Why we need to ban fracking now… The Ruling Class… Boris lays an egg… GW: As yet, there seems to be no weather

Boris Johnson holds a chicken at Shervington Farm near Newport, south Wales.

“This is going to hurt me more than it hurts you…”

(alternatively: “Have you met my new Head of Communications?”)

 

“Spikes in toxic air pollution accompany fracking wherever it goes. Drinking water is destroyed. Earthquakes are triggered. Abandoned wells leak. Pipelines explode. Climate-killing methane escapes from every component part. And nearby residents are suffering health problems consistent with their exposures—including newborn infants.” – Sandra Steingraber, PhD, of Concerned Health Professionals of New York (commenting on PSR report, March 2018)

New York State, which has no known gas reserves, banned fracking in 2012. In March 2017, Maryland became the first state in the US with proven gas reserves to pass a law banning fracking. Britain, however, continues to welcome the industry with police dogs.

Why we need to ban fracking now….

I wonder, does anyone now not imagine that whatever our government says about anything it is responsible for – the effects of austerity policies on poverty and educational standards, for instance – it is lying to us?

A spokeswoman from the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy said: “Independent climate experts have recognised that natural gas has a role to play as we meet our 2050 net zero emissions target – now firmly set in law.

“Exploring the potential of a new domestic energy source is not only compatible with these world-leading climate goals, it could also deliver substantial economic benefits, through the creation of well-paid, high-quality jobs.” (Guardian)

Thus, the civil service in its scientific pig-ignorance and lazy habit of dissimulating dismisses Jeremy Corbyn’s request that the government should reverse-ferret their craven policy on fracking – the hydraulic fracturing – Americans can’t pronounce fracturing – of underground shale deposits to force “natural” gas to the surface.

A toxic cocktail of chemicals dissolved in a large volume of otherwise drinkable water is pumped at high pressure into the brittle layers of rock formed from successive seasons of ancient floodplain siltation, to crack them apart and drive out the trapped gas. Not all of it is captured; excess is generally flared off.

“Natural gas (also called fossil gas) is a naturally occurring hydrocarbon gas mixture consisting primarily of methane, but commonly including varying amounts of other higher alkanes, and sometimes a small percentage of carbon dioxide, nitrogen, hydrogen sulfide, or helium.” (Google)

At this point, one should emphasise perhaps that, no, dear Government spokeshitter, “natural” gas – a fossil fuel – is not “new”, or different from, or better for the environment than the carbon dioxide driven off by burning anything – coal, wood, charcoal, garbage – briquettes from the garage. That it might be, is a lie promulgated by the PR boys of the energy industry.

It is simply a matter of relative management efficiency as to how much risk is created.

As your unscientific Uncle B. explains, based on superficial “research” (generally, reading the first paragraphs of articles on Wikipedia):

Methane – CH4, a compound of carbon and hydrogen – decays relatively quickly in the atmosphere. The single carbon atom binds with two oxygen atoms to make carbon dioxide (CO2). During the first ten years of dissipation, CH4 is up to 150 times more efficient a reserve of latent heat than CO2, a “greenhouse gas”, which remains in the atmosphere for a hundred years or more. Contrary to popular belief, vegetation does not absorb it all; and when vegetation dies, the CO2 is released once more to the atmosphere.

While we read that the average concentration of free CO2 in the atmosphere has risen from 280 to 415 parts per million since the start of the Industrial Revolution, the “carbon equivalent” of all the so-called heat-retaining greenhouse gases, including CH4 – as well as oxides of nitrogen and various chlorine compounds (e.g. CFCs), sulphur dioxide and even water vapor – is now over 560 parts per million; it having been calculated donkeys’ years ago, that a doubling of the CO2 content (which this is) would produce 5 degrees Celsius of heat-forcing – recognized now as probable extinction level for most species on earth.

Of further concern to us, at least for now, is that beyond 5 degrees, runaway heating rapidly extrapolates to produce an atmosphere that no longer supports any kind of life. Nothing like this has been experienced in the history of the earth, that was not caused by cataclysmic seismic events and, in the past, has not been recoverable over periods of millions of years.

So here we are.

Journalists continuing to parrot the “official” IPCC line that we face 4 degrees of warming possibly by 2100 and thus have ten years remaining in which to take remedial action; or the Paris line that an (already exceeded) 1.5 degrees is the limitation target to aim for by 2030, or that “sea-level rise” is the principal threat, are simply not looking where they are treading.

In all likelihood, not a few scientists believe, there is no drawing back from 5 degrees, possibly before 2030. Unless the “official” sources can all work from the same baseline and sing from the same hymn sheet as to the probability of outcomes, they have to stop playing this meaningless numbers game. It’s just confusing people.

As the atmosphere heats up, which it is doing alarmingly quickly now – remembering that most of the “global warming” has thus far been absorbed in the sea – CH4 release from various sources is also speeded up. The Arctic permafrost is one potential source of huge volumes – planet-killing volumes – of methane, which is detectably pouring out by land and sea from northerly regions where overland temperatures this summer have reached 35C.

This is known as a “feedback loop” – the more the atmosphere heats, the more greenhouse gases are released from natural carbon “sinks”. But there are many such feedbacks in play (and let’s not keep crossing our wires: global heating is not a cause of, or caused by, or even the same issue as, plastics pollution, the latest distraction.)

It is thus debatable that producing and burning more “natural” gas is going to have any effect other than to make it totally impossible to reach the already futile goal of a net zero emissions target by 2050 – by which time, at the present rate of emissions, we shall have ceased to exist for all economic purposes as a species.

It is bizarre, is it not, that while oil and gas frackers are forcing carbon out of the ground in this brutal way, willed on by governments, the same governments are speaking optimistically of technologies that will lock carbon from burning fossil fuel back under the ground.

The government knows perfectly well that to achieve zero “net emissions” implies carbon trading – offloading our own excess emissions totals onto less polluting – i.e. poorer – countries. It’s inconceivable that even becoming 100% reliant on renewables for electricity generation we could stop emitting carbon from all sources without the complete cessation of economic activity, including mechanized transport. Polite though it is to refer to relative “per capita” emissions rather than gross annual tonnage, industrialization of the developing world by any and all technological means, including fossil fuels, is not going to stop for us.

And when governments stress the economic and social importance of GDP, and of Trade, well, both depend on increasing energy-reliant production. There is no saving us from that.

But there’s more:

” A (2018) report by two leading health professional organizations—Physicians for Social Responsibility and Concerned Health Professionals of New York—tracks and analyzes the rapidly emerging science that points to the increasing dangers to health, including respiratory disease, cancer risk, and low birth weight and preterm birth, both of which are leading causes of infant death.” (PSR website)

So, here is important research that, as far as I can determine, has been completely ignored or downplayed by the mainstream media since its publication, 17 months ago.

The two organizations conducted a meta-analysis of more than 1,300 peer-reviewed papers from the previous ten years on the health risks to local communities associated with fracking, finding that almost all raised serious concerns. “Substantial scientific evidence now leaves no question that drilling and fracking cause serious harms to public health.”

What was that about “substantial economic benefits”? “Quality jobs”? (we already have nearly full employment, as people on minimum wage scurry about like ants, burning oil and delivering things to other people on minimum wage).

A 2017 article in Forbes magazine reported:

“An epidemiological study of more than 400,000 patients of Pennsylvania’s Geisinger clinic, done with Johns Hopkins School of Public Health, found a significant association between fracking and increases in mild, moderate and severe cases of asthma. Toxic gases like benzene are released from the rock by fracking. … These noxious chemicals and particulates are also released by the diesel powered pumps used to inject the water.”

The author, Judy Stone goes on to excoriate the Environmental Protection Agency under Trump’s appointed energy-industry shill, Scott Pruitt, for deliberately downplaying the health risks of fracking to local communities. As far as I know, our own Department of Environment, Farming and Rural Affairs has never even mentioned that there are any.

On shaky ground

Then there is the, as yet minor, problem of seismic disturbance. Over the course of 30 years or so, the frequency and magnitude of earthquakes in so-called fracking zones in US states like Colorado, Arkansas Texas and California where this method of extraction is extremely popular, and gas fields cover millions of acres with tens of thousands of pumping stations, heedless of whoever lives nearby, has been amplified a thousandfold.

The rule in Britain is that, if an earth tremor is recorded centered on a fracking site at M0.5 or more on the Richter scale, drilling has to stop for a survey to be carried out. This has happened many times, much to the annoyance of the Government-approved contractor, Cuadrilla. A M0.5 earthquake is barely detectable on the surface and causes no damage – other than to release more methane to the environment. No wonder they get cross.

Over the years, however, earthquakes in America associated with fracking operations have continued to grow in size. Colorado, for instance, would experience a M3.0 earthquake possibly three times a year. That figure is now over 800, and magnitudes of M4.0 are common (Janitch, citing USGS). “Each unit of magnitude represents a nearly 32-fold increase in the energy (strength) of an earthquake.” (Wikipedia).

There is no reason to suppose that the British substratum is any less faulted; although not, of course, anything like California’s notorious seismic instability, and that we are somehow immune to earthquakes. Actually, we get small ones all the time.

While the industry continues to deny it, their operations in the USA have polluted and overdepleted reserves of groundwater – the depletion of reservoirs is also a cause of earth tremors – depriving communities and farmers of safe drinking water and irrigation supplies, at a time when long-term drought is assisting the process.

Householders have reported adverse effects, such as methane leaking into their homes; famously, water coming from taps has been videoed, catching on fire. That the malignant Trump administration continues to rollback regulations governing fracking is surely in itself an acknowledgement of the dangers.

The British government’s line on fracking is pernicious nonsense, and they know it. They are lying to us, as usual. We need to wean ourselves off dependency on gas as a domestic fuel ASAP and not pretend that the word “natural” is anything other than a marketing ploy. There is nothing natural about fracking.

If there is the slightest possibility that once they got into power a Corbyn or other Labour government would stop it, we need to vote for them.

But don’t hold your breath.

http://www.psr.org/blog/2018/03/13/a-new-fracking-landscape-report-on-recent-science-shows-overwhelming-evidence-of-harm/

http://www.forbes.com/sites/judystone/2017/02/23/fracking-is-dangerous-to-your-health-heres-why/#4161be995945

http://arctic-news.blogspot.com/ (“Smoke Covers Much Of Siberia” – 25 July)

 

The Ruling Class

(This piece first appeared in The Pumpkin, Issue 92. It has since undergone editing to make it more insulting.)

Puce-faced, bug-eyed, apoplectic, squirearchical Tory caricature, Mark Field MP, the biological equivalent of a “John Bull” Toby jug, a man reared entirely on bloody beef and claret, has been “pardoned” by Boris Johnson, who has called off an internal inquiry into a violent incident witnessed by millions, saying it was “a matter for the previous Prime Minister.”

Classic overgrown public-school sneering patrician bully-boy, Field was caught on camera at a black-tie do for the ruling financial elite, grabbing a peaceful young female Greenpeace climate protester by the throat and smashing her into a pillar, before frogmarching her by the neck out of the room, as the other hooray-Henries cheered. No apology has been audibly or visibly forthcoming.

Crimes of violence obviously ceased to be crimes at the stroke of midnight, the night Mrs May stepped down and “Minority Johnson” stepped up. The odious Johnson – Boris Notgodunov, as we continue to call him, with reference to the Mussorgsky opera –  is greenlighting violence against women, which is hardly unexpected, given the alarm of his former neighbours.

The monstrous dictatorship of the Bullingdon Club is rising.

We have been warned.

 

Boris lays an egg

“The new head of communications to the prime minister of the United Kingdom used to dress up as a chicken and heckle Tory politicians, his former employer has said. Lee Cain, who has been appointed as Boris Johnson’s chief spin doctor, was previously a Fleet Street (Mirror) journalist.” – Guardian, 30 July.

Needless to add, he also worked for Vote.Leave. Virtually the whole of Johnson’s administration is pro-Brexit, many the harder the better. That compares with just under half the people – 16 million – who voted in the 2016 referendum to Remain.

The 48% now has zero representation in government; while many Leave voters who did not anticipate leaving in complete chaos with no trade agreements or customs protocols in place and foreign employers abandoning the UK in droves, while Scotland secedes from the Union, Wales bleats and terrorism returns to Northern Ireland, and the Tories double-down on privatizing the NHS, also go unheard.

Democracy in action.

 

Well, fuck you too

A Reader asks, am I planning to make satirical remarks about Jacob Rees-Mogg, and the old story recently revived, that he has issued a grammar book of his own invention to his new staff at whatever blighted ministry Notgodunov has sent him to, presumably in a sedan chair borne through well-paid crowds chanting hozannahs.

As it is something I have frequently come to blows over with Commissioning Editors, the use of “due to” when you should say “owing to”, I would just like to mention that, if in the unlikely scenario the limpid Victorianist were to be standing mistakenly on the wrong platform, say Platform 9, at Paddington station, when the announcer informed him that “the train now due to depart from Platform 4 is the 3.25 to Minehead” and he were to throw a conniption fit, blasting the poor woman for saying “due to” instead of “owing to”, as per his grammatical instructions, people would think him an ill-mannered brute and a complete tosser who deserved to miss his train.

I made a similar point to the Grauniad only yesterday and was mortified to find my Comment had been blocked by the Moderator, even though I used asterisks.

Well, fuck you too.

(I can say what I like on my own site!)

PS – This is Post #799… Which means the next one will be #800! Another milestone passed! Cheers!

 

GW: As yet, there seems to be no weather

All I have to report as of today is a tropical ‘disturbance’ bringing heavy rain to Puerto Rico, that Accuweather says might turn into something more; twins, who may have died because they were left in a hot car in New York; more possible flooding heading northeast out of the midwest (yawn); a plague of locusts in Las Vegas; possible Tropical Storm Wipha organizing east of the Philippines; forests dying because of the long drought affecting Germany.

Wunderground has: “Two well-organized tropical storms are on track to become potent hurricanes as they head from the Eastern toward the Central Pacific. Hawaiians should keep an eye on both, although the second one—Flossie—appears to be the main concern. Meanwhile, the Atlantic continues to percolate (sic) with tropical waves that aren’t managing to organize into full-fledged cyclones just yet.” The recent heatwave in Europe is still moving warm air and water northwards into the Arctic, where it’s been warm and sunny all summer. Sea ice extent is only a little greater than the record low of 2012 (that was enabled by a subtropical cyclone) with two months to go before the September minimum, while its overall volume is already the lowest ever recorded.

Pip pip!

 

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The Editor Speaks… How bloody naive can you be?… Yes, but have you thought about…? You Barbie, Me Ken… GW: Washin’ out me smalls.

“There was one high-profile politician Trump did meet, and that was Brexit party leader and ‘pug who just heard your car in the driveway’, Nigel Farage.”

– Stephen Colbert, The Late Show

 

The Editor Speaks

To avoid death by suicide or apoplexy, your Uncle Bogler has spent a week totally cut off from all sources of news of Mr Trump’s State visit to Britain, including the internet. Hence the lack of forward progress with this latest Post. It appears that nothing much happened, other than Trump amplifying Ambassador Johnson’s threats (and Nigel Farage’s plans) to carve up and sell off the NHS to US corporations after Brexit, which I believe many people voted for, as reported below.

One hour later…. Unfortunately, I have just skipped over as a matter of lazy habit to the cable news channels on YouTube, to discover among other horrors that Trump gave an interview to Fox News, in front of a background of 6000 gravestones of fallen US troops who died in the D-Day landings, in which the bloated coward used his State visit as the President of the United States to vilify the highly respected Purple Heart decorated Marine, Robert Mueller 111, as a “fool”, again insulted Democratic front-runner Joe Biden as “low IQ” and referred to “Nasty Nancy” Pelosi, then tweeted out that the actress Bette Midler was a “washed-up psycho”, before going on to meet the Irish Prime minister today – where he first demanded the meeting should be held prominently at his own, heavily loss-making and in need of expensive repair, Doonbeg Castle golf resort, before huffily agreeing to the VIP lounge at Shannon airport.

Why any international leaders who aren’t themselves filthy murdering scumrats should invite this diseased sonofabitch to visit them is beyond me. He leaves a radioactive orange slug trail wherever he heaves his rotting carcass.

Dammit, here we go again. I have to stop watching this stuff.

 

Thick as thieves: Trump and his golden elevator boy.

How bloody naive can you be?

A new poll is giving Nigel Farage and his Brexit party of inexperienced misfits, hacks, buffoons and chancers the lead among intending voters at the next General Election, which could come as soon as October.

That would make Farage Britain’s Prime Minister. Are you Leavers comfortable with that?

Well, don’t say you weren’t warned.

“Woody Johnson, who is a close friend of the US president, said every area of the UK economy would be up for discussion when the two sides brokered a trade deal.

“Asked if the NHS would be likely to form part of trade negotiations, Johnson told the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show: “I think the entire economy, in a trade deal, all things that are traded would be on the table.” Asked if that specifically meant healthcare, he said: ‘I would think so.'”

Mr Johnson is already on record as saying we will also have to accept American bullying to impose the US’s lower food and other product safety standards on British consumers.

But the poll thinks you’re going to vote for that at a General Election. Are you sure it’s what you want? Because it’s what Farage wants you to have.

A one-issue party in government, with no plan to end austerity and restore local services, fix our broken schools, end dependence on food banks? Not at all! Mr Farage has the following brilliant ideas for you and me:

1 Marketisation of the NHS to lead to a private insurance-based system, along US lines. Farage is on record as saying:

“‘I think we’re going to have to think about healthcare very, very differently. I think we are going to have to move to an insurance-based system of healthcare.’

“’Frankly, I would feel more comfortable that my money would return value if I was able to do that through the market place of an insurance company.'”

Note that: “Return value” – not “make people better”, make money out of the health service. Make insurance companies richer. You can invest in shares with an insurance company, make a profit. You can’t make a profit out of doctors and nurses.

2 Unemployed people would be employed to “sweep the streets” (thereby putting employed street-sweepers out of work!) As if the social system is not already broken by nine years of Tory austerity. As if the streets wouldn’t be cleaner if local authorities hadn’t been robbed of £100s of millions.

3 The BBC should not be completely dismantled but slimmed down to concentrate on radio rather than television (i.e. not compete with Disney-owned Sky and Netflix?). The BBC originated television in this country and has consistently provided a world-leading service. But Farage and his pals in the city don’t make money out of it, so it’s got to go.

Are you sure this is what you want to vote for?

4 Employee rights and protections won under the EU, such as maternity leave, that are “a problem” for small firms, should be swept away.

Small businesses employ 53 percent of the workforce. Over 99 percent of employing organizations are small businesses and more than 95 percent of these businesses have fewer than 10 employees (YouGov). That’s a lot of people’s rights gone, maybe yours – and there’s no evidence workers’ rights harm business, the small business sector has grown hugely, even with the new “living wage”.

Of course, there are the new employment opportunities afforded by US corporations like Amazon, Uber, Deliveroo. They’d be delighted if they could make conditions even more horrible for British workers.

5 Ban universities from running degree courses in European languages, philosophy and politics. That’s how much Nigel hates the whole business of Europe, to a pathological degree, although he has been making a nice living out of the EU for over 20 years. I expect it was because of his German wife.

Now, the reason for showing you the quote from the US Ambassador is simply this:

Before his arrival for his State visit, Mr Trump told UK newspapers owned by the Murdochs – the only press he will talk to – that he thinks we should leave the EU in October “with or without a deal”. If you can’t get a good deal, the President said (this is the man who had a book ghost-written for him, The Art of the Deal, claiming he was the world’s greatest deal-maker), then you should walk away. Some deal!

He completely refuses to understand the complicated nature of the beneficial relationships we have negotiated over the years – the deal we had – within the EU. It doesn’t concern him, as long as he and his friends can count on profiting from chaos.

For instance, there’s an American company, an investment management company – a hedge fund, which means they bet their investors’ money they can make the market go up or down and either way they win – called Blackstone, that last year paid £1.5 billion to buy up Network Rail’s property beneath railway arches. I couldn’t figure that one out, were they going to charge tramps for sleeping there? – until last week, when it was reported that rents for small businesses operating out of premises under railway arches were going up by as much as 85%.

Blackstone CEO, Steve Schwartzman, is a friend of Trump’s and an informal White House consultant on business strategy, who is on record as saying his $300 billion company profits from the market uncertainties caused by… e.g., “Brexit”.

I put it to you, that sort of behaviour by rapacious US corporations is going to destroy more small British businesses than maternity leave rights.

I wonder, is Trump thinking of making Ambassador Johnson even richer by negotiating a trade deal with Britain on US terms, for instance handing the NHS over to rapacious US insurance companies? Five of the Top 20 biggest companies in the USA are health insurers, while tens of millions of ordinary Americans can’t afford the kind of health cover we take for granted. Not even for sick kids.

You see, socialised medicine is for everyone, not just for the rich.

Ambassador Johnson, a billionaire, is in the health products business. Except that his company is being sued by thousands of people over poor safety standards and high-pressure selling of deadly addictive painkillers that are killing 50 thousand Americans a year.

And after spending months pulling the rug from under Theresa May, who he sees as weak on Brexit, Mr Trump, who is best friends with another healthcare billionaire, Dick DeVos, and made his unqualified wife Betsy Education Secretary – she doesn’t believe in public education either, incidentally, and wants to teach Creationism in schools – but they do own ten yachts between them – says he would like to see Boris Johnson as Prime Minister (although it’s none of his business).

And having previously suggested we make him our Ambassador to Washington, he now thinks we should make Nigel Farage our chief Brexit negotiator in Europe. You and I know that is a huge joke, but Mr Trump knows so little about it that he probably thinks he is being serious, or is hoping that lazy and incompetent motormouth Farage will blow up the whole thing for him.

Why is that, why those two – because they will be good for Britain?

No, it’s because they will do his bidding. And there is a strong suspicion that Mr Trump is in turn doing Mr Putin’s bidding. Mr Putin also wants to breakup the European Union, weaken NATO and other things Mr Trump seems to be working towards.

Do you see where this is going?

They are tools of the US administration. And no-one has been able to find out who has been bankrolling the Leave.EU and now the Brexit campaigns. They won’t say, but investigators have followed the trail abroad. To ultra-rightwing Christian groups in the USA and in Russia, who are pouring millions of dollars into far-right parties in Europe, and into getting Trump re-elected.

You voted, perhaps without realising, in the European elections to make Britain effectively the 51st State of the United States of America, at a time when that country too is in political turmoil created by ultra rightwing groups, its leaders pushing for what they hope will be profitable wars with Iran, with China, with oil-rich Venezuela, that we risk being dragged into with no say in the matter.

You voted, perhaps without realising, to give American Big Business and the US military control of our country. And you’re planning to do it again, the polls say – only in the very much more serious context of a UK Parliamentary election.

Why, because Nigel, the millionaire former dealer with failed US fund manager Drexel, Burnham, Lambert* is a good bloke, “one of us”? Because you can trust him to do the right thing, take back control?

How bloody naive can you be?

 

*3 May 2015 – “Aged 18, I worked for an old English company that was a subsidiary of the famous US investment bank Drexel Burnham Lambert…” wrote Farage, desperately distancing himself from a business that was wound up in 1990 amid serious allegations of fraud and insider dealing.

 

“Should we just accept, we are turning into data … making something less than human of us all?”

Yes, but have you thought about…?

So I kickstarted my li’l laptop this a.m., like I have to do because the instant it goes into Sleep mode you can’t wake it up again, the only way is the time-honoured “switch it off and on again” method. I’m no expert, but I think it might be the legacy of a sugary drink spilled a few weeks ago, as the key still seems a bit crunchy.

And the instant I clicked on my usual Firefox browser in the taskbar (see, how well I am mastering all this technical bullshit!) a window or whatever opened up with a plaintive request from Adblock-plus for a donation to the cause.

I did in fact not long ago send them twenty-five quid, I’m sure it was them, as I’m really grateful to them for sparing me the annoyance of receiving wibbly-wobbly “look at me!” messages from advertisers hoping to sell me the very thing I just bought last night, while mildly drunk.

But they seem to have forgotten who I am.

Having worked in the ad business for a few years and owned my own agency, I like to think I’m pretty well immune to the blandishments of advertisers. I can smugly sit here thinking, in the words of that catchphrase of some old Scots comedian whose name has completely gone, “aye, ye’ll be wastin’ yer time!”

But I do spend quite a bit of money up the Amazon – I’d love a competitor to start up, called Orinoco, only Bezos doesn’t allow it – as a result of following suggestions they’ve made for companion stuff, as it seems like it’s my choice to go along with the logic of it.

It probably isn’t, but as we’re talking music, mainly, it’s fine, it’s not a ruinously expensive weakness. It’s often helpful info about recordings I didn’t know about, that fit my collection. And I rarely buy a CD – yes, I still use CDs, unlike streamers “They” can’t tell when you’re playing one offline (except it might be they can!) without looking into it, listening to it – I’ll often go over onto YouTube and decide before clicking on One-stop.

(Incidentally, beware 5-star reviews with overenthusistic comments acclaiming the genius of the performer and the indubitable superiority of the work over everything else, ever. You may be disappointed to be hearing it from the performer’s agent).

Anyway, the point I wanted to make was a different one; one I have complained about frequently, being a gummy old groaner.

Just last evening I posted a Comment on a YouTube thread beneath some music, that had somehow got onto the problem of ad-blocking.

Someone had complained about too many annoying ads interrupting music videos, someone else had pointed out you can block them, someone else had said that was ‘demonetizing’ musicians – is that fair to say? Surely it’s Alphabet that makes the money, and the content providers, or ‘thieves’ as they used to be known, not the musicians?

And I belatedly interrupted this year-old debate by pointing out that I use Adblock-plus, and if you wanted the channel to benefit from advertising, blocking it would not make the slightest difference to their revenue, as the ad is still running underneath, but if you really wanted to, you could always turn it off for just that one page.

And the first people to contact me next day – Adblock-plus. Well, well. Coincidence, no doubt.

Except that I’ve been looking at shoes.

I don’t think I’ve looked online, but I might have. Or I might have mentioned it to myself somewhere, perhaps here on muh li’l bogl, or was I just musing aloud to myself? They follow you everywhere, even into the darkest recesses.

I own about six pairs, and over time the laces have frayed or snapped or extended loopily on all but one pair, not the most leisurely of them, that I’m having to trail through the mud, and I’ve been meaning to pop into a shop and buy a pair of deck shoes or something less formal, and maybe some laces.

Anyway, I was just browsing an ad in a printed magazine for older readers, such as myself, wondering if I can spare sixty-four quid for some quite smart deck shoes down to half-price.

As previously explained, I came down to muh li’l laptop and switched it off and on again and somehow found a way to get rid of the Adblock-plus window, that came without a little X in the corner (see how they don’t like it when you do it to them!).

Next, I had to excise layer upon layer of cheery messages from Firefox, demanding that I open an account (I thought I already had, otherwise they wouldn’t be sending me messages begging me to download their upgrade) – I was mildly drunk last night and had finally agreed to the upgrade – and worked out how, but not why, they had jumbled everything up on the desktop, and left all my thumbnails linking to frequently used websites in a different order.

So then, first things first, emails – Googlemail, stupidly – and sitting there on top, was an uninvited ad for…. comfortable deck shoes (Adblock-Plus doesn’t yet block text ads on Googlemail. That would be a plus).

Bad news for the advertiser, I immediately deleted it out of fear. I refuse to be treated like this.

By some wonderful serendipity, there’s an article in today’s Observer, or as our most venerable title dating from the C18th may one day soon be renamed, Sunday Guardian, the paper version reduced to tabloid size (benefiting from synergies, naturally), pointing users to a browser called DuckDuckGo, that claims not to have advertisers following you around everywhere, reading your thoughts.

It’s tempting, but I seem to be entirely enmeshed in Google this, and Google that, a sticky web of links and cross-platformings, and wondered, without benefit of a resident teenager, if it is actually possible to make oneself entirely a free agent ever again?

Google is like cancer, once it gets hold of you it springs up everywhere, cynically mutating your cells.

Can it be successfully cut out, or will it simply metastasize elsewhere in the body Bogler? Should we just accept, we are turning into data – just as ingesting all these plastics nanoparticles from the air, the water, the beer and the food is making something less than human of us all?

Answers on the usual digital postcard below, please.

 

You Barbie, Me Ken

We are certainly turning into plastics. Guardian Green Light reports research findings that the average human ingests 50 thousand plastics microparticles every year. No-one knows what the effect might be, although it has been suggested that these particles can transport harmful viruses.

I’m not sure also if we might excrete quite a lot of it, or whether it stays in the body, mutating our cells.

 

GW: washin’ out me smalls

It appears there’s been quite a bit of action on the old extreme weather front while I’ve been on a quiet reading holiday in my own living-room, listening to the rain teeming down outside. Floods even in Libya! I am as usual indebted to Floodlist – funded by the EU Copernicus project – for many of the following items; and would again issue a plea to the vanished blogger of Climate and Extreme Weather News – come back! We need you now:

Mexico: “At least 5 people have died and more are missing after raging floods swept a deluge of mud, logs and debris through the town of San Gabriel in Jalisco state on 02 June.” It appears there was no rain locally – illegal logging and burning has denuded hillsides far upstream on the Apango river. There were more floods in the region of San Luis Potosi two days earlier, with cars washed away and buildings damaged in the city of Matehuala.

Malaysia: Over 1000 people have been evacuated in the state of Sarawak following floods up to 5 meters deep in places. Almost 200mm rain fell on Kota Kinabalu, the capital of Malaysia’s Sabah state, in 24 hours on 04 June.

Uganda: At least 5 people have died after a series of landslides in the Eastern Region. Around 50 people are missing. “The landslides occurred during the night of 04 to early 05 June, after a period of about 4 hours of heavy rain. … This is the third major flooding or landslide event to hit the country since late April this year. Just a few days ago 8 people died in flooding in the country’s capital, Kampala. A storm that brought hail, strong winds and heavy rain to parts of eastern Uganda on 23 April left at least 18 people dead and displaced around 900.”

Libya: “At least 2 people have died and many are displaced after major flooding in Ghat District in south-western Libya. Flooding struck on 03 June after a period of heavy rain. Local authorities said that as much as 70% of the city was under flood water, forcing over 500 families to leave damaged or flooded homes.” The UN has called for emergency relief, as “wide areas of the city have been without drinking water or electricity for 2 days.”

Romania: Rivers are at Orange alert following days of heavy rain and flooding. “The Ministry of Interior reports that 8 people were rescued (yesterday) from floods – including vehicles and a school – and over 260 people have been evacuated in 6 counties of the country. Around 200 homes have been flooded out in 23 counties since 23 May, with emergency services on constant alert. Severe thunderstorms were forecast for the weekend over eastern Germany, with high risk of tornadoes.

France: 3 lifeboatmen were drowned off the northwest coast after going to the aid of another boat which had got into difficulty as Storm Miguel struck the area. Winds of over 90mph had hit northern Spain earlier, swirling around the Bay of Biscay . “The storm is unusual, coming at the start of the summer tourist season”, says the BBC Weather service.

USA: With yet more heavy rain forecast this weekend over the SW states, moving up into the Great Lakes, The Weather Channel reports, “Propelled by a two-week siege of widespread severe weather and heavy rain in late May, the contiguous U.S. has once again broken its record for the wettest year-long span in data going back to 1895. According to the monthly U.S. climate summary released Thursday from the NOAA National Centers for Environmental Information, last month was the second-wettest month in U.S. history, with the nationally averaged total of 4.41” just behind the 4.44” recorded in May 2015.”

The better news being that, for the first time ever (i.e. in 20 years of records… these Americans!), no region of the USA this past month has achieved a drought score much worse than zero. It’s been raining everywhere. Nevertheless, The Weather Channel reports, five major US cities at least are in imminent danger of “Year Zero”, when they will have to introduce water rationing.

While, reports the channel’s Dr Jeff Masters: “’Day Zero’ is expected to arrive for millions more in India by 2020, when groundwater supplies are predicted to run out for 100 million people in the northern half of the country.” Thanks largely to poor management, “Over 12% of India’s population -163 million people of 1.3 billion – live under ‘Day Zero’ conditions, with no access to clean water near their home, according to a 2018 WaterAid report.”

India: “is reeling from an intense heat wave with temperatures crossing 45C in many parts of the country”, the BBC reported on 02 June. “Churu, in the northern state of Rajasthan, is India’s hottest city – temperatures there soared to 50.8C on Sunday, the meteorological department said. It has put Rajasthan and the central state of Madhya Pradesh on alert for “severe heat wave conditions”. Records were being broken in Pakistan, however. “Jacobabad – at 51C (123.8F) – is being called the hottest place on Earth.”

Meanwhile in Australia, snow has arrived in subtropical Queensland. “Australia’s Bureau of Meteorology described it as a “rare” sight, noting the state had not experienced significant snowfall since 2015. Severe weather warnings have also been issued for a 1,000km (620m) stretch of coast which includes Sydney. People have been urged to stay indoors amid heavy rain and gale-force winds.” (BBC Weather)

 

Yellowstone: Steamboat geyser went off on 01 June for the 19th time this year, well on track for a second record year. More earthquake swarms, harmonic tremors, uplift of the resurgent dome (Old Faithful), gas releases (noticeable to visitors as an acrid smell and dying vegetation). (Mary Greeley)

 

 

How long, o Lord, how long?

sessions

Je recuse

It’s Christmas time once more again

Joy! My new little laptop thing has arrived.

I have little idea of how to use it, I have never known what the f-keys do, for instance, but I plugged it in anyway and it’s sitting there, configuring Windows updates to its heart’s content. In fact I think it may even have connected wirelessly already to muh BT hub, as it’s got a picture now on the screen, one of those annoying pictures Windows 10 puts up, asking if you’d like another one the same or something different? Or maybe you’d just like to use the computer?

Christ, Americans.

Oh, no. I think it just does that. It wants a security ‘key’. Er….

It was delivered from Laptopsdirect at 09.30 prompt on the promised day by an admirably brisk and efficient young man with a van, from a courier firm I haven’t heard of before, DX. I expect they’re a rebrand of some formerly semi-useless American operation, TNT or something, one of those whose reputations weren’t of the best.

But it seems to have worked, and it means Hunzi gets his walk at the normal time – I feared having to wait in all-day, as one does with UPS, only to discover they actually came the previous day and left it who-knows where.

After ringing the bell, the courier waited politely for me to get from my studio to the door, which takes about 90 seconds if you don’t fall over a dog, so I didn’t have to sprint down the garden path to accost him as he was climbing back into the van to rush on to the next delivery, for which he would be paid 45p or something and nothing for the journey time or his van rental, distressing tales we read about so often nowadays.

I asked him about it, and he smiled and said he was actually reasonably well-paid for his labours.

I may apply for a job.

But now I’m looking at the battered remains of this, muh previous laptop, with wistful nostalgia.

I’m still using it, as you can see, but it’s coming time to bid goodbye. The lid part has disintegrated: the left hinge, broken, with its visible wires and other gubbins; the screen, free-floating between the detached sandwiching halves; the worn-out keys, E, T, C… some others I don’t recognise; the piece of thick cardboard I had to gaffer-tape over the trackpad to stop the cursor flying about everywhere when I’m typing and using a mouse. (Asus warning: you can’t cut out the trackpad, there’s no driver for it.)

And at last I can shut it down – it’s been left on for weeks because it’s been increasingly reluctant to wake up, and I fear one morning, like myself hopefully,  it may simply not.

But the new m’chine, well. Flimsy. A rattly, plasticky keyboard, that feels it might not long survive the pounding I shall undoubtedly give it, as long as the dumb-cunt old lesbian Trump is in office, lying her fat orange pumpkin head off.

The thing I can’t figure out is how to transfer stuff over in bulk. Most of what I do is write these endless, obsessive pieces using WordPress, which is a kind of cloudstore, so the data is out there somewhere for all eternity in a bunker under Arizona or Kyrzgystan, along with every embarrassing first and hundredth draft, and I don’t need to worry about it. Ditto G-mails galore, in the parallel Google universe; and the webthings I visit, obviously: YouTube and so on will still be accessible.

So there’s no shortage of things to do and see, once it’s connected to the i-net. And has a printer driver.

But what to do with my photos, that I don’t really want, most of them; the many hundreds of docs saved in Word? I purchased along with the laptop a key to Office 365, that’s arrived too, and instructions for how to key it. But you need to be online first. I’m afraid now of making mistakes and the whole thing is blown.

Then there’s Firefox and Chrome, with all my Bookmarks. How do I hang on to those? Windows 10, Microsoft, hates Chrome and clearly doesn’t want me downloading it, or Firefox come to that. And most of all, the 60 hours of music files, copied from my extensive collection of mainly disappointing jazz CDs? How do I copy those across? (Actually, I bought a tablet specifically to handle all my musical requirements, but I don’t know how that works either. Somebody shoot me now.) The resident media player will play, and very well — but there’s no ripping CDs on it, or organising libraries. What’s it for, one wonders?

And then there are the dozens of passwords to various needed websites that are going to have to be reset, none of which I can remember. I usually have to reset them once a week anyway as the ‘Remember me’ tickboxes never work. They’re all based on jazz musicians, but there are hundreds of those and I’ve lost the bit of paper I’ve been writing them down on. I finally burst into tears trying to reset my Gmail account. Change one password in Google platforms, and you have to change them all. They know perfectly well who I am.

Alas, the sockets on the new laptop are on the wrong side and upside-down for all my cabling – I didn’t think of that, but now I’m going to have to reverse all the plugging.

Sigh.

Look! My new laptop has got various ‘apps’ as we must now learn to call whatever they were before, preloaded on it! Joy. I just clicked on a letter ‘A’ in the taskbar, and boringly Amazon has popped up, begging me to ‘love’ it. You can’t ‘love’ Amazon, nobody can, they treat their employees like dirt; although it’s dashed useful, especially if you live where I do and love getting presents in the mail.

No, Amazon is a horrid, impersonal thing that keeps suggesting stuff to order that has no relevance to your life, on the basis of a brute and cretinous algorithm that can’t understand how no-one is going to buy more than one saxophone in any given month. And keeps trying to sell you onto their Prime service, at an eyewatering price, just so you can be treated a little more servilely and enjoy more crap TV with Jeremy Klaxon. It’s already looking quite dated, frankly. Dated and cumbersome.

Stuff it.

So with the lad away I’m thinking about renting a teenager, or someone with a worse case of Asperger’s than my own, rank body odour is always a good sign, to come in and sort it. Only looking around, I can see my studio needs a good clean-up first.

In fact, the whole house needs spring-cleaning, it’s a tip. I’ve given up, quite honestly. No-one visits, no-one comes to buy it. The prostate – I had another night of straining every ten minutes to pee yesterday, starting at four a.m., with consequent blow-back and leakage – and now I’ve got this hiatus hernia problem that’s giving me nightmares as well as indigestion.

It’s not promising.

I dreamed last night that I was struggling on my own to keep an enormous exam-room full of comprehensive-school pupils quiet and on-message. (I am actually a part-time invigilator, of undergraduate exams thank God, not kidz.)

Ranging in ages from about 12 at the front to about 35 at the back – there were even some teachers there too who were becoming increasingly noisy and insolent. They were all supposedly  sitting a very basic-level math exam by way of an infinite series of multiple-choice questions, but refused to stop talking and laughing with one another and texting their mates. After trying dire warnings, expulsions, disqualifications, confiscations and futile threats of violence, including tearing-up their papers, I ended up pathetically telephoning the headmaster; and while waiting seemingly forever for him to arrive, improvised an interminable speech about taking responsibility for one’s life.

Of course, no-one took the slightest bit of notice.

Not even, it seems, me.

“Ah did naht have intracourse with that Ambassador.”

Inside the Whitehall echo-chamber

In reply to a question from the BBC about school pupils being forced to go on retaking Maths and English GCSE until they get at least a Grade C, some of them well into their nineties, and wasn’t it likely they had other skills that could be encouraged, more useful skills; and perhaps desirable that they should benefit from more specialised training that might allow them to progress in their chosen careers, the Department for Obfuscation replied it was:

“developing credible, high-quality options for students through reforming Functional Skills qualifications in maths and English, to make sure that they deliver the knowledge and skills that employers need, and consequently have credibility and prestige in the jobs market”.

Yes Minister!’s Sir Humphrey is alive and well.

This lapidary statement ignores the quite interesting statistic that 80% of the CEOs of Footsie 100 companies left school at 16, or at best have no qualifications past A-level. Success in business has nothing to do with academic achievement.

A minimum Grade C is obviously required in BLB  (Barely Literate Bullshit) to become a cypher in the Education Department’s underworked press office. I require no qualifications at all to spot that what the DoE is saying is it costs less to teach open subjects badly than to provide specialised technical courses in FE colleges.

I don’t expect my garage mechanic to have a degree in Literature, but you never know.

 

“What hath night to do with sleep?” – John Milton, Paradise Lost

The first sign that something was up was the number 140 scrawled in white paint on the pavement outside my front gate.

Then, the crumpled note last Friday, shoved through the letterflap. Our road was to be closed from 18.00 pm to 06.00 am, for FIVE NIGHTS, starting Monday. If we had any queries, here was a number to ring.

I don’t suppose anyone will answer it and if they do, so what? They don’t give a fuck. You certainly don’t get an offer of hotel accommodation.

Deep resurfacing work.

It meant that I might not be able to park within half a mile of my house for a week, if I wanted to go out in the evenings. Which I do – choir on Tuesday (19.15 to 22.00). Drama rehearsal Thursday (19.00 to 21.30). And what if I run out of milk? Wine?  It would have vindicated my resolve to sell the car, had I thought to do so when the idea first occurred to me, several weeks ago. Now I’m stuck with it, as diesels have replaced feral children, Romanian immigrants, High Court judges and devil dogs as the bogeys of choice for the insane redtop blatts.

Outside as I write, the jarring sounds of heavy machinery, 12-litre engines whining: massive gritter lorries and grit pumps and hoppers and scrapers and road-drills and generators and tarmacadam firer-uppers whining and rumbling in the street, reversing-vehicle warnings bleeping just 20 feet from my bedroom window – all night long.

It makes a change from speeding cars and huge double-decker, double-trailer slaughter waggons hauling silently shivering sheep by the thousand through the dark to the county abbatoirs, from dusk ’til dawn. But it’s not much better.

They let me through, after I drove around five miles to avoid the Road Closed barrier at the end of the street, only to encounter another barrier at the other end of the designated stretch – my little house exactly halfway between. A nice young man waved me on – they’ve only just begun. And along the pavement, stretched right across my front gate, a security barrier tape.

Considerate.

Luckily I still cut an athletic figure, I’m not some pointless disabled person in a wheelchair. I can still vault a tape. And Hunzi can go underneath. What the couple next door with the five-year-old kid will do, who cares?

I may get out in the day, I don’t know. I certainly won’t get back tomorrow night, should I venture out. Which I may not do if I’ve had no sleep. Nobody will. There are possibly 150 of us living here in the village, trapped in our homes by roadworks and the arrogance of the fuckwit planners to whom our freedom to come and go means nothing.

Why the road needs resurfacing every three or four years is a question I don’t suppose anyone will answer.

So I will.

It’s because the Highways Agency, the Local Authority and the Police are all a bunch of fucking useless retards and budget-cuts-blaming cunts who do FUCK-ALL about the increasing volume of speeding tanker-drivers, Cathedral City cheese lorries and other heavy traffic pounding the cheaply surfaced stretch of the main road that links this T-junction coastal town through our village with the motorway system and the giant distribution depots of the English Midlands.

(Sorry to have a go, but it’s been years.)

A proposal to build a southern bypass was aborted in the 1990s, after some self-interested landowner dumped an entire industrial estate atop the proposed route, which then had to contend unpromisingly with the steep flank of a valley. No-one has had the foresight to create an out-of-town distribution depot to bring goods in by rail; although the perfect site exists. So there is only the one access road for all the commercial and holiday traffic funneled into the town, past my front door.

Ironically, I’ve just been watching a Panorama documentary about how, thanks to iPads and TV, busy working parents and obesity, kids aren’t getting enough sleep to let their brains develop properly. Not sure I am either, what with the old prostate an’ all. In an intriguing experiment, A. Doctor forced the dimwits to take the childrens’ iThings away an hour before bedtime, and hey presto! In a week their cognitive abilities improved by 60%.

From my perspective, at my advanced age I’d like to get enough sleep just to be allowed to die in peace.

Fat chance.

So I’m now on my twelfth whisky of the evening, counted in measures, which I don’t, and shall probably have to sleep in the spare room, which has the advantage of being at the back. Nor am I in the habit of swinging Katz, my tubby cat. Just as well in the spare room, as you couldn’t.

I only hope my grades don’t suffer.

“Look, guys, I twist my ear and a tongue comes out. How cool is that?”

The Pumpkin – Issue 2

Google Images

   The Trumpkin

Twitter Wars

The suppression of inconvenient information, the bullying and hijacking of public media by the Trumpenführer and his henchmen are gathering pace.

Key federal agencies – who knew they were still open for business?, since there’s been no announcement so far as The Pumpkin has heard about the appointments of new directors to replace those whose terms automatically ended last Friday – have received orders apparently emanating directly from the White House preventing their staff from publishing information. According to BuzzFeed, the orders include the banning of “news releases, photos, fact sheets, news feeds and social media content.”

Also banned, are over 2,000 scientists working for federal agencies from publishing or delivering research papers at international conferences; a potentially career-damaging restriction I should imagine could be tested in court.

And there’s some suggestion too that these orders may also be being applied to the Defense Department, preventing public discussion of the administration’s military-backed global oil-grab strategy.

This is somewhat disturbing.

As two of the statutory functions of these agencies are to publish information about their activities and to educate the public, we appear to be entering a long, dark tunnel of fake news, alternative facts, rewrites of history, threats against information sources, promotion of ignorance and reliance entirely on subjective personal beliefs, opinions and feelings to create government policy in critical areas of scientific investigation.

To turn off the tap of facts.

The impression given is there appears to be no government, only the absurdly large pieces of paper Trump is signing by the cartload, with similar relish to the nocturnal tweets he’s been spraying around like a sexting teenager; ‘executive orders’ which the TV coverage shows him not reading before signing them. Has he even read them? No democratic debate so far, even in the profoundly and cynically undemocratic, gerrymandered Congress. that tried to abolish its own ethics committee: only the dictatorship of a disassociative, megalomaniacal personality in second infancy.

“L’état, c’est moi”, as the other Sun King, Louis X1V used to say.

Agencies affected include, naturally, the Environment Protection Agency and the US Department of Agriculture, both of which have research departments working on climate change, which the intellectually lazy and unlettered Trump has insisted is merely a “Chinese hoax”, “bullshit”, and has promised to “scale back”, along with NASA’s earth monitoring unit; so we may never know. The wayward President’s current stance on the subject has however been moderated, reportedly on the mildly alarmed advice even of his new Secretary of State appointee, Rex Tillerson, recent CEO of Exxon-Mobil, and the man tipped to take over the EPA, Oklahoma governor Scott Pruitt (previously quoted as saying he would abolish the agency altogether).

Neither is exactly a fan of anthropogenic climate-change modelling, but both at least now agree, things appear to be hotting up, for whatever reason. Not that either of them wants to do anything about it, but both practically realise that denial is not an option, unless you are bonkers. Or the boss.

Trump’s haunted-looking Press Secretary Sean Spicer, purveyor of the “alternative fact”, is reported on CBS as saying of the President’s response to the weird weather: “He’s trying to make sure we use our resources appropriately, that we maximize things to make sure that we don’t do so at the detriment of economic growth and job creation.” Which sounds like a highly scientific, yet curiously inarticulate and unprepared response to a question about 2016 having been globally the warmest year ever recorded.

Yes, let’s “maximise things”.

There is as yet we believe – belief is fact, ask the evangelical VP Mike Pence – no announcement of any FEMA aid for areas of Georgia and Mississippi flattened at the weekend by a succession of 50 powerful tornados, despite urgent pleas from governors and officials, the destruction of over 2,000 homes and more than twenty deaths, with others including a two year-old child still missing. The devastation has been compared to a nuclear bomb going off, which he knows all about. Does Trump take anything seriously, other than his stupid, self-aggrandising 2,000 mile-long Mexican wall, that he “knows how to build”?

(I see that Lego is to start manufacturing in China…)

One national park service, Badlands in South Dakota, is now at the centre of a Twitterstorm, after its Twitter account was “taken down”, following the hasty publication of widely available data on atmospheric and oceanic CO2 concentrations. The information and more is being rapidly retweeted by subversives, after the agency put out an unconvincing statement claiming the original tweets had been the work of a disgruntled former employee. According to Rachel Maddow of MSNBC TV, staffers in federal agencies anticipating closure have been reported desperately downloading scientific data to private media, lest they be lost in a Trump-inspired bonfire of the sanities.

In an amusing (and probably fake) footnote provided in The Guardian report:

“The Department of Defense tweeted on Monday: “Social media postings sometimes provide an important window into a person’s #mentalhealth”, which some pundits considered a reference to Trump’s occasional early morning Twitter rants.”

You betcha.

_91500718_5eef05b4-b6a1-43f4-b63b-f5afc1fb19d7

The Pumpkin

Meanwhile over in Washington DC, six journalists are facing possible prison terms of up to 10 years for the felonious crime of riot, after being ‘kettled’ by police along with 200  activists and bystanders while covering the unrest that broke out at the Trump inauguration. Prosecutors have presented no specific evidence against the individuals, who have been charged under a catch-all indictment alleging association, criminal damage and assaults on police.

And meanwhile, the President (says he has) ordered a thorough investigation into claims that Hillary Clinton’ 2.8 million votes popular majority was dishonestly engineered by a conspiracy involving five million “illegal immigrants” who were not entitled to vote.

Claims that only he, the President, is making.

Crazy, or what?

http://www.cbsnews.com/news/badlands-national-park-twitter-goes-rogue-starts-tweeting-facts-about-the-environment

http://www.theguardian.com/media/2017/jan/24/journalists-charged-felonies-trump-inauguration-unrest?

http://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2017/jan/25/donald-trump-voter-fraud-investigation-illegal-voting

Photos: Google Images

 

Just what the hell is going on? #1

Question: Why does The Guardian website not permit comments on any news stories about Trump or immigration and so swiftly terminates the heavily redacted discussion threads on its Comment is Free section?

Answer: Maybe it’s because the paper lost £69 million last year and is running shit-scared of any controversy that might attract the notice of Messrs Sue, Grabbit and Runne (to lean on an old joke from Private Eye). Maybe a wise decision, as a US court has just given permission for Melania Trump to sue the Daily Mail for repeating a claim that her immigration status might not …. you understand.

A further, less obviously answered question might be why this esteemed organ and last repository in the British media of relatively free, intelligent speech chronically under-reports issues such as the clampdown on distribution of news and research in the US scientific community? The orders were issued three days ago, so where are Messrs Toynbee, Milne, Harris, Jenkins, Freedland, Hyde, Chakraborty… the rest of the North London phone directory …. and their urgent warnings on censorship?

My feeling (as a former news aditor) is that we’re getting a kind of reductionist view of the new administration, where each new outrage – today it’s a trade war with Mexico – is treated entirely on its own merits and in isolation from the cumulative effect of all these gagging orders and banning orders and paranoid tweets emanating from the Oval Office, each preposterous policy initiative blurted out in rambling, nonsensical speeches and infantile soundbites on the campaign trail to excite the Dumbfucks now becoming a terrifying reality nobody imagined in their wildest dreams would come true. Half the worst of what he is doing is getting lost in the fog of comment.

And why is everyone still trying to pretend that now he is President, Donald Trump has miraculously been cured of his delusional, paranoid dementia, his sheer infantile vindictiveness? Thank God for Ed Miliband, who said on Newsnight last night: This is not normal.

Bloody right, Ed. It isn’t.

 

Just what the hell is going on? #2

And, as expected, last night from the Pirates’ Den came the “Executive orders” to repel boarders.

Muslims (from designated “terrorist countries”, but not from the teeming human warehouses of suburban Paris, Brussels, Dortmund; from the grimy Edwardian terraces of Luton, Bradford and Sheffield, where the actual ‘terrorists’ are breeding? I can see how this is going to work…) to be prevented from entering the US, even to visit Disneyland with their kids. Actual Syrian refugees to be turned back, rather than comprehensively vetted and then welcomed. The Wall – for which he still insists he will “make Mexico pay”.

You’d have to imagine a grown man that can make up these pathetically naive prescriptions for national security is not normal.

But I have a different theory.

Much of the time you can’t see Trump’s eyes. They are hooded by folds of puffy, orange flesh, and deliberately narrowed to make himself look a real mean hombre.

Yesterday though, we caught sight of him glancing up at his henchmen, after he’d added his decisively unreadable squiggle with a big black pen to more of the huge “executive orders”, that are probably just bills and shopping lists and Biblical texts and anything else his desperate Transition team can cobble together for the boss to sign on camera, since he never reads them anyway.

And I noticed that his left eye is conspicuously asymmetrical, aiming off to the left, larger than the right, and slightly protruding. Compare this with earlier images of Trump in this 30s, when his gaze was parallel.

It could of course merely be a mild strabismus, an age-related weakening of the muscle, or a possible sign of raised blood pressure. But it could be a symptom of something more serious.

Does the President maybe have a brain tumor?

(alt-fact alert: the following medical information about a serious condition that may or may not be affecting the President may or may not be factual.)

Might it explain the obsessive irrational behavior and counterfactual statements that often contradict themselves in the next breath; the ponderous re-assertions of empty phrases he imagines to be portentous; the paranoia, the illusory nightmare world of persecution he seems to inhabit?

Interviewed on the BBC today, Trump repeated over and again, how the world is “in a mess”. It’s a slogan he’s been pumping out for months, with himself as the solution and the savior. He seems to relish it, rather than despair along with the rest of us.

We all like to agree, it’s a mess, but actually it isn’t, quite. Over a billion people have been lifted out of poverty by globalization, death rates are down, birth rates are down, murders are down, violent crime is down, endemic diseases are under better control, employment is up, wages are up, food production is keeping up, everyone in the developing world has a mobile phone, a Facebook account and a solar-powered TV,  the global economy is recovering strongly now after the 2008 crash, we’re discovering new planets….

Of course there are pockets, exceptions, flashpoints. Thirty million Americans, for instance, living below the poverty line. But that line is rising! By and large, there are fewer wars going on, insurgencies are being driven back, IS is in retreat, Northern Ireland, Colombia more or less at peace, an agreement on Cyprus, some progress on Syria….

While today’s most heartwarming story is that of the Chinese worker who set off in the all-pervading smog to cycle back to his home city only to be stopped by police for riding on a motorway after 30 days’ travelling… 500 km in the wrong direction. Did they fine him? Did they waterboard him? Did they shoot him with his hands up?

No, they had a whip-round at the next toll booth and bought him a rail ticket.

No world is “in a mess” when that can happen.

Where the world might be in a mess is on the environmental front – and that’s where Trump: his policies, his obstinate false beliefs, his unconstitutional cross-shareholdings with energy-related companies and his billionaire, climate-ignoring Transition team with its connections to Big Oil, is himself the cause, the symptom and the continuation of the mess he believes the world is in. (Or does he? Buy my book! Ed.)

The world will soon be in a bigger mess, however, if he continues baiting China over Taiwan, trade barriers and their claim to the Paracels and Spratly islands in the South China Sea.

We recall that in July last year, fifty top security officials published a letter warning that Trump represented a significant danger to the world and was not a fit person to become President. “He appears to lack basic knowledge about and belief in the US Constitution, US laws, and US institutions, including religious tolerance, freedom of the press, and an independent judiciary” they said, refusing to vote for him. And, of course, Mr Trump has succeeded in ticking every one of those boxes in his first week.

But are we all missing something?

An interview for MSNBC with Dr Harold Bornstein, Trump’s personal physician (if it can be believed that the grimy, shambolic old man with an earring, straggly gray hair down to his shoulders, whose rambling attempts at a confession recorded in a scruffy old office were frequently interrupted by his anxious, nagging wife, was really the personal physician of the billionaire Obamacare refusenik and not a Saturday Night Live prankster) suggested heavily that the “Doctor’s note” claiming Trump was “The healthiest individual ever to have run for President” might not have been written by an actual GP with a medical degree.

The choice of boastful, unscientific language rather gives the game away. It sounded bizarrely familiar. Dr Bornstein’s testimony included the claim that he had been contacted to write the letter at very short notice, given “five minutes” while a chauffeur sat outside in a limo with the engine running. Just long enough, one supposes, to slot in the difficult names of some minor medicaments the President-elect was taking – statins, and so forth – and to append a shaky signature.

And Dr Bornstein’s eventual conclusion, voiced to camera? “Well, what can you expect, he’s a seventy year-old man.”

One with a serious underlying physiological condition affecting his cognitive processes, possibly?

‘m not a expert.

Just sayin’.

Chairman of the Water Board

“Waterboarding absolutely works.” – The Wit and Wisdom of Donald J Trump.

How does he know?

Extensive studies have been carried out into the effectiveness of sublethal “enhanced questioning” techniques by the CIA, the army, etc.

And after reviewing thousands of pages of evidence from actual cases, the experts concluded that torture is, by and large, ineffectual. It doesn’t work. Being nice to prisoners works better. Give them a pack of cigarettes. Get them on your side. This “fact” – the conclusion of experts, who have genuinely waterboarded people, that waterboarding doesn’t work – is well known. Has been for years.

So how does Donald Trump know that “Waterboarding absolutely works.”?

He doesn’t.

He just imagines it does.

Because he says it does. Someone ‘told him’.

And then he says it doesn’t harm anyone anyway, even the military get waterboarded during training. Sure he did.

He has no personal experience of either torturing, or being tortured. At least, one assumes not, although I expect he might have shoved a few of his fellow pupils’ heads down the toilet at the New York Military Academy. That’s the kind of guy they’re now scared to say he was. A bully.

One assumes – but then, why would one assume it? – that he does not personally waterboard his business victims and associates for information. The only tortures he inflicts are financial and mental: he fires people he thinks are losers. He doesn’t pay his contractors. He threatens to sue ordinary people over personal slights. He crushes his pretty young wife in public, and she’s trying so hard.

Having the morals and manners of a large, orange garden slug – you know, one of those impressive slugs you think is a pile of dogshit until it moves – does not make anyone a security expert. Except that the President is an expert on everything, as we know – torture included.

Promoted sideways at the New York Military Academy after complaints from fellow students, Trump is quoted as saying the school provided him: “More training militarily than a lot of the guys that go into the military.” (That remark reveals almost every damn thing you could ever want to know about Donald J Trump, who managed to avoid actual service in Vietnam while 58 thousand untrained conscripted grunts were dying for him to become Commander-in-Chief. I don’t know how you can be an American and live with this.)

“I did very well under the military system,” Trump said in an interview. “I became one of the top guys at the whole school.” – The Washington Post (No, he didn’t! Ed.)

And therefore – cogito ergo est – waterboarding works.

Waterboarding is good!

Waterboarding is fine, believe me. I know.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/decades-later-disagreement-over-young-trumps-military-academy-post/2016/01/09/…

 

Does it matter?

Does it matter that taxpayer-funded sources of scientific information on climate, environmental and geological issues are being deliberately suppressed by the Trump administration?

There are many other sources from which we can monitor the climate, the environment, whatever they don’t want us to know. But shutting down the homeland services could present a serious public danger.

Amusingly, I’m just watching a 1990s made-for-TV docudrama, ‘Supervolcano’. Catch it if you haven’t, it’s on YouTube and it’s quite jolly.

So you’ll be aware then that in the movie, all of the information that streams out into the media about the (at present supposedly negligible, though overdue) possibility of a major eruption at Yellowstone, all of the normal public safety information and educational services, all of the information needed for crisis management, comes from…

The Yellowstone National Park service – part of the National Parks Service, that monitors volcanic activity in the park.

So now, if “29 million” Americans are threatened with flashover death from 500 deg. C. pyroclastic flows moving at 800 kph, inhaling a widening plume of windblown pumice ash (“like liquid concrete in your lungs”, no survivors within 100-mile radius), “nuclear winter” conditions prevailing around the globe for years, followed by starvation, riot and cannibalism, the collapse of civilization, ha ha….

Serves you right.

You’ll be the last to hear about it, suckers.

Now, Supervolcano was mostly fiction. What about the Arctic plume?

The Arctic plume isn’t fiction. Forty-four million Americans have been suffering a lethal ice-storm as we write. Destabilization of the jetstream owing to Arctic ocean warming has brought terrible conditions to the midwest – again.

Where are those Americans in real danger going to get their safety information from? From the Governor’s office. And where does he get his information from, now the NPA too is in comms lockdown?

God, presumably.

With a dagger between his teeth: Faith in the pulpits of inanity and other stories

Keep calm and carry on Moaning

From our Business Editor, ©2016 Sterling Pound @longliquidlunch

“Voting for sovereignty was all very well, but the question is: at what price? What if there is a 5%, or even 10%, or a not inconceivable 20% drop in living standards? Then sovereignty doesn’t look so great.” – ‘Danny’ Blanchflower, former Bank of England economist, on news that the pound was trading at $1.21, 33c lower than on 22 June.

As I have been bogling until I am tuppence-coloured, we have less sovereignty now than before 23 June.

No more sovereignty, albeit shared, over European affairs; no sovereignty in Parliament – that’s been usurped in the St Theresa’s Day coup – and less sovereignty, as Blanchflower points out, over our daily lives as we ride on the coattails of fleeing global markets down towards Sterling’s inevitable parity with the Azerbaijani New Manat.

That’s patriotism for you.

I’m not sure even ‘demented fuckwits’ begins to summarise my view of the deluded millions of embittered early-onset Alzheimers who voted without an inkling of the arguments and the possible consequences of their poorly considered decision, yet who now defensively insult better informed critics like myself as ‘Bremoaners’, traitors who can’t bear the idea of Britain’s greatness rising once more in racial purity above the waves. Stupid word.

We did notice, ‘Breleavers’ had a nasty habit before the referendum of simply howling down anyone who spoke in favour of commonsense policy;  now they’re at it again. You haven’t got an argument, you haven’t done the research, you don’t understand the issues, but you’re vindicated by your emotional responses, so just challenge our right to speak better sense with a helpful cry of ‘Moaner!’.

That’s the democratic way: ‘cut off her mic!’

And actually, I cannot be a ‘Bremoaner’ by definition, because I have said and written nothing since the referendum that I was not saying or writing at least three years before (see Post, 11 May 2013, for instance). I said you were an ill-assorted bunch of curtain-twitching xenophobes, disappointed working-class Tories and delusional Empire loyalists led astray by neo-Thatcherite plotters, certifiable loonies like Peter Bone and Redwood, J. I said it then, and I’m still saying it now. Although I did concede you could win.

Another disqualifying factor, highlighted by Mr Paul Dacre’s revolting and hypocritical display of meatheaded jerkoff British exceptionalism in today’s Mail leader, is that I’m not a member of the metropolitan elite, a Jew or a homosexual. I’m a retired domestic caretaker living provincially on the State pension, about one eightieth of sneering Paulie’s filthy lucre. But I can still recognise the historic disaster of Britain’s disgraceful copout betrayal of our treaty partners in Europe and the reckless gamble we’re taking on trade, post Brexit, when there was no need for it.

Because the real ‘Bremoaners’ have been the semi-educated, bought-and-sold, op-ed slave writers of the toilet press, a heap of groaning media baboons who Moaned endlessly on for decades about the evils of Europe, lying through bloody spittle-flecked pointy dentures stained brown with the excrement of their tax-brexiled paymasters, until they got their way: no more repressive business legislation interfering with their plans to steal our minds.

The internet will eventually destroy them. In the meantime, we must just keep Moaning.

Trumbo parachutes in

The Australian Parliament (where else?) has passed without comment, a motion in which Donald Trump is described as ‘a revolting slug’.

I’m actually worried about that.

So powerful and widespread is the animus building against Trump that one fears he may soon start to attract the sympathy vote. Pollsters who put Clinton 4 points ahead are nervously fingering their rosaries over the possibility that there is a hidden army of Trump supporters they haven’t yet found. The media is constantly turning up his adherents in the most unlikely quarters: grown women with PhDs, blacks, Mexicans, Muslims….

Yet other women are bravely coming forward to attest that he groped them ‘like an octopus’. Witnesses state that he openly speculates about women’s tits while interviewing candidates for his tawdry secondhand Apprentice TV show. Trump apologists are wearing themselves thin, denying that he did any such thing (were they there?). Donny meanwhile complains these women are all liars. They’re bullying him. It’s a conspiracy. Horrible, horrible womans.

The House Speaker, senior Republican Congressman Paul Ryan, formerly an endorser, finds his righteous scrotal sac is not as empty as they thought, retracts his support: Trump sneers and mocks him, making paranoid accusations about sinister deals with the Clinton camp behind his back; complains of the greatest smear campaign in US history. (It would have to be the greatest. Greater even than his own smear campaign against Hillary Clinton.)

Horrible, horrible Paulie!

And still they love him unconditionally, the dumbfucks.

Personally, I’m less concerned about Trump’s squamous habits, his bullying and bragging about his amazing sexual attraction for helpless females overawed by his sheer charisma, his bullshit. Those are basically admissions of his deep insecurity, engendered by his domineering mother.

My real fear centres on the problem that he claims to know how to do anything, anything on earth, and he so clearly doesn’t.

Harvard Business School many years ago identified what they called ‘Entrepreneur Syndrome’, where someone who has founded one successful business goes on to persuade themselves that the next business they start up must be equally successful, as they so obviously have the Midas touch. But of course it won’t, necessarily, because they don’t. They’re ignoring the role of luck: early business ventures succeed, mainly because they are timely – not because the founder is omnipotent.

Trump’s more terrifying pronouncements relate, I believe, to his infantile comic-book fantasies about military strategy.

We’re gonna defeat ’em

_91500718_5eef05b4-b6a1-43f4-b63b-f5afc1fb19d7At a recent rally, the angry mole-rat started riffing on the subject of Iraq and the impending reconquest of Mosul, the country’s second city, that he originally thought was in Syria, that has been in the grip of the IS for two years. It is, in the world according to Donald, all the Muslim traitor Obama’s fault that the IS has been tipped off that the Americans are going to retake the city, and when the attack is to be launched.

This treachery, he believes, has given the IS leaders the opportunity to slip away undetected. He, Trump, will ensure when he becomes Commander-in-Chief that all American forces operations are henceforth to be carried out in secret, to ensure the element of surprise. That’s the way to deal with IS, surprise ’em!

You can imagine, can’t you, the Trump crowd nodding approvingly. Yeah, what does Crooked Hillary know about running the Army? She murdered the Ambassador to Libya, she used the wrong email, she should be in jail! Trump will defeat the Muslims with surprise!

So, for a start American forces are not going to retake Mosul. That honour has been left to the Iraqi army, supported by Kurdish and moderate Sunni militias. Coalition air power will be deployed in support, Special Forces may be in action – the US has Special Forces in action covertly in over 60 countries – the US has been training and arming the Iraqis, whose army command Bush foolishly dismantled after the 2003 invasion.

But the US Army is not directly involved in combat operations. There’s a reason – the American public got sick of paying for foreign wars, sick of kids coming back in bodybags. Is Field-Marshal Trump going to go against that?

Secondly, it takes only a moment’s contemplation of the size of the task to imagine that even dumb old terrorists might possibly notice the build-up of coalition forces retaking towns beyond the city limits. Of course, IS has its informers in the Iraqi army, in the militias; it would be idiotic to imagine they are so stupid as to not know an attack was being prepared weeks in advance, even if the media had not been banging on about it.

Stealth and surprise were simply not an option. But anything to try to make Hillary look more like a bungling criminal, and Donny to look like the Saviour of Mankind (he has even said America is certain to be destroyed if he is not elected, and that Hillary will start World War Three (doesn’t he know we’re already on to WW4.5?) … Surely someone must realise he is certifiably insane?).

In addition, since the Iraqi army has already retaken a number of strategic towns, you might think that IS would know there was a war going on and that they were under attack, that someone on the other side eventually would come up with the idea of trying to retake Mosul; and imagine that IS defenders would deploy their own forces and leadership accordingly?

It has possibly also not occurred to the candidate from Queens that by such a visible display of firepower building up, the IS might possibly be persuaded to abandon Mosul leaving a token defence force and a lot of booby-traps, and concentrate their forces instead on their hometown of Raqqa, to prepare for The Final Battle, Armaggedon. Thus incidentally sparing civilian lives.

That’s what’s known as strategy. But no, we just have to defeat them, it’ll be great, and then they’ll be defeated and we can all go to lunch.

Does he imagine IS leaders don’t hope to achieve martyrdom? Or that military defeat in Syria/Iraq won’t bring more of IS’s warped ideology to the streets of US and European cities? Solipsism is in a way like autism: it refuses to allow the sufferer to have empathy, to get inside another person’s mind. The only reality that exists is your own. Trump is crippled by solipsism.

Trump says he plans to expel all the illegal Mexicans and others from the USA. Great idea, but does he actually understand that there are possibly 12 million of them, and what that operation will take by way of resources and logistics that do not presently exist? Illegal immigrants aren’t by definition registered: to deport them you first have to find them. At 100 cases each, that’ll  require an army of 120,000 extra security people, on what, $600 a week?… Then you’d need secure camps to hold them while you process the extradition orders. About 2,400 camps could hold 5,000 illegals each. Legal challenges might take up a few decades. Then you’d need enough buses… (a quarter of a million buses at 50 deportees each…)

Equally, Mosul is a city of around two million people, almost the size of Houston, Texas. It’s not Koresh’s compound at Waco. Exactly how big a secret army and how much secret materièl does Trump imagine can be kept hidden in the desert for weeks when planning an operation to take back a large city from a well dug-in enemy numbering ten thousand battle-hardened fanatics?

Does he even know how many troops, tanks and drones, rockets and shells, how much ammunition and fuel it’s going to take, how to supply the attackers and reinforce them on the ground; the communications protocols between all the different groups;  where are the access points, the key targets; what are the Medevac procedures, the mechanical support requirements; what to do with 1 million fleeing civilians and what’s the Plan B if the first assault doesn’t work?

In point of fact, he hasn’t a fucking clue what he’s talking about, when he talks about retaking Mosul. He is delusional, imagining some tough guys can just go in and take it.

But the Dumbfucks go on believing his horseshit.

Trump has never been in or even near the military, he seems happier just to insult people who have. Trump managed to dodge service in Vietnam – passed originally A1, perfectly fit, nevertheless he was able to obtain four successive annual deferments to study in college and when he finally had no choice but to graduate the draft board decided he wasn’t fit to serve because of a doctor’s note about a probably operable bone-spur in his foot – Trump no longer remembers the exact medical details or which foot. (Washington Post, July 2015).

(My ex-airforce grandfather, who served through two world wars, used to joke: ‘I can’t do that, I’ve got a bone in my foot…’ I gather it was a stock military excuse, not always respected by those in authority – like my grandmother.)

I feel sure though that if he had been drafted, Trump would have defeated the Vietcong in a matter of days. What did they know about business, the little gooks? Send ’em back to Russia!

Seriously, Trump has no experience or qualification as a strategist, either military or political. He’s an entrepreneur. Entrepreneurs make policy on the hoof. They exploit opportunities, do deals, hire and fire people; they don’t plan ahead too far. They’re not team players. They’re tacticians, not strategists; often micromanagers.

For all his vainglorious boasting about his business skills, Trump has never had to organise or co-ordinate any large-scale operation of this nature, and so is free to fantasise about how he would personally defeat IS: parachuting into Mosul, assuming he can find it, with a dagger clenched between his teeth, Trumbo would slay ’em all. His fluctuating ‘team’ of hack advisors certainly don’t dare to contradict this elementary-schoolboy version of the world.

Trump’s attitude to military matters and much else besides echoes his ‘grab ’em by the pussy’ strategy for wooing the fair sex. We’ll defeat IS, simply by defeating them. They’ll be defeated, you’ll see, don’t ever doubt it, when I defeat the evil Muslims with muh special… defeat deal. Make you real proudame, Mama.

Nothing, it seems: no fact of life, no reasoned argument, nor any commonsensical approach to the verbal diarrhoeia that dribbles contingently from his Cabbage Patch brain will deter the Trump fan club from clinging to their boundless admiration for their hero: they don’t know or care how, they don’t even know or care if he knows how, but he’s gonna put that money back in their pockets, make Murca great agin – when the sad truth is, he’s already made it a great deal  smaller.

But let’s be careful here: the rising tide of insults and derision from politicians and commenters around the world just might come back to bite us.

Kyrie eleison! (And there was Light, but not a lot, lol)

By our Science correspondent ©2016 Kirsty Quark, @infinityandbeyond.

indexScientists are increasingly coming to the conclusion that the world is a virtual reality experience created in a computer program.

It’s known as Simulation Theory.

Uncannily reflecting the fictional plot of The Matrix, they base this subversive idea on the behaviour of the fundamental particles in quantum mechanics. If the world is indeed made up of tiny electrical impulses, they argue, infinitesimally small packets of energy coming and going, whizzing about hither and yon, giving every appearance of solid matter, then there is no difference between our ‘reality’ and what goes on inside the central processor of a computer.

(or indeed, the socket on your bedroom wall…)

Now, logicians might not be quaking in their boots just yet. There are an awful lot of leaps and bounds of the imagination, more than in any Tchaikovsky ballet, to get from one crude interpretation of quantum physics to the notion of a celestial teenager on a beanbag making up fourteen billion years of Universal history; juggling the fates of a hundred billion galaxies, a septillion star systems in a multi-level computer game.

It’s like saying, wow!, the hard drive storage on your laptop maps memory in precisely the same way as the human brain, because it feels to us like the way we remember and occasionally forget where we remembered things. Well, duh, humans invented it… so it might look a bit like our own mental processes, mightn’t it? As the courtier Polonius struggles to agree with Prince Hamlet’s metaphysical musings on cloud formations: ‘Methinks ’tis backed like a whale…’

Madly, when more seemingly logical propositions are put to the proponents of Simulation Theory – mostly, one imagines, overgrown boys who’ve been playing these sorts of ‘build your own Universe’ games alone in their bedrooms for years, between visits to Pornhub – the extension they’ve had to come up with, rather than explaining exactly where this giant supercomputer might be located in the here and now, who built it and who is operating it, is that it must exist sometime  ‘in the future’, and is post-rationalising its own history.

Pshaw. Stuff and nonsense!

No, what is worrying is that, just as the Intelligent Design theory of Life, the Universe and Everything is finally beginning to go away under intelligent assault from rational thinkers in the school of Hitchens, Dawkins, Harris and Chomsky, comes this new ‘scientific’ theory that has to presuppose someone or something is Up There, pulling strings, punching keys, making stuff happen, fulfilling the prophecies.

There just has to be an Intelligence, doesn’t there, a Higher Power that creates all this stuff, in whose Image we are made – a being not unlike us only bigger, who loves us especially (out of all the myriad flamed-out civilizations in the cosmos, out of all the millions of species that have gone extinct before us) and who numbers the hairs on our heads.

Indeed, it’s almost impossible for many people to imagine that there isn’t a Supreme Being, to accept that this is just how it is. I mean, look, it’s got rules! (Well, duh, humans are thinking this stuff, humans have rules too… Maybe we’re superimposing our own limiting structures onto our theory of manipulative deism? Maybe a little?)

The idea of God, in whatever form best adapts itself to contemporary human culture, is pernicious. It simply refuses to go away. The well armed fanatics and Bible bashers, who want you to know that if you refuse to believe in their invisible friend – no, not that one, this one – you’ll burn in agony for all eternity, even if you’re only a baby, so much do Jedoof and his heavenly Father love you, won’t ever let it go away.

For years, Christians have been moving further away from the Abrahamic notion of an all-knowing, all-powerful (all-punishing!) humanoid god. In the 1930s, a Jesuit priest and palaeontologist working on the discovery of early hominids, Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, reflecting the Jungian concept of the ‘collective unconscious’, advanced the concept of the ‘noosphere’ – a Universal mind, towards union with which he thought Humanity was evolving. This was very far from the God of the Old Testament.

In the 1960s, Bishop John Robinson published his best-seller, Honest to God!, in which the Anglican Church finally threw out the idea of a Supreme Being in the face of increasing scientific knowledge concerning the real age and scale of the Universe and the etiology of the species. He proposed instead (after Paul Tillich) an ‘immanent’ God, a God not external to humanity, but contained within us as an essential spiritual element of faith in human goodness and progress.

This adaptation of Freud’s superego was a masterly evasion, an adroit sidestepping of the fundamental problem of the irrationality of externalised religious belief, especially in the One True God – one out of so many in history, who have fallen by the wayside. It meant that, like a cancer, we had to carry around something alien inside our minds and bodies, that we could never rid ourselves of, whose Mind we did not need to know as it worked in us as an autonomic reflex, like breathing.

Many people were deeply upset however when, a few years later, the Bishop of Durham, the late David Jenkins, confessed that the story of Jesus was only a fable, a founding mythology we didn’t need to take too seriously provided we went along with the moral precepts in the Gospels, turned up in church once a year at Christmas and put a fiver in the plate.

For many believers, this was a heresy too far: evangelism, creationism, belief in the literal truth of the Bible and the theory of Intelligent Design began to gain ground in an attempt to push back against the Satanic beliefs that seemed to have led the church astray; dangerous beliefs in scientific rationality, Darwinism, denial of the virgin birth,  the resurrection and so on….

There is equally another good reason to undermine Simulation Theory before it really gets going as a new foundation myth for Generation Z:

In a collection of short stories published in 1959 as Nine Tomorrows, written a quarter of a century before you or I had even an IBM PC on our desktop, Isaac Asimov postulated the fictional computer Omnivac, that evolves through successive iterations of AI to overtake the human race and become a self-determining entity. Ultimately, long after Mankind has vanished from history, the computer has processed and stored all the data in the Universe (I believe that’s also Sergei Brin’s secret plan behind Google!).

Finally, entropy is complete: the last stars are snuffed out. Omnivac has become the Singularity. He sits alone in the darkness of the void for a few million years, pondering things weightily, until at last He intones: Let there be light!

And round we go again.

So you see, there’s nothing original in the idea of Simulation Theory as a reimagining of the universal creation myth as a computer program.  Through Asimov’s brilliant insight*, Science Fiction got there years before you, even when there was only the slenderest evidence at the time of where cybernetics was heading.

Before you start to hear it preached about in the pulpits of inanity, please realise ST is just another silly quasi-religious nostrum along the path towards Enlightenment!

*Think about that. Not only did Asimov realise years before anyone else the ontological problem with AI, that it has the potential to displace humans at the top of the tree; he also understood the nature of matter as information: data.

Politics: a curious affair

The wife of the new president of Nigeria, Muhammudu Buhari, has publicly rebuked him for, as it were, being asleep on the job. Aisha Buhari says her husband ‘does not know’ who most of his government appointments are, having never even met them; despite having been married to him for 27 years, she says, neither has she. They are all placemen (and maybe a few women?) put there by corrupt civil servants.

“I have decided as his wife, that if things continue like this up to 2019, I will not go out and campaign again and ask any woman to vote like I did before. I will never do it again.” – she told the BBC.

Her commendable attitude* echoes that of the Athenian women in Aristophanes’ Lysistrata, who refused to have any more dutiful sex with their husbands until they put an end to the Pelopponesian war. What, I thought, would be the effect of today’s political wives and husbands doing the same, putting an end to the tedious bickering over hard or soft Brexit?

It occurs to me, however, that they probably don’t have sex, at least not with each other. Quite a few are not even married, so dedicated are they to their careers.

I was wondering only yesterday, as it happens, about the very odd cabinet appointments made by Britain’s unelected Prime Minister, Theresa May, during her first days in office.

Are any of them qualified to be in charge of departments responsible for areas of public and private expenditure in which they have never previously been known to take a passing interest? It’s like Theresa’s little joke.

Briefly though, in the light of the Nigerian experience, we must first ask the question: has the Prime Minister’s husband Philip ever met any of these people?

I expect as PM Consort, he must have done. After all, was not the Arthur Askey lookalike (for generations X through Z, Askey was a variety artist in the 1950s, whose catchphrase ‘Hello Playmates!’ has taken on a certain resonance in these more austere times) being paraded as PM arm candy at the Tory party conference in Birmingham only days ago?

He might not have met any members of the elected government, as they all stayed away. Cameron, Ozzie Osborne, swotty li’l Gove…. they’ve all given it up as a bad job.

But what of, say, Amber Rudd, the former investment manager now in charge of homeland security? Philip would get on great with her, he’s an investment manager too. They could talk about securities, investments.

It’s often said most politicians have never known a proper job. Surely, advising ordinary people on where to safely put their now-worthless pounds, Panama or the Virgin Islands, is one of the most socially useful professions imaginable?

And Chris Grayling, of the curiously shaped head (he looks like a very tall, Art Deco standard lamp, with no shade – just a large bulb). Battling away over the Southern Rail dispute, I expect, the former Justice Minister was probably too busy being introduced to the concept of commuter travel to have much time for social niceties.

The comprehensive school-educated Justine Greening, former Transport secretary, has been put in charge of St Theresa’s programme of introducing lots of new selective grammar schools, of which she thoroughly disapproves. So she’s squirming.

While the new lady Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice, the former think-tank wonk and junior education minister, Liz Truss, has no legal qualifications or work experience whatsoever but is no doubt well on top of her predecessor Speccy Gove’s rational and relatively humane proposals to overhaul the broken prison system.

Wife and mother, the bizarre Andrea Leadsom was given the brief at the Department for Environment and Rural Affairs, and promptly ordered to close down the Climate Change unit, presumably before it overheats.

Then there’s the Brexit triumvirate: David Davis, a former Shadow, in the wholly new role of Secretary of State for Exciting the European Union, or something; ‘Dr’ Fox – would you let him operate on your sister? –  Business thingy in charge of beefing up British boomerang sales to Australia, whose first public effort was to abuse British business owners as golf-addicted slackers – while Boris, the shambolic albino bear-man, who has dedicated his life to insulting foreign leaders in Latin, now touring the world as Foreign Secretary, likes to remind other countries of how we used to commit atrocities on their soil, so they’d better give us their business or else.

Only poor, swivel-eyed Bremainer Jeremy Hunt, the Health Secretary currently presiding over the virtual collapse of the NHS, had any previous form in the job; in his case, not the best form – you wouldn’t bet on there being many doctors left in 2017, and not just because they’ve all been repatriated. To rub salt in the wound, the only antibiotic still available, Mrs May has told him there’s no more money – he’ll just have to kill more patients.

So while our senior political leaders are no doubt in and out of one anothers’ kitchens all the time, the best of neighbours, we must hope they’re on more than nodding acquaintance with their briefs and hoping to retain some small measure of autonomy while Mrs May makes all the policy and budgeting decisions for them.

It seems to me they’ve all been given the kinds of jobs more familiar to the ancient Greeks, as divine punishment for their hubris.

*His presidential response: at a meeting with Angela Merkel he told the press conference ‘She belongs to my kitchen’.

Maybe there’s a job for the Donald in Lagos next month?

Look out, you’re being Followed! #2

Is this the most isolated person not actually in solitary?

In line with my policy of not doing that stiff-upper-lip British thing of never admitting to anyone that you have a problem, even under torture, I’d like to tell you about my problem.

It’s a policy that sometimes pays off, in that someone gets to hear about your problem and steps in with practical help and advice.

You see, ancient as I am, I have this even more ancient mother….

We’re both grown up and can take responsibility for our own lives. Thanks to my boarding-school era, we’re friendly, not close. We’re separated geographically, and by the 32 years of my two marriages. We call one another every three months or so and I visit whenever I can find the money, the energy and an opportunity. It’s three or four times a year, anyway. Always at Christmas.

My visits are usually characterised by watching daytime TV together, cooking meals I don’t need to eat and drinking too much. Ninety-one years old, far from ‘liking a drop’ my mother is hard at it from ten in the morning, and I’m too polite not to join her. She also smokes heavily, which means that after two days I return home kippered, and the next day starts with coughing up grey phlegm.

Drinking and smoking are my mother’s pain-management regime. She takes about twenty pills a day for various conditions, but none of it helps and I remind her that my father had to do the same until one day he thought ‘fuck it!’ and threw them away and did okay for another ten years, he and his furred-up arteries lived to be 83.

My mother has conditions of the elderly. Having been an Equity card-carrying actress all her life, she used to keep herself supple like a dancer. Those exercises can come back to bite you in old age; the tendons in her feet have contracted so she has difficulty walking without support. Her spine is crumbling: she has osteoporosis, and spondylitis causing her vertebrae to compact and press painfully on her sciatic nerves. She’s a cancer survivor, although it wasn’t a bad one, and has an undefined heart condition I think of as disillusionment.

A notably beautiful woman in her day, she made films that included one cult movie after which she became a black gay icon in Brixton, not being either black or gay; did TV plays, and was a shoo-in for Lady MacB at the Old Vic, but sadly never an A-lister; possibly because at the point when success beckoned, she decided to look after me.

And still not bad. It’s a shame she can no longer visit the hairdresser; I’m not sure there is one locally anymore. Getting her hair done and looking nice is important to a woman, even at 91. But a trip to the West End and a £100 price tag have put it out of the question. So she’s had to go for that grey and witchy look.

But she’s tough-minded and independent. Okay, she tells me the same things over and again, but not because she’s losing it; her life is so circumscribed now, she doesn’t have new experiences to replace the memories. She’s sharply opinionated, and sometimes although I think I am the least politically correct animal, she will appall me with a sudden remark about someone or something she disapproves of, in ways which nowadays you’re not supposed to. It surprises both of us when she takes after her mother like that.

I’ve long known her age and mobility issues would one day become a problem that whisky and Chesterfields and old episodes of Miss Marple wouldn’t be enough to fix. That day has come, and I simply have no answers; no power or knowledge to fix anything.

Because my mother lives on her own, in a cluttered, second-floor, two-storey walk-up flat, up five flights of concrete steps she can no longer tackle unaided, in the middle of London. It’s the area where she has lived at least since I was born, around and about the borough of Kensington; until she remarried and settled where she is, over fifty years ago.

The only person she sees from week to week is a cleaner, a slightly dimwitted African lady who doesn’t clean – I find three-months-old food in the fridge – but can at least help with shopping, and bringing up the post from downstairs.My mother has to pay her £10 an hour; it’s more than I earned from editing books. And she’s not on the Internet; no Broadband, doesn’t have a laptop to keep her in touch.

Social Services seems to be aware of my mother, at least, although they’re not doing anything much about her situation. So, as I said, I don’t like to be around her too much or they might decide there’s someone taking care of business, which I’m not – I can’t at this distance – and pull back even the minimal help she gets now

Besides, I’ve lost touch with the city of my birth. After thirty-five years away I have no idea where anything is anymore. Where would you buy anything, there are no big supermarkets handy, no DIY stores – Harrod’s? Let alone solicitors, doctors, removal men, storage facilities… undertakers. I need to ask staff to help just buying an underground train ticket, I don’t have an Oyster card or even a contactless payment card!

It’s all changed.

Being close to the top people’s clubs and classy department stores, handy for the West End theatres, the royal parks and not too far from Parliament, the City and the admin buildings of Whitehall, the area went through a new gentrification – parts of it having been gentrified in the 1930s – in the 1970s; so that even the old stable-boys’ and servants’ quarters became pricey, ‘des. res.’ mews cottages and apartments. It was a villagey sort of area, I remember, where artists and writers and businessmen and politicians and people with country houses and a pad in town mixed together amicably. And there were small shops, a butcher’s on the corner. My stepfather’s sisters rented or owned several properties there. It had a familiar feel.

But long gone. Nothing compares to today, with quite ordinary – though luxuriously appointed – two-bedroom flats fetching crazy prices in the many £millions; endless redevelopment. Bought as investment commodities, those places aren’t even lived-in. The little shops I knew are gone, new ones coming and going with dizzying rapidity; pavement cafes like a street in Beirut, many Arabs sitting out enjoying their nargilehs, Arabic music blaring out late into the night.

Could anywhere as expensive look so cheap?

At night the area away from the main drag is like a ghost town. Few lights are on above basement level, and the backstreets are empty but for bored chauffeurs hanging around, lined up in their blacked-out SUVs waiting for the Kuwaiti princelings to leave the restaurants, private clubs and brothels in the early hours. Many of the little cottages have been bought by Russians; bristling with satellite dishes, there’s no-one to watch the screens.

A ‘statutory tenant’, meaning her rent is capped by the local authority, and with a tenancy for life, my mother’s landlords refused to carry out any repairs and maintenance, or even to install heating and insulation, for thirty years; until the flat deteriorated into an actual slum, with mould on the walls and in the bathroom, worn-out carpets, rainwater spurting in around the window-frames. Parts of the electricity circuit weren’t working, my mother relying on a handheld LED light to go to the bathroom at night.

Trapped in the wealthiest borough of the wealthiest city on the planet, unable to leave her flat without help, my mother has no money to change anything; and nothing changes, except the slowfast drip of time.

How come?

In 1985, my mother found some incriminating photographs in the bureau whose nature even I will not go into here, and divorced her second husband of twenty years. Although his family owned a C15th manor house with its own village, mysteriously he had no income and no assets; until she took him to the High Court and broke his family Trust fund.

She was awarded a one-off lifetime settlement. Having no idea about investment, she sought his advice (peculiarly they remained friends, he liked to be verbally abused) and was introduced to his syndicate at the world-famous insurance brokerage, Lloyd’s of London, in which my stepfather had been a sleeping financial investor, known as a Name, for many years.

Some of you may guess what’s coming.

My belief is that she was corruptly induced to become a Name. Totally ignorant of the workings of the insurance market, my mother was told, probably truthfully, that Lloyd’s syndicates had never declared a loss in the 200-year history of the company.

The fact was that while ‘Those lovely young men in red braces’, the Underwriters were serenading her over an agreeable lunch in the City, they knew that coming down the line imminently was a loss grossing $6 billion, that they were not capitalized to meet; many of the existing Names having mysteriously resigned.

Under the unique ‘three-year’ rule whereby Lloyd’s were not obliged to file accounts annually as other businesses are, they were able to hide the loss from the up-and-coming punters with a few bob earned from new soft-growth areas like the media, showbiz, advertising, design and architecture; people in my mother’s position, who were at the time being persuaded to invest their newfound wealth in Lloyd’s: a surefire vehicle offering high returns and prestigious dinners in the City.

I have bogled on this before: how for years, in my understanding, Underwriters had been bundling up and selling on to one another (‘reinsuring’) for fat commissions, loss-making policies in the US market – many of them taken out on workers in the West Virginia rustbelt mining industries who had contracted asbestosis, mesotheliomas and other occupational diseases, on whose behalf (or their surviving relatives’) the unions had been winning class actions.

And how, fearing a collapse of confidence in the City of London, despite numbering a good few Names in their own ranks, the government of the day had overruled calls for an independent inquiry, and instead allowed Lloyd’s to investigate itself, with totally predictable results. After which, the old Names returned and took up the business again of making their fortunes, oblivious to the suffering they had caused.

Many people, including my mother, were bankrupted. And when my grandmother died three years later, the principle of Unlimited Liability which Names have to accept in exchange for bigger dividends, meant that Lloyd’s took her house as well, leaving my mother destitute, clinging on to her ex-husband’s flat and with no legal redress.

Having been a Name for only 18 months, having never made an Underwriting decision in her life, having received only one small dividend payout, without the necessary capital to declare my mother had to resign, and so could not ultimately get back in the game or even claim the limited compensation available, for which you had to have remained a member. She had been fleeced of over half a million pounds, and never recovered.

Flat busted

Eventually, about six years ago the local authority housing officer stepped in and forced my mother’s landlords to make repairs. Central heating, double-glazing, properly certified electrics, everything was done cheaply and perfunctorily, in the ugliest and most practical way; really just to protect their investment in the building. The leaking roof was covered over; the roof garden my landscape-artist stepfather had made, that was causing some of the problems, removed.

Nevertheless it was done; and some security aids were added after my then 85-year-old mother, who was still working until she had a fall and broke her arm, pursued a burglar out and down into the street, yelling at the top of her considerable theatrical lungs.

And then the adjacent building was bought by developers.

For three years my mother lived with the noise, the dust and vibration, the cracks in the wall and the accidental cutting-off of her gas and TV. The hammering and drilling and pile-driving went on seven days a week as the builders dug down two floors to make a pool and a media room. The flats that eventually arose on the site were on sale for £12 to £18 million each.

Last year her landlord died, leaving the building to his children, who quickly decided to sell it. In August this year, she had a letter from a company introducing themselves as the new owners. A check on the web shows that they ‘specialise in tenanted properties and protected tenancies’; managing the rents before getting the tenants out and selling the buildings on.

The people in the flat downstairs have moved out, the owners of the commercial premises on the ground floor have been given a short, five-year lease. A defenceless 91-year-old woman has been left, stranded on her own at nights and at weekends, unable to negotiate the many stairs even to collect her post. The rent that the government is paying on her behalf is one-tenth probably of the rent the owners could be getting privately, but there’s been no offer to encourage her to leave.

I’ve made frantic enquiries about getting her out, rehousing her; she says she’s ready to go, hopefully somewhere there might be people around she can talk to, but there’s a Catch-22 in the proper sense of it.

We don’t have any money. If she is evicted, the local authority is obliged to rehouse her. They have no accommodation suitable for a 91-year-old woman with mobility issues. But she’s not being evicted, as a protected tenant she can’t legally be evicted; not while the Government is still paying her rent. So, if she were to leave of her own accord the authority is not obliged to rehouse her.

In any case, to find even a bedsit in the area, where she depends on several hospitals and her GP, would be unaffordable for the austerity-driven Department of Work and Pensions. If she does leave, she loses her rent cap. And the average rent in her borough is over £3k a month.

My own local authority is not obliged to do anything. She doesn’t live in the county, and in any case they have no accommodation available; nor do the housing associations, whose waiting lists stretch into years. Going carol-singing, I have seen some of the local accommodation for the elderly, and I’m glad of that.

My mother doesn’t need nursing, or fulltime care. She can still cook for herself, dress, bathe, put herself to bed. She’s not incontinent and does not have dementia until the fourth or the fifth Scotch of the day. Besides, they wouldn’t let her smoke.

My own tiny cottage will not suffice for both of us; I have looked at the accommodation from all angles and with steep, narrow stairs it’s not an option. A university town, private rented accommodation is at a premium, mostly infested with students and often in disgusting condition.

I sometimes find myself thinking she might not wake up tomorrow; although we wouldn’t know about it for a week or more; the cleaner doesn’t have a key, my mother doesn’t trust her with one. How paramedics would get in in an emergency, I have no idea. It takes my mother five minutes just to get from the kitchen to the door buzzer to let anyone in downstairs. The prognosis is hopeless, the problems insoluble.

What to do with all the junk, her stuff, the relentless, fifty-year accumulation of clothes and books and medicines and face-cream jars; the furniture, the unsaleable ‘antiques’? I’m no spring chicken. Who would help us get all of that out, down five flights of steps, out to the inaccessible parking, without charging a fortune; and where would it all go then?

What do people do in these family situations, your own slide into lonely old age staring you in the face? How on earth do you fix a problem like my mother?

Can it even be fixed?

 

2. A bonfire of the insanities

Does anybody else have the same thing? Like, the same weird experience all the time?

Like, when someone starts to Follow your bogl, only they are totally the most least likely of all people in the world surprisingly to agree with anything you like, write?

(I’m writing this Post in the vernacular, by the way. I figure that if I inject the word ‘like’ enough times, this, muh bogl will become virile on account of the dentistry of keywords. Right? I’m a businessman, I know words.)

So, last week, I found my bogl was being Followed by a woman who writes eloquently and poetically on the most exquisitely designed and fragrant web pages about her recovery from anorexia, which she attributes to the loving agency of Jesus.

(If you’re Following this, by the way, you may want to skip a day.)

Odd to find her here, as I’d just Published an excoriatingly anti-religious piece about the filthy murder of yet another open-minded human being by credulous Islamic baboons whose righteous anger was inspired because, a secular blogger, he’d ‘insulted God’ by reposting an innocuous cartoon on Facebook for the purpose of discussion.

I suggested that perhaps it was up to God to decide for Himself if He felt insulted, and to do something about it; not up to those medieval cretins to blasphemously take His name in vain.

So my general position on the subject of religions must have been quite clear.

As it happens, I welcome anyone to my li’l Church. It’s great to be reaching out to at least 35 people around the world, lost and lonely folks in need of intellectual guidance. Here is some:

It has probably not occurred to many Christians that the Ruler of an expanding universe of a septillion suns – 10 to the power of 24, an immensity your Church tried to deny for centuries –  is unlikely to care about you personally, your state of health, let alone count the hairs on your head. Even the Rulers of earthly kingdoms can’t do that, however micro-managerial they are.

Jesus unfortunately lets plenty of tragic young women die with anorexia, they don’t recover; and millions of children die every year from diseases of malnutrition and drinking filthy water, which is why I think the Miracle of the Loaves and Fishes is a bit of a myth, but people can believe whatever they want to believe so long as they don’t point a gun at me and tell me I have to believe it too.

Perhaps all those millions of young women and children gentle Jesus lets die every year from hunger around the world just didn’t pray enough, to the right God, using the right words? Perhaps He doesn’t love them as much as He loves you?

The cultural history of the world is littered with abandoned Gods, all of them almighty in their day, but who ultimately didn’t deliver when it came to people’s happiness, security and prosperity. Why should this one be any different?

And it’s a bit of an insult, isn’t it, to those thousands of decent people who’ve dedicated their lives to finding more reliably replicable cures for Humanity’s mental and physical infirmities, deliverance from suffering that doesn’t depend on which God you worship or your personal special relationship with Jesus, to say no, you’re wasting your time, Jesus loves me and will fix me good if I just pray right?

Because nine times out of ten He doesn’t. How right you must be. (But of course! He’s ineffable! ‘He moves in mysterious ways!’ Well, I’m sorry, you can’t have your cake and eat it: going from the ridiculous to the sublime, as it were. We can’t simultaneously both know and not know the mind of God unless either He is a psychopath, or we are.)

Anyway, changing the subject, my newest Follower, No. 35 (after nearly five years of agonising mental effort and typing) is a gym instructor! (Should I say Personal Fitness Coach? I never know.)

That’s right. All his (or her? Haven’t worked it out yet) Posts that I have briefly browsed on are about the joys of doing gym the right way.

Now, I’m not against gym. It’s just that I haven’t myself vaulted a horse or pumped iron for decades. In fact, I will walk extra blocks to avoid the sight and smell of a gym. The only exercise I take is walking Hunzi twice a day for an hour, singing the praises of Charlie Parker, and typing of course.

But I did mention a few Posts ago that one of the many, many sports I had tried and failed at in my life was gym.

ouhahouahaouaha… (Maybe I’ll just use a different colour for flashbacks from now on instead of that theramin-type noise, what say you, ol’ buddy?)

Sergeant Harry Rusbridger….

…was the gym instructor at my prep school. He had a firm belief that a boy’s fitness level was equated to his ability to inflate his chest with air. (That was in the days before the Clean Air Act, the air everywhere in postwar Britain was tinged with toxic Sulphur Dioxide from burning brown coal.)

He seldom failed to remind me with pride and fondness that my Uncle Richard, who had preceded me by a few years, had the biggest chest expansion he had ever celebrated in a pupil (we were ten years old!).

Under Harry’s brisk and soldierly instruction, we concentrated on shallow chest breathing, to the ruination of my subsequent singing career, in order to push our puny rib cages into some semblance of a military pout.

Sergeant Harry would go around, solemnly measuring our chests with a tape-measure on the out-breath, and then the in-breath, exclaiming over the difference: ‘Four inches!  Uncle Richard could manage four inches! Keep breathing, laddy! Chest out, bum in, that’s the way!’

The fact that I was asthmatic had not occurred even to the school doctor, who would sign me off to the sanatorium with unstoppable coughing bouts regularly twice a term with a prescription for three days’ bed-rest, plenty of cod-liver oil and thinly diluted concentrated orange-juice for my ‘weak chest’.

To be fair, I got a lot of reading done.

And I was considered too delicate for games; until, in my last summer, an outbreak of mumps carried off half the First Eleven, and I got my break as a cricketer; scoring five runs, and taking three wickets in my maiden appearance against hated rivals, Twyford.

But I always worried about the deep hollow in my breastbone, where the ribs join on, that indicated the opposite of the proud, puffed-out, hearty chestedness that was clearly so desirable in a real ten-year-old Man fit to rule an Empire.

Had my character also failed to expand in the prescribed manner? Judging by this bogl, dear Followers, and its inanities, I fear the answer is yes.

 

The Outing of Uncle Bogler

OMG! The BogPo has had 32 views in the last 24 hours! An enormous blue spike has suddenly appeared on the graph.

It’s not the record (47) but considering the average is only one, it’s a red-letter day alright.

How come?

Well, I can’t work out from the stats if it’s 32 different people each reading one, or one obsessive insomniac clicking through 32 Posts.

That would be great except that my output rivals Chilcot, and to read 120 thousand of the Bogler’s well-chosen words in a single night (at 4000 a pop) would be the equivalent of my own many nights spent clicking through Christopher Hitchens’ and his acolyte, Sam Harris’ fascinating clips on YouTube into the early hours, when I totter off to bed singing God’s praises.

What’s changed?

Maybe it’s got something to do with the other night, when I decided, sod it, I’m not spending another evening morosely pressing buttons, Uncle Bogler is venturing OUT for a change!

The choice consisted of wandering the streets between the intermittent heavy showers, heading for a dying pub for an overpriced glass of cheap supermarket wine, or spending a tenner on a Comedy Club evening at the University. (It was fantastic, actually, two really good standups.)

There, I bumped into one of my Followers, who soon began singing my praises to her mates.

Is that what’s happened? That BogPo has finally gone virile through word of mouth, as I have always imagined it might have to, given that I go in for no SEO?

Anyway, here’s a Classified Ad:

WANTED: Teenager.

I’ve just acquired a tablet thing, device; another birthday present to myself, and there’s no instructions in the instruction booklet telling you how to switch it on. It doesn’t actually appear to be doing anything, let alone the stuff I needed it to do.

I managed to put it on charge, after working out that the curiously squashed-together points on the mains plug all cleverly slide apart, but all it does is show me a picture of an old-fashioned U2 battery, from which I assume but can’t be certain it’s in charging mode.

All I am aware of is the Health& Safety advice that it’s designed to explode if you leave it plugged in for ‘too long’, however long that is.

Also this, muh mainframe, has started acting up. Last Tuesday I cranked it into gear, only to find all the settings had unset themselves in the night while it was switched off (it’s got a switch!) and I couldn’t remember how I’d set them up in the first place, which thingys I’d pushed, my music files were all refusing to open and I cried.*

One of my earlier suggestions Theresa May has not taken up as party policy was that we could bring back National Service, creating an army not of reluctant squaddies but of tech-savvy proxy servers with head-tufts, who could go around showing ageing dimwits such as your Uncle Bogler how to switch their Smarts on and download files that mysteriously won’t open, and whatever apps are.

Hitherto I’ve relied on the resident boy, but he’s off somewhere doing a Master’s degree  in how to run World War Three and hopes not to have to come back.

Now I’m £150 lighter, and completely helpless in the face of ironic minimalist design.

 

*My tears gave way to rage, when I learned that, like Santa Claus, Microsoft beanbags had circled the earth in one night, strategically ‘updating’ their dodgy Windows 10 software as a 1st anniversary ‘present’; and had fucked with everyone’s settings in the process.

I feel, frankly, violated by these unaccountable techno-cretins; and I want my fucking music files back, they’re all I’ve got. So far, no-one can tell me how to do it. What, do I have to load all 50 CDs over again? Cunts. (Can’t Undo Nighttime Transgressions, Sorry).

 

 

 

 

 

Going for the Jocular

I Got Algorithm

OMG!!! I may be caught in a ‘filter-bubble’!

That’s the latest thing where the people watching you watching them can select the news stuff you get to see on the basis of what you recently looked at rather than showing you what is actually happening outside.

So, as a serious journalist and newswatcher, I just found myself staring at a page of BBC News that includes the shock-horror content that Funny Girl, Sue Perkins won’t be able to play host in the Great British Bake-Off tent tonight, owing to a bereavement. But don’t worry, ‘cos Sue’s still in the prerecorded section, and she’ll be back next week!

It’s obviously serious, but not too serious. This story is currently running at number two in the popular and widely trusted news site’s main news rankings. (I may be the only visitor to BBC News, as whatever story I’ve just been browsing on always seems to get bumped up the chart.)

There then followed an impassioned thread of Comments from apparently real people about whether or not someone should have been ejected from the tent after baking the ultimate-looking lemon drizzle cake. (Apparently, 10 million people watched the first episode.)

I have no interest whatever in baking shows, but trapped in this algorithm I fully expect to receive urgent news feeds about nothing else from now on.

Actually, it’s quite soothing.

Justin Bieber has apparently broken it off with someone. And then I learned that some highly illustrated US rapper called Chris Brown has been arrested for pointing a gun at a woman who was admiring his friend’s diamond necklace (male friend…), which also sounds pretty serious; especially as Brown loudly invokes Black Lives Matter, a cause devoted to exposing police brutality, whenever he is arrested for… er, brutality.

One in five parents are apparently regretting their choice of baby’s name, according to BBC News, while young girls on social media are increasingly unhappy about their looks, and many women are asking why their gym kit smells sweaty? (Because you’re sweating! Duh.) Clyde the Turtle has been stolen from his tank at the Blue Planet aquarium in Ellesmere Port – police are seeking a topless teenager who may have smuggled the cute reptile out under a sweater.

And here, look, the Guardian wants me to know that Selena Gomez (who she? Ed.) has had to take a career break because she’s having panic attacks (useful info, actually, as I need a break from shopping in Morrison’s for the same reason). Tweeter, phone-in host and cyclo-fascist, Jeremy Vine has posted a video of a black woman abusing him in the street for videoing her abusing him for… I don’t know, the crime is lost in history. And, like, now Justin Bieber is apparently ‘seeing’ someone else!

And following on from the Burkini debate French politicians are arguing about women’s breasts. France’s enduring female symbol, Marianne, is always depicted norks-out. You’d never see Britannia with her jugs on parade.

The big news story of the week for me was the video of Red Hot Chilli Peppers’ bassist, Flea, giving Koko the Gorilla a lesson in playing electric Fender bass. Koko treated the instrument with childlike curiosity, respect and tenderness; unlike Flea on stage, obviously. She also admired his body art, and the pair are now thoroughly bonded.

Of actual news, I can find almost none. Brexit? So yesterday. Refugees? So last year.

This nonsense idea from the marketing baboonery that whatever you did, saw or bought yesterday is what you’re just dying to do, see and buy again today is fixing the world in a kind of Groundhog scenario. For years after I bought my militaristic son the birthday book he wanted on sniper technique, Amazon continued to select for me a choice of reading I feared would shortly get me arrested.

The late, great Humphrey Lyttleton summed it up: you can’t eat in the same restaurant every night.

He was talking about adultery, of course.

Isn’t everyone?

 

Stranger in the Night

So, today already, I see with amaze that this, muh li’l bogl, has received TWENTY Views and it is still only half-past eleven in the morning; barely second-coffee.

What’s going on? Have we gone virile? Only time will tell.

Statistics are all very well, but they seldom reveal easy truths. Each of twenty very old Posts was hacked in the night, by just one – presumably the same – person. Presumably the same person who read 47 old Posts ten days ago – a one-day record. But who is not viewing any more exciting current issues of the BogPo, which otherwise attracts on average half a dozen desultory viewings a week (see Comment below for who I think is doing it!)

There is just one piece I Posted in 2012 that has attracted a thread several miles long. ‘Does No-one Now Remember Comex 2?’ recounts the fallibly remembered history of a disastrous student expedition to India in 1967; and tries to explore the Bergsonian nature of memory.

This piece seems to wake up every September, at about the time the horrid events took place; thus answering the question posed in the title.

More recent upPostings, however, have not proved of any interest; although many of them uncannily predate by at least three days, highly-paid correspondents’ reports and Comment is Free pieces on the Guardian website and expert utterances on Newsnight and headlines in the Daily Mail.

So you could be reading it here first, for free, and more amusingly; but you’re not, more’s the pity.

 

Seek and ye shall Find

It’s the Editor’s fault.

The BogPo doesn’t go in for Search Engine Optimization, that I am reliably informed is the translation of SEO. We are editorially opposed to the ‘keyword’ culture that subordinates content and meaning to a system of signs intended merely to bamboozle Google, which (like Gordon the Green Engine) is a very clever and wise engine.

Nor would we pay for ‘paperclip’ deals or provide extra Lynx to other people’s dreadful websites in order to gain the attention of their readers, who have their own loyalties I’m sure.

No, the BogPo is a chthonic organism that will one day blossom and, indeed, fruit.

Until then, I shall continue to do my best to hide in plain sight, as despite obviously being a billionaire entrepreneur I remain a notoriously shy individual who seeks no temporal recognition or thanks.

Herr Professor Doktor Ernst von-und-zu Bogl (By appointment), Senior Editor-at-large

Aboard the BHS Arcadia, Boglèry-sur-Mer, France-Sud (32⊂, sunny).

 

Red Nose Daze

Readers of this, muh bogl, may recall some years ago I commented satirically, and with tongue firmly in cheek, on a news story about a consultant from Texas (a ‘Texpert’?) who was over here, ‘training’ British policemen at great expense in how you can spot a paedophile by the clothes they wear.

I suggested the police could catch more paedophiles then, by planting suspicious cardigans on the racks in charity shops and following home the dirty old men who bought them.

Although it obviously is a serious subject, nonetheless the proposition seemed utterly absurd and (in my belief) were it not for the hysterical atmosphere that has been whipped up among credulous village baboons in the wake of the Savile affair, this self-promoting expert Texan bigot might have been denied a visa on grounds that we don’t let fantasists and conmen into the country, where wasting police time is an indictable offence.

Now, however, I’m not so sure.

Women residents of a warden-patrolled apartment complex in Greenville, North Carolina, have reported seeing groups of men dressed as clowns hanging around in nearby woods, ‘whispering and making strange noises’; while children have reported that ‘clowns’ were attempting to lure them into the undergrowth.

‎Evil clownOne resident told police she was walking to her home on 21 August in the early hours, when she saw a large clown with a “blinking nose” standing under a lamp post near a rubbish bin, local news channel WYFF4 has reported. She said the clown waved at her, but did not speak or come near her. – BBC News report, 30 August

Greenville police reported finding no evidence, but the warden has warned residents to be on the alert and to observe the 10 pm ‘curfew’ imposed on minors (only in America!).

‘Colurophobia’ is a semi-officially recognised condition affecting people who have a genuine terror of clowns. I have actually met someone who had a similar phobia about puppets; a friend who is a puppeteer says it’s not that uncommon. A lot of people just find clowns creepy and desperately unfunny.

As one of the latter, while not an out-and-out phobic I suspect I must have had a bad experience being taken to the circus as a very small child. I certainly remember my grandfather running a red light (nose?) and crashing the car en route.

Of course, people having private conversations with man-sized rabbits are not uncommon. Aliens from outer space, too, like to hang about in woodland, whispering and making strange noises. Nuns high on wheat ergot tend to see sexually aroused demons in the convent. Donald Trump hears Muslims and Mexicans plotting the downfall of the US together with senior Republicans in his sleep.

But I’ve never heard of an outbreak of suburban mass hysteria involving false sightings of large, taciturn, paedophilic clowns with blinking noses gesturing satirically at housewives from behind the garbage bins. That’s a new one.

And children never lie when they get caught breaking curfew.

Could it have anything to do with the widely reported pandemic of adulterated heroin abuse in America’s rust-belt communities, that is causing hundreds of tenement dwellers to OD every day?

We may never know.

However, it’s not beyond the bounds of possibility that strange men going about dressed as clowns could be classed as a danger to children on the basis of their obviously sinister outfits, excessively silly make-up and furtive sylvan habits; circuses R-rated as a precaution.

Best be on the safe side when it comes to menswear.

Photo: Google images

 

Lifestyle

By Lifestyle correspondent, ©2016 Gwyneth_Platform, @whereits@

“…for men the wearing of brown shoes with a business suit is generally, though not always, considered unacceptable by and for British bankers within the investment banking division” – Social Mobility Commission report

Question: what do you mean, ‘though not always’? Blue suit, black shoes. Always.

Time the hobbledehoys at the Social Mobility Commission employed a proper style consultant. Preferably a real man, educated at Eton and Oxbridge.

I am putting the Editor forward, forsooth!!