’s chocolate-caked President Erdogan in a summit of the world’s two leading authoritarian paranoiacs.)

And now the entire Gulf States region knows that Trump cannot be trusted with the secret of what day it is.

And Trumpski’s response to the shitstorm that even leading Republicans are gulping about?

“I’m the President. I have an absolute right to tell the Russians whatever I like.” (Actually, he doesn’t.)

The question must then surely be, if the info is fine to be given to the Russian Foreign Minister, what compulsion was there to send Lavrov in person all the way to Washington to receive it, when it could just have been exchanged via the normal channels?

He knows, he understands, he can be trusted with, nothing. Nothing whatsoever. He has become a grave concern to US allies and a laughing-stock at NATO, where it’s said they are preparing for his forthcoming visit with instructions to keep all speeches to under four minutes, in simple language and make them visually entertaining.

But the FBI has a way of eventually dealing with people like Trump, dangerous subversives, incompetent loose-tongued lunatics with dodgy connections, and you get a National Day named in your honor after the gun-carriage has passed by.

Old Bore’s Almanacke: A Source of FACTS You Can Trust! (Unlike those propagated by Mr Pruitt.) And, O God, Make it Stop! #2… the Flynn-flam.

Food for thought

Atreus then learned of Thyestes’ and Aerope’s adultery and plotted revenge. He killed Thyestes’ sons and cooked them, save their hands and feet.

There is an excellent potted biography of the late bon viveur, socialite, gambler, author, panel-show personality, dogfood commercial star, famed miserabilist, TV chef and Liberal MP, Sir Clement Freud, available among the obituaries on The Telegraph website:

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/obituaries/culture-obituaries/tv-radio-obituaries/5163084/Sir-Clement-Freud.html

No mention is made in the text of any known proclivity for young girls; he seemed to lead such a full life it is hard to see where he could have found the time for molestation; although it is mentioned that, with his friend Jonathan Aitken, the MP who was gaoled for perjury in 1999 following a failed libel action he brought against Granada TV over a documentary about secret arms dealings with Saudi Arabia, Freud:

“…also used his political appeal to advance a lifelong commitment to children’s welfare. A former secretary of the Refugee Children’s Fund, he set up, with Jonathan Aitken, a Parliamentary Den of the Good Bears of the World, providing teddies to children in hospital, and was later president of the Down’s Children Association.”

In the light of the Savile affair, any involvement of an adult male in the public eye, even on a philanthropic basis, with children, especially mentioning hospitals, is now a deeply suspicious matter. Dorset police, for instance, have spent years and over a millon pounds in a thus-far fruitless attempt to link the former Prime Minister, the late Sir Edward Heath, with lurid details of Establishment orgies and even murders involving children, tales spun by a known fantasist.

But it seems a far cry from teddy bears to the accusations following his death that Freud was a predatory monster throughout his adult life.

With a profuse apology his family, sadly, seemed to confirm the story; which is surrounded by circumstantial evidence, as well as accusations from a number of women who eventually came forward, of activity dating back to the 1940s. Evidence such as that Freud ‘shared an office’ with the  grossly obese figure of Sir Cyril Smith MP, another politician who notoriously ‘got away with it’ for years (only with small boys) owing, one assumes, to the sickening deference with which the British treat anyone with a handle to their name.

The Telegraph subsequently carried a story headed:

Sir Clement Freud exposed as a paedophile as police urged to probe Madeleine McCann links

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2016/06/14/sir-clement-freud-exposed-as-a-paedophile-as-police-urged-to-pro/

I have deliberately used the usually sober Telegraph as a source for this story, as the incandescent rage and vitriol spewed out by the tabloid press over the affair makes the accusation that much less believable. Putting two and two together to make eleven, the tabloids linked the paedophilia claims directly to the long-running McCann abduction story via the curious coincidence of Freud having owned a villa in Praia da Luz, the upmarket Portuguese holiday resort where Madeleine disappeared in 2007, seemingly without trace.

Now, to kidnap a four-year-old for immediate sexual gratification does not fit Freud’s known MO. While grooming girls as young as 10, Freud’s extramarital activity, generally characterised as frenzied and brutal rapes, seems to have taken place only once his victims were past the age of consent.

Other questions remained: was Freud at the villa the night Madeleine disappeared? Apparently not, but he was there soon afterwards when he invited the parents, Kate and Gerry McCann, to lunch by the pool – out of sympathy, and served them ‘egg and watercress sandwiches’ at his ‘million pound’ villa, with its own ‘snooker table’ – you can see how the level of reporting in the tabloids, such as these telling details in The Sun, establishing Freud’s guilt beyond question, is not terribly helpful.

Now, I’m going to mention something not very nice, so if you have a properly politically correct view of the world, look away now.

There is in the history of the West, a particularly nasty myth about the Jews known as the ‘blood libel’ – a myth concocted to excuse persecution that went beyond the simple but daft notion that Jews ‘crucified Christ’, which they didn’t; although, in the unverifiable New Testament stories, they did nothing much to save him from the Romans (there is no historical evidence of any of this). Medieval Christians would have been horrified to have pointed out to them, the obvious truth that Jesus was himself a lifelong Jew.

The ‘blood libel’ however went much further. It held that Jews were wont to go around stealing Christian children, sacrificing them – and cannibalising them in Satanic rituals.

Born in Vienna into a secular Jewish family, a grandson of the father of psychology, Sigmund Freud, the analyst whom every tabloid reader knows as ‘that sex-maniac’, Clement Freud was not a practising Jew. Yet there is a disturbing echo of the ‘blood libel’ in the imputation, not very far from the surface in the tabloid press, who are borderline insane at the best of times, that ‘TV Chef’ Freud probably had Madeleine kidnapped for a special purpose, which we should perhaps not delve into here.

My interest in the story was piqued this morning by a news item that said the Home Office has licensed another £85 thousand to pay for the British police to continue their so-far fruitless investigations in Portugal. Hotels, air fares – it won’t go very far. No stone has been left unturned, uncovering a series of leads over the past seven years that have simply run into the sand. The press would be thrilled if now, after all this time, someone were to be fingered for the crime.

Yet my mouth fell open on the desktop when I discovered thereby that there is a lengthy thread of stories on the web suggesting that two people connected with the US Presidential election were staying at Freud’s villa on the night Madeleine vanished – the Podesta brothers, John and Tony.

I make no claims whatsoever for the veracity of a grimy looking website called Thetruthseeker. I merely draw your attention to a morass of stuff that’s out there, that is typified when they write:

“This may blow your mind.  (It well may have already. Ed.) Of all the conspiracies the “conspiracy theorists” have come up with in the past several years, they never even came up with anything CLOSE to the reality of what is really going on- worldwide.

“From Wikileaks, we have learned that it is very likely John Podesta (Hillary’s long time friend and currently her campaign manager) and brother, Tony Podesta, are actively very involved in a child sex ring that is literally world wide.”

Hillary Clinton’s campaign manager, and a distinguished visiting professor of law at Georgetown University, with a long record of service to the Clintons, John Podesta:

“…served as both an Assistant to the President and as Deputy Chief of Staff. Earlier, from January 1993 to 1995, he was Assistant to the President, Staff Secretary and a senior policy adviser on government information, privacy, telecommunications security (note that… Ed.) and regulatory policy. In 1998 he became President Clinton’s Chief of Staff in the second Clinton Administration and executed the position until the end of Clinton’s time in office in January 2001. – Wikipedia

Note also the mention of the dreaded Wikileaks – the web portal that is doing absolutely everything it can to have its founder, Julian Assange, ‘sprung’ from his self-imposed imprisonment in the Ecuadorian embassy in London and flown to the sanctuary of the Trump Tower; Mr Assange, and the go-between liftboy Farage, who is even now proving a ‘useful idiot’ in the perpetuation of the coup underway in the USA by Christian fundamentalists and the alt-right.

John Podesta hit the news last year during the campaign, when it emerged that it was thousands of his emails that were being investigated by the FBI, not Hillary Clinton’s – although the distinction was lost on Trump’s army of Dumbfucks. Evidence emerged that it was Podesta’s emails that might have been hacked by the Russians; possibly with the complicity of or through the agency of Wikileaks.

The alt-right websites that are now trying to place the Podesta brothers in Praia da Luz (you wouldn’t think it would be that hard to get the Portuguese immigration authorities to confirm their movements), along with connections to prominent Jews*, were also buzzing with the story, whose origin seems to have been linked to General Mike Flynn (see below) and his son Michael Jr, that Podesta and Clinton were running a paedophile ring based underneath a Pizza restaurant in Washington, Comet Ping Pong.

You have to gasp for air at this point, so here’s an extract from the Telegraph report: Trump fires Adviser’s son from transition for spreading fake news. It started with a Tweet…

“On Tuesday morning, after the post had attracted national attention and it was reported that Mr. Flynn had a transition team email address, Vice President-elect Mike Pence denied that Mr. Flynn had ever worked for the team, saying on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” that he had “no involvement in the transition whatsoever.”

The story was so believable, indeed, that a man walked into the restaurant armed with a rifle and fired a shot into the ceiling, explaining on arrest that he was just checking it out. Apparently, the restaurant does not have a basement; and even Mr Trump, the godfather of disruptive fake news, was forced to act to prevent further lawlessness. Both Flynn Sr and Jr are now history. The pattern of denial and retraction however is becoming familiar.

As is the continuing campaign of smears, lies, false news, false claims and false trails, the faint aroma of antisemitism, of 1930s-style fascism, emanating from the President’s office.

Was the FBI looking for evidence of Hillary’s seemingly innocuous use of a private email server, on which she may have carelessly distributed classified material as Secretary of State? Were they looking for the Kremlin’s grubby fingerprints proving extensive interference in the US election? Or were they perhaps looking for evidence of paedophilia – extending to the kidnap and murder of a small child, ten years ago in Portugal?

We should be told.

But we probably won’t be.

* For instance, there’s speculation that Tony Podesta owns a painting by Freud’s estranged brother Lucien, that contains coded images of child-abuse, as evidence of a connection with Clement. Dan Brown is alive and well…

 

Meanwhile, back in the Swamp…

“Democratic super lobbyist Tony Podesta failed to register under the Foreign Agent Registration Act (FARA) when he agreed to represent Sberbank, Russia’s largest bank.

“Sberbank allegedly has close ties to Russia’s intelligence services, The Daily Caller News Foundation Investigative Group has learned.” – The Daily Caller

dailycaller.com/2017/03/07/exclusive-podesta-didnt-register-as-a-foreign-agent-when-he-represented-a-bank-with-ties-to-russian-spy-agencies/#ixzz4bDuumOI3

Is there any end to this shit?

Any rightwing US website is going to make the link with the FSB, principally because every bank in Russia worth its salt must have ties to spies. In reality, no oligarchs are implicated in the very dull Sberbank, founded in 1840, which is mostly owned by Russia’s central bank and will be familiar to older Russians as the Soviet Union’s widespread State outlet for distributing wages, pensions and lottery tickets.

Podesta’s firm was allegedly paid $170,000 for undisclosed services to the FSB’s own ‘private bank’, a fact which he did declare, but only as a non-foreign agent claiming to have been acting for Sberbank’s New York office. But what was he doing working for Sberbank at all, when his brother was Clinton’s campaign manager and ought to have remained squeaky clean?

Or has this story been cooked-over to counter stories of Trump campaign involvement with the Russians? Who on earth knows anymore?

All these vastly wealthy money-laundering, sanctions-busting criminals appear either to be insensately greedy and totally immune to any legal sanction, or they are just a bunch of rich fucking idiots who can’t cover their tracks or do anything right.

Bearing in mind The Daily Caller is a rightwing website founded by neocon lobbyist Tucker Carlson, and thus no lover of the Clintons, nor an effective judge of East European banking institutions, nevertheless the concern has to be that the end-product of globalisation is international criminality without end. It has gone beyond nationalism, beyond politics.

It is being committed by a loose conspiracy of purely self-interested super-rich, from Putin and Trump on down, playing their own games, their gears greased by greedy lobbying and finance consultants, moving their vast wealth around profitably through hidden pathways with impunity, while millions go hungry and the planet is raped of its remaining resources by the likes of the Kochs and the Exxons.

And this conspiracy, the Thing has seemingly captured the castle, and is busy dismantling American global hegemony and prestige with every passing day.

You’re fucked, America.

 

Mr Big-head

For your amusement, here is a re-Post of one part of a multipart Post I Posted back in May, 2015, just after the General Election and over a year before the EU referendum. It was entitled ‘Polly-Wolly Doodle and the Pundits’, the Polly in the title being Ms Toynbee of The Guardian, who was clearly the worse for wear after staying up all night to comment on the results. This bit wasn’t about her:

 

Pollsters and pundits were telling us for months that we were in for another hung Parliament – no party with an overall majority – only this time it would be more complicated to form a governing coalition because of increasing support for minority parties: the Scottish Nationalists, UKIP and the Greens. In the event they were all wrong – as I predicted! – David Cameron’s party secured a slim majority.

Now the prevailing media wisdom is that without coalition partners, Cameron is nakedly exposed to his own Eurosceptic backbenchers and might be bounced into bringing forward a national referendum on whether or not to remain a member of the European Union.

Should that happen, it looks like the country would narrowly vote to stay in. But even that could prove to be wildly optimistic, given the Farage factor. And the prognosis then is that the dominant Nationalists in Scotland would bring forward their own referendum and the Scottish voters, who are thought overwhelmingly to want to remain in the EU, would vote to leave the Union with England, Wales and Northern Ireland. Patriotic English voters would then row Britannia out into the Atlantic and sink her beneath the waves they think we still rule.

It’s an interesting thesis, but it takes no account of where the EU itself might be in two years’ time, following ‘Grexit’ – Athens’ massive debt default looming a few days from now, the inevitable exit from the Euro under German pressure and expulsion from the EU that would probably follow.

Why would Scotland want to leave the United Kingdom to join a fragmenting, bickering, economically unstable Europe, in which all the old, failed centrist governments have gone and only weird and frightening Eurosceptic extremist parties are in power? (Because it’s better than being stuck with the English? Don’t answer that!)

The elephant in the room, hopefully to see that wearisome cliche for the last time, is France. What if Marine le Pen and her eminently reasonable but Eurosceptic, anti-immigrant, anti-German, Islamophobic Front Nationale party were to be occupying the Elysée Palace by then? On recent showings, it’s not out of the question.

So, I was right about Cameron and the referendum!

In the event, I was wrong about the EU fragmenting, at least in the short term. The forthcoming Brexit talks seem to have taken the minds of the 27 off the idea of splitting up while there’s money to be made; Greece is still just inside the Eurozone, clinging on by its fingernails. But they are sliding down the blackboard as I write, with a possible new default looming and the culpable German bankers still in no mood to make life easier for Greek pensioners, the sick and the 50% of Under-25s out of work.

I seem to have been more prescient, however, about Marine le Pen, who is, I think, ahead or nearly in the polls, although one poll today puts the teenage Blairite Emmanuel Macron in front – he’s not yet been nobbled by the Russians – with her main opponents, Francois Fillon’s conservatives, in disarray over corruption allegations against the former PM (Mme le Pen’s own expenses scandal appearing to have quietly subsided).

And in the wake of Brexit (which I also predicted in an earlier Post, as long ago as May 2013), despite (more probably because of) Theresa May’s uncomprehending and patronising cross-border interventions on the subject of a national unity she is otherwise doing her damnedest to destroy, with her creaky protestations of ‘one-nation’ Tory policies to help the ‘Just About Managing’ class (bleuch! It’s like nursery school!); policies that always seem to round-out as gouging the poor, the elderly, the disabled, the unemployed – the self-employed (many of whom had no other choice) – and the sick to pay for Mrs May’s investment manager husband Phil’s and all the other investment managers’ wealthy corporate clients to get even richer,  Nicola Sturgeon has been militant in pushing the idea of another Scottish referendum, probably next year (Autumn 2018), that she seems doomed to lose.

You read it here first: no breakup, no MacRe-Entry. But you never know.

“Looking forward to a good day at BlackRock, only the faintest of patrician sneers troubling his Old St Paulian face, the Chancellor, Mr Osborne, slides slowly sideways while pretending to listen intently to a lighthearted intervention by his friend, Mr Cameron…” – Hansard*

*not.

Meanwhile, after a fiercely contested third round of candidate interviews, no doubt, the shortlisted former Chancellor, Gideon ‘George’ Osborne has gratefully accepted an offer of £650 thousand a year to spend one day a week lunching agreeably in an ‘advisory’ role to the world’s largest investment fund management company, BlackRock. (The actual hours aren’t specified. My bet: 10 – 4?)

So he never needs to work again?

Actually, he’s cheap at the price.

At £78k a week, as it would extrapolate on a six-days’ basis, with a raised self-employed NI contribution of 10%, ‘George’ is still a long way behind Manchester United’s prolific striker, the Bosnian-Croatian-Swede, Zoltan Ibrahimovic (£200k a week. We share a birthday, I see). Or even more, the £300k a week which the ageing midfield supremo, Wayne Rooney has been used to receiving, re-bound now for Everton.

Or indeed, Adele, whom George more closely resembles (£25k a day, every day. Oh, the monotony!). Or ginger-nerd, Ed Sheeran ($57 million in 2015 – Forbes)…. Or many CEOs of Footsie-100 companies, rewarded in the £millions. Advertising financial guru, Sir Martin Sorrell’s latest controversial pay award reportedly takes his salary to approximately one million pounds – a week.

Why, that’s more than half the £90 million a year the bloke who makes Cillit Bang’s gardener helps him take home in his gold-plated wheelbarrow!

Back on Earth, there’s Ross McEwan, the immigrant Kiwi backpacker in charge of turning-round Britain’s second-worst bank, RBS. With a salary of £3.8 million a year, Mr McEwan has trousered a £1.2 million ‘bonus’ for presiding over another embarrassing annual loss, this time of £7 billion. In fact the bank has not been in profit since we, the British taxpayer, bailed it (and its then-parent Lloyds) out with a helpful £464.57 billion in cash and guarantees; since when (mostly while Mr Osborne was in charge of the economy) it has lost another head-spinning £58 billion (Guardian Datablog).

(“McEwan … completed a degree in business studies and human resources, despite having failed an accountancy module twice.” – Wikipedia entry. No, any number of wild horses would not induce me to comment.)

My own modest emolument has recently been re-presented to me by the Department of Pork and Beans in the light of the annual inflation figure and the triple-lock formula, whatevs, as £198.20 a week. Taken with some few small sources of further income, including a regular twice-yearly part-time seasonal job for five weeks on a zero-hours contract, it seems to be a not wholly inadequate basis on which to live, given that I still own 2/3rds of my little house.

It’s about what Ed Sheeran makes every 90 seconds, anyway. No wonder he looks as though someone has just clobbered him over the back of the head with a cricket bat.

Frankly I can’t see why anyone would need more – although I’m informed by radio this morning that the Shadow Chancellor, John McDonnell, regards £40 thousand a year as ‘low-to-middle income’. I could go a very long way on it.

But I’m delighted to learn while doing the extensive research for this fact-based article, that Mr McDonnell, he of the timeworn, faded-newsprint appearance and reedy old voice, is two years younger than me! And I’m probably still a better copywriter than Martin Sorrell ever was or will be. I’m just no bloody good with money.)

Way to go, George. You’re not even taking the piss, mate, are you?

 

A man with a wallet for a brain

Scott Pruitt, the Butcher of Oklahoma penitentiary, has struck again.

Carbon dioxide, he has told a press conference, is probably not responsible for global warming. Most scientists, he says, still disagree on the matter. More analysis, he says (he does not have a science background, he has a bad law degree from an obscure college, and we know that the homophones Lawyer and Liar are so easily muddled-up)  is needed.

Yes, more analysis of Mr Pruitt’s motive for spouting this pernicious drivel is needed from the criminal justice system, as it needs urgently to be determined from whom and for why, if indeed he has, he has an incentive thus to lie to the American people; who surely have a right to know the truth about how and why they and we are threatening the future of life on the planet and what they and we might do about it.

What is more depressing than the fact that he has said all this, is that he hasn’t realised the game is up. It’s over, and the deniers have lost. There is 100% agreement among atmospheric physicists, meteorologists and climatologists, that carbon dioxide is a greenhouse gas that traps solar energy in the atmosphere, cumulatively for decades. And that we’re pumping out too much.

It has been known about for over a century.

Even the fucking oil industry has been saying for years, we’re burning fossil fuels at our peril.

And the relentless ‘hockey-stick’ upward curve in CO2 concentration from 280 parts per million in c. 1770 to what some scientists think may be 450 ppm today has raised global temperature on average by 1.7 deg C since the end of the C19th, with an ever-faster increase from feedbacks such as methane release – now at danger level in the Arctic – forecast to generate more powerful storms, droughts, floods and wildfires – just as we are already seeing.

There is no mystery, except to those who don’t want to believe it: scientific illiterates, conspiracy theorists, internet trolls and just, frankly, wankers like the cretin Pruitt; those cynical committers of an ecocidal crime against humanity whose mouths are stuffed with cash by lobbyists working for powerful C20th corporations that make fortunes for their shareholders out of burning fossil fuels and cannot change.

Mr Pruitt is therefore in my view a dangerous pragmatist, as well as likely a paid liar, who has now found a branch to swing from in the topmost echelons of government.

A poor combination adverting to the absolute moral bankruptcy of this gutter Presidency.

It is well and widely known – I had intended not to write about US politics in this section of muh bogl, but I have been driven to it, sorry – that Mr Pruitt was only appointed to the role of Secretary for the Environment because he was the most stupid, scientifically illiterate and potentially corruptible candidate available for the job. He has previously sued the Environment Protection Agency, the department he now heads (without benefit of deputies or departmental directors, they have yet to be and may never be appointed)  twenty times for annoying his friends in the energy bidness.

He is on record as being committed to destroying the Agency, his own department.

A bill has already been launched by Republicans in Congress to dissolve the EPA; along with other agencies offering consumer, wilderness and endangered wildlife protections. This White House being a criminal conspiracy of cut-throat capitalists and apocalyptic revivalists led by a senescent, inept, tantrum-throwing moral imbecile, anything may happen and probably will.

It’s a pattern Mr Trump has repeated across a wide range of government agencies his funders don’t see the point of. They get in the way of doing lucrative business, so he is setting them up to fail.

Most alarming of all, Mr Tillerson, the powerful ex-Exxon boss and Russophile pal of Putin’s whom Trump put in at the State Department, still has no deputy, no departmental directors and few remaining staff. The most important office of state, America’s face to the world, has been gutted, its senior diplomats and staffers sacked.

Its leadership has been filled by a handsome old expensive suit who has no office; no face; no mission, other than to enrich the President and his cronies with filthy oil deals across the most economically devastated parts of the world. Countries where millions are facing environmental disaster, plagues and starvation while the wealth-laden nations of the West pull up the drawbridge against them.

(Yes, Mr Trump has proposed to slash the aid budget, cut funding to the UN and impose a potentially indefinite moratorium on refugees.)

And this, we learned from MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow today, is likely being done on the orders of President Vladimir Putin. (No time to explain. In short: he owns the President. He directs the policy. That will have to do.)

Traitors and compromised bankrupts have taken over the White House. Who will stop them?

The administration under the philosophical guidance of the dissolute, nihilistic Christian-right sociopath, Bannon, sees its remit as the destruction of whole swaths of regulatory bodies that provide the overall governance of the United States; a kind of Year Zero policy, like the one Pol Pot implemented in Cambodia. He has said it: it’s not my invention. He has told American Conservatives, his aim is to bring down the entire apparatus of the State.

Why is he not in jail facing sedition charges? Why is the grotesque Trump not in jail, awaiting trial under the Patriot Act, the Logan Act, the Emoluments Clause, the racketeering laws? Is no-one capable of standing up and taking appropriate actions against these deceptive men?

So I was thrilled to learn today that 1.5 million acres of territory across four states, including Oklahoma, have been reduced to ashes by brushfires in the past 48 hours. I would that the whole of the fucking United States would burn down around the ears of this sick jerk Pruitt, who has fought tooth and nail for years to prevent the release of over 3,000 official emails he has a legal obligation to release on demand, which many suspect will prove his cosy relationship with coal, oil and gas fracking companies.

The biggest, most self-interested fucking liars on earth.

And there will be consequences arising from these outré statements of his. Mr Pruitt knows full well, because it is White House policy to continue to build an army of Trump’s core supporters, ‘The Movement’, that he can tap into the limited knowledge-base of Dumbfucks and internet trolls, trailer dwellers without education or discrimination, middle-class Tea Party disappointees, veterans as unlike Mr Trump as it is possible to be (who haven’t noticed he despises them), racists, millions of self-identifying economically dispossessed voters, conspiracy theorists and crazed survivalists; plus a handful no doubt of the usual suspects, opportunistic thugs happy to create any mayhem, to persecute any ethnic or religious minority, who don’t care that he’s lying as long as he tells them the lies they want to hear; the lies that license their envy and malice without sanction.

Rounding that out, is the promotion of the dimly illuminated Betsy DeVos, wife of the Amway pyramid-selling multibillionaire ‘Dick’, contributor of $22 million to Party and campaign funds, to a role where she can collapse the education system, to promote well-armed Christian schools – madrassas teaching future generations of little American Nazis Creationism and Bible fucking Truther studies and God-knows what unadulterated mystical cobblers, ignorance and fear and loyalty to The Plan. Plus, the value of becoming an Amway downline.

Like, carbon dioxide doesn’t cause warming. Like scientists still can’t agree. Like, more research is needed – except that Trump has already banned with an illiterate flourish, the doomed environment agencies and Government scientists and NASA from publishing research he’s being told by Bannon and Miller, the snow-capped fundamentalist Pence, he doesn’t agree with.

You’re fucked, America.

And so are we.

x

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=suqLgsZdR7E

“Newly Released Emails Reveal Pruitt’s Connections with Koch Brothers” –The Real News Network

In case you don’t know the Koch Brothers, the Koch family owns vast slabs of the US energy industry and is responsible for much of the pollution of all three ‘sinks’ – earth, air and water; having extensive holdings in, for instance, the filthy business of tar-sands extraction, opencast coal mining, pipelines and fracking. According to Rolling Stone magazine:

Brothers Charles and David (Koch) are each worth more than $40 billion. The electoral influence of the Koch brothers is similarly well-chronicled. The Kochs are our homegrown oligarchs; they’ve cornered the market on Republican politics and are nakedly attempting to buy Congress and the White House. Their political network helped finance the Tea Party and powers today’s GOP.”

“According to the University of Massachusetts Amherst’s Political Economy Research Institute, only three companies rank among the top 30 polluters of America’s air, water and climate: ExxonMobil, American Electric Power and Koch Industries… Across its businesses, Koch generates 24 million metric tons of greenhouse gases a year.” – Rolling Stone

Interestingly, the filthy rich Kochs reportedly don’t approve of Trump, he’s not fully on-board with the program. But he’s being so good to them! Maybe appointing their boy Pruitt to the EPA and signing off orders removing environmental protections is an attempt to make nice with them? To buy their love? But surely not.

That would be corruption.

(A quick check with TheAtlanticist reveals the interesting fact that none of the Top 10 most spectacularly wealthy party donors backed Trump. Hopefuls they did back, whose names are rapidly fading into history include well-funded candidates Marco Rubio, Ted Cruz, Chris Christie, Jeb Bush, Rand Paul… so they all lost their shirts. So sad!)

 

Oh God, please make it stop! #2

Lt Gen Michael T Flynn, showing he has normal hands.

To look at, General Mike Flynn is an imposing figure of a man. The sort of leader you’d follow into combat, trusting him to extract you and your unit safely from the hottest firefight.

A craggy, hawkish profile marked by a strong chin and powerful, axe-blade nose; under beetling brows a permanently serious, not to say intimidating expression; his upright military bearing indicative of total authority, strength, command, confidence – total probity.

Not the sort of swamp-dwelling Washington lobbyist of imagination, who would blandly deny, secretly and while not yet in office having negotiated the lifting of sanctions on his country’s oldest enemy, imposed because of their illicit military incursions into a friendly country – an apparent breach of the Logan Acts; nor the kind of sleazy back-alley operator, who would happily trouser half a million dollars to do a bit of PR for a tyrannical Muslim dictator.

But there you are.

Needs must when the Devil drives, as they say. A retired general’s pension ain’t so great. And Mr Trump appears to surround himself with similar types who’ve all done Faustian bargains to obtain temporal power and riches. Flynn’s reward for loyal service to the Trump machine was to be made National Security Advisor, despite his stated allegiance to the Democratic party. And Russia, obviously.

It didn’t go well.

Having been cut loose only days later by the Trump Inc. false facts factory, presumably to keep his activities at arm’s length from the capo di capi, the Big Orange, Mr Flynn found himself in the embarrassing position of having to admit to the media at least four meetings with Russian diplomats, for which obviously read intelligence agents, while not precisely remembering the subjects of the conversations. Amnesia that might have proved costly on the battlefield. Oh, we’re attacking the tanks, right.

I imagine at that point he must have found his life unspooling, and frankly I was tempted to feel a bit sorry for him as he was clearly an honourable man ‘only following orders’ from the gilded buffoon who would shortly become his Commander-in-Chief, although he would not have known it then, and acted in conscience to protect him, only to be thrown to the wolves.

Now I’m not so sure. For, first thing this morning (not as impressive as it sounds, I’m a late riser) we were greeted by the following headline:

“Trump unaware that Michael Flynn was a ‘foreign agent’, Sean Spicer says

“Former national security adviser retroactively disclosed that he lobbied for firm linked to Turkish government while working as Trump’s campaign adviser” – The Guardian

“….Donald Trump was unaware his former national security adviser was working as a “foreign agent” when he gave him the job, according to his press secretary…. “I don’t believe that was known,” said Sean Spicer, when asked by reporters at his regular press briefing on Thursday.”

You mean there are other things that were known?

A typical Melissa Spicer fudge. That little bitch always seems to be flying-by-wire. But was this revelation a means of silencing Flynn?

What Flynn, working through a Dutch PR consultancy, was paid $530,000 to do, it seems, was to lobby the President to send back to Ankara for a spot of enhanced questioning, a ‘radical’ cleric, Dr Fetullah Gulen, who has been living in exile for many years in the USA, which has thus far refused to allow Turkey to extradite him.

Dr Gulen is a former friend and colleague of the increasingly paranoid President Recep Tayyat Erdogan. Rather as first Hillary Clinton, and now President Obama (they keep the title), have become the catch-all hate figures for the increasingly paranoid President Trump and his barely sentient followers, so Dr Gulen is the Emmanuel Goldstein, as it were (to draw an Orwellian analogy), the national hate figure of Big Brother Erdogan, his goons and paid agitators and millions of assorted rustics who keep voting for him (but never seem to get any better off. Funny, that.)

Dr Gulen is responsible for all the ills Turkey has been suffering since the financial crash, that have nothing to do with Erdogan’s competence as he accrues powers to the Presidency that are coming close to one-man rule; and indeed masterminded the badly managed coup many conspiracy theorists seem still to think Mr Erdogan organised against himself in order to have a good clearout of more than 100,000 military and State employees – teachers, librarians and so on – ‘Gulenists’ he believes were plotting against him, many of them now languishing in jail.

I couldn’t possibly comment.

Meanwhile Mr Erdogan continues to pursue military operations as two sides of a curious triangle: against the ISIS on one side, his domestic Kurdish PKK separatists on another; while on the baseline, supported by the Americans, in Syria the PKK is fighting the ISIS.

Thus Mr Flynn was probably inadvertently supporting the enemy of another US ally. But it’s complicated. No, really.

And with over 2,000 civilian dead, mainly Kurds, and tens of thousands more displaced by fighting, the Turkish Army in the south is being accused by the UN of serious human rights violations. But as I say, it’s complicated. No, really.

And, guided by Mr Putin, in Ankara the nutjob is railing against the European Union and NATO to try to stoke up nationalist fervour ahead of next week’s Presidential referendum increasing his powers to those of Allah the almighty himself. But Mr Flynn is happy for a few dollars to assist the enemies of NATO, albeit that they are themselves valued members.

We pray fervently, do we not, for contact with aliens from more sophisticated civilizations, only in the hope that someone is powerful enough to rid the world of these scumbags. But no-one comes.

Many years ago, I worked with a journalist whose dinner-party story was that he had at one time been PR advisor to Idi Amin, the Butcher of Uganda: a murderer, embezzler and a suspected cannibal. Like the Catholic church, a good PR man doesn’t take sides, you see, he just hears the confessions and takes the money. Poor Julian was put away eventually, after setting fire to his own house with his attractive French wife and kid inside.

General Flynn’s future seems less clear at present. It’s a ‘watch this space’ situation until what is believed is not known can be believed to be known, as it were.

 

Bang to rights

I’ve Posted before about discrepancies in police prosecutions and court sentencing of felons whose actions result in the deaths of police, and those who kill civilians, in the course of police pursuits.

My particular focus was on the case of 19-year-old Clayton Williams, given a 20-year sentence for manslaughter after (he says, accidentally) striking and killing PC David Philips, a foot-patrol officer who was ordered to stop Williams’ stolen Mitsubishi pickup truck two hours after a minor break-in was reported, with other officers in hot pursuit.

A more normal sentence for manslaughter in a motoring case involving the deaths of civilians where the police are not involved might be from two to six years.

There were elements of the case I found disturbing, especially the way the police identified Williams and published a highly pejorative social media photo and held an emotive press conference after he had already been charged – with murder, initially – but before trial, potentially prejudicing a jury.

I contrasted it with a more recent case, that of 24-year-old Joshua Dobby, who struck a group of pedestrians in south London, killing a ten-year-old boy and his aunt, while being pursued by police. In that instance there was no hyped-up emotional rhetoric or talk of ‘murder’. The original charge was one of causing death by dangerous driving.

His case has just concluded.

We learned that Dobby, the estranged son of a wealthy businessman, had been high on crack cocaine and heroin at the time, and had no driver’s licence or insurance. He was already out on licence from an 18-week prison sentence for handling stolen goods.

“The defendant had 53 previous convictions dating back to the age of 13, including a conviction for aggravated vehicle taking, having crashed a car into railings with police in pursuit, aged 16.” – BBC News

And it was the second time he had been pursued by police that same day.

You would imagine then that such an egregious offender would have been subject to the full force of the law; but the maximum penalty for his offence is only 12 years; whereas it appears that a charge of murdering a policeman, reduced to one of manslaughter, has no limit on the sentence.

Twelve years is a hefty sentence, and more than deserved in this case. Dobby is a mess, a deeply damaged personality who needs correction. He won’t get it – our prison system is in meltdown: understaffed, underfunded, programmes abandoned; riddled with drugs and violence, prisoners are reported to be locking themselves in their cells for protection. People have been calling for his sentence to be increased, but by the usual standards of manslaughter sentences it is already at the top of the scale.

Williams too is by all accounts a miserable social specimen, who had also been taking drugs. When the victim was a policeman, however, doing a job everyone, including the police, accept can be dangerous – although on average annual police operational casualties throughout the history of the 150,000-strong force have thankfully rarely exceed two or three in a year it’s less dangerous than working on a building site) – with a defendant five years younger than Dobby, and with a lesser string of convictions, 20 years seems excessive.

In both cases, police were engaged in a high-speed chase through a built-up area, pursuing minor criminals for what were initially minor offences. Don’t they bear any responsibility for the consequences? For all those wrecked lives?

 

The Pumpkin – Issue 9: Bugger! Trump speaks in sentences! Greatest speech in history, ever. Believe me.

“I don’t know what the hell it says, some stuff, but Bannon says it’s my signature o.k., so we’ll run with it”

Bugger! Wire we doing this?

“Mr Trump, who is at his Florida resort, fired off a series of tweets from just after 06:30 local time (11:30 GMT) on Saturday. He called the alleged tapping “a new low” and said “This is Nixon/Watergate” – BBC News

Trump’s latest wheeze, creating fake news to shift the blame for Whiteyleaks onto his new hate figure, Emmanuel Goldstein Obama, by suggesting with no evidence whatever that the former President left a bug in the Trump Tower, is just the orange manchild’s way of denying the leaks are coming from his own staff and the FBI.

And the poor fuckwit doesn’t even understand, Nixon bugged his own office. That’s where the notorious White House Tapes came from. It wasn’t an FBI black op, ‘Tricky Dicky’ was so vain and insecure he recorded everything for posterity. Even the bad bits.

Once the tapes were finally subpoena’d by the Special Prosecutor, they showed the extent of Nixon’s potty-mouthed and devious corruption, his involvement in ordering the break in at the Watergate complex to steal the Democrat Party’s campaign plans.

Mr Trump has therefore just admitted that his transition team probably has enough dirt to hang him out to dry.

‘We’re Americans, we have no idea even where Russia is.”

Bye bye. It’s been fun.

x

Reading between the outlines

What has happened to the BBC, that used to be famed for its impartiality?

I listened to an hour of the flagship R4 Today programme, er, today and anyone would imagine we had woken up on a new rocky, watery planet orbiting a star only 40 light years away by Space-X shuttle.

Total, uncritical reception. The worst they could find any London-based American journalist to say about Trump’s miraculous rebirth was that he didn’t write the speech himself. That was the New York Times man. Otherwise the vox pops, the studio reactions, the long-distance interviews with stunned Congressmen – it was as if the last 38 days had all been a bad dream.

Politicians at that level seldom do write their own speeches. Especially ones as important as this. There’s been a growing movement in Congress to have Trump impeached. Seemingly the problem was that there were so many grounds for firing him, nobody could decide which to go for. His approval ratings in the country are abysmal – only 42 per cent think he’s doing a good job, the worst anyone can remember after so short a period in office.

This was a shit-or-bust speech.

And unless Trump has only been pretending to be a grammatical imbecile all these months, it seems likely someone was putting those silvery, honeyed, joined-up words into his normally angry, lying, confused mouth.

To get any kind of an objective view of the speech he made to Congress, it is necessary to turn to those alternative sources we can get here, carried via short clips on YouTube: MSNBC – Rachel Maddow. TYT (The Young Turks). John Oliver of SNL (can’t stand those ‘satire’ shows for lowbrow whoopers). David Pakman. Keith Olbermann. Sam Harris. Mike Molloy. RT – Thom Hartmann.

These are not moan-for-Hillary neolibtards and commie pinkos narrowcasting from within their snowflake paperweight bubbles, they are pretty serious people (given the obvious constraints of having to explain anything a bit complicated to their fellow Americans), some of them ex-journalists and newscasters, and they all have egos, but they are all renegades who are free to stray beyond the bland boundaries of the mainstream media to share their concerns and join some of the dots.

Senator Bernie Sanders, the Socialist presidential candidate who was forced to throw his mass of support behind the disastrous Clinton bid, has for instance delivered a sober deconstruction on TYT Nation of the speech and the policies whose outlines need very much to be read between.

This was a speech for corporate America. $3 trillion in tax cuts for the wealthiest one per cent. The removal, virtually, of corporation tax on big companies who already pay little or no tax and offshore enough wealth to provide free healthcare for all, a free college education, or rescue the economies of Haiti or Venezuela (which, no, they’re not going to do). An increase of nine per cent in the military budget – $56 billion, of which most will inevitably go to line the already overstuffed pockets of private defense contractors. ‘A trillion dollars’ (where’s he borrowing that from?) to be spent on private infrastructure projects. Cuts to welfare programs, public education. More vague promises of a new version of the just about adequate existing affordable healthcare program, to restore the ruddy health of private healthcare and insurance corporations. The blatant hypocrisy of talking about ‘clean air and water’ when Trump has already signed off measures relaxing pollution controls for his coalmining funders, the Fabulous Koch Brothers, and appointed corrupt overseers to eviscerate the environmental agencies. Nothing but vague promises of past their sell-by-date jobs for the 40 million living on the breadline; deportations and broken families for the rest.

Nothing but the tone has changed. It’s a budget by a serial bankrupt, for national bankruptcy. Theft on a grand scale. The US is in hock to the tune of $20 trillion already – what’s a few trillions more? We’ve got the biggest, most expensive army in the world, it’s gonna be bigger – who’s going to make us pay it back?

The fact that Trump has managed to deliver a speech appealing for calm and unity (who, I wonder, created the panic and disunity in the first place?) in joined-up, honeyed words without totally fucking it up does not detract for one moment from what has gone before:

…the lies, the incompetence, the chaos, the bullying, the  despair of staffers, the appointments of ringers, the shameless plugging of his family business interests, the stubborn refusal to publish his incriminating tax returns, the brutalities of his immigration policies that are licensing gum-chewing hicks to persecute Muslims and Hispanics and people of colour legally resident in the country and to impound and turn back travellers whose origins are suspect even if their visas aren’t – even former Prime Ministers: the litany of appalling horrors that have crawled out of this bizarre Oval Office in just a month, calumny upon calumny…

…not to ignore the gathering storm over his possible links via crooked associates and dodgy bankers and money-launderers and oligarchs to organised crime and hostile foreign powers, the huge debts he is said to have accumulated that leave him vulnerable to blackmail and provide him with the necessity to exploit his position for personal gain, to promote supine and self-interested incompetents to positions of power who will never challenge him…

…or the rampant electoral dishonesty engineered by the Republican party with the aid of so-called ‘Russian hackers’ – the increasingly clear connections between such nodes in the conspiracy as the Breitbart News cabal and their shadowy business interests, the Murdoch empire, Nigel Farage and the Leave.UK campaign, Deutsche Bank/Bank of Cyprus and even – for God’s sake – the Kremlin.

None of this shit has suddenly been magicked away by the febrile applause of Conservatives in the House, internally crying with relief that at last some literary genius has been found to sugar the pill and keep the ADHD President on message.

It looks like Donny took his Ritalin for once.

And now, it’s the turn of Jeff Sessions… ‘I did not have intercourse with that Russian Ambassador. I did not inhale…’

“Look guys, long fingers, big hands…”

“I have nothing to do with Russia” – The Wit and Wisdom of Donald J Trump

“The glitzy event (in Moscow), which included a swanky after-party, drew various Russian notables, including a member of Putin’s inner circle and an alleged Russian mobster. Trump later boasted that he had mingled with “almost all of the oligarchs.” Trump had hoped that Putin would attend the pageant—tweeting months earlier, “if so, will he become my new best friend?”—but the Russian leader was a no-show.” – Mother Jones website, 16 Dec 2016.

If Sessions lying to a congressional oversight committee on oath that he hadn’t spoken to the Russian ambassador to Washington is potentially a sacking offence, what the hell is this?

And if he has nothing to do with Russia, why is there an alleged Russian mobster, “property developer” Felix Henry Sater, officed in Trump Tower, New York? A man Trump has denied knowing, yet the first paragraph of his Wikipedia entry states:

“Sater has been an advisor to many corporations, including The Trump Organization.”

And why is Trump followed on a private jet wherever he goes by Dmitry Whothefuckoff, Rybolovlev the ‘Fertiliser King’, a Russian multibillionaire and crony of Putin’s who ‘overpaid’ $100 million via Bank of Cyprus, where he’s a shareholder (Director: Wilbur Ross, Trump’s old friend and now Commerce Secretary; other Director, Dr Joseph Ackermann, former-CEO of Deutsche Bank, yes them again) to buy a dilapidated mansion in Florida from Trump, that was pulled down shortly after?

Did he do that just to thwart his ex-wife, who’d been awarded $4 billion of his fortune?

You’re being fucked, America. We’re all being taken for mugs.

x

Cherry Blossom Time

© cherryblossomwatch

© 2014 cherryblossomwatch

On February 27 the first buds began opening on Washington’s famous cherry trees.

If the stonewall dumbfuck Republican deniers taking their funding from crooked energy company lobbyists in the swamp and the demented runarounds in the White House don’t admit it now, they never will.

According to official website Cherryblossomwatch.com, it’s the earliest Spring flowering ever recorded.

x

 

Dream on

“American footprints on distant worlds are not too big a dream.” – Donald H (sorry, J) Trump

There you have it.

The long-term dream of the dumbfuck alt-right fascist billionaires, right there. What the Trump presidency is all about. The underlying strategy. The Big Plan. Where the money’s gone.

Start over. Earth #2, with racial purity and proper print-your-own capitalism.

Grab some pussy, arm yourself with a full alpha copy of Google on a quantum drive, the blueprint for a New World, hop aboard a Space-X rocket courtesy of Musktours to one of those pristine rocky, watery earthlike planets NASA has found, only 40 light years from our gutted and dying world.

(Actually 40 light years is about 300,000 Earth years away at the speed of the fastest ship Musk can produce, but don’t tell Donald and Ivanka (I feel sure he’ll take his attractive daughter, his ‘terrific piece of ass’ as he calls her,  to use as breeding stock for the new master race, rather than the bothersome Melania). It’s only about 100,000 years longer than the length of time modern humans were around.

While the rest of us, on the verge of starvation and with five billion climate migrants clawing with bloodied hands at our razor-wire fences, die screaming in a methane fireball.

Hello, Jesus.

x

Fore!

“Donald Trump has lost nearly £26m ($31.8m) building his golfing empire in Scotland, his company accounts show – a sum that means the Republican presidential candidate has avoided paying any UK corporation tax on either of his two resorts.

“The latest accounts filed to the UK authorities for Trump’s two resorts, in Aberdeenshire and Turnberry in Ayrshire, also show he has sunk more than £102m ($125m) of his own money into both businesses, despite losing increasing sums on both investments.

“There is also an apparent discrepancy between the accounts and his filings last year to the US Federal Election Commission (FEC).” http://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2016/oct/12/donald-trump-scotland-golf-course-resort-losses

And where exactly is Mr Trump’s controversial new course, Trump International, that he fought tooth-and-nail to have built on a site of special scientific interest against furious opposition from residents, local authorities and environmentalists?

Why, Aberdeen.

Home of Aberdeen Asset Management, since last week Europe’s largest share juggler and tax strategist with over £300 billion of managed funds.

Part-owner of the former Deutsche Asset Management and (see above) part-owner of Rupert Murdoch’s Sky TV.

It must mean something.

A visit to Aberdeen’s prettily designed and reassuring website (motto: ‘Simple is Smart’) produces the following guest quote from Tim Harford, the larky ‘Undercover Economist’ on the Financial Times:

“The mark of success is not to avoid failure but to learn from it, adjust and adapt.”

Mr Trump has certainly learned and adapted from his many failures. Ironically, the FT (now owned by Nikkei) was founded by one Horatio Bottomley MP, a bogus patriot who pocketed the money from the sale of First World War ‘Victory’ bonds and in 1922 was jailed for seven years for fraud.

Martin Gilbert, the CEO of Aberdeen (annual salary £4.1 m), is described thus in The Telegraph:

“Gilbert is the City’s original bogeyman. Long before the likes of Fred Goodwin, Bob Diamond or any of the Libor traders, Gilbert was regarded as the unacceptable face of finance.”

“Just over a decade ago … the savings vehicles famously claimed to have “more safety features than a Volvo” … collapsed, triggering £650m of losses for 50,000 small investors.

“Aberdeen was accused of being at the centre of a “magic circle” of fund managers whose back-scratching fund raisings generated huge fees and bonuses for themselves but created a dangerous pack of cards for savers.”

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/newsbysector/banksandfinance/10471334/How-Martin-Gilbert-the-Citys-original-bogeyman-pulled-it-out-of-the-fire-again.html

I couldn’t possibly comment.

x

Pot, kettle, Pence

Remember all that shit about locking Hillary up for using a private email server on State Department business? Shit that with the help of slimy Judas Assange, the Russians and the biddable FBI director Comey helped to stuff the Democratic campaign in its dying days?

Well, at least a private email server stands less chance of being hacked than AOL, even if it’s only OAPs who still use it.

OAPs like VPOTUS Mike Pence, the walking snow-capped advert for Anusol.

It appears Indiana Governor Pence, as he was, sent embarrassing emails about security matters using his personal AOL account.

I wonder by what circuitous route that came to the public attention?

His account was hacked – laughably his friends and Contacts seem to have received from him, one of those “Help, Mike, we’re stuck in a hotel in Myanmar, can you send us two thousand bucks to pay the bill?” scams – showing that his Contacts file at the very least is now in the hands of the Russians, the Chinese, North Korea, the FBI, GCHQ, Bob Mercer’s Cambridge Analytica, the Democratic party – creatures from a rocky planet orbiting a star only 40 light years from Earth…. maybe all eight.

Who the fuck knows who does this stuff?

All we know is, Pence owes Hillary a huge apology for being an even bigger old fool than she was – and more of a hypocrite. (GOP spokes however are crying loudly, no, you don’t understand, this is different!)

Can Captain Trump’s Traumatised Transition Team take much more of this shit?

As I keep digging a shallow grave as regards connections between businesses and their men, let me just mention that AOL is owned by global comms giant, Verizon (formerly Bell labs). According to Wikipedia:

“In December 2011, the non-partisan organization Public Campaign criticized Verizon for its tax avoidance procedures after it spent $52.34 million on lobbying while collecting $951 million in tax rebates between 2008 and 2010 and making a profit of $32.5 billion.”

Of more interest to Pence, perhaps, is Verizon’s much criticised collection of metadata from customers who cannot count on their security, as the company has frequently handed over information on request… to the FBI.

You’re being fucked, America. But so is the Transition Team.

 

Essay

http://www.theguardian.com/politics/2017/mar/02/electoral-commission-urged-to-investigate-farages-brexit-campaign

Scooped!

Yes, The Pumpkin has been scooped. The day after I wrote the following piece (but hadn’t yet posted it), the above article has appeared on The Guardian Today website, pretty much making the points I’ve been trying to make for weeks. For the first time, someone is beginning to join the dots and fill-in the blanks in this conspiracy-by-numbers, this hardliner coup in America and Britain, that has so far been reported only as a series of random, apparently disconnected events and amusing speculative pieces about Trump’s sanity.

So there we are.

And here’s my piece. I wrote it for the American market, hence the slangy style; dedicated it to the amazing Mike Malloy.

By a narrow margin 48%-52% the turkeys voted for Christmas. The far from definitive result has been hailed by self-interested corporatists, alt-right media and neo-Thatcherites as the indomitable ‘Will of the People’. Or, as we say in this centenary year of the Russian Revolution, ‘The Dictatorship of the Proletariat’. And there is no gainsaying it, or they howl you down.

The European Union is a crock of shit. We all accept that. It expanded too fast, got too bureaucratic, took in some nasty countries we shouldn’t have. Bad hombres in fleamarket shellsuits and black-market trainers arrived in our Victorian terraced slums.

The one-size-fits-all Euro has fucked up the weaker economies of Greece, Ireland, Portugal and even Italy with adverse capital flows – overlending by big mostly German banks borrowing at low rates and lending to poorer countries at high rates – they couldn’t pay back, and are now being fucked over by the ECB ‘Troika’ and the IMF. We know that. My cousin Costas in Athens is a government employee, he hasn’t been paid in months and had a heart attack last year needing a quad bypass in a medical system that doesn’t have drugs, bandages. It’s a disaster.

But it was the best crock of shit we had. It produced a mass of annoying laws safeguarding workers and consumers’ rights, standardising products (my first PR client made generic parts for cars. EU type approvals made it possible for them to sell parts that fit for French and German cars), dictating (with diagrams) what constitutes a legal banana, guaranteeing food safety and traceability; toys that didn’t kill and maim children. I remember the 70s when the most fun you could have on a Sunday afternoon was to sit out and watch your car rust. That changed.

My adopted little nation of Wales is an economic basket case and attracted billions of Euros in EU development finance. We pissed it away, but that’s another story. The EU enables free flows in labour and learning, research and residence. We made the Airbus together. It did away with customs barriers – some acned teenager crawling officiously through your car looking for something he could bill you for, remember? Yet it allowed a measure of internal competition.

And the EU has done good things to resist the monstrously abusive TTIP treaty, abolished unfair cross-border roaming charges by the big cellphone corpses, thwarted putative media monopolies and hit Apple with a $13 billion bill for underpaid tax.…

Why would we throw that away? It wasn’t all bad; it created a safe environment in which we could trade internally without tariffs in a market of 450 million consumers and do business all around the world from a position of strength; and besides, we haven’t had a good war in Europe for 70 years. You can guess which way I voted.

A brash, ugly millionaire called Arron Banks wanted to stop all that. Married to a Russian, with unexplained personal net worth of £100 million, Banks “spent the first part of his childhood in South Africa and returned to the UK to attend a private school in Berkshire before being expelled for “an accumulation of offences”, including the sale of lead stolen from school building roofs.” (Wikipedia)

He stole the fucking lead off his own school roof; yet millions vote for the scam party he started.

With fingers in the online insurance racket, claiming to own a diamond mine in S Africa, “According to Companies House records, Banks has set up 37 different companies using slight variations of his name.” (ibid.)  He has been accused at times of harassment, information theft and insider trading… he also cropped up in the Panama Papers as a secret offshore investor – a right dodgy geezer.

Like a lot of bored business fuckwits with too much easy money, he wanted to get rid of all those foreign barriers to unbridled kleptocracy. So he wrapped himself in the flag and funded the ‘United Kingdom Independence Party’, essentially a disorganised rabble of curtain-twitchers, crazed Empire loyalists, ‘Just About Managing’ squeezed middle Englanders, disaffected working-class Tories and failed High Tory politicians;  and hired a man called Farage to run it.

Now, Nigel Farage is an arsehole. A privately educated millionaire former ‘commodities broker’ with US bloodsuckers Drexel, Burnham, Lambert, he likes to pose outside a jolly old pub with a smoke and a pint, wearing unspeakable ‘English gent’ clothes that make him look like a cashiered army major from a 1950s Ealing Studios comedy, as a ‘Man o’ the People’, railing against political correctness, immigrants (his wife is German, she’s divorcing him) and Big Government. His many working-class fans love him because ‘he’s one of us’, he ‘tells it like it is’, the poor boobies.

Ringing any bells?

Farage is nevertheless a genius at grabbing the limelight and bypassing the normal rules on campaigning appearances by making himself the news story. He has appeared 33 times as a panellist on the prestige BBC political debate show, Question Time. His number is on the front page of every media researcher’s contacts file.

His Wikipedia entry lists a bunch of flakey alt-right committees and organisations. He’s an elected Member of the European Parliament, that he has vowed to destroy – benefiting from a fat salary and massive expenses the meanwhile. But he’s failed to get a proper UK Parliamentary seat six times, leaving UKIP with only one member in the House; a man he doesn’t get on with.

And he’s Donald Trump’s little British bumboy.

How did that happen, that he became a pop-up politician on the Trump trail, was photo-opped in the Golden Elevator with the Sun King, and even appeared at the CPAC  Nazi rally? How was it Trump publicly tried to endorse Nigel for the (not-available) job of British ambassador to Washington – an appointment not in his gift?

The clue is in that photo-opp. Standing next to Farage and The Donald in the portal to Heaven was a gurning Raheem Kassam, editor of the toned-down British version of Breitbart News.

Finally got there.

Now, last week the walking snow-capped advert for Anusol, Mike Pence arrived in Brussels with a message: be of good cheer, The Administration supports the EU to the hilt.

This was somewhat at odds with Trump’s frequent outbursts of approval for Brexit, that threatens to pull apart the fabric of the EU and has triggered a horrific xenophobic backlash here, terrified long-stay EU citizens with British families being used by the ghastly Theresa May as bargaining chips for a ‘red, white and blue Brexit’’; Muslim women having to run the gamut of chanting racists in the streets, spitting and ripping off their hijabs.

(Let us not forget Mrs May: married to millionaire Phil, an investment manager, for six years as Home Secretary she ran Britain’s security apparatus: MI5, MI6, the GCHQ listening post, that collects data for the NSA and monitors the Russian traffic, and pushed through the most oppressive surveillance laws in the western world.)

See, this is all about information, investments and who owns them. There’s a simple problem, which is that a billion dollars, pounds or whatever is a very large number. It’s a problem to find more things to buy, places to put it. ‘Oligarchs’ end up moving it around amongst themselves. Often, it’s hot money that needs a bit of cooling down. I buy ‘x’ for such an amount, I sell it to you for ‘y’ (ten times as much?) and it’s immediately legal.

The cretinous antics of the senile manchild with ADHD isn’t really the story. The story is the money. And who else should be involved?

Through Brexit, Britain, proclaimed the Orange One, had regained its sovereignty, control of its borders, freedom from foreign tyranny and oppression… general whiteness and a warm welcome for US tech companies, defense contractors, money-laundering Russian oligarchs and Murdoch’s News Corp to operate with impunity. But Pence says they just love the EU. What gives?

(Murdoch is also close to the President. He has a bed made up in the corner of the Oval Office; his ex-wife Wendi Deng is best buds with Ivanka. Wendi, 45, has also enjoyed close relations with recent UK Prime Ministers Blair, Brown and Cameron; and is rumoured to be Vladimir Putin’s current Chinese squeeze. She gets around.)

How to swing an election

We are now learning that one of the ways the Vote Leave campaign got its marginal majority was by someone ‘harvesting’ personal data from Facebook and other social media accounts, profiling millions of voters from their ‘Likes’ and search histories, using ‘bots’ (don’t ask, I have no idea) to bombard them automatically with tailored messages to manipulate their presumed voting inclinations. Two million new mystery voters suddenly appeared on the register, days before the vote; presumably radicalised online. The website crashed.

Farage had been judged too toxic even for the official Vote Leave, so contented himself with fronting Banks’ private ‘Leave.EU’ campaign, into which the boorish millionaire sank £7.5 million. And, surprise surprise, according to a report in the mainstream Observer newspaper, it turns out that nifty Nigel is also a ‘friend’ of US multi-billionaire, ultra-ultra-conservative hedge fund manager, Robert Mercer.

Mercer also happens to be the wallet behind Breitbart News, whose co-founder and sometime editor, Steve Bannon, is Trump’s consigliere. And more importantly, he is a computer ‘genius’, a pioneer of Big Data, and the ultimate owner of a firm called Cambridge Analytica, which carried out the data grab on the British electorate on behalf of Leave.EU, that helped to nudge the Leavers over the line.

Another help for their separatist, isolationist cause was the thirty-year-long campaign of fake news about the machinations of the evil EU that had been running in Murdoch’s UK newspapers: the now-defunct News of the World, a Sunday scandal-sheet shut down after allegations of massive phone hacking (edited by Rebekah Wade, aka Brooks – sometime CEO of Murdoch’s News UK Corp. and a close friend of the Camerons); the putrid ultra-loyalist daily The Sun, and even The Times of London. Through his holdings in Fox News, Murdoch has been bidding to complete his stake in the UK’s Sky TV, whose news arm he was forced to divest under EU antitrust laws: BUT… “Mogul needs regulators to approve deal, which will give him full control of pay-TV operations in UK, Germany and Italy” (The Guardian) And they’re resisting; so the billionaires club are trying to take down the EU.

 “A committee of Sky’s “independent” (my parenthesis) directors, led by Martin Gilbert – the broadcaster’s deputy chairman and the chief executive of Sky shareholder Aberdeen Asset Management – scrutinised the deal on behalf of non-Murdoch investors.

“The committee, which unanimously accepted the deal, included the Sky chief executive, Jeremy Darroch, and the finance chief, Andrew Griffith, who are in line for a £40m payday if the deal goes through.”

And a quick trip to Wikipedia reveals that ‘Aberdeen Asset Management’ acquired a share of Deutsche Bank’s asset management business in 2007. The Deutsche Bank to which Trump owes $340 million; the unpaid balance of a loan he took out in 2007.

As I keep saying, follow the money. There’s a lot of it about.

While the FBI is faffing about, pursuing evanescent Russian hackers… They may have tried to ‘influence’ the US election by channelling what dirt they could find on Hillary and her grimy aides  through Wikileaks, whose founder, Julian Assange, remains wanted on a Swedish rape charge he believes the CIA set up so they could grab him in Stockholm. The unpleasant and self-obsessed Mr Assange is still lurking as an unwanted political refugee in the basement of the Ecuadorian embassy in London, presumably hoping Trump would be a better bet for his release than Hillary (he’s also wanted in the USA on data theft charges that could get him a very long spell in Leavenworth).

Thus we have a real live instance of private interference from the USA in a British referendum, with the aim of breaking up the annoying European union and its anti-trust, pro-consumer superstate.

I’m assuming the voter radicalisation, Big Data techniques (more usually used for online advertising) employed by Cambridge Analytica were also applied to the US election, I don’t know. What else did the Trump campaign’s Breitbart connections get up to online, I wonder? Did Russian hackers really infiltrate the DNC? Or did that come from somewhere else?

Ultimately, the story lies elsewhere. We are clearly not looking at a coup only in the USA, this is a global hijacking.

The story is the money. Follow the money!

Trump’s pick for Commerce Secretary, Wilbur Ross is a director of Bank of Cyprus, a known Russian money-laundering front with links back to Moscow and various Putin cronies – including Dmitry Rybolovlev, the ‘Fertiliser King’, who paid Trump $100 million for a worthless piece of real estate junk in Florida; a vast Xanadu mansion built so badly it had to be pulled down. He never lived there, so why buy it? Oh, right. Another director, Dr Josef Ackermann is a former director of Deutsche Bank, which has been fined $billions for money-laundering on his watch. Ask how Trump’s reported 2008 default of $340 million debt to Deutsche went away, where it’s gone and who made it go?

We’ve all been pissed on, that’s not the story. The story is who owns the President – and by extension, America?

Pithy observation

If the First World War was about the end of empire, the Second World War about national expansionism, the Third World War about global ideological hegemony, the goings-on in America show we are now deep into the Fourth World War: it’s being fought in the infosphere and it’s about data capitalism.

History however will judge they are all part of the same war.

Let’s all move to… London (and why not).

Let’s all move to… London

London. Unlovely city of my birth.

I was born in 1949, at the old St George’s Hospital on the south side of Hyde Park Corner, that grand and busy roundabout dedicated to The Fallen, located at the very heart of Empire. The Second World War had been over for four years, yet I think I still remember the bomb sites, National Health orange juice, the great smogs; everywhere covered in wet soot. We lived in Maida Vale at first, before moving to the Gloucester Road, where between terms away at school and until my mother remarried I grew up, an only child – the only child – in a cobbled mews, living over a garage my grandmother had bought, ostensibly to stable her husband’s two Mercedes cars – in reality, because she knew my father well enough.

Colour had not yet been invented.

From dinner with my ex-sister-in-law in the rambling commuter-belt estates somewhere northwest of Kilburn, up by the North Circular, with some trepidation I drive south, up (down? South along) the Edgware Road, past Lauderdale Mansions; round Marble Arch and down Park Lane, then somehow negotiate frantic Hyde Park Corner on my way back to Knightsbridge, where we lived from 1965 until, a student, I left home and took a room in a shared flat in Chelsea, circa the Year of the Events, 1968.

Driving up this time was unavoidable in view of the amount of stuff I had to move back to Wales, and the family to whom I had to give lifts on this solemn occasion. Having no idea about the congestion charge, where it applied, how you paid it, I viewed the task with unease, not least because my car is powered by a modest diesel engine. Diesel has become the new dirty word among London planners and the medical lobbying group, Doctors Against Diesel, because of my very tiny contribution to the pall of NOx that is supposedly suffocating everyone – only the latest in a long line of palls down the years, that have borne away the surplus population of the city and made room for more incomers.

I despaired of public transport. On the surface heavily congested, barely moving, subject everywhere to seemingly purposeless road closures and never-completed works, buses offputtingly operated now only by obscure cards that, as a provincial still living in the 1980s, up for the day, I don’t happen to have about me; below-ground a place of airless, nightmarish horror, a multitudinous, silent grey horde of The Damned packed into groaning carriages from where escape in an emergency would be impossible, rapid mass suffocation inevitable; brutalised by random engineering works, and surprisingly expensive. Taxi drivers confide in me: they are all on the verge of a collective nervous breakdown.

Driving is indeed nerve-racking: cars coming at you from any direction, changing lanes without warning; buses pulling out, taxis cutting in – streets seething with pedestrians, most seemingly of Middle Eastern or African origin. The traffic lights at the many junctions seem sadistically phased to ensure minimal progress. It takes an hour to travel what, a mile and a half? And it’s already half-past ten at night; by which time the roads at home are deserted.

*

I’d left London in 1985 and gone to live in the depths of the countryside: first working in, then owning a small advertising agency, sausaging our rare-breed pigs, moving ever-westwards by stages until five years ago, newly redundant, I arrived in the thunderous outskirts of ‘Boglington-on-Sea’, a busy university town and holiday resort, from where I seem to be unable to progress further without an Irish passport. Something I now wish I had. Would an Irish-American grandmother be sufficient qualification to escape from Camp Brexit, I wonder?

Thus impoverished, I seldom return to London; perhaps three or four times a year, to visit my old mum – or passing through. That’s over and done with now, she died in December, in a frenetic hospital ward where no more temporary rest was to be had. That first night, they managed to lose her teeth.

The flat was rented, the landlord somehow smelled death and turned up while we were sorting through her things, with a polite written request that we evacuate her 50 years’ worth of obsessively hoarded stuff ASAP or owe another month’s rent. It was Christmas. Having not lived in London for so many years, I had no idea: where would you even start looking for a removals firm?

The make-up bottles, brushes, tubes, compacts and sprays, hopeful anti-ageing remedies filled several large binbags; her vintage clothes and shoes, heaps of books, theatrical playbills, possibly saleable furniture and small curios, piles of remittance advices from a well-known firm of auctioneers who had kept her going financially for years, optimistic financial forecasts from an ultimately ruinous Lloyd’s of London agent, my old school reports filled yet more bags; her beds, unsaleable antiques, her piano, required the attendance of experts and burly men; and now the total number of  people I know living in the entire city was down to two, neither of them quite so conveniently and centrally located, it has to be said.

No-one lives in Knightsbridge anymore.

*

Hunzi and I tramp the lamplit streets for a late-night pee, around the old village between Holy Trinity and Kensington Gore, with its bijou Queen Anne cottages, cobbled mewses and glimpses of little town gardens, many ominously hidden behind builders’ hoardings. The photos in the posh estate agents’ windows offer a selection of virtually identical, anonymous, modernised interiors anyone can acquire for enough £millions – ‘price on request’ (I roomed in a flat on the King’s Road  for £4 a week). These pretty little investments are being snapped up as a wholesale commodity by billionaire kleptocrats and money-launderers, gutted like fish and ‘modernised’, expanded internally with floating ceilings, plate windows and recessed lighting, undercut with serial basements down to Hell for pools and ‘media rooms’, embellished with planters so improbably neat you might imagine the flora to be artificial; obsessively tended by contract window-box gardeners.

And by night maybe one in ten of the houses in Rutland Mews or Ennismore Gardens, the slightly grander abodes of Trevor Place and Montpellier Square might be showing a light indicating occupancy; perhaps below street level, where here and there a Philippino houseboy can be seen morosely ironing a shirt, TV flickering in the background. Otherwise the village is deserted, dead, except for the restaurants and gated compounds of Cheval Place where chauffeurs hang around with bored expressions next to their blacked-out SUVs and limousines. Glancing in the side window of one car, I see a prostitute giving her Arabic-looking client a vigorous blowjob in the front seat.

Yes, it’s dead posh in SW7.

Just around the corner, the Brompton Road heaves with late-night tourists and people of Middle Eastern appearance enjoying the dank night air, Turkish coffee and a smoke at pavement tables outside the many shisha cafes that have replaced the elegant couturiers, from where Arabian music blares out late into the night. I have come to re-christen London ‘Beirut on Thames’ – the civilised, cosmopolitan Beirut of course, before the war.

Across the road, that garish temple to the execrable taste of the ludicrously rich, Harrod’s continues to exert its magnetic attraction for the not-so-wealthy; the pavement outside virtually impassable for tourists gawking at the tawdry, overpriced junk in the overdressed Christmas windows. In the glaring lightpools of the dead of night rich kids in their Ferraris burn rubber up and down the Cromwell Road, the raucous snarl of over-revved Italian engines echoing through the canyons into the early hours; the police have given up chasing them.

Why on earth are all these people here, when all there is to see is more people?

*

Arriving from the North at Euston I observe a never-ending stream, a torrent of whey-faced commuters pouring into a hole in the ground: the Underground. I think immediately of the procession of the dead, and decide instead to take a taxi across town to the hospital and screw the cost (only £25… and it took an hour, including many detours to avoid the worst of the traffic). I stop off, and pay £5 for a small cake to take to the bewildered, toothless old lady, cut off from the world behind blue drapes. A harassed nurse brings morphine on demand. My mother explains, she has had to become an addict as the bastards won’t let her smoke. Back at the flat I sort through a time-vault of publicity stills, a promising actress of dark-eyed, vital beauty.

Next day, Hunzi and I seek refuge, space – air – in the Royal Parks. He remembers from year to year where the stray tennis balls are found along the fenced-off shrubbery behind the courts; and sure enough there are two inside the railings. With an eye out for park rangers I purloin the nearer, and we play chase and catch in the rain until the ball becomes caked with London’s tenacious brand of black dirt and an object of no further interest. It seems a measure of the impressive wealth of the city that the intensively coached players can’t be bothered to collect the balls they knock accidentally over the wire at £2 a time.

Avoiding speeding Boris Bikers, the morning phalanx of joggers, extended Arab families out for a stroll and the pretty boys of the Household Cavalry exercising their perfectly turned-out mounts on Rotten Row, helmets gleaming, swords jingling like distant goat bells across the plain, the sun striking fire from the newly regilded Albert Memorial, green parakeets whirring and screeching in the familiar London plane trees, the 09.35 Emirates Airlines flight from Abu Dhabi wheeling in towards distant Heathrow, I could almost imagine the life I once knew here.

Growing up then, marrying, moving ever-westwards: Chelsea, Putney, Hounslow – Oxfordshire, Gloucestershire, Wales, I had thought perhaps one day I might return, to sit out in retirement at some quiet pavement cafe enjoying the passers-by, exchanging pleasantries with other villagers, smoking Gauloises, pottering about the little shops. The dream faded long ago. In the Fulham Road I feel underdressed, a poor refugee amid the elegantly attired, eminently tall young men and women striding purposefully in their Burberry and Dolce e Gabbana past decor shops filled with Babylonian luxuries, temptingly expensive patisserie; barking important messages about property deals into their iPhones; past knots of Ukrainian building workers in high-viz jackets awaiting pick-up to ferry them on to the next basemented development no-one will ever live in again.

In Thurloe Place I encounter a small man with a blue Macaw perched on either shoulder, with whom he seems to be enjoying an animated conversation. He glares defiantly back at my curious gaze. You probably know him. While here and there may be glimpsed an elderly, well-dressed individual, white-haired, knobbly with arthritis, looking as disorientated as I feel in this city, the village of my birth, abandoned and struggling as my mother did for years in defiant poverty, until the ever-changing yet somehow consistent story of London, the mist of its history swirls around them and swaddles them and bears them away into obscurity.

The Great Wen, as Cobbett sneeringly dismissed it, is and has always been a Darwinian habitat fit only for the young and the wealthy, the broker, the builder, the garbage man and the cleaner; an overcrowded and barely functional bazaar of scrabbling opportunism and excess, of smart prep schools and ludicrously tank-like cars; a place for tourists to see themselves, teeming humanity reflected in a shop window.

To be honest, I could grow to like it.

1936 ww

What is a ‘Leppo’?

Along with millions of others around the world, as Christmas approaches I am trying as hard as I possibly can to avert my gaze from what is happening in Aleppo.

Because there is absolutely not one fucking thing I can personally do or say to halt the medieval slaughter of innocent men, women and children; doctors, nurses and paramedics, dying for mercy in that ancient ruined city after four years of almost incessant bombardment; seige and starvation, their schools and hospitals deliberately targeted by the little arch-cunt of the Kremlin.

Someone, perhaps someone close to him, has to take out that psychotic war criminal, Assad, and now. A parasitic, enteric worm, he has surely forfeited any right to life.

But they won’t. The rotten, tyrannical scum of history seldom face justice in their gilded lifetimes.

Would you vote for me, America, if…?

“I assume she also knew that the State Department’s internet is almost certainly compromised, by the NSA if not by the Russians and the Chinese; if not by them, then by some Asperger’s kid in a bedroom somewhere in England.”

 

Not guilty

I know that most Americans are hardworking, painstaking, inventive, sometimes painfully honest, serious, hospitable and decent folks.

But you’ve got a problem.

To declare an interest, my paternal grandmother was American, from the now somewhat financially dubious state of Delaware. She put me through private schools – my parents were indigent actors and soon separated – and set me on the road to property ownership, in a tiny Victorian labourer’s cottage in suburban West London.

After that, much to my regret as my own life took over she somewhat fades from view.

Although she died in 1979, I have continued throughout my life – I’m 67, and once again living in a tiny Victorian labourer’s cottage (not in London, they’re over £1 million now!) – to sense that somehow, she sits on the Committee of Discarnate Entities that I fancy continues to guide my affairs; partly because, somewhere in the background, is a Trust account in the USA that has from time to time made it possible for me and my family to survive when all else failed. She was a great believer in the power of capital.

So I’m hoping you will understand if I invite myself to express my alarm and despondency over the current political situation in the USA. Because I’m nobody, really, and it’s none of my business; except that I might be more aware of how people on this side of the Atlantic are thinking, if you’re interested; and I hope a little more seriously perhaps than the smug Saturday Night Live crowd.

We don’t quite get the nub of the problem Mrs Clinton has with emails, and why you think it’s so bad?

It doesn’t sound all that serious. We’ve all mixed our work email up with our private email from time to time. You’re sitting at your desk, the computer is on, you’ve spotted something you’d like to buy online, maybe you have a personal relationship with a work colleague elsewhere and want to set up a meet for a drink in a bar that isn’t strictly work related; you have to send someone an urgent message, a quick Amazon voucher will do for a late birthday present, or there’s a juicy job opening, and before you know it, you’ve hit the Send key.

I know, I’ve been fired for doing it! Only it was the other way around, I sent an email from my home computer relating to my miseries about my work, it went wrong, you know how it is, you complain to someone that you’re the worst paid whatever in the whole country and before you know it, it’s in print and you’re being hung out to dry. One British Brexit politician recently was in a meeting when an assistant he’d been having an affair with walked in, he sent her a covert text under the table, only to wonder why the entire room was laughing – he’d accidentally sent it to the workgroup list. It can happen to anyone.

Mrs Clinton held the highest office of State after the President. If she wanted to use her private server to send work emails, rather than the State Department’s internal server, surely that’s her privilege? She was the boss! She’s definitely not stupid, I assume she had her reasons (what business did the FBI have to tut-tut about carelessness? Did she work for them, or was it the other way around?) and I assume she also knew that the State Department’s internet is almost certainly compromised, by the NSA if not by the Russians and the Chinese; if not by them, then by some Asperger’s kid in a bedroom somewhere in England.

In fact, it is highly likely that Yahoo! is the more secure environment. You should ask Edward Snowden.

And you don’t know, do you, how ‘Top Secret’ those files really were. All kinds of stuff gets Classified in that closed culture of intense suspicion and paranoid crazy security. Between the arrangements for Chelsea’s baby shower, it could have been the stationery manifest, internal staff assessments or the budget for consultants. Because it’s Classified, no-one is going to tell you how serious it really was.

It does seem unlikely though that she would have been deliberately emailing vital military secrets to North Korea. No-one has accused her of that, although it’s what Trump would love you to think.

To claim, as Donald Trump has done, that her fulfilment of her duties as Secretary was actually ‘criminal’ is just a gross calumny, crude propaganda and unworthy of consideration. How would he know what the rules are, has he ever been employed in the State Department? Or in any Government office? (Has he ever been employed, full stop?) He knows nothing about it! Worse than Watergate? Come on! The hacking of the DPC was the digital equivalent of Watergate, an electronic break-in to steal information, and who instigated that, we wonder? Donald’s friend Mr P?

It certainly isn’t worse than stealing money from your own tax-exempt charity foundation to cover tens of thousands of dollars’ worth of personal expenses while you’re paying no tax on your actual income, is it? I mean, that could get you two years. The Canadian millionaire press baron, Conrad (‘Lord’!) Black went down for something similar. How come the FBI is on Hillary’s case, but only the Attorney General of New York is taking any notice of Trump’s possibly actual criminal activity?

I doubt there’s a State or a Federal law against using your private email to send business files. At worst, it’s a matter of company policy. There are however, laws against mixing-up your private and company money; even for a genius who ‘knows more about complicated tax than anyone’ else (except the creative accountants he employs, the big liar). It seems at least worth considering that FBI director Comey has a personal, political and financial agenda to explain his tendentious letter to the Congressional committee chairs, and that there is, indeed, smoke without fire.

Is it okay to con people out of $000s to send them worthless bits of paper awarding them phoney and uncertified degrees in Real Estate management? Is it okay to make a $25,000 ‘donation’ out of charity funds, apparently to buy off an investigation by the Attorney General of Florida, into your ‘University’ scam? No, not when the donation was made to a self-declared political organisation it’s not. That’s illegal; worse, indeed, than the crimes of Ted Bundy and Charles Manson rolled into one orgy of hideous violence. (Well, we’re in the business of overblown comparisons, no?)

And has Hillary talked a lot of horse manure about Muslims and Mexicans? In order to fund Trump’s wacko policies on immigration it is going to need at least double the amount of Federal budgeting to pay for interference by Government employees, somewhat at odds with his compelling claim to want to shrink the State.

Nothing this man has said in ten months appears to have been seriously questioned, yet to us outside America – and I confess, I’m not one of the Disappointed Ones who dreams of returning to a happier time when I could work down a mine and be free to contract silicosis, or in a steelworks and end my days cheerfully falling into a blast furnace, with no compensation for the wife and kids while my employers laugh all the way to Panama – to us, it seems inexplicable that anyone could take this solipsistic, ignorant, overbearing jerk seriously as the potential Commander-in-Chief of an army he did so much to avoid serving in.

The reason Trump’s policies and principles are not being more closely examined by the party that adopted him, like a monstrous cuckoo in their nest, is, of course, because he hasn’t really thought about them himself. As Sam Harris, your public intellectual, has shrewdly pointed out, if Trump genuinely had any depth, empathy or intelligence, even if he didn’t want anyone to know it he would surely have let something slip by now. But he hasn’t. What a player!

Do you reckon, if I got up on stage and lied loudly enough that I was the most successful businessman in the history of ever, and claimed that I could make America ‘great again’, whatever that means; if I threatened that if Hillary Clinton gets elected:

a) I will not accept the result and will take everyone involved to court, because:

b) the election was rigged

c) she will start World War Three,

d) take away your guns, and

e) America will be destroyed…. (something a lot of you seem to be looking forward to with rapture – you need to know, He’s not coming back)

…if I said I could instantly:

…solve the IS problem in the Middle East, end all that terrorism we so rarely experience; unpick all those unfair free trade deals overnight;  stop the drug trafficking; defy progress to find a job for every unemployable blue-collar worker (okay, true, we are going to need 120,000 extra security people to round up 12 million Mexicans, and 200,000 more bus drivers, but that’s only short-term work); build a 2,000-mile-long wall five metres high and force another sovereign state to pay for it; abrogate the US’s commitment to the Paris accord on climate change targets; walk away from our allies in NATO unless they pay us to defend the free world; do deals with Kim Jong-un and my fellow kleptocrat Vladimir Putin; impose trade barriers and sanctions on the Chinese, expand the army (while reducing our overseas commitments and the deficit)….

…and a hundred-and-one other crazy egoistical self-contradicting nonsenses, such as that I can fuck any woman I want (although he had to buy his migrant wives off the shelf)….

…that I could persuade enough people to vote for me?

What, although it’s perfectly obvious that even a complete Washington outsider still has to work with the existing machinery of government to run a big, complex, multifaceted enterprise like the entire USA and its global responsibilities? That even the great entrepreneur can’t do that on his own, just by turning red in the face and shouting at people that they’re fired? After commenting loudly on their hot rack?

So, the Bundy Brothers/Malheur Wildlife Refuge fantasy of enjoying well-armed freedom from Big Government and the run of the wide open spaces actually can’t and won’t happen even under Trump. Not possible. You do know that, don’t you? That somebody has to pay for and run the schools, the transportation networks, the National Guard, the CIA, the regulatory environment – healthcare?

And what if I were also recorded as fantasising about raping women with dear, lovely Billy Bush? Nasty, nasty women who’d tell horrible, horrible lies about me afterwards? And what if I claimed that President Obama is a Kenyan-born Muslim who created the IS – but I couldn’t produce an actual certificate stating that I am not clinically insane; just the fleeting impression that I might be?

Assuming I’d been born in the USA, which I wasn’t, sadly, and after 70 years on earth was still just one giant, spoiled, incontinent infant, would you still vote for me?

So that’s the problem. I don’t envy you your choices, but we all over here fervently hope you’ll realise in good time that whatever you think of her, Mrs Clinton has at least read the instructions on the pack. Or if you really have to vote Trump, you’ll put all the Democrats back in Congress.

We’re counting on you. Seriously, America, the world is counting on you.

Please don’t do stupid just because you are angry. We’re all angry, we’re just not suicidal yet.

 

Quote of the Week: the editor of a rightwing Republican newspaper in New Hampshire, who once interviewed Trump: ‘He sucks the air right out of the room’.

 

Brexwatch

Bought in Morrison’s, Boglington-on-Sea, Sunday 30 October

  • 1 x box of 12 moist catfood sachets
  • 1 x 540g pack of  ox-heart (dogfood)
  • 1 x 310g pack of smoked haddock
  • 2 x Kit-kat chocolate wafer bars
  • 1 x 5p carrier bag

= £11.42 (USD $13.92)

(The Bank of England has warned that inflation could rise to 4% in 2017.)

 

Thin-skinned impressions

Poor Joni Mitchell, who isn’t well, is having to suffer the indignity of being blackrolled as some kind of racist misappropriator of wounded minority culture.

It seems she dared to go to a fancy-dress music-biz party in LA sometime back in the nineteenth century, disguised as a pimp. A black pimp. In blackface, complete with shiny suit, Afro wig, sunglasses, fedora hat and 1970s droopy moustache. She got away with it for two hours, before someone asked her if she’d been invited?

The joke was adjudged a great success. The pallid Canadian blonde singer-songwriter had many black friends, musicians; admired black American music; took to singing jazz. Few found the personation offensive – then.

It was a joke everyone could share. Unkind to pimps?

And only now, it seems, has a photograph surfaced, to promote somebody or other’s book.

And black people are muttering darkly.

This is nowadays the kind of thing you daren’t even hint might have been humorous at the time. It could be humorous today, but you’re not allowed to try it out for size.  So, where does ‘cultural appropriation’ stop – is the colour of your skin a cultural statement, or an accidental medical one brought about by parallel evolution and a dose of melanin?

The ‘pimp’ character was based on a real-life observation of a man she saw in the street. She christened him ‘Art Nouveau’, and ‘he’  featured on one of her album covers. No-one guessed he was a she. So he was a fictional creation based on real life: satire, and tribute. He was already, if you’ll forgive me saying, a stereotype: the sharp-suited, sharp-talking, streetwise runner of prostitutes; a literary creation out of Damon Runyon.

So, I’m in this pantomime, and I’m going to be dressed in C19th garb as a pirate. No pirates need Comment here on the misappropriation of their cultural identity, even though I’m not Somali – I won’t be blacking-up; I already grew the beard. I might adopt a mode of dress more appropriate for another culture: I could wear espadrilles in public, a poncho or a Homburg hat.

Meanwhile all over the country people are pretending to be what they’re not. Actors are appearing on stage pretending to be other people. Mimics on TV are impersonating politicians and stereotypical characters (only of their own colour, naturally). Men are dressing as women, women as men. People are giving themselves aliases on their social networking sites; grown men pretending to be teenagers. Is that policeman really a policeman? You can’t tell by the uniform, she might be a strippagram.

Why is it okay to humorously take the piss out of one type of person but not another?* What’s so special about you, that no-one outside your own tribe has a right to observe you critically, to make an interpretation, however innocently?

That man who sometimes nearly runs me over on his mobility scooter in the park – I’ve seen him walking around; just like the drivers of cars with disabled badges can be seen hopping in and out of their Range Rovers in car parks. Are you married? Then you’ll know how it is, sometimes having to pretend to be someone your spouse wants you to be, but you’re really not that person at all.

Who are we? Increasingly, it seems, we are whoever we want to be. Other than anyone with a massive inferiority complex, who objects to ‘us’ being possibly mistaken for ‘them’; who finds even our curiosity patronising.

Don’t you find us funny? Probably not. I wouldn’t mind if you did, but that’s because I’m essentially superior. I can afford it.

It seems the only thing you’re not allowed to pretend to be, for whatever reason you might want or need to, is a person of a different ‘race’ or ‘religion’ – because of their long-held victim status, in which they have vested all their personal power.

Forgive me if I find this attitude somewhat offensive, patronising and idiotic.

Of course, there is no reason or excuse for taking a white actor and blacking him or her up, to play the part of a black man in a play, when there are black actors who should take the role. Unless there is a reason: maybe, it’s a white character who needs to black up for disguise, maybe it’s crucial to the plot.  Could Hollywood ever reprise the Al Jolson Story? Would he have to be a Jewish actor to start with? Would they have to substitute Forest Whitaker for the blackface scenes? Didn’t Dick Gregory once have to white-up in a movie? Did we whiteys cry Freedom?

Is banning anyone from ever knowing about Jolson again not some kind of cultural misprision? And where are we left with Othello, the Moor of Venice? Can we never again admire Olivier’s mesmerising performance? Why is making your face up black in order to represent someone you’re not  so much more terrible than putting on a false nose, a mustache and glasses? A Guy Fawkes, or a clown mask? How about Gerard Depardieu’s nose in Cyrano de Bergerac? On behalf of all people suffering discrimination with big noses, I object!

Nor is some kind of cruel impersonation of a human being as inferior or backward for supposedly ‘comic’ effect a good idea, any more than is imposing hard boundaries on cultural miscegenation for discredited racialist reasons. (I exempt Donald Trump from any pity.) Although we might not have had Dustin Hoffman’s performance in Rain Man to judge whether it’s worthwhile having someone pretend to be autistic to make a point in favour of autistic people everywhere.

But so often these wounded accusations of cultural ‘misappropriation’ come close to caricature themselves. Can white men sing the blues? Where are the lines to be drawn between safe cross-cultural borrowing and non-valid misappropriation? Why does fancy-dress have limits; the point of carnival being that it shouldn’t, it’s a time for transgression? Why were only black people ever ‘slaves’?

Do black people own the colour black? It’s bad enough that you misappropriate elements of ‘our’ language and culture! Surely, those are ‘my’ European clothes you’re dressed in? That’s ‘my’ car you’re driving! You’re watching ‘my’ TV, flying on ‘my’ planes, living in ‘my’ brick house, reading ‘my’ newspaper, going to ‘my’ office! Those are all the white man’s things, you didn’t invent them!

No, you must see how idiotically self-defeating this idea of ownership of cultural identity can become.

Do you own, for instance, a musical genre you can conceivably define as ‘black’, rather than universally ‘human’? (In which case, you may detect echoes of West African rhythms in modern Delta blues and wonder if black Americans aren’t in some sense exploiting black Africans.) Should black musicians be banned from playing Beethoven, should Richie Havens have been producing his magnificent covers of the Beatles’ songs?

Or are there not perhaps many shades inbetween? It’s all rather sad, to a Humanist.

How ironic, that in an increasingly confrontational, binary world, the best-selling book of the last 10 years has been ’50 Shades of Grey’!

 

*No, this is the living end! US actress Hilary Duff  (Who she? Ed.) and her friend have been forced to grovel and apologise for going to a fancy dress party, she as a Puritan ‘Pilgrim Father’ in fishnets below the waist (quite a good joke, actually), he as a red indian in a war bonnet.

How dare they misappropriate whoever, whatever in this disgraceful, culturally shocking fancy-dress way?

I’m deeply offended. No, really. It’s Halloween. And if any kid turns up trick-or-treating on my doorstep tonight culturally misappropriating my identity as a self-proclaimed persecuted wizard, I’ll smash its hopeful little painted face with my big, offended fist.

Fancy dress must be banned forthwith. Actors, too. I’m writing Trump, tell him put it on the list.

 

Erasing bias from history

Americans have a peculiarly robust, not to say forceful, approach to life, consumer choice and everything, don’t they? You can include how Microsft will hijack your computer from time to time to forcibly install its damaging software without even asking; and how the Guantanamo prisoners are treated without benefit of the Geneva conventions or judicial process.

Take the following notice I’ve just had from sofa-surfin’ website, Airbnb (don’t ask, btw, I didn’t complete the application to join):

“Earlier this year, we launched a comprehensive effort to fight bias and discrimination in the Airbnb community. As a result of this effort, we’re asking everyone to agree to a Community Commitment beginning November 1, 2016. Agreeing to this commitment will affect your use of Airbnb, so we wanted to give you a heads up about it.

“You commit to treat everyone—regardless of race, religion, national origin, ethnicity, disability, sex, gender identity, sexual orientation or age—with respect, and without judgement or bias.

“What if I decline the commitment?

“If you decline the commitment, you won’t be able to host or book using Airbnb, and you have the option to cancel your account. Once your account is cancelled, future booked trips will be cancelled. You will still be able to browse Airbnb but you won’t be able to book any reservations or host any guests.”

That’s tellin’ em! And no fuckin’ fancy dress or you’re a dead couple.

 

Boomtime

Okay, I made a joke in a whileago Post about terrorists not being stupid enough to take a hand-grenade on board the Eurostar – this after seeing a large sign at Lille station showing pictures of things you weren’t supposed to take on board the train, including the said exploding device, with a red line ruled through it to indicate the official displeasure you might easily assume would be shown towards you if you tried.

And this morning, two Eurostar services have been held up at Paris’ Gare du Nord while bomb disposal experts dealt with a WW2 artillery shell someone tried to bring back as a souvenir of France.

I know, I have trouble understanding those wordless pictograms you get with your flatpack furniture kits myself.

 

 

Okay, time to go

Listening to the BBC news, the day after Mr Cameron received the now notorious letter from Mr Tusk offering concessions towards Britain’s shameful demands for yet more special treatment from the EU, I have heard not one word from any interviewee in favour of remaining in Europe.

I fear this ‘unconscious bias’ towards the Outers is the BBC’s craven way of keeping onside with the egregious cabal of power-hungry, self-seeking Eurosceptic politicians and unreconstructed empire-loyalists, who hate the idea of the BBC’s editorial independence just as much as they hate the idea of a wider and more plural democracy; and hate that foreigners are usefully doing all the jobs the drunken, poorly qualified and barely literate British can no longer be arsed to get off their piss-stained sale-bargain sofas to go and do themselves.

Terrified of his own isolationists, ‘Schweinsteiger’ Cameron has refused to acknowledge the request of Parliamentary colleagues from Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland, who would like him to postpone a referendum on Britain’s membership until well after their own municipal elections in May. Instead, he proposes to press the button as soon as the ink is dry on the surrender document.

There has been almost zero media exposure for the vanishing minority of Inners, whose inept campaign is being almost invisibly led by Sir Stuart Rose, former CEO of Marks & Spencer, a billionaire accountant whose bloodless efforts so far to persuade the public that Brussels is not the antiChrist have focussed entirely on dry-as-dust, virtually incomprehensible economic speculation.

Following the relentless, 40-year barrage of anti-European propaganda in the rightwing press, now building to a howling crescendo, there seems therefore a realistic prospect that, come June, the nation will once more be proudly standing alone, waving our little flags – just the way we like it, until we have to ask the Yanks to come over and bail us out. (Only they won’t, this time it will have to be the Chinese, or the North Koreans. Anyone, that is, without a sense of smell.)

I have argued all my working life and long into enforced retirement that 23 miles of windswept grey sea is historically no longer sufficient to isolate the Continent from Great Britain.

But here we are, with a draft deal on the table that says Britain can opt out of any EU legislation we don’t like; we don’t have to take any notice of the European Court; we can expose our workforce once again to dangerous Victorian working practices; we can abolish human rights; we need never join the common currency; we needn’t even discuss closer political union;  we won’t have to pay the Polish and French and Italian workers who are keeping the country’s economy afloat the benefits proper British people are entitled to; the wide boys in the City of London won’t ever have to pay a financially crippling one penny-in-a-thousand transaction tax on their gambling, and we can have total control of ‘our borders’ (whatever that ridiculous phrase actually means. How many borders have we got?) to defend our way of life against horrid scrounging refugee orphan children.

But we still want all the privileges of EU citizenship: duty-free fags and the right to an agreeable third home in Tuscany.

It’s a bit like saying to the golf club secretary, we’d like a free bar all night and you can get rid of the women, but surely you don’t expect us to play that weird game with the funny sticks? Can’t we just pick up the ball and drop it in the little hole?

I mean, what is the point of staying in the European Union if we persist in periodically making whining adolescent protests to be let off this and that household chore, merely because we think we’re too good for it? Oh mum, it’s not fair… I’d much rather sit in my room and wank over Taylor Swift.

We might as well leave, and take our shame with us. It’s a pitiful spectacle, nationally humiliating and just plain bad manners.

Somebody buy my house. Get me out of here.

 

May the Force be with you

I’ve been happy to sign several petitions demanding that the police shut down a series of planned presentations around the country by an unprepossessing American self-publicist calling himself RooshV, who apparently promotes the joy of non-consensual sex.

It now seems following attempts by concerned Australian authorities to ban Mr V. that he may just be a self-appointed comic genius, who has made up an organisation, Return of Kings, complete with outrageous misogynistic and anti-gay abuse, as a feeble publicity stunt. It is also now said that he was never intending to visit these shores; that was all the invention of the feminists.

I’m not sure that making up a spoof anti-feminist website pretending to advocate violent behaviour towards women is any better than the real thing, there are a lot of gullible cretins out there in Sofaville, but I’m willing to stand corrected. In the meantime, I’ve taken down the rest of this section as it was a waste of good outrage.

 

Neighbours

I am parked, as usual, somewhere along the side-road opposite my house.

My house does not have private off-road parking. Being on a blind bend, it is too dangerous to park on the main road. Across the road is a small estate, and a side-road lined on one side by a dozen or so 1970s link-detached houses with private driveways and garages.

There are always parking spaces along there.

The side-road is an unrestricted, council-adopted public highway as far as the end, where it turns into a footpath under the railway bridge. There are no yellow lines. Parking is free to all.

The owners of the linear estate houses are mostly early-retired, public-sector middle-manager types. They spend their days pottering about, obsessively polishing their retirement dream-cars, inside and out; mowing their neat suburban lawns, between weekend forays to visit relatives in their campervans.

Then they leave their cars and campers out on the road. Once, one of them told me, ‘I don’t like to look out of my living-room window and see other people’s cars.’

Opposite them, between the side-road and the main road, are just two bungalows, fifty yards apart. One contains a disabled lady, her family and health visitors; the other is owned by a gruff-looking  tradesman in late middle-age, who has a white van. Then the houses on that side give way to fields.

Today, I have parked between the two bungalows, about three feet back from the white line the tradesman has painted in front of the gate to his own private drive, which leads to a garage and beyond it a private parking space, that he never uses. My car cannot be seen from either house and I have left three car-lengths behind me, not wanting to obstruct the disabled lady’s entrance in case she needs emergency attention.

As I prepare to drive off, on our way to the supermarket and Hunzi’s afternoon walk by the river, the tradesman is walking past. As he turns in at his gate, he gives me a glare.

When we return, the tradesman’s white van is very pointedly parked on the space I had legitimately occupied before, not obstructing his driveway, three feet back from the white line, outside his neighbour’s house.

His van is the only vehicle parked along the whole length of the road. He has moved it from where it was before, on the other side of the entrance to his house, and parked it where I was previously parked; telling me, this is my road and I will say where you can and can’t park, which is somewhere other than anywhere near my house, thank you.

As if I am not depressed enough, what with the leaden grey skies, the Student Loan Company and not getting the part I auditioned for.

I should pray for the souls of my miserable, selfish, stupid, greedy, dog-in-manger neighbours.

But I won’t. They can rot in hell.

 

Toeing the line

Nine years ago, as avid readers of this, muh bogl will recall from an earlier Post, I was hurrying one morning to get to my ex-wife’s place 18 miles away to pick up the children to chauffeur them somewhere, I forget where.

The route took me along one of our rutted farm tracks with livestock, that passes for the main A-road between here and C., another large town about 50 miles away.

I was heading up an incline out of a rural village, past the 40 mph limit (the general speed limit in Britain is 60 mph), when a white Transit van emerged from around a bend, coming downhill in the opposite direction.

As we comfortably passed each other, a salesman in an unseen Volvo travelling close behind the van suddenly nudged out from behind it, presumably to take a look-see if he could barge past before the village arrived. With cat-like reflexes I swerved to avoid him, and braked to slow, but ran out of room on the narrow road. My nearside wheels clipped the raised verge and the car bounced back towards the middle. Like Boudicca’s chariot mincing through the Roman legions,  his sharpened Swedish wheel-nuts chewed through all four panels on the offside of my plastic Renault.

Another six inches and I would now be bogling through a straw, if I’d survived at all.

A tentative enquiry to the insurance company produced the interesting news that, as a result of there being no white line down the centre of the road, no determination of fault could be made.

With no white line, it could not be said that either of us was on the wrong side of the road, and thus had caused the accident, so both our insurers would have to cough up in equal measure, on what is known in the gritty world of the insurance racket as a ‘knock-for-knock’ basis.

Nor could it be determined that, had there been a white line, it would have deterred the oncoming driver from pulling out in the first place.

Thanks to the parsimony of the Highways Agency; or perhaps because, being so narrow, the road did not even qualify for a centre marking, in effect it was common space. And unfortunately, that meant there was only a few pounds’ difference between fifty per cent of the repair cost and the excess on my policy, that I would now have to forfeit.

To protect my no-claim bonus I dropped the claim, took the car to a backstreet garage for a gonzo repair that left me driving around in a petrol-blue car with two red doors, which my children christened ‘the Bruise’, and paid up.

But I am drawn now to the memory of a friend who, in a similar accident years ago on another rural road with no lane markings, ended up with a fractured skull, blind in one eye, and no compensation. That road was wider, straighter, but it had been resurfaced months earlier, and the white line had yet to be repainted.

That’s why I’ve been faintly horrified to read of an experiment in supposed road safety, whereby the central white lines are being removed from some UK roads in the belief that the added element of risk will encourage drivers to take more care.

Sowing landmines along the roads would in all probability improve the rash behaviour of the British motorist no end.

The inevitable uninsured deaths and injuries will be on the conscience of these meddlesome desk-cretins.

Won’t they?

 

Cross-current

According to the latest poll, Americans are increasingly angry.

The reasons are vague: a feeling that politicians in the Washington bubble are only interested in themselves and their rich friends. That America no longer has the respect of the world. That things are going wrong.

It’s probably true, like everything else we suspect about the Universe, in part. But it’s said to be why white middle-Americans, never the brightest bulbs in the lampholder, are increasingly voting for meat-faced, bullying, ignorant, loudmouth demagogues and deranged, white-haired old men promising change they can’t articulate or possibly ever deliver.

In short, they are willing to believe in anyone who pledges sincerely enough with quivering hand on flag and crocodile tear in eye that they will change things for the better and make America great again. (Something of an oxymoron, I fear.) The detail is unimportant. (Without a party machine, for instance, how is Donald J Trump going to staff the State Department and the White House?)

But as readers of this, muh bogl, have detected, I am also increasingly angry, and I don’t know why. It must be the change in the climate, which has not ceased to rain on us for the past three months. I have quite a nice life, on the whole, squirrelled away in my tiny cottage under a heap of empty wine bottles in the thunderous outskirts of a busy provincial town, supported by the generosity of the Department of Work and Pensions, who seem to have mistaken me for an elderly man who has worked hard all his life and paid his dues.

The really interesting statistic to emerge from the NBC poll is that Republicans are twice as angry as African-Americans. That’s probably because Republicans were registered to vote for the politicians they’re so angry about.

You can fool some of the people most of the time.

 

It’s a privilege

Waiting in an office, next to a pile of magazines.

One is the magazine of the county where I was sent to school. It has a special 24-page educational supplement. I haven’t been back to the school for fifty years, except once when I drove some mates down from London to a party, where I failed miserably to cop-off with Janet, the local doctor’s pretty daughter. The sexual revolution had not yet arrived in the English Midlands.

It is what is known in Britain as a public school, which is to say in that peculiarly British way of never saying what you mean that it is actually a private school. Less for the really posh, who go to Eton, Winchester and Charterhouse, Shrewsbury is a school more for the graceless heirs of well-to-do provincial solicitors and the owners of manufacturing and retail businesses.

I never really fitted in.

And lo, here is a report of my school today. It seems they have these strange creatures called girls there now. You can tell that from the photograph of a blond-haired girl, padded-up as a batsman and pretending with a determined expression to be about to receive a ball, surrounded by a half-circle of embarrassed and sniggering boys posing as slip-catchers, amused at the very idea of a girly playing cricket. Why, she could be someone’s sister!

The creative imagination of the school photographer doesn’t look like it’s changed much, either.

The accompanying article appears to be an extract from the school’s annual report, rather than a piece of semi-objective journalism. It has clearly been written by the Headmaster’s secretary, with his approval. The stilted, classicist’s prose style has not changed in fifty years, either. Private Eye magazine brilliantly skewered it in their ‘St Cake’s’ column. ‘Fifty pupils lined up for the Bickerstaff cross-country run on April 8th’. ‘A school party visited Pyongyang in July, great fun was had by all’. ‘Trumpington-Smythe Minor was presented with the Philpott Prize’ for something or other. Masturbating, probably. There wasn’t much else to do there.

Something else it goes on to report is quite interesting, however. It says the school achieved a 100 per cent pass rate in A-level exams; 83 per cent at A* or AB grades.

Now you know why Mancunian solicitors are prepared to fork-out £35,000 a year – more than my highest-ever annual salary –  for the privilege of sending their sons and daughters to a school where all I remember is misery and tedium, organised games played on frozen mud, the pervasive smell of boiled cabbage and borrowed jockstraps, terrible food, muscular Christianity and sub-lethal brutality.

 

Boxing Day

Goody, my new computer has arrived.

I may be the last dimwit in history to purchase an old-fashioned desktop tower. But it feels like the right thing to do, after busting my back for years hovering over this little laptop-thing perched at ankle-height on a coffee-table. I do an awful lot of writing, or a lot of awful writing, depending on how you look at it. It’s time I sat up straight.

A large box arrives, spot-on time. Why any business wouldn’t use DPD I can’t imagine, they are the only courier who gives you a one-hour slot and arrives within five minutes of the start of the hour, every time. TNT, Yodel, UPS… they’re all rubbish and make you stay in all day, if they haven’t already delivered somewhere down the street on the wrong day when you were out and now you don’t know where your £2,000 guitar has got to.

I reach for a kitchen knife and start slitting. Inside the large box is a load of crumpled brown paper, under which is another, smaller box. Inside that is a load of crumpled brown paper, under which is another, smaller box.

Finally my new computer emerges like the last of a series of Russian dolls, and I text my pet expert to come over and get it going for me. Technophobia is one of the privileges of old age.

And he informs me that a rather crucial component is missing from the mysterious, seemingly empty hinterland within, so I have to send it back. Luckily, it is a fact of my sad OCD life that I cannot throw away a good cardboard box.

My poor little house. All its cupboards are stuffed with useful empty cardboard boxes, some as big as yer ‘ead. Four-foot-long guitar boxes, outer and inner. Amplifier boxes, ditto. Shreds of bubble wrap, carefully folded. The huge box I bought my big-screen TV in, five years ago, still on top of the wardrobe. Small, intricate boxes saved in case of the need to retransport small, intricate things. Collapsed boxes. Boxes with little shreddy nests in them. Boxes that have been gnawed by mice.

I am feeling boxed-in, to be honest.

When is moving day?

 

Obituary corner

So, farewell then, Maurice White.

Earth, Wind and Fire. A curious choice of name for a funky soul band that provided much of the soundtrack to my early adult life. What happened to Water?

It’s not been a good start to the year for ’70s musicians. Lemmy, Bowie, Boulez…

After the love has gone, indeed. I check with YouTube.

It’s still there.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Nothing is but thinking makes it so

I have often been accused of over-complicating matters.

My thought processes are indeed labyrinthine, principally because thinking about things in simple terms doesn’t seem to deliver results either.

Without results, the time available for more complicated rationalisations is infinitely extended.

As a case in point, I have been trying to explain to myself why it is that I have not been able to sell my house for two years and three months, despite having appointed now a total of five local agents whose speciality is, one supposed, selling houses.

So, I have shared the problem with quite a few people, all of whom have responded by asking nicely if perhaps I might be asking too high a price?

That is what one might call the over-simplified approach (I hate people using ‘simplistic’, the word has no connection with the meaning of ‘simple’ as in ‘uncomplicated’ – ‘simplist’ being an old word for a practitioner of natural medicine. Now read on…)

My reply to the point is also quite complicated, price being one of those parameters in the complex equation of selling that could equally be at the heart of a buyer objection, or totally irrelevant, depending on such considerations as local supply, buyer need, availability, desirability, perceived uniqueness and so on.

In other words, some buyers might be willing and able to pay a higher price to get something they want, while others might be constrained by their financial circumstances, the willingness of some lenders to lend more generously than others; or indeed, by the availability or otherwise of lower priced properties in the area.

In my case, I have taken as my starting point the price I myself paid for the property three years and six months ago. Given that there has been some house price inflation nationally in the interim, I feel I would be dunning myself if I accepted a lower price now than I paid then, especially as I negotiated a substantial discount off the asking price at the time.

This is what I call the ‘Why should I? I’m not fuckin’ Santa Claus!’ argument. Of course, I accept that my position is somewhat hypocritical, but the vendor was happy with the money so why beat me up over it?

Add to that, the extra investment I made in having the leisure room extension built, in which I am now sitting typing this. In other words, there is new added value in the property, for which I feel I deserve some recompense in the form of a higher price. I simply do not recognise the objection some prospective buyers have raised, that they didn’t ask me to build another room, so what would the price be if they knocked it down again?

Finally, in answer to those who wonder mildly if I might be asking too much, I would point to the existence of far worse properties in town whose owners and agents are asking maybe twenty thousand more; unmodernised properties in rundown former industrial zones that also have no private parking, traffic noise, drunken students having sex in the gutter, no front garden to separate them from the street, shitty concrete backyards with no green view…. And all because they have an upstairs view over the concrete-embanked river to a hutment of corrugated sheds.

Price is, of course, always at the bottom of any buyer-seller relationship. It is what ultimately determines the value of all goods. It is perhaps worth remarking how odd it is, that a buyer of items in a supermarket or a clothing store or an electrical goods emporium will pay without question the price stated on the ticket, while a buyer in a car showroom will invariably ask how much discount the salesman can offer, and a buyer sitting in your kitchen will tell you: if that’s the price I’m offering, then that’s all your house is worth, you tosser, so lump it.

So far, I’ve lumped it.

When I was trying to sell my guitars last year, the first question anyone would ask was always: What is the least you will accept for it?, and I would point out that a) that is an extraordinarily rude question, given that they have not yet even seen the item, b) the price stated in the advertisement is, as far as I am concerned, the price: fair, carefully calculated and competitive with similar quality items elsewhere, so c) if they can’t afford it, fuck off and buy whatever auld crap they can afford.

My attitude could explain why it took two years to sell them all, but I did eventually.

It’s the same with my house. I’ve spent endless hours carefully calculating a fair price based on local market conditions and what least I can afford to take. And, you know what? My agents have tried advertising it at several different prices, some higher, some lower, and I have advertised it privately myself at various discount points, with cash-back, or an interest-free loan, and it has made not a blind bit of difference. In fact, the most enthusuasm has been generated at the higher prices than at the lower. Since we reduced it last year, there has been no interest at all.

And so my complicated brain has gone into overdrive to try to explain this confusing lack of enquiries after what, everyone I know seems to agree, is a perfectly nice little house, if not an absolute bargain-basement offering (and why should it be? It’s not my money, I can’t afford to give it away). Because I can understand someone who has seen it not buying it, but no-one even wants to look at it, let alone knock the price down.

Firstly, there will ever be only a limited number of buyers wanting to live in the place where I live. I call these buyers ‘the pool’. The pool is made up of people who want to live here, and those who by virtue of their employment or whatever have to live here. It isn’t like London, where there is intense competition to live closest to the centre, where the most and the best-paid work is. There isn’t a lot of regular work here, and what there is is not well paid.

Both groups are also divided between those who can or can’t afford to buy a house in the first place. This not being a high-wage economy, but one that demands a limited supply of young professionals, it will be the case that the majority are in the latter group and they will be forced to rent, rather than buy, owing to the tougher mortgage lending criteria being enforced by the banks, and the relatively high prices (which look laughable, compared with the southeast of England.)

There are other houses for sale here, and it will always be the case that some people will prefer to buy one of those, for whatever inexplicable psychological reason, rather than mine. Buying a house is a highly subjective process. So the ‘pool’ of buyers for my house in particular is a tiny minority of the total, however many people might have looked at it wistfully on the internet (it has had over four thousand hits!).

While, across the road from me, a developer has recently built a small estate of houses and flats, some on the local ‘affordable homes’ scheme, and after a year they are still not all sold. So my assumption is that a large part of the local pool has been soaked-up by these new-build properties; younger professional people preferring to buy new than to live with the ghosts of past owners.

Then there is the Chinese Puzzle. This is a university town, I work from time to time at the university, and I have noted that in the past year there are many fewer Chinese students. Why? And what difference does it make? Students don’t buy houses!

No, but ‘buy-to-let’ landlords do. And when there are fewer students to accommodate there is a glut of empty student lets in town. Everywhere you look, unlike in past years, there are ‘Rooms to Let’ signs. Clearly, with less pressure in the lettings market there will be less pressure in the buy-to-let market. And we see that what might be classed as potential student accommodation, shabby three- and four-bedroomed houses in town, are for sale and not being snapped-up.

Why are there fewer Chinese students? Complicated answer: the Chinese government is less willing to pay for them to come here, a) because the Chinese economy is tanking somewhat, b) because higher tuition fees have made it very expensive, c) the new Chinese administration is rowing back on the spread of Western values, but also because d) the Tory UK government, terrified of the anti-immigration vote, has made it harder to get student visas abroad.

Of course, it’s not just the Chinese. There seem to be fewer overseas students, period. My local university used to have two or three world-class faculties, the new administration in its zeal to dumb-down and popularise and cut staffing costs and attack the pension rights of support staff at the expense of painting yellow no-parking lines everywhere and replacing the books in the libraries with beanbags and coffee machines has virtually destroyed its academic reputation, so fewer top students are enrolling here when they can get a better class of degree in another country.

Lastly, I have to say, the small coterie of local estate agents is grown fat and lazy. They don’t compete with one another, their marketing skills are pretty abysmal, they make few attempts to promote the area to the outside world, they deliver the minimum possible service to their vendors, and they all admit they make more money from property speculation and lettings than from selling people’s houses.

And that, in a series of ever-unfolding nutshells, is why no-one is even looking at my house, at any price.