The Pumpkin – Issue 99: Hi, and welcome to another Not the New York Times… Prorogationgate: Day 3 of the hearing… Turning a blind eye to the sky… The quality of Mercy is sometimes strained… GW: I’ve seen fire but I’ve seen even more rain.

The sum of $22 million offered by President Macron and other EU leaders at the G7 in Biarritz to help Brazil put out the fires that are still consuming the Amazon rainforest is, according to Jeremy Lent, writing in Open Democracy, the equivalent of what Americans spend on popcorn in a single day.

 

Hi, and welcome to another Not the New York Times.

Now, look. We have to begin with an apology. I did not mean to steal the above material, okay?

I’ve ineptly excerpted it (and I mean ineptly, I was only after a pull-quote but I drink far too much wine in these lengthening dark evenings and I got all the picture and headlines with it and couldn’t get rid of the bits I don’t want, the image is somehow all digitally glued together) from a very long New York Times report on Trump’s grunting pig efforts to rollback any environmental standards he associates with the black man’s previous regime, regardless of who actually signed them into law, even Reagan, in advance of this weekend’s New York conference on climate change that he has respectfully declined to attend.

It might rain, it might not, who knows.

So, Mr New York Times, please forgive me. You do ooopsie stuff too, from time to time, and it is said you are not very good at publishing stories about powerful men demanding extra favors from women. (Also, do get rid of that ridiculous medieval gothic masthead, you’re not the fucking Bible!)

The “Make Dishwashers Great Again” lobby is a pathetically transparent PR agency’s junior creative department’s act of desperation behind a falsely informed campaign to promote the white goods manufacturers, who are themselves perfectly at ease with Obama-era regulations on energy-saving; as without them, they won’t be able to export their products or compete with the output from Turkey.

Besides which, “energy-saving” translates to “cost-saving” efficiency for Mr and Ms Binary-Houseperson, so it’s a product-plus, something Trump can’t understand because when it comes to business he’s a defiant know-nothing.

Given the industry’s happiness with the global regulatory environment, just what has the orange lightbulb hater got against them? Personally, I could care less. I don’t have a dishwasher. I can wash dishes.

“The petition, titled “Make Dishwashers Great Again,” is just one part of a broad campaign coordinated by conservative organizations with ties to fossil-fuel companies.”

Them again. Disguised as humans, they induce people to consume more, not less, environmentally polluting energy in our kitchens, so they can poison our children and grandchildren and all go trooping merrily up to heaven in a Conga-line to meet their invisible Judaeo-Zoroastrian friend, who will allocate a schedule for having them kneel and praise his grumpy and unreliable old fascist Father with endless hosannas for all Eternity.

Their brand of Death is a deal that, frankly, sucks.

What is the matter with these sickos? Isn’t being the richest 1 per cent of sick fucking hemorrhoids on the planet enough for them, that they have to burn the place down to get even richer? You can’t take it with you, grrrlz! And you’re not taking me either, let me tell you. I’m staying right here, hoping to become extinct before I die.

I have suggested that if they have such an urgent need to meet their delusionary Jesus, they should just get on with it, poragy beards, sandals, AR-15s, fucking MAGA hats and whimpering hymns an’ all, and leave the rest of us alone to get on with our fights, pickling cabbages, marrying, and such.

Or maybe not. Jim Jones had the right idea, let’s see more of that Kool-Aid.

When will we find the courage to drag these life-denying Pharisees from their climate-change-proof bunkers and hang them out to rot in the public square?

 

Prorogationgate: Day 3 of the hearing….

James Eadie

“My client, Johnson is a fundamentally honest man, M’Lud, who would no more lie to the Queen than abandon his sick wife for a younger bit of tottie. I introduce in evidence, Mr Iain Duncan Smith’s snot-covered finger.” (Mr James Eadie, QC, argues the case for overturning 800 years of democracy.)

 

“The Fed just dumped $75 Billion into the economy…. possibly to avert a massive financial crash. Monday morning, large short term loans became unavailable and rates for these gigantic loans shot up. High interest rates caused financial crashes in the past. The Fed panicked and flooded the market with lots of money! The question is why were short term loans unavailable, where did that money go and what shot up the interest rates?” – Economist, Prof. Richard Wolff, on Thom Hartmann. You have been warned! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GTPHWtZlqT0

 

Turning a blind eye to the sky

“In 2008 a survey of American Meteorological Society members found that only 24% of weather forecasters agreed that warming was caused by humans. In 2010, a study found that 54% agreed that global warming is happening. But by 2017 a full 90% agreed that a climate crisis is happening, and 80% indicated it was human-caused.” (Edited from Guardian, 18 Sept.)

A “full” 100 per cent, I could understand. Ninety is far from full!

“And the outlook for tomorrow, there’ll be a razorwire fence controlling our borders….”

So, 20 per cent of US TV weather forecasters daily warning of drought, fire, pestilence and flood either still don’t believe, or are somehow being prevented from admitting, what 97 per cent of scientists around the world as a whole – we are told – believe, on the basis of evidence, which is that if you pump up to 37 billion tonnes of, specifically, carbon dioxide gas into our finite breathable atmosphere every year, for many years, increasing over time, through burning vast amounts of carboniferous material, the climate is bound to be affected sooner or later.

It’s a logical inference. What’s wrong with that?

Once you have learned what was shown to be the case 130 years ago, that carbon dioxide – a natural component of the atmosphere, about 2 per cent – has the special capacity to trap radiant solar heat, thus raising the background temperature over time, it really isn’t necessary to have a PhD to grasp that one simple, basic concept; the more you put in, the hotter it gets, any more than it would be necessary to have a Physics degree to boil a kettle.

I suppose it might be plausible for some people to argue that natural variability in the Earth’s production of carbon dioxide from the great cycles trumps the volume of gas which humans cause to be emitted, and that it will all somehow be re-absorbed in the natural carbon sinks, but it wouldn’t really be a consolation, would it, given the sheer bloody obviousness that either way, it isn’t being, and thus we have a problem.

Not many scientists would go along with that idea anyway, since the concentration of carbon dioxide gas in the air and dissolved in the oceans, and the mean global temperature, are now measurably greater by far, and increasing faster, than at any time for millions of years, as evidenced in the fossil record, the warming oceans and the increasing severity of extreme weather events. Other heat-retaining gases, too, are in play. There is no known natural source of chlorofluorocarbons, for instance.

You may pay attention, if you wish, to the various models projecting the consequences of carbon emission and the likely etiology of its continuing accumulation, the observable increase in temperature, based on observation over time. Some are more highly alarming than others, but all point to the same conclusion: ours.

In fact, the Guardian Green Light story is more concerned with interviewing a handful of local US TV forecasters who are struggling to put even these simple concepts across in various subtle ways, so as not to put off American audiences who, they admit with chagrin, have virtually zero attention span, in order to warn them gently that some things are going to have to change, whatever the president says.

For, in another GGL story this week, a selection of US government officials describe in horrifying detail, the extent to which Trump has inserted climate-change deniers, energy industry lobbyists and otherwise unemployable non-scientists into the management tiers of all the key departments of state responsible for maintaining a healthy environment.

Nowadays, any and all research even daring to mention the possibility that we humans are causing a problem is being ruthlessly excised, bulldozed, buried; and the expert researchers bullied, ignored, censored, shunted aside into non-jobs or browbeaten into early retirement; some finding their reputations being trashed on social media.

Because the president wills it.

Surely the question has to be, why?

The explanation that the energy industry is entirely responsible for this situation through exploiting the “Citizens United” Supreme Court decision to allow corporations to spend as much as they like on buying politicians and their votes goes only so far. While spending $millions on deflecting public attention away from it, most energy corporations will have privately admitted at some point in the past forty years that there is a problem, and they – or at least, their customers – are the cause of it.

(You’ll find a paragraph saying exactly that, even on Exxon-Mobil’s public website.)

Hurricane Dorian: the end of civilization looks very much like this.

There seems instead to be some underlying callousness motivating the Trump administration’s program of frantically cancelling all previous attempts by the legislature to mitigate the effects of carbon pollution and other environmental threats.

It’s as if born of one individual’s pathological hatred of the world, a profound resentment of its natural gifts, when almost their first act on taking office is to permit coal mining companies to discharge effluent untreated into open waterways.

Apart obviously from its being an act of gratitude to a coal baron who has just gifted your election campaign a million dollars, it seems like a brutal fist punching the face of Life; especially when it scarcely benefits the coal baron’s business interest to allow him to do something so bad that it can only ensure the opprobrium of the public and their local representatives; and even lead to the divestment of valuable shareholding institutions far from the coalface.

No-one likes drinking, brushing their teeth or bathing their children in filthy, black, carcinogenic water. Even coal barons know that. Less welcome too are the headlines.

Yet when it is presented as an act of kindness to local communities to allow their distant employers to cut corners and make extra profits from degrading their environment, that will be plowed back into more jobs and better wages – an entirely false premise, incidentally – you see a kind of moral deviousness at work, where total disdain for consequence translates into a pathological longing for limitless voter approval.

A  cynical confidence trick, yet it is one the poorly educated find comfortable to buy into, even as they watch their communities shrivel, starve, blow away, drown and die. It’s all the fault of the foreigners.

And if on the eve of another climate conference, another climate strike, a great heave of public concern, 20 per cent of TV weather forecasters are still vainly holding out against the tide of global consensus, that we have fucked the atmosphere, fucked the oceans and will, as a consequence, likely die out along with many species, unless very severe action is taken very soon now, what hope is there for the rest?

You don’t need a weather man to know which way the wind blows, as the poet sang. Especially one turning a blind eye to the sky.

https://www.opendemocracy.net/en/transformation/society-unravels-future-grabs/?utm_source=Daily+Newsletter&utm_campaign=52a333101a-DAILY_NEWSLETTER_MAILCHIMP&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_717bc5d86d-52a333101a-408090269

A woman in Providence, Rhode Island, was admitted to hospital feeling faint, after her blood turned blue. The condition, doctors say, was brought on by overmedicating herself with a toothache remedy.

Your Uncle B. wonders idly, what then has been causing Canadian Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau, to turn black at frequent intervals?

 

The madness of King Donald…

Appointing former State Department lawyer Robert O’Brien to replace John Bolton as National Security Advisor, and mindful of O’Brien’s record in negotiating the release of US citizens held abroad, the Washington Post reminds us that: “the president claimed in April that O’Brien had called him the “greatest hostage negotiator in the history of the United States.”

The great negotiator, Mr Trump agreed to “medical expenses” of $2 million to get the terminally ill student, Otto Frederick Warmbier shipped home from prison in North Korea, where he’d been held for stealing a poster from his hotel room. Most commentators regarded this as the payment of a ransom, for electoral advantage.

Posing in front of a pile of steel components for his border wall, on which some construction has now begun, Trump informed the assembled hacks that his wall contains special, “very powerful concrete”. (MSNBC)

 

The quality of Mercy is sometimes strained

It’s tempting to join some kind of faith group in my old age, as I have no settled religion and no belief in anything much, other than the right to a quiet life interrupted as frequently as possible by classic cuts of modern jazz.

I like the attitude of the Pastafarian church, which holds that genuine religious freedom should include freedom from religion. “Its only dogma is that there is no dogma”, says Mike Arthur, an American documentary filmmaker currently focussing on this growing cult of blissful irresponsibility.

I guess if L Ron Hubbard had been born as that much finer and more nuanced writer, the great humanist Kurt Vonnegut, Scientology would be a lot more relaxed, with its irony on show for all to worship, instead of keeping its brainwashed adherents in an iron vise of blinkered corporatism.

In spaghetti we trust….

Yet Scientology, with all its ludicrous beliefs in non-existent mental energies, is recognized in many places as a genuine religion; while Pastafarians everywhere are struggling to gain recognition; although it has been officially noted in four countries so far.

The exquisite symbolism of the kitchen strainer, or colander, worn symbolically on the head, has not passed my notice. For a start, unlike Christianity it’s genuinely holey. Being metal, it can receive signals remotely, while protecting against thrown objects. And worn on the head, too, as a device for rinsing the sludge off canned foodstuffs it suggests brainwashing – yet with the freedom for ideas to spew out. It’s an item that brings forth solid nourishment, food for thought naturally, from a broth of hot, watery confusion; making sense of the Cosmos in a nonlinear way.

Just add sauce!

The “ten commandments” of the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster are reduced, helpfully, to only eight: “I’d really rather you didn’ts”, which is exactly how I speak to people, in a kind of cringing, deferential, frightfully British way, often in heavily accented English, when they piss me off. I’m always afraid of being punched in the face, as my front upper set cost me £3 thousand and could never be replaced if broken.

But if one wants to reduce one’s carbonara footprint, this is perhaps not the way forward.

The church, according to a Guardian article (what else?), “was founded in 2005 by Bobby Henderson, at the time a 25-year-old US physics graduate, as a response to Christian fundamentalists demanding the teaching of creationism in Kansas school science classes.” His delicious logic being that belief in a universe created by a Flying Spaghetti Monster is no less rational a scientific approach to creation as belief in an Intelligent Designer who makes lots of mistakes.

There’s a case before the European Court of Human Rights currently, in which a Dutch member – it’s pretty much worldwide – Mienke de Wilde is arguing for the legal right under freedom of religion in her country to be photographed for her driver’s license wearing a plastic kitchen strainer on her head, the symbol of her belief in not having to believe anything.

To support her case, she’s kept it on in public for the past three years, which at the time of writing appears to be the main stumbling block. Recognition of a religion by the court depends on it being a serious belief. Which it is, only expressed through a haze of tolerant, not to say stoned, good humor and puckish lateral thinking. Which again, is very much me. No?

My only concern about joining the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster would be that its dress code offends the balancing right of trypophobes not to be suddenly confronted with the distressing sight of an object pierced with a regular pattern of tiny round holes, which can induce panic in a sufferer.

Rather than turning to dishwashers for salvation, then, maybe I’ll apply to San Francisco instead, for membership of the Church of the Blessed John Coltrane.

Anything for a quiet life.

 

GW: I’ve seen fire but I’ve seen even more rain

USA: Flood watches remained in effect Wednesday morning (18 Sept.) across southeastern Texas as Tropical Depression Imelda’s heavy rain threatened to cause hazardous flooding and travel disruptions. As of early Wednesday morning, Imelda, which became a short-lived tropical storm on Tuesday before making landfall in Freeport, Texas, and heading for Houston, had produced over 22 inches of rain in places.

“Days of heavy rain fell in parts of South Dakota from 10 to 12 Sept., causing widespread flooding in the state. Meanwhile National Weather Service (NWS) is warning that the rain in South Dakota could result in another wave of flooding downstream along the Missouri River in Iowa and Nebraska.” Many all-time river flood-stage records are being broken. “Around 30 people had to be rescued from flood water in Madison, Wisconsin. Homes, roads and bridges were damaged and schools closed in affected areas.”(Floodlist)

India: “Over 4,500 people have been evacuated after flooding in the state of Rajasthan. The southern part of the state has experienced torrential rainfall since 13 Sept. Heavy rain in the neighbouring state of Madhya Pradesh, where 45,000 people have been displaced by flooding, has also increased levels of rivers in Rajasthan, in particular the Chambal river. Many homes have been without electricity for days. … Rainfall has been 42% higher than normal for the monsoon season.” (Floodlist) Monsoon flooding in India during late July and August killed at least 287 people. (Wunderground)

Spain:  Severe weather has continued since up to half a meter of rain fell over 11 and 12 Sept. Media reports say 6 people have now died and 3,500 evacuated, including 2,000 residents of the town of Santomera in Murcia as a precaution due to a controlled release from a local dam. Roads and schools have been closed as well as Murcia and Almeria airports. Fatalities were reported in Caudete in Albacete province, Almería, La Jámula in Granada and 2 people died in Orihuela. (Floodlist)

Algeria: “2 people have died after more flooding” caused by the same weather system as the floods in Spain. “Torrential rain on 12 Sept. also caused widespread damage in the capital Algiers and parts of Souk Ahras Province. 40 mm of rain reportedly fell in just 40 minutes. The mean total precipitation for September in Algiers is 28.3 mm. It’s the third flood event in the country this month.” (From Floodlist)

Atlantic: Approaching the Leeward Islands, Tropical Storm Jerry is forecast to intensify to hurricane strength over warmer waters. Hurricane Humberto is now at Cat 3, heading in the direction of Bermuda. In the East Pacific, Tropical Storm Lorena developed on Tuesday and will track dangerously close to Mexico’s western coastline by Thursday, 19 Sept. (Accuweather) Hurricane warnings are out.

Antarctic: Paul Beckwith writes: “Since the last week of August, the stratospheric polar vortex first became elongated and then completely destabilized, with some regions warming up abruptly from about -70C to an incredible +13C, causing the high altitude vortex to morph into two and then even three vortices. My understanding is that rapid loss of Antarctic sea ice in some regions and gain in others caused an asymmetry of sea ice around the continent, thus causing breakdown of the vortex.”

Earth: Despite the lack of an El Niño, and presumably under the dimming effect of many wildfires, “August 2019 was provisionally the second hottest globally since records began in 1880.” Only August 2016 was warmer, say the NOAA and NSA. Figures are not yet in for Japan. “Among global weather stations with a period of record of at least 40 years, 36 set new all-time heat records in August. There were no stations that set all-time cold records.” (Wunderground)

Global ocean temperatures during August were the warmest on record. In July, according to Arctic News, the oceans in the northern hemisophere exceeded 1 deg. C above the C20th average – at 1.07C a critical tipping point crossed. Oceans have absorbed over 90% of all global warming. Wunderground says: “It is virtually certain that 2019 will end among the top five warmest years in Earth’s history. This means that the six warmest years on record globally since 1880 will be the last six years—2014 through 2019.”

“Globally … on the afternoon of September 13, 2019, peak methane levels as high as 2605 ppb were recorded by the MetOp-1 satellite at 586 mb.” (Arctic News) (Note: that’s nearly 400% of 1750 levels.)

The 2019 tally of billion-dollar weather disasters is 20 as of the end of August. Typhoon Lekima cost China $9.3bn; the Indian monsoon so far, $5.5bn. There have been two more billion dollar weather disasters thus far in September, including Hurricane Dorian, which devastated the Bahamas, for which no figure is yet available (Source: Aon Insurance).

Arctic sea ice extent during August 2019 was the second lowest in the 40-year satellite record, not far behind 2012. (National Snow and Ice Data Center). Ice volume, depending on thickness, is a different matter – it’s the lowest ever recorded (Paul Beckwith).

Wales, UK: This is now, believe it or not, the fifth day of almost unbroken, if hazy, wall-to-wall sunshine; although the flowers had a little blessing during the night before last. The temperature in my shady front garden currently at 13.00 is 24 deg. C. (19 Sept.) The daytime high for September in the UK averages 18C. Truly, these are the Fortunate Isles.

Update: Friday, 20 Sept. Climate strike day, the Autumn equinox and another cloudless sunny morning on the west coast. At 09.15, the thermo climbs past 17C. by 13.00 it is 25C. This is very pleasant but slightly unusual. “Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness”? Keats’ famous poem is 200 years old this week.

Same again tomorrow, but the forecast is for rain arriving Sunday and even thunderstorms by Monday. Phew! Saved by the bell.

There are 2.9 billion fewer birds in the U.S. and Canada now than 50 years ago — reports the New York Times.

“While some species grew, the majority declined — often by huge numbers — including traditionally abundant birds like robins and sparrows. Habitat loss, pesticides and house cats are among the likely culprits, and experts say the declines are a dire warning about the planet’s well-being.”

So, Farewell then, Jeff… Still crazier after all these years… Has He Shot his Fox?… It’s just a silly phase we’re going through… Arse Attacks #2… GW: And the beast goes on… Issue 94 of The Pumpkin extends its tendrils.

Other Quote of the Week

“Every photo of Cummings going into Downing Street sees him shiftily meeting the camera’s gaze with the same defensive sneer you’d see on the proprietor of a holiday caravan park who has just been released on police bail after a fatal gas explosion thought to have been caused by poor maintenance. Britain really is the land of crap Rasputins….”

– Marina Hyde, in The Guardian, 9 Aug.

 

So, Farewell then, Jeff

Let’s not get too cynical, shall we, about the timing of society pimp Jeffrey Epstein’s “apparent suicide” (Guardian), following an earlier apparent attempt on his own life last week, while “on suicide watch” in the Metropolitan Correctional Center in New York. (“The facility is widely considered to be one of the most secure in the country.” – BBC)

We feel sure it must have had everything to do with feelings of personal shame and remorse, the certain loss of his privileged millionaire lifestyle; the prospect of spending the rest of his life behind bars, where his status as a bit of a celebrity nonce might make things uncomfortable for him. And as we know, careless is generally the middle name of whichever private contractor runs these facilities.

It surely had nothing to do with the 2,000 pages of evidence, naming names, in the trial on a charge of slander against Epstein’s mistress and alleged procurer of underage girls, Ghislaine Maxwell, released last week by a New York court; Ms Maxwell having unwisely accused one of the witnesses in Epstein’s trial, Virginia Giuffre (15 at the time) of lying.

(As Oscar Wilde said, “Don’t ever go there”!)

After all, why would Epstein have wanted the opportunity to defend himself in court, having bothered to plead not guilty to all the charges? Unnecessarily inconveniencing all his wealthy and powerful friends, some with extensive connections, I should imagine, in the criminal underworld.

Having been tried once before, and agreed to serve 13 months, most of it on the outside, where he allegedly continued his unsavory pastime of importing underage girls to entertain his rich and famous clients, I expect he just didn’t want to have to go through all that again.

And look, there’s the story, obviously denied, in the overnight British press, “Prince Andrew touched my breasts….” From another young witness, Joanna Sjoberg:

“I just remember someone suggesting a photo, and they told us to go get on the couch. And so Andrew and Virginia sat on the couch, and they put the puppet, the puppet on her lap. And so then I sat on Andrew’s lap, and I believe on my own volition, and they took the puppet’s hands and put it on Virginia’s breast, and so Andrew put his on mine.”

So, British royalty. May as well just get it all over with, eh? Puppets. What was that about?

Water under the bridge.

(As you may imagine, the Twittersphere is atweet with this story, the consensus seeming to be that this will be one for the conspiracy theorists for all Eternity. More sober commenters point out that all may not yet be lost as more civil actions are pending, that may rely on the same evidence coming out.

Unfortunately for her, Ms Maxwell is now the one most likely to bear the entire brunt of public opprobrium that had been reserved for her “boyfriend”.)

 

A police patrol car on its way to an incident was struck by a falling bear in northern California last weekend, causing the vehicle to crash and explode. The bear made its escape. (Various sources)

 

“who will dare to tell the king he’s crazy?.”

Still crazier after all these years

I imagine it’s almost certainly illegal to wish that someone would just take the shot and end this. Although I expect in their waking moments, most compassionate, rational people do.

Trump and the Third Lady pitched up at a hospital in El Paso on Tuesday, the Old Mexican border town where 22 people died in a mass shooting last week at a Walmart store, carried out by a 21-year-old white man armed with an assault rifle. The unrepentant suspect, Patrick Crusius had just posted a lengthy manifesto on the 8Chan race haters’ website, dedicating his desire to end immigration and prevent the “replacement” of the white race to the president’s deliberately inflammatory statements of previous weeks.

Was the presidential party there to commiserate with and support the survivors and the medical teams working round the clock to save the wounded? Would the president make a statement admitting that his attacks on migrants and people of color, his strident demands that they go back to where they came from, his encouragement of racially hateful chanting had gone too far? Would he apologize, and announce immediate action on lax gun ownership rules?

Well, we wouldn’t really know, as the media was barred from going in the building.

To rub the point in, Trump had brought along with him a White House camera crew. He, and he alone, would control the news agenda. “Mine is the only light in the room.” Thus he had himself filmed, grinning broadly, making a thumbs-up gesture, while Melania diffidently poses with the newsworthy baby whose young parents were shot dead trying to protect it. Their deaths meant nothing more to the First Family than an opportunity to exploit a half-Mexican baby.

They are not looking at the baby. They are looking away, possibly at another camera. Don’t look at the baby, they are saying, look at us! Don’t make the baby the center of attention, the headline news, we’re the ones who matter here!

This man is as sick in the mind as any human being can possibly get. But also as mean, and ruthless.

As the unwelcome and embarrassing visit wore on, drawing the media’s attention, across Texas ICE – the immigration police – on Trump’s order launched a series of raids, netting hundreds of supposedly undocumented Latino migrant workers, many resident for decades, leaving their bewildered children stuck at home or at school – or themselves rounded up and disappeared into containment facilities not fit for slaughtering cattle.

Later reporting suggests that one raid, in Mississippi, may have been connected with unwanted union activity at a chicken plant. You see, it’s not all about the race thing. Never was.

Back at the hospital, private cameraphone footage revealed the First Oaf, Trump grinning and bragging to appalled and embarrassed medical staff that his crowd size outside was bigger than the “400 or so” who had greeted losing 2018 Congressional candidate, Beto O’Rourke, at his most recent rally in El Paso – his home town. It was the most important thing he had to tell them, as he never stops telling everyone, that he still can’t believe he’s really the president.

Police estimated O’Rourke had drawn a crowd in excess of ten thousand. But that would have meant nothing to Trump, as he was furious that O’Rourke had dared to question the ethics of his visit to the survivors and grieving relatives; who had requested that he not come. My crowd being bigger than yours, obviously because I say it is, makes me a winner and you a loser. So – “Be quiet!”, he imperiously tweeted the younger presidential hopeful, after a fusillade of insults.

It was yet another vindictive attack on a perceived enemy by the paranoid narcissist with the nuclear codes. For Trump, life is a zero-sum game: I win, you lose – and “Trump” (it’s how he refers to himself, in the third person) never loses. With his little thumbs on the tweeter, he will always have the last word. And it will always be the nastiest.

In much the same way as he publicly crowed on the night of 9/11, with nearly three thousand office workers and aircraft passengers dead or dying, that his tower block would now be the tallest in Manhattan; or as he claimed last month to an audience of chronically sick firefighters, police and paramedics, who really had been there, that he was down there with them at Ground Zero, “helping people” and “moving rubble” (actually he was giving a radio interview), it was another fantasy born of a total deficit of human empathy and understanding; making every crisis all about himself and his own tragic feelings of victimhood.

Reportedly, on the way back from Dayton, Ohio, where he visited a second hospital containing nine more victims of white nationalism, shot up within hours of El Paso, Trump had another one of his meltdowns, and has been screaming abuse at hapless staffers who had “allowed” him to visit the hospitals without the media present, as he is now being widely accused of hypocrisy and insensitivity and has no witnesses to prove otherwise.

We wonder why.

No normally sane person says and does those things; let alone someone with the power and responsibility of the office of president. Congress has to understand what hundreds of mental health professionals have been saying since he took office: Trump is crazy, and getting crazier.

It’s not supposed to be funny, it’s not a joke – it’s not a criticism, a put-down, anti-Americanism, Antifa-antics, snobbish lefty-liberal horseshit, “Doctor internet” theorizing or lazy late-night satire:

It’s exactly what mental illness looks like.

Someone has to act on it, to end the nightmare.

Besides the criminality of which he is widely and evidentially accused, the cronyism, it is simply inconceivable that a man who is so profoundly limited – on top of the psychological damage from which he already suffers as a result of his parental rejection issues – a man whose perceived reality is 360-degrees self-invented, who can view the world only through the flattering prism of his own ego, his own wants; who continually lies to aggrandize himself when it doesn’t matter, and denies his actions have consequences; who has an insatiable craving for approval, a man in any case so poorly structured and incompetent, how should such a person be allowed to continue in the highest office, to which he was inadvertently elected?

For his own sake he has to be taken into care, at the very least for a period of psychiatric assessment. He is a clear and present danger to himself and to the country; his assaults on scientific research alone should indicate that he inhabits a separate reality; never mind the damaging trade wars, the tearing-up of treaties, the unwanted interference with foreign governments and the fights he picks with his country’s allies. The idea that he should be permitted a second four-year term is unconscionable.

It is criminal of the Republican party to insist that such a person should remain trapped in the very situation that is making his illness so much worse. He was never fit for the job. A humane constitutional mechanism to suspend him from office exists in the form of the 25th amendment.

But who will dare to tell the king he’s crazy?

How would he even have the mental capacity to agree?

 

Angela Merkel has been caught on vacation in the Tyrol, reading a book called “Tyrant: Shakespeare on Politics”, by Harvard Professor Stephen Greenblatt. The book purports to draw parallels between tyrants in Shakespeare’s plays, and Donald Trump.

(“A rather simplistic, naive narrative.” – Bloomberg)

 

Has He Shot his Fox?

David Pakman is reporting that Trump has abandoned Murdoch’s Fox News, after months of increasingly rancorous tweets aimed at presenters like Shepard Smith and Chris Wallace, who have honorably attempted to retain some measure of editorial objectivity on this, one of the most rightwing of networks.

Trump’s real obsession has been with the daytime show, Fox & Friends, which falls into the Features category, rather than news. It’s said that numerous policy decisions and reversals have been announced from the Oval Office within minutes of rabid frothers like Laura Ingraham, Judge Jeanine Pirro and Brian Kilmeade commenting in characteristically over-the-top ways on the issues of the day.

Some of Trump’s staff appointments have been of totally unqualified people who just happened to have worked or guested in ways he approves of, on Fox & Friends. He feels some panellists have turned against him, particularly legal pundit Judge Napoletano, who has sometimes declared Trump’s initiatives to be illegal. Of course, one of his closest confidants is the overemotional motormouth presenter and millionaire slum landlord, Sean Hannity.

But of late, even Fox & Friends has been critical, for instance of his backing away from military confrontation with Iran. Now, reports Pakman, Trump is endorsing an even more rabidly rightwing and conspiratorial media outlet, the One America News Network, OAN – an amateurish cable network with fewer than 400 thousand subscribers – although with his support, that looks set to rise.

He recently tweeted that he would rather watch “fake news CNN” than Shepard Smith, but that “whenever possible, I turn to OANN!”

The station has promoted as real news, most of the usual online conspiracy theories cooked up by swivel-eyed Trump supporters like Alex Jones of InfoWars on the fringes of his campaign during the 2016 election; for instance, that Democrat intern Seth Rich, who died in a street mugging, was murdered on the orders of Clinton campaign chairman, John Podesta – himself at the helm of an international pedophile ring based in the (non-existent) basement of the Comet Ping-Pong cafe in Washington.

According to Wikipedia, OAN – or OANN – is owned by Robert Herring Sr, mildly crazed President of Herring Networks, a millionaire who made his fortune printing circuit boards:

“Originally launched with the intention of targeting a conservative and center-right audience, OAN states a goal of delivering credible national and international news coverage throughout the day while its prime time political talk shows illustrate a conservative perspective. The channel is pro-Trump (and pro-Russia). Both Vanity Fair and The Independent in London have accused the channel of promoting falsehoods and conspiracy theories.”

Herring is currently hoping to acquire Al Jazeera’s US operation to improve OANN’s standing. (We recall, do we gnotte, Trump’s support for Saudi Barbaria’s boycott of Qatar, one of which’s objectives was to get Qatar-owned Al Jazeera closed down, which might well have helped Herring’s ambition along some.)

Suspecting that by supporting OAN, Trump might just have been hoping to move Fox’s coverage back to the far-right, from which he believes it has drifted, and to continue its slavish approval of him, The Guardian reported scathingly in June:

“The obscure One America News Network (OAN) makes up for its lack of clout or viewers by covering every Trump utterance, recycling conspiracy theories, downplaying Russian threats, bashing the mainstream media and championing the ‘Make America Great Again’ agenda.”

Former OAN employees confirmed to the Daily Beast, basically that the network is a crock of shit, and a terrible place to work, being in effect the personal mouthpiece of the Herrings, father and son.

If Pakman is correct, and OAN has won, watch out for even more bonkers initiatives and dangerously illiberal policies emerging from the biddable gogglebox president’s TV room, where he spends hours a day in “executive time”, communing with the little yammering faces in the ether. It seems they have indeed won, as on 8 August Herring tweeted:

“COMING SOON! You will be able to watch the president’s favorite news network by becoming a supporter on Facebook. One America News is launching a LIVE 24/7 feed — you will be able to tune in anywhere in the world. More details to come!”

Which prompted a frantic “Do not send money!” disclaimer from a company called OAN, whose URL Herring had declined to register as OANN was several thousand dollars cheaper, hence the extra N for Network – even though it barely is one yet.

What Rupert will have to say is anyone’s guess. He and Trump haven’t been friends for some time.

Media monster

The 45th President of the United States of America, probably the most petty and vindictive one ever, went ballistic last week and began tweeting furiously when he heard a Fox interview with a former Google employee, who “confirmed” a rumor (believed by Trump) that the online search monster was deliberately suppressing conservative websites – untrue, as it happens, the guy had just been fired and was feeling sore.

Under his savvy campaign director, Brad Parscale – formerly of Cambridge Analytica – Trump’s digital effort has already spent $9.3 million dollars on over 2,000 Facebook ads for 2020, including creating improbable support organizations, such as “Latinos for Trump!”, using brownish actors.

Techniques learned, obviously, from the Russians.

 

It’s just a silly phase we’re going through

As things in Britain and the USA slide gently out of kilter, with the rise of authoritarian gangster-capitalist juntas run by crazed, unelected rightwing ideologues in hock to a gruesome coalition of insane tech billionaires, hedge funds, Russian mobsters and the evangelical churches – practically the whole of southern England and Wales was without electricity yesterday, for no obvious reason, while there have been rolling blackouts across New York – and the numbers in poverty continue rising as fast as the rich can bank the money, spare a thought for the people of Zimbabwe.

Eighteen months ago they were freed from the malign rule of one half-insane, senile dictator, Mugabe, 94, only to fall into the hands of another reptilian incompetent, his former bush colleague and war criminal, Nelson Mnangagwa, age 77 and three-quarters. One look at his face tells you exactly how much mercy to expect from this former warlord.

Why on earth Africans always seem to imagine that these now elderly men who once fought brutal guerrilla wars, first against colonial rule and then against one another, committing endless rapes and massacres, are competent to run modern democracies, I have no idea, but they always seem to end up getting themselves elected, swanking around in black Mercedes, stuffing their Swiss bank accounts and grinding the faces of the voters.

Reports from Harare say people outside the city, where the rich still dine out, are literally going hungry, scraping by on a handful of meal and a few leaves a day. The UN says 4 million will need aid. Children are reported to be collapsing in school from hunger. There’s no power twelve hours a day, rampant unemployment, hospitals bare of medical supplies and the currency is virtually worthless.

This in a country Mnangagwa promised would be a haven for foreign investment – only to find himself hamstrung by the IMF and Mugabe’s vast debts, facing an almost perpetual state of austerity and drought punctuated by cyclones and floods.

Which makes this statement from a government minister all the more ironic, considering how things are going on the streets of their former colonial masters’ home country, Britain, where schools are on short time, begging for donations to buy teachers and having to feed 50 thousand children through the summer holidays – where homelessness has gone beyond the power of government to fix, and where, in a couple of months’ time, we may be begging the EU for emergency supplies of food and medicines, with the army on the streets:

“These are temporary issues as the market adjusts,” said Energy Mutodi, the deputy information minister. “This is an economy that is transforming into a more robust and innovative one … it shouldn’t be mistaken for a crisis. We expect prices to stabilise. We are going through a phase where we need to sacrifice and make some savings.”

Ring any bells, George Osborne? Philip Hammond? Boris Johnson – Lord Wolfson – anyone of the brightly optimistic school of Western socio-economic disintegration? Because, whatever befalls us in November – don’t mistake it for a crisis, it’s just a transformation into something worse.

 

Arse Attacks #2

Tonight, The Observer is reporting:

An Observer analysis of Land Registry documents and EU subsidy databases reveals that a farm in Durham, which Cummings jointly owns with his parents and another person, has received roughly €20,000 a year for most of the last two decades.

That’s the Dominic Cummings, archBrexiteer and Iago to Boris’ Othello, Asterix to Boris’ Obelix, who has frequently attacked farming subsidies because they allow us to compete unfairly with African producers.

 

GW: And the beast goes on… 

China: “At least 18 people have been killed and more than a million forced from their homes as Typhoon Lekima hit. 14 people were also missing after a landslide was triggered by the storm, state media reported. Lekima made landfall between Taiwan and China’s financial capital Shanghai. The storm was initially designated a “super typhoon”, but weakened slightly before landfall – when it still had winds of 187km/h (116mph). Lekima is now slowly winding its way north through Zhejiang province, and is expected to hit Shanghai, which has a population of more than 20 million. Fallen trees and power cuts are widespread.” (BBC)

Sunday 11 Aug: now 28 dead, 20 missing.

USA: “A broad area of the central United States will be at risk for violent thunderstorms and flooding downpours this weekend …with the worst of the thunderstorms focused on South Dakota. A brief tornado was reported in Lyman County, South Dakota, on Friday, with many more thunderstorms producing damaging winds and large hail in the state. The greatest threats from the storms are likely to be be high winds, which can gust to 70 mph, as well as hail and flash flooding.” (Accuweather)

Australia: The land of sun downunder is having a tough winter. “Strong winds continued to lash parts of New South Wales on Saturday, with snow hitting the Blue Mountains and stranding some drivers on the Great Western highway before it was reopened. And in Victoria, where a woman died (and 2 children were injured, one gravely) after a tree fell on a car, the cold, rain and strong winds were forecast to stick around for the weekend. Winds topped 113km/h on the south coast’s Montague Island on Friday. (Guardian) Emergency workers have dealt with hundreds of calls for help. At Stockton, in Newcastle, the wind ripped the roof off an old people’s care center, forcing the evacuation of about 30 people.

Meanwhile… More than 60 bushfires are burning in New South Wales, two months before the start of the fire season. How this is happening at the same time as the state is affected by rain and snow, your Gran fails to comprehend, but this is being reported today, 10 Aug., by News.com.au. I guess it’s a big place.

UK: Rail passengers endured a second day of disruption, this time caused by severe winds and flooding rather than power outages. After travellers recovered from delays of up to 12 hours on Friday following the National Grid failure, weather caused chaos in the national rail network, ports and roads. (BBC)

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

Quote of the week

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

 

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

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

Breaking bad

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

There, their dear: some pointers for trolls

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Loose is an adjective meaning free, unconstrained or untethered.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Generation Campervan

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

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

I think of myself more as Campervan Man.

Happy campers! (Pinterest)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Stuck in a jam on the M4.

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

Is this just me wanting to go round again?

Butlins on wheels?

 

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

Newshound

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

Long Essay: To hell with everyone!

 

Long Essay:

To hell with everyone!

 

One of the more popular themes floating around the informal and usually uninformed Commentariat beneath any climate-emergency-related article is the idea that there are simply too many people in the world.

In one sense that is a truism. A finite resource cannot logically be expected forever to sustain an infinitely expanding population of users; until the users themselves become the primary resource. Some stabilization of numbers would seem appropriate, given that we are, it’s said, using up the planet’s resources at the rate of 170% of their available quantity or volume every year – and heating the climate to a dangerous degree while doing so.

(I know, it seems crazy, doesn’t it! I mean, that anyone really knows how much resource is available, and what is meant by resource anyway, and how you can have or use more of a resource than 100%? Because if you use 100% of a resource, well, it’s gone, right? What if we could be genetically modified to eat sand and drink sea water, or if technology could turn sunlight into food, the way plants do? And I have calculated that with a quarter of a square meter of space each, the population of the world could double from now and still be able to stand on the landmass of the British Isles alone! We are not short of standing room. Thanks for that, let’s move on.)

On the other hand, there appears to be a subtext that we need therefore to cull the population by any means; and a meta-subtext hinting that those selected for sterilization or direct extermination ought to come from whichever other demographic, ethnic or religious group or country the writer despises the most, rather than from the writer’s own immediate circle.

It’s a rather trivial way of approaching the problem, requiring less thought than the writer is possibly gifted to bring to bear on a useful solution. (I have none, by the way.)

I’m going to pretend it’s next week, and the global population has reached eight billion, as the larger the number, I find, the easier the math is if you round it to the smallest integer followed by a discountable string of zeros.

What, then, would be our ideal population, what might be the consequences of arriving at that number of people; how would you prevent it from simply expanding again, and what method would you use to reduce it to the ideal number?

I have seen two billion mentioned as a possibly sustainable number. Taking us back in time, effectively, to the 15th century CE.

Well, that sounds good. It’s a number we shouldn’t rebound too quickly from, to make the pain of reduction not worth the while. It would be unlikely on the other hand to lead to a total collapse, ultimately to a few savage “Mad Max” tribal bands roaming the crumbling cities and deserts in search of the last can of Kool-aid.

But it would of course require a complete reset of the current economic model, which, for all its unsustainability, is geared towards satisfying the needs of most of a population of eight billion.

A reduction of 75% might give us a much lower standard of living, rather than the higher one envisioned by the enthusiastic proposer of such a number, since there would be many fewer people to do the work of production and distribution and extraction and allocation and counting and storing of the global wealth. The sparser distribution of populations about the globe would require greater, not less, co-ordination of trade policy and longer chains of supply.

On the one hand, resources are natural; on the other, process is required to consume them, and that process would be harder to maintain for the benefit of the population. People in most places would be concentrating more on survival than progress, and complaining that their supermarket shelves are empty. Civilization requires a concentration of humans and resources, not a thinning-out.

Scattered individuals and smaller communities would probably in the long term bring us back at least over wide areas away from a few centers of population to an economic system based on barter and self-sufficiency. Fewer technologists would of course result in a slower pace of advance; although I imagine we should be more heavily dependent on robots and AI systems, which in itself presents problems for the current, employment-dependent socio-economic paradigm. Geopolitics would need to evolve a fairer system of rewards and sharing; a flattening-out of society.

This might not all be so bad from the point of view of advocates for a Greener economics, but possibly not for the people advocating such a huge reduction in the population, few of whom I suspect have Green economics in mind when they demand more of the pie for themselves, and who are likely to be disappointed by what they wished for.

As to how you would prevent your ideal population of two billion from simply expanding again, well, there are several possibilities.

You could, for instance, impose quotas on live births, as the Chinese did under crazy Mao. As we know, this has created all sorts of problems, particularly of gender imbalance. In a largely rural society, when reduced by diktat to producing only one child per couple, the patriarchal system favors the survival of boys, leading to a higher instance of abortion and possibly outright murder of girl babies. The result, of course, is that 40 years down the line China has an embarrassing surplus of young men, the only solution to which is to draft them into the army and get them all killed off.

Forced sterilization is another option. We might throw our hands up in horror now, while we are eight billion. But reduced to two billion, different moralities might come into play. A kind form of birth control could be through public health initiatives, like putting chemicals in the drinking water, or quietly tying off the fallopian tubes of women undergoing a first cesarian section.

Two billion people might imply that the normal “replacement” birthrate of 2.1 children per couple could be exceeded, as there would be a psychological desire both to increase the size of your own family for sound economic reasons, and just to “fill the place up”. At a rate of, say, 2.5 children per family, I am not actuarially equipped to calculate, but might guess that in about another 175 years with no increase in mortality we’d be back to eight billion – but starting from an already depleted resource base, that would be worse than the predicament we find ourselves in now.

So, what method do we favor for removing six billion people from the world? It’s not that easy!

It’s been estimated that about 80 million people died during the Second World War, anyway between September 1939 and August 1945 – wars aren’t quite that easy to define. How many were born during or immediately after that period, myself included, I have no idea. What therefore the net effect was, again, I can’t say. However it’s a well-established myth that populations rebound faster in the wake of such rapid attrition. Which is by and by.

Eighty million is only 1% of eight billion, so you can immediately see it would have to be a much bigger war to remove six billion people in the space of six years by violent means. World War Three is not the answer – unless, you say, it goes nuclear.

Now, a nuclear war on the scale of, say, America vs. China would probably kill directly, about 800 million people in the space of a few hours, which is still only ten per cent of the global population. Of course, without functioning hospital services more would die from their injuries and radiation poisoning in the years following, and given the nature of distribution of radioactive elements by air, rivers and sea, it would inevitably produce a random toll, vitiating the possibility of any kind of policy of selection, either on the basis of wealth, talent, skin color or eugenics. You’d have to take pot luck who survived, and where. You might not even be one of them, sadly.

Fallout from your war would have a quite helpful downside, which is the pall of radioactive dust thrown into the upper atmosphere, cutting off sunlight. While global warming would become a thing of the past, the predicted global winter would make cereal crop production impossible for at least the next three years, with reduced harvests for many years after – assuming any farmers still survived. Without grassland fodder, cattle would die out. Employment income would cease as economies crashed. Millions would starve, but as this isn’t the 15th century they’d be better equipped to fight and kill one another en masse for the available stocks of probably irradiated food, improving the casualty rate.

There’s a danger here of, literally, overkill. With so much of the planet rendered uninhabitable and uncultivable by extreme radiation, and so many dead, their rotting corpses polluting waterways, along with millions of dead sheep, pigs and cattle; diseases and sepsis spreading untreated, all utilities destroyed or defunct and 400 nuclear power stations melting down unattended, life might – would – in fact become impossible for anyone to survive, other perhaps than a few uncontacted tribespeople in the depths of the tropical rainforests.

A full-on nuclear exchange is not going to allow you to stop at two billion, and with vast swathes of the planet rendered uninhabitable, especially the cities, anyone who did survive would probably wish they hadn’t. With the servant class gone, how would the elite crawling out from their bunkers manage? It’s just not an option that bears considering.

Ditto, really, a good plague.

The so-called Spanish ‘flu outbreak of 1918, a pneumonic swine ‘flu (H1N1) that started on a military base in Kansas – I imagine no-one wants to be indelicate about the peccadilloes of Patient Zero – was carried on First World War troopships to Europe via Spain. In the miserable cities and teeming camps the neurasthenic demobbing soldiery and malnourished postwar populations were uniquely vulnerable; the plague spread thence, via returning Imperial soldiers, to India, where the very worst of the casualties were recorded, and onwards.

Before burning itself out, the ‘flu eventually killed between 80 and 100 million, which we have already established is not nearly enough for our needs. They would be replaced with a little determined flirtation in a couple of years.

The mortality rate from Spanish ‘flu was bad in terms of overall numbers, but was unhelpfully not all that high, between 10% and 20%, the same as the attrition rate of soldiers in the trenches, although the disease had its worst outcomes among apparently healthier younger people, which would remove an unhealthy slice of the breeding population were it to occur on that scale again. At even 20%, you couldn’t infect nearly enough patients to kill off six billion, you’d need many more to begin with.

The bubonic plague that arrived in Britain in 1347 killed about 30 million victims throughout Europe, certainly more efficient, but today we have more sophisticated responses to prevent the kind of diminishing waves of disease that kept viruses alive in successive populations from Roman times, that might limit survivor numbers and prevent too rapid a recovery from a modern plague.

The HN viruses are still very much with us and there have been numerous outbreaks of monkey, bird and pig-based viruses that have mutated and became transmissible to humans since 1918, but relatively few that can be spread human-to-human. Epidemiologists continue to obtain their funding by making alarmist claims that “it’s not a matter of if, but when”, etcetera, but outbreaks of quite virulent diseases like Ebola, Margrave and SARS have so far proved containable despite the jet age.

Paradoxically, despite everything that’s said about universal air travel making such outbreaks more deadly, it’s probably the wide range of immunities found in such a vast overpopulation of humans that have been preventing the spread of pandemic diseases on a similar scale; although with its 65% mortality rate you could entertain high hopes of the current outbreak of Ebola in the Democratic Republic of Congo, that has already claimed about 1,500 lives and is proving logistically difficult to stop.

No, what should be giving our sofa-dwelling Malthusians heart is, simply, that the birthrate is in fact slowing already, almost everywhere.

We should peak at about 11 billion by the mid-late century and then rapidly collapse, like a balloon with a pinprick puncture that is getting bigger by the second. In fact the collapse could happen faster than that (I’m assuming the scientists at the Arctic News website are exaggerating and we’re not actually heading for an extinction-level 18 deg. of global boiling by 2026). Already, I read, the average age of a BBC TV viewer is 62. While the fastest-growing demographic in Britain is the Over 80s, their previous hopes of living on into their 90s and even reaching 100 are fast disappearing as a result of Government policies and the visible deterioration in medical and social care supports. We oldies don’t breed.

The cause of the slowing birthrate is not entirely clear. Plastics pollution by nanoparticles is one avenue of research, as ingestion may be causing infertility in men, while the true extent of plastics pollution is only just becoming apparent: it’s everywhere, in the food we eat and even the beer we drink; at the tops of mountains and at the bottom of the Mariana Trench. Sperm counts are reportedly collapsing across the globe, and nowhere seems immune. One reason is possibly the family of chemical compounds in plastics known as phthalates, that mimic the chemical effects of the female hormone, oestrogen, and may essentially be feminizing the male population.

A recent paper – only one, but it may be a worthwhile avenue of research – suggests that global warming may be having an effect. Experiments on invertebrates at least have shown that even short-lived exposure to “heatwave”-level temperatures above the upper norm causes a dramatic long-term drop in male fertility, with sperm counts reduced by over 95%. So it’s not just their tight underpants that are to blame. But it could point to one cause of the drastic collapse in insect populations.

And then, apart as yet from in parts of Africa, the spread of education in what used to be known as the Third World, or Developing Nations, especially among girls and young women; coupled with improved living conditions and prospects for a “middle-class” lifestyle of white-collar jobs in the cities, have led to couples being able for the first time to make it a choice to reduce the size of their families. Just becoming more time-poor is persuasion enough.

It’s not an exact analogy, but in what we know as the West, in Victorian times – the 19th century – large families, up to perhaps 14 or 15 children per family, were the norm. There were many reasons. Working-class and agricultural families were illiterate and poorly housed, opportunities for social advancement limited, birth-control unknown, sex about the only entertainment. A high child mortality rate – fewer than one in five survived into adulthood – required replacement labor, spares, for family income or farm production.

But even higher-class families with access to medical facilities and sanitation were large, it was a fashion set by Queen Victoria and Prince Albert themselves, a sign of “prosperity”. Until they also began to gain some economic parity, right through the 20th century, centrally-directed economies like Russia demanded high productivity from mothers, just as they did from factory workers, as a patriotic “duty”. But all countries now achieving a similar standard of living to industrialized nations in the C20th are seeing a corresponding drop in birthrates as social conditions change. China, indeed, is now trying to encourage families to have more children!

And then there’s the rising cost of children. Mine were raised on a shoestring, on a remote farmstead with no TV or internet, but I’ve read with incredulity that despite free medical care, the cost of producing and rearing one baby to adulthood in the UK is more than £200 thousand! That’s a lot of posh-looking buggies and “designer” nappies to afford, and school shoes, before a succession of Christmases sets in, marked by the acquisition of increasingly expensive digital distraction devices.

With people living longer, more productive lives large families are no longer seen as fashionable or an economic necessity, but as an expensive reminder of the past. Culling the population – and I don’t notice many of the proponents volunteering to start with themselves – could very well have the opposite effect, seeing a return to poorer conditions and bigger families.

Every species has an imperative to breed to the max, and while we’re victims of our own excess, we should remember that every species too has its own evolutionary niche, a boundary beyond which it cannot expand or adapt and eventually collapses under its internal stresses.

We may be reaching the limits of ours.

Hi everyone, your Uncle Bogler here… The Boglington Post: a History Lesson…Er, where was I? Oh yes, CO2… Dear Amanda Donaldson… Money to burn?

I keep forgetting to Save these half-finished Posts in Drafts, and out of habit hit the Publish button in my enthusiasm. Sorry for the early publication. Heavily redacted copy, Monday 10 December.

 

Happy Birthday!

Greetings to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, 70 today! (Monday, 10 Dec.)

European Court of Justice rules Britain can cancel Brexit. (photo: AP)

Hi everyone, your Uncle Bogler here.

To be honest, I’m finding it increasingly difficult to identify the kinds of tripwire stories we like to explode here on the BogPo, and even more so in The Pumpkin. We have a great record of identifying emerging news and currents in the global matrix before the professionals do, but events are becoming so swirly and the mainstream media is waking up to so many more important trends we’ve been covering for years that we’re finding it hard to make an original contribution. Sometimes, Guardian op-ed writers are only hours behind us.

I’m also finding it tougher to recall words, numbers, dates, historical precedents, people’s names – I waste half my time Googling references, and a lot more time going back to correct mistakes in recent-past Posts. Hell, I’m 70 next year and pissing into a bag. If I’d earned a penny from these coming-up 750 Posts over seven years, I’d be thinking of retiring. But when I read now that a 7-year-old kid is the top YouTuber, with an income of $22 million he gets from reviewing toys, I start to weep into my nappy.

Having said that, the viewing numbers have been increasing a little lately – we’re averaging about 12 a day now, sometimes we have up to 35, which is great, although there are many days when it looks like I’m still the only reader. And it’s less the depressing case now that the only Posts people are looking at are the ‘Comex 2’ and ‘Stately home’ articles I wrote nine years ago. The odd View even pops up for stuff I’m still writing – it’s a dynamic process, nothing is set in stone until I’m bored with (not ‘of’!)  looking at it.

Eschewing Search Engine Optimization (SOE), whatever it is, I’d been looking forward to achieving posthumous fame, and maybe that can still happen. But I’m going to try to discipline myself and Post less, as I have some other projects I’d like to get done before it’s too late. I probably won’t, but if I do, now you know why.

Thanks for Following me, if you still do.

UB

PS Oh, and in case you were wondering, the Granny Weatherwax column might be late as there doesn’t appear to be any unusual weather this week, anywhere. (Although Winter Storm Diego looks promising). Strong evidence there of climate change in action.

 

The Boglington Post: a History Lesson

People often stop me in the street or approach me violently in Mexican restaurants, inquiring who and why this ‘Uncle Bogler’ person is.

Having time on my hands, I explain as follows:

There’s a web thing made of journalism, called The Huffington Post. (I suppose we should start according news blogs italic type, like newspapers.)

At the time The Boglington Post was brought to birth in February 2012 with the aid of one of my then-teenagers, an unlikely millennial now married, in a decent job and with her own house, no thanks to the bankrupt Bank of M&D, The Huffington Post, or HuffPo as it’s familiarly known, was mired in controversy.

The writers had downed quills, loudly moaning that the owner, millionaire Arianna Stassinopoulos-Huffington, was not paying them a solitary bean for their valuable contributions. (She does now.)

One of his better days: BogPo’s Economics editor, Sterling Pound (#longliquidlunch).

And so I came up with the dreadful conceit that The Boglington Post, the ‘BogPo’, was at the heart of a massive empire owned by elderly media-mogul, Sir Thanatossios Boglopoulos; son of a Nicosia hairdresser and shooting partner of the Duke of Edinburgh; a fellow Greek Cypriot exiled abroad.

Not long after, I killed him off. Well, he was 94. By coincidence, it was on the same day Margaret Thatcher passed away, which is probably why you’ve never heard of him. Unfortunately he didn’t benefit from a State funeral, as the Co-Op had run out of money burying the notorious former PM.

Editorship-in-Chief of the BogPo thus passed to his nephew, Herr Professor Doktor Ernst von-und-zu Bogl, a German plutocrat and ardent Remainer with a penthouse in Boglington-on-Sea, a superyacht in Boglèry-sur-Mer, and an agreeable schloss outside Boglheim-am-Rhein. As you can tell, this theme was becoming a trifle obsessive, but never mind.

Seeking a day-to-day editor for the paper, Ernst found his halfwitted ‘Uncle Bogler’ lurking by the water cooler and, keeping it in the family, instantly promoted him from the Kiddies Fun Page, where he had labored unsung for years, to the newsroom; which explains some of the curious editorial features you’ll find here within.

Distinguished contributors include heavyweight economics expert, Sterling Pound; Politics editor, Wee Laura Facebook, Portuguese midfield supremo and guest football pundit, Boglinho – and Showbiz Editor, Polly Wood. It’s a fiercesome team of top talent, I’m sure you agree.

Now, carry on. If you must….

 

“…to judge by the astonishing sight of the Mother of Parliaments degenerating into a terrifying contumely of divided and quarrelsome MPs making absolutely no sense … you would have to conclude that there is something about the air in London SW1 that poisons the brain.”

Er, where was I? Oh yes… CO2

“Raised carbon dioxide (CO2) in poorly ventilated workplaces is known to make workers sleepy and slow — a factor in sick building syndrome. Such CO2 levels could affect the entire atmosphere by the end of the century, driven by fossil fuel burning, according to a University College London (UCL) team.” (The Times)

I vaguely heard someone talking about this item on the radio this morning, and thought, hang on, wasn’t there a Chinese study reported a few weeks ago that said pretty much the same thing? That air pollution can knock a year off the educational advantage for the average 60-year-old?

UB: “What is this thing and why is it making strange noises?”

Now, if you Google “CO2 making us dumber” you come up with many pages going back years, of the press reporting on similar research; so clearly there’s an effect somewhere.

Where the story is slowly developing is that earlier studies focused on pollution in closed spaces. A US Psychology professor reported in 2012, for instance, in Psychology Today, on a British study showing that office workers were slower at responding to things in buildings where people smoked.

Which moved me to slowly observe inside the dwindling rational faculty center where I haltingly talk to myself, that nobody has been allowed to smoke in an office building in Britain for about the past thirty years. It had taken rather a long time for this US Psychology professor to absorb what is now long out of date information, but that’s self-explanatory.

And indeed, to judge by the astonishing sight of the Mother of Parliaments degenerating into a terrifying contumely of divided and quarrelsome MPs making absolutely no sense, squabbling over what seems to the rest of us like angels dancing on the head of a pin: backstop this, EFTA that, with Norway++ thrown in, crashing the traditional party divides in their increasingly atomized efforts to resolve the irresolvable issues arising from the UK having voted in its oxygen-deprived befuddlement to leave the European Union, which few of them really want to do, you would have to conclude that there is something about the air in London SW1 that poisons the brain.

Where the research has moved lately is to note that rising CO2 in the atmosphere might be having the same effect outdoors as it does in: sick planet syndrome.

In the mid-18th century, at the dawn of the Age of Steam, so scientists calculate from ice cores, tree rings, muddy lake beds and chicken entrails, in 1750 the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere was 285 parts per million (ppm). In 2018, after 268 years of burning coal, and then oil, the annual average at the 9,000-feet-up Mauna Loa observatory in Hawaii, where this stuff is officially measured, was declared to be 405 ppm, although the daily quotient had recently risen as high as 413 ppm.

The UN climate conference in Katowice, home to Poland’s extensive coal-mining industry, has just been told that, after flatlining for three years in the global economic recession, thanks to burning more coal and driving more cars, average CO2 emissions (it varies from place to place and at different times of year, this is all a matter of informed conjecture) rose by 1.6% in 2017, and will have risen by a further 2.7% in 2018.

Two point seven percent of 405 ppm translates as 10.9 ppm, an astonishing increase; more than three times the annual average rate of increase we have previously experienced since 1750. I’m hoping my brain is so stultified with breathing air that I have miscalculated, but we could be headed for more than 420 ppm by the spring of 2019.

Back in the nineteenth century, scientists worked out that a doubling of the CO2 concentration could lead to an extinction-level 5C of global warming. (This stuff is not new, you see, which confounds the deniers’ irrational attempts to make it go away.) While we are still a long way off that 570 ppm,  nevertheless we should consider that CO2 is not the only ‘greenhouse gas’ out there; methane, water vapor, CO (lethal carbon monoxide), NO2 and SO2 are all increasing, while CO2 is being measured locally as a result of wildfires at concentrations approaching 1,000 ppm.

Not only that, but as CO2 increases, more useful atmospheric gases are being replaced. Like, for instance, oxygen. Oxygen levels in some of our burgeoning megacities are falling to dangerous lows; while one of the effects of rising CO2 is to kill off oxygen producers, like phytoplankton in the oceans, that have absorbed the majority of the warming effect to date.

We are being slowly suffocated; stewing in our own juice.

I seem to remember having mentioned before, that as I walk li’l Hunzi in the exurban space that passes for our local park, I’ve started to feel I’m no longer getting the same nutritional value from the air we breathe, despite being so close to the sea. It’s probably psychosomatic. Age and the nightly fix of Cabernet Sauvignon are clearly factors; but as I write, I find I have trouble keeping a grip on the metatextual narratives behind the stories; as well as losing words, dates and names, I’m rapidly losing the plot.

It’s frustrating. I can no longer follow complex ideas, such as the rapidly changing nature of political discourse; or the instructions for how to operate technical things. It seems that the old tropes of class war, the distinctions of ‘left’ and ‘right’, of capitalism and collectivism, definitions of old-style liberalism, libertarianism and neoliberalism – modern fascism – are entering frightening new dimensions, but I can’t quite put my finger on how, why, when and what are the implications.

Just as I sometimes espy a glimmer of light, it rapidly slips away. My ability to make sense of things, to follow an argument to its logical conclusion is diminished; and I observe, yours is too! Everyone’s is. Alternative truths, moral relativism and holding to two contradictory opinions at the same time are not characteristics unique to Donald J Trump. They are instead, symptoms of increasing cognitive impairment in the human population.

(Sometimes, I have previously commented, it feels like the Earth on its grand sweep through the cosmos has entered a region of space where there is a real “cloud of unknowing”!)*

It may be wilful oversimplification, a need to find firm ground, but I’d say, our deteriorating atmosphere might well be a prime candidate, to go along with the unexplained increase in ADHD and the intellectual (most often sub-intellectual) chaos of internet discourse, where the inchoate and often violent opinions of unlettered and irrational idiots are given equal prominence and weight to the more thoughtful pronouncements of those who study matters from an informational perspective; yet who themselves sometimes seem to be blundering about in a hall of mirrors.

I was going to conclude with an illuminating observation on all this, but no, it’s gone.

Something or other.

*An anonymous medieval Christian work proposing an interesting heresy, a kind of Zen mindfulness: that you should stop looking for God, as he is nowhere to be found and nothing to see, but just BE God.

x

“JK Rowling’s husband has branded his wife’s former personal assistant a ‘liar’ and accused her of ‘stealing from sick and dying children’ amid claims she wrongly spent thousands of pounds on shopping sprees for luxury items.” (Daily Mail)

Dear Amanda Donaldson

May I say how sorry I am for your situation vis à vis the Rowling woman and her husband?

I myself spent nearly seven years ‘in service’, working as general factotum for an absentee businessman and his trophy wife, battling mostly on my own to care for a deserted and decaying C18th-century mansion he’d rashly bought without a structural survey. Wealth is not always proof of intellect.

Some entrepreneurs are what I call ‘water-cooler’ employers. They imagine they can just push the first body they meet in the corridor that doesn’t appear to be doing anything better into a role for which they may be totally unadapted.

Luckily, I’m omniscient and omnicompetent.

Hired as the maintenance man, within weeks there was a change of business plan (he’d done no market research either) and I was told I had to promote and manage the place, described by the local fire chief as a ‘death trap’, virtually singlehandedly as a licensed guest house and wedding venue.

On the maintenance man’s salary.

On-call 24/7, I took no holiday for five years. With no budgets for anything and obliged to pay casual workers illegally in cash I was permanently under suspicion of pocketing the profits (having invested not a penny in the business, living eight thousand miles away, he couldn’t understand why there weren’t any). Because I’d had no option but to use it to feed the guests, he took away my company credit card.

I confess to knocking off the odd bottle of wine he’d paid for while freezing alone on a cold winter’s night in the empty bar when, halfway through the month, under pressure from the Child Support Agency my tiny paycheck would regularly run out; assuming they’d remembered to pay me. I often lived on leftovers from the meals I’d cooked for guests. Nevertheless, I managed to obtain grants and financial concessions that more than covered my salary.

I imagine your problem is probably more the breakdown of trust than the pocket-change Joanna’s husband is meanly trying to extract from you, for what look to me like curiously inflated expense items. I assume she loves him.

And I must express some doubt that all Harry Potter fans are sick and dying, although I should not be surprised. If items of merchandise you allegedly didn’t send out really cost £400 apiece, then I’m wondering who is ripping off the sick and dying children?

The normal procedure in these cases is for the employer just to draw a veil over the affair. Move on. I suppose the moral is, try to work for people with a bit more class.

Chin up!

(This article is an edited version of one that appeared a few Posts ago. UB.)

 

Training program

The answer to Britain’s problems with its dysfunctional, costly privatized railways arrived in my inbox just now, courtesy of the rail booking agency Trainline:

“A new way to travel with us – coaches!”

I’m hoping Transport Minister, Chris Grayling gets the message.

 

Move over, starling

How big are starlings supposed to be? There’s one outside in the garden now, happily pecking away at the large breakfast I’ve compiled, that was supposed to feed the entire bird population for a day. She’s about the size of a decent meal for one.

Two crows – I think of the jackdaw variety – have now arrived and chased her off. They’re a lot bigger, I’ll grant. But this starling, a regular, is absolutely enormous. Am I doing good, if she can barely fly?

Last night I watched as a big cloud of starlings performed their astonishing aerial ballet on the way home from feeding higher up the valley to their roosts under the pier. The town is famous for them.

But I seem to recall winter evenings on which three or four similar sized waves of birds would fly over. In vain, I wait for a second one.

 

Geological News

Yellowstone: Steamboat geyser #30.

 

GW: Normal weather is SO abnormal

USA: The big early winter storm affecting North Carolina and Virginia over the weekend, Storm Diego has produced up to 20 inches of snow cover. Near blizzard conditions are persisting. Half a million homes are without electricity.

 

Money to burn?

An unlikely troop of cavalry may be galloping over the hill to the rescue of the planet.

Unnerved by reports of the urgency with which things must change, investment managers representing some $32 trillion of pension funds and government bonds and your savings and mine have piped up at the Katowice conference, demanding an end to fossil fuel subsidies and a bunch of carbon taxes.

Their warning is in many ways more terrifying than that of the watered-down maunderings of the IPCC last month.

‘Investment firm Schroders said there could be $23tn of global economic losses a year in the long term without rapid action. This permanent economic damage would be almost four times the scale of the impact of the 2008 global financial crisis. Standard and Poor’s rating agency also warned leaders: “Climate change has already started to alter the functioning of our world.'” (Guardian)

We should perhaps be mindful of the news that, in the wake of the deadly Camp Fire, that incinerated the entire town of Paradise, Ca.:

“State regulators are taking over Merced Property and Casualty Company because the company can’t pay out all the expected claims from the massive fire. “It completely overwhelmed this company, looking at the number of claims that they would have, and it left them insolvent,” said Nancy Kincaide of the Department of Insurance.” (Sorry, I’ve lost the reference to this report.)

How long before Lloyds of London starts to moan that their Names are feeling the squeeze? (Fuck ’em. See previous Posts re fraudulent trading.) Fires in California this year may have cost $200 billion in insured losses, enough to rake a lot of floor.

Your Old Granny muses that this concerted appeal from the money-breathers will make not a jot of difference to the illiterate posturings of the White House Monster, a creature bought and sold by the geriatric Koch brothers, the Mercers and their filthy co-conspirators.

Although coming from the money industry, maybe something might shift. It’s hard to tell, as increasingly even the superficial research on which the BogPo thrives is being closed off, site by site, through the erection of paywalls, zonal barriers and the abuse of the new European data protection laws to demand access for advertisers, not just displayed on the page but to mine the deeper layers of visitors’ computer systems.

 

RIP Roger ‘roo

“Roger, the beefcake boxing kangaroo who came to fame when a photo of him crushing a metal bucket like a paper cup went viral in 2015, has died at the age of 12. The death of the male kangaroo, who weighed 89kg (14 stone) and stood more than 182cm (6 feet) tall, has sparked an outpouring of grief from his 1.3 million Facebook and Instagram fans.” (Guardian)

Maybe social media isn’t all a total disaster.

 

Long Essay: Are we alone in deep time?… Back you go, then… GW: feels like makin’ history… Journey’s End.

“It wasn’t just racists who voted to leave Europe…. Cunts did as well.” – Comedian, Stewart Lee, 2016

 

Long Essay

Are we alone in deep time?

“We’re used to imagining extinct civilizations in terms of the sunken statues and subterranean ruins. These kinds of artifacts of previous societies are fine if you’re only interested in timescales of a few thousands of years. But once you roll the clock back to tens of millions or hundreds of millions of years, things get more complicated.”

Astrophysicist, Adam Frank poses an interesting question in an article in The Atlantic this month, based on a “scientific” paper published in collaboration with Dr Gavin Schmidt, the director of NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies, in the International Journal of Astrobiology.

In view of the enormous scale of geological time in which anything could be hidden, the poverty of the fossil record and the blink of an eye during which Mankind has existed, could there ever have been a previous industrial civilization on Earth comparable to our own, perhaps millions of years ago – since when, all physical traces of skyscrapers, roads, drive-thru McDonalds, discarded iPhones and other artifacts would have been eliminated by the churnover of the ever self-renewing surface of the planet grinding everything to dust and squishing it down to rock? If there was, how would we know?

Well, it seems the answer lies in the chemical trace elements their activities would have left as a distinctive layer in the ancient rocks, deep down. And yes (spoiler alert), there may be some. Or maybe not….

Masters of the Universe… our civilized  Silurian ancestors. (Pinterest.com)

As with much breakthrough science, the question arose out of a casual conversation Frank was having with Schmidt one day about the possibility of finding traces of life on other planets, given that there is some mystery about why we haven’t yet found evidence of aliens “out there”, given the ever-growing realization that other viable planets exist in their billions.

Maybe we’re too late, and their own civilizations have destroyed them, in much the same way ours is about to destroy us.

In just the way a civilization on earth ten, twenty, fifty million years ago – or even during the age of dinosaurs, 250 to 65 million years ago – might have destroyed itself, possibly many times over, through overconsumption, climate change or catastrophic loss of the primary resource-base. (The theory seems to me to ignore the bounceback factor evident in the fall and rise of all known human societies. Maybe there wasn’t one.)

Frank and Schmidt have named it the Silurian hypothesis, after the intelligent lizard-beings of Dr Who, and offer an interesting range of possible chemical traces that have been detected, or that might well be detected if searched for, that could be evidence of ancient technologies in action.

For example, looking at what is about to kill humans off as the dominant species, there is CO2, traces of which are found in core samples. There is plentiful evidence linking increases in atmospheric CO2 to “dead ocean” events, such as are beginning to alarm modern oceanographers, where a complete lack of oxygen due to warming water has triggered ecological collapse and mass extinctions. The cause of past atmospheric changes was most probably natural seismicity or perhaps a global conflagration, but there is an outside possibility of species-induced warming.

The difference being, almost all of those extinctions in the fossil record (and it’s the “dead ocean” events that precipitated the billions of tonnes of dead animal and plant matter that are the basis of the carboniferous fossil fuels we are burning so recklessly today) took place over thousands of years. We’re managing it in under three hundred – unless you add in the pretty negligible effects of the previous five thousand years of “slash and burn” agriculture.

Your Uncle Bogler, as you might expect, being no scientist at all, has some thoughts to throw in the pot.

Firstly, what is meant by a “civilization”? Does it have to be industrial?

Comparison of the technological and scientific paradigm in the early 21st century with that of the Greeks and the Romans between 1500 and 2500 years ago, the Babylonian and Egyptian civilizations and the Chinese, reaching back a further few centuries, reveals many similar features as well as the obvious differences: constructed habitation, agriculture, animal husbandry and the storage of surpluses enabling settled communities, wheeled (animal-drawn) transportation leading to the creation of roads; writing, mathematics, medicine, representative art, investigative philosophy, materials science including metallurgy, common belief structures including faith in the supernatural, funerary practices, transcontinental and oceanic trade, education, money, taxation, representative democracy, the manufacture of luxury goods for consumption by hierarchical elites – constant, unremitting warfare.

All of those features are with us today.

Motive power until the late 18th century CE was provided by wind and water or by animal and human drudgery – muscle power – before being replaced by steam. Weaponry has become more deadly. Combustion culture is still with us in the form of cars, factories, public lighting and power-plant. Communications technology and the mass distribution of images and information, together with automated systems for trade and transportation, date only from the past 250 or so years, and until quite recently (before we started reverting to the old primitive methods: wind, sun and water) were entirely dependent on generating energy from finite resources at the risk of dangerously altering the climate; a threat that has possibly slipped beyond our control.

“I have just cut this man’s head off. He insulted my hat. Give me your little dog, or else!” Babylonians were even stranger than Silurians… (Wikipedia)

The combustion engine/electronic communications aspect of our “civilization” was entirely denied to those earlier societies I have mentioned (there were others: no archaeo-botanist now thinks the jungles of Amazonia and Cambodia are primeval ecosystems), but no-one denies them the right to be known as “civilized”.

If you think of a hypothetical society mainly dependent on bananas – the leaves and plant stems used for clothing and construction, the fruit for food, the skins for shoes (joke) then it is quite easy to imagine what would happen to the people if disease or drought suddenly destroyed the plantations. Does their fragility make them any less “civilized”?

So where is the line drawn between “advanced” and “primitive”?

The management of available resources is the main indicator of the level of civilization a society, whether human or otherwise, can attain. In which case we can safely include under the banner of civilization any human society that rises above mere subsistence in terms of its sustainability of organization, the degree of intercommunicability and physical security it may offer its members. That would include, for instance, the plains Indians of North America, the remnant tribes of the Mato Grosso, the aborigine of Australia or the headhunters of the highlands of Borneo, all of whom sustained their way of life for millennia. (Let’s not forget the headhunters of Celtic Wales, circa 50 BCE!).

All are in most senses civilizations. The argument perhaps rests on what degree of civilization produces the telltale traces of its past existence that are required as evidence after millions of years?

For, as Frank points out, the only known part of the planet that has remained unchanged and in plain view for more than 1.5 million years is one small plateau in the Negev desert of Israel. Everywhere else that’s as old has been turned over and plowed under, drowned or pushed up into mountains by the drifting continents, tectonic uplift, earthquakes, volcanoes, wind and rain, shifting sands and changing sea levels.

Frank’s article speculates poignantly on what geologists will find of us in ten million years’ time? Just a thin layer of imperishable plastics waste, he suggests. Embedded within it, Beethoven’s late quartets.

Indeed, all physical evidence of a highly developed, technological civilization based on fossil-fuel and electric (or some other, unknown) motive power dating from millions of years ago would by now exist only as a few trace elements layered deep in the rocks. It would have had to disappear sufficiently long ago for the carboniferous fuel deposits we depend on to have re-formed, at least about 30 million years. What chance would a nomadic tribal society or one building with natural materials – mud and thatch – communicating perhaps by telepathy, have of letting us know of their past existence? (the same obviously goes for other worlds.)

Your Uncle Bogler has one other answer:

It’s in the genes, silly scientists!

Could sheep possibly be the descendants of a “higher” civilization? It seems absurd.

You need to get out from behind your PhD firewalls and apply a bit of eclecticism to your geophysical researches and paleohistorical speculations. Or talk to a behaviorist. Try, for instance, keeping sheep.

Remaining traces of an earlier civilization predating even our mammalian ancestors, whose rise began 65 million years ago as the planet recovered from the near-terminal Chicxulub meteor collision and the age of dinosaurs abruptly ended, might be buried in our current behaviors, many of which are predicated on the basic ideas of social organization and resource management required of all civilizations.

The planet has gotten through a wide variety of climatic conditions, life-changing extremes and profound alterations in habitat, that have steered all the organisms we currently know from there to where we are now, with a lot of sacrifices along the way; and produced millions of viable species – any one of which could, for a few hundred thousand years at least, our “pinprick in geological time”, have been the proto-civilizers we are hunting for.

Just look at how many goes the planet had, to produce Homo sapiens from a range of hominid options; and all in just a couple of million years.

But let’s start with something simpler.

From keeping just a few sheep, I discovered two things about them that might unexpectedly point to inherited civilizational traits, masked by our methods of husbandry. They have hunting instincts, together with considerable cunning; and they seek shelter (a desire they are seldom granted under the pastoral management system we have devised for them over millennia. They didn’t evolve that themselves!).

Two common traits of primitive civilization.

In the first instance, while I was feeding corn to our hens, the sheep (who were allowed in the yard) would try to steal the food. After a few goes that resulted in them being chased away, they devised a system whereby one sheep would make a lunge for the corn while the others hid behind the stable. While I was chasing the miscreant away, the others would dash out and steal the corn.

In the second instance, when kept in a paddock where there was an old, disused pig ark, the sheep at night would herd their lambs into the back of the structure and then block the open doorway with their own bodies, to keep foxes out.

This certainly does not sound like the stupid creatures of myth; but let’s not forget too, that sheep are self-organizing into tribes with strong social bonds, have dominant leaders, a good-as-human ability to recognize individuals in the flock; while their young engage in imaginative play – including races and dominance games like “king of the castle”. They are not just the cud-chewing, barely sentient, toothsome fleecy creatures we have bred them to be.

The question is, are these archetypal forms of behavior evidence of ascending-dominant, or decadent-recessive genetic factors? Are they evidence of newly acquired proto-civilizational skills, that are slowly evolving – or the residual characteristics possibly of past modes of living, that have been lost through evolution and outbreeding from their ancestral heritage?

What would a more advanced civilization make of humanity only a few hundred years after a global nuclear war? Would they believe these primitives once walked on the moon, explored the fundamentals of quantum mechanics and bio-engineered new organs?

Could sheep – among many species, including ourselves – possibly be the descendants of a “higher” civilization? It seems absurd. But then, go back far enough in time and sheep weren’t sheep. In a sense they are a new species, artificially created by Man through selective breeding. Why do we constantly imagine that evolution invariably progresses towards “higher”, more complex systems? It’s trial-and-error.

The same questions could be asked of animals like squirrels, that store food against hard times – and can quickly work out complex ways of getting to it – or birds, the living descendants of dinosaurs. Many behavioral traits shown by nonhuman animals do relate to civilizational behaviors in modern Man and might therefore have originated with our long-ago common ancestors.

Just as we do, for instance, birds build nests to facilitate the organizational requirements of breeding and rearing their young with a greater probability of species survival than merely dumping them on the bare ground.

Like us, they have developed elaborate courtship rituals and co-operative social organization. They teach their young to fly, and pair-bond – sometimes for life.

Some are tool-users and problem-solvers. Some are capable of sophisticated mimicry of sounds, including human speech, in addition to broadcasting a wide range of calls understood by other birds as warnings, invitations and the creation of “eruv”-style bounded territories.

They have advanced navigational skills we have lost, and practice the avian equivalent of transhumance, moving seasonally over great distances to new feeding grounds and returning unerringly to their breeding places.

Were these behaviors more or less developed in the good old dinosaur days, possibly? Could they be surviving traces of past proto-civilizations, rather than mere adaptations? What might have been the social and environmental imperatives that initially drove those common behaviors and embedded them in our genetic inheritance?

Is it necessary to believe we have somehow come up in the past 300 thousand years (a pinprick in time) from related hominids, through a perfectly linear process of evolving as ever more superior beings with opposed thumbs and big brains and gym memberships? Is that not just self-deluding speciesism, putting us at the top of a very tall tree while ignoring the branches? Is a tree not just as extensive below ground as it is above?

Coming more up-to-date, we can observe civilizational traits in primates descended in the not-too distant past from our own ancestors.

Apes too display individualism and social organization, territorial delineation and defense, an eclectic diet based on a hunter-gatherer lifestyle, responsible parenting, grooming and courtship behaviors, posturing and calling, tool-using, shows of respect for their dead, hierarchy, taboos – murder… a fondness for alcohol (!).

Where are those archetypal behaviors derived from, other than from earlier ancestors?

And who is to say those distant ancestors did not share at least the same civilizational traits, enough that they could weave them into an organized society: why is it necessary to believe they are recently learned or acquired traits, or just “animal instincts, as distinct from human rational thought, rather than behaviors inherited from forgotten early models just as, or even more sophisticated than today’s?

Could those unknown ancestors going back tens of millions of years not have developed definable civilizations before emerging in our lineage, our own “multiple intelligences”, instincts and skills passed down from theirs? Are we not in that sense ourselves living proof of past civilizations? Have we really only just discovered since Newcomen and his steam engine, since James Clerk Maxwell and Benjamin Franklin, since Locke and Hobbes, how to be “civilized”?

Or is that just cultural hubris, cutting us off from our distant, civilized past?

 http://www.theatlantic.com/science/archive/2018/04/are-we-earths-only-civilization/557180/

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You would imagine the prime purpose of a thinktank is to think.

Back you go, then

Evidence that not everyone is descended from distant ancestors with pre-civilized traits comes from The Guardian today:

“The government needs to be far more ambitious in its plans to register the estimated 3.4 million EU citizens in the UK after Brexit, with outreach programmes in pubs, schools, hospitals and libraries, a thinktank report has said.”

You would imagine the prime purpose of a thinktank is to think. This one seems to be more concerned with tanking.

What demographic do they think they’re dealing with?

I have not personally visited a pub or a school in years. I drink silently alone at home, like most civilized middle-class people – smelly old pubs have been going out of business at the rate of two a day for years. Hospitals are in way over their heads just trying to find enough empty beds with spare nurses to keep the service afloat, let alone administer the racist Home Office’s hate-filled immigration policy.

Most of the libraries have been closed as the collateral damage of government austerity cuts. Anyway, who goes to libraries in the age of Kindl? Only rough sleepers.

Where the baboons who infest the murky world of thinktanks have been for the past forty years is difficult to determine. They seem to inhabit a John Major England of nurses on bicycles, warm beer and cricket on the village green.

Not unlike Americans, in fact.

Maybe we should investigate their immigration status?

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You can’t keep a dandelion underground for long… Spring cautiously arriving in West Britain.

GW: feels like makin’ history

Your old granny’s mummy was pregnant with her in 1949, when the temperature in London last topped 29C, 84F in April. But here we are again.

17C above the average. Feels like makin’ history.

And as she predicted when reporting on how everyone was moaning about how cold it was during the visit last month by the Beast from the East, the popular prints (and the BBC website) are once again full of homely advice about how to stay alive in the infernal heat of the day. (Stay indoors and drink plenty of fluids… don’t wear a silly costume if you’re going to run a marathon…)

We really are a bit sad in this country, where nothing but the internet trolling (and the desire to run in a silly costume) ever really goes to extremes.

Colombia: At least 2 people have died after a month’s worth of torrential rain fell in the city of Cali, Valle del Cauca department on Tuesday 17 April, bringing the death toll to 12 in the past week. Local officials said that 68.5 mm of rain fell in 2 hours.

Tanzania: death toll in Dar-es-Salaam flooding reaches 15. Further flooding in Kenya has left over 33,000 people displaced. Local authorities say that more than 20 people have died over the past 10 days.

USA:  flooding from Winter Storm Xanto in New York City and New Jersey. Emergency services were called on to rescue around 50 people trapped in their cars. Heavy rain also affected parts of West Virginia, where a state of emergency was declared. Floods from snowmelt and rain have also affected northern Montana, where a state of emergency is in force.

“The flooding follows a massive storm from 13 to 15 April, 2018, that reached from the Gulf Coast to the Midwest, bringing with it heavy snow, hail and tornadoes. Up to 2 feet of snow fell in the Dakotas, Minnesota and Wisconsin. At least 5 people are thought to have died as a result of the storm.”

2 people have died as a result of the extensive prairie fires still raging in Oklahoma, Kansas and Colorado. Hundreds of square miles and more than 25 homesteads have been destroyed. Storms are predicted for the weekend in the south, but generally an easing of the wintry conditions is forecast.

Martinique: Heavy rain, lightning strikes and hail caused landslides and major flooding on 16 April. In one 6-hour period, 250 mm rain drenched Le François, 125 mm falling in just 1 hour.

Puerto Rico: ignoring 2,000 dead in New Orleans in the wake of Katrina did little to improve George W Bush’s reputation, but the towel-chucking moron soldiers blithely on, having utterly failed the people of Puerto Rico, stricken by hurricanes Irma and Maria six months ago. News reaches us that the entire power grid for the island (pop. 3 million) was down again Monday after a digger accidentally knocked over a transformer. 40 thousand homes have still not been reconnected at all.

At the same time, authorities have approved $125 million for repairs in the wake of floods in Hawaii – another island in the middle of a big ocean.

India: 15 dead in Calcutta storm. Large parts of Central India including Rajastan, Gujarat and Madhya Pradesh are under an extreme heat advisory as temperatures climb past 40C, 104F.

United Kingdom: Blown by an onshore breeze, Granny Weatherwax’s Wunderground location moves from West Wales to Nether Edge shock! “One of the 28 electoral wards in the City of Sheffield, England.” (Wikipedia) Pop. 18,990. Says Gran: “My, they do find some interesting places to send me to!”

Edited from Floodlist/ Wunderground/ CEWN #111/

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Journey’s End

11 April, and Arctic sea ice volume was again at a record low for the time of year, threatening an ice-free ocean between July and September (Arctic News website, 17 April). Loss of ice allows more heat to enter the ocean and speeds deglaciation of the Greenland ice sheet, freshwater causing Gulf Stream current collapse. Feedback mechanisms might then result in rapid warming with an ominous rise in methane release.

Former University of Nevada bio-climatologist, Prof. Guy McPherson warns that:

“Rapid temperature rise will affect agriculture across the globe, threatening a collapse of industrial civilization, in turn resulting in an abrupt halt of the sulfates that are currently co-emitted as a result of burning fuel, reducing global dimming, which will further add to a temperature rise that is already threatening to cause people across the globe to perish at massive scale due to heatstroke, dehydration and famine, if not perish due to nuclear radiation and further toxic effects of war, as people fight over who controls the last habitable places on Earth.”  Arctic-news.blogspot.com

This scenario could start to play out with frightening rapidity this year or next, leading to human extinction by 2026. McPherson, at one and the same time the most depressing and the most depressed human being on the planet, ever, enjoins us all to be kinder to one another in our remaining days. Most of us, he suggests, will be dead within 18 months from now.

It kind of puts Brexit into perspective.

Global seismicity remains in a state of excitement, with several M6 or greater quakes reported in recent days. As if 27 inches of rain were not enough:

“The U.S. Geological Survey’s Hawaiian Volcano Observatory observations and measurements of the Pu‘u ‘Ō‘ō eruption on Kīlauea volcano’s East Rift Zone during the past month suggest that the magma system beneath Pu‘u ‘Ō‘ō has become increasingly pressurized.”

“Mount Ioyama, a volcano in southern Japan has erupted for the first time in 250 years, spewing steam and ash hundreds of meters into the air, as authorities warned locals not to approach the mountain.” This is the third Japanese volcano to erupt in the past four months, that has not erupted in living memory.

A corporate training video mocking-up a BBC news bulletin announcing the outbreak of nuclear war has got loose on YouTube, without its disclaimer. Well, it’s only a matter of time.

While citizen journalist reports continue to pour in to the website of phenomenologist, MrMBB333 of strange and unusual animal behaviors, mainly in snowlocked midwestern America, where hungry birds, raccoons and deer – even cougars – are said to be walking right up to houses and staring at people as if asking for help; and of a tsunami that terrified residents on the shore of Lake Michigan. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o5K6ayaZkiM&t=104s

Most of his followers seem to agree: it’s the government manipulating the weather.

Arctic News/ Mary Greeley website/ MrMBB333 website

Snap Chat… a short Post with a nod to old GW (and a Happy Birthday, BogPo)

A man uncannily resembling your Uncle Bogler in a German helmet ferries dead pensioners across the Styx as millimetres of snow blanket the UK. (Rex/Shutterstock)

Snap Chat

Possibly the least bearable effect of leaving the EU is going to be a steep rise in the level of British insularity.

(After all, I’m retired. Why should I care if you’re out of work and there’s no iceberg lettuce in the shops?)

The provenance of the notorious Times headline: “Fog in the Channel, Continent cut off” is a perfectly checkable fact that no-one seems sufficiently bothered to check. The BogPo finds no verification. While the story supposedly dates from October 1957, well within living memory, the sources seem unable to remember it. Did they really print that?

Conflicting Google results for instance quote the editor of the Boston Globe as opining that it was just a bit of fake news put out by the Nazis to ridicule stuffy British attitudes to Europe. That doesn’t quite fit the 1950s timeline, as I think you’d agree, although they’re back in fashion. And the attitude hasn’t changed.

But no matter. When it comes to fake news, it’s the thought that counts. Put it this way: knowing us, it’s not unlikely that a subeditor on The Times did write it, albeit possibly with poorly paid tongue in cheek.

The Boglington Post is, as I’m sure you know, the infallible internet journal of record de nos jours, so let me just post here for posterity a genuine, confirmable headline from this morning’s BBC News feed:

“What’s behind the UK’s Cold Snap?”

Brrr-arctaggeddon…
Snowflakes bring the UK shuddering to a halt. But is it all just a Russian plot? (BBC News)

(With apologies to the woman in Cumbria who still has a 22-foot deep snowdrift outside her front door a week after the storm…)

Readers unaware of the existence of a wider world might indeed be taking a spot of cold weather personally. But what’s “behind” it is in fact a massive, barely moving high-pressure system that has allowed a plume of sub-Arctic temperatures to descend over most of Russia and northern Europe, stretching fifteen hundred miles from Norway all the way down to the Mediterranean coast.

That’s because the northern jetstream has failed, owing to a superheated stratospheric air mass and warm ocean currents driven by a succession of Category 3-level storm systems invading the polar region, where temperatures have been at record highs for many months, and is to be found hovering nervously somewhere over North Africa.

Or, total fucking chaos, as fully qualified meteorologists put it.

It is a similar “Cold Snap” in fact to that experienced by the eastern states of America in the New Year, where they now have  a “Hot Snap”, with record 80-degree February temperatures and record rainfall and record river highs and floods again in the midwest. Only then it was known as the Polar Vortex and it was pretty cold. Here is weather historian Christopher Burt, quoted on Weather Underground:

“At least 24 cities recorded their hottest February temperature on record on Wednesday, including New York City (78°), Hartford, CT (74°) and Concord, NH (74°). …  February 20 – 21 marked the most extraordinary heat event to ever affect the Northeastern quadrant of the U.S. during the month of February, since official records began in the late 1800s”

Yet not much more than a month ago, the town of Erie, Pa. was buried under a record five feet of snow, that fell in 48 hours, while up on chilly Mt Washington the windchill factor dropped to minus 104F. Not a mention of that in the Wunderground post! How soon even weather historians forget. And the forecast? From the Express website/ABC just last week:

“The nation’s midsection is bracing for a winter whiplash, radar is showing a new system that has been slamming the west and now moving east. An ice storm is bearing down on much of the mid-west threatening to blanket everything with up to half an inch of ice.”

And more of that sort of thing.

I wonder, what was behind America’s worst “Cold Snap” in generations? Clearly, the thermostat’s gone haywire. Whatever it was, they’re feeling it now in California, where – well, you guessed it – they had a record warm and wet January after the record summer heat and wildfires in December, but it’s now really cold; Sacramento recorded just 26F yesterday, a slight change from 106F in October.

Meanwhile Alaska has experienced both record heat and record snowfall in the past three months; as indeed have large parts of India and China enjoyed record heat, record rainfall, record snowfall, record smogs and record flooding during 2017, while record numbers of dead bats and dehydrated koalas have been dropping from the trees in Australia, and Vietnam, Indonesia, Vanuatu and New Zealand have become one enormous state of emergency running into another.

It’s these startling anomalies and the sharp gradients between them, the way huge pools of moist air have been moving slowly around, driven by unprecedented warming at the poles, fierce storms and strange, high-altitude currents, that are “behind” the world’s “Cold Snaps”, and the many conspiracy theories accompanying them.

I’m sure then that lots of people baking, freezing and drowning everywhere around the world must be asking themselves, “I wonder, what’s behind the UK’s Cold Snap?”

The “UK’s Cold Snap” has of course nothing to do with the weather chaos afflicting the rest of the world. It is ours, it’s peculiarly British, we are shortly to become a sovereign nation once more, the people have spoken, and we can jolly well complain about our own weather without interference from those beastly Europeans. It’s probably just that Siberia acting up again.

Amber warnings aplenty are out for a horrifying 5 to 10 cm of snow in Eastern parts, with windchill as low as minus 5C! Top scientists with knighthoods and years spent tramping the trackless wastes of the Antarctic with their expensive research teams are woken out of hibernation and dragged to the Today program studios to advise us to wrap up warm; it being all that is left to say after the weather person has already girlsplained the technical stuff about the stratosphere and the jetstream and been complimented on how clever she is by the £200k a year presenter, Mr Justin Webb. (Is the Beeb ever going to #”get it”, I wonder?)

No-one does a late winter “Cold Snap” quite like us. It matters not that it’s probably minus 30 in Moscow or Warsaw or Berlin, while it’s 80F in parallel Cincinnatti, as what some are calling the Beast from the East improves the prospect of reducing our surplus population of the elderly and homeless with, who knows, the added bonus of a few unwanted asylum-seekers bereft of the recommended extra layer.

The sun rises and sets, as we know, uniquely on all things British. In another month or so we’ll be fainting all over the place, flocking to Margate Sands with our trousers rolled up and knotted hankies on our heads, marveling at the excessive heat of a record 30C day, as the headline writers scrabble around for scorching puns and the experts crowd onto the airwaves to advise us to stay indoors and drink plenty of fluids.

Which is, let’s face it, the other national pastime.

Cheers.

 

Some Like it Hot

In case you’re snug and warm, well wrapped-up against the Beast from the East in front of a snuggly, hyggely fire with a glass of well-chilled Chardonnay in hand, this is just a note to anyone considering not donating to sex-pesty NGOs this year:

UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, reported on 26 February that the torrential rain and flooding in Iraq 10 days ago have damaged shelters and communal infrastructure in camps for internally displaced persons (IDPs) in southern Kurdistan Region of Iraq and the central region of Iraq. …flooding occurred in at least 24 camps, affecting some 201,661 people. (Floodlist)

Camps in Turkey, Lebanon and Syria have also been hit by torrential rain and flash floods. That’s on top of extreme cold that has seen many refugees including children freezing to death.

What the hell are we doing?

Oh dear, as Saudi Arabia is hit by a bizarre mix of hot dust storms and freezing giant hail storms capable of pounding cars to bits, with a 20C temperature gradient between, I fear a GW coming on…

USA: 5 dead as tornadoes rip through Osceola, Ar. 3 dead and “several” missing as tornadoes rip through Kentucky. Floods pretty well everywhere they haven’t got a heatwave or a “Cold Snap”.

Brazil: Tangara underwater. São Paolo (again) underwater.

Australia: A sudden 130km/h cyclonic storm springs up and trashes Rockingham, a town near Perth, ripping off roofs and pulling up trees. Apart from that it looks bloody hot, mate.

China, Myanmar: “extreme” heatwaves forecast for the first week in March.

Europe: the Beast, etc. is still sitting mainly over Russia where it’s unspeakably cold. Meanwhile low-pressure warmer wetter air pushing up from Africa is meeting the high-pressure freezing air over Europe, so northern Italy and the Balkans are again buried in snow.

The view from a Young Bogler’s window on the east coast of England this morning.

Britain: Atlantic storm Emma is on the way in, just passing Portugal now, threatening up to 40 cm of snow as it duels with the frosty Beast gently gliding westwards over the whole country. The Met Office has issued its first ever Red snow warning, for Scotland and the Northwest of England.

Arctic: Records, records.

CEWN #97, quoting others inc. ABC Australia. Floodlist.

 

Editor’s note:

I know, I said I’d be off the air for a while owing to these horrifying eye surgeries and on account of the spare eye being so longsighted, it hurts to look at the screen for long. I can manage a little at a time now, thank you, and so may visit occasionally as the BogPo can never resist the opportunity to express a modicum of sarcasm when the need arises, or to re-edit my error-ridden stuff.

Gratifyingly, this little Post has already received one Like and it was still not quite finished! Thank you, Liamjcrosswritingandediting. Nice website. Mine’s looking tired, I may need to engage another teenager.

(OMG, another Like just popped in. Hi, Jo! Glad you’re still around.)

(OOMMGG! A third, and they’re Following me! I should go blind more often!)

And we’re back into the 20s for viewers! It’s a red letter day!

 

A VERY HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO THE BOGLINGTON POST:

6 TODAY!

 

Hello, me again!! Postscriptum by a week or so, this has had yet another thumb-up, from blogger Emily Raper. Thanks, Emily.

And you’re a jazz fan too! Have I met Ms Right?

Emily is a B.S. student who blogs about writing, so I guess she knows her onions. Your Uncle Bogler was seriously considering submitting a thousand well chosen words to her website, with its curly type font ‘n’ all, where she invites Guest Posts, until he read the rules.

No swearing, no politics, no offence caused to anyone…

Like life, really.

Oops.