Do we not have laws? A BogPo supplement. Breaking things… Nature Notes… GW: Not yet the last of the Phew!… Get planting!

Do we not have laws?

An American author claims to have had two speaking engagements in Britain cancelled because his “Jewishness” might incite protests. Your cynical Uncle Bogler suspects some publicist’s dark hand in this, but we’ll respond anyway.

Dear Richard Zimler

I was sorry to read a report in The Guardian that you have been no-platformed as a visiting writer by two unnamed cultural organizations in my country, apparently because you are too provocatively Jewish; although your fiction is not specifically connected with Judaism.

I see too that you have been nominated for many literary prizes but never won. Hmmn.

But, like Salman Rushdie, you have apparently been a little controversial in your latest work, imagining a dialog between Jesus and Lazarus, which is sure to offend anyone who wants to find a target for their bigotry. Frankly, as far as I’m concerned they are both fictional characters and fair game.

It seems not only ludicrous to discriminate against you on religious grounds, but surely also illegal. We do have laws against this sort of thing, I think, somewhere. It must have been something you said! But seriously, which are these organizations? It’s normal to out them. Do they exist? Please, this is too serious to be something your publisher’s publicist has cooked up.

I’m sure there are many Jewish writers and intellectuals who have not been no-platformed here – except for Marika Sherwood, a holocaust survivor who was no-platformed at Manchester University in 2017 entirely at the insistence of Israel’s ambassador Regev, an insufferable little shit who objected to her likening the Likud party to Nazis.

As if she wouldn’t know.

Generally speaking, it is still the antisemites who cop for the most criticism here, so please don’t abandon us entirely. Of course, they exist. But we are undergoing a dark night of the soul, hanging on the definition of the word antisemite. The Israel lobby has been extremely successful in sowing division where little existed.

There will always be dimwits who desecrate cemeteries and places of worship, Jewish, Muslim, Christian. The point is the desecration, not the religion. The dimwits know nothing of religions, they merely delight in transgression; just as many so-called pitchside soccer racists use racist tropes as a weapon to unsettle opposing black players, but do not (probably) share the ideology. Of course, that’s no excuse. While the British can be bullish, even at times heartily cynical, we are seldom to be taken at face value.

(In a new survey, 90.3 per cent of those polled agreed that Britishness is no longer a matter of color.)

And there will be people like myself who are justifiably concerned by the emerging apartheid state in Israel, a formerly progressive, technically secular nation now seemingly ruled by gangster capitalists and backward-looking religious extremists. We have a right to be heard and we do not wish our dismay to be howled down by paid apologists for a corrupt regime; nor do we wish to be branded somehow as haters of Jews because of it.

If we hated you, why would we care? We oppose apartheid and support human rights and justice everywhere. It’s a salutary exercise to revisit David ben Gurion’s foundation address to the UN in 1948 and compare it with today.

Unfashionably, Richard, I would still draw a distinction between the race-baiters and the race-haters.

The former category may weaponise difference for their own advantage, but when the chips are down, will put community before difference and side with those of whatever creed or colour are considered community against outsiders.

The latter will regard all and any persons of difference as outsiders to be refused admission to the community, even to be ejected, and focus their hatred and whatever violence they believe is licensed to them specifically on target groups. They are a very small, sociopathic minority who sometimes gain disproportionate notice by breaking things.

Some will argue, what’s the difference? It’s all discrimination and to be decried. Others might prefer benevolent discrimination and communautarianism, to ideological, racially-based violence, hatred and exclusion. All people discriminate, it’s in our nature. You’re never going to end it. It’s the intent that matters.

I was frankly unaware that we have many cultural organizations left, now that Mark Rylance has severed connections with the Royal Shakespeare Company over their sponsorship arrangements – being indebted to an oil company is attracting fashionable liberal opprobrium here – and now the Sacklers have been withdrawing their opioid-funded sponsorships – but it appears from what you say that the last two may have gone. No-platforming is a negation of culture, once it’s practised you replace it with barbarism. Institutions should remain neutral and not adopt the prejudices and weakness of their officers.

So, I’m sorry for what has happened – I’m trusting your word that it has genuinely happened – and hope that it won’t totally colour your opinion of us, but frankly I’m not too hopeful about the future of Europe, let alone Britain, certainly the English part of which I washed my hands long ago. Although there are some encouraging signs that populism isn’t everywhere rampant.

I had hoped in retirement to emigrate to Portugal myself, but I’m grateful now that I wasn’t able to. I expect you’re getting used to the extreme summer heat and the wildfires, but up here on the balmy west coast of Britain it’s still hard to believe that the most important issue we face is biting us in the ass, and it’s not cultural, or religious.

Shalom, Richard, take it easy.

 

Breaking things

“China has accused protesters who vandalised Hong Kong’s parliament on Monday of ‘serious illegal actions’ that ‘trample on the rule of law’.” (BBC News)

I’m sure they have!

Why does it not occur to the media and the Hong Kong authorities that the most obvious way to discredit the tens of thousands of peaceful protesters marching daily against a controversial extradition agreement with mainland China is to infiltrate their ranks with 5th columnists and ratchet up the level of vandalism and violence?

Maybe to the point where a direct intervention by Beijing is justifiable?

 

Taking us all for a ride

Variety magazine reports that Garrett Camp, a co-founder of the Uber “ride sharing” dial-up cheap taxi business, and his parter, Elizabeth Nguyen, have bought a $72.5 million, 4.7-acre mansion estate in Los Angeles.

That’s despite the strange fact that Uber, whose drivers – not a few of them homeless people who sleep in their cars – are locked in a dispute with the company over low-pay and abusive terms of employment, has yet to make a profit.

Mr Camp (net worth $4.2 billion – Forbes) owns a “portfolio” of other substantial properties in California and New York.

In a parallel Guardian article today, social justice campaigner and environmentalist, George Monbiot reports, the billionaire press in the UK has launched a savage campaign of lies and vituperation against him and five others, for putting forward a plan to mitigate the astonishing inequality growing between the ultra-high net worth individuals – the 1%, who “own” more than half the wealth of the world – and the rest, through a process of land reform.

And from a further report, we learn that the top 10 per cent of working people enjoy a median income of $7,000 a month; the bottom one percent, just 22 dollars.

The billionaires are fighting back hard against any suggestion that they might like to give up some of their ridiculous wealth, that many of them have gained for almost no effort by cannily monetizing the growing size and data content of mass consumer markets, or by employing armies of zombie workers on skeletal wages to perform menial services for the marginally better-off.

It’s estimated that owing to high housing costs and uncertain employment in the low-wage economy from which vulgar, parasitic creatures like Camp have profited mightily, more than ten thousand Angelenos are homeless and living on the streets. Not far from camp Camp, are the camps of the underclass, many of them women with chldren, whom the authorities are continually harrassing. It’s a less contentious strategy than housing them.

Mr Camp’s mansion purchase seems to be a sign that the new billionairism is turning conventional economics on its head, since this individual’s obscene wealth – and he is not alone, there are more billionaires than ever – is based on nothing more than a stock market bubble that grew from a brilliant business “idea” that people could use their cellphones to call for an unlicensed taxi whose sleep-deprived driver would get 40% of the fare and hand the rest over to Mr Camp and his mates.

I suppose the brilliant flash of inspiration that led to all these poor people hiring out their borrowed or shared cars and precious time to Mr Camp and his ilk at varying rates set by an algorithm designed to benefit only themselves had to be worth something. Despite putting many licensed drivers out of a job.

It’s known as hire and reward, after all – but the wrong people are getting the rewards.

 

Nature notes

Again today in Boglington-on-Sea we have wall-to-wall blue sky all day, although don’t be fooled: there’s a fine haze of traffic pollution. Nevertheless, it’s an agreeable 19.5 degrees C in the shade, with a barely perceptible breeze, and it’s half-past ten in the morning. Global warming? Fie! (Oops – 11.15 and it’s gone over 20.4C.)

Yesterday on our walk I did a bee count, and the news was still not good. At one point there’s a stretch along the path by the river where half a dozen large Buddleia bushes splurged into spectacular flower a couple of weeks ago. The cloying scent of the panicles of purple flowers filled the air, even to my feeble human olfactory senses detectable from fifty yards away. Your average bee couldn’t help but detect them at half a mile. Yet I counted only one honeybee grazing among the lot, possibly two but it might have been a wasp or one of those false-bee hoverflies, of which there seem to be quite a few this year. My eyesight isn’t improving, but even extrapolating by a factor of ten that I must have missed, it didn’t seem like there are many bees around.

Buddleia is also attractive to butterflies. I spotted none anywhere among the bushes, although later crossing a small meadow where the ripening grass is approaching shoulder-high (I’m six feet tall) there were three browns, and later a solitary tortoiseshell. Nevertheless, it has been such an amazing spring, mild and with just the right balance of rain and sunshine, masses of tumbling vegetation and wildflowers flowering early, that it does seem the insect population is recovering somewhat from last year’s disastrous start. There’s never a shortage of gnats here.

Who is it who keeps smashing down the two teasels growing beside the path? These amazing, self-sown annuals can grow to seven feet in a few weeks, their pale-green, serrated leaves on furry stems pointing upwards to the light, before putting out their multiple seed-heads, the familiar large burrs rustic weavers allegedly used in olden times to “full”, or comb the skeins of wool. Once ripened, they make interesting cut-flower ornaments for the vase. People spray them gold and silver for free Xmas decs. That’s if they’re allowed to flower. Every year, these two companions get to about four feet in height and some whistling moron comes along with a stick and bashes them down. If I ever catch them I will take a stick and bash them down.

The bee picture improved slightly when I took a glass of well-chilled Czech lager up onto the patio to contemplate my projects*. The tiny garden is bordered on one side by a magnificent privet hedge, whose top I cannot reach to trim even with the bloody awkward folding ladder thing, that gives your fingers blood blisters just looking at its stiff and snappy hinges. The privet is in copious flower and I counted half a dozen hive workers brunching on the nectar, their little legs stuck all over with pollen.

Another stripy hoverfly comes and stares at me for a while, wings going nineteen thousand to the dozen. It must take a lot of energy to perform that astonishing manoeuvre, of staying absolutely still like a hawk poised in mid-air for minutes at a time. You wonder why they bother? What are they waiting for? They rarely seem to land anywhere. I fancied it might be one of those new nano-sized military drones and that at any moment it would fire a tiny missile at my head.

 

*Huzzah! After all this time, the bricks to finish my half-built wall have arrived. The ones the yard sold on by mistake a year ago after I’d paid for them, and couldn’t get any more of. Until now. (Actually they’d had them in for months but it didn’t occur to them to phone me and say.)

Dimly sensing the throbbing of a heavy engine outside, I managed to changeover to my urine day bag and sprinted downstairs at a quarter to 8.00 this morning, just in time to stop the men delivering an enormous pallet smack in the middle of the path I share with the neighboring house, blocking it completely.

I’d spent half an hour yesterday clearing a space for them inside the garden wall, but they didn’t think the pallet would fit there and were nervous about parking on a bend. We could have been trapped for weeks! It merely required me to shift three bags of compost six inches to the right and they were able to guide the pallet into position for a perfect fit.

It’s no wonder the working people voted to Leave the EU. They all seem to be quite bereft of common sense.

 

GW: Not yet the last of the Phew!

Europe: Heat records at the weekend tumbled acoss a swathe of central Europe from Denmark in the north, to Switzerland in the south, as it was officially declared the hottest June month ever across the continent. In Germany, 34 all-time heat records were broken on Sunday, 1 July. At the river Saale in Bernburg, a scorching high of 39.6°C (103.3°F) was not only that station’s hottest temperature on any date in records going back to 1898, but the hottest June temperature ever observed anywhere in Germany. The previous record? 2018. (BBC Weather/The Weather Channel)

Northern Spain continues very hot, recording temperatures in the low 40s C, 102F-plus. Firefighters are still battling two large blazes, one moving at 7km/h has burned 3,300Ha and is in the outskirts of the capital, Madrid. England recorded its hottest day of the year on 29 June, the temperature reaching 34C (93.2F) at Heathrow airport. In Scotland, people found their power sockets had turned black after a series of lightning strikes on their houses. Hundreds of homes were without power for almost 24 hours following the storm on Saturday.

Iceland too has been experiencing an “unbearable” heatwave, with temperatures in places rising to 22C (72F). Residents are more used to the average June temperature of 7C. (Euronews)

USA: “Alaska, part of which lies inside the Arctic Circle, is sweltering under a heatwave, with record temperatures recorded in several areas, including its largest city. Temperatures reached 90F (32C) in Anchorage on Thursday (4 July), shattering the city’s previous record of 85F.” (BBC News, et al

Russia: 18 people have died – 17 drowned and 1 as a result of hypothermia, in record floods in Siberia. 8 people are still missing. Emergency teams have evacuated 2,200 people from the disaster area. Almost 1,500 people have sought medical help, with 221 hospitalised. Flooding first began around 25 June after a period of heavy rain that caused rivers and lakes to overflow, including Lake Baikal. Over 6,600 homes have been flooded, affecting over 30,000 residents. 12 bridges have been destroyed, dozens of roads damaged, as well as around 40 public buildings, including schools and medical centres. (Floodlist)

India: “Dozens” of people are reported to have died in flooding and landslides in Maharashtra province. 18 people have died and 6 others are missing after heavy rainfall caused a dam breach which flooded a village. Houses were swept away as flood waters engulfed Tiware Bhendwadi village. Mumbai has had its heaviest rain for over a decade, with localized flooding, and there’s more to come. Usual transport chaos – road, rail and air – as 375mm (15-in) falls in 24 hours. 18 labourers died when a wall weakened by 2 days of continuous rain fell on them.

Japan: At least 20 people have died and more than a million have been advised to leave their homes as monstrous rains once again lash the south island of Kyushu. 1,000mm (39in) of rain has fallen since 28 June, and Japan’s Meteorological Agency forecasts the rains will continue into next week. A further 350mm of rain is expected in the southern part of the island and 300mm in the northern part by 04 July, with some areas predicted to get more than 80mm of rain every hour. The agency said a month’s rainfall could hit parts of Kyushu in just 24 hours. (BBC News)

Vietnam: 2 people were killed and 3 injured on 04 July after a bridge in Thanh Hoá Province collapsed due to the heavy rain. After passing over Hainan Island in southern China, Tropical Depression ‘Mun’ dumped 366mm (14-in.) of rain in 24 hours. Further heavy rain could affected northern and central areas, including the capital Hanoi. (Floodlist)

Pacific: Plain vanilla Tropical Storm Barbara metamorphosed overnight into a huge, 130mph, Category 4 hurricane. The Weather Channel reports, it’s just sitting out in mid-ocean, not going anywhere – but Hawaii is potentially in its path next week. Happily, cooler water should take a lot of the force out of it by then, but high surf and severe weather warnings have been issued for Oahu. This increasingly common rapid intensification of storms is a clear sign of adverse effects of a warming world.

Cuba: Sunday 1 July was the hottest day in recorded history for the Caribbean nation, which recorded an all-time heat mark of 39.1°C (102.4°F) at Veguitas. (Weather Underground). 2 people have died and 3 are missing in floods in nearby Haiti. It’s the second spate of deadly flash floods in the space of 4 weeks. (Floodlist)

Tunnel approaching…

Fracking hell: Following a meta-analytical study of over 1,300 peer-reviewed research papers, Kathleen Nolan, MD, MSL, of Physicians for Social Responsibility and Concerned Health Professionals of New York, said, “Substantial scientific evidence now leaves no question that drilling and fracking cause serious harms to public health. Further studies will continue to illuminate the full extent of those ill effects and to define causal pathways in further detail, but it is abundantly clear that the practice is not safe and that no set of regulations can make it safe.” (PSR – Physicians for Social Responsibility – website, 9 June)

California: A M6.2 earthquake off the coast at Vancouver last night (03 July) translated 12 hours later along a known fault into a M6.4 in a remote area of southern California, that was felt in Los Angeles, where buildings swayed. At a depth of only 8 km, it was the largest earthquake in California for many years and happened in an ancient volcano field next to a deep-well geothermal pumping station. As we reported recently, the laBrea tar pits in the LA basin have been bubbling over, and steam eruptions have been reported, pushing up manhole covers. There have been swarms of smaller earthquakes north and south along the coast, linked to major volcanic activity in the Aleutians. Dutchsinse reports too, there have been now 27 magnitude 6 or higher quakes around the Pacific basin in the past month, many more than usual.

La terra trema… the M6.2 Ridgecrest quake was followed two days later by a M7.1 in the same location. Casualties, damage. A statewide state of emergency has been declared. The epicentre is not far from the Long Valley supervolcano caldera. Dutchsinse (Michael Janitch) points to human activity – deep drilling, fracking, pumping – in the fracture zones as a contributor. He forecasts that if the force pushing down from the north Pacific doesn’t transfer to the east along the edge of the North American craton, a third major quake is likely. He had warned his viewers of the quakes days in advance – the USGS is saying they had only 48 seconds’ warning of the M7.2!

Yellowstone: In the wake of the 6.2 Ridgefield quake, Greeley reports the seismographs are showing a huge intrusion of magma under the park. The meltline is the highest anyone has ever seen.

Three days ago: Steamboat geyser has gone off 25 times this year, 7 times in June alone, set to smash last year’s record of 32 eruptions. The biggest geyser in the park, the Steamboat normally records two or three eruptions in a year, but has recently become hyperactive. USGS say they don’t know why. Old Faithful’s regular blasts are getting bigger too… new geysers, mudpools forming – more earthquakes, rising temperatures, ground uplift reported. (Mary Greeley)

 

Get planting!

Possibly the most futile piece of research this year has come from Prof Tom Crowther at the Swiss university ETH Zürich, who has been looking into how planting trees removes carbon dioxide from the air. (Guardian report, 03 July)

Prof Crowther calculates that there is room to squeeze a trillion more trees onto uncultivated surfaces of the planet, that would remove two thirds of the CO2 – provided, of course, that we stop cutting down trees and burning more fossil fuels.

Both propositions seem something of a stretch. A trillion is a thousand times a thousand million. The energy required for nurseries to produce and for foresters to plant that many saplings – the survival rate of heel transplants is quite low, so perhaps two or even three trillion, pick a number – would be enormous.

Mr Gove, the Environment secretary, recently proposed planting 130 thousand more trees in British cities. There is no likelihood whatever of reaching even that modest target.

There would then be the obvious requirement to wait while the little trees grow into trees large enough to make a difference, perhaps ten to fifteen years – time we don’t really have. Meanwhile, Mr Bolsonaro’s friends in the Brazilian parliament are busy removing a hectare of the rain forest every minute of the day to graze cattle to make beefburgers for fast-food chains.

I don’t think, either, that Prof Crowther has taken into account that trees don’t absorb CFCs, methane or nitrous oxide, that are also increasing in the atmosphere and causing it to overheat; and that at least 1.5 degrees of warming is already baked into the system, mainly in the oceans.

But it’s a nice idea, well worth the grant.

 

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No, sorry, it’s turned into a Pumpkin! Issue 88: Middle East: Houthing up… The three lives of Gene Wilder… A load of guacamole… You scratch my back… And I’ll scratch yours… GW: It never rains but it burns… Essay: Us vs. Them: a draw?…

Middle East: Houthing up

“Hands up. Who in the class believes Iran or its proxy militias would be so stupid as to try to blow up two more oil tankers in the Gulf, right under the nose of the angry headmaster with his big, swishy cane, just while his friend the Japanese Prime Minister was in Tehran on a peace mission?

“Yes, Bolton?”

“Oooh, Miss, look, I’m in the fake news press! It says: ‘The US national security adviser, John Bolton, said Iran was almost certainly involved’.” (Guardian, 13 June)

“And why do you think, Bolton, that the entire class is so stupid as to believe your crazy, hotheaded Irish blarney? I mean, anyone in the school who doesn’t already know you and your friends from the Israeli special forces were smoking behind the bike shed last night. ‘Almost certainly’, what’s that?”

“Because, Miss, blowing up ships and pretending it was the other boys wot did it has always worked to start wars before.”

“And why would you want to start a war, Bolton? People might get hurt.”

“Well, Miss, wars are fun. Things go bang, your shares in Raytheon rocket up like July 4th and your oil export price doubles overnight while strong domestic output keeps consumer prices steady. The Commander-in-Chief gets to look like a leader instead of a leaky, one-winged, criminal mallard with no feathers. The country swings behind him and he’s a slam-dunk for a second term. While Netanyahu’s in for life.

“It’s a win-win-win-win situation we can’t lose. And besides, we haven’t had a good war since the last one I helped start on the basis of flawed intelligence. Mine, that is…. Look, here’s a meme of the Iranians removing a limpet mine from a tanker, so it must be them who put it there, mustn’t it.”

“Fair enough, Bolton, carry on. Class, let’s now turn to page a hundred and seventeen of your Farsi history primer, to where it says ‘And then the US 5th Fleet merrily began bombing, because the White House had been handsomely paid by the Dashing Young Prince of Barbaria'”….

Postscriptum:

In the interests of balance, we should mention that it is being suggested by highly paid experts that Iran might be minimally blowing up foreign tankers as a gesture to warn the Americans they could interdict Saudi oil traffic through the Straits if they wanted to.

I guess even the Americans probably knew that already?

 

A research project at Brown University has concluded that at 59m tonnes, the US military emits more greenhouse gases annually than Portugal.

 

The three lives of Gene Wilder

I see comic actor Gene Wilder just died again. So sad, I was a huge fan. Blazing Saddles… The Producers… if you needed a blond, curly-haired, blue-eyed, blanket-chewing Jewish neurotic with a wispy side, Gene was your man.

But there seems to be something rather odd about the sad news, a chronoclasm that might have interested the late Professor Stephen Hawking, with his theories about Time an’ all.

The BBC reported, today, 10 June 2019:

“US actor Gene Wilder, remembered by many for his lead role in Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory, has died at the age of 83, his family has confirmed.”

This happened apparently yesterday, Sunday, and is very sad. Heartfelt tributes were pouring in, from his friend, Director Mel Brooks, actor Russell Crowe, Ricky Gervais and other claim-jumpers.

Cats have nine lives, it’s said, but it seems Willy Wonka had at least three. For, with great foresight BBC News actually published an obituary of Wilder by Arts supremo, Alan Yentob on 29 August, 2016. Clearly it was premature. Because then, they published a news report of his death the following day, on 1 September – which is completely spooky, right? I mean, how did they publish an obituary, not knowing the subject was going to die the very next day?

But then, for some unknown reason, they’ve repeated the story today, 10 June, 2019. Why, the man is a veritable Schrödinger’s Cat. Was he dead, or wasn’t he? Just how relativistic is Time, as a concept? We’re not being told, although we definitely should be.

At the bottom of the page is a link: “Why you can trust BBC News”. It takes you to another page, which begins:

“The BBC is recognised by audiences in the UK and around the world as a provider of news that you can trust. Our website, like our TV and radio services, strives for journalism that is accurate, impartial, independent and fair.”

But not necessarily much less than three years old.

The average age of a BBC TV viewer is said to be 62 and rising. Not all of us have Alzheimer’s, as Wilder did, but clearly the Editor of the BBC News website is in urgent need of nursing care.

 

Interviewed on ABC TV about Don Jr’s latest appearance before the House over his 9 June, 2016 meeting with Russians, that he lied was about adoptions, Don Sr said he’d certainly consider offers of foreign help to get elected in 2020, and probably not tell the FBI if he thought it wasn’t illegal.

Er…

 

A load of guacamole

“The president stakes out a maximalist position but never clearly defines his objectives. That way, after he backs himself into a corner, he can use a deal of any kind, even if it’s merely a fig leaf, to justify retreating from whatever misguided policy he’s threatened. Then he declares victory, having done little to nothing to solve the underlying problem.” – Senator Chuck Schumer, on Trump’s phoney triumphalist brinkmanship.

Before coming over to hobnob with his favorite gal, HM Queen, the only person on earth who, by virtue of her apolitical contract can never, ever mock or criticize him, Trump announced, as usual by tweet, yet another unexpected policy initiative he had apparently discussed with no-one other than the little yammering faces of Fox & Friends on the White House TV screens, his only connection with reality.

In lieu of funding for the Wall, he was imposing a tariff on all products coming over the border from Mexico, starting at 5% and rising monthly to 25%, until Mexico agrees to do more to stop refugees and other migrants from reaching the US border.

(The Editor writes: It is the policy of the BogPo to refer to “refugees and other migrants”, rather than just “animals”, “rapists”, “terrorists”, “M-13 gang members” or “drug lords” until someone tells us just what the hell is going on in his diseased brain.)

Returning days later from his successful European trip, while heading off to another of his golf courses for a few well-deserved days’ r&r, Trump tweeted that he might not after all be imposing the tariffs most economists agree would hurt American consumers and businesses more than they would hurt Mexico.

This was because he had done a Great Deal: Mexico had agreed to send the National Guard to the Guatemalan border and promised to buy billions of dollars’ worth of US agricultural goods, to please our “patriotic farmers” who have been royally screwed by Trump’s China tariff war and the endless rain and are committing suicide in droves.

This left Mexico’s government somewhat confused, as the National Guard has already been sent to the border, that happened during Obama’s presidency, and there was no agreement they knew of, to buy more US farm produce. So he resorted to the ancient art of bullshit and, like Chamberlain returning in triumph from Munich, peeled from his shoe a piece of paper he said was the new agreement.

Mexico is, in fact, we believe without fact-checking, a net exporter of agricultural produce to the US, while of course presumably importing as much corn and soybean back from the gringos as they can use; of avocados and beer and also of Tequila, that being the nature of the close trading relationship the now-dead NAFTA created between the neighboring countries.

He seems to have either dreamed it, or he made it all up.

Meanwhile, Trump’s violent posturing over immigration has caused a great panic, and vast numbers more South American refugees and migrants have reportedly been heading up through Mexico to the Arizona border, totry to beat any further extreme measures he might tell his worshipful dumbfucks he’s taking, that he might actually take.

It’s all a crisis of his own making.

Once again rave-tweeting and yelling in all-caps at the “failing” New York Times for pointing out these simple-to-check facts, totally fake nooze, waving a piece of paper he says proves him right, nevertheless Trump appears to have been caught out in his 10 thousand, seven-hundred and somethingth lie since assuming office.

But you can see this time it was for the good of the country. And the “patriotic” farmers he loves*.

*Why does he keep calling them that? Because he has had to invent an alternative reality in which the farmers support his crippling 25% tariffs on Chinese imports, even though retaliatory Chinese measures have essentially destroyed the hugely valuable US soybean and pork trades, that many analysts believe may never recover. Other sources say they don’t, not really.

 

You scratch my back…

“For his dubious role as the ‘godfather’ of Reaganomics, Slate dubbed him World’s Worst Economist. He’s been called a key part of the ‘Intellectual Rot of the Republican Party’. Esquire suggested that Laffer’s turn as the architect of the disastrous Brownback tax experiment in Kansas should hang ‘like a dead possum’ around his neck for the rest of his days.”Guardian

They say he who Laffs last, Laffs loudest, and Mr Arthur “Dead Possum” Laffer is certainly taking the piss out of the rest of us. He’s the author of a famous graph, the Laffer Curve, showing on a restaurant table napkin how, if you take all the money away from the poorest people at the bottom and hand it gratis to the people right at the top, everyone gets richer.

And having written a garbage hagiography about “Trumponomics” (basically, the art of extortion, debt default and bank fraud), he is Laffing all the way to the White House shortly, to receive a medal from the Golden Shower, Mr Very Stable Smarts himself.

The Presidential Medal of Freedom is the country’s highest civilian honor, awarded in this case to the man who has successfully persuaded the criminal kleptocracy in Congress that they can deny economic freedom to the maximum number of Americans while ordering up their fifth superyacht, from which everybody benefits.

The lunacy of Laffer has been well exposed, both theoretically and empirically, but still the very rich go on using his cretinous theory to justify their egregious acts of State-sanctioned theft. And why wouldn’t they?

But wait, what’s this? Why, step forward Boris “Watermelon Smiles, etc.” Johnson, kitchen-table racist front-runner for the worst job in British politics. With the beaming endorsement of his fellow narcissist, America’s stupidest-ever President, Johnson is bidding for the leadership of the Headless Chicken party against nine lesser dangerous lunatics on a platform of…. £9.6 billion-worth of Laffer-inspired tax cuts for the higher-rate taxpayer, combined with the expensivest of hard Brexits (paid for by a giant, crippling Trumponomic-style sovereign debt default, for which Messrs Standard and Poor’s will surely beat us into the ground).

After nine years of austerity and with the social fabric of Lesser Britain already ripped to shreds and lightly tossed away in a dumpster, or skip as we called them in the days of our independence, let’s see how that goes, shall we?

 

And I’ll scratch yours

Meanwhile, reports of astounding levels of corruption are swirling around Trump enabler and obstructionist Senate leader, “Cocaine” Mitch McConnell, who is married to Trump’s transportation secretary, Elaine Chao.

Ms Chao has apparently been caught failing to obey an Ethics committee ruling that to avoid conflict of interest she should divest her substantial shareholding in a transportation-linked company, one of America’s biggest suppliers of road-building materials. With every mention of infrastructure projects, her shares get ratcheted up a notch.

Bad enough but, as MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow reports, citing extensive press coverage in the past fortnight, Chao has been abusing her cabinet status to promote business links and lucrative contracts between a Chinese state-owned shipping company run by her father and the Commerce department, while discouraging grants and contracts for US competitors; and has created a private back-channel through her office specifically to fast-track grants for infrastructure projects in McConnell’s home state of Kentucky to improve his re-election chances.

It being noted that McConnell oversaw the approvals process in the Senate by which his wife got the cabinet post in the first place. Welcome to Trumpworld.

According to reports, McConnell – who is the major roadblock for any possibility of getting a slam-dunk Trump impeachment from the House through the Senate – has benefitted from $78 million dollars’ worth of private contracts this way.

Odd this should have come out now, what with so much pressure on House speaker, Nancy Pelosi, to get impeachment proceedings under way, her bein’ so shy, an’ all. It isn’t working.

 

GW: It never rains but it burns

China: At least 7 people have died after record heavy rain and flooding in southern China over the last few days. In Guangxi, “torrential rain from around 09 June caused flooding that left at least 1 dead and 4 missing. In Xinhua, a total of 514,000 people were affected and 45,000 displaced.” “In Guizhou province, an entire town was submerged under 2m (6ft 6in) of water”. There’s been infrastructure damage and thousands of Ha of crops ruined. (BBC News) “National Meteorological Center said that some areas recorded as much as 93mm (4-in.) of rain per hour and between 250 and 300mm in 24 hours on 09 June, 2019.” Continued heavy rain for southern areas is forecast. (from: Floodlist)

Afghanistan: “At least 3 people died and dozens of houses were destroyed after flash floods in Badakhshan province, 08 June. Wide areas of crops and farmland were also damaged. Over 100 people have died and thousands of homes destroyed in a spate of flood events in the country that began in March this year. In neighboring Tajikistan, 2 people died in a mudslide after heavy rain, 04 to 07 June. Homes were damaged or destroyed and about 80 people rescued. (from: Floodlist)

India: The death toll from the “unbearable” heatwave that’s persisting over northern India, said to be the worst ever, had risen by 02 June to more than 500*, as temperatures in places (and into Pakistan) have several times exceeded 50C, 123F. 4 people were reported to have died from heatstroke on a train journey in Kerala. Authorities were having to waste scarce water pouring it on roads to stop them melting. Ironically, only next month’s monsoon is expected to bring relief – and with record rainfall around the world, it’s only going to create a different kind of problem. (BBC News/NDTV)

*I don’t know where this figure came from, later reports say less than 40.

Update: the “rare” monsoon now arriving in the NW Indian state of Kerala is organizing in the Arabian sea as a fullblown cyclone, named Vayu. With 130km winds strengthening, and bearing up to 10-in. of rain, it’s due to make landfall 13 June as a Cat 3 in Gujarat state, north of Mumbai, heading on up across the border towards the populous city of Karachi in Pakistan by the weekend. A track the Wunderground people are calling “uncommon”.

These uncommon hurricane tracks are becoming quite common, in your old Gran’s opinion. The last Cat 3 to hit Gujarat in 1998 killed over a thousand people. (BBC/The Weather Channel)

Indonesia: Thousands of people have been affected by flooding in Sulawesi. The death of a baby was reported. Bridges, roads, health facilities, crops and fisheries have all been damaged.

Haiti: At least 3 people have died and an unknown number are dead or missing after flooding affected several provinces. “Roads, bridges and over 500 homes have been flooded or damaged and as many as 17 homes have been destroyed.” (from: Floodlist)

Maldive Islands: “Local media are reporting that heavy rain has caused flooding in the northern islands of the country over the last few days. The country has seen a spate of severe weather over the 10 days (to 10 June), and the latest flooding brings the total number of houses damaged to almost 600 since late May.” (from: Floodlist)

USA: At least 4 people have died after storms and heavy rainfall swept across southern and south eastern states in the USA from 05 June. Boone, North Carolina, recorded 13.57 inches (344.68 mm) of rain in 72 hours to 09 June, 2019. Other areas in the southeast also recorded high rainfall totals. NWS Atlanta said parts of Peachtree City recorded 7.81 inches of rain from 07 to 09 June. There was flooding too in New Orleans, after up to 8-in of rain fell in 72 hours. 1 person was killed when a helicopter crashed in heavy rain on the roof of a skyscraper in New York.

Meanwhile westerly states are expecting record temperatures. “Phoenix is likely to see its first 110-plus-degree temperatures of the year by Tuesday or Wednesday. Highs in mid-90s are forecast as far north as Portland, Oregon. Daily record highs could be threatened in a few locations through midweek. This includes Portland and Phoenix on Wednesday; the current daily records for June 12 are 93 degrees and 112 degrees, respectively. San Francisco tied its daily record high of 91 degrees on Sunday afternoon” – before hitting 96F on Monday. (The Weather Channel) (112F is 44C)

KTAR news reports, the Woodbury Fire in remote hills east of Phoenix jumped to 6,000 acres 12 June, and had more than doubled to 13,000 by the 13th, as 112 deg. temperatures and strong winds contributed to the spread. 600 firefighters are on the scene but the fire remains 0% contained.

Canada: More than a dozen fires still burning, 6 out of control, in Alberta province after more than a month are turning skies red over South Carolina USA, two thousand miles to the southeast, while their smoke has been detected by the UK Met Office. More than 10 thousand people are still unable to return to their homes. No new fires have broken out today, 11 June, but almost 700 thousand Ha of forest have been burned.

Reports of equivalent wildfires in southern Siberia have dried up somewhat, but the BogPo belatedly records a report from Greenpeace Russia that “catastrophic” fires at the end of April/early May destroyed homes, crops, forest and wildlife, causing many burn injuries, over a vast area. Siberian Times reported, forest roads around Irkutsk were closed, as residents reported increased asthma attacks and skies turning black. Smoke was detected as far away as Washington DC. The fires spread unchecked also across thousands of Ha of prairie in neighboring Mongolia.

Turkey: 5 people are reported to have died in flash flooding in the capital, Ankara, on 09 June. Emergency services attended over 370 calls for aid. The mayor says the city received 5 times the amount of rain predicted. (Floodlist) The provincial Governor’s offices were flooded out. It’s the 5th time Ankara has experienced severe flooding in the past 13 months. (Bianet)

Yemen: “Strong winds, heavy rain and flash floods have hit several parts from 08 June, causing major damage and at least 3 deaths. Aden saw 77mm of rain, most falling in a 3 hour period. Houses and roads were submerged. Satellite images showed rainfall rates of up to 35mm per hour in southern and western areas of the country. Further severe weather warnings have been issued as Typhoon Vayu intensifies in the Arabian Gulf, with outer rainbands stretching hundreds of miles around. (from Floodlist)

UK: Hours of steady downpours have brought much of the rail network to a halt in parts of the south of England, and many suburban roads around London are under water. The M25 London beltway has been closed as two sinkholes have opened up. The Met Office says the region has seen a month’s worth of summer rain in 24 hours, with another month’s worth to come over the next 3 days. Yellow warnings are out as the system is slowly moving northwards. (BBC Weather)

Floodlist reports similarly intense rainfall across Europe causing flash floods in Italy, Germany, Greece and Poland. Severe hailstorms have also been reported in Germany, Italy, Poland, Croatia and Slovenia, and landslides in northern Italy.

Approaching tunnel….

Mount Bolshy: Russian geophysicist Ivan Koulakov is warning that the 9,500 ft Mt Bolshaya Udine, a volcano in the Udine chain on the Kamchatka peninsula declared extinct in 2017, may not be. A M4.3 earthquake suggests it might be waking up, with possibly catastrophic consequences.

Road resurfacing? Some seismic activity seems possibly occurring in the downtown Los Angeles area as liquid tar has begun bubbling up across from the La Brea tar pits along the Miracle Mile, accompanied by much outgassing of methane. The Blessed Mary Grealey records that the media doesn’t seem very interested. CBS reports, residents say it’s not unusual, but it’s never been this bad before. Cooler weather is forecast from tomorrow, 11 June.

(Rainy Sunday afternoon TV viewers might recall a 1997 movie called Volcano!, starring Tommy Lee Jones, in which an eruption trashes Los Angeles {but he heroically stops the lava with a line of overturned buses… as if!})

Vicious cycle: “Carbon emissions from the global energy industry last year rose at the fastest rate in almost a decade after extreme weather and surprise swings in global temperatures stoked extra demand for fossil fuels. BP’s annual global energy report revealed for the first time that temperature fluctuations are increasing the world’s use of fossil fuels, in spite of efforts to tackle the climate crisis. … BP (plans) to drill new oil wells which could hold up to 30m barrels of oil.” (Guardian)

Your Granny assumes that’s a Grauniad error and they mean 30bn, as 30m barrels is only 8 hours’ worth, globally speaking. We’re basically fucked.

 

Essay: Us vs. Them: a draw?

Would some helpful statistician kindly reflect and possibly comment on the extraordinary and growing phenomenon of political polarization?

The more choice of parties there appears to be, the more freedom to vote for whatever you like, the more atomized politics has become in a world of mass personalization and “identitarianism”, the closer the results seem to get, between the same old left-right-split parties. It’s like we’re afraid to reach out, except to ever-more authoritarian, religio-racist groups on the right and anachronistic class-warfare dinosaurs on the left.

But you don’t have to be a weeping libtard snowflake Blairite centrist! Why would you not vote for the Green Party agenda, for instance? For a better life? Another way of doing business? From Schumacher to Herman Daly, Greenomics has a perfectly sound intellectual base.

The narrowness of electoral margins seems to be becoming endemic. Brexit (52%-48%) and Trump (50.5%-49.5% in favor of Clinton) being famous cases in point, there have been many others. The 2017 Austrian election, for instance, was too close to call and had to be rerun. The British election in the same year resulted in a hung Parliament; as had the 2010 election, with only a wafer-thin Conservative majority in 2015. The Australian election was daylight cobbery and resulted in a tiny squeaking upset for the favored Labour opposition party.

Many uneasy coalitions have had to be formed in other countries, too, in order to keep the wheels in motion.

Yesterday’s Israeli Parliamentary election resulted in a dead-heat at 37 Knesset seats apiece between the two main parties, victory being claimed for a fifth term by the deeply unpleasant and authoritarian religio-racist, Netanyahu only because his party panders unashamedly and often illegally to the demands of more of the smaller and loonier rightwing religious parties than his opponent’s could.

Is it a function of more proportional voting systems? Not in first-past-the-post Britain. Should we blame the media for encouraging a more adversarial climate in the name of entertainment, are politicians more inclined to use ‘divide and rule’ as a tactic, or is there some meta-statistical reason, perhaps connected with rising population numbers or changing class expectations, for these inconclusive outcomes?

It occurs to me on re-reading this that humans themselves may have become polarized – or, in a sense, paralysed. I’m currently – I confess – becoming quietly resigned on the subject of Brexit, that I have been frothing against since long before the referendum, when I could see perfectly clearly that it was a rightwing neocon coup attempt, nothing much to do with Europe, sponsored by disruptors in the USA and Russia, and nobody else seemed to have realised.

Now, I simply can’t decide, or any longer bring myself to care, about what ought to happen next. Whatever it is, we deserve it. I’ve bought my toilet paper, my canned sardines and a month’s supply of Pot Noodle, I’m set for a siege.

I literally “switch off” – my radio, when yet another Leave politician is trotted out, frothing and swivel-eyed, to repeat the same old bullshit mantras to the same old interviewers asking the same old questions, week after week, sucking all the air from the news agenda – and none of them with a single interesting or helpful idea to offer, as the planet fries.

If asked to vote, frankly I’d have to toss a coin – statistically resulting in a 49.5% to 50.5% split, obviously, if enough people were to do the same.

Psychologists always trot out the ‘Fight or Flight’ cliche when describing the survival strategies available to sentient organisms facing existential threats. They regularly ignore the third ‘F’, “Freeze”.

Politics is everywhere frozen. As are we all.

Snowflakes are falling… D-Day branding… Boo, again, BBC… And boo, Wales… GW: Wiv me skirts a’ flyin’ above me ‘ead… Tunnel Approaching… Morons’ Corner.

Quote of the Week:

It’s a terrible feeling to discover that your country is full of strangers.

Mihir Sharma, writing in Bloomberg on the landslide victory in Indian elections of Modi’s ugly Hindu nationalists.

Your Uncle Bogler had exactly that feeling yesterday afternoon in Morrison’s, perceiving himself beset about by late-middle-aged white couples, seemingly of few means, with strong Midlands’ accents who had, most of them, probably, just voted for Nigel Farage’s Brexit party.

Not my country, mate.

Notes

D-Day branding

The US Department of Energy has rebranded liquid methane (natural gas).

Likening the powerful greenhouse gas to the American military, that liberated Europe 75 years ago, Mark W Menezes, the US under-secretary of Energy, has renamed it “Freedom gas”. We are, he said, exporting “molecules of Freedom” to the world. (Guardian report)

It’s getting more like Dr Strangelove every day over there.

Processed food … “linked to early death”

“People who eat large amounts of heavily processed foods, from breakfast cereals and ready meals to muffins and ice-cream, have a greater risk of heart attack, stroke and early death, according to (a) major study (in France).

“The study, published in the British Medical Journal, does not prove that ultra-processed foods cause disease. Nor does the effect appear particularly large….” (Guardian)

I fear we are all going mad.

 

Snowflakes are falling

“Festivalgoer Renardo Henry, 21, said he saw people passing out in the heat. “We were in the queue, four people had collapsed around us, people were throwing up and shouting for medics, all the staff were doing was throwing water bottles into the crowd of people,” he told the BBC.” (Guardian, 26 May)

Yes, temperatures in London this Whitsun Bank Holiday weekend soared to an unimaginable 20C, 68F – not a record for late May, in fact it was hotter in late February – and young people queuing for three and a half hours for tickets but without the right ‘free drinks allowance’ wristbands, were collapsing everywhere like koalas in the intolerable furnace of the We Are FSTVL – er, festival.

Another crowdgoer tweeted of water bottles bouncing off people’s heads, presumably why “bouncers” are called just that. Alexi Hicken tweeted: “i was trapped inside the tent while all this was going on clinging to a pole so I didn’t get trampled on, after three hours of queuing and the blaring sun it wasn’t ideal.”

Aye, a Pole can come in handy, Brexit or no.

What in God’s almighty name is wrong with these pathetic dwarfs, that an averagely pleasant late spring day bringing temperatures only marginally higher than that recommended by the Shops, Offices and Factories Act, 1963 as a safe working environment, poleaxes them in droves?

How will they cope with June?

Over in Japan, it’s hot. 39C, 104F! They’re still alive and queuing. They’re not clinging to tent poles while water bottles bounce off their heads, thrown, in his best Puerto Rico fashion one could imagine, by visiting President Donald “The Donman” Trump and his sour-looking estranged wife, Moronia.

At least he’ll know what to chuck back at the jeering crowds in London when the gross, lying criminal fraudster pays us a state visit next week. Not paper towels, not double-cheeseburgers, not salted caramel milkshake, but life-saving water bottles.

And whatever happened to Extinction Rebellion? Why were they not on hand to protest the careless proliferation of plastic drinks containers?

Life used to be so much simpler.

 

“We still do not know whose money has been driving the Brexit party.”

Boo, again, BBC

There was a long and thoughtful article in yesterday’s Observer, in which several experienced people from the news industry contributed individually on a topic the Bogler has returned to several times, the public confusion and confirmatory bias generated by BBC News in its ruthless pursuit of “balance”.

The coverage of last week’s European Parliament elections on Monday morning’s R4 Today program was a case in point.

My understanding of how things now work is that there is less separation than in my very brief day at the BBC between News and Current Affairs, benefiting from supposed “synergies”, no doubt – “synergy” being management-speak for operating across different departments with fewer staff, driving the poor beasts to work ever harder.

Anyway, neither on the program itself nor on the news-generated segments and the main hourly bulletin did I hear one very obvious point being made about the result, which could only be released overnight Sunday going into Monday, when Europe – you know, that dozy lot over there – had finished voting for as many Putin-funded neo-Nazis and razorwire fence-erectors as it could find.

Which, in a sense, the ageing miseryguts and bellyachers of the retrograde Brexit party were doing, voting for “strong leadership” and a course of action likely to bring the economy to its knees, stealing the futures of the younger Remain tendency just to remind them who won the war.

We heard, in fact, very little in detail about the European votes, you know, the foreign ones. We heard that some far-right parties and the Greens had basically done well, with a far-left result in Spain.

But we heard nothing, and have heard in all nothing ever on the BBC, of the faceless US and Russian Christian alt-right, anti-women’s rights, anti-Islam, gay-bashing Bannonite campaign groups and billionaire disruptors behind the scenes, funding the nationalist ultras in many countries; including our own.

We still do not know whose money has been driving the Brexit party and paying for Farage’s £million home. If his adoring voters (“Oh, he’s just like us!” Yes, he lives on expenses) could be arsed to find out who he consorts with when he’s not faking a march from Jarrow to London or throwing fish into the Thames, they would shit themselves. It seems the BBC doesn’t want us to find out either. It’s just not on their bucket list to investigate.

Instead, the local story was of the victory of Farage’s Brexiters – who went from nowhere six weeks ago, to 28 comfortably remunerated seats in Strasbourg, by far the largest British group – over both Conservative and Labour, historically the two main parties, who mustered between them only 13 seats, with the ruling Conservative party beaten into fifth place overall on just 9% of the vote.

And, yes, that is one story – one that was made up by the news media long before the event. We could have heard, of course, but we didn’t, analysts pointing out that the Brexiters’ view that Britain is the vassal of an undemocratic EU superstate ruled by faceless foreign bureaucrats in Brussels is completely demolished by attaching the importance Brexit disruptors have accorded to this election to the European Parliament; an election that is likely to produce a very short-lived but nonetheless democratic representation for British interests in Europe, that they want us to give up.

It was indeed a night to celebrate for the Brexit tendency and its candidate list of dismal street-thugs, extreme nationalists, misty-eyed boozers, racists, misogynists, undereducated housewives, golf-club bores, unemployed steel workers and self-publicising reality TV-show hacks, who did indeed pour buckets of milkshake all over the established parties.

They deserved it. Both Labour and Conservatives are irredeemably split on the issue of Europe, have been for years, and have failed to deliver either the non-specific (and undeliverable) Brexit “the People” voted for, again by only a large minority, nearly three years ago, or its opposite, satisfying no-one. Neither has either of them been much bothered about rising inequality, slave wages and the abusive bureaucracy that fails to address those problems.

Now they are paying the price.

What nobody, not even the embarrassingly lightweight Political Editor of the BBC, Laura Kuenssberg, would say out loud, was that Brexit had won only 32% of only a 37% turnout of voters, highlighting the monumental irrelevance, both of the Brexit party and of this election to the vast majority of the population.

It certainly wasn’t going to come up in the main 08.10 Today interview slot with the oafish Leave-supporting junior minister for Children, Nadhim Zahawi – a blustering, ignorant, Hard Brexiting spokesmouth almost as overexposed on BBC Current Affairs slots as Farage himself.

(You bet there was no sign of our now-dead Prime Minister, Theresa May, another of the architects of this clusterfuck quietly fading from view.)

It was not until a quarter of an hour before the three-hour-long program ended that a guest, Lord Heseltine, the sometime flamboyant Tory cabinet minister who dared to stand up to Thatcher, and who was stripped of the party whip last week for announcing that he would vote for a Remain party, the Liberal Democrats – which he did, and they won in his constituency! – pointed out what must have been glaringly obvious to everyone, barring the Editor of the program, the significant fact that:

Remain-supporting parties had won more votes combined than Brexit had done, with two-thirds of the vote. A fair majority on any night. Scotland hasn’t finally filed, but the SNP is another pro-Remain party and looks like it has swept the board. Throw in Labour’s 10 – a three-quarters majority of Labour supporters are in favour of Remaining, it’s only Corbyn, the stubborn lifelong contrarian and 70-year-old student activist, who is refusing to shift party policy off an obscure fence of his own making – and Remain would have won more seats too.

(As Trump has shown, however, it is necessary to do more than just claim a popular majority when institutional biases can come into play to defeat the winner.)

That this was the proverbial elephant in the room (Come on, Bogler, you can do better than that! Ed.), that no-one in BBC News or the Today team wanted, or could bear to, or was allowed to acknowledge, is glaringly obvious. There was no reason, was there, why whoever edited the bulletins couldn’t just say it, instead of hammering home the unalloyed message of a Brexit triumph?

Just say, Remain parties won the popular vote but under our skewed system the seats fell to the Brexit party? Just admit it?

A second confirmatory referendum now would produce a Remain majority, doubtless, and several contributors made the point – but News stuck like superglue to its theme of a Brexit victory and a night of humiliation for the ditherers, giving listeners little chance to conclude that No Brexit After All had just become an increasingly likely option, in a country riven by factionalism.

We are to forge ahead instead with a defeated and despised minority government – plus the doddering remnants of the Conservative party membership – plucking, in their death-throes, on behalf of the entire country, our new Prime Minister from among its own ranks of ambitious little shits.

Some democracy!

It will probably be step-forward, Boris “Watermelon, Piccaninny, etc.” dePfeffel Johnson, the vain, self-serving, adulterous, cynically expedient orator and roguish faux-buffoon, author of lies and racial insults, our very own mini-Trump, who now perceives his best interests hang with the promise of a No Deal exit, but who until the week of the referendum in June 2016 was a Remain supporter, an internationalist who notoriously had prepared articles for his Telegraph column both for and against remaining, just in case the wind changed.

It’s not a good look, as one German journalist on the program noted. (Yes, it is about Europe….) But that kind of careless talk can cost lives – or at least, careers. We can doubtless look forward to a fractious summer with very little enlightenment from our national broadcaster.

Let’s hope the weather, as it has turned over the weekend, remains iffy.

At 20C, there could be bottles flying.

 

And boo, Wales

I voted for Plaid Cymru, the pro-Remain, center-left Welsh Nationalist party that has in recent times modernised, youthed-up, detached itself somewhat from the interests of the farming community and mopped up the Liberal Democrat vote in the Land of Song.

You’d think people here would support them. But, coming second in terms of votes, and with Remain parties jointly producing more votes but fewer seats, there being only four at stake for the entire region, a bit of a travesty given the wide range of demographics, we won only one seat. Fortunately, the one where I live.

The purpose of voting for candidates who are committed to removing themselves from the institution they are campaigning to join is not exactly clear to me. What good can any of these candidates do for their constituents under those conditions? I’d like to see Plaid Cymru, who traditionally haven’t done well down in the depressed Labour heartlands of the Rhondda Valley where the working-class vote was solidly FOR Brexit, a very far raightwing party, challenge the whole farcical situation in a court of law.

Some further devolution from Westminster short of an economically unfeasible declaration of  independence is an obvious necessity; while what Welsh economy there is has been kept going by Brussels. Wales’ extensive university sector, too, is hotly pro-Europe; our research base is strongly linked with European institutions and can only suffer the pangs of separation: reduced funding and knowledge exchange opportunities.

Then there’s the cost to be born of a likely hard border in the Irish Sea – for which, read expansion of Welsh ferry port facilities. None of this will have registered with the Brexit-voting dumbfucks.

EU structural funding for the regions is unlikely to be taken up by a government in England anxious to get itself off the hook of austerity, an economic re-expansion that is likely to cost a great deal of whatever remaining money this feckless Conservative administration has not already pissed away on ferry companies with no ferries.

And that’s another point we’re not hearing mentioned. Britain was supposed to have left the EU on 30 March last. To prepare for the eventuality that we might have to leave without a final agreement on the terms of separation, before trade talks could even begin, the government spent some £4 billion on emergency measures to prevent food riots breaking out; and then applied for, and got, an extension of Article 50 to next 31 October.

They then stood everyone down, cancelled the ferries and switched off the fridges. But if another No Deal Brexit date is looming, say we get to the beginning of October with no agreement in Parliament on a renegotiated deal the EU is in no mind to give us, we’re going to have to crank up the No Deal machine all over again, at a cost presumably of another £4 billion in civil servants and ferries and stockpiling tins of beans and fridgefuls of insulin and putting the army on standby.

Yet to my surprise and shame, and not a little alarm, these Brexit cretins in Wales have done it again. The economic cost of leaving the EU for Wales is appalling, the support for what is essentially an English nationalist project objectionable, but they just don’t care. I have yet to meet one, so I have no idea what they think they have been voting for, since they all voted UKIP at the General Election – and look how well that’s turned out.

I can’t believe it’s the Welsh who are doing this to themselves. The Welsh-speaking rural heartland is solidly Remain. It has to be all those whiney, white-flight economic migrant settlers from Birmingham. There are bloody thousands of them here, ageing ex-motor industry assembly workers with little formal education and bluff, middle England attitudes. The kind who expect fish and chips in Torremolinos and look up to the boss class.

The ones who are stealing our children’s futures, God rot them.

 

But one cheer for Manchester

A tiny light on the horizon, the criminal racist midget and loudmouthed, self-martyring street-thug, Stephen Yaxley-Lennon, aka “Tommy Robinson”, founder of the English Defence League, was sent away with a flea in his tone-deaf ear, whining and crying about some Deep State conspiracy to silence the Voice of the People – his own voice, basically – by the voters of Manchester, who gave him just 2% of their crosses.

At which point, sadly, he lost his deposit. But I’m sure he’ll be back. His kind always are.

 

No cheers for Trumponomics

Despite record low unemployment, “Nearly 51 million US households (43%) don’t earn enough to afford a monthly budget that includes housing, food, child care, health care, transportation and a cell phone, according to a study released Thursday.

The figure includes 16.1 million households living in poverty, as well as the 34.7 million families dubbed ALICE — Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed. This group makes less than what’s needed ‘to survive in the modern economy.'” – CNN

Move to the sound of the guns

But for a totally terrifying minute of your life, catch up with Vice-President Mike Pence’s address recently to the graduates of the West Point military academy, and bunker down:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kpSt34qB6K8

 

GW: Wiv me skirts a’ flyin’ above me ‘ead

USA: CNN Weather News reports, in the last 11 days there have been 261 instances of tornadoes touching down  in the midwest, resulting in several deaths, riding on a conveyor belt of severe storm supercells pushing up from the Gulf of Mexico across Texas and Oklahoma all the way up into the Great Lakes. Meanwhile to the northwest there’s record rain and flooding, snowmelt, rivers at “historic levels”, and to the southeast in Georgia and Florida they’re sweltering in 100-degrees-plus heat.

Update: Another 55 tornadoes on Monday, including one extremely severe one, estimated at 1 mile wide, that hit Kansas City, and another death have prompted the US weather service to remark that it’s all a bit unusual. “The past couple of weeks have seen unusually high tornado activity in the US, with no immediate end to the pattern in sight”, reports The Guardian and others.

More storms are forecast later in the week as there’s no sign of a huge, sagging loop in the jetstream moving away from the contiguous USA.

China: “Heavy rain, floods and landslides in Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region have left 7 dead and 9,000 displaced. Over 9,000 hectares of crops have been damaged and 185 houses destroyed. A total of 200,000 people have been affected. Tiandeng recorded 242.8mm in 24 hours to 28 May.” (Floodlist)

Afghanistan: “At least 24 people have died in a new wave of flash flooding that has affected parts of the country. Hundreds of houses have been damaged or destroyed. At least 1 person died and 3 are missing in flash floods that hit the neighbouring South Khorasan province of Iran on 22 May.”

“Afghanistan has been blighted by flood events since early March this year. By mid March, 63 people had died and 31 injured. More than 122,600 people across 14 provinces had been affected and were in need of humanitarian assistance. Further floods hit in late March with at least 13 people losing their lives, and again in early April where over 20 people died.” (Floodlist)

Georgia: Heavy rainfall, hail and flooding have caused severe damage to vineyards, which are the main source of income for many households in the southeast of the country. Homes, crops, bridges and roads have all been damaged. (Floodlist)

India: Hundreds of people have been rescued and over 1,000 evacuated to safety after two rivers burst their banks in Tripura province, in the northeast of the country, following heavy monsoon rains. (Floodlist)

Uganda: 8 people are confirmed dead in flooding after intense rainfall hit the region around the capital, Kampala. Floodlist quotes a Red Cross source: “The flash floods have had a devastating effect on the lives of people, livestock, businesses, household items and has affected human settlement. Many people have been displaced…”

Saudi Barbaria: “Heavy rain from 22 May has caused flash flooding in the southwest, prompting dozens of flood rescues and leaving at least 1 person missing.” (Floodlist)

 

Tunnel approaching….

If you were of a mind to go to: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ocGWsGO_DPA at about 6’50” you’d see a graph on Paul Beckwith’s website, produced by Exxon-Mobil’s in-house climate research team, 30 years ago.

It predicts both temperature rise and CO2 concentration from burning fossil fuels.

The warming prediction was absolutely spot-on at 0.89C, by the IPCC’s lights (many climate scientists argue we’re already at 1.85C) but the expected level of CO2 in 2019 was 420 ppm, instead we’re only at 415.7 with peaks over 417. 420 is the prediction for next year.

So there’s plenty more warming baked into the numbers.

It presumably explains why, over the scientists’ heads, the board of Exxon decided to spend $millions on a PR campaign to bamboozle the public into believing the planet isn’t heating and there’s no connection between atmospheric heating and CO2 emissions from burning their oil.

It doesn’t explain why the Trump administration got John Bolton to set up a committee to rubbish the “hoax” science, chaired by a 79-year-old Physics perfesser who says CO2 is getting the same abuse as the “poor Jews” under the Nazis; and that research papers should be “vetted” rather than peer-reviewed.

Antibiotic resistance: “…Some of the world’s best-known rivers, including the Thames, are contaminated with antibiotics classified as critically important for the treatment of serious infections. In many cases they were detected at unsafe levels, meaning resistance is much more likely to develop and spread. Researchers tested 711 sites in 72 countries and found antibiotics in 65% of them. In 111 of the sites, the concentrations of antibiotics exceeded safe levels, with the worst cases more than 300 times over the safe limit.” (Guardian)

Climate emergency: Between 2014 and 2017, the number of jobs in the UK renewable energy sector fell by a third. In the same period, government investment halved. (Report from the Prospect union)

 

Morons corner

Are Americans truly the most stupid, idiotic and gullible of all God’s creatures? Is it something in the water?

The Blessed Mary Greeley continues to stir the pot over a ludicrous myth that NASA is planning to cool-off the Yellowstone magma chamber by pumping lots of water into it.

This story originated about three years ago in a BBC report that said that was exactly what they were not planning to do, but never mind, everyone believes it. (NASA is the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, it has nothing whatever to do with volcanoes, except on Mars!)

No-one has ever, so far as I know (apart from me) asked, how much water would it take to cool off 7 cubic miles of 1,000-degree magma, even if the resulting superheated steam explosion didn’t destroy most of the continental United States? Probably the entire contents of the Great Lakes, but don’t tell anyone I said that!

Two weeks ago Greeley reported, or at least repeated, on her otherwise quite informative Yellowstone observation website, that she now bulks out with misunderstood and unchecked news reports, a story that the United Nations is planning to invade an American city to take people’s guns away, as there’s too much violence in the cities.

She prefaced the story with a moan that the authorities are always trying to shut down serious websites that publish information they don’t like.

This most obvious and utterly absurd of fake news conspiracy theories has apparently been taken up by Mr Trump himself, who (according to some obscure source she chooses to believe, and which takes avoiding action by slating the fact-checking website, Snopes, before it can debunk their, er, bunk) has issued an Executive Order. I couldn’t be bothered to keep watching to find out what he was ordering, another double cheeseburger probably.

Tragically, the item is followed by an endless trail of outraged comments from Trump dumbfucks demanding that America declare war or something on the evil United Nations.

How fucking stupid are Americans? It’s unfathomable.

But this not very well educated old woman is being evil, exploiting her clickbait community, who are always praying for her in their weird way, and that’s not a good thing, is it.

There is, as always, some reality behind the unreality, and it is this.

Addressing a rally of the National Rifle Association in Indianapolis on 25 April, Mr Trump sought to gain their approval and funding for his 2020 election campaign by vowing to withold US participation in a proposed UN treaty on global conventional arms control. As small arms are included, Trump argues, it challenges America’s second-amendment constitutional gun rights.

This has been blown up by the NRA propaganda machine into an attempt to take away Americans’ guns.

It’s actually an attempt to limit the proliferation of weapons to terrorists and oppressive regimes that like to spend more money on weapons than on social programs and jobs. It doesn’t in any way threaten  American gun owners’ tiny manhoods.

But you can’t have everything, can you. I don’t suppose there’s a single MAGA dumbfuck who believes that the NRA took $30 million in funding from Russia in 2016 and handed it straight to the Republican party treasury to elect Trump.

Why would they believe it, when it’s true?

 

 

Dude, why are only 59 million people reading my stuff?… Miss you, Mr Mercer… AI-up, robots!… GW: Kickin’ up a storm… Fracking hell.

Quote of the week

“Americans think of themselves first, second, third, fourth, fifth – and if there’s any time left over they think about Americans” – Brazil’s ex-President, Lula da Silva, interviewed in prison, questions Bolsonaro’s deeply unpatriotic love of America.

 

Phenomenal BogPo Prophesies Corner:

A new poll (28 April, 2019) has shown that a three-quarters majority of the British voting public, half whom voted on 23 June 2016 to Leave the EU, now agree that the referendum was a stupid idea in the first place. But here is what your Uncle Bogler wrote in a Post (“Calling in the receivers”) on 24 FEBRUARY, 2016:

“On the morning after he loses and the receivers take over the business, Mr Cameron will announce the closing-down sale of GB plc – henceforth Britain will be available only on-line.

“Within minutes, all the people who couldn’t previously be bothered just because Europe was always there will start flocking to the Channel Tunnel and Heathrow airport, demanding in broken French to be let out before the iron gates clang shut for the last time and all the remaining unsold stock is shipped out to depotland. Sales of garlic, berets, bicycles, Johnny Halliday records and funny sausage will soar.

“I predict, once we leave the EU we will all become much more European.”

And the fatuous Mr Trump boasts of how he cleverly predicted a Leave vote – on 22 June, 2016. Bollocks to him, frankly.

 

Dude, why are only 59 million people reading my stuff?

If anyone has not yet grasped the scale of Trump’s jawdropping narcissism, the following report from CNN, sourced in part to the Washington Post, and also commented upon on YouTube by the wonderful Mike Malloy, will give you some idea. I have provided a mixed account:

“President Donald Trump met with (i.e. he summoned to the White House) Twitter chief executive Jack Dorsey on Tuesday, hours after Trump erroneously accused the social media company of “discriminatory” behavior toward conservative users (i.e. himself). The meeting included (in fact it almost exclusively concerned. Ed.) a discussion (more of a tirade, probably) about the disappointing size of Trump’s (59 million) Twitter following (which, he claims, is being deliberately suppressed for political reasons). (He also complained that President Obama has over 100 million Twitter followers, nearly twice as many as he does and all clearly fake.)

Dorsey had to explain to the Tangerine Wunderkind that if accounts are being blocked or taken down, it is invariably because they are abusive and hateful or threatening and don’t meet the guidelines.

“After the meeting, Trump tweeted a photo and wrote, “Lots of subjects discussed regarding their platform, and the world of social media in general.”

The fatuous chump has also revived his insane excuse for being elected president, that Britain’s GCHQ was spying on him on the orders of President Obama, on behalf of Hillary Clinton. Nevertheless, he is forcing himself on us with a State visit; HM Queen offering an irresistibly glitzy photo-op to exuberate his post-Mueller dumbfucks.

Give us a break, Donald.

 

“How vain and incurious does anyone have to be, to accept when someone offers to pay them £350 an hour, just for the use of their name?”

“Miss you, Mr Mercer” – with any luck

From BBC News, 24 April:

“A company that marketed a failed bond scheme that lost savers £236m has been funding an MP’s private salary. Johnny Mercer receives £85,000 from Crucial Academy, a company ultimately funded by Surge Financial Limited … (which) took 25% commission for marketing bonds (issued) by London Capital & Finance (LC&F), which is now in administration. Mr Mercer – who is facing calls from investors to quit as an MP – said he had done nothing wrong.” (Mr Mercer denies that Crucial Academy receives funding from LC&F.)

Is everyone totally blindsided by, say, Brexit, Trump, Greta Thunberg or the difficulty of getting through central London over the supergluey bodies of climate protesters?

Your Boglmeister, I have previously pointed out that London Capital & Finance may well turn out to be the most glaring example of a Ponzi scheme since Bernie Madoff started his several lifetimes feasting on all porridge and no molasses. Sadly, no such fate may befall the directors of LC&F, but we shall see.

With unbelievably crude deviousness, a number of companies appear to have been set up behind the brass plate of Surge Financial Limited, apparently by this Mr Paul Careless, a perfect case of nominative determinism, at the forefront of which was LC&F, which advertised – using a Brighton-based agency called Surge, also owned by Mr Careless, on a quite desirable budget of £60 million, which would buy a few Porsches – unregulated investments returning an improbable 8%, mainly to gullible old pension holders whose stored-up pots of dosh were freed from restrictions by the previous Tory Chancellor, George “Eight jobs” Osborne, prior to his departure in 2016.

The funnel-mouth of London & Capital was then, one gathers from reports, used to suck in investors’ cash to finance all of the directors’ subsidiary companies, money seemingly not Carefully invested in other stocks or mutuals offering competitive terms. It looks like precisely the sort of rapacious operation financial pundits were warning would set up shop in the wake of Osborne’s free-market policy, to separate gullible oldies from their dreams of high-spec campervans and round-the-world cruises.

The breezily named Johnny Mercer MP, a litigiously engaging dimwit (he is suing the BBC for this) not to be confused with the actually rather clever late American songwriter of that ilk, already receives a salary close to £80 thousand a year from the taxpayer, plus £130 thousand Parliamentary expenses, so he must have been in dire need of the extra £85 thousand a year he gets from Surge – sorry, “Crucial Academy”, another company also owned by Careless and chums, that is, he claims, entirely financially independent of LC&F – that does wondrous good works, training Army veterans to survive in the world of employment.

Signed last year to add some small weight to the proceedings, Mercer is either another greedy political chancer or otherwise too naive a useful idiot to be an MP. I suspect it is the latter, judging by his yelping protestations of innocence – which can be understood, given that four directors closer to the center of operations have been questioned by the Serious Fraud Office. It certainly looks like he has been used as a patsy, to front-up what to others might seem a bit of a con.

A related business doing charitable stuff for Our Heroes is possibly the most obvious PR front for internal money-washing it would be possible to imagine – not that Mr Mercer, an ex-Army officer himself, would have noticed, as his role as a non-executive director occupies him for just 20 hours a month, and for what?

How vain and incurious does anyone not much in the public eye have to be, to accept when someone offers to pay them £350 an hour, just for the use of their name and face?

Crucial is only one of several subsidiary companies through which £236 million of investors’ pension funds and life savings seems to have “surged” like hot soapy water through champagne glasses in a dishwasher, and ultimately “Vanish”-ed down the plughole. (You’re fired. Metaphor abuse. Ed.)

What is so peculiar about this whole affair, however, is how the media – such as the BBC, whose reporting has illuminated this Post, and well done at least for bringing the story to light – and even Private Eye’s “Slicker” column is still portraying LC&F as some kind of genuine investment opportunity that has hit a patch of bad luck.

Of course it was a bloody Ponzi scheme! What else?

Wake up, BBC dimwits.

 

AI-up, robots!

In 1976, I sold my one and only ever published work of deliberate fiction, a short story for which I was paid a handsome £100.

You might be too young to remember the world in them days, like what I do, but there was no social media, no iPhones or Androids, no Google or eMail or Sky TV showing 40 channels of adult entertainment.

Not even the ubiquitous, clunky IBM desktop PCs that predated the thinline laptop computer and the incomprehensible phablet by more than three decades were yet much heard or known about outside academic circles.

In 1976, people didn’t go around annoyingly saying “like” or “cool” every other word, Game of Thrones hadn’t been mentioned in a plug even once. We’d been a member of the European Economic Community for less than three years, so our British Leyland cars still rusted to bits within months, no-one holidayed abroad in case of foreign food, and Britain’s bananas were still bent.

Nor was there yet Thatcher; except as the mean-spirited education minister who stopped the children’s free milk ration. (That’s the way to get to be leader of the Tory party.)

My story resulted from a sort of commission from the editor of Computer Age magazine, into whom I had accidentally run outside the dungeon headquarters of the London Broadcasting Company in Gough Square, just behind Fleet Street.

I was a journalist of sorts, working freelance, and Meyer Solomon had been a guest on a show from which he was recovering on the same bench, incidentally, where I also met Anthony Burgess. We got chatting, and I offered him five thousand words fresh hewn from my IBM “golfball” typewriter, without any idea at that stage of what they would be about, and he took my arm off, as they say.

“Hello, Mr Chips” emerged shortly thereafter, from my fertile brain.

The story concerned Kevin, a schoolboy with issues you would nowadays identify as autistic spectrum disorders – issues like ADHD and Asperger’s, that had no catchy names in those days. So incapable of benefiting from the standard socialized education model was Kevin, that he had to be excluded from school, and a special experimental computer program created to teach him.

Kevin becomes deeply upset and troubled, and runs away when it’s proposed that his beloved teaching computer should be replaced by an advanced model. However, returned to his home he is intrigued to find that his new Mark 11 teacher is a fully functioning android programmed with what we now know as Artificial Intelligence, AI, called Mr Chips (see what I did there?*).

And then – spoiler alert – in the final denouement, Kevin’s older sister, who has been eyeing him speculatively for a while, runs off and elopes with Mr Chips.

Which is where the story gets spooky, because 43 years then go by, I’ve spent the hundred quid, and a well-remunerated famous writer who is not me, sadly, Ian McEwan, publishes this week a shortform novel (his are never overlong), “Machines Like Me”, in which – as the Private Eye books reviewer tells me, I haven’t read it – “A couple acquire a synthetic human and a love triangle duly develops”.

On top of my advanced, Nostradamus-like prognostications concerning not only our modern understanding of spectrum disorders like ADHD, and developments in educational computing and dedicated robotics, but also uncannily prefiguring cases like that of the precocious 15-year-old “M.S.” (we’re probably still not allowed to mention her by name), a nubile student and her 30-year-old art teacher paramour, poor Jeremy Forrest, who might just be coming out of jail about now after serving half of a monstrously unjust sentence for kidnapping a minor (infatuated, she persuaded the nitwit to take her to France, where nobody batted an eyelid), the problem of exclusions from schools is also a hot topic today; although I hadn’t foreseen the kind of Tory cuts that would have made it impossible to supply Kevin with a broken abacus, let alone an android.

How cool was that?

I ought, I suppose, to be proud of my astonishing capacity to peer into the future in so many regards. However, even I was beaten to the presumptive threat of AI by Isaac Asimov (IA!), who cottoned on in the late 1950s to the notion that one day, computers would grow so sophisticated as to replace us; and indeed, predicted that a supercomputer would eventually replace God as the machine creator of a new universe, out of all the stored data of the old (thus prefiguring Google by 50 years).

Now, that was one hell of a story!

*For younger readers, “Goodbye, Mr. Chips” is a 1939 British romantic drama starring Oscar-winning Robert Donat, based on a 1934 novella by James Hilton. The story concerns Chipping, a much-loved schoolteacher who recalls his career and personal life over the decades. It was voted by BFI members the 72nd best film of all time.

 

GW: Kickin’ up a storm

Mozambique: is being battered for a record second time in a month by a Cat 4 cyclone, Kenneth, with maximum sustained winds of 140 mph and a 4m storm surge. Latest, 28 April: Pemba, regional capital of Cabo Delgado state, has experienced more than 2m (6.5ft) of rain and flooding. The situation in the  towns of Macomia and Quissanga was critical, and there are also worries for the cut-off island of Ibo. Waves up to 4m high are also expected, and aid agencies fear rains will worsen over the next four days. 700 thousand people are said to be directly at risk.

Late on Wednesday, the head of the UN Office for Disaster Risk Reduction said she feared the region faced “another humanitarian catastrophe” following Cyclone Idai, which killed up to 1000 last month and left 2m in need of aid. There is no previous record of hurricane-force systems ever hitting the region so far north before, BBC Weather reports – let alone twice at Cat 2 or more in one season. Having already killed 3 people in the Comoros islands, the slow-moving storm is expected to bring 0.8m of rain to some areas of the country. (BBC News)

Uganda: “A storm that brought hail, strong winds and heavy rain to parts of eastern Uganda on 23 April has left at least 18 people dead and displaced around 900, according to local media. The storm hit during the early hours causing flooding in Buyende and Kamuli districts. As many as 140 people were injured, and houses and livestock severely damaged.” (Floodlist)

British Isles: are being battered currently by Storm Hannah, with 85 mph wind gusts, power cuts, big waves, heavy rain and fallen trees causing travel disruption. Yellow flood warnings out across the west of the UK. It’s quite late in the Atlantic storm season and some trees here have been stripped of their soft spring growth, their blossom, with fallen branches everywhere. (BBC)

Italy: Severe weather, including stormy seas and strong winds, affected parts of Italy from around 22 to 24 April. Heavy rain increased river levels in parts of Tuscany and Liguria. As of 24 April, at least 1 person had died and rescue workers were searching for 2 women swept away by the flooding Letimbro River in Santuario. Earlier, media reported that 1 person died in high waves along the coast of Porto Corallo on the island of Sardinia. (Floodlist) A low pressure ridge is bringing torrential rainfall, heavy hail and strong winds from the Balkans northeast as far as Russia. (Severe-weather.eu)

USA: Yet more “Severe thunderstorms hit northern and central Texas from 23 April, bringing strong winds, hail, heavy rain and flash floods. A warehouse near Bryan was destroyed. Dallas Love Field recorded 91 mm (3.6 in.) of rain in 24 hours. 3 people died when a vehicle was swept off a road by flood water in Erath County early on 24 April.” 1 person survived by clinging to a tree. More severe storms are forecast for the weekend. (Floodlist) After a warmer than average week, snow is returning to portions of the northern Midwestern states, with heavy rain and more flooding expected across the Great Plains. (The Weather Channel)

Canada: Around 8 thousand people have been forced to leave their homes in communiies near Montreal as flooding caused dikes to collapse. Communities in Quebec are on evacuation alert and the army has been called out as flooding emergencies are declared locally. Rising river levels are threatening the collapse of a large dam, Bell Falls, near Ottawa. Peak flow may not be for another two weeks and record levels are expected, thanks to the spring melt of an unusually large snowpack – while further major rainfall events are forecast. (Paul Beckwith) Prof Beckwith also reports on new research showing higher ocean temperatures are leading to stronger winds and rougher seas, bigger waves – so far by about 8% since 1950.

 

Fracking hell

The commissioner will be a contact point for residents, to listen to their concerns, refer them to relevant and factual research and help improve communication with regulators and industry. – YouGov website

Former Labour MP, Natascha Engel was appointed as Britain’s “fracking tsar” six months ago, by the business secretary, Greg Clarke. Today, she has stepped down, complaining that over-regulation is stifling the nascent industry, making her job impossible; and that the government has allowed itself to be bullied by a “tiny minority” of noisy environmental NGOs that have profited at the nation’s expense.

It’s a clear case of what used to be known in diplomatic corps circles as “going native”, the total abandonment of any pretence at independence being considered quite a grave crime in the old colonial days.

Ms Engel’s resignation letter is quoted in today’s Observer. It will astonish anyone even vaguely familiar with the arguments against fracking – “hydraulic fracturing”, to give the practice its proper name:

“A perfectly viable and exciting new industry that could help meet our carbon reduction targets, make us energy secure and provide jobs in parts of the country that really need them is in danger of withering on the vine – not for any technical or safety reasons, but because of a political decision.

“The UK could be on the cusp of an energy revolution the like of which we have not seen since the discovery of North Sea oil and gas.”

Having worked in the PR and promotions business for a few unexciting years, your Old Granny can vouch for the assiduous attention to her clients’ vanity found in Ms Engel’s copywriting efforts; assuming she wrote the letter herself. The fracking tsarina goes on to make further points in favour of this incredibly brutal and polluting method of extracting methane from shale deposits, for instance:

“Engel complained that a traffic light system that halts fracking when a tremor with a magnitude of M0.5 is recorded ‘amounts to a de facto ban'” – claiming that no other country, for instance the United States, sets such a low bar.

Would that a similar rule had been imposed in Colorado, then, where the number of recorded earth tremors in what was not previously known as a particularly active area has gone from three a year to over 800 since Mr Harold Hamm the Fracking King (net worth $14.1 billion) started operations 30 years ago; while their magnitude, their destructive power has steadily increased from below M1.5 to M5 and upwards.

Google supplies the following helpful note: “Beneath Britain the Earth’s crust is crisscrossed with ancient cracks, or fault lines, which are constantly under stress. … Tremors are not uncommon in Britain. Each year, the British Geological Survey (BGS) records between 200 to 300 separate events.” Indeed, a M4.2 was recorded in the Channel last year, and a Big One is not entirely unanticipated at some stage. The crude splitting of shale deposits under enormous pressure has already produced a number of significant earth tremors, which Ms Engel dismisses as “no more than the rumbling of a tube train” (I paraphrase).

Engel too is blithe to the evidence of rising methane emissions directly from fracking operations, methane being a greenhouse gas up to 100 times more infra-red absorbent than CO2, to which it slowly decays – and to the scientific fact that when you boil your breakfast egg, burning natural gas gives off CO2 and water vapour: both greenhouse gases.

She appears to be willing to ignore research conducted by her former party that sugggests fracking operations of the size envisaged in Britain would eventually produce an additional CO2 burden equivalent to another 289 million cars, instead suggesting that extracting and burning more fossil fuel will somehow enable us to meet our emissions targets sooner – a trope frequently employed by climate change deniers being that the CO2 produced from natural gas – methane – is somehow cleaner and better for us than that emitted from burning oil and coal.

Evidence also from the USA of grossly polluted and overextracted groundwater basins damaging agriculture and residential communities, of pipeline leaks and of methane gas seeping under pressure into domestic plumbing systems seems somewhat at odds with Engel’s wild claims for fracking’s positive impacts on local communities – evidence that is as yet nowhere to be found in the UK as fracking has had only limited success to date, operations being frequently halted as the M0.5 tremor limit has so frequently been exceeded.

Nor is her rosy vision of local communities welcoming the investment remotely in accordance with the facts.

What on earth is this silly woman up to? Has she not noticed that environmental protest is the flavour of the month?

Here again is the old “job creation” argument: fracking is good for jobs. (We already have record low unemployment, but carry on…)

The plain fact is, your Granny observes, that these capital-intensive engineering projects tend to rely on imported, specialized labour forces until they are up and running, whereafter they operate semi-autonomously on a routine service and maintenance basis, until they are abandoned and ultimately, one hopes, decommissioned. They do not create significant numbers of permanent jobs for local people in the deprived rural areas Engel refers to, from where the younger, employable pool of labour have mostly emigrated to the cities in any case.

By extension, her belief in the job creation possibilities of fracking produces a”£7 billion a year” economic advantage to the Treasury, money we could be spending on hospitals… er, ring any bells? The prospect seems doubtful, however, as much of the revenue will certainly be eaten up in tax rebates and loopholes, concessions enabling Cuadrilla to maximise its profitability through the early years. The £7 bn she claims we are losing could equally well be invested in non-polluting renewables, that will also produce a return for the Chancellor to spend on pothole repairs.

Your Granny notices too, several more inconsistencies in her lengthy missive. Engel boasts that Britain has the best regulated fracking industry in the world. Except that, she complains, regulation is preventing the industry from progressing and so she would like to see less! The process, she claims, is “materially no different” from other methods of hydrocarbon extraction. Then she goes on to try to explain why it is in fact very different, an entirely “new industry”, and much better for us… Make up your mind, deary.

It would be churlish, and probably libellous, to suggest that this woman’s future career prospects might be materially enhanced by her willingness to say these things that no self-respecting, right-minded ex-Labour MP ought to be saying, as they are at best highly controversial and on a bad day, according to independent experts, blatant industry propaganda. From what she writes, she appears to be arguing in favour of doing the maximum possible damage, both to the environment and to the fissiparous geology of the British Isles, merely for the short-term gain of a business whose interests she was supposed to be balancing against those of local communities; not that she was supposed to be blatantly promoting them.

That she has gone is a hopeful sign. That her departure might have some negative impact in a week when her old party boss, Mr Corbyn is hoping Parliament will declare a national climate emergency, is possibly not.

(Original reporting, Observer and various news media, 28 April)

There has to be a reason… Will we hold them to this pledge?… Kick him out!… Can we trust economists?… GW: Sweep-up in Seattle… POZI-NEWS A great new feature accentuating the POZITIV!… School’s Out!

Quote of the Week

“The disconnection of Russia from the global web would mean that we are already at war with everyone. In this situation we should be thinking how to grow potatoes in a nuclear winter, and not about the internet.”

– Filipp Kulin, Russian internet expert, asked about a Kremlin plan to put up its own firewall around the internet, for “national security” reasons that are nothing to do with rising protests against Putin’s handling of the economy. (BBC, 12 Feb.)

donald trump

“And my doctor says I’m 35 feet tall and still only 239 pounds.”

Trump passes his medical with flying colors. (Photo Carlos Barría/Reuters)

There has to be a reason

“The secrecy imposed on the civil service is the second reason why, if trouble comes, it will appear to come from nowhere. The truth is that we have a hidden government, thinking the unthinkable in secret, not as an academic parlour game in which an idea is reduced to absurdity for intellectual pleasure, but as a means of stopping voters realising the scale of the trouble we may be facing.”

– Nick Cohen, writing in The Guardian, 11 Feb 2019.

Nick’s thesis is rather troubling. There has to be a reason why the government is quietly creating a new ministry employing five thousand supposedly temporary civil service volunteers at vast expense to the taxpayer, to manage the country on what looks suspiciously like a war footing.

They are being recruited now, to ensure stockpiles of food and medicine are distributed and rationed, with plans to chopper the Queen out of London, plans to commandeer trucks and warehouses and public transport and to put five thousand troops on the streets – possibly even to round up potentially violent dissidents – in the event of a no-deal exit from the EU at midnight on Friday, 29 March (“Piano Day”).

Saturday 30th, appropriately, being “Bipolar Day”; and Monday 1 April, of course, when people will get up, shake off their hangovers and go to work in the Brave New World of Britain as a vast global trading empire once more: “All Fools’ Day”.

Maybe it’s because the May cabinet genuinely expects the country to fall apart, with supermarkets looted, empty shelves, businesses shut down and rioters on the streets?

It seems inconceivable in this day and age.

For a start, few people really give a hoot about Brexit, they don’t have a clue what the fuss is all about, just that they don’t like the government’s hideously cruel and seemingly never-ending austerity program, although they go on voting for it.

They’re too busy going about their zero-hours “cog in a machine” jobs and trying to survive in the dog-eat-dog, app-driven modern world of Deliveroo and Uber Eats; of call-centres and fast-food outlets, of shelf-stacking and warehouse picking and packing, of Amazon deliveries and unpaid internships and temporary “teaching assistant” and “community policing” and agency cleaning and admin jobs where you can be fired for taking a day off sick.

That none of this growing fragility of our social institutions and the deskilling of work is the fault of the European Union is really quite meaningless to everyone other than policy nerds and the illiterate, piss-stained-sofa-dwelling fucktards of the far-left and the rabid-right – mostly the right – who post their irate, uninformed comments on media websites, as if they mattered.

Harking back to August 2011, and the “Tottenham riots” that spread over the course of a week to Birmingham and other cities, with the deaths of 5 people and much looting and arson, however, we recall that the single most proximate cause was the police shooting dead a black suspect in a planned ambush, who had already thrown away a gun that might or might not have been his.

That seems a somewhat more concrete casus belli than a possible decision to delay or abandon the lunacy of leaving the European Union on 29 March.

But the reason for the violence, later examined in detail by handwringing liberals in the media, was much the same as the reasons we keep hearing from the few more articulate Brexit-voters for why they delivered a slap to the government over the referendum: boarded-up white working-class communities left behind by globalization and immigration, disaffected with austerity and growing inequality, are fed up with well-padded politicians making remote decisions that make ordinary people worse-off; fed up with seeing the plethora of consumer goodies in shops, images of material success that they can’t afford.

So actually, the idea that riots might accompany a bad-deal Brexit may not be so far-fetched.

 

Will we hold them to this pledge?

In the wake of an urgent think-tank report slating politicians for failing to come up with any real policies for confronting multiple environmental threats coming thick and fast on top of impending climate disaster:

“A UK government spokesperson said: ‘We are committed to leaving our environment in a better state than we found it through our 25 Year Environment Plan and the forthcoming Environment Bill.

“‘Over 25 years we will replenish depleted soils, rid our seas and rivers of the rubbish trashing our planet, cut greenhouse gas emissions, cleanse our air of toxic pollutants, and develop cleaner, more sustainable energy sources.

“‘The Environment Bill will also create a new environmental body, the Office for Environmental Protection, to hold us to account on this commitment’.” (BBC Environment)

The BogPo replies: “Seeing is believing”. Especially the bit about replenishing depleted soils, as it takes around 300 years to create a microgram of new soil.

And we don’t have 25 years, sorry.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-47203344

 

Trump has the media exactly where he wants them

Kick him out!

“A BBC cameraman was violently shoved and abused during a Donald Trump rally in El Paso, Texas, on Monday night, in an incident the corporation described as ‘unacceptable’.

Ron Skeans “recovered to film a man in a red Make America Great Again cap being restrained and shouting: ‘Fuck the media.’ As he was led away some in the crowd at the rally could be heard chanting: ‘Let him go.'”

Good. Maybe now the BBC’s apathetic “North America Editor”, John Supine will stop normalizing and apologizing for this demented old showboater in the White House.

Even with this report of what has become a fairly humdrum assault on journalists covering Trump’s Nazi rallies, his rapturous, chanting dumbfucks doing their Saviour’s bidding, the BBC admits only that he has a fairly “strained” relationship with the media.

He doesn’t.

Trump is and has knowingly for decades been a creature of the media. In turn, he ruthlessly exploits the media’s obsession with his every fart and grunt, his every cheeseburger dream, to keep himself in the limelight.

He knows that the more he insults and mocks and chastizes them, the harder the editors think they have to try to please, and the less likely his increasingly abusive, baying fascist “base” is to believe a word anyone says against him; especially Mueller.

His relentless self-publicizing and abusive personal put-downs of even the mildest critics have but one aim: to impress the image of a successful business tycoon, which he has never been, on potential victims of his family’s scams.

These tend to be sleazy minor criminals and corrupt officials skirting the law in “developing nations”, easily impressed by Trump’s tawdry glitz and glitter. Easy marks, ready and willing to be led by the nose into improbable real estate developments involving multi-million-dollar licensing and merchandizing contracts, generally disasters from which only the Trumps walk away richer. (According to media sources.)

Trump has the media exactly where he wants them: by their tiny, fluffy little balls, which (like Eleanor Rigby and her “face”) he keeps in a jar by the door.

“Enemies of the People” they may be. Friends to Trump they surely are.

 

Can we trust economists?

Best practice

Warehouseman Mr Jeff Hayward from Clitheroe in Lancashire has won his appeal at the fifth attempt against an employability tribunal decision that, despite letters from two doctors stating he was unable to walk 50 meters, he was so obviously fit for work that he merited zero disability points.

Sadly, Mr Hayward was unable to celebrate his victory, as he died seven months ago. A Department of Work and Pensions spokesperson expressed their regrets to the family over the time taken to reach a decision, but offered them some cheery news – at least they’ll get the back-payments. (Guardian)

 

Feurquières tous!

The mayor of a town in northern France has issued a ban on excessive dog barking in a bid to curb canine noise pollution, that he says has created an unbearable situation. Dog owners in Feurquières face a €68 (£60; $77) fine for “prolonged or repeated barking”.

One woman’s dogs in particular have apparently been the cause of numerous complaints. Animal rights groups are protesting. (Guardian) The BogPo however wonders why the French mayor has calculated the fine in Euro to come out as an exactly round number in UK pounds?

Are we maybe talking Englishwoman here?

 

GW: Sweep-up in Seattle

USA: One of the more potent storms of the winter, Nadia will hit California with heavy rain, excessive high country snow and gusty winds through Thursday night (13 Feb.). The worst of the storm is forecast to focus on Central and Northern California with a heightened threat of flooding, mudslides, erosion, power outages and avalanches and road-closing snowfall in the mountains. Several inches of rain will fall on the lower and intermediate slopes of the mountains.” (Accuweather, who are forecasting 3-6 FEET more snow in the Sierra Nevada.)

Storm Maya brought up to 5 feet of snow in Washington State at the weekend. “… more than 80,000 Washington customers were without power Saturday afternoon after nearly a year’s worth of snow fell in a single day in the Seattle area.” (Wunderground) “Severe weather is expected to stretch from coast to coast Tuesday (12 Feb.), with about 100 million people under some sort of winter alert, millions facing a flood threat and more snow on the way in Seattle. Widespread rain Tuesday will continue to soak the Ohio Valley, from Arkansas to Ohio. As much as 4 inches could fall. More than 55 million people are under a flood warning, flood advisory, flash flood watch or flash flood warning across the country.” (CNN) It also snowed, unusually, in Hawaii, where a wind gust was measured at 191 mph and several houses lost their roofs.

A brief heatwave in central Texas this weekend is likely to lift February temperatures into the 90sF, mid-30s C, an all-time record, before yet another storm system sails in from the Pacific and intense rainfall returns to the midwestern states, with more flooding forecast for the middle of the week. (The Weather Channel)

Europe: 3 German skiers and 2 ski patrollers have been killed over the weekend in the Alps. Another patroller is missing. An accident in France and an avalanche in the Austrian Alps brings the number of weather-related deaths in Europe this month to 26 as heavy snow continues to paralyse parts of the continent. (Independent) Meanwhile, most of Europe will bask this week in Spring-like weather. (Severe-weather.eu) Indeed, just north of sunny Boglington, the mercury hit 17C yesterday (62F) (15 Feb.).

Indonesia: “As many as 4” people have died in flooding in West Java, Indonesia, after heavy rain that began on 7 Feb. “A disaster agency spokesperson said that the overflowing Cinambo River caused a dam to break, flooding areas in the Cilengkrang district.” (Floodlist)

Saudi Arabia: Amber warnings have been issued for more heavy rainfall, after 2 people died near Madinah on 9 Feb. More than 100 people were rescued from vehicles stuck in flooded wadis. (Floodlist)

Malawi: 8 days of continuous heavy rain between 18-24 January caused extensive flooding, evacuations and damage to property in central and southern regions. (Late report from Floodlist)

Brazil: Strong winds, torrential rain, flash flooding and landslides caused havoc in the municipality of Rio de Janeiro, 6-7 Feb. 90mm (4-in.) rain fell in just one hour. Officials said that some areas recorded more than the February average rainfall in just a few hours. Wind gusts of around 110 km/h were also recorded. (Floodlist)

Peru: “As many as 10 people have died after heavy rain, flooding and landslides since 07 Feb. President Martin Vizcarra said on 11 Feb. that 8,000 people have been affected and 1,800 made homeless. Flooding and landslides have damaged or destroyed bridges, roads, homes, health centres and schools.” And there’s more flooding in Ecuador. (Floodlist)

Australia: 1 person has died and several are in intensive care, infected with Melioidosis, a soil bacterium apparently released by the recent record floods affecting Queensland. A report from CNN notes that the Flinders river has gone from a trickle to 27 miles wide – so vast a flood that it is believed to have generated a thunderstorm. Huge volumes of soil can be seen from space, washing into the Gulf of Carpentaria.

Russia: “Residents of a coalmining region in Siberia have been posting videos online showing entire streets and districts covered in toxic black snow. The scenes in the footage were described as “post-apocalyptic” by Russian media.

Black stalactites hang from trees in the Kemerevo region of Siberia. The snow is black because it binds with coal dust as it falls. (Siberian Times)

“The coal dust that turns the snow black in the Kuzbass comes from numerous open pit mines that environmental activists say have had disastrous consequences for the health of the region’s 2.6 million people. … Officials in Mysky, a town in the region, were mocked recently for painting black snow white.” (Guardian Green Light report, 15 Feb.)

Two cyclones colliding over Norilsk in Eastern Siberia earlier in the week produced up to 4 meters of snowfall. But at least it was warmer – temperatures rose to -11C. (Siberian Times)

World: The oceans are warming fast.

  • “The year 2018 passed the previous record set just the year before, in 2017; the top five years of ocean heat have come in the last five years. Last year continues a startling trend of global ocean warming that is a direct result of humans’ warming of the planet.” (CNN, from journal Advances in Atmospheric Sciences). Prof. Paul Beckwith reports – the land is now warming three times faster than the sea, which until recently had absorbed over 90% of all the atmospheric warming caused by CO2 and other greenhouse gases.
  • “In the extreme, environmental breakdown could trigger catastrophic breakdown of human systems, driving a rapid process of ‘runaway collapse’ in which economic, social and political shocks cascade through the globally linked system – in much the same way as occurred in the wake of the global financial crisis of 2007-08.” The warning comes in a paper from UK thinktank the Institute for Public Policy Research.
  • “CO₂ levels just reached another record high. On February 9, 2019, an average daily CO₂ level of 414.27 ppm was recorded at Mauna Loa, Hawaii.” Global CO2 level normally peaks in March/April. (Arctic News)
  • Atlantic hurricanes showed “highly unusual” upward trends in rapid intensification rates during the period 1982 – 2009 that can only be explained by including human-caused climate change as a contributing cause, according to research published last week in Nature Communications. Hurricane Maria (2017) for instance intensified by 70 mph in just 24 hours.
  • A new study is causing worries for electric car smuggies, who may lose up to 40% of their cruising range in cold weather. Fights are being reported in the lines for recharging cars at scarce charging points.

Yellowstone: the rising magma column – 300 miles long and containing enough molten material to fill the Grand Canyon 11 times over, with a core temperature measured at 2,500 F, – is now being “intensely monitored” by USGS geologists and vulcanologists. Ground heating, earthquake swarms continuing. (Mary Greeley)

 

POZI-NEWS

A great new feature accentuating the POZITIV!

By a margin of 92 to 8, “Joshua Tree and Death Valley national parks are to be enlarged, and stunning river landscapes in California and Utah will be protected, under new legislation that passed the US Senate on Tuesday. In all, the public lands package sets aside more than a million acres of new wilderness and conservation areas in western states. … The bill will go to the Democrat-controlled House next, where it’s likely to pass, and then to the president’s desk.” (Guardian, 14 Feb.)

Where it will hopefully cause the ecocidal vandal Trump to choke to death on his fucking cheeseburger.

The “very stable genius” has been frantically trying to reduce the size of protected national monument lands and encourage more fracking and opencast mining while permitting slurry runoff from mines and agricultural poisons to pollute the rivers on behalf of his pal David Murray of Murray Energy, a multi-billionaire “coal baron” and one of his biggest donors,

Mr Murray reportedly backhanded several million dollars to Trump’s highly controversial $107m Inaugural Fund, AFTER the Inauguration ceremonies were over, from which a vast amount of money appears to have gone missing without explanation, in exchange for a “wish list” which Mr Trump on assuming office immediately set about using Executive Orders to grant.

Both men have quite openly admitted without a trace of shame that, for example, Trump’s order to the Tennessee Valley Authority to reverse a decision to switch its energy supply away from a Murray Energy coalmine into renewables was as a direct result of David Murray’s paying him money.

A bribe, in other words.

And so extensive is Trump’s gluey web of corruption, fantasy and deceit, nobody even cares anymore.

 

School’s Out!

A protester on a school climate strike march in Sydney, Australia.

Schoolchildren in 60 areas of Britain were apparently striking today (15 Feb.) in sympathy with the expanding global movement begun by the scary-looking 16-year-old Greta Thunberg, from Sweden, to bring government attention back from the Brexit farrago to the very real environmental threats the rising generation are going to have to deal with, since we won’t.

You might not know this, reading the BBC’s coverage, which is a day out of date. However, on a POZITIV note, the Nailsea Comprehensive school/Oxford/Harvard-educated Claire Perry, Minister of State at the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy – who in your Old Uncle’s view should become our next Prime Minister – went on the Today programme this morning …

And smack in the face of the smug, middle-class (w)anchor Justin Webb, who has been tutting his disapproval all week, actually SUPPORTED the strike!

But you won’t read about that on the BBC News website. It would cause a revolution.

Media: Just gettin’ it on… Taking a chance on love… Loony Tunings (Guitar Bore alert)… Futuropathy: latest… GW: the climes, they are a’ changin’… RIP Trevor.

Quote of the Week

“We can only speculate about how much more embedded public knowledge of the EU’s benefits would be today if she (Thatcher) and other leading politicians had explained rather than obfuscated; if the basics had been taught in schools and reported honestly in the media. … Instead, the public has remained largely uninformed about the economic advantages of the EU and its ‘frictionless’ single market, for which Thatcher herself pushed so hard.”– David Conn, in The Guardian, 4 Feb.

Given that Nissan chose to locate in Britain for reasons most strongly connected with these islands as gateways to both the European and US markets, Conn points out that Thatcher could have opened the new Sunderland Nissan plant in 1986 with a speech about those opportunities. Instead, she chose characteristically to spin the massive Japanese investment purely as a vote of confidence in good old British know-how.

And many of those who voted Leave still believe in her John Bull-shit, even as they see their jobs vanishing in a puff of good old British smoke; while the Brexit politicians scramble to accuse the EU of treachery, having agreed a tariff-free trade deal on car imports from… Japan, just as we were leaving.

The BogPo consoles itself with the thought that continuing car manufacturing at all in the face of climate disaster is a Thoroughly Bad Thing. If the (entirely foreign-owned) car industry in the UK relocates abroad post-Brexit, we can say, hand on heart, we did our bit to save Humanity.

“You may most certainly not grab my pussy, Herr Juncker. Not without a change to the backstop!” (Photo: Geert Vanden/Guardian)

Medea

Just gettin’ it on

“Winter has arrived with savage consequences for digital publishers, including BuzzFeed. In the space of two weeks, about 2,100 jobs have been lost across the media, with many disappearing from purely digital publishers. BuzzFeed’s layoffs amounted to 15% of its total staff, a loss of around 220 jobs across all departments, including in its widely admired New York newsroom.” (Guardian report)

I got a bit confused, the first time I searched for Buzzfeed, to be confronted with a page of the usual garbage ‘Daily Mail’-type stories about Z-list celebs and shows I’d never heard of, recipes, weather reports and clickbait for Harry Potter fans, only without bikinis.

The layout looked like amateur night at the Krazy Kidz Kut’n’Paste emporium, but I guess they must have focus-grouped it, gettin’ down wiv da ‘hood, and all that.

I’d heard they were a really hot breaking news site. There are a couple of newsish stories today, some predictable stuff on Brexit, something about the Duchess of Markle. Since my first shock exposure, I’ve relied on other media quoting Buzzfeed news, a service I never managed to find. They seem well respected in the business.

However, the business is fast disappearing.

“…the past decade has been catastrophic. Between 2008 and 2017, the number of newsroom jobs in US newspapers dropped by 45%, to 39,000, and all US newsroom jobs, including TV and radio, declined by 23% overall.”

The reason seems to be twofold.

One, viewers and readers are tuning to their mates on Instagram as more reliable sources of information, believing in Trump’s truth, that the conventional mainstream media are fake news.

(It seems to your Old Uncle that the media at least tries to represent the truth, while it’s life that’s increasingly fake.)

And no publisher has been able to find a business model that doesn’t involve driving prospective readers headlong into a paywall, forcing people to look at irrelevant ads by pinning their eyes open with digital safety pins, spattering cookies and legal spyware over your computer, or conning readers with low-cost subscription offers they can’t cancel when the price shoots up.

Where your Uncle Bogler feels there is a disconnect in online journalism, is between the urge to inform a loyal readership of their views, and the site owners’ futile desire to make huge profits. Falling between the two, is the natural hope of the hacks to be paid for their time and trouble.

And you can never tell in this business, what might suddenly go wrong. The drink-drive conviction and divorce trials of inexplicably popular presenter Ant McPartlin and his voluntary incarceration in rehab were said to have cost ITV £1.3 Billion in lost share value last year. Ad revenues continue to fall, as the uncertainties of Brexit seems to have affected companies’ marketing budgets.

I’d go further into that, were it not for the annoying paywall Campaign magazine hides behind. I’m not going to subscribe for a year just to read the lead paragraph of only one article, as I have no interest in the rest. Can’t they understand that, and just allow superficial researchers a peep?

(The New Yorker magazine has quite a successful policy of allowing people who receive their daily email digest for free, to view four actual articles a month. Then they bombard you day and night with special subscription offers.)

All I can say is, bad luck. The Boglington Post, with its lately rather silent sister bogl, The Pumpkin, remains rock solid on a readership now averaging 4 a day, and has no plans to downscale. Our own business model is very simple:

Keep on ’til the fun stops. Don’t stop ’til you get it on. Etc.

 

Taking a chance on love

In the wake of the 69-year-old Dutchman who lost a court case to have 20 years knocked off his life because he felt discriminated against on dating sites, comes a report that a “27-year-old Indian man plans to sue his parents for giving birth to him without his consent.”

“Mumbai businessman Raphael Samuel told the BBC that it’s wrong to bring children into the world because they then have to put up with lifelong suffering. … In a statement, his mother Kavita Karnad Samuel explained: ‘I must admire my son’s temerity to want to take his parents to court knowing both of us are lawyers. And if Raphael could come up with a rational explanation as to how we could have sought his consent to be born, I will accept my fault.'” (BBC News, 7 Sept.)

I personally concluded today, my mother allegedly having politely told my grandfather where to shove the money he was offering her to pay to have me aborted, that if we are indeed witnessing the final extinction of the human race, it is surely a unique privilege to be here at such a time.

Don’t you think?

 

(Guitar bore alert)

Loony Tunings

Although I know several hundred chords and more, almost 60 years having passed since I was gifted my first guitar by my Granny, I am probably the world’s worst soloist.

Despite doggedly practising scales, which is supposed to familiarise you with the intervals and ensure correct note selection within the appropriate key, I cannot play a melody one note at a time to save my life.

It is indeed the reason that, after a disastrously embarrassing school gig, I gave up the guitar for 45 years. Having two wives in quick succession was another.

Jazz musicians smile indulgently. As long as you manage eventually to resolve to the right note in the scale of the key you’re supposedly playing in, they tell me, there are no “wrong notes” you can play in jazz.

Oh, yes there are! I seem to find them all.

Anyway, I wanted to Post briefly about this theory I have, before somebody else discovers it.

As you problee kno’, the standard “open” tuning of a guitar from the top or first string is “E-A-D-G-B-E” (the string nearest your face is the ‘top’ or ‘first’ string of six, although it is the lowest note – bear with me).

The sharp-eyed among you will observe, G and B are only three whole tones – five frets – apart, while the other strings are each four tones – but still five frets – distant from their neighbours. It’s probably this more than anything that confuses me, as I am insanely logical and it isn’t. (Okay, there’s a good reason, if I could only remember what it is. Something to do with the notes B and C, and E and F, each being only half a tone interval (one fret) apart.)

Who knew so much math would be involved in learning music? And when it comes to augmented and diminished 9ths and 13ths and slash-chords and suspended (rootless) 4th chords, you need calculus and an extra finger or two on your left hand. I never got that far with our dreadful math supply teacher, gropy-hands Mr Nazeer.)

Anyway, some reckless folk, especially folk musicians, will lower the top E, i.e. the lowest note, to a D; i.e., two frets, or one whole tone down. This makes playing in the keys of G or D, favorite folky keys, easier and gives you a gutsy bottom note to resolve to in the bass that’s in your key; whereas the ‘E’ wouldn’t be.

A few hardier people even follow the great French-Algerian player, Pierre Bensusan, who leads what is known as the “DADGAD” movement, tuning to those strange open notes. I guess you’d have to be pretty fly to play in any keys other than D and G, although he manages rather well. It’s quite a different sound.

We’ll ignore any similar cranks reading this.

Now, the standard tuning seems to suit pop, rock and folk players well, as their music tends to be written in the major keys of E, A, D and G, and those are predominantly the unfretted, open strings. So if like me you are hideously inaccurate at melody, you have fallbacks available that don’t sound crap.

Jazz songs, on the other hand, possibly to keep horn and woodwind players happy, tend to be written in the major keys of F, Bb, Eb, Ab and C, often played (for that distinctive jazzy sound) as chords with the addition of the dominant 7th or the flattened 5th note (the “blue note”).

And quite by chance, those would be the open strings if you raised your tuning by a half-note, or one fret, and didn’t want to play too many wrong notes when soloing. For, as if by divine intention you would end up with open strings tuned to F-Bb-Eb-Ab-C and F!

For that reason, to humor my very own loony-tuning theory, rather than risk actually retuning all the strings, I have just bought my lovely new Lowden guitar a present: a spring-loaded, bar-type device known as a “capo” (short for Italian “capo d’astro, or capotasto”), hailing originally from C18th Spain (when it was known as a “cejuelo” and was made of wood), being used to raise the open-string tuning to whatever higher pitch you need.

And because my li’l Lowden was so ridiculously expensive, I reasoned – being insanely logical, you understand – nothing less than a 24k gold-plated capo from a brilliant British company called G7th would do, the cleverest and most ergonomic design going, costing over £40 incl. postage.

What am I like? I can barely play the thing!

Postscriptum

Occasionally, you may encounter a guitarmaker whose products make you wet your pants. One such is Theo Sharpach. http://www.scharpach.com/archtop/

I have no idea how much his instruments will set you back, even if you could get your hands on one*. Just win the lottery, okay? Some of the tonewoods he uses are 500 years old.

*The Vienna is $30,000. Or was, four years ago. It’s ‘on application’.

 

Futuropathy: latest

“A further rise in global temperatures would be enhanced by amplifying feedbacks from land and oceans, including exposure of water surfaces following sea ice melting, reduction of CO₂ concentration in water, release of methane and fires. Climate change trajectories would be highly irregular as a result of stadial events affected by flow of ice melt water into the oceans. Whereas similar temperature fluctuations and stadial events occurred during past interglacial periods (Cortese et al. 2007) when temperature fluctuations were close to ~1°C, further rises in temperature in future would enhance the intensity and frequency of extreme weather events, entering uncharted territory unlike any recorded during the Pleistocene, rendering large parts of the continents uninhabitable.”

  • Professor Andrew Glikson, Earth and Paleo-climate science, Australia National University (ANU) School of Anthropology and Archaeology; ANU Planetary Science Institute, ANU Climate Change Institute, Honorary Associate Professor, Geothermal Energy Centre of Excellence, University of Queensland. For longer (very technical) report, see Arctic News, 30 Jan.

 

GW: the climes, they are a’ changin’

USA: A dipolar system with a remarkable temperature gradient is forming across the North American landmass as I write. According to Severe-weather.eu: “a surface cyclone (Winter Storm Lucian) will move across the Great Plains and will result in extremely powerful warm advection across the central Plains and later over the eastern half of CONUS. Looking over the Thursday map, we can see the temperature anomaly ahead of the cyclone will be more than 20°C above normal, while the airmass behind the system will be more than 20°C colder than average for early February! Very intense winds/jet stream will form in between and also support some severe weather further south along the surface front.”

During the horrendous Polar Vortex incident, “more than 30 record lows were broken across the Midwest. Cotton, Minnesota, was the coldest place in the US on Thursday (31 Jan.) with a low of -48C (-56F) based on preliminary data. (That ain’t windchill, neither.) At -21F, with a windchill of around -51F (-46C) Chicago passed the record low for 31 Jan., while Mount Carroll has probably beaten the Illinois record with a morning temperature of -39C (-38F, or 70F below freezing).” (BBC Weather)

The good news is, it has been colder in the midwest before. More cold records were set in 1994 than have been set this winter. And record warmth has been noted on the East Coast. (Jeff Masters, Wunderground)

Alarmingly, a “nuclear plant in southern New Jersey was shut down early Thursday after intake screens froze over, restricting the flow of water needed to cool the reactor. A second unit at the station on the Delaware river was powered down because of the same problem.” (Fortune)

US Update: So now, it’s Monday 4 Feb, and it’s back up to 60F (17C) degrees in Washington DC, in February, with a forecast of 70F, 21C by Thursday; temperatures in the southeast heading for the high 70s; while California is being hammered by a second major storm in a week. The town of Paradise, incinerated in the Camp Fire last year, is under a flash-flood watch and 7 feet of snow has fallen in the Sierra Nevada mountains, with more forecast. (NBC)

By contrast, Boston has had record low-snow, only 2.3 inches, New York likewise, while Caribou, Maine, recorded its snowiest January on record and has tallied 112.5 inches (9’4″) of snow through Feb. 4, almost 50 inches above average. (The Weather Channel)

And: Phil, the Punxutawney, Pa. groundhog is predicting an early spring. Just so you know.

Punxutawney Phil. Rumors that he is over 200 years old have been disproved by fact-checkers on The Washington Post.

Middle East: “Flooding affected northern and western parts of Saudi Arabia between 27 and 29 Jan. Civil Defence reported dozens of rescues and later that 12 people had died. A total of 271 people had been rescued across the country and 137 evacuated. On 28 Jan, more than 50 homes in Iraq’s Najaf province were swept away by a severe flash flood. Iran’s Red Crescent Society provided emergency shelter for 800 people after heavy rain in southern and western provinces triggered massive floods from 27 January. A total of around 1,400 people were affected” across 4 provinces. (Floodlist).

North Africa: For a second year running, the Arctic was considerably warmer in early February than Morocco:

“Surface air temperatures near Svalbard were as high as 5.2°C or 41.4°F on Feb 3, 2019. At the same time, it was -3.5°C or 25.6°F in Africa. The contrast was even more profound on Feb 4, 2018, when at those same spots it was as cold as -10°C or 13.9°F in Africa, while at the same time it was 5.8C or 42.4°F near Svalbard.” (Arctic-news.blogspot.com)

Australia: “heavy rain has continued to fall in North Queensland, with flooding affecting areas around Townsville from 30 January, 2019. (Townsville received more than a meter (3.3ft) of rain in just a week. That is more than 20 times the average for the time of year – beating the previous record set in 1998, in what became known as the Night of Noah.) (BBC) A few days earlier, wide areas of the north of the state recorded more than 500mm in 48 hours, causing the Daintree River to reach record levels.” (Floodlist)

Update, 5 Feb: the bodies of 2 men thought to have been engaged in a breaking and entering were recovered from a storm drain in Townsville, Monday (4 Feb). Bluewater Creek had 340mm of rain overnight, bringing the week’s drenching up to a record 1.8 meters. Floodwaters are beginning to recede.

“Tasmania recorded its driest January on record, with maximum temperatures an astonishing 3.22C above the long-term average for the month.” Unique on earth, the island’s primeval “Gondwana” pine forests are threatened by more than 40wildfires caused by a great increase in ‘dry-lightning’ strikes, that are burning uncontrolled over 190,000 Ha – 3% of the total land area.

Meanwhile, “A week-long heatwave has floored New Zealand, breaking temperature records across the country. “Hanmer Forest in north Canterbury has hit a record-breaking 38.4C – the warmest it’s been since records began in 1906. (Newshub). Temperatures have soared above 37C (98.6F) in parts of the South Island” And it’s forecast to get hotter. 1 person is known to have died from hypothermia; sea-surface temperatures around the islands are up to 6C above normal. (Guardian)

Indonesia: “Heavy rain in the northern part of Bali triggered a landslide on 29 Jan., killing 4 people. 16 people were injured and required medical attention.” (Floodlist).

Thailand: The Ministry of Education has ordered all schools in Bangkok and some surrounding provinces to close for the remainder of the week amid concerns over dangerous levels of air pollution. Bangkok’s air quality has fallen to harmful levels with the quantity of unsafe dust particles — known as PM2.5 — exceeding what is considered safe in 41 areas around the capital. (CNN)

S. America: floods in Chile affected families and homes in Arica. Around 25,000 were left without electricity. As of 01 Feb, one person was missing, 20 families have been evacuated and 151 people were staying in shelters. Roads, including routes from Arica to Sora and Chapisca, have been cut. Chile has been experiencing a 40C-plus heatwave. Flooding in southern Peru caused a hotel to collapse. (from Floodlist)

Cuba: the death toll from the F3/F4 tornado, the strongest on record to hit Havana, has risen to 6. 2,500 properties were destroyed. The January 27 tornado was followed by a meteorite that landed in western Cuba near the town of Viñales on Friday, Feb. 1. Residents reported windows shattering, and the meteorite was detectable on both satellite and radar. (Wunderground)

Europe: Extremely warm weather is returning to south-central Europe and the Balkans this week, pushing the cold air down over North Africa. It’s been an active start to the tornado season in the Med, with 61 reported in January, including the big one that hit Antalya in Turkey, causing multiple casualties. The south of Italy is in for a period of persistent, excessive rainfall. Thunderstorms will develop along a virtually stationary frontal boundary across central Mediterranean, stretching from Crete into southern Italy. “Torrential” rainfall is forecast for Greece, up to 250mm overnight 5/6 Feb. (Severe-weather.eu))

Flash floods: Others hit Campinas, Brazil; Cordoba, Spain; Jerusalem, Israel; Makassar, Indonesia – all in the last week of January. (Strange Times website).

Antarctica: a hole 2/3rds the size of Manhattan has been discovered under the Thwaites glacier. 14 billion tonnes of ice is thought to have melted out in only the last three years.

Yellowstone: Normally placid Steamboat geyser has erupted for the fourth time this year, keeping up roughly a weekly schedule. See Posts, Passim. The Blessed Mary Greeley is reporting unusual double-signature seismographic patterns of ground uplift around the Yellowstone lake; while the continuous webcam at the geyser basin has been taken offline.

Climate change: Bringing it home to the British consumer

“Consumers are seeing smaller chips as a result of last year’s drought and extreme heat. Cedric Porter, editor of World Potato Markets, said: ‘They’re 3cm shorter on average in the UK. Smaller potatoes means smaller chips.'” (Guardian)

Taken with rapidly vanishig fish stocks, it’s an existential concern, alright.

We’ve ‘had our chips’!

 

RIP Trevor

Trevor, a Mallard drake and internet celebrity said to be the world’s loneliest duck, has died – presumed killed by dogs on the Pacific island of Niue, a New Zealand protectorate.

Stranded by a storm two years ago, Trevor had lived in a puddle by the side of a dirt road, which was being surreptitiously topped up by the local fire brigade as there is no natural reserve of fresh water on the island.

He was named Trevor, after New Zealand’s parliamentary speaker, coincidentally named Trevor Mallard.

“Deepest sympathy to the people of Niue from the parliament of New Zealand,” Mallard posted on social media on Monday.

Niue’s chamber of commerce chief added, Trevor’s death would be a loss for the nation. “He captured many hearts and even the rooster, the chicken and the weka were looking a little forlorn today wandering around near the dry puddle,”

(Report: Guardian Green Light)

 

The BogPo – an Appeal:

Can anyone explain to your old Uncle why it is that Twitter photos no longer appear as uploads embedded in stories on news websites? The text is there, but the picture areas are now blank. This has started happening only in the past fortnight. The BogPo doesn’t have a Twitter account and so never opened the files, but they were at least visible – now not. Why?

 

 

The Warped and the Woof: a doggy shag story… The Demeaning of Life… Christmas is so over!… Another unwanted pres(id)ent… GW: Roasting Matilda. Your New Year edition of the BogPo starts here!

The BogPo and our friends over at The Pumpkin would like to wish you all a Happy and Prosperous New Year in 2019.

But we just can’t.

 

“Is that you Melanka? It’s Donald Trump here. I’m in some kind of forest, there may be rain. Can you call whoever is my Chief of Staff today to come get me out?”

The Warped and the Woof: a doggy shag story

“Britain’s dogs are becoming less fertile. Researchers who have systematically examined canine sperm over a span of 26 years say that overall sperm quality has been in decline. Environmental chemicals are implicated. And the study may throw light on the fertility changes in male humans.” (BBC Science report)

At one and the same time we are reminded, are we gnotte?, of the futility of existence.

On the one hand, you may say, there are too many people in the world. A decline in fertility, that has been noted – the average human birthrate globally is now only 2.4, not far off the point of non-replacement of populations – possibly due to plastics and their chemical emissions, may be seen as both a good and a bad thing. But worth researching.

On the other, discovering that your fate as an adult, having spent perhaps 20 years in fulltime education to emerge with a Doctorate of Philosophy specializing in biomedical science, is to be employed for 26 years to masturbate dogs and minutely examine the outcome; to know this, is more than a non-scientist can bear.

There surely has to be a higher purpose, as well as a statistical number, to existence.

 

The demeaning of life

And we find it, seemingly, in utter uselessness:

“The crash, at about 10am GMT, caused Amazon customers to complain about not being able to play festive songs, turn on their living room lights or get cooking instructions for Christmas dinner.”

Yes, throughout Europe no-one expanding until the surplus flesh consumed their sofa was able to put on the radio, recognize a light-switch and grasp its primary functions, or stick a fucking turkey in the oven with a fistful of packet stuffing and some cranberries up its arse.

Not without their little virtual assistant, whose circuits had become overloaded owing to the population of Alexas now exceeding that of the entire useless human race, reduced to complete helplessness as this little fucker cheerfully plays ‘We Built This City on Sausage Rolls’, this year’s Number One hit in Britain (yes, thanks to Brexit we have gone collectively crazy), while secretly sending messages back home to the big computer that works out what to sell you next, because you’re so glutted with stuff you no longer know what you want or need or are good for, financially. But that’s okay, here, have some more credit.)

I have tried not sneering at friends and relations who admit, with a little wiggle of shame and some suspicious coloration of the cheeks, that in their innocence and confusion they have already acquired one of these pernicious advertising devices, without realizing that this little tabletop fucker reports every fart, groan of pleasure or expression of disgust for the TV Christmas schedules back to its masters in California, even when it’s off.

But that’s okay, because it’s so useful to have a personal thing that can tell you to take an umbrella out in case those big lumpy gray things up there in the sky might contain water that could fall down and ruin your hair extensions.

You might want to look over on The Guardian website this morning, Boxing Day, and read about Amazon executives collaborating with the US security service in designing new systems for surveillance, and pause for a moment to wonder if there might be a connection?

Amazon and its evil owner, baldy Jeff Bezos, the world’s second-richest 1970s Dr Who villain, have enslaved the workforce everywhere, turning desperate workplace drones into abysmally paid bio-automata strapped to timing and management devices; having to pee in bottles to avoid sanctions for timing-out.

They’re doing the same to you in your home. You think Alexa is the robot? Think again. It’s you.

Already we’ve had the first instance of an Alexa advising its owner to kill his mother-in-law. A survey by NBC TV showed that 20% of Alexa owners ask for advice on boiling an egg.

I’m having none of it, myself. I can switch on my own light, thanks.

When I can afford it.

“We’ve got another one coming in, says he’s the Home Secretary and he’s missed his flight.” (Photo BBC/Lewis Morris)

Christmas is so over!

Speaking of selling us things, isn’t it just excessively aggravating on Boxing Day* to get a continuous trickle of pleading emails from retailers who spent £millions on trying to sell you stuff at bargain prices BEFORE Christmas, still pathetically wheedling the day after that it’s not too late to reconsider your decision not to buy anything from them, now that prices are even more affordable?

I accept that people have to make a living somehow. However, if you have ever visited parts of the world like Cairo or Marrakesh or New Delhi, you will know the misery of being constantly pursued through the bazaar by packs of barefoot street-Arabs with their grimy hands out, pleading for baksheesh; while indigent and portly carpet salesmen grasp at your clothing and try to hustle you into the Stygian gloom of their overstocked emporia, smelling badly of goats.

It’s all just a bit… undignified?

I have a modest proposal: ban all internet advertising on 26 December.

Just calm down, dears. Accept it:

It’s over.

*(for Americans, the day after Happy Holiday was when tradesmen in olden days would go around collecting small gratuities from their regular customers for the staff Christmas Box. It was in the days when shops used to deliv… er…, right.)

 

(Guitar bore alert)

Getting the Lowdown

And talking of dogs, the little cat, Cats, has instantaneously developed a relationship with my new guitar. What is that about?

I wrote a few days ago about how I dropped a chair on my old Taylor. I was being facetious, I didn’t ‘drop’ it exactly, the desk chair tipped over as I stood up painfully to pee (catchup: I pee by painful contraction into a bag attached to my leg, in some ways it’s quite handy) and the guitar was on its stand behind me where I can reach it easily, and the back of the chair… it’s a bit horrible to relate, actually.

Anyway, for some reason the price of guitars has crept up and up in recent years, it’s like the guitar industry is competing to see who can charge the most for a chunk of wood, a stick, some gloss paint and some wires. You’ll be expected to pay six or seven grand even for a solid-body Gibson Les Paul Custom ’59 these days. They only make thousands a year and they still haven’t conquered the neck-straining weight problem.

So I had to pitch the insurance company to cough up £500 more than I paid for the guitar three years ago, as that is the price of a new one today, if you can find one – the world of luthiery moves on. With their blessing, I took the opportunity to upgrade, and paid the difference to acquire at last one of the many guitars of my dreams – a Lowden.

This would be, I thought, a rare and fabulous thing, an instrument made and blessed by the great George Lowden himself – until the shop I bought it from followed yesterday morning’s exciting delivery with an email offering me a choice of 59 more they have in stock, just to remind me of how very not special I am; as if I haven’t spent my life knowing it.

It makes for well over 100 I have now found online

After scouring the internet for one I could afford, I now realize George is in the business of cashing in on his reputation for excellence by flooding the market with mass-manufactured guitars, albeit ‘hand-crafted’, which will undoubtedly affect the resale value should I ever need to sell it – which I usually do as I’m always running out of money.

My appreciation of the fabulous tone and sheer playability of my new Lowden, that are not really in doubt; my desire not to resell it, to hang on to it at all costs, has become sullied by mere commercial considerations. Happy New Year, George.

But Cats has no such apprehensions. Never a lap-cat, the moment I took it from its case and started appreciatively strumming a chord I know, she jumped up on the sofa beside me and tried to get onto my lap, pawing at me with a strange light in her eye. Fearful of another accident, I took the guitar back to its case and lovingly replaced it – it’s still a tight fit.

And since then I find her sitting speculatively on the lid of the case, which for reasons of space is lying flat across the arms of the armchair I never sit in, in the corner behind the door.

It could be the mildly pungent, not unpleasant smell of the new wood, the cedar and the rosewood, the mahogany, the varnish, combining to create a sort of musical catnip, I don’t know.

Whatever the reason, I got up late this morning and there was no sign of Cats, who often breakfasts at several houses across the dangerous road before trotting home to breakfast at hers.

I worry when she isn’t there by the time I’m dressed, she has a magical ability to sense from wherever she is in her world that I’m up and about and ready to feed her, and comes hurtling in through the bathroom window. She has invented a game where she stops on every step going downstairs, and I have to pretend to tread on her squidgily. One day she’ll break my neck; a fitting end, I sometimes think. But not today.

Anyway, coffee made and cooling, after carefully washing my hands I take out the guitar and start to play through the circle of fourths, whatever, and moments later as if by magic Cats appears in the doorway, a little barrel-shaped audience of one. Over in the corner, Hunzi balefully ignores us, the only things standing between him and his morning walk.

Patiently putting the guitar away again, together we go in the kitchen and open another packet of catfood and, as usual, she looks at me pityingly, as if to say, is this muck the best you can do? I get Beluga catviar across the street; and stalks off, tail twitching provocatively.

I guess if I serenade her, she’ll come back to finish it.

Little flirt.

 

And the Lowdown on Persuasion

An article in The Guardian by George Monbiot warning us of the dangers of advertising, as if Vance Packard hadn’t done that fifty years ago, offers a possible explanation for the seeming idiocy of offering me 59 more guitars, many like the one I just spent a barely affordable fortune on the previous day but several seductively planted among them, that cost twice as much.

It’s called ‘FOMO’, Fear Of Missing Out, and it’s a psychological technique designed to plant in my brain the worry that if I weren’t so inadequate I might have done even better, which will linger for months or years until I dissolve into a puddle of angst that my brilliant Lowden guitar is maybe not quite the best thing since hot buttered toast, and round we go again.

But George, that’s half the fun!

 

Oh, shit

Thinking of The Hidden Persuaders, there were two other seminal books warning us of the choppy seas our civilization was heading into, that came out at about the same time in the 1960s and early 70s.

Rachel Carson in Silent Spring drew our attention to the fact that the agrochemical industry was poisoning our world and shredding the web of life. EF Schumacher proposed a theory of Green economics, Small is Beautiful: ‘As if people mattered.’

Totally prescient, spot-on, and we’ve paid no attention whatsoever, and now thanks to neoliberal capitalism and the cult of the shareholder we’re in the shit up to our desperately pleading eyeballs.

 

Another unwanted pres(id)ent

The Pumpkin writes:

Mr Trump and the First Lady, who seems to have had a payrise recently as she no longer looks so miserable whenever she has to be in the same room as her everloving faithful-to-other-women hubby, descended with little notice on a Marine base in Iraq for festive selfies and another astonishing outburst of self-aggrandizement aimed at keeping his dumbfuck voter base happy while Mueller tightens the noose.

Not only did the gurning orange lunatic insist on posing for the White House TV channel with a supposedly clandestine bunch of Navy SEALs, completely uncensored, easily identified by unit and not even pixellated – thanks for the gross breach of normal security protocols, that could get them killed – claiming modestly that only since he became President has IS been defeated, which everyone is trying to tell him it hasn’t been – but he also told the assembled grunts that thanks to his persuasive charm they’d be getting a 10% – no, make it more! – payrise, the first raise they’ll have had in ten years!

Except that according to the fact-checkers they’ve had a payrise averaging 1.8% every year for the past thirty years, and 2.6% voted through already for 2019….

He is totally shameless.

And as he was terrified of leaving the security of the US base (not for himself, you understand, but for the safety of the First Lady – a creature made from sharpened iron nails, unlike ‘President Bone Spurs*) – the Iraqi Prime Minister refused to meet him on the grounds that visiting a US military base at Christmas was not a good look; while various local warlords, unaware of the visit in advance, are hopping up and down, threatening to throw the Yankee imperialists out of their country.

Well done, Donald, you and your gut sure know how to conduct foreign policy.

*As you know, back in the 1970s a chiropodist got him a draft deferment on grounds that he was afflicted with bone spurs on his feet. TYT has just reported, the late doctor’s daughters have confirmed that he had told them many times how Donald’s dad had paid him to make the diagnosis up.)

x

Norman invasion

French toll-roads operator Vinci has bought a controlling stake in Gatwick airport for £2.9 billion, adding to their collection of 46 airports around Europe, from the American investment fund owners, GIP, who appear to have lost on the deal as they’ve spent £2.9 billion over 10 years just on redecorating.

The deal comes as something of a disappointment to your Uncle Bogler, too, who has been suggesting for some time – ever since Boris Johnson as Mayor of London thought of creating an island in the Thames to get round the problem of where to site Heathrow’s third runway –  that Britain could lease a part of the otherwise pretty much useless but temptingly flat Pas de Calais to build another airport for London, only 90 minutes away by Eurostar train.

Too late now. Instead, we have another French company owning a major capital asset in the south of England, and Paris gets its sixth airport. Welcome to post-Brexit Europe.

UB sees too that Vinci owns Lyon St Exupèry, where he had one of the weirdest experiences of his life, having to persuade the staff to call out an engineer at 2 a.m. to free his mobile phone from a charging booth, only to realize with a frisson of horror that his (identical) phone was still in his pocket, and spending the rest of the night hiding under an overpass until his flight was called….

 

The 2019 Pointless Endeavor Award goes to M. Jean-Jacques Savin, a 71-year-old Frenchman and former paratrooper, who has set off in a bid to become the first person to float freely across the Atlantic in a ten-foot wooden barrel.

One off the bucket-list.

 

GW: Roasting Matilda

Australia: A “Christmas heatwave continues to sweep across the country, with a near record-breaking 49C (120F) forecast for Western Australia, and fire danger, health and air quality warnings issued across the nation. By 8.40am on Thursday (20 Dec) Marble Bar had already recorded 43.4C, with the worst of the heat to come. It later hit 49.3C. Temperatures in the south are 10C to 14C higher than average, the bureau said on Wednesday.” (BBC News) “Catastrophic” fire conditions are anticipated as winds pick up.

And who would want to live in…

USA: “Two powerful winter storms were moving across the country Friday, one bringing blizzard conditions to the northern Plains and Upper Midwest and a second spreading heavy snow from Arizona to the Texas Panhandle. The heaviest snowfall is likely in central and eastern New Mexico, with up to 2 feet in the highest terrain. Strong winds will accompany the snowfall, bringing the possibility of blizzard conditions.” 2 dead.

“In the Southeast, as of late Thursday almost 50 million people were under flood watches. Widespread rainfall, locally heavy at times, will continue to spread north and eastward from the Lower Mississippi Valley to the Mid-Atlantic. Flooding and flash flooding will be a threat throughout Friday.

Saturday: Rain and thunderstorms are drenching areas from the northern Gulf Coast to the eastern Carolinas. Clara, Mississippi, recorded 11.5 inches of rainfall. (The Weather Channel) Six eastern states had their wettest-ever year, Mount Mitchell in North Carolina receiving just on 140 cm, 55 in. Climate change? Meteorologist Bob Henson writes: “…rainfall amounts in some places were larger than anything produced by natural variability in the last hundred-plus years.”

“Severe thunderstorms that could spawn tornadoes were also forecast in Louisiana, Arkansas, Mississippi and western Tennessee late Thursday. Storms were also possible for parts of Iowa, western Illinois and northern Missouri. (from USA Today)

“Stanford Earth System Science Professor Noah Diffenbaugh stated that atmospheric conditions for California wildfires are expected to worsen in the future because of the effects of climate change.” Wikipedia concludes: “The 2018 wildfire season (was) the most destructive and deadly wildfire season on record in California, with a total of 8,527 fires burning an area of 1,893,913 acres (766,439 ha).” Human cost: 98 civilians, 6 firefighters. (USA Today)

A report in Scientific American proposes that there have been two civilization-ending ‘megadroughts’ in the West and northern Mexico in the past 1200 years, and the past 19 years suggests that a third is in progress. The region has warmed by 1.5 degrees in the past 120 years and the resulting increase in transpiration means what rainfall there is has less effect in the soil – a classic feedback loop.

The Philippines: “More than 60 people have died after a powerful storm struck the Philippines (29 Dec.), with locals reportedly taken by surprise by its strength. Storm Usman hit the Bicol region southeast of capital Manila on Saturday”, triggering landslides. “At least 17 people are missing and the death toll is expected to rise.” (BBC) More than 40 thousand people have been displaced by flooding.

Indonesia: “The death toll from a landslide that crashed into a hilly village on Indonesia’s main island of Java has risen to 15 after rescuers found 6 more bodies buried in the mud on Tuesday.” (Guardian) 30 houses were buried. “Seasonal rains” have triggered dozens of landslips and caused extensive flooding.

Iceland: Against the average daytime temperature at this time of year of 36F, 2C, Reykjavik yesterday was enjoying a balmy 48F, 9C. Many people in parts of Canada are also complaining that it’s still up in the 50s. It’s been mild here in the west of the UK too, under a gray blanket of cloud we haven’t seen the sun since the day before Christmas Eve.

Observing the isobars over the shoulder of the BBC Weather presenter, Louise Lear, as she summarises the prospects for the New Year week ahead, what they are clearly not talking about are the atmospheric rivers streaming up into the Arctic, and the intense lows – three of them – pushing warm water and high waves up past Greenland. What used to be an east>west flow of winds now seems almost permanently south>north; as evidenced by the relentless storm pattern in the eastern US – while a view of the circumpolar jetstream, presented in a voice betraying no alarm or even curiosity, shows it forming huge, lazy southward loops and breaks betokening even greater weather contrasts and stormy arctic conditions for the eastern USA.

Europe: A powerful cyclone is bringing very windy conditions and high waves to Finland and the Baltic states. The storm has been cited as the probable cause of a railway accident in Denmark that killed 6. More significantly, a ‘Sudden Stratospheric Warming’ event up in the polar region in which temperatures in the  frigid upper atmosphere may rise 60C above normal in a few days is likely to cause a lengthy spell of very cold weather in northern Europe and a warming trend in the Arctic from about the third week in January. (Severe-weather.eu).

And…

Yellowstone: The Steamboat geyser (biggest in the park) – The Blessed Mary Greeley reports eruption number 32 since March, on Christmas Day; crowning an excessively active year. The previous record year saw 29 in 1964; however most years get only two or three and several in the record none at all.

Cartoon of the Year