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.

 

 

 

 

 

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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.

 

 

 

 

 

The BogPo asks: How doomed exactly are we? Grind them into dust! Law and Disorder. Granny Weatherwax: Bi-polar Disorder. Important message to the BBC Board.

“Someone needs to tell Trump to ‘calm down, dear’ – but I suspect he probably knows that.”

How doomed exactly are we?

Trump has only one ideological position, which is: the Don + money + unconditional regard = good. Everything else = sad. Fake nooze.

‘Their knees are probably shot…’ Kim’s toy army on parade. (The Telegraph)

It’s no use appealing to the view that Trump has any political position other than clinging on to a job he must realize he is not physically or mentally fit to do (he has never had a job before, in the sense that the only employer he has known is Donald J Trump). He used to be a socially liberal New York Democrat, his rightwing posturing is purely expedient.

He has had to resort to consorting with some very dubious people and adopting some very crude methods to battle his way past his own severe limitations and gross appetites, yet at 71 he remains deeply in debt and under several potentially criminal investigations from which only his position and ability to divert party funds to pay a legal team are protecting him, to an extent he perhaps has not realized is quite limited.

The people around him are the danger, half of them are corrupt, cynical and/or merely incompetent and the other half are well-funded white supremacist Christian ideologues looking forward to the End Times. Bizarrely they’re being kept in check by a triad of military ‘hawks’ who nevertheless appear to be the only rational people in the building.

He also appears from his random actions, incoherent utterances (when off-script) and apparently self-delusory beliefs to be suffering in the early stages of dementia and really needs help.

Constant hammering by his critics may be making his behavior more, not less extreme: his latter protestations of huge success in office and great popular approval fly in the face of the facts and are indicative of a profound and growing insecurity against which he may react by doing something really stupid. That, or he has a ghostly sense of humor.

Observe his self-protecting body language as he spoke of ‘fire and fury’, arms tightly folded, shoulders hunched, eye movements indicative of growing desperation, seeking out an autocue device with some Bannonite text that wasn’t there to help bim.

That said, North Korea does not possess an invasion fleet, only a toy army that looks impressively drilled on the parade ground but appears to be equipped with old Russian technology and AK-47 rifles; that exaggerated marching style means their knees are probably shot; nor enough nuclear capacity to sustain a war beyond one brief and probably ineffectual exchange.

There have been intel reports before that they’ve succeeded in weaponizing their rockets, which turned out to be fake news.

They are not talking about a strike on Guam, only a display of unarmed synchronized rocketry promising splashdown  ‘near’ Guam. Kim is neither mad nor stupid enough to attack America for real, his bellicosity is mainly for domestic consumption, that has not changed. Someone needs to tell Trump to ‘calm down, dear’ – but I suspect he probably knows that.

We must believe that he is hoping, however riskily, that Kim will recognise the game he is playing, that two predictably ‘unpredictable’ leaders with authoritarian tendencies can play at it, and calm down himself.

Let’s hope, anyway.

Postscriptum

On the subject of Kim’s invincible million-strong army, three years of drought in North Korea have reduced agricultural output and additional sanctions putting blocks on food imports are creating difficult conditions for the country’s food security. What there is is being diverted via corrupt officials. The UN reports many people and the lower ranks of the military are malnourished and may be close to starvation.

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Grind them into dust!

A former aide to Brexit negotiations supremo David Davis has finally cracked and blown the gaff on the whole sorry saga, calling it ‘a catastrophe’ and urging that Boris Johnson and the other plotters should be gaoled for lying to the British people.

Is he looking at charges?

James Chapman went deliciously crazy today, firing off a seemingly endless series of tweets aimed at hapless ministers who have tried to express some collective optimism in the unfolding disaster, demanding to know if, for instance, UK airlines are going to be able to fly next year without a new Open Skies agreement in place – negotiations haven’t yet started – and claiming thousands of Brexit supporters will be badly hit by new customs regulations and port infrastructure that could cost them their homes, and by any delay for cancer patients in negotiating continuing arrangements with Euratom over the importation of radiotherapy isotopes.

According to The Guardian:

“The rush of tweets over the course of many hours infuriated a number of Brexit supporters, including Nigel Farage, the Ukip leader, who asked which side Chapman was ‘really working for in the Brexit department’. As the row played out on Twitter, Michael Heaver, a former aide to Farage, said Chapman’s words were ‘lots of tweeting and not much action’ and suggested it was a sign remainers are ‘losing it’.

In response, Chapman replied to Farage and Heaver saying he intended to “grind you and your appalling party into the dust”.

Reports that Chapman plans next to invade the White House have been denied….

Loving it! LOL

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Law and Disorder

“We live in the information age. Anonymity is almost impossible to maintain.”

Probation officers have found a juvenile offender on parole to have been ‘in possession’ of a knife at his home. Although there was ‘no suggestion’ he had used it for any criminal purpose, the ‘disturbed’ 18-year-old is now back in custody, from which he had only recently been released after serving six years of an indefinite youth custody sentence, undergoing reassessment.

He and his older brother were originally convicted in 2010 of kidnapping and torturing two 10-year-olds in a ravine near their estate home in an impoverished former mining village in Yorkshire, where they were in the foster care of an elderly couple who couldn’t cope with them. The details of the abuse were pretty horrific, so the boys, then only 10 and 12, were granted exceptional immunity and given new identities on release, in an echo of the James Bulger murder case in the 1980s.

These orders have a way of rebounding on the courts. The supposedly protected 10- and 11 year-old kidnappers, torturers and killers of two year-old James were eventually outed as Robert Thompson and John Venables, the youngest convicted murderers in modern English history. After serving a fairly long sentence in juvenile custody, Venables – the more biddable of the two – was later returned to prison in 2011 after being found with child pornography on his computer. Both are now out, Thompson for many years, and have again been given new identities.

That sequence of events did not please the tabloid press.

Known universally as ‘Devil Boy’, the younger of the two Yorkshire torturers is now the subject of a barrage of insane outrage online from the usual baying mob whipped up by the tabloid press about the £1/2 million cost and politically correct madness of the judge granting the two children anonymity in the first place, although it is exceptional to identify defendants in juvenile cases.

Their unhappiness with the justice system is to miss the obvious point that if the court allows the younger brother to be named, because he is now an adult and supposedly a reoffender, on however minor a parole violation, the older brother who has a right to anonymity will also be ‘outed’ and both their lives made a permanent hell, because they have THE SAME NAME.

There are those who will argue they deserve it, there always are; although damaged young children from abusive backgrounds of deprivation and poverty, who had already been in trouble with the police, can equally be said to have a diminished sense of responsibility and lack of empathy and deserve the chance of rehabilitation, given the right psychological and social support.

Of course, that’s never good enough for the enthusiastic hangers and floggers who can’t find it in their hearts to pity anyone but themselves, even children.

In some countries, the age of criminal responsibility is as young as 7, in others it may range up to 18 or more. Britain follows most in setting the age at 10, which in the opinion of the BogPo is barbaric enough, given that we used to hang children of that age for stealing more than five shillings.

A website calling itself ‘Bizarrepedia’ however raises a serious point about the granting of anonymity to child convicts on their  eventual release from custody.

We live in the information age. Anonymity is almost impossible to maintain. The rebarbative armchair vigilante brigade that immediately sets out to try to unmask and persecute even supposedly rehabilitated child offenders has more than once identified the wrong target:

“Scott Bradley was regularly verbally abused after a hate mob falsely identified him as Robert Thompson. He took his own life. In his suicide letter, he wrote: ‘They called me all sorts – a paedophile, a follower of young girls, walking around bullying old people. The list is endless’.”

So pernicious is the bloodthirsty British instinct for revenge to be exacted in all cases, that the website goes on to blame Thompson and Venables themselves for ‘killing’ Bradley, by accepting court protection and thus rousing the finest instincts of the existentially disappointed thugs, bullies and prurient, self-righteous authoritarians who make up the hate community. One suspects many of them are probably child abusers themselves.

All editorial caution goes out of the window in these cases. According to The Sun, the boy ‘tricked’ his way out of prison by conning the parole board into imagining that he was on the path of rehabilitation. They know that for a fact, do they? But of course, because he has reoffended, sort of. He owns a knife, that he hasn’t committed a crime with – no smoke without fire, nudge-nudge, wink-wink, eh? I don’t know, these Devil Boys. Gotta keep roasting ’em for all Eternity.

It is still possible to imagine that the young man has not been receiving the full support of the probation service and feels threatened and vulnerable. Possible for those, that is, who have a different sort of imagination not rooted in the fifteenth century, when devils, ghosts, witches and boggarts roamed the land, putting the evil eye on people’s prize marrows, hunted by gangs of credulous village baboons armed with pitchforks and torches, urged on by the Witchfinder General, Mr Murdoch.

Ref: http://www.theguardian.com/society/2009/sep/03/doncaster-torture-case-brothers

10% – The amount by which the Government has secretly increased the fixed annual payments to private, mostly US companies involved in running Britain’s failing probation service (£277 million) in order to try to get them to fulfil the terms of their contracts. (Story: Private Eye #1450)

 

Granny Weatherwax: Bi-polar Disorder

Ottawa University climatologist, Prof Paul Beckwith reports, satellite images show there’s a wildfire burning in Greenland; it’s raining in both polar regions where it’s only supposed to snow. Arctic temperature anomaly is up to 8C and while the extent is broadly similar to the lowest ever recorded, in 2012, there’s almost no sea ice left anywhere more than 2 metres thick, otherwise it’s mostly thin stuff breaking up and floating away.

The jetstreams he reported for July 20th as having broken in pieces and crossed over the equator into both northern and southern hemispheres for the first time, mixing together. Sections are dragging contra-rotating air masses around, the southern parts have been broadening out in the hemisphere, weakening, and now fill 95% of the southern sky when at this time in winter it ought to be tightly focussed in a narrow high-speed band around the pole.

Unfortunately the video terminated abruptly at that point so I have no idea what it portends. Whatever it is, it doesn’t look good.

Sierra Leone: Hundreds of people are feared dead and others trapped in their homes after a mudslide near the capital, Freetown. A hillside in the Regent area collapsed early on Monday following heavy rains, leaving many houses completely covered in mud. (14 Aug.)

Arctic: Sea ice ‘gone’ by mid-September? “On average, surface temperatures over the Arctic Ocean have been more than 2.5°C (or 4.5°F) warmer than in 1981-2010. The warmer air is now also melting the sea ice from above, as temperatures over the Arctic have risen to well above the freezing point.”

Greenland: ‘unprecedented’ wildfire burning since 31 July, 3000 acres destroyed (no firefighting available). Australian firefighters arriving in Canada to help with 28 new wildfires in British Columbia adding to the 100 already burning – some rain may arrive shortly to help, but not enough.

Russia: powerful storm brings flash flooding to Vladivostock, most easterly city in Europe and home of the Russian Pacific Fleet. Roads and bridges washed away. A 2000 km-long plume of smoke from wildfires over Siberia centred around the city of Krasnoyarsk can be seen from space.

Mexico: city of Campeche, Yucatan hit by Tropical Storm Franklin, with widespread flash flooding. Other parts flooded; Moncova, Cloahuila, Nuevo Leon. Heatwave affecting Hermosillo, NW Mexico, expected to peak at 44C, 111F on Friday.

24 hours in Tulsa. Tornado damage. (D. Mail)

USA: unseasonal ‘freak’ tornado injures 30, damages houses, shops and cars in Tulsa, Oklahoma. City pounded by powerful storm, 130 mph wind, localized flooding. Power out. Weather service taken completely by surprise.

USA: Kansas City: 8 inches of rain overnight brings more flooding to the city. 6in rain falls on Houston, Texas in 6 hours. Dallas, Texas on flood alert. New Orleans floods starting to abate. Tornado in Maryland blows cars away – again no warning.

Italy: Alpine ski resorts melting out under a layer of soot from fires, glaciers vanishing rapidly. Five dead in violent storms following 130F heatwave. More amazing scenes as rivers of ice flow through Cortina’s streets from massive hailstones the size of hens’ eggs. Temperatures locally in south achieve 55C, 131F.

Austria: clearing up after flash floods in the mountains. Flash floods in Switzerland.

Spain: Drought. Towns in Andalucia and rural villages running out of drinking water, reservoirs at historic lows, intermittent mains water interruptions reported. A powerful storm with many lightning strikes floods the town of Denia, on the Costa Blanca. Violent storm over Ibiza brings torrential rain, property damage. New fires are raging through central Portugal.

UK: heavy rain has caused flooding in parts of Yorkshire and Lincolnshire as the Met Office warns of further rainfall. A huge bulk grain carrier has departed for Spain with 70,000 tons of barley on board to feed cattle starved of grazing by the drought.

Japan: Typhoon Noru hits mainland, dumps 500mm rain, flooding, ‘tens of thousands’ evacuated. Storm reported to be weakening over land as it approaches Tokyo.

China: As if the earthquake in Sichuan was not enough (death toll 25 and counting, 45 seriously injured, 85,000 evacuated) a flash flood and landslide carries away part of a village in Puge county. 25 people are missing, 71 homes destroyed. Heilongjian province, northeast China, the city of Harbin floods after torrential rain.

S Korea: deaths from heatstroke reported among the elderly. 37C – plus (100F) heatwave continues into fourth week. 2.7 million chickens and other livestock have died due to the extreme conditions. Korean TV reports, annual average temperature has increased 1.8C in the past 100 years, 0.8C in the past 30 years – and accelerating fast. Hospital admissions with heatstroke have doubled in the past five years.

India: new flooding in Assam, 65,000 evacuated.

“Dozens of elephants and rafts have been deployed to rescue nearly 500 people trapped by floods in a popular resort in southern Nepal, officials say. Several hotels in Sauraha, in Chitwan district, have been inundated, trapping the tourists, many of them foreigners. The floods and landslides caused by torrential rains have killed at least 49 people across the country. … Meanwhile, in neighbouring India, 45 people were killed when a massive landslide swept two packed passenger buses off a hillside into a deep gorge.” – BBC News, 13 Aug.

Iraq: building workers given the day off owing to extreme heat.

Commenting to Climate and Extreme Weather News, ‘CA Lund’ makes all the points the BogPo has been trying to make these past few months: it’s real, it’s ongoing and it’s very likely unstoppable.

“All the evidence a rational person needs is right in front of us, and it’s not even that the climate is changing, it’s that the climate has changed. It’s flipping into chaos.”

Thank you, CA. Where are the ‘rational’ people, I wonder?

Climate and Extreme Weather News #52, 53/ BBC Weather/ Arctic News/ Il Globo

  • Yellowstone update: 53 earthquakes up to M2.9  recorded in the bubbly 60 km-wide caldera on Wednesday 9 August. New magma is thought to be flooding the upper chamber.

 

The BogPo writes, on the subject of context:

One of the problems of researching these extreme weather reports is the lack of date information on many websites. We name The Telegraph as one egregious offender. Years-old reports come up on search even when you key-in 2017 and it takes time to verify the dates. But WE DO TRY!

Local media around the world seem reluctant to put off tourists by admitting to extreme weather events on their patch. Weather bureaux seem not to want to acknowledge that there is a wider problem than just forecasting tomorrow’s weather. US TV stations in particular seem taken by surprise that there may have been an extreme weather event locally, when similar outrages are happening everywhere across the USA and the world!

News media almost invariably report stories without reference to any extreme weather that may be going on behind the camera, while news analysis seldom makes mention of extreme weather events as part of the geopolitical strategic context: for instance, the crisis in Korea is playing out against the background of an extreme and tenacious heatwave in the south, while there have been floods in the north. It is hard to see, too, how the weather events we are reporting on weekly are not having an effect on national economies.

You can rely on the BogPo to do it for them.

Grrr.

X

An important message to the BBC Executive Board

Let’s say you have an individual, a tenured professor of cosmology with two PhDs from a venerable Russell Group university, who has spent nine years in fulltime higher education specializing in his field and twenty years doing field research, teaching, reading and publishing peer-reviewed papers, a well-respected knight of the realm and director of a cosmological institute who has worldwide access to research teams and all the latest scientific equipment.

He is invited onto a national flagship morning news programme to give his ‘scientific opinion’ that the moon is a lump of rock whizzing around the earth; a fact that was verified fifty years earlier after some other scientists actually went there to look.

In the interests of fairness, which is mandated in the charter under which you operate as an independent corporation with tax-raising powers, an hour later you introduce an elderly former politician and discredited Chicago school economist, a professional controversialist in the pay of a moon-mining corporation, to give a ‘balancing opinion’ that the moon is in fact made of green cheese. It is hollow, he solemnly assures the audience, and flying saucers live inside it.

He has no knowledge whatsoever of practical cosmology, other than to maintain that the sun revolves around the earth – but that doesn’t matter, because it’s what we observe every day when it comes up over the rim of the flat disc we live on and is obvious, innit?

As the interlocutor, given that your guests refuse to debate one another head to head, you have to present a set of questions to each interviewee as if coming from the opposite camp. That’s what is known as editorial impartiality. You are not supposed to favour either point of view, and must treat both impartially as a matter of conjecture, fit for debate; even though one thesis is patently, utterly absurd and the other is fully and firmly established, although it is true that scientists have not yet physically travelled inside the moon to ascertain who might be living there, and cannot therefore be certain whether the Selenites’ scales are red or green, or whether they might instead be covered with feathers and speak Mayan.

And just as it’s getting interesting, sorry, okay, that’s enough, we need to go to the weather… Your audience is left in a state of mental paralysis. The two opposing points of view cannot both be true, yet the hallowed broadcaster, famed for its impartiality, has given precisely calibrated equal weight to both as if they are true. Job done.

Only it’s not. Former Director-Geeral, John Birt and journalist Peter Jay spoke of the ‘bias against understanding’, that results from the pursuit such arbitrary fairy-stories as ‘balance’. In this case, two-plus-two equals zero.

Judging by President Trump’s polling figures, it seems to be a general principle that 66% – two-thirds of the people – will always be inclined to accept that there is at least a 51% probability that the experts might be right; and one-third, 34%, who distrust experts. profoundly.

Experts who talk down to us ordinary people, who’ve been deprived by economic disadvantage of the opportunity to learn even to spell our own names, who have never read an actual book; so that we CHOOSE to believe any old bollocks that makes us feel better, as we cheerfully slice the tops off our boiled eggs poisoned with pesticide, knowing more about real life than some posh elite (ignoring that the proponent of the hollow moon theory is even more of a posh git from the Establishment than the professor, who hails from a modest lower-middle-class estate in Dundee).

What we think is more important than what you know.

That, unfortunately, is the situation we have with ‘climate change’ – an over-polite phrase meaning all-hell is being let loose over much of the planet even as you read this, thanks in large measure to our childlike habit of expecting lights to come on at our bidding.

So here’s a message for the politicians and industrialists who like to scream blue murder whenever the BBC shows the slightest sign of accepting a consensus view about anything; and a message for BBC editors trapped in the dangerous quicksands of ‘impartial balance’:

  1. THAT THE EARTH'S CLIMATE IS WARMING DANGEROUSLY IS NO LONGER A MATTER FOR DEBATE.
  2. IT HAS NOT BEEN A MATTER OF DEBATE FOR AT LEAST THE PAST FORTY YEARS DURING WHICH GOVERNMENTS COULD HAVE ACTED TO SLOW OR STOP IT BUT DID NOTHING UNTIL IT WAS TOO LATE.
  3. THE TARGETS SET BY THE KYOTO PROTOCOL AND PARIS ACCORD ARE INADEQUATE. THEY DO NOT CONSTITUTE SUFFICIENT ACTION TO PREVENT IMMINENT DISASTER WITHIN A GENERATION.
  4. THEY DO HOWEVER SUGGEST THAT WORLD GOVERNMENTS WITH THE EXCEPTION OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA HAVE ACCEPTED, HOWEVER RELUCTANTLY, THAT THERE IS NO LONGER A DEBATE TO BE HAD. (YOU SHOULD TOO.)
  5. IT HAS NOW BECOME AN EXISTENTIAL CRISIS FACING ALL OF HUMANITY AND INDEED MOST OTHER LIFE ON EARTH. OUR FAILURE TO ACT IS THE ULTIMATE CRIME, THAT OF PLANETARY ECOCIDE.
  6. THE SCIENTIFIC PRINCIPLES UNDERLYING TODAY'S INCREASINGLY EXTREME AND ECONOMICALLY DEVASTATING HEATWAVES, STORMS, FLOODS, DROUGHTS AND WILDFIRES HAVE BEEN KNOWN FOR MORE THAN A HUNDRED YEARS.
  7. THE PEOPLE WHO ARE LYING TO US ABOUT THE GRAVITY OF THE SITUATION AND ITS CAUSE, WHICH HAS BEEN IN THEIR POWER FOR DECADES TO AMELIORATE, THE BURNING OF ANCIENT FOSSIL FUEL DEPOSITS AS A SOURCE OF ENERGY, KNOW PERFECTLY WELL THERE IS A PROBLEM.
  8. AS CORPORATIONS IN THE BUSINESS OF EXTRACTING AND BURNING FOSSIL FUELS, THEY HAVE A MISPLACED LEGAL DUTY TO MAXIMISE PROFITS FOR THEIR SHAREHOLDERS.
  9.  THEY ARE THEREFORE UNABLE TO ACT IN ANYONE'S BEST INTERESTS, OTHER THAN TO KEEP LYING; A POLICY ON WHICH THEY HAVE SPENT OVER A BILLION DOLLARS IN THE PAST 30 YEARS PAYING AGENTS TO SOW DOUBT AND CONFUSION IN THE PUBLIC MIND.
  10. THE CONTINUED UNINFORMED PRESENTATION IN MAINSTREAM MEDIA OF THE ISSUE STILL AS A MATTER FOR 'BALANCED' DEBATE - CREATING RESISTANCE TO AMELIORATIVE ACTION - IS CRIMINALLY AIDING AND ABETTING THE COMMISSION OF A PLANETARY ECOCIDE.

HAVE YOU UNDERSTOOD THAT, BBC?

Perhaps you would therefore explain to that tendentious old humbug, Humphrys, that the stupid and uneducated point he put to Al Gore about natural fluctuations in the global climatic average over time has already been discounted in calculating human impact, is a typical red herring promoted by the denial lobby and has no material relevance in the argument about the causes and consequences of a runaway warming earth.

When will you start taking this issue seriously and stop pussyfooting around it?

Thank you.

 

The Boglington Post: Wimbledon: Enough. Who? Your filter-bubbles will not protect you. A not-unattractive moustache on the face of a woman..

Enough.

I’m watching the emotional breakdown of a fiercesomely black-bearded man of 28, 6’6″ in height, who looks like he might be losing a game of tennis barely before it has begun.

Former US Open winner, Marin Cilic is sitting on the sideline of the packed Centre Court at Wimbledon in tears, at three games and a set down after only half an hour, in the second set of the men’s final against the Swiss master, Roger Federer – at 35 an older man whom he has beaten in matches before, but who on this occasion will not allow his record eighth victory here to be denied.

You’d think seven would be enough for anyone.

Cilic is a brilliant, agile, powerful player with a deadly accurate 130 mph serve, but after two weeks of battering five-set tennis against players of his own stature in the crucible of the Centre Court he bears the entire weight of expectation of the people of Croatia, his impoverished Balkan homeland, and there is little he appears to be able to get right in this, his first Wimbledon final, against a player uplifted by his delirious corps of fans, who has run through his opponents so far without losing a set.

That Cilic will take home £1.1 million as the losing finalist means nothing compared with his national pride.

We have seen too many players recently who are being emotionally destroyed by the pressures of this demanding singles game. That includes our own darling of the Centre Court, the driven Andy Murray, who disintegrated in front of our eyes on winning his Olympic gold medal in Rio against the huge-serving Argentinian, Juan Del Potro; and dissolved again on winning last year at Wimbledon against the Canadian child-mountain, Raonic.

The half-witted commentators are at a loss to explain Cilic’s emotional state, speculating for several minutes that he must have sustained some injury.

He has. Blisters on his enormous feet, huge toes sculpted by Michelangelo, are being attended to by the tournament doctor, who seems to be more concerned about his client’s emotional state. Injury is the best explanation the pundits in their box can manage, as the honour of the game must be beyond question.

Scenting blood, on goes Federer, his almost miraculous groundstrokes bludgeoning and whipping and passing and outsmarting his wounded bear of an opponent, a giant being steadily dismembered by the Swiss’ alchemical skills. Each 3-minute average-length game he wins brings him another £122,000.

It is more than I can watch, which is why I’m writing this instead. I feel guilty being a part of it.

And now the Wimbledon crowd has swung behind the tall Croatian, urging him on. Not because they want him to win. They just want him to win a set or two so they can admire their hero a while longer. They want their money’s worth. They love an underdog.

Too much money, too many physical demands as the men’s game especially nears the margins of human endurance, too much expectation ladled over the players by an insatiable media and its complicit commentators; too much pressure, too many matches….

Federer wins in straight sets, 6-3, 6-1, 6-4. And now he too is dissolving in tears at the courtside, as his wife displays their beautiful blond children to the admiring crowd….

Enough.

(Presumably to rub it in, apart from the money second prize is a crappy little silver platter that looks like something off your auntie’s sideboard. First prize is a rather spiffing, 18-in high, elaborately decorated gold cup he’ll need to get insured.)

 

Who?

Immediately after the tennis the BBC runs a curiously low-budget and unimaginatively plotted 60″ trailer, revealing the ‘identity’ of the eponym who will play the part of Dr Who, at least for a one-off special next Christmas.

Horror upon horrors, the hooded figure of the 13th Imam turns round to reveal a female of the species.

Worse, I’ve never ‘eard of ‘er. It’s political correctness gone mad… Why, we’ve only just got rid of the Doctor’s black lesbian assistant, ‘Bill Potts’, and now this!

And out pour the dumbfuck Who ‘fans’ from their darkened, fetid rooms in force, intergalactic trolls with their misogynistic tweets and farts, like it’s the end of civilization as they never really knew it.

Er, guys… actually, my real GP is a woman! Worse, she’s a German woman (Sorry, I don’t do Twitter)….

Worst of all is the Daily Express, a pathetic snivel of a snotrag at the best of times, owned by a millionaire pornographer and read by 71-year-old Brexit voters, undereducated nostalgic empire-loyalists on caravanning holidays, that has published a picture of the actor Jodie Whittaker ALMOST IN THE NUDE.

The Broadchurch favourite, who is set to replace Peter Capaldi as the BBC Time Lord, left nothing to the imagination back in 2006 movie, Venus. The 35-year-old played Jessie in the comedy-drama, in which she starred alongside the likes of Peter O’Toole, Leslie Phillips and Vanessa Redgrave. Jodie bared her breasts and pert bottom in raunchy scenes as her character flashed elderly actor, Maurice Russell (O’Toole).

The ‘story’ doesn’t mention that ‘the likes of’ O’Toole, Phillips and Redgrave, immensely respected thesps, were GERIATRICS even then. And it was a COMEDY. And NOBODY REMEMBERS IT. Actors need to WORK so they can get PAID, just like the intellectual molluscs of the tabloid press, and they have to do what the DIRECTORS TELL THEM, they don’t fucking make it up as they go along, they don’t bare their ‘pert bottoms’ (only some howling cretin with a hairy arse and prolapsed piles writes shit like that) because they’re morally degenerate, like the editor of the Daily fucking Express.

These soi-disants ‘journalists’ are sick in the head. Almost as mad are the feministas from The Guardian, rushing into print to hail the first female Time Lord in the history of a patriarchal, male-dominated Universe without stopping to note that the character of ‘Missy’, brilliantly played by the barking Michelle Gomez, is also a Time Lord and the feminine avatar of The Master.

No, if I have a moan it is that Ms Whittaker does not come across as a quirky enough personality. I have no problem with a female Dr Who, or anyone anywhere else on the gender spectrum, but the character really demands an eccentric: larger-than-life, grounded in unpredictability. Not just a conventionally attractive and competent actor who has proved that she can spread herself adequately across a range of earthly roles but would not, perhaps, thrill and charm and irritate the viewer in a kickass caper across time and space.

My vote would have been for the thoughtful but flamboyant transvestite ceramicist, Grayson Perry. After Capaldi’s angst-ridden and tired old intergalactic gunslinger who has run out of magic bullets, a creative Couture Who would make a refreshing change.

x

“Less than a fifth of Americans are aware that extreme hunger threatens the lives of 20 million people in Africa and the Middle East, yet the overwhelming majority regard it as the most pressing global issue once they have been told, a poll of US voters has revealed.” – The Guardian, 13 July

Your filter-bubbles will not protect you

The Pumpkin reported recently on a US poll revealing that 38% had no idea that Senator McConnell’s American Healthcare Act (AHCA) – also known as Trumpcare – is expected to remove health insurance cover from 32 million poorer Americans over the next ten years, to force premiums up to insupportable levels for those with pre-existing conditions, and to result in $800 billion defunding of the basic Medicare program that covers everyone for things like maternity and care home services.

You’d think they’d take an interest, but most seem happy to rely on Mr Trump’s assurances on the campaign trail that he will look after their interests with a ‘great big, beautiful plan, it’ll be so easy’ and that it is perfectly safe for him to tear up Barack Obama’s detestable, failing Affordable Healthcare Act because he has something much better in mind.

Middle-America votes. But where’s his healthcare now, eh? The silly old dumbfuck.

He doesn’t. There never was a plan. It was another Trump lie. And still the dumbfucks worship at his dainty, well-shod hooves.

When told about it directly, people express shock and opposition: the AHCA (it’s now got another set of initials, I lose track) has, supposedly, just a 12% approval rating. The leech-like Sen. McConnell has had to extend the Congressional term two weeks into the annual recess just to try to get it done, in the face of growing opposition even from Republican senators who have actually gotten around to reading it. Mr Trump has said he will be ‘very angry’ if it isn’t passed soon.

But then he is already very angry about everything and is said when not off playing golf to be doing little else but sit in the Oval Office, screaming abuse at the TV sets.

It is possible to draw only one conclusion from this story, that people are no longer actively interested in what happens outside of their headphones or their social media ‘filter bubbles’, that almost certainly don’t include any seriously life-threatening information they might need to know.

Which gives one little hope that they can go further, to understand that it’s the politicians they vote for who are behind these damaging actions, not the Muslims or the Mexicans, nor Volkswagen, and have an agenda that does not include the ordinary citizen; that major vested corporate interests are behind them*.

For instance, the ‘millennials’ so horrified to discover that vast numbers of people around the world are on the verge of dying for lack of food and water perhaps would also like to know that under the so-far undebated Trump budget, the US government is proposing massive funding cuts to UN relief programs in order to give tax breaks to the wealthiest 1%, but I don’t suppose it’s even crossed their self-absorbed radar.

Climate disruption is another issue that really isn’t out there among the majority of people.

A recent article in the New York Magazine by David Wallace-Wells, entitled ‘The Uninhabitable Earth’, has caused consternation and unleashed a tsunami of outraged denial about climate science, which is ironic considering the article is about just that: our desperate wish to push back against the issue of our imminent extinction as a species if we cannot break our addiction to burning fossil fuels now.

In a summary of the real scientific consensus on the effects of global warming, that we don’t normally get in mainstream media, Wallace-Wells has interviewed dozens of actual scientists to get a relatively modest overview and to write it up unemotionally in a way normal people can understand.

That would account for the torrent of scorn and opprobrium that has greeted the article from the familiar ranks of denialists, the usual suspects complaining that it is not sufficiently ‘scientific’ (irony abounds) to make its point.

Wallace-Wells explains to ordinary readers in plain English that real scientists have been too frightened of creating a panic or of just not being believed if they said how bad things are really getting, of being seen as too extreme, to tell people the unvarnished truth, that we and our innocent co-evolutes on the planet are heading for catastrophe: mass extinction within decades or maybe only a few years.

The article is being hailed as the first ever to try to bring together the various strands of thinking on the issue in order to present them to the lay reader in a popular medium; which is, of course, a bit of marketing hyperbole by the NYMag. Articles, books and YouTube videos abound on the subject. Nothing Wallace-Wells writes comes as any surprise to the Editor of this blog. The information is all out there if you care to look.

Most people don’t.

As of course is the ‘balancing’ view, in the form of articles online and in the rightwing press dependent on corporate advertising, from well funded denialists saying it’s all a big fuss about nothing. It’s marketable contrarianism, dangerously so.

For it appears from the huge response the story has been getting that the mass of ordinary people really have no idea of how serious the situation is; of how many of the natural systems we rely on are already at the point of collapse. Although it is probably obvious to the millions affected by annual droughts and flooding on an unprecedented scale.

The Boglington Post has been reporting the story for some time now, that a growing number of scientists are warning we are passing irreversible ‘tipping points’ in self-reinforcing feedbacks that could create more abrupt disruption to world weather patterns than was previously expected. The release of a possible 1.6 Gt of stored Arctic methane from melting permafrost is but one feedback among many. The signs are all there: a second successive year of record floods and droughts all around the globe, of polluting NOx and ozone smogs, is surely visible to all but the most obdurate denialists.

Wallace-Wells writes, too, that food production will be severely disrupted by increasing droughts alternating with more severe floods and more powerful storms. Well, there go your 20 million Africans. It’s not just about rising sea levels or any single event, a 200 kph hurricane here, fifty tornadoes in one wild Georgia weekend there, but a combination of events. Increasing wave heights because of stronger winds, for instance, are helping to break-up the Arctic sea ice faster. More blue water absorbs more heat, increasing transpiration.

It ought to be snowing in the Arctic now – in actual fact, it’s raining. Warmer seas make for a wetter climate, leading to heavier rainfall and more powerful storms. The normally reliable jetstreams have broken down, allowing anomalous weather conditions to develop anywhere. Thus, last winter we had snow in the Libyan Sahara.

And from Svalbard, Norway’s northernmost permanently inhabited settlement:

“The average temperature for the year was minus 0.1 degrees Celsius, or 6.5 degrees Celsius above normal, according to Bernt Lie, a weather statistician…. In addition, a record 310 millimeters of precipitation fell during the year, 63.2 percent more than normal and soundly topping the previous record of 267.9 millimeters in 2012.

“In July, October and November there was record heat,” he wrote. Temperatures at Svalbard Airport in December were 7.4 degrees Celsius above normal, the 73rd straight month of above average temperatures… Lie, in his summary of Longyearbyen’s weather statistics for 2016, called the trend here a “frightening development.” – Icepeople.net

Even so, the Icepeople website editor headlined the story as if nothing was amiss: “Frighteningly ordinary: Record high temperatures in 2016 nothing new for Longyearbyen or Earth.”

What would you think is meant by the word “record”? Oh, it’s been another boring old record every year for the past six years…. Nothing new, then. That Inuit sense of humor.

This year, extreme temperatures in many countries combined with increasing humidity have brought it home that human physiology cannot cope beyond a certain point, and that point is being reached more often and earlier every year. In Pakistan, in Iran, in Kuwait and California the mercury has topped 120 deg. F. , and it’s not yet the height of summer. The human body cannot cool itself through sweating at those temperatures, with 96% humidity. Your skin chokes you to death.

People are undoubtedly dying. A 100-deg. plus (42 C.) heatwave is in its third week in the south-western United States at the time of writing, floods are devastating large parts of Asia (2’6″ of rain fell on Japan’s Kyushu island in just nine hours last week) and many barely controllable wildfires are contributing to the CO2 burden in the atmosphere; more so in fact than our industrial emissions, which thanks to controls and an economic slowdown have not increased in the last three years. (Worryingly, the global economy is picking up again.)

Whatever the professional denialists in the pay of the energy industries will try to tell you, this is not normal!

The standfirst to this piece, for instance, indicates that climate change is almost certainly worsening the food supply problem for those 20 million Africans and people of the Arabian peninsula. Many of them have or will become climate refugees and die in the desert or drown in the Mediterranean.

Those of us lucky enough to live in more temperate latitudes have no way of coping with the scale of the human tragedy that is unfolding in the equatorial regions, other than through denial.

But this shit is coming for us all, so you’d better look it up and be ready.

Your filter-bubbles will not protect you!

http://nymag.com/daily/intelligencer/2017/07/climate-change-earth-too-hot-for-humans.html

*An article by George Monbiot in today’s Guardian investigates a new book by Nancy McClean: Democracy in Chains: The Deep History of the Radical Right’s Stealth Plan for America. The plot by alt-right billionaires to overthrow democracy was first laid out by a Nobel prizewinning economist and crazed free-market advocate, James McGill Buchanan, in the 1960s. Everything he recommended is now happening, Monbiot realizes, with a shock of recognition – and not only in the USA.

http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2017/jul/19/despot-disguise-democracy-james-mcgill-buchanan-totalitarian-capitalism

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Granny Weatherwax, 15 July:

  • Canada: number of wildfires in Williams Lake area of British Ciolumbia ‘drops below 200’ but more hot windy weather is forecast. Considerable devastation has been caused, small towns entirely destroyed. Evacuation centres for 14,000 opened across the state.
  • Arctic: temperatures recorded at two locations on 11 July over Canada’s Mackenzie River, one of 32.6°C or 90.8°F at the mouth of the river and another one of 34.7°C or 94.5°F further inland. Surface temperature of water pushed up by increasing windspeeds through the Bering Strait into the Arctic ocean recorded at 10C, 50F. Little sea ice left, being pounded by rain.
  • 65 major wildfires burning across 11 US states. California worst hit: many homes burned, residents evacuated in Santa Barbara. Wildfires in Nevada caused CO2 to reach concentration levels as high as 742 ppm on July 12.
  • Huge storms bring flash flooding and record river rise to the eastern USA – state of emergency declared in Wisconsin. New York State, DC, New Jersey, Massachusetts affected. More forecast. 14 July, major storm in west, parts of Arizona under water.
  • Ciudad Juarez, Mexico – 15 July, city underwater.
  • Major flooding continues to affect very large area of NE India. Up to 40 million ‘marooned’, 85 dead, 1.7m evacuated in Assam. Refugee camps being set up. Still raining – heavy storms over Arunachal, 4 dead in Gujarat. 650,000 affected in Bangladesh.
  • Flash floods and landslides in Tibet – buildings washed away, many evacuated. 42 deg. C.-plus heatwave across China following weeks of flooding (93 cm more rain falls on Hunan province in the week). 16 July, 36 dead in devastating floods in Jilin city. A violent thunderstorm batters the city of Chengdu, Sichuan. Much damage.
  • Typhoon Talas is heading for Taiwan at 12 mph. after pounding N Vietnam. 42 deg. C. heatwave in S Korea turns to deadly flooding. Cheongju city, s. of Seoul, underwater.
  • Many wildfires reported in Khazakhstan. Satellite records CO2 at 747 ppm. Temperature of 53.1°C or 127.5°F in Iran for July 11.
  • Severe flooding in the Irkutsk region of Siberia after ‘endless rain’ has stranded airline passengers. Scientists warning, trans-Siberian pipeline projects could be affected by explosive methane eruptions.
  • Damaging flash floods hit Oman, Trucial States, after days of heavy rainfall in the mountains..
  • Storm floods Paris metro. S France, Spain continue to experience record heatwave. Greek tourist sites, Acropolis closed due to extreme heat, humidity.
  • Italy: wildfires ravage slopes of Mt Vesuvius, Naples; 1,ooo tourists evacuated from wildfires in Sicily, many properties destroyed. While in Calabria, Sicily – deadly ‘rain bomb’ floods the town.
  • Portugal, Alejo, more raging wildfires. Crops devastated across S Europe. Wildfires in Croatia, 34 fires reported around the capital of neighbouring Montenegro.
  • Storms flood parts of Lagos, Nigeria. 20 dead in Niger State. 40 deg. C.-plus heatwave threatening harvest in Egypt: ‘worse year on year’.
  • Coverack, Cornwall, Britain. 18 July. Flash flood follows torrential rain, hail breaks windows, sea surge cuts off road access.
  • An overnight snowstorm has hit Santiago, Chile, for the first time since 1970. A change from recent floods and wildfires.
  • Latest research shows global CO2 ‘equivalent’ – ie overall atmospheric greenhouse gas content including methane (CH4), CO, CO2, SO2, NOx – has reached 490 ppm.

(Climate and Extreme Weather News #42/Floodlist/Arctic News/Wildfire Today/Siberian Times)

Most extraordinary, is to observe from the camphone footage from around the world how people are prepared to take absurd risks driving through rising floodwaters and wildfires.

What climate change?

 

Sports News

A not unattractive moustache

I learn just now that Venus Williams is 6’1″. I am in love. She is such a sweetheart, and at 37 the perfect age. There is of course her opponent in the Wimbledon Ladies final, the aristocratic-looking Garbine Muguruza (6’0″, 23), a lovely creation for whom the word ‘lissom’ was surely invented.

If Muguruza wins, it will be because of her sense of style. She has been wearing Stella McCartney, our leading British designer and daughter of the Beatle. Everyone else is in Nike, or Adidas – or, as in Williams’ case, her family’s own-brand. Peasants.

Yet despite her perfect shoulders (I’m a bit of a shoulders man), the heavily strapped-up leg is not such a good look. This year, our leading players all appear stricken. Murray, Nadal, Djokovitch and many more have limped out in the second set or finished as losers, broken and bowed, owing to accumulated injuries. Many are match-rusty after months out of work, undergoing operations and retraining. Some should frankly not have turned up just to collect their first-round losers’ appearance fees, which are not ungenerous, bilking the crowd.

Commentators have suggested it might be due to their top-heavy match schedule. The winners of the Wimbledon finals each stand to go home with cheques for £2.2 million. My suggestion, for what it is worth, is that there is too much money in the game and that if even the top players are forced to compete week-in, week-out all over the world, even in minor suburban tournaments to maintain their ranklings and seedlings, the organizers of the flying circus might fairly be accused of greed.

The majestic progress of the greatest master of the game, ever, Roger Federer, stands out all too clearly when you consider his age, 34. He has simply swept past his younger opponents with magisterial grace and good temper. Not to mention his breathtaking skill. Miss Williams, too, at 37 to be in the final (she’s currently winning – sorry, no, she’s losing), is a wonderful example of how to be an entirely normal, yet supernaturally gifted human being.

Douglas Adams (Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Glaxy) and John Lloyd (Blackadder) wrote a silly book years ago, taking odd-sounding but real place names as the basis of funny dictionary definitions. Scrabster is a hardscrabble fishing port on the unforgiving east coast of Scotland, from whence come the finest kippers (smoked herring). It is also: ‘A not unattractive moustache on the face of a woman’.

The Spaniard, Muguruza is definitely a qualifier. And some woman! You knew she had her semifinal opponent Simona Halep beaten, when in the last two games the diminutive but fast and powerful forest-dwelling Romanian stopped making that hideous shrieking noise with which she propels the furry projectile at 90 mph towards the far baseline; and refused to play the last service return.

But the thing with true tennis champions is, one minute they’re 4-3 down in the fourth set, gasping for air and making desperate appeals to their box to send them more drugs – then before the kettle’s boiled, they’re 5-4 up with two match points in hand and serving for the £2 million cheque. It’s quite magical. Bewildering, how they do that.

Having never won anything, I’m fully qualified to remark on life’s mystery.

 

PS: ‘@StellaMcCartney’ wins, 7-6, 6-0. I feel so sorry for Williams, she is a complete sweetie who has lived under the shadow of her little sister Serena, the most successful women’s singles player of all time (some might argue for Navratilova or Court), who is off on baby-leave, yet she has won seven Grand Slam titles in her own right. At 37, this might well have been her last crack at Wimbers. Boo.

 

For the benefit of Mr High-as-a-Kite

Speaking humorously as I was there of drugs, there is a quite astonishing story in the Sport section of today’s Guardian – or is it the companion Sunday Observer? the website’s the same. It concerns a film that has been made about the ‘Russian doping master’, Grigory Rodchenkov, now in an FBI witness protection program after others considering blowing the whistle on a performance enhancement campaign apparently conceived by Mr Putin before the Sochi Olympics suffered unexpectedly massive heart attacks.

As head of the Russian equivalent, Mr Rodchenkov was trustingly shown around the UK’s anti-doping facilities before the 2012 London Olympics, and so worked out a way of cheating the system. He also devised the great wheeze of drilling a hole secretly under a table in the floor of the lab hut, disguised as a power socket, and passing clean urine samples through to an accomplice on the inside, making this the most wonderful story of opportunistic ingenuity since those RAF officers escaped from Colditz.

It’s a long and fascinating tale, which I recommend to anyone who wants to be educated in the workings of Mr Putin’s and the greater Russian mindset, especially in the light of the efforts to tamper with last year’s (and next year’s) US election. There’s too much to plagiarise for this article, so go to:

http://www.theguardian.com/sport/2017/jul/15/russian-doping-programme-olympics-london-2012-sochi-2014?utm_source=esp&utm_medium=Email&utm_campaign=GU+Today+main+NEW+H+categories&utm_term=235195&subid=19570602&CMP=EMCNEWEML6619I2

Pip pip!

UB