The Other United States of Corporate Greed… Infamy, they’ve all got it in for me!… What will we talk about when he’s gone?… How do we know the Russians interfered with the US election in 2016?…Clickbait Corner: Uncle Bogler Totally DESTROYS Coconut oil… GW: “Hey-ho, the wind and the rain”… Pack a bag.

“So, there’s this one-legged veteran goes into a bar…”

“It’s almost as if we’re deliberately attempting to defy nature. We’re doing the reverse of what we should be doing, with everybody’s silent acquiescence, and nobody’s batting an eyelid.”Mayer Hillman, Social Scientist, 86, interviewed in The Guardian, 20 Aug.

The Other United States of Corporate Greed

An important article on Opendemocracy.org (21 Aug) draws attention to a little-known treaty drawn up 20 years ago, that allows big energy companies to sue governments that introduce measures to ameliorate climate change.

Pia Eberhardt and Cecilia Olivet write: “Companies are claiming dizzying sums in compensation for government actions that have allegedly damaged their investments, either directly through expropriation or indirectly through regulations of virtually any kind.”

Germany’s phasing-out of nuclear power in the wake of the Fukushima disaster, for instance, has cost additional billions in compensation awards to energy companies such as the Swedish giant, Vattenfall. “By the end of 2017, governments had been ordered or agreed to pay more than $51 billion in damages”, write the authors, with another $35 billion in current claims going through the arcane system.

A case in Bulgaria, for instance, effectively fined the government hundreds of millions of dollars for ordering a cut in energy prices to benefit poorer consumers. The closure of two dirty coal mines cost the German government an additional $1.4 billion in compensation.

This monstrous arrangement providing a hidden subsidy to the polluters is known as the Energy Charter Treaty. An opposition website, http://www.energy-charter-dirty-secrets.org, states:

“It currently applies to 48 countries stretching from Western Europe through Central Asia to Japan, plus the EU and the European Atomic Energy Community. It grants corporations in the energy sector enormous power to sue states at international investment tribunals for billions of dollars, for example, if a government decides to stop new oil or gas pipelines or to phase out coal.”

The point about it being, the ECT was negotiated largely in conditions of secrecy and is ruled over by an unaccountable triumvirate of anonymous lawyers hearing cases in private. It is increasingly subject to abuse by investment trusts effectively posing as energy corporations through the registration of “mailbox” companies having as few as four employees. The majority of judgements – 60 per cent – that have been resolved have gone against the States being sued, making the bringing of cases a lucrative sideline for the money-breathers.

And of course, losing States settle these often $1 billion-plus lawsuits out of public funds – at the expense of the taxpayers, whose very existence and that of the natural world that supports them is threatened by the well-protected ecocidal corporate policies of the big energy extractors and their oil-soaked shareholders.

And yet, more governments are queuing to sign up.

So the next time you read George Monbiot or Bill McKibben complaining that governments and politicians are not doing enough to halt climate change, just reflect on the ECT and the incredible power the energy corpses wield over our lives and even over our elected governments.

By the way, The BogPo still cannot fathom how on earth this execrable treaty came into being, who brokered it, what legal force it would have if you simply told the triumvirate to go fuck itself, in secret obviously, and why so many national States would want to sign up to it? What’s in it for them?

Can you fathom it?

Oh, right.

Money, probably.

 

“The Atomic Kitten singer Natasha Hamilton was initially flattered to be named Rear of the Year, but that soon changed. “The title felt a bit tongue in cheek,” she says.” Guardian report, presumably while the last competent subeditor on earth was away on holiday.

 

Infamy, they’ve all got it in for me!

On the day Melania Trump made a speech to schoolkids attacking cyber-bullies, her orange husband was tweeting this:

Trump said he hoped “the worst CIA Director in our country’s history, brings a lawsuit. It will then be very easy to get all of his records, texts, emails and documents to show not only the poor job he did, but how he was involved with the Mueller Rigged Witch Hunt. He won’t sue!”

It is quite astonishing, not only to those of us outside the Washington beltway (and mercifully, outside the USA altogether) who take a fascinated interest in these matters, that the Republican party hierarchy could read the contents of yet another screaming, paranoid, Sunday-morning Trump tweet like that and not conclude that the self-incriminating President is terminally unhinged.*

Not only is his continual, rambling assault (250 tweets and counting) on a legally constituted investigation by the Special Counsel, Robert Mueller, into possible illegal “collusion” between his campaign staffers and the Russian foreign intelligence service, GRU, evidence of a clear and present attempt to obstruct justice.

His dire threat to “get all of his records” to show that former CIA Director, John Brennan is somehow involved with what Trump clearly imagines is a kind of illegitimate freelance assault on his dubious presidency, that he persists without a shred of evidence in blaming on the opposition Democratic party, is an open-and-shut case of extreme abuse of office and little short of blackmail.

And, frankly, in its puerile obsessiveness and wild, swingeing accusations, of insanity…. A craziness literally amplified to Volume 11 today in a Reuter’s interview he gave, in which the madman claimed he could easily take over and run the Mueller investigation himself, only he chooses not to.

(Someone I know was once sectioned under the Mental Health Act for entertaining far more convincing delusions.)

US Presidents do not normally publicly announce that they intend to use their powers to bully, blackmail and intimidate their critics, law officers and potential hostile witnesses into silence. And there is no connection whatever between Brennan and the Mueller investigation. None.

Except that in the bizarre world of Trump, all his critics and detractors – including, it seems, the entire intelligence community – and the ‘fake nooze’ media are plotting against him.

In this case, Trump is clearly terrified that Brennan in his previous incarnation has viewed and continued to have access to incriminating classified foreign intelligence material. Despite his repeated denials of collusion, a new book by veteran NYT journalist, Craig Unger traces more than 50 business connections Trump has had with Russians, many of them organized crime figures. No doubt they will all be known to the security establishment. Hence his many attempts to shut down the inquiry.

Suspending Brennan’s security clearance is just the first step in attempting to muzzle a potential witness, should Mueller find a way to indict a sitting President on felony charges – something that has never been done before, and which may not even be constitutionally possible. Trump’s Republican-packed Supreme Court may have to decide.

Trump is now floundering in uncharted waters. The two previous presidents who attempted to lie and bully their way out of impeachment proceedings, Nixon and Clinton, both made a hash of attacking the investigation as illegitimate. Clinton barely survived impeachment for lying to the House, having been undone by a splash of DNA on a blue dress. Nixon ultimately fell because of abusing his powers to fire, threaten and badger the Special Counsel and intimidate witnesses, when his blunt denials came up against the overwhelming weight of his self-bugged conversations.

The more Trump blusters and bullies, the more powerful enemies he is making and the deeper the pit he is digging for himself and his profoundly corrupt family administration. But as long as supine Senators like McConnell and Ryan, Lindsay Graham (a salutary reminder of his slimy hypocrisy turned up today on MSNBC, in the form of a clip of him denouncing Bill Clinton in the Senate) and the other Republican nematodes turn a blind eye to his worsening mental state and criminal past, you’re stuck with it.

 

What will we talk about when he’s gone?

*What are we to make, for instance, of his latest scrambled oration to his adoring dumbfucks in West Virginia?

Three months ago Trump was denying that he even knew Paul Manafort, who had worked for him only for a very short time, a few days, and had almost nothing to do with his election campaign. Now Manafort, 69, the former chairman for 145 days of the Trump election campaign, who honed his political skills in very well rewarded (but undeclared) positions with Kremlin-backed disruptors in Ukraine, is facing possibly 5-10 years in Leavenworth on tax and bank fraud charges, of which he has just been convicted in a court of law. And Trump is telling his dumbfuck base what a great guy Paul is – because unlike that little rat Cohen, his bagman and protégé for 10 years whom he also hardly knows, he hasn’t spilled the beans to the Mueller investigators.

Why, Donald, what might the Mueller team want beautiful Paul Manafort with his lovely family to talk to them about? Oh, right.

Your “collusion” with the Kremlin, maybe?

How stupid is this man?

Addendum:

Trump’s repeated assertion that he had no connection with Manafort’s activities in Russia and Ukraine is not exactly true, is it. Thus, we cannot entirely go along with frequent assertions in the media that Manafort’s legal difficulties do not relate to the possibility of collusion between the campaign and Moscow, and the Mueller probe. As, indeed, one might ask why Manafort was appointed to the chairmanship of the Trump campaign in the first place? What special skills did he bring to the party?

Eighteen months ago, Politico reported:

http://www.politico.com/magazine/story/2017/03/connections-trump-putin-russia-ties-chart-flynn-page-manafort-sessions-214868

‘Nuff said.

(We might note too that two Republican Congressmen, Collins and Hunter, both early Trump backers, are now independently under indictment – the former for insider trading, the latter for 2016 election fraud. Had the Democrats the spine to organize some kind of manifesto for positive change and find a figurehead to lead the charge (it seems they’re keeping Elizabeth Warren back for 2020), the “Blue wave” would seem a lot higher than it currently does.)

 

How do we know the Russians interfered with the US election in 2016?

One way was a “leak” by NSA employee, Reality Winner (an ironic case of nominative determinism, in view of the outcome of that election.)

Although the story emerged independently days later, Ms Winner was arrested and charged with espionage. Many lies were concocted by prosecutors to try to link her with the Taliban or with federal crimes, building a false and monstrous case against her. Her rights were trampled on and she was physically abused and intimidated into entering a guilty plea. She has now received a savage sentence.

Democracy Now! writes:

“NSA whistleblower Reality Winner was handed the longest sentence ever imposed in federal court for leaking government information to the media Thursday (23 Aug). She is the first person to be sentenced under the Espionage Act since President Trump took office.

“Winner was arrested by FBI agents at her home in Augusta, Georgia, on June 3, 2017, two days before The Intercept published an exposé revealing Russian military intelligence conducted a cyberattack on at least one U.S. voting software company just days before the U.S. presidential election. The exposé was based on a classified NSA report from May 5, 2017, that shows that the agency is convinced the Russian General Staff Main Intelligence Directorate, or GRU, was responsible for interfering in the 2016 presidential election.

Powerful interview with James Risen, The Intercept’s senior national security correspondent and former New York Times reporter: https://democracynow.org

If anyone deserves a presidential pardon, it is surely Ms Winner, for her selfless act in exposing an attack by a hostile power on the US constitution, knowledge that her pathetic and disgusting employers had sat on for many months in fear of being accused of influencing the election; which Director slimy Jim Comey had then gone ahead and done anyway by leaking just days beforehand that he had reopened the investigation into Candidate Clinton’s emails.

But Trump is not going to pardon Winner, is he. He continues fatuously to deny the “reality” of the GRU campaign against his country, as everyone assumes because he was deeply complicit in it. His pardons are reserved only for those who express their loyalty to himself, or whose filthy racist politics and abuses in public office qualify them to belong to his exclusive club.

Ms Winner is now beginning a sentence of five years and one month for her patriotism and public service.

Shame on the in-Justice Department. Shame on the craven and bullying FBI. Shame on the madman, Trump.

Deep shame on America.

 

Clickbait corner

I’ve got a luvverly bunch of killer platelets

“…celebrity endorsements from Gwyneth Paltrow (for it is She… Ed.) and others have helped UK sales of coconut oil surge from about £1m to £16.4m in the past four years…” (Guardian report)

Oil swell that doesn’t end well…

Researchers however have found that “Coconut oil contains more than 80% saturated fat, more than twice the amount found in lard, and 60% more than is found in beef dripping”, and is likely to massively increase lethal LDL cholesterol, leading to a pandemic of heart disease. Epidemiologist, Dr Karen Michels of Harvard University commented: “It’s one of the worst things you can eat … pure poison”.

Do not swallow Gwyneth Paltrow. You have been warned!

 

175 mph Lane bears down on Hawaii. (CBS)

GW: “Hey-ho, the wind and the rain”

Pacific: “Ferocious Hurricane Lane continues to chug across the central Pacific. As of 5 pm EDT Monday, Lane was located about 580 miles southeast of Hilo, heading west at 12 mph. Lane’s top sustained winds had increased to 130 mph, making it a low-end Category 4 storm.” Bob Henson, Wunderground, reporting that weakening high pressure may allow Lane to veer northwards and collide with the Hawaiian islands.

Stop Press, 22 Aug: “…Central Pacific Hurricane Center upgraded Lane to Category 5 storm Tuesday, with top sustained winds near 160 mph and a minimum central pressure of 940 mb. Then:

“Lane intensified steadily through the day with its central pressure dropping from 940 mb at 2 pm EDT to 929 mb by 11 pm EDT. Data from a reconnaissance flight on Tuesday night showed Lane was strengthening even further, with an extrapolated central pressure of 922 mb and an SFMR surface wind estimate of 152 knots (175 mph) reported just before midnight EDT.” (Wunderground)

Top sustained wind of 175 mph implies gusts at the eyewall of 220 mph…. This is a beast and a half. Henson confirms, its northwesterly track should bring it over the Hawaiian islands on Saturday, where another state of emergency has been declared.

Korea: on top of its recent deadly heatwave, Korea is about to be slammed into by Typhoon Soulik, on an unusual west coast trajectory; while Typhoon Cimaron following on behind is about to collide with Japan, where record flooding killed over 200 people at the start of the month. With sustained windspeed of 115 mph, Soulik is a Cat 3, expected to dump perhaps 10-in of rain over the capital, Seoul. Cimaron is forecast to be a Cat 1 storm across central Japan, arriving perhaps just south of Kyoto, on Thursday 24 Aug, local time. (Wunderground)

India: is still getting hammered by monsoon rains. With the death toll over 320 in Kerala, 8 people have been killed in Karnataka since 14 Aug. “More than 800 homes have been destroyed and roads severely damaged, leaving communities isolated.” (Floodlist)

Niger: “19 people have died in flooding and landslides since July this year. As of 13 August, a total of 65,170 people had been affected in all 8 regions of the country. Over 5,000 homes have collapsed in the heavy rain, over 25,000 livestock and 6,535 hectares of crops have been destroyed.” 350 cases of cholera have been confirmed. (From Floodlist report citing local authorities) There’s flooding too in neighboring Nigeria, and in Algeria, where 5 people have died in floods near Tamanrasset.

Italy: 10 hikers drowned and a further 14 were rescued on 20 Aug when a creek running through a deep mountain gorge in the Pollino National Park in Calabria turned into a raging torrent after heavy rainfall upstream. Rescue teams, including divers, mountain rescue and a helicopter searched the area overnight. “Earlier this month 5 canyoners died when flash floods swept through a valley on the French island of Corsica“. (From Floodlist reports)

Portugal, Spain: record-breaking heat is expected to return to the Iberian peninsula at the weekend, with temperatures possibly exceeding 48C, 118F.

UK: “Car McGeddon…” Reports are only now emerging of a localized flood on 28 July that may have damaged up to 1000 cars parked at Belfast airport, after 88.2 mm rain fell in three hours – more than a month’s worth. Insurers have written off several cars to date, describing them as potential deathtraps. (BBC)

A problem we have with the media, in common with poor, frustrated Mr Trump: under Related Articles, without embarrassment the Express reports sequential stories it has recently run, as follows….

  • UK weather: August forecast for HEAVY RAIN ends heatwave
  • UK weather: Heatwave to last until OCTOBER

USA: “California remains in the grip of deadly wildfires which continue to threaten thousands of properties.” At least 10 people have been killed and 2 million acres burned. Some fires have been burning so fiercely they have created their own weather. A huge fire “tornado” in Shasta County (the Carr fire, now 91% under control) killed a firefighter and a digger driver, reaching a temperature hot enough to melt steel.  (From Express report, 20 Aug.)

For latest Calfire info, there’s a good San Francisco Chronicle interactive at projects.sfchronicle.com/2018/fire-tracker/

Canada: “Forests burning across British Columbia are littered with millions of hectares of dead trees that turn into volatile fuel in conditions such as this year’s drought, experts say.” There are currently more than 500 wildfires burning across B.C., which has been in a province-wide state of emergency since last week. Fires are burning through dead wood resulting from a 1999-2012 pine-beetle infestation. Government has ignored successive reports warning about lack of funding for fire prevention. (Reporting: Vancouver Globe and Mail)

World: what we’re missing…

“To calculate the global mean on maps, NASA uses four zonal regions (90-24ºS, 24-0ºS, 0-24ºN, and 24-90ºN) and fills gaps in a region by the mean over the available data in that region. In datasets, however, missing data are typically ignored. This could make a difference of 0.2°C. Ignoring data for the Arctic alone could make a difference of 0.1°C.

Depending on how the above three points are dealt with, the temperature in August 2018 may well be more than 3°C above the mean annual global temperature in 1750. The question is whether August 2018 will be warmer than August 2016, which was 2.3°C warmer than 1980-2015.” – Arctic News.

Remembering that, while 2018 has not thus far been globally the hottest year ever measured, as a year with no warming El Niño current it still sits within the top five and all of those have fallen within the past five years; while many more hottest and most persistent temperature records (day or night) have been broken this year, than coldest. As Arctic News’ ‘Sam Carana’ points out (19 Aug) it’s the extremes that kill, not the global mean, and we ought to be paying more attention to those.

 

La terra trema….

There has been a huge increase in earthquake activity around the globe in the past week, with a corresponding increase in magnitudes. Following “the largest deep earthquake on record”, a M8.2 hundreds of Km beneath the south Pacific, northeast Venezuela was hit yesterday, 21 Aug, by a shallow M7.3, followed just four hours later by a provisional M7 in the Solomon Islands, near Vanuatu; and a M6.3 off the coast of Oregon.

Interestingly, the two recent M6+ earthquakes at Lombok, Indonesia are precisely antipodal to the Venezuela epicentre. Earthquake predictor, “Dutchsinse” warns, buckle up – it may get worse – and have a plan.

Pack a bag

The BogPo has wondered about the “Ring of Fire”, that connected chain of volcanoes and earthquake-prone zones all around the Pacific, that is so active at present. Is it perhaps a geological weakness in the Earth’s crust, a legacy of the ancient planetary collision that hollowed out the vast Pacific ocean basin and sent billions of tonnes of debris spinning into space to form our Moon?

Anyway, much speculation accompanies the latest outbreak of quakes and eruptions, that they might be leading up to a true ‘megaquake’ of M9 or greater. The US west coast seems favorite.

Or it could all just settle down again, no-one can say.

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Grenfell, a bonfire of the sanities… We can’t hear you, Mr Secretary – a letter to Rex Tillerson… Fore!… GW: warming her gnarly fingers by the light of the burning windmills… Dissertation: On the Tedium of Buying Stuff From Builders’ Merchants.

Two thousand liters of water are needed to produce just one kilo of avocados. – Guardian

This may explain why Avi, my avocado tree, has yet to produce fruit. She’s lucky to get a couple of pints a week…

x

Grenfell

A bonfire of the sanities

It is clearly not good enough nowadays to know what you are talking about.

Any “expert” who fails to court the approval of the Sun newspaper and the rag-tag and bobtail herd of self-publicizing, technologically unsophisticated and overpromoted windbag MPs is doomed to be ground to dust and scattered to the winds of history.

The BogPo has previously noted how the aptly named Professor Nutt, among the world’s leading experts on the neurological effects of recreational drugs, lost his post as head of a commission set up to review the regulatory framework when he published a scientifically determined recommendation that certain drugs could safely be declassified to save policing costs and cut the prison population, thereby incurring the predictable wrath of a scientifically unqualified but clearly panic-stricken Home Secretary.

Then there was the Attorney-General of Northern Ireland, who sensibly proposed abandoning an almost entirely fruitless and seemingly unending inquiry into the 30-years-old crimes committed during The Troubles, ordered in the wake of the Good Friday agreement to bring “closure” to victims’ families, as it was badly draining police resources sorely needed to fight today’s crimes. That cost him his job in a welter of Cameronian outrage.

You would think that these so-called “experts” would know better than to make sensible suggestions based on advanced knowledge and years of research. Would it not make perfect sense to save money by not having an education system at all, but to put children directly to work in call-centres?

(Subsequently a number of MPs have called for the Northern Ireland investigations to carry on, while demanding the inquiry overlook the clandestine role of the security services in well-publicized political assassinations. There clearly needs to be one law for the baddies and another for the good killers. It’s an insult to our brave boys to pursue them for their murky conspiracies after all this time. After all, there was a war on.*)

So, this morning a report is published by a leading engineer and public safety specialist, looking into the use and application of the building regulations in the wake of the Grenfell Tower fire.

This was not the fabled, judge-led “inquiry” into how 72 people came to lose their lives in that towering inferno, which hasn’t even started yet*, but merely a supportive technical report into building safety, human accountability and the regulatory environment.

Before anyone could possibly have read, let alone understood all 350 densely argued technical pages, the media and politicians – experts all – were stridently demanding the head of Dame Judith Hackett on a platter for failing, seemingly, to do the obvious thing.

Scrap 349 pages of the report and use Page One to call for an immediate ban on the filthy stuff: yes, killer cladding….

Cladding helped spread the fire. But was its use already banned?

Never mind that there are already explicit legal controls on the use of flammable materials in high-rise buildings. Controls that are not being properly enforced, as Dame Judith cogently reports, with local authorities, architects and builders cutting corners and costs. The point being that they need to be properly enforced through a thorough overhaul of the systems for specifying, testing and applying these materials safely, making certain people accountable for failures at every stage of the planning and construction process.

It’s not a cladding issue, so much as an enforcement problem. And Dame Judith argues that until the regulations are more tightly enforced and people made accountable, no amount of banning is going to help.

Tell that to the Marines, as they used to say.

Dame Judith is a serious academic and so failed completely to comprehend her role in all of this, which was simply to go along with the unlettered emotional demands of the lawyers, survivors and families of the victims of the fire, the media and Labour’s shadow housing secretary John Healey, and BAN the filthy stuff, whatever it is.

Just magic it away.

Why they don’t get sick-bitch Katie Hopkins or Trevor fucking Kavanagh of The Sun or Owen Jones and Polly Toynbee of The Guardian to handle these investigations – “experts” who understand that the real issues  are too much immigration, too little social equality, Tory indifference – is not immediately obvious.

It didn’t help either that, when asked three times on BBC Radio 4’s Today show why she did not call for a ban on flammable cladding and solve all of the problem forever, as if Martha Kearney was the only one who had thought of it, Dame Judith stupidly tried three times to explain that banning it was not really the solution, until it sounded as though she was suggesting setting fire to all high-rise buildings.

Sometimes people are too clever for their own good.

It does not help that she is a former director of the Energy Saving Trust, an organization that in the past promoted the use of a similar type of plastic cladding insulation to that which contributed its toxic fumes to the high death toll at Grenfell House. (Guardian report)

Notwithstanding, the regulations already state that it must not be used on high-rise buildings, and Dame Judith’s point is that someone had been responsible for ignoring the regulations, while others had failed to implement safety measures recommended by previous inquiries, such as the mandatory retrofitting of sprinklers, which certain politicians still in office had determined would be too expensive to waste on the poor. Banning polyisocyanurate foam (PIR), she argues, will not help if people were simply going to break the rules.

A subtle distinction which, I fear, does not lend itself to the construction of crowd-pleasing headlines and sensible political statements free from electioneering and media-driven hysteria, pandering to the general ignorance of the public, promoting further socially damaging mistrust of people who do at least know what they’re talking about.

*

*Okay, it started the next day. By one of those astonishing synchronicities for which The BogPo is justly famed, this story resurfaced in the news just 24 hours after I posted the paragraph above about Northern Ireland, and in pretty much the same format as the original, in 2014:

Prosecutions for Troubles-related murders should be brought to a halt, according to Northern Ireland’s former Director of Public Prosecutions. Barra McGrory denounced proposals for a new Historical Investigations Unit (HIU) as “convenient politically”. But he added it had not been properly thought through. In response a UK government spokesman said it was “committed to building widespread consensus and delivering better outcomes”. (BBC News)

Let’s see how long McGrory lasts. Longer than this government, one hopes.

x

A Letter to Rex Tillerson

Former US Secretary of State, retd.

Dear Mr Secretary

You were, I believe, the Secretary of State for the United States government in 2017 exactly a year ago, when President Trump made his much-hailed visit to Riyadh, the capital of Saudi Arabia – and then on to Tel Aviv, the erstwhile capital of Israel?

And the Secretary of State is, correct me if I am wrong, the senior diplomat, consulting on and implementing, if not always driving foreign policy?

Trump waggles his weapon. Was Qatar shafted to the hilt?

I am wondering therefore how you have responded, in your reserved and private fashion, to the emerging news of what might have happened, there in Riyadh and afterwards?

I am referring, obviously in the first instance (we’ll leave Israel out of it for now), to the Qatar affair.

For it seems that while you were supposedly in command of international diplomacy, being constantly undermined by your boss, the following narrative was playing out, very probably without your knowledge.

Qatar, Mr Trump assured us at the time of his visit, was a good friend of the USA and a key ally in the fight against ISIS. He met the Emir, vague promises of $billions in military sales were made for the cameras – it should be remembered that Qatar already hosts the biggest US military base in the Middle East, al Udeid, the forward operations headquarters of Centcom.

On the basis of what is currently suspected rather than definitively known, however, behind the young Emir’s back – and apparently yours, Mr Secretary –  Mr Trump was doing – or soon afterward did – one of his famous “deals” with the Saudis.

The presumption has to be, does it not, that he offered to go ahead with abrogating the Iran nuclear pact in Saudi’s regional hegemonic interest, in exchange for certain services?

(He is, as you well know, apart from Messrs Bolton and Pompeo, two convenient anti-Iran “hawks” he appointed to the senior security and foreign policy posts in his administration just before announcing US withdrawal, the only person in the foreign policy establishments of more than half the world who thinks it is a good idea to abandon the Iran treaty.)

The deal, I believe, was much as follows:

Saudi Arabia under its new Crown Prince, a US shoo-in, and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) would agree to put intolerable pressure on Qatar to meet certain, may we say incoherent, objectives. Economic and trade sanctions, a blockade of essential supplies, closure of the Al Jazeera news services, even military invasion were threatened. America would not be directly involved, but would explicitly support those actions.

Mr Trump in turn would make speeches to his not very bright support base, accusing Qatar of this and that, being a major funder of global terrorism, a secret ally of Iran, etc., etc., undermining their global credibility – especially that of their wealthy international investment community, to whom his comments were clearly addressed.

But why pick on poor little oil-rich Qatar?

Perhaps because Mr Charles Kushner, father of Trump’s son-in-law and “senior White House advisor” in charge of Middle East peace negotiations, the shining booby Jared, had – it’s reported – been lobbying the Qatari sovereign wealth fund, touting for a half-billion dollar investment to bail out his failing property empire in the States.

The Kushners were desperate for cash.

In 2007, while Kushner Sr was in gaol over fraud and witness tampering charges – he sexually blackmailed his own brother-in-law – left in charge, pathetically eager to please, Jared had done a hasty and ill-considered deal to acquire a massive piece of Manhattan real estate, 666 Fifth Avenue, and had caught a serious cold with the financial meltdown that year, incurring debts approaching two billion dollars from which he’s never recovered.

Chinese banks had originally offered rescue finance, but withdrew. On that basis, Qatar felt the Kushners’ credit was not good enough, and also withdrew. Two weeks later, the threats from Riyadh began; boosted in April this year by a further threat, directly from Washington to relocate the vital al Udeid airbase and its 10 thousand US service personnel to another country.

But then, by a fantastic stroke of luck, or in a sensible and informed change of heart, the New York Times reports, having granted Saudi Arabia its reward, not to mention Israel’s, this month Mr Trump began once again hailing Qatar as an important friend and ally. The UAE is backing off and all’s right with the world.

A sudden and, observes MSNBC News, a remarkable turnaround. Well, and how did that happen?

So, Kushner Companies are presumably celebrating the news from Bloomberg that the Qatari sovereign wealth fund is “looking again“ at the many obviously advantageous opportunities presented by becoming a part-owner of Manhattan’s most prestigious, near-empty office block.

Could it be there’s a connection? Nah, it’s too far-fetched. The President start a war just for personal gain? Preposterous! A conspiracy theory. Fake nooze.

(A building, incidentally, over the marketing of hard-to-shift units within which Jared Kushner and his wife, Ivanka Trump were to be indicted for sales misrepresentation – until Mr Trump’s election, when the charge simply melted away, along with all the District Attorneys in New York.)

Mr Secretary, I wonder what you think of this criminal shakedown of a sovereign nation by the most corrupt US president in history? A nation which, we might mention, competes aggressively for major real estate deals around the world?

To bend US government policy to the fraudulent acquisition of public wealth might in some unimaginable but possibly plausible universe at least have benefited the nation.

But to conspire to extort foreign finance purely for the private benefit of his son-in-law, a government official to boot; to blackmail and threaten the existence of a sovereign nation, to risk a regional war leading to a greater conflagration and the security of a major US military facility purely for a sum of money which Mr Trump has extensively boasted he has in his own bank accounts, and much more, is surely a criminal and treasonous enterprise worthy of condign punishment?

Will you please, Mr Tillerson, for God’s sake and that of your benighted Republic, speak up about what you know, or suspect you know about this squalid “deal”?

We can’t hear you, Mr Secretary.

 

Fore!

And why wouldn’t Trump extort money from little Qatar, when as a quid pro quo he’s ordered his consigliere, Wilbur Ross at the Commerce department to lift sanctions on ZTE, a giant Chinese telcoms company he previously accused of ripping off US tech firms, when by an amazing coincidence the Bank of China has just agreed a $500 million loan to finance a resort project in Indonesia featuring Trump-branded hotels and golf courses?

Let’s stop pretending, if we ever did, shall we? His modus operandi is becoming clearer by the day: he is abusing the power of his office and the might and global reach of the USA to extort vast sums of money from corporations and even nations for his own personal gain and that of his crime family.

(The latest one is Ukraine, whose government has reportedly paid $400 thousand into the Cohen slush fund for access to the White House.)

The President of the United States is one big, fucking crook. Not in the usual sense they all have been, one way or another. No, actions speak louder than words. Trump’s methodology is to run the world misusing US foreign policy as a vast protection racket. And to co-opt the American people as his accomplices in crime.

It’s doubtful that even the vast and rambling Mueller probe is going to unseat him, or even prevent him running for and probably winning, a second term in 2020.

Because, like all the best mobsters, Trump is untouchable. His lieutenants may go down, his wheeler-dealing may look heinous, the corruption blatant: but so far, nothing seems to be linking him directly with any actual crimes.

And even if it did, the constitutional issue of whether a President can be indicted for any common criminal activity short of treason remains an open one.

x want to extort money from Qatar

GW: warming her gnarly fingers by the light of the burning windmills

Afghanistan: “At least 40 people have died and 4 injured in flash floods over the last 7 days. Many areas of the country are still struggling with drought conditions after an unusually dry winter. The number of people forced by drought to migrate within the country has reached more than 20,000″ (Edited report from Floodlist, 16 May.) PS: 21May,

An update by Afghanistan Natural Disaster Management Authority (ANDMA) of 20 May reported that the total number of flood related deaths now stands at 72. “The flood situation has worsened over the last few days as heavy rain has continued to fall.”

India: “At least 80 people have died as powerful storms swept through northern India, demolishing houses, uprooting trees as winds turned the skies brown with dust and sand, officials said Monday. More storms are expected in the region this week. Less than 2 weeks ago, similar storms caused 134 deaths and injured another 400. The extreme weather comes amid withering summer heat and approaching monsoon rains.” – Wunderground

Sri Lanka: The “Department of Meteorology said that Anamaduwa, Puttalam, North Western Province recorded 35.3  cm of rain (1 ft) in 24 hours to early 21 May.” (Floodlist). Possibly 5 people have died as a result of flooding and landslides as the island is battered by storms, dumping up to 15 cm of rain a day over several days.

“Far East”: US scientists at NOAA are trying to track a major unexplained source of the globally banned ozone-killing refrigeration-to-aerosols chemicals, CFCs, detected as a result of research showing the ozone holes created in the 1980s aren’t repairing themselves fast enough.

S Korea: flash-floods in and around Seoul, 1 dead, 1 missing as 20 cm of rain falls in 36 hours.

Syria: Heavy rainstorms caused flash-floods in parts of the country, including Banias and Aleppo, on 12 May.

NE Africa: A rare tropical cyclone, Sagar is concentrating in the Gulf of Aden between Yemen and Somalia. Sagar’s main threat is dangerous flash flooding in the deserts of southern Yemen, northern Somalia and Djibouti into the weekend. (The Weather Channel) … “Severe flash flooding and river flooding across the region will lead to a loss of human life, livestock, and the destruction of crops, property and infrastructure. Very heavy rainfall occurring across Western Yemen (linked to, although not directly from the cyclone) is likely to promote cholera infection rates in the weeks ahead.” – (UK Met Office)

16 dead, many missing. On Sunday, forecast models indicated that a disturbance dubbed 92A could develop into an intense hurricane-strength cyclone this week, possibly threatening Oman by late in the week.

N Africa: the town of Setif in Algeria experiences flash-flooding following a heavy rainstorm.

Hold that taiga! Siberia burns, as seen from space. 15 May.

Russia: Vast plumes of smoke are visible from space along the Amur river near Komsomolsk and around Chelyabinsk, blowing towards the Arctic, as Siberia continues to burn out of control after a month of wildfires. (Siberian Times report)

USA: “Severe storms caused major damage in Northeastern USA on 15 May. 2 deaths were reported – an 11-year-old girl in Newburg, New York, the other in Danbury, Connecticut (where 4 tornadoes, 3 at max. TF-1, touched down on 17 May) – as a result of falling trees. Almost 400,000 people were without power in New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Connecticut and Massachusetts. Heavy flooding was reported in parts of Maryland, in particular Montgomery and Fredrick counties, where up to 6 inches of rain fell during the storm. Hail up to 2.5 inches (63.5 mm) was also reported.” (Edited report from Floodlist, 16 May. More “severe” storms are forecast for the midwest at the weekend.)

USA: “…the California Energy Commission has unanimously voted to approve measures requiring solar panels on all new homes, condos and multi-family buildings up to three stories high beginning in 2020. The requirement is a historic first in the United States and is in keeping with the state’s ambitious zero net energy goals to reduce greenhouse emissions.” The decision emerged the same day a 350-page report was released, highlighting rapidly accelerating climate change in the region. – (The Weather Channel.)

Alabama Senator, Mo Brooks distinguished his Republican self in a committee hearing when, while browbeating a climate scientist, he attributed sea-level rise to rocks and stuff falling into the water, “like the White Cliffs of Dover”…

Colombia: severe thunderstorm inundates Medellin. (CEWN #118)

The scene in Guatemala yesterday (Photo: Red Cross)

Guatemala: 10 cm rain in 24 hrs, floods. 2 dead, 80,000 flooded out. (Floodlist, 19, 21 May)

Europe: It’s been snowing in the highlands of central France, the Alps and over into the Balkans. Up in Scandinavia and northwestern Russia there’s a record spring heatwave, with temperatures in Finland and Sweden touching 30 deg C, 85F. Lapland is bracing for its worst spring thaw floods in decades. Severe thunderstorms and torrential rain have brought flash-flooding to parts of the Netherlands and Germany. The town of Bistransky in Croatia was underwater. (CEWN #118)

Germany: on 16 May, during a powerful storm two people were injured by a huge tornado that hit Viersen, near Dusseldorf. (CEWN #119)

UK: Good news, bad news…. “Britain’s windfarms provided more electricity than its 8 nuclear power stations in the first three months of 2018, marking the first time wind has overtaken nuclear across a quarter. Wind power produced 18.8% of electricity, second only to gas …. At one point overnight 17 March, wind turbines briefly provided almost half of the UK’s electricity.” However…

“Funds going into renewable energy fell more than 50% in 2017, having dropped by 10% in 2016, bringing annual investment in the sector to its lowest since the financial crisis in 2008. The environmental audit committee said (16 May) that the government would be unable to meet its pledges on carbon emission reductions if the collapse continued. The MPs also said the government was failing to implement policies to cut emissions. (Reporting: The Guardian)

As if that were not enough, British Environment Secretary, Michael Gove was summoned to Strasbourg earlier in the year to explain Britain’s failure to do anything much about NOx pollution:

“On Thursday morning (17 May), after an apparently unconvincing performance and an extension of the deadline to come up with policies, the UK has now been referred to the European Court of Justice, along with the other big polluters: France, Germany, Hungary, Italy and Romania. The limits set out on air pollution under EU Directive 2008/50/EC had to be met in two stages, by 2005 and 2010, but are still being breached by the referred states as of 2018.” – The Independent.

Insectageddon

Mildly drunk, I’d left some of the dog’s meat out uncovered on the kitchen worktop overnight. This morning it was still there, gently oxidizing, and not a fly to be seen.

Normally after a week of warm sunny weather it’d have turned to fly-egg pie by then. There wasn’t a pregnant bluebottle anywhere in view; not even an egg. It’s late May, and 17 degrees.

Later, I took Hunzi for his usual walk. Apart from a few gnats, I saw no flying insects. No butterflies on the sedum flowers, no bees on the clover. There’s not much out by way of pollen-rich wildflowers, but there’s enough. This time last year we had a minor plague of click-beetles and false-wasps of various kinds feasting on the rotting umbrels of cow-parsley flowers.

No cow-parsley flowers.

Botanists using standard measurements for this and that say Spring is arriving 26 days earlier now than 100 years ago. This year it arrived 26 days late. The last trees – mainly ash – are only just coming into leaf now. Many have abnormal leaf development, while conifers around the sports ground here are massively overproducing cones, often straight out of the bare wood, and the Corsican pines all appear to have developed some kind of browning-off disease.

I think the reason for the lack of insects is not insecticides – we have no commercial or arable farming locally for miles, just sheep. It’s the dislocation of the seasons. Everything evolved in synch, now we have winter arriving in spring, wetter summers colliding with warmer, dryer winters; shorter autumns. Insects and plants evolved to emerge at times beneficial to each other: now the clock is broken.

Either that, or it’s those darned chemtrails. Plus, of course, Planet X Nibiru and the Hawaiian volcano.

A propos of which:

Hawaii’s Big Island increasingly resembles the pit of Hell. But the residents are mostly staying put. (Photo: Express)

“Lava destroyed four more homes and isolated dozens of others in the shadow of the volcano Saturday during a “very active” morning, according to scientists from the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory. It advanced at rates of up to 300 yards per hour.

“It then entered the Pacific Ocean, forming lava haze, or “laze,” as the hot lava hit the ocean, the Star-Advertiser also reported. Residents were warned to stay away from any ocean plumes, as laze sends steam and hydrochloric acid peppered with fine glass particles into the air.”

22 fissures are now spewing molten lava into the air and a major eruption is still a possibility.

Awesome footage:

weather.com/news/news/2018-05-02-hawaii-kilauea-volcano-activity

x

Dissertation

On the Tedium of Buying Stuff From Builders’ Merchants.

When our two nearest branches of the B&Q consumer DIY supplies chain closed two years ago (to “increase our consumer choice”, according to the press release), it left in the town no midrange supplier of useful materials for light amateur building work.

If you needed to buy things like bricks, paviors and fencing panels, timber, doors, paint or sheet materials, the choice came down to, either housewares stores and garden centers stocking none of those items, or the full-blown builders’ and agricultural Trade merchants, with their grudging back-store bins of tools, ironmongery, creosote and useful unexplained small architectural items.

There’s nothing inbetween.

So my new garden wall, all six feet ten of it (it’s taken ten days to get that far) that’s reached its final brick course with just two more bricks still needed – one-and-a-half, actually – and no more cement mortar, was sitting there in the sunshine on a Saturday morning before work (yes, I have work, for now!), inviting me to spend a few hours completing it, had I the requisite supplies (it’s always a fine calculation between ordering too much and too little).

Accordingly, as I wasn’t really needed in an exam room with only ten candidates still sitting, I took an unpaid hour off work to get to a local builders’ merchant I’ve been using for the project in time before they closed – at noon.

Arriving at ten minutes to, I found the front gate half shut. A surly young man warned me to turn around, as they were closing in “two minutes”. Can I have fifty bricks? I asked, having the previous week pre-purchased 250 to finish the wall but, having nowhere they could all be delivered to and stored simultaneously, suggested they hang on to them and I would collect them as needed. “Fifty?” he demanded, incredulously. “But we’re closing now!”

Eventually he relented and started loading the car. There were some other small items needed, but I thought better of going in to the Trade counter and even daring to ask, when obviously they were all hoping to fuck off early, presumably to catch the Royal Wedding… lolz.

This deliberately offensive recalcitrance is just so typical of the builders’ merchants’ anachronistic business model.

It is of course designed to suit the traditional bare-buttocks Trade builder, who doesn’t work weekends. Or doesn’t he? The Ukrainians putting up the 12 million-pound flats next door to my old mum in London worked weekends, evenings too. Drove her barmy. The times, they have a’ changed. Except in the wholesale supply business, obviously.

Who else still closes at 5 p.m. weekdays and noon on Saturdays, just when hardworking householders have done their supermarket shopping and are thinking about getting out and doing stuff around the garden? Here is an obvious consumer market opportunity being missed to suit the recidivist and curmudgeonly jobsworths who populate the building supplies trade.

Usually three or four blokes are hanging around the office area behind the counter, doing what looks suspiciously like nothing much. A phone will be ringing off the wall but no-one takes any notice of it – nor of the two or three crumpled-looking, dust-covered, boiler-suited customers – and you, trying to catch their eye. Instead, the customers catch yours, observing how your lack of a well-filled toolbelt and steel toecapped boots, your unlined face, plaster-dust-free hair and soft hands indicate you’re just another householder imagining you can do a man’s job and thereby save yourself a pittance.

Huh, little do you know!

One sales assistant will be listlessly doing something on an aged computer running Windows 6; another making tea, a third drinking his slowly. A fourth will be laboriously browsing through a trade catalog to find the price of the thing someone asked for, half an hour ago. The phone will be ringing off the wall. None will actually be assisting.

Every request is greeted with much sucking of teeth and rolling of eyes. “Ooh, dunno mate, was it the triple-flanged 4 mil. squiggled wonkin you was wanting, or just the double? Only they don’t make those in brown anymore, purple do you?…”

Endless forms will be generated in triplicate, to be taken along by hand to the warehouse, way across the nine-tenths empty yard, as proof of purchase, plus VAT, where three more blokes doing nothing much will scan them for several long minutes before emitting deep sighs of frustration. “You want it cut to length? Here’s a saw…” Later, they will all guffaw over your CCTV footage.

It’s like finding yourself back in the early 1960s.

How do they do it? B&Q would have been open until 8 p.m. Saturday, and 4 p.m. on Sunday. Even the local recycling center, with its bolshy operatives and Hitlerian foreman is open on a Sunday. With five builders’ merchants in and around the town it’s a miracle how at least four haven’t gone out of business years ago, owing to their infuriatingly lackadaisical approach to customer service and short supplies of almost everything.

Yet miraculously they survive, while the Bs & Qs of this world are increasingly going under. Overpriced and poor quality, it’s no wonder we can’t build affordable homes that don’t leak.

I’d guess the key is, don’t try to be a supermarket unless you’re a supermarket. Builders’ merchants have understood the principle well, and there they still are, curse them, sitting on their grim industrial estates, resolutely closed at every opportunity.

The British love and deserve nothing better than to be monumentally frustrated, a service the builders’ merchants deliver with aplomb.

 

The Pumpkin – Issue 10: It’s so unfair.

“All I ever wanted was to be loved and admired”, said Pumpkin-Trumpkin. “It’s so unfair!”

The tip of the iceberg

It seems a lifetime ago that the worst things Donald Trump was supposed to have been involved with were a phoney ‘University’ offering bogus degrees in estate agency to suckers paying thousands of dollars, clearly a PR program gone wrong;  and his apparent muddling-up of his personal finances – on which he might have been too smart to pay income tax – with those of his companies and his tax-exempt charity foundation, into which he rarely seems to pay anything, but out of which substantial funds seem to go on demand.

The first of those charges went away after he settled $25 million on the New York court to pacify claimants. He had previously also ‘donated’ $25,000 to a political group supporting the Attorney-General of Florida, probably illegally under voting laws, where he has substantial property investments, following which another investigation into the so-called Trump University seems to have sunk into the Gulf. Truly, money can’t buy you love, but it has its uses.

But the story may not yet have ended:

http://www.newyorker.com/news/john-cassidy/trump-university-its-worse-than-you-think

Trump’s persistent refusal to publish his tax returns, expected to show what an unpatriotic, greed-fuelled, mean-spirited old ogre he is, his refusal to ‘recuse’ himself from many of his businesses or, at best, his insolence in placing his unconstitutional business affairs in the more than capable hands of his own children; the relentless plugging of his daughter’s personalised product ranges and his loss-making golf resorts, where he sells access to himself, are not actual crimes,  but merely evidence of the Trumpian ‘exceptionalism’ with which he disdains the world beyond Trump Inc. and abuses the office of President.

The strange thing about his character, The Pumpkin observes, is that for a Trustafarian born into a wealthy family, who need never have worked in his life, Trump acts at all times like an ass-poor Jewish or Italian migrant clawing his way out of the mean streets of the 1910s Bowery, willing to do absolutely anything, anything at all to survive. Values possibly inherited from his immigrant grandfather, who founded the family fortune from a brothel in the Klondyke.

His recent statements about Putin ‘the killer’ and how we know killers also exist in America may very well be an example of one of his famous Freudian ‘transferences’, wherein his many sweeping accusations against others are really a reflection of his own preoccupations. And his admiration for North Korea’s murderous Great Leader, Kim Jong-un, centres on the young – ‘what was he, 26? 27?’ – Kim having had the strength and resilience to ‘take over his father’s business’… just like you-know-who! Being a psychopath who had his uncle torn to pieces by starving dogs… well, that’s business.

Not a lot of attention has recently been paid to Mr Trump’s alleged inherited connections with former organised crime syndicates, which his father Fred Trump is said to have made back in the 1940s and ’50s while growing his New York property empire.

It’s considered unlikely that any developer would survive in a climate of intimidation and ruthless control over the supply of labour and materials without making accommodation with the city’s now legitimised old Sicilian families. Mr Trump has often been photographed at charity events in the company of one Joey ‘No Socks’ Cinque, a convicted art thief now an organiser of social occasions.

One of his earliest advisors, now dead, was the notorious Roy Cohn, of the notorious McCarthy trials, an attorney working for the mob who did dirty legal work, using the law and worse to crush the young Trump’s many opponents. Trump was also associated on the building sites with ‘Fat Tony’ Salerno, a convicted racketeer supplying concrete (!) at inflated prices; and with other known members of the Genovese family. I expect none of this material, widely available by Googling ‘Trump, mob’, has ever been proved in a court of law, even if such associations are in themselves illegal.

You see, Mr Trump is above all else a pragmatist. Don’t take my word for it, even the UK’s alt-right Daily Mail was shocked:

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-3716125/How-Trump-Mob-offer-not-refuse-killing-building-skyscraper-Donald-s-shrewdest-investment-MAFIA.html

Then there is his expressed admiration for President Vladimir Putin and his curiously gracious attitude towards Russia, the old enemy. Agreed, some thawing of relations would be nice. We don’t want another Cold War, another arms race. But there is a growing belief in the media – as The Pumpkin has been speculating for months – that somehow, Mr Trump may have got himself in a spot of bother financially with hard-nosed elements in the Moscow kleptocracy; the implication being that he is now effectively owned by it. It has nothing to do with ‘golden showergate’, or whatever the kompromat is being called, any politician would survive that sort of gossip nowadays.

At least six of Mr Trump’s campaign team are now alleged to have had contacts with Russian ‘diplomats’ before the election, a matter which is under investigation by the FBI to see whether there is a connection between those meetings, any possible breaches of State security, and the alleged hacking of the Democratic Party’s email servers. Mr Trump has hit back in characteristically bullish fashion by seizing on a story prefabricated by ranting shock-jock attorney, Mark Levin, passed to one of his most trusted sources, InfoWars, the barely-literate blog of crazed far-right vlogtroll Alex Jones and favourite reading of delusionary neofascist teenage baboons, and picked up by Breitbart News, the nihilist website co-founded by Mr Trump’s trusted consigliere, Steve Bannon and Mr Trump’s favourite, probably indeed his only, reading.

At six a.m. on Sunday, Trump was to be found tweeting, without a shred of evidence, that his predecessor, Barack Obama, the 44th President, had ordered the hacking of the phones in Trump Tower. The accusation bordered on paranoia, but may have been inspired by some vague memory of having met Rupert Murdoch. As only the FBI, CIA and other security agencies can legally (and physically) do that, hack phones; and require a warrant from a special closed FISA court that, if applied for, seems not to have been granted, FBI Director Comey has had to step in to say it’s nonsense; another intervention that has left Mr Trump no doubt screaming at his subordinates and kicking his little feet in fury.

In the past week, the journalist Rachel Maddow, broadcasting on MSNBC, has drawn attention to no fewer than three more matters of grave concern, any one of which if proven could potentially see Mr Trump not only impeached, but jailed for a considerable period of time. Again, all are extensively referenced by reputable online sources.

The first concerns Trump’s former campaign manager, Paul Manafort. Mr Manafort had to be ‘let go’ after it was revealed he had benefited to the tune of $12.7 million from his advisory relationship with Viktor Yanukovitch, the sticky-fingered Ukrainian president and Putin crony, who fled the country with, it’s said, $27 billion in public funds during the short-lived Kiev revolution in 2014. Manafort reportedly set up a number of small companies in Ukraine linked via Mossack-Fonseca in Panama with offshore investment trusts in the British Virgin Islands. One of his biggest investors was another Putin crony, Oleg Deripaska (net worth $5.1 billion), who was in for $19 million. Mr Deripaska was reportedly not happy when Mr Manafort reneged on his obligations to investors.

http://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2016/aug/16/donald-trump-campaign-paul-manafort-ukraine-yanukovich

http://www.theguardian.com/news/2016/apr/03/what-you-need-to-know-about-the-panama-papers

Other accusations of Russian money-laundering via Manafort’s shell companies have not so far stood up, but the tale is a murky one. And it has been noted that not a few Russian diplomats and businessmen having any possible knowledge of these affairs have suddenly died from natural causes, such as falling off tall buildings, since Trump came to power; or been recalled to Moscow.

One of the latter was Konstantyn Kylymnyk, a dual Ukrainian-Russian national and a known associate of Manafort’s, who is reported to have been present at a Trump rally where the Presidential candidate departed from an arranged speech to call for a halt to US military aid to Ukraine to help the elected government with its fight against the Russian military supporting rebels in the eastern Donbass region. Trump and Manafort initially denied making the decision to change the speech, but later Trump said it had been his, although he would give no explanation.

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/europe/russia-diplomats-deaths-theories-putin-kremlin-a7602201.html

Mr Trump is reported to have suffered an alarming meltdown at Mar-a-Lago over the weekend, ranting and raging and reducing staffers to tears, over the news that emerged shortly after his address to Congress that his Attorney General, Jeff Sessions, had ‘fessed up to meetings with the Russian ambassador, which he had previously denied under oath. Not because of what Mr Sessions may have done, according to the leaks, but because by confessing when he did, he stole Trump’s Congressional thunder!

http://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/inside-trumps-fury-the-president-rages-at-leaks-setbacks-and-accusations/2017/03/05/40713af4-01df-11e7-ad5b-d22680e18d10_story.html?utm_term=.5faf4faf7817

Mr Trump is perhaps understandably nervous about investigations that might attract attention to any personal dealings with Russia and its business community, that he publicly swears he never has had.

He recently appointed an ‘old friend’ of the family, Wilbur Ross to his team, in the important role of Commerce Secretary. Mr Ross (net worth $2.8 billion) was until 1 March a Director, vice-chair of Bank of Cyprus, where a number of sanctioned Russian so-called oligarchs close to Mr Putin (net worth $100 billion?) are thought to have private accounts through which they ‘clean up’ their ill-gotten gains by investing in legal entities abroad, such as property in Central London and New York. Excerpting from an original investigation by DCReport.org, the Daily Beast reports the following:

“The records Henry (a former McKinsey consultant now specialising in investigating corrupt banking practices)  combed through show that Ross and his team invested more than $1 billion in the troubled Bank of Cyprus. Ross became one of two vice chairmen of the bank. Putin appointed the other….”

http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2017/02/27/wilbur-ross-is-still-another-trump-cabinet-pick-with-underexamined-russian-ties.html

http://www.mcclatchydc.com/news/politics-government/article135001434.html

The chairman of the bank is Dr Joseph Ackermann, former CEO of Deutsche Bank, from whom Mr Trump reportedly borrowed $640 million in 2007 for a hotel development in Chicago and then at the height of the financial crisis declined to pay $340 million of it back, countersuing the bank for lending it to him in the first place. Dr Ackermann was in charge at the time Deutsche Bank was fined a record amount for money-laundering:

“On that chairman’s watch, Deutsche Bank paid $20 billion in fines. Among these was a $650 million fine for helping launder Russian money through Deutsche Bank offices in Moscow, New York City and Cyprus…. Deutsche Bank is Trump’s largest known lender, having extended him more than $300 million of loans that remain outstanding.” (Ibid.)

See also:

http://www.theguardian.com › Business › Deutsche Bank: How Donald Trump Became Deutsche Bank’s Biggest Headache

Clearly, if nothing else the President of the United States is deeply compromised by this adverse relationship between his debt and a foreign bank branch in Moscow.

Another Putin crony owning 10% of Bank of Cyprus is Dmitry Rybolovlev, who reputedly paid Mr Trump $100 million for a derelict, sprawling property in Florida, that Trump had paid $40 million to acquire just two years earlier. There is no suggestion that Mr Trump profited from the laundering of $60 million, but as he never lived there you would imagine he must have paid quite a corporation tax bill! The property was allegedly in such poor condition that it had to be demolished shortly afterwards. The money apparently came from Bank of Cyprus accounts.

MSNBC, the New York Times and many others report that Mr Rybolovlev, the ‘Fertiliser King’ (net worth $10 billion) has been sighted several times parking his impressive private jet on the same US airfields where the secondhand Trump Boeing was also parked while the Presidential candidate was on the campaign trail, and not so far apart; coincidence no doubt, perhaps Mr R. is simply a fan of Trump’s; a wealthy stalker. Perhaps he just wants his money back.

http://www.palmerreport.com/news/dmitry-rybolovlev-who-keeps-flying-in-to-meet-donald-trump-owns-russian-money-laundering-bank/1692

In the latest revelations, so outrageous that they could finally sink the legend of The Donald, it is alleged in a widely requoted article in the New Yorker magazine today that a phoney deal was set up using Ivanka as a go-between to build a ‘luxury’ Trump hotel in the former Soviet republic of Azerbaijan, a hideous tower-block wits like myself might christen The Toenail, seemingly located next to a traffic intersection in a poor and grimy uptown suburb of Baku, with no sea view and no road access, that has turned into an abandoned ‘white elephant’ project since Trump became President.

The Trump connection there, the other partner, seems to have been a family business owned by billionaire Azeri transport minister Ziya Mammadov (official salary $12,000 a year) – a man with known financial connections to the brutal and repressive Iranian Revolutionary Guard, an organisation named as a sponsor of terrorism, which is thought to have put up the money for the project – they’ve got lots, apparently, and as sanctions prevent them spending it abroad they go in for these prestige development projects through wealthy intermediaries.

ForeignPolicy.com (among many others) reports:

http://www.foreignpolicy.com/2017/03/06/trump-hotel-in-baku-partnered-with-notoriously-corrupt-oligarch-with-ties-to-iranian-revolutionary-guard-corps-new-yorker-report-azerbaijan-iran-corruption-conflict-of-interest-mammadov

But why would the Revolutionary Guard be so stupid as to invest in a loss-making turkey like the Trump Toenail?

Only if the price was not, what you might say, the actual price, and the (possibly quite large – see ‘Florida mansion’) – discrepancy could be invested onwards in weapons and oil without busting the sanctions on Iran.

Poor Donald never seems to have his lawyers do due diligence on his business deals; he only uses them to silence his opponents and creditors.

http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2017/03/13/donald-trumps-worst-deal

The $64,000 question (how antiquated that figure now sounds!) is, can he be tied to these deals?

No US President in history, not even Nixon, surely has a record of corruption allegations, dubious associates and shitty deals as long, as devious, as vicious, as expensive and as global as this; all of which has yet to be proven in a court of law, but seems to be widely and confidently documented by a growing range of independent sources. Surely, the Republicans in Congress cannot go on ignoring the evidence out of blatant self-interest?

Yet millions of Americans still believe Trump genuinely stands for the little guy and the American way, for higher wages and full employment and cheaper, better healthcare, and all the other bullshit promises, and are not interested in hearing about any of this: it’s all ‘Fake news’. Obama and Hillary Clinton are the real villains; the media is the ‘enemy of the people’.

In 2005 a 65-year-old British businessman, Christopher Tappin, was jailed in the USA for 33 months after a lengthy extradition process, for selling a consignment of batteries potentially for use in Iranian missiles during a ‘sting’ operation by US federal authorities.

“Tappin was flown to El Paso, Texas via Houston and incarcerated in Otero County jail in New Mexico before his first court hearing. At his own request, he was held in isolation. He appeared in court on 29 February wearing an orange-colored prison jumpsuit, handcuffed and in shackles.” – Wikipedia

Can we ever see Mr Trump in an orange jumpsuit and shackles? Well, the batteries (35) were for use with the Hawk air-to-air missile, a system sold to Iran by the US military during the Reagan administration. Nobody thought to dress Mr Reagan in an orange jumpsuit, so it seems unlikely.

Not even his ‘measured’ speech to Congress, outlining his budget ambitions to give a $trillion tax cut to the rich and grossly bloat the defense budget for the benefit of contractors while gouging the poor and the sick and the immigrants, could possibly convince anyone of his real intentions; but the Dumbfucks just can’t, won’t listen. Nobody likes to accept they’ve been played like a well-tuned fiddle, not even when their mortgages are being foreclosed, their healthcare stripped away and their rivers polluted by Trump’s closest associates.

And this man is in charge of US foreign policy towards Iran.

I sometimes wonder what would have happened if a deaf-blind orang-utan had run for office with a placard around its neck promising to ‘make America great again’.

But we know, don’t we.

Secretly we know.

 

What crawled out from under a…

One of Trump’s longtime buddies is a key White House advisor.

Likely substance abuser, Roger Stone, 64, has publicly called Hillary Clinton a ‘cunt’ and called for her execution. He uses vile racist and sexist language just to shock. He has inveighed against journalists with abusive tweets which he then retracts, claiming he doesn’t realise anyone else can read them.

He is currently busy, abusing anyone who fails to go along with Trump’s paranoid claim, based on nothing more than crazy tales on the neo-fascist  fake-news website he relies on most (after Murdoch’s Fox News) for info, Breitbart, that the devil, Obama, tapped the Presidential candidate’s phone (although he appears to have done nothing at all with the information he may thereby have gleaned!).

Mr Trump has stated, again by Tweet, a communications channel designed for airheads with ADHD, like himself, that he does not believe FBI Director James Comey when he says there is no truth in the allegation against President Obama. In other words, he trusts Breitbart – and the other crazed alt-right sieg-heiling teenage baboon-fodder websites – more than he trusts his own security services. No wonder they’re conspiring against him.

But of course it’s all a smokescreen to draw attention away from the alarming volcano of evidence linking the President with Russian and Iranian sanctions-busting, money-laundering activities (see above).

Stoned has also claimed (again retracted) to have a ‘back-channel’ to Julian Assange of Wikileaks (the slimy, self-regarding Australian narcissist, Assange is currently serving an indefinite prison sentence he imposed on himself when he took refuge four years ago in the basement of the Ecuadorian embassy in London to escape arrest and extradition to Sweden… (yeah, I know, that place again…) on a rape charge.

And lo, Wikileaks appears to have dedicated its sorry existence to taking down the American State – supporting Trump by channelling Russian hacks against the Clinton campaign, and now revealing the CIA’s innermost secrets as to how it is intruding into your internet-enabled kettle and hiding inside your TV to spy on you; a boot stamping on a human face forever, as Orwell put it.

Under any other circumstances one might applaud those ‘Snowdonian’ revelations, as we are broadly opposed to the Stasi State, so it sounds a mite hypocritical to criticise Wikileaks for it now.

But when it is done in the service of getting a so-called President elected who is doing, and licensing the doing by servile, crapulous and profoundly corrupt Republican Congressmen of so many horrible things, on the off-chance his gratitude will run to springing Assange with the co-operation of his new friend Theresa May, possibly in exchange for some shitty trade deal she is desperate for, under the noses of the Metropolitan Police and spiriting him away to America, where the other rather serious charges of hacking State Department intel will be dropped, The Pumpkin feels justified in taking a more high-minded Statist attitude than usual.

The reptilian Mr Stone is clearly someone who shares Trump’s complete lack of boundaries and his total moral relativism. They are, to put it mildly, visibly a matching pair of bunco-artists, lying their hideous old heads off and deliberately creating carnage and chaos, hollowing-out American institutions, even the State Department, that they hope will lead to a world better fitted for insatiable moguls to go on raping and pillaging, in which you and I become little more than servile wretches stunned by cultural mediocrity and surrounded by environmental devastation while they compete to become the first trillionaires on Mars.

Fuck ’em.

http://www.mediamatters.org/research/2016/05/09/comprehensive-guide-trump-ally-roger-stone-racist-sexist-conspiracy-theorist/210303

 

Lock him up. Then execute him.

Maybe Scott Pruitt, the butcher of Oklahoma, could be persuaded to perform the honours?

After all, former governor Pruitt will shortly be looking for a job. Excited Republicans in Congress have already brought forward a bill, abolishing his Environment Protection Agency.

As we know, his employer, President Trump has stated his belief that climate change is ‘bullshit – a Chinese conspiracy’.

The fact this grotesque, pig-ignorant arsehole is in the White House has greenlighted a bunch of dumbfuck Republicans to imagine they have a right to murder your children, deny life to your grandchildren, to massively increase the marginal profits of giant corporations that continue to rape the planet of its resources, starve its people and poison the air while paying massive bribes to keep those criminal fuckers, congenital cretins and fascist kleptocrats in office.

(Yes, I’ve had a couple of glasses of wine. So what?)

‘The Swamp’. That puddle of anoxic scum that comprises the paid lobbyists and Princeton-educated denizens of well-funded ‘think-tanks’ that reacts viscerally, ever alert to any criticism of their paymasters to instantly respond with pre-prepared slimy lies and obvious cunning distortions, to paint their honest opponents with grotesque dishonesties, heedless of the threat to life on Earth. That’s someone else’s problem.

Oh, but look, silly climate scientists can’t agree on whether it might rain tomorrow or the next day! They’re just trying to get bigger grants. They all want to put your taxes up, as well as their own. Look, it’s snowing! So they’re all wrong!

It’s fucking la-la-land.

The Swedish chemist (that foreign country AGAIN!) Walter Arrhenius discovered the ‘greenhouse effect’ of carbon dioxide emissions, 108 years ago. Some conspiracy. Almost as long-running as the gerrymandering, hypocritical fake-politics, the pork-barrel that is the Republican party.

And any position that fails to recognise the logic of the argument that says whatever is the cause of the problem, we should not be putting more CO2 into our thin sliver of breathable atmosphere than we already have, is a dangerously false position.

But look. We know that Exxon’s in-house people were fully aware of the probable consequences of continuing to burn fossil fuels back in the 1990s. A policy decision was taken, not just to bury the findings, but to actively campaign against anyone repeating them. The travesty has gained so much traction since, that the majority of poorly educated but emotionally sensitive baboons surveyed now refuse to believe ANY experts, in ANY field of research; and vote for any moron that agrees.

So, hard cheese, you’re all going to die, your obese, shaven-headed, tattooed little scumrat kids too, texting their dying prayers, they won’t have time to breed your grandkids – and sooner than you think.

If you think I’m exaggerating the scale of the denial problem, I recommend you all to watch ALL of the documentary film linked below. (I know, my blog is preaching to the converted. Tell your enemies.)

Anglo-Dutch Shell is one of the world’s oldest and biggest oil companies. Since the 1930s, off-and-on, it has been sponsoring serious documentary films about our world. As they themselves say:

“The company created its Shell Film Unit 80 years ago under the guidance of the UK’s most influential documentary film-maker of the time, John Grierson (1898 – 1972). One of the first to see the power of motion pictures to educate and shape opinion, Grierson is still widely regarded (a copywriter, I’d have used ‘revered’, more accurate. Ed.) as the father of the documentary today.

“The films Shell produced set out to inform and entertain, using action and animation to explain the mechanical marvels of the age to a wide audience. They demonstrated how people around the world could overcome challenges in health, food and transport. The intention was not to advertise Shell’s brands: the film-makers consciously took a journalistic approach, and the company name and pecten logo appeared only at the end of films.” – Shell website.

In 1991, probably by mistake, it made this short film called ‘Climate of Concern’. It is the most reasoned, calm and lucid exposition of the climate problem EVER. (I contend that one of the problems scientists today have in getting across the urgency of the situation is how lousy and amateurish they are at communicating.) The scientific equipment shown is primitive, compared with what climatologists have now. But more compelling for that.

And it is absolutely, totally, 100 per cent believable, because it comes from the OIL INDUSTRY ITSELF.

I promise you, there is nothing scientists are saying now, and that criminal lunatics like Donald Jesus H. Trump are not desperately trying to deny, that was not fully known about in 1991, 26 years ago; and that has not been coming true since. (If you believe the story that there was a ‘hiatus’ in warming in the 2000s, you’re wrong. That was also a lie. The global average temperature has increased in EVERY MONTH since 1988, without exception. At the time the film was made, the annual average temperature was just 0.5% over what they think it was in 1880. Today, it’s 1.67% above what they KNOW it was. Temperature anomalies of +30 deg C were recorded this winter in the Arctic; +20 deg C in the waters of the North Pacific.)

Here in this 26-years-old documentary film sponsored by one of the world’s largest and oldest oil companies are: the problem, the probable consequences of the problem, and some possible solutions that we have totally failed to implement until now, thanks to industrial slaughtermen like the self-interested billionaire shitty coal-mining lobby-funding Koch Brothers and the smarmy, serious, handsome-looking bilgerat and pal of the Kremlin, Rex ‘Sexy Rexy’ Tillerson, late of Exxon-Mobil’s filthy global deals department, now (for God’s sake! Are you mad?) Secretary of State of the fucking United States.

And these shitbrains you put in the White House: these cynical, compulsively lying, money-obsessed, bullying, mentally diseased, life-denying, anaerobic bottom-feeding monsters with their military faces and snow-capped heads and suppositories up their asses you think in your fathomless dumbass ignorance are representing you and your best interests, who are going to put right all the terrible things their predecessors did to make you poorer and denied you more iPhones and health insurance and 32-ounce steaks and fucking 50-inch TFT TV sets with endless garbage gameshows and tacky car-showroom ads, these treacherous but engagingly incompetent inhuman succubi from Hell’s inner circle, along with your criminal President and his ‘policy’ cunts: the life-sucking wife-beater Bannon, the teenage college werewolf Miller, they too deserve no better fate than to allow Scott Pruitt to experiment on their writhing animate corpses with fucking useless chemicals from Amazon.us, to try to exterminate them before the warders go on overtime.

Watch this film, and get your pitchforks out and sharpened, because YOU’RE BEING EXPERTLY LIED TO:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vTlYYlRN0LY

Thank you.

The Boglington Post: Another Enormous Brexit Lie…. Not Feeling Hungary… Death by Financial Services… + Bonus material

Suck it up, Brexwits.

So call me a liar, punk –  if you’re elite enough.

“Liam Fox, the international trade minister, accepted last week he did not know of any new free trade deal that did not also include liberalisation of migration rules between the two countries signing such agreements.” – The Guardian, 10 February.

Another enormous Brexit lie

The principal reason people voted to Leave the EU last June was, of course, a mass outbreak of cretinism.

Definitive, detailed research carried out for the BBC last month showed conclusively that those voting for Brexit were, as I suspected all along,  a confused rabble of credulous, self-deluding, elderly dimwits and skinhead internet trolls who had failed their GCSEs, left school at 12 and flunked the police entry exam, but nevertheless thought they had a perfect right to decide the future of the country based on their detailed knowledge of Daily Mail front-page headlines over the previous thirty years.

Asked generally by none-too-scrupulous pollsters why they had voted Leave, of course 99 per cent of them mentioned that there was too many of them furrin immigrants comin’ ‘ere, being housed at the public expense, claiming asylum, spreading diseases, starting-up successful tech companies, propping up the NHS, chewing garlic and generally driving down wages.

Enthusiastically taking up this theme, basing her profound knowledge of the public mind purely on an ‘in-out’ vote with no room whatever for grey areas, Mrs May, the enigmatic Prime Minister, a shoe-in (haha) from leafiest Thameside villaville, announced that ‘regaining control of our borders’ by massively reducing inward migration from friendly EU countries was ‘The Will of the People,’ and vowed to follow the rubric to the letter.

Now we’ve discovered it was another massive voter fraud. A fraud, that is, on the mass of voters.

Because the best estimates we’re getting, now Parliament has lent its sovereign voice to the Dictatorship of the Proletariat, indicate that inward migration ‘might’ fall by 15 per cent or so, only it’s not possible to say how much it might also go up by at the same time, if we have to let in hordes of American refugees fleeing the police state of Der Trumpenführer in exchange for repatriating Ford Motors’ Dagenham plant to Deerborn, Michigan, where they can make American cars great again, wid’ fins an’ all.

(Kindly note that in one of his unread Executive Orders, the Orange Precedent has proposed to close down the agency responsible for consumer protection. Yes, he has. Another of his Execution Orders effectively abolishes any local oversight of animal welfare. What kind of monster have you elected, American baboons, who can’t even sign his own name but just draws a picture of a spring unravelling, and hates dogs, cats and horses?)

I’ve been asking the question of my beloved Spammers, Likers, Followers and those no longer reading (25 yesterday, what’s going on, Man?) for over three years:

“What is the point of replacing a working set of trading arrangements that allow us to operate pretty much anywhere within a safe framework to quality standards we helped to design, with instead a ragbag of hopeful, one-off deals with nasty countries that manufacture dangerous electrical fittings and children’s toys with metal spikes for eyes, who will be out to screw us?” (Something like that, I seldom quote myself accurately.)

Now the Fantastic ‘Dr’ Fox, our Bounceback Brexit Business Baboon and ‘disgraced former defence minister’ (New Statesman) has had to admit, he can’t stop vast numbers of foreign fuckers swarming in from darkest Turkey in the wake of some terrible deal to export fridge-magnets to Ankara.

I warned you about this character. I told you he shows more loyalty to the USA than he does to you, and you wouldn’t fucking listen.

So suck it up, Brexwits.  Migrants is a comin’.

Only you won’t know where from!

Sorry folks, party’s over.

Feeling too elated this weekend? Annoying joyousness of the heart? Spring in your step? Love in the air? Need bringing down to earth with a bump?

http://arctic-news.blogspot.co.uk/

Nice knowing you.

Not Feeling Hungary

I’ve been reading about a little village adrift somewhere out on the Great Gromboolian Plain that has passed new by-laws and put up official-looking road signs banning Muslims and all displays of Islamic culture. According to the BBC report:

“The new local legislation bans the wearing of Muslim dress like the hijab and the call to prayer and also outlaws public displays of affection by gay people. Changes are also being brought in to prevent the building of mosques, despite there being only two Muslims living there currently.” http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-38881349

Laszlo Toroczkai is the mayor of Asotthalom, “a remote village in the southern Hungarian plains, situated around two hours from the capital Budapest.” He says:

“We primarily welcome people from western Europe – people who wouldn’t like to live in a multicultural society,”  he told the BBC. “We wouldn’t like to attract Muslims to the village.”

We are not told how many gay people there are in the village, or how many people from western Europe it attracts to live there, but it reminds me of the long-running joke in the show Little Britain about Dafydd, the only gay in Llanddewi Brefi (a small village in mid-Wales, small Welsh villages being known for their intolerance of difference, apparently. As an Englishman I’ve occasionally felt that too.)

It’s possible the two Muslims go around holding hands, behaviour between male friends that is totally accepted in Muslim countries and not really at all gay, although it might look it. Or maybe they’re actually buggering one another silly, we aren’t told.

Now, the Hungarian metropolitan elite is dubious about the legality of all this, arguing that it’s racist and against the constitution. But is it? There’s a history of vicious persecution of religious minorities in Hungary going back more than a thousand years.

Hungarians are either a proud warrior race, or a bunch of nasty, intolerant thugs, depending on your point of view. Mr Toroczkai puts it thus:

“We can see large Muslim communities in western Europe that haven’t been able to integrate – and we don’t want to have the same experience here,” he says. “I’d like Europe to belong to Europeans, Asia to belong to Asians and Africa to belong to Africans. Simple as that.” (Ibid.)

As ordered, presumably, in the Bible. There’s clearly not a lot of logic in the idea that people who are barely represented on the demographic map should not be allowed to live somewhere because they can’t integrate in numbers, integration being a two-way process, but ignorance and intolerance make strange bedfellows. I’d have trouble integrating with small Hungarian villagers and I’m white and Western. So would you.

The total Muslim population of Hungary is only 5,500 – a little over zero per cent. The majority polled regard themselves as Hungarian. It wasn’t always so. I’m grateful to muh gudfriend, Ms Vicky Pedia, for the information that – the history is complicated – Muslims first arrived in Hungary in the 10th century, practically before the West existed, and have been there ever since.

Even then, when there were only around 30 Islamic settlements in the whole country, Muslims were persecuted.

“In the 11th century, St. Ladislaus and later Coloman passed laws against the non-Christians (Synod of Szabolcs). These laws subdued Islam by coercing Muslims to eat pork, go to Church and intermarry and to forbid them from celebrating Friday. – en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Islam_in_Hungary

Any Muslim caught, basically, not eating pork or offering it to their guests  could be dragged off to Budapest for a dressing-down from the king, while the informant would be granted a share of their property. These rules were pretty extreme and quite similar to laws in other European countries passed against their Jewish minorities. But they kick-started the Hungarian goulash industry.

In the 16th century, large parts of Hungary were under Ottoman (Islamic) rule and apparently integrated. The Ottoman Grand Vizier, Kanijeli Siyavuş Pasha (d. 1602), was a Hungarian-born Muslim. In 1944 Hungary was occupied by Germans. 800,000 Jews were killed before Hungary was ‘liberated’ by the Soviet army. Stalin relentlessly persecuted Muslims, but the Germans courted them as allies and potential supporters in the eradication of the Jews – although hundreds of Muslims in Eastern Europe were accidentally murdered by SS ‘Einsatzgrüppen’ goons who couldn’t tell the difference just from a short-arm inspection, both Muslims and Jews being Semitic peoples practising circumcision.

The collaboration with the Nazis led to reprisals after the war and may very well be partly the cause of modern Islamophobia in the east. (History Today – http://www.historytoday.com/david-motadel/muslims-hitlers-war)

With the arrival through Greece of hundreds of thousands of refugees from the Syrian civil war moving north towards Hungary, and the passing of welcome-in quotas by the Council of Europe, of which Hungary is supposedly a member, Hungarian “Christian” sensitivities have once again been outraged and, encouraged by the re-election of the authoritarian nationalist, Viktor Orban,  racial purity defended on the Right. A fence was hastily thrown up to keep the desperate Syrians out.

But the persecution of religious minorities had already begun again.

In 2011, Hungary passed its notorious  Law on the Right to Freedom of Conscience and Religion, which does not include the right of Muslims to any such freedoms. “It recognizes only 14 religious groups. Islam is not included in this list and Muslims have to apply to get official recognition.” (Wiki.)

“It’s very important for the village to preserve its traditions” says Mr Toroczkai. Presumably he means the traditions of persecution rather than the traditions of actually being an Islamic republic. “If large numbers of Muslims arrived here, they would not be able to integrate into the Christian community.” (I know, you’re making mayonnaise, you put in too much oil…)

To which one can only wonder, why the hell should they ‘integrate’?

What’s so great about Christians, that they go around persecuting minorities of two, for holding hands on a Friday? I suppose it’s only a matter of time before some prissy little postcard village in England or Germany starts putting up signs banning whoever, whatever.

Metropolitan elitists, possibly?

I don’t recall Western countries putting up razor-wire fences when a quarter of a million Hungarians fled from the advancing Red Army tanks during the 1956 Soviet putsch against a peaceful centrist revolt. Britain took in 27 thousand.

Fuck ’em, send ’em back, useless spongers.

(News just in: residents of Leipzig have started putting up a fence unofficially around a refugee resettlement centre.)

Death by Financial Services

Maybe I’ve wrote about this before.

Since my mum died in December, I’ve been on a twin-track strategy of trying to clear her apartment so the new landlords can send in workmen to turn it from a slum created by the previous landlord into a £6,000 a month Central London cash cow, or possibly a multimillion pounds demolish-and-rebuild luxury sale proposition; while at the same time ploughing through boxes and boxes of yellowing tragic papers I’ve lugged back to my tiny sitting-room to try to find anything left of the £130,000 she was apparently worth just 13 years ago so we can all get a break from Brexit and Trump for a couple of weeks.

It’s been pretty dispiriting on both fronts, without even beginning to consider that my amazing mum just died, leaving me a chain-smoking, whisky-drinking, 92-year-old friend short of a Christmas party for two. I’m a rather elderly orphan now, living on my own with just Hunzi and Katz.

That’s a bit of a lifestyle changer, knowing you’re next on the list.

Most dispiriting is that in terms of her finances, her total net worth when she died was probably less than £3,000; the final numbers aren’t in, but we sold pretty well everything; while the £130,000 investment bond side of the financial equation ended up as worth just £102 when you take away fees and redemption penalties. And to think that once upon a yesteryear, after months of battling my stepfather in the High Court, she actually owned two properties in Knightsbridge.

For about five minutes.

£102 is not a lot to show for 70 years of exposure to professional financial advisors, a breed of optimistic middle-aged ex-merchant-banking baboons it behoves every single young person to understand they should avoid and ignore and shun and disparage and mock and throw stones through their chintzy Sunningdale windows and write rude words on their gated compound walls throughout their lives, if they know what’s good for them.

That’s a list of not-to-go-nears, including: bank managers, credit card issuers, solicitors, accountants, tax consultants, Independent Financial Advisors (IFA = I know Fuck-All), Chancellors of the Exchequer, fund managers, stockbrokers, insurance underwriters and actuaries, financial PRs and marketing people, City journalists, company agents, estate agents, property developers, share tipsters, taxi drivers – and, finally, ex-husbands; all of whom have been to a special school where they teach you to exude overwhelming confidence and knowing sophistication without a shred of expertise or knowledge to back it up: a School for Scoundrels (it was a movie. See it.)

And they all get a special dark green polyester tie with a bold crest you’ll come to think of as a perfect target, to wear along with the blazer with the shiny buttons.

Anyone, in short, who affects to be able to predict the financial future with such certainty as to dare to advise you what to do with that £50 windfall you got from Auntie Ethel on your birthday. Don’t listen, they’re lying to you. Spend it now on something you like, anything, before the Financial Services industry gets its sticky mitts on it.

You’d do better giving it away to a rough sleeper. At least it won’t end up being invested by an ‘expert’ in fucking BP shares, like mine did.

There’s a financial instrument known as an ISA, a partly tax-exempt savings scheme with a grudgingly generous upper limit cooked up by some previous government money-baboon to encourage saving and boost bank liquidity. Once upon a time an ISA would generate a few tens of pounds a year in tax-free interest. No longer: the interest rate on a typical ISA is nowadays less than half of one percent and still dropping. Inflation is at two per cent.

But it could still go lower. Would you have known when you created it that you might end up actually paying the bank to hold your £15,000 ISA? Take it out,  mate. Invest it in a campervan, certain types such as the VW Caravanette hold their value remarkably well and may even appreciate over time. (Warning: investments may go down as well as up, as if. You may lose your house if you do not keep up the unaffordable repayments. Terms and conditions apply, naturally.)

Only, don’t take my word for it. I’ve still got the ISA.

(to be continued)

Suffer little children

I’m sorry, some news just makes me mad as hell.

“The private security company G4S is to take over from a children’s charity the contract to provide welfare support to detained families facing deportation, the Home Office is expected to announce on Friday.

“The Home Office has privately insisted that the much-criticised private security company can provide the “same key aspects of welfare support to families” as have been delivered by the current providers, Barnardo’s. – The Guardian, 9/2/17

Is there a reason to replace Barnardo’s, a charity established over 130 years ago with the original object of caring for London’s teeming horde of orphans and rejected children, other than the growing suspicion that the cosy relationship between G4S and the UK Home Office may be a corrupt one, given the inept, not to say brain-dead, management of custodial facility contracts by this blundering poster child for Thatcherite privatisations?

Is there any hope for terrified families in the clutches of these, frankly, thuggish goons? Do I want my tax money to go to this Dickensian bunch of money-grabbing capitalist pigs? (No, I don’t. Let those poor people alone, Tory cunts.)

“Kent police investigating alleged abuse at Medway child prison, run by G4S, made five more arrests. The same day a report by prisons inspectors revealed that a child at another G4S prison, Parc, in Bridgend, Wales, had been strip searched while held under restraint, one guard had been dismissed for using “excessive force”, and children reported being verbally, physically and sexually abused.

“G4S-run Medway secure training centre has been under close scrutiny since BBC Panorama broadcast undercover footage, in January, of children there being subject to physical and emotional abuse.” – Open Democracy UK

http://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/shinealight/carolyne-willow/five-more-arrests-and-another-critical-inspection-report-for-g4s-chil

G4S was founded as The Wackenhut Corporation in 1954, in Coral Gables, Florida, by George Wackenhut and three partners (all are former FBI agents). In 2002, the company was acquired for $570 million by Danish corporation Group 4 Falck (itself then merged to form British company G4S in 2004) (Wikipedia).

The list of their incompetently managed contracts is a long one and includes the standout failure to recruit and train enough security staff for the London Olympics, a contract worth £284 MILLION, so that the army had to be called in to bail them out at the last minute.

en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Controversies_surrounding_G4S

As is the list of individuals whose ‘security’ they have managed to compromise, in too many cases fatally.

Why then does the Home Office keep throwing public money at these tossers to replace existing contractors and formerly stable, properly trained, state-run workforces?

We should be told.

In the meantime we can only guess.

Where’s the fucking money?

“Data from 98 of the 151 local authorities in England with statutory responsibility for social care show that they met only 218 (42%) of 515 targets to improve social care in their area and missed the other 297 (58%).” – The Observer, 11 December

By: Health correspondent Julian Sick ©2016 @holby.gen

The question that occurred to me while just now walking Hunzi in the dogshit-strewn exurban space that passes for our local park was this:

Where’s the money?

Slipsliding along a muddy part of the footpath by the river that sometimes floods leaving puddles people have tried getting around, trampling the grass, spreading the misery, I briefly thought it might be nice if the Council were someday to complete the paving and rustic-bridging of the whole length of the path.

Immediately the answer came: that’s absurd! They haven’t got any money for that sort of thing!

They can afford to pay PriceWaterhouse Cooper’s consultants hundreds of thousands of pounds for a generic report (only the names are changed) telling them how to save money, naturally.

They can close care homes and spend £1.5 million on a fully equipped day-centre for the elderly, only to pull it down again to make room for a Tesco development.

They can take pleasure in granting permission for a Pizza Express restaurant in a listed building, just across the way from Domino’s Pizza, in a town that already consists almost entirely of fast-food joints, pop-up hairdressers and charity shops; but whose only ethnic Welsh bookshop has closed.

But frivolities like cleaner streets and a couple of hundred yards of cinder track to keep people’s feet dry, no, sorry.

They’re not unique in these regards. I’m reading daily of care-home closures and abandoned support services, that have been brought about as a result of former Chancellor, George Osborne’s well-intentioned institution of the Living Wage, which he brought in without thought to what might happen to private care-giving businesses on fixed-price contracts to provide services to local authorities, who can no longer afford to pay their care workers at all.

I’m reading about the accelerating collapse of ‘care in the community’ as more and more elderly people are thrown onto the good offices of NHS hospitals already groaning at the seams with diabetics and cirrhotics, sclerotics and other lifestyle victims.

Amazingly, my mother’s local authority has voted her the unlimited funding required to put in place a palliative care package, so that she can go back to her virtually uninhabitable, top-floor city flat, where the landlords are just waiting for her to die before sending in the decorators. At present she is ‘blocking’ a hospital bed, alongside many identical chalk-faced, semi-conscious, moaning old ladies being wheeled in and out all night, and they’ve lost her dentures; but there’s nothing more the NHS can do for her, other than provide round-the-clock nursing care they need to free up beds for people they can cure, so she has to get out.

Age 91, she will get all the physical supports she needs: a special bed, a portable loo, a walking frame – anything; plus four one-hour visits a day, each with a team of two carers, who will cook and clean for her, shop for her and collect prescriptions, bed-wash and toilet her, provide pain relief, switch things on and off. (Although bizarrely they can’t provide any care at night, and will have to leave her alone and vulnerable in the building, armed only with a bedpan.) This, for a feisty woman who until this Autumn was still gamely independent. All her bedroom furniture will have to be moved out, only they don’t do that, I have to arrange it somehow myself in a strange city, on a busy street, living as I do 250 miles away.

Is it so wicked of me then to more than half-wish she might just not wake up tomorrow?

She might spare herself, the care teams, the local authority – and poor old me, six hours away on the train, hauling my protesting prostate across town through the dangerously overcrowded underground network to visit every week – the immense cost and difficulty of providing all this, a slow-motion existence of physical pain moderated by cigarettes and alcohol, just so she can have ‘one last Christmas’ at home – a dismal apartment from where, after 51 years, she was begging me only a few weeks ago to get her out – with me, her closest surviving relative and really poor company, when she could just go into a properly equipped nursing home, or better still a hospice, to enjoy a chat and maybe access to, or a view of, a garden, grass, trees, sky for her remaining weeks or possibly months?

And there’d still be turkey and a paper hat.

But she’s already ordered the food. Masses of it, more than I could eat in a month. Lobster! More than she can afford on her pension credit.

Naturally, M&S’ salespeople don’t ask telephone customers: ‘hang on a mo while we just run through some questions to determine if you’re a bit doolalli and haven’t really thought this through?’*

Who is going to cook it all? I suppose I shall have to cook it. Who is going to eat it all? I shall have to pretend to eat it, before throwing most of it in the bin. And then she will die anyway, as you do, and there will be the whole process of disposing of everything: the bureaucracy, the paperwork – telling her bank manager he was a fool to lend her the money she will never pay back – dealing with 50 years’ worth of junk, unburdening the fridge of its jars of furry things and arranging any obsequies. We don’t have money for a funeral, so she’s said she wants to leave her body to science. What the cancer leaves of it first. They won’t necessarily want her, however. Then what do we do?

And who will there be in the flat, to take delivery of the food? My mum can no longer walk as far as the door. Care workers will have to take delivery.

It’s that moment you’ve been dreading for the past ten years, and now wish you’d done more, anything, to plan for it before it arrived. She seems rational, although she’s not, she’s quite cognitively impaired and not making a lot of sense. Only I can tell!

But at least there appears to be a support service, liaison between the specialist nursing staff and the local authority social services, professionalism, outcomes – genuinely caring people – money.

I read about the tens of thousands of elderly patients elsewhere in the country left to rot in their own piss and shit, to go undernourished (some care services simply dump a fortnight’s worth of ready-meals in the fridge and then leave, where there used long ago to be daily ‘meals-on-wheels’), drug-addled and abused in so-called care, granted one ten-minute ‘hi-and-bye’ a day from a foreigner on sub-minimum wage, because their local authorities aren’t among the wealthiest in the country like the one where my mum has lived most of her adult life.

Why are other local authorities so strapped that they cannot provide this level of care everywhere? Have they spent it all on consultants? Where is the money?

It seems there is a huge mountain of money in our country.

The UK is about the fifth or the sixth largest economy in the world. British-based businesses are sitting on a pile of uninvested cash worth nearly a trillion (thousand billion) pounds. How much more is stashed in places like Panama we simply have no idea. UK house prices, rents and commercial offices are soaring out of reach of ordinary working people, which means even richer people are buying property, forcing up the value. Just the national private housing stock two years ago was estimated at over £5 trillion; commercial property added another £2.3 trillion.

The total value of financial assets in the UK, basically what’s in the bank vaults, is reportedly over £8 trillion. And another – wait for it – £4 quadrillion is traded annually (largely untaxed) through the City of London. Would half-a-penny in the pound really have been so burdensome that Goldman Sachs would have moved its office and junior money-baboons to Frankfurt?

‘Black Friday’ last week saw our so-called ‘Just About Managing’ lower-middle-class spend £2.9 billion on seasonal Chinese junk their kids can use to send each other pictures of their pubescent sexual organs. Employment – jobs – is at its fullest and highest since 1971. Wages are rising at 2.3% a year. Unemployment continues to fall. Consumer debt is said to be £1.5 trillion, equivalent to the entire annual GDP. VAT – purchase tax – continues to produce £105 billion a year for the Treasury. The DWP is spending half-a-billion pounds a year on French and US contractors profiting mightily from gouging the disabled.

The Government has over £100 billion in ‘infrastructure projects’ on the drawing board, including more ships for the navy, a polluting and destructive new runway at Heathrow, a pointless train-set that will gobble up half a million acres of land, homes and villages just to suck money from Birmingham to London 20 minutes faster than the perfectly adequate service there is already.

Replacing our four ageing Trident submarines with the already outmoded Successor-class submarines we could just buy from the Americans but instead have to build ourselves to retain a few thousand jobs in Scotland to keep them from leaving the UK will cost at least another £68 billion. There’s the cost of leaving the EU, probably another £59 billion (not to mention the unlimited bribes being offered to foreign investors to stay in Britain after Brexit, and the cost of replacing EU subsidies to farmers, regional development and the R&D sector).

All this shit is apparently funded out of cheap government debt; higher than ever. Even all those wasteful billions of project-pounds are barely a pimple compared with the trillions of pounds Britain is worth: yet 90% of the local authorities in the country can’t afford to provide decent basic care services to the elderly; while (apart from inworkers) the population is fast ageing. And the Government says, oh, sorry, there isn’t enough to go round, you’ll just have to cut back some more, or raise more taxes locally from the very people you need to help.

What they mean is, as with energy policy, they haven’t been planning for this, they plan only as far as the next election.

This is irresponsible governance, for which the Prime Minister should take responsibility – but she won’t.  She’s just splashed out a thousand quid on a pair of leather trousers. Having recently sold some more furniture, after 68 years as an Equity union member my mother left precisely £633.

So I’m going to ask you again, crapulous Treasury cunts, political tossers, Mr Carney and the private finance baboons:

Where’s the fucking money?

*And, as it turns out, it was a fantasy: she hadn’t actually placed the order after all.

Sad news

Monday, 5 December

My mother died in the hospital this morning, eight days short of her 93rd birthday.

 

A leap in the dark

We’ve been told 97% of the universe is ‘dark matter’, powered by ‘dark energy’. I have written before, speculating therefore about ‘dark time’, though as no-one reads this, my bogl, no-one has yet attempted to discover it.

Perhaps it’s time we thought about ‘dark money’, and what it is threatening to do to our world; our grandchildren.

Trump, egged-on by his pet British arselicker, Farage, a noisome, self-promoting political nonentity of whom he would never have heard before the publicity-starved succubus arrived in Mississippi to gatecrash his convention, between the latest of his 31 appearances on the BBC Question Time panel, has leaned heavily on Brexit as an example of how people are fed up with big government.

Yet he has shown no intention of honouring his campaign pledge to burst the Washington insider bubble in his stumbling appointments to his cabinet of some very scary insiders indeed, dismal hokey cretins from the southern swamps, white supremacists, bloodthirsty ‘Mad Dog’ militarists with fundamentalist Christian views, financed from the shadows by lobby groups acting for Fortune 500 companies opposed to all environmental, public health and human rights legislation, willing to risk extinction to promote the US arms and highly polluting energy industries.

In his approach to China, little Donald McRonald has already shown that he is a dangerously loose cannon, utterly ignorant of international affairs; a spoilt brat who has been told he can’t have a big red fire-engine for Christmas. But because he affects the charmless personality of a mercurial shapeshifter, it may be that he is deliberately provoking confrontation to please the Dumbfucks and the Pennsylvania coalminers, we can’t be sure. He’s not even been sworn-in yet.

In fact, it appears that while he has been pre-insulting the Chinese leadership and enjoying cosy chats with Taiwanese president Tsai, one of the few women whose pussy he has not yet grabbed, crossing one of the fattest and most vividly red diplomatic lines on the planet, he has been lobbying Taiwan privately behind the scenes to build more Trump hotels, confirming that a Trump presidency is designed entirely and absolutely to make Trump great again, and fuck you middle-America, you losers.

His unfortunate VP, the Christian fundamentalist (how similar Christian fundamentalists are to Islamic fundamentalists!) Mike Pence, has been struggling with the media, without a lot of conviction, to justify Trump’s infelicitous and, frankly, infantile outbursts on Twitter, a medium purpose-built for unreconstructed teenage baboons to put their cretinous views out into the twatosphere in the middle of the night in 124 characters or less; avoiding the need for extensive, thoughtful analysis.

I voted to remain in the EU – I’m 67, part of the age group blamed for voting to leave, although I know no-one here of my age who did vote to leave – not for boring economic reasons but because I prefer to remain part of what remains of human civilization.

Yeah, so what was that Brexit thing about, I hear you ask?

Imagine, reasoning Americans, you were part of a 43-years-old organization uniting you with all the autonomous states in somewhere we’ll call Canada, that gave you the right to trade freely, travel, live and work in Canada, full citizenship rights; but which involved paying a proportionate subscription according to your annual GDP to cover the costs of administering common consumer protections, cross-border policing, worker safety and product standardisation, umbrella trade deals with the rest of the world; and provided finance to support agriculture and development of your underperforming economic areas.

Following an election, some rightwing politicians on the make, people who don’t like business regulation, pressure your Congress into calling for an early referendum, claiming (falsely) that Canada is in effect ruling America through unelected and unaccountable institutions; and that millions of Canadians are pouring across the border to live and work in the USA because it’s so much better and they get free social benefits at taxpayers’ expense (actually, you need their labour to grow your economy – your population is ageing and underqualified).

So a bunch of disaffected miners in Pennsylvania, brainwashed by years of propaganda in a populist press dominated by corporate interests opposed to Canadian antitrust laws, voters facing the inevitable death of their hideously polluting, underinvested rustbelt industries, tip the balance of the vote in favour of abrogating the treaty, having no knowledge whatever of the technicalities and the consequences of getting out; regardless of whether or not Canada is responsible for their economic decline; heedless of the fact that Canada is actually providing funding for redevelopment in the stricken areas while resisting the onward march of the big tax-dodging corporations who have globalised their jobs.

They just want to ‘send a message’, that they want bigger TV screens and more sale-bargain sofas in their lives, and they don’t like politicians, although they cannot say what they would replace them with. So they throw their iPhones out of the pram.

That’s the actual situation we’re in with the EU. Any attempt to oppose this historically irresponsible and permanently binding vote, that threatens to destabilise the entire postwar political consensus, is howled down by the bully boys dominating a supine and craven media, that in turn whips up its phoney patriotism to ever greater excesses. Even our Supreme Court judges, who are merely being asked to consider a High Court ruling that the executive needs final Parliamentary approval to reverse the treaty, are being subjected in advance to a vicious smear campaign in the Brexit press; branded as ‘traitors’, their families receiving death threats on social media.

It smells horribly of fascism sponsored by powerful interests, the crony capitalism of the Bilderberg Group and the chummy billionaires who foregather in Davos every year to carve-up what remains of the world between themselves, and to hell with the rest of us. How easy it is to play the immigration card, to get everyone believing that ‘foreigners’ and obscure international institutions, the ‘worldwide conspiracy’ is responsible for all your economic woes!

As in America with Trump, opponents of Brexit are bullied and stigmatised; targeted for elimination. A pro-Remain MP, 42-year-old mother of two young children, Jo Cox, was shot and hacked to death by a crazed white supremacist in the street outside her office, only two weeks before the referendum last June; fifty thousand ugly, slobbering morons tweeted their joyous approval; Farage has accused her widower, who started a campaign for tolerance, of running a terrorist-sympathising organisation. The Government and the security services have since stood by and done nothing.

We live in increasingly dark times. Please understand that behind the rise of  the Brexit baboons are some very nasty, very wealthy – very greedy people indeed; and they will stop at nothing to continue raping our world until human civilization and all life on the planet (other than their own) is ended; which may not be very long now (Arctic temperatures are up to 33 deg C above normal for November).

http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2016/nov/30/donald-trump-george-monbiot-misinformation

Plagiarism corner

In a Christmas commercial for a credit card company, a couple of ordinary middle-aged women are fantasising about what they will do with the money, when one announces that she plans to buy another saxophone.

As readers of this, muh bogl, and of scabrous Comments I have made on The Guardian news pages, may recall, I have long been pointing out the silliness of Big Data-type advertising pop-ups on this, muh li’l laptop, offering me more saxophones, after I bought one online in September.

I wrote, how many saxophones can one person use, who doesn’t yet play the saxophone? It seems that in this post-truth era, it’s not a relevant question.

 

All’s well that ends well

If you’re still not certain about the place of 2016 as one of the weirdest years in history, consider the following story:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-northern-ireland-38205945

Shoppers in Carrickfergfus, Northern Ireland, panicked on Saturday morning as a stray goat rampaged through their shopping precinct, jumping onto cars and terrorising shop staff, principally by looking strangely at them. A pensioner, whose name was given as Billy, was butted in the rear and sought refuge in a shop, where the manager is quoted as follows:

“The manager described how the goat began eating flower baskets outside the shop on Victoria Road and then frightened staff and customers as they tried to get into the building.

“It was into the baskets eating all the plants and running round the car park, I thought: ‘you’ve got to be kidding me!'”

Oh, yeah? he said that? Really?

It just shows the Irish can still make hideous puns in the face of terrible adversity.

In the end, anticlimax: the capricious beast’s owner turned up, took it by the horns and led it peacefully away.

As you do, when you own a goat.

Which I have.

Boris is an honourable man, and other thoughts on inequality

The problem of unconscious bias

To be charitable to Boris Johnson, and why not?, the horrible, horrible Moaning re-twerk in The Sunday Times of an article he wrote just two days before he declared for the Leave camp, apparently rejected for publication, advocating that Britain should remain in the EU, is a ‘so what?’ moment.

Have I ever tried to deceive you, gentle Spammers, Likers, Followers and Those No Longer Reading This, Muh Bogl, about the true intentions of the Leave tendency? That the referendum had less to do with Europe than with the political ambitions of a small but determined bunch of neo-Thatcherite crazies? Did I ever try to persuade you that Mr Johnson was an honourable man – like jolly old Brutus?

I don’t think so.

And what is his response? After consulting Donald Trump’s special explanations unit, Mr Johnson replies that he was just batting around some different ideas in his customary quasi-satirical vein before finally making up the golden glow that passes for his Classically trained mind.

I understand the Daily Telegraph was paying £29,000 a month to Mr Johnson to work through a few unpublishable ideas for them once a week. It’s enough to turn anyone’s gloriously straw-textured head.

Elsewhere in Brexitville, I’ve had two annoyingly sarcastic earworms buzzing around my elderly brain all morning: The Bachelors’ ‘Bremoaner – They’re wringing-out our song of love’; and the Monkees’ ‘I’m a Breleaver – I couldn’t leave her if I tried.’

I’m also trying to imagine what happens to the global economy if the Dumbfucks prevail, and we wake up on 9 November to a Trump presidency, with Hillary eating minge for 20 years in Sing-sing?

The minor perturbation in the Earth’s orbit caused by Brexit might look more like the proverbial North Korean nuclear test in that event.

What happens when, in the wake of a rash plebiscite, one currency, let’s call it the Pound, slides dramatically in world markets to a historic 180-year low against another currency, we’ll call it the Dollar; only for the Dollar in turn to slide dramatically to a historic, 180-year low against all the other currencies?

I’ve only got Economics A-level, guys, I don’t know. But I’ve instructed my broker to switch my entire offshore Trust out of Panama into the Azerbaijani Manat.

Best be on the safe side.

Tick where applicable

This questionnaire culture is getting out of hand.

Agree strongly… Agree a bit… Can’t agree… Total rubbish!

A company in the USA, where else, Compas has developed a secret algorithm that uses a ten-point questionnaire to decide instead of a judge, how long ya goin down for. It’s being adopted, it seems, particularly by state jurisdictions that have been subject to criticism in the past for alleged biases in sentencing.

The idea is that answers to questions like: How law-abiding/generally black are you and what further risk do you represent to America? can be used to decide the most appropriate sentences in any criminal case.

Because Compas refuses to release details of how the computer makes its decisions, based on the standard questionnaire, this approach has led to accusations of hidden bias. For instance, ‘how many people in your family have ever been arrested?’ could well bias for race, as black people are seven times more likely to be arrested in parts of the country as whites or hispanics.

And because no-one can argue with a computer, the sentences it prescribes cannot be appealed. (I seem to remember at one time Americans developed a naive enthusiasm for ‘scientifically unshakeable’ lie-detector tests, that have subsequently been utterly discredited.)

Personally, I regard all forms of standardisation of all forms of judgements in all situations, depending on responses to a set list of questions, as manifestations of the modern tendency to monumental, self-regarding stupidity.

As we lose faith in our established institutions, so a kind of mumbo-jumbo ‘expert systems’ mentality is taking over, that leads to such idiocies as the belief being hawked around the police forces of the world by  ‘Dr’ Joe Sullivan of Texas, that you can identify paedophiles by the sort of clothes they wear. We are voluntarily surrendering our hegemony to robots, way in advance of their capacity to out-think us.

Would any sane society base its immigration policy on a reader poll in the Daily Mail? Could answers to a questionnaire in Cosmopolitan determine the outcome of a rape trial? Would you instantly abandon 43 years of complex treaty obligations to other countries on the basis of an in-out popular referendum (don’t answer that…)?

In a moment of wild enthusiasm – I’m addicted to filling-in forms – I signed up to a website promising me money and goodies if I was happy to answer a few questions every so often about my consumer preferences. It seemed harmless enough and, identifying as a retired person with time on my hands, a way of passing it.

It was only after ploughing my way through many pages of preliminary questions about my age, income group and awareness of different TV distribution channels that I began to realise I am no longer a member of the human race. Nine times out of ten, the algorithm was deciding that I’m not a fit person to be consulted on any matters of opinion concerning modern media, and closing me down.

Not only were the questionnaires all biased in favour of a subject I know or care little about – something that was not vouchsafed to me at the beginning – but they were biased against me on sociological criteria, without telling me which questions I had ‘got wrong’. I do have an opinion, but it was not apparently the ‘right’ opinion.

That hasn’t stopped the promoters from emailing me twenty times a day to ask with tender concern if perhaps I am not completing enough questionnaires because I fear I may not earn enough money if I do? The automatic bias here being that most people are only interested in money.

Frustratingly, the questioner has not thought to ask if I am not completing questionnaires because the fucking algorithms won’t let me? That’s simply an answer you can’t give.

Many of us will be familiar with the banking sector’s ‘security questions’ nightmare, a Catch-22 of simply cretinous proportions, where you cannot be told which question you got wrong because you got one of the questions wrong. (I should know the date of my own birthday, but apparently the computer knew different.)

Another point of extreme annoyance with online questionnaires, that you choose to complete out of the goodness of your heart, is the compulsory follow-up question you can’t answer, because you have previously given the answer ‘None’. This generally arises when you have wasted the previous ten minutes answering inane questions about social media to the best of your ability.

Then, of course, there are those ‘please review our performance so we can improve our service’ questionnaires that appear to have been compiled by the client browbeating the PR agency into biassing the questions so that it’s impossible for the customer to breathe a word of criticism.

And the ones with the dropdown menus that don’t give you a ‘don’t know’ or ‘other’ option; the ones with a menu of places that doesn’t list the place where you actually are… that haven’t heard your administrative county changed its name thirty years ago…. The one that spat out my address as ‘gibberish’ because it’s got Welsh words in it (‘We’re sorry if you feel you were discriminated against…’).

There’s also the problem of self-incrimination, a form of bias that comes from a hidden desire – inculcated in schools from an early age – to please the question-setter. I scored very highly in the online Baron-Cohen: ‘Where are you on the autism spectrum?’ test, principally because I felt a profound obligation to identify as autistic in sympathy with other, rather odd, people like myself.

Often the questions appear so tendentious that the intention behind them is clear; although you may find they’ve done that deliberately to fool you. The exercise then becomes a game, not exactly what you want when your answers could get you thirty years in Leavenworth.

Humans construct algorithms, so the obvious question to Compas is, for how many decades or centuries does your programmer think people should be vengefully caged-up in a brutal correctional facility for stealing food when they’re starving, or for hacking the Pentagon for fun from their bedroom in North London?

Was your question-setter just batting around some different ideas in his customary quasi-satirical vein?

Let’s just admit it

“The death of a baby boy mauled by a family dog is “unlikely” to be treated as a criminal investigation, police said.  Archie Darby, aged four months, died after being attacked in Colchester, Essex, on Thursday afternoon. The owner of the dog – the children’s aunt – has been named as a serving police officer … 31-year-old PC Clare Ferdinand.” – BBC News

Now, look.

As a dog owner, the thought of my gentle and lovely Hunzi mauling a baby to death and maiming his brother for life is not one I can readily contemplate. But it’s not a risk I would ever take, to leave a baby alone with a dog in the room – any dog.

Hunzi is a Border collie. He was given to me by a farmer who couldn’t persuade him to herd sheep. Bless. The farmer would otherwise have had him killed, but I have never regretted saying okay, why not? The dog in the report is – or perhaps by now was – a Staffordshire Bull Terrier. I like Staffies a lot, but the clue’s in the name. They were bred for baiting bulls for sport. Bulls are very large and dangerous 1800-lb animals armed with hoofs and horns and general meanness.

Staffies are  not on the banned Dangerous Dogs list but their cousins, the pitbulls, are. I’m not one who believes certain breeds are more likely to attack a human than others, it depends on their training – but also on their breed temperament and their physical capacity to inflict devastating injury. The ‘2nd Amendment’ NRA argument, that it’s people who kill, not guns, should not be allowed to cloud the fact that every year in Britain, dog attacks are on the increase as dogs bred for fighting have become more popular – both as status symbols and as weapons of defence.

And as ‘family pets’….

Many people trust their dogs to care for their children, possibly influenced by Nana, the nursemaid golden retriever of Peter Pan fame, I don’t know. According to the expat website UKandSpain, “Each year, approximately 28,000 facial dog bites are reported in the UK, with just over 19,000 of them requiring serious plastic surgery.”

And each year too, a number of people – I can’t find out exactly how many but it’s probably about a dozen – go to jail for keeping a dangerous dog after it has killed a child, or even a vulnerable adult.

So there’s another, wider issue lurking here, isn’t there.

“There were 718 cases brought against dog owners or handlers in magistrate courts from June to December last year, compared with 444 during the previous six months (up by 62% over the previous year). Over the same period, the number of successful prosecutions increased by 71 per cent, with lawyers securing 553 convictions compared with 325.” – Mail Online, June 2015

In other words, if your dog attacks someone, resulting in death or serious injury, you’re almost certain to face prosecution. I wonder, how many of those 718 dog owners coincidentally weren’t serving police officers?

And that’s my point.

The more newspapers like the Daily Mail like to talk-up the terrifying increase in danger on our streets (not borne out by any statistics) from immigrants, Muslims, terrorists, schizophrenics, feral clowns and other people who would have been safely locked up if Social Workers were only doing their job, the more they have to try to persuade us concomitantly to acknowledge the special role in society played by the security forces; whose casualties are infinitesimal compared with those of ordinary citizens.

Perhaps that’s what makes them a special case.

I’ve blogged before about the inequitable difference in treatment between the minuscule number of cases where police officers have died while trying to apprehend car criminals,  resulting in a murder charge; and the much larger number where car criminals (and innocent passers-by) have died while being pursued by police and no charges have resulted.

There is currently a campaign in the tabloid press to have the law changed relating to serving members of the armed forces, so that they cannot under any circumstances be investigated for possible breaches of the Geneva Conventions and international laws against war crimes, to which Britain is a longtime signatory. It has been reported, possibly accurately, that Theresa May is considering the idea seriously.

“An SAS hero is facing murder charges after the Ministry of Defence launched an investigation into his ‘mercy killing’ of Iraqi soldiers 13 years ago. Sergeant Colin McLachlan, who starred in the Channel 4 series Who Dares Wins, could be jailed…”

This front-page lead story in the Mail on Sunday (16 October) was headlined: ‘Despicable betrayal of an SAS hero’. It reveals a curious attitude to the potential commission of war crimes, and a bundle of fairly awful prejudices growing out of the popular resurgence of British exceptionalism.

Sgt McLachlan had recently admitted in a book to the ‘mercy killing’ of wounded enemy combatants, but without reading the details the newspaper story makes a number of completely unwarranted assumptions, principally that he ‘faces murder charges’ when he has not been charged at all; while refusing to consider that what he himself claims he did is, in law both international and British military, a criminal offence; and it is the statutory duty of the MoD to investigate.

It’s an appalling piece of journalism; in fact, not journalism at all, but a travesty: egregious propaganda. A TV show, a book… Sgt McLachlan seems to want to make the most of that ‘hero’ tag. He may indeed have performed heroically, we shall never know as SAS operations are official secrets and anything written in popular books by ex-SAS men is therefore thinly disguised fiction, that has to be cleared by the war office.

Lock ’em up!

A Storyville documentary aired on BBC 4 TV last night featured a lengthy interview with Moazzem Begg, one of four British Guantanamo detainees released without charge in 2012.

Begg is an elusive character. Apparently just an ordinary citizen, yet wherever there’s trouble anywhere in the world involving Muslim insurgents he keeps popping up in the role of concerned ‘witness’, and finds himself being arrested – or sometimes kidnapped in the middle of the night and rendered to places you, I and the editor of the Mail on Sunday would probably rather not go.

Yet there’s no evidence whatever of his involvement with Islamic terrorism, which he insists he does not support. He has only ever once been charged in a court of law (with helping to supply a generator to a Syrian medical charity – maximum sentence 15 years), and was acquitted only after spending seven months in Belmarsh, our own special detention centre for top-security terror suspects – many of whom under the Blair regime were detained indefinitely without trial. He is not in any sense a ‘radical preacher’, that demon of popular headlines; nor any sort of agitator, as far as we can see. An intelligent man, he avoids hate speech; indeed, he seems to harbour no ill-will. It’s hard to say what he is, other than a voice of conscience.

Regardless of what motivates him – and he appears sincere in his claim to want to persuade fellow Muslims to rise above the violence – when it comes to the hysterical, near insane behaviour of US and British forces towards Muslim detainees snatched off the streets seemingly at random, institutionalised bullying to the nth degree, his testimony is shocking in the extreme; and entirely believable.

Begg’s refusal to act as an MI5 informer also ensures that his family life has been dogged by police and anonymised security agents, one of whom – ‘Andrew’ – crops up everywhere he goes like a waking nightmare, even in the illicit interrogation rooms of the CIA.

Perhaps it’s time we just give up the rule of law altogether, and admit that ‘there’s one law for them, another for the rest of us’.

There’s a war on, you know! (Several, actually. Nothing to do with me.)

 

End Times

Two consecutive headlines on the BBC News website today:

‘Why the battle for breakfast is hotting up’

‘Battle to retake Mosul from IS begins’

The first battle, as you would expect, is higher up the Views list, concerned as it is with our trendy cafes replacing egg-and-sausage with foreign granola, as opposed to worrying about the actual slaughter of women, children and doctors on what promises to be a grand scale.

It’s nice to know we British, who helped to create the fuck-up in Iraq, have got our priorities straight.

Food and its preparation seems to have become the number one obsession of the British middle class; almost akin to a new religion, the food cult dominates the colour sections of the weekend media. Millions are glued to TV shows celebrating culinary mastery and excess.

Salutary to think, therefore, of the fourfold increase in reported cases of malnutrition and associated medical conditions, the existence of ‘breakfast clubs’ for hungry schoolkids, the over one million people reliant on food banks, owing to the actions of one man, Mr Iain Duncan Smith.

Secretary of State for Work and Pensions in the last coalition government, in order to maintain a low tax environment for the wealthy Smith imposed a brutal regime of benefit sanctions on claimants failing to abide by petty bureaucratic regulations designed to trip them up.

Mr Smith in my view should be detained, taken to The Hague forthwith and charged with a crime against humanity.

And if his gaolers forget to feed the little tortoise-headed bastard, so be it.

Essay: De Minimis – living on less than the minimum wage

De Minimis

Despite coming from a ‘privileged elite’, as Polly Toynbee of the Guardian might describe the diaspora that passes for my family, although my father wasn’t an eminent academic historian; as the black sheep of the family, having run away and become an actor he’d been ‘cut off without a penny’; the same penny in child support he might otherwise have bunged my mother from time to time; in addition to writing long, breathless, compound sentences in memory of the late Bernard Levin, I have always worked for a living.

Sometimes there wasn’t much work, if any; often it wasn’t much of a living. At times I stumbled into jobs millennial media graduates can only dream about, only to stumble – or be slung – out again. But I kept buggering on. And now essentially retired, at 67 I’m feeling guilty and anxious about doing nothing, living on the State pension; which, contrary to accounts, can be lived on (if you are single, own a tiny cottage in the noisome outskirts of a seaside town and have put in your 30 years and more). In line with the current BBC policy of disclosure, I shall reveal: it is a few pennies under ten grand a year. Read, weep.

Usually I found myself employed by bullying, paranoid obsessives who, while lining their pockets by various accounting fictions, would demand unstinting loyalty and 14-hour days of continuous creative output for a tiny share of the money I was making for them; inbetweentimes I had work ironing people’s underpants, buffing their Agas and digging-out their flowerbeds for £5 an hour, honest toil in companionable silence with myself being preferable to working in an office where the height of discourse was generally: ‘Ooh look, you’ve had a haircut!’.

A current campaign designed to coincide with the annual conference of the Trades Union Congress, that increasingly threadbare annual jamboree of the working man and woman, has highlighted some of the, er, highlights of my own career. Several campaigns, in fact, including those of cleaners, carers and warehouse staff have been launched to show up Victorian employers who pay less than the minimum wage by getting round the regulations in imaginative ways while contributing their ill-gotten gains to UKIP.

You can do the math, but I don’t think you’ll beat my last employer for sub-minimal fiscal ingenuity.

The contract required me to work 37.5 hours a week, managing the estate in exchange for the £13,000 a year they proposed to start me on (that is thirteen, not a typo or the salary for a subeditor working on a regional newspaper, my previous role; that had been a bit less). I was yet 55 years of age, with a soon-to-be ex-wife, a mortgage, a bank loan, two children and sundry livestock to support, so I wasn’t expecting much, but I took the job because it came with a furnished flat. And it was the only one on offer.

My furnished new surroundings consisted, in the living-room, of a cracked faux-leather Chesterfield sofa, chocolate-brown; in the bedroom, a 1950s wooden bedstead with squeaky chainlink springs – no mattress. The tiny galley kitchen comprised a sink unit, with a cupboard underneath. Upstairs, was an acid-green coir carpet; downstairs, bare stone flags.

And that was it, the full complement of ‘furnished’. No curtains, no tables and chairs, no cooker or fridge, no wardrobe, no bedside cabinet, no lights other than of the naked overhead variety. Had there been a TV, owing to the high bank outside the window that let in neither light nor any other form of electromagnetism, it would have got only one channel, in Welsh.

I pointed out these lacunae to my attractive new Chinese employer, who waved vaguely around and said to help myself to whatever I could find – she thought there might be a few old things in the stables. Offering me £40 with which to decorate – the walls were bare, the floor spattered with paint and dried-on lumps of plaster – she got prettily into a taxi and departed for Taipei, leaving me alone in her husband’s newly acquired dream home, a dank and rotting Georgian Gothic mansion in the dripping depths of the countryside; thereafter sometimes forgetting to pay me at all.

It rapidly grew clear that, after I became the sole occupant of the house by day and night (my ‘part-time’ assistant ran off complaining of overwork and was not replaced), there was no one period of 37.5 hours out of 168 in the week that could bear definition as my official working-time.

If a party of hungry Korean tourists arrived at 11 pm having ‘stopped to take a look around Bath’, not a euphemism, I felt obliged to cook them supper. If, while I was walking Rollo, the soppy retriever across the lawn for his last outing at 1 am, two hoodied figures should detach themselves from a dark doorway and flee to a waiting car, who else was going to call the police?

And if the terrifying clamour of the fire alarm were to sound at 4 am, as it sometimes did, it was up to the manager to struggle into his clothes, ignoring the dazed guests milling around in the carpark while he made his way intrepidly through the unlit spaces of the upstairs corridors, avoiding rotted and missing floorboards to search a dozen rubble-strewn rooms for the one defective smoke-detector, and rip it bleeping from its socket.

In the first five years I took one day’s ‘sick leave’, to recover from the previous day’s surgery under general anaesthetic; albeit that I was still at my place of work and thus available to all comers. I took (officially) no holiday at all, although having somehow acquired a willing lady friend thirty miles away I would bunk off three nights a week, racing back at 5 am to prepare breakfasts, uncomfortably aware that my paying guests had had the place (and the fire alarm system) to themselves all night. I think they quite enjoyed it, although some were nervous of the ghosts.

On weekends whenever there was a wedding, never seldom enough, I would work my 37.5 hours in just two days; up at 8 am, bed at 4 am next day and up again at seven to prepare breakfast for the survivors; prise them out at noon, not forgetting to find someone I could stick the bill to, then set about turning the guestrooms round for the B&Bs arriving the same evening. Who, pray, was going to fill-in for me on the other five days?

Amusingly, my employer’s visiting HR toady was always going on at me to take all the time off that I was entitled to. Quite right! They were afraid I might sue. To be fair, after six months he raised my salary to £14k. But there was no answer to the question of who would then be available to evict random members of the public, found wandering around awestruck at the cheap and historically inappropriate 1990s ‘restoration’, the junkshop furnishings. They would coo, ‘Ooh, if I won the lottery, I’d buy this wonderful place!’ and I would snarl my exhaustion into their chapfallen faces, ‘Yes, and you’d need to win ten more lotteries just to keep it standing!’ (Guests used to call me ‘Basil’.)

In the successive winters of 2010 and 2011, the Gulf Stream deserted us for a month or so. The temperature in the main kitchen plunged one night to minus 14C, colder than the empty freezer. The pipes froze for days on end, and when it thawed the eclectic mix of fittings under the floorboards (who knew whence they all led?) sprang apart and the kitchen filled with water, running over the main circuit-board. In my furnished flat were neither heating nor running water, nor sometimes electricity; while builders had removed many of the floorboards in the office, where there was at least a heater of sorts and I could sit in my overcoat, browsing stoically on Asian Babes.

To this, despite my warnings of Arctic chaos the owners returned from China one Christmas with mum-in-law and the children in tow, and I forced them all to move into a hotel, an unnecessary and unbearable expense for which I was not forgiven. (I later found they had left the hotel I put them in and moved into a cheaply rented caravan.)

So, that’s 52 weeks, times 168 hours, goes into £14,000…. £1.60 an hour. And redundancy waiting at the end of it, with this shameful and tiresome retirement imposed by an unforgiving labour market, to sit-out on my embarrassingly generous State pension, blogging weirdly until I’m eventually discovered by social workers in a mummefied state, gnawed by cats. And before you say it, bloggers don’t get paid. We just don’t, okay?

But do you know what, Mrs O’Grady, cleaners, carers, Sports Direct victims, Unison? Sub-minimum wage? I bloody miss it!

The author is Editor-in-Chief of The Boglington Post.

Let us prey

Best Christopher Hitchens Arguments (Part 2). Viewed at: 1hr 30m

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EHOo3e2Xlws

As part of her non-mandated education reforms, the Prime Minister, the stork-like Mrs May has announced that ‘faith schools’ in Britain can now freely ignore a previous injunction that they must admit 50% of pupils from local families not of the school’s advertised religious denomination.

Along with her intention to introduce more selective grammar schools, this different and unusual form of selection by parental ‘faith’ is illogically her way of increasing opportunities and reducing social inequality for less well-off children.

Hitchens’ warning is salutary: the barbarians aren’t at the gates, they’re in the city.

It goes without saying that, far from increasing their isolation from the mainstream community, faith schools ought instead as a matter of national security and sanity to be closed down and got rid of altogether.

Faith is an individual matter and not a proper basis for learning.

The future must not be entrusted to graduates of urban madrassas setting religious monoculturalism against rational pluralism; typically teaching both childish, atavistic superstition alongside rational scientific inquiry as being of equal merit. They are simply not.

Imposing uncritical, incontrovertible religious observance, mystical rites and unprovable belief systems such as Creationism or (pretty un-)Intelligent Design in schools, other than as subjects purely of academic curiosity and pity, while denying the extent and validity of contemporary knowledge, is evil, tantamount to child abuse.

Children must be taught to question, not to accept as certainty the ‘word of God’ as ‘revealed’ to illiterate desert-dwellers in selectively edited, internally contradictory and poorly translated, 2,000-year-old texts of dubious provenance recovered from caves; and to imagine that such dessicated ravings constitute a blueprint for anything greater than a narrowly prescriptive, ignorant, barbaric and cruel society, hagridden by a power-hungry, self-serving elite.