Whizz, bang, pop: The Pumpkin – Issue 15. Plus: Beating the Retweet; Tending to the Extremes.

Mr Xi reveals he also has tiny hands. So far, so good.

Before we start, will the BBC please sack their supine, regime-compliant, uncritical so-called ‘Senior US Editor’ John Sopel? The man is a pathetic pushover, a Trump shill who makes no effort to investigate, establish or explain the unpleasant truths behind his shallow, cliche-ridden reports but merely contents himself with praising the satanic Orange Liar and its traitorous regime.

Fuck him. He is less a journalist than a PR baboon.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/live/bbcone

(Is it okay to say this sort of thing over the Interwhatsit? I mean, they won’t withdraw their advertising? Ed.)

For a complete contrast to the routine disgraceful normalisation of Trump’s dystopian White House in UK media, The Pumpkin suggests you read Adam Gopnik’s piece in The New Yorker, 6 April. It’s not as long as the URL would suggest:

http://www.newyorker.com/news/daily-comment/the-new-dark-art-of-trump-towerology?mbid=nl_TNY%20Template%20-%20With%20Photo%20(154)&CNDID=49581041&spMailingID=10780658&spUserID=MTkwODY5NzgyMTM0S0&spJobID=1140557724&spReportId=MTE0MDU1NzcyNAS2

Thank you, carry on.

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Where’s this going?

By: Pumpkin Chief  America Editor, John Sopoor ©2017 @anywherebuthere

The world is agog. What does this overnight change of policy towards Syria mean?

My assumption is it means General McMaster is now running the country, and after rationalising the Bannon problem on the Security Council has taken Jared Kushner under his wing; while Ivanka will have “softened” her loving father’s approach with a few tearful, well-chosen words about dead “beautiful” children; as if Assad hasn’t been killing both beautiful and plug-ugly children indiscriminately by the thousand for the last six years while Trump supported his predecessor’s drone-infested non-intervention policy that he now says was responsible for the attack on Khan Sheikhoun. (The UN has charted 161 chemical attacks during that time.)

(And as if he didn’t have his goons throw a woman with a “beautiful” crying baby out of one of his campaign shenanigans last year. And as Jonathan Freedland points out in The Guardian today, as if Trump hasn’t been trying for weeks to ban Syrian children from fleeing to safety in the USA.)

It means that Mr Trump is holding a summit with President Xi today – ringside tickets at $200 thousand apiece – and wishes to send a strong signal from General McMaster that he means business over North Korea, business over the South China Sea, business over… er, business. Sixty cruise missiles at $832 thousand each just to crater an airfield is not a rap over the knuckles for Assad, it is a show that the Orange Oligarch can afford to blow $50 million of US taxpayers’ money on a one-night stand. Sixty missiles incidentally manufactured by Raytheon, a company listing as a stockholder, one… er, Donald J Trump.

It no doubt amused someone that President Xi learned about the assault over dessert. After all, did the Chinese not invent fireworks?

It means Mr Trump has had a chat with Mr Putin who has reluctantly agreed to get his men out of the target area while Mr Trump has a play with his missiles. Suitably patriotic images of their bright, hopeful rocket trails leaving US destroyers up past Old Glory into the night sky have been distributed, and Mr Trump’s weak and failing old eyes will have sparkled in the light. The chat probably took place a few days ago, when Mr Trump called to commiserate with Mr Putin over the St Petersburg train bombing.

Hope that it represents any sort of a coherent policy shift on Syria seems less certain. The mainstream media held in such contempt by Bannon/Trump has rushed yet again to hail this example of his maturity, firmness and wisdom, as they did after his disastrous budget speech that had only the virtue of not having been written by him. The media has got to stop normalising Trump and support those in government and the security services who are working to impeach him.

However much you respect the office, the tenant is not what you would wish him to be. He is a well-suspected financial criminal, a con-man, a compulsive liar, a nepotist and serial bankrupt with traitorous and amoral associates. He owes millions of dollars to your enemies’ private and State banks. He is so clueless and biddable as to be a danger to world peace. Find somebody better.

I am reliably informed by MSNBC that of the 530 vacancies in the State Department that opened up at the start of the Trump administration, for want of a better word, 76 days ago, including most of the top diplomatic positions, only 12 have so far been filled. There is still no China desk, so Mr McMaster will have had his work cut out preparing the ‘President’ for the summit.

The senior diplomat, the unqualified Mr Tillerson is operating virtually a high-wire act without a net: he travels with just a small clutch of ex-oil industry cronies and no press pack. He doesn’t trust civil servants, and indeed staffers have been ordered not to address him, or even to look at him directly. (This might be because he is too important, blindingly effulgent even, but it looks to me more like shame.)

It seems to suggest that negotiators with any Middle Eastern diplomatic experience are going to be thin on the ground, despite Kushner’s baptism of fire on a joint Iraq-Kurdish security round-table last week at which the only other US delegate supporting the 14-year-old plastic wunderkind appears to have been a man identified as one of Mr Trump’s personal bodyguard; a goon in a track-suit prominently displaying the Adidas logo.

Where I am struggling for air is to understand why no-one has asked if, the instant Mr Trump makes the inevitable gaffe with ‘Xi who must be obeyed’, the Chinese leader would not simply ask for the money back? Although China has recently dumped a lot of US debt, which has fallen to only $1.12 trillion (Japan is now America’s largest creditor), Mr Trump and his business associates have outstanding loans from Bank of China (and other banks) worth almost $1bn (Mother Jones).

Then, it wouldn’t be the first time the President has defaulted on his debt.

Only previously, he didn’t have the American taxpayer to cover it; and $50 million-worth of 1,000-lb whizzbangs to brandish at his creditors.

x

False flag? So fake!

The usual response from the Russian smoke machine to accusations of foul play is that the victims must have murdered themselves or possibly killed their own children to gain some more effective intervention from the Western powers.

In the case of the attack on Khan Sheikhoun they played a minor variation, suggesting that kindly Syrian fighter-bombers must have accidentally struck a warehouse known to contain rebel supplies of Sarin gas, thus inadvertently releasing a poison cloud. (If it was known to contain banned chemical weapons, why was it allowed to be bombed? The Pumpkin was under the impression the Russians had cleared out all Assad’s stockpile three years ago?)

The ingenious theory was debunked today by Guardian journalist Kareem Shaheen, who managed to get into the small town in Idlib where he found that there was indeed such a warehouse, but that it contained only silos empty apart from some rotting grain, and hadn’t anyway been significantly damaged. While yesterday, the BBC unearthed a chemical weapons military expert who pointed out that any Sarin if hit by a bomb would have been destroyed, as it burns.

Of more use to the Russian case however is the question, why would Assad still be using poison gas on civilians, when he is so clearly now winning the war?

Was he confident there would be no American retaliation? Was it a test of the Trump administration? Are there rogue elements in his airforce hoping to drive a wedge between the Americans and the Russians to take the heat off ISIS? Was it force of habit, simple terrorism? Or is Sarin just cheaper than using high-explosive? And if the Shayrat airbase was indeed the point of departure for Syrian planes armed with Sarin bombs, why didn’t Trump order the silos destroyed with specialist nerve-gas-killing warheads, which the Americans have? Why did he leave the base operational?

No-one has yet succeeded in answering it, and may never do. None of it adds up.

But certainly it has been of enormous value to the flailing Trump administration, providing him at last with the opportunity to look tough and decisive in a popular (-ish) cause with little risk of starting WW3 at the same time as diverting salacious media attention away from FBI and Senate probes into the treachery, confusion, financial finagling, nepotism and rank incompetence in the White House.

A helping hand, possibly, from his friend and banker, Vladimir Putin?

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Beating the retweet

What is going on?

YouTube appears to be censoring critics of the Trump regime.

Since a number of large advertisers pulled out of Google and other social media platforms in protest at their ads appearing coincidentally alongside ISIS beheadings and other horrid content, several online news and comment channels have had their advertising pulled too.

But not by the advertisers who want to remain with them.

Having invested heavily in studio facilities, broadcaster David Pakman has been increasingly despairing as despite his three million weekly pay-per viewings his ad revenue slumped to a low of 34 cents on one day last week. Pakman was unable to get any information out of YouTube but has been told by his furious advertisers that they have been told that the mention of various keywords in his opening title sequence referring to controversial subject matter that might be discussed on the show has triggered the ad placement algorithms to shut down their advertising content, leaving him with only the few small sponsors he plugs on-air and his subscriber base.

The Pumpkin also likes to steal material from the Rachel Maddow and Lawrence O’Donnell shows on MSNBC. In the past week, several issues of the broadcast have become ‘Content unavailable’, although the shows are listed in the sidebars to the main pages. Where the show is available, the picture has been messed with so that you get a small vignette of the actual show inset into a larger frame of just picture noise, or a tiled duplicate of the smaller frame; apparently for ‘copyright’ protection purposes, although there was no problem with copyright up to ten days ago. Not only that, but content posted as ‘NEW’ with a today’s or yesterday’s upload date is often found to be weeks old.

Both Keith Olbermann and Mike Malloy seem not to have added any new content the past week. If they did, I can’t find it: ‘current-date’ postings to the YouTube menu of both broadcasters are anything from one month up to 7 years old. And if Thom Hartmann, the one broadcaster on RT America who isn’t a propaganda mouthpiece for the Kremlin, hasn’t just taken a vacation, that show’s got a problem too; since he’s no longer around*. *Oh no, he’s back now.

What is going on?

These are not ‘fake news’ merchants, Islamists, religious cranks, global warming deniers or Russians, although they are occasionally strong and insightful critics of the Trump regime; that as the number of FBI and Senate investigations into his criminality goes on rising is increasingly meddling with internet service provision. Measures taken or mooted in the past week include ‘data-strip’ searches of travellers’ mobile devices, and extending rights to sell or pass on supposedly secure customer data without notice – including passing a law making it illegal to ever reverse the ruling.

YouTube is owned by Google. According to the Independent, Google could take a $750 million ‘hit’ while it sorts out its placement problem, five of the world’s largest advertisers having pulled out – with YouTube its hardest-hit subsidiary.

Has someone taken a decision to adversely impact channels specifically critical of the administration, under the smokescreen of a general boycott? Is the discussion content of these non-mainstream news programmes too much for Google’s delicate constitution to stomach – even while they continue to profit from selling your data to any and everyone? Or while the platform ad revenues slump, hopefully temporarily, is it more profitable to just not pass on the money to the content providers, thereby keeping the cash flowing?

What is going on?

(PS 23/04, advertisers seem to have discovered power: a boycott by 50 advertisers on Fox News has brought down the serial sex-pest, Bill O’Reilly, despite his huge… er, ratings.)

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Tending to extremes

A lengthy piece in the London Review of Books (7 January, 2016) by the legendary investigative journalist and war reporter Seymour Hirsh identified what has been a long-running civil war in US strategy over Syria, between the CIA and the Pentagon.

Their two opposing views formed in 2013 and highlight an obvious concern, ignored by the CIA, that continuing to arm and train the rebel forces against Assad would merely encourage the migration of moderate opposition groups to more hardline militias such as Jabhat al-Nusra and ensure a constant flow of arms to ISIS.

The CIA appeared to have learned little from the 1970s conflict in Afghanistan, where their creation of the Muhajideen force to counter the Russian insurgency – as in Syria also there by invitation – led to the growth of the Taliban. In 2013, the Pentagon’s Defense Intelligence Agency, the DIA however, took the opposite view, in alignment with the Russian policy, arguing that Assad was the better option as his removal would inevitably lead to extremists taking over, as they had done in Libya after the downfall of Gadaffi.

And the Director of the DIA from 2011 to 2014 was… General Michael T Flynn.

Thus, according to the Hirsh account, a secret policy was adopted of supplying the Assad regime indirectly via allies including France and Germany with ‘leaked’ US military intelligence, behind the backs of the Obama administration.

The dilemma for all the Western nations in Syria has simply been that, while everyone identifies Assad as the villain of the piece, an urbane, softly spoken, courteous and well-educated torturing, murdering, psychopathic pragmatist who gas-bombs his own people, before the war his broadly secular regime represented and possibly still represents the best hope for stability in the region and a bulwark against Iranian-backed Shi’a extremism; which for some reason we still regard as worse than Saudi-backed Sunni extremism.

This is now, one would have thought, a pretty optimistic view. Without continued support, either from Russia alone or a coalition of the unwilling, Assad could not regain and retain power while spending hundreds of billions of dollars on reconstruction, without maintaining his brutal repression of opposition elements and a flow of cash from China. The Russians certainly can’t afford to rebuild dozens of ruined cities.

To say as Tillerson was until this morning, that the ‘Syrian people will decide’ who is to lead them is just fanciful: the prospect of holding free and fair national elections beyond Assad’s safe-area west of Damascus, dominated by his own Alawite party, is surely non-existent; even if the voters were to return from the refugee camps in Turkey and the chilly fields of Croatia and Bulgaria to their blasted cities, the disruption has been almost total. Were they able to, by some miracle, it is certain they would vote Assad out. You imagine he would contemplate that possibility for one moment?

Now, however, with Russian intervention designed to break the deadlock and create a barrier – with or without Assad – against the spread of  Islamist contagion northwards into the Caucasus, thus putting the Russians into direct conflict with the generally anti-Assad, non-interventionist policies of the NATO alliance, America is in a pretty impossible position: arming and training the same supposedly moderate militias the Russians are trying to obliterate, but with both sides taking direct action against ISIS under a shared-skies arrangement that has now broken down as a result of Moscow witholding co-operation in feigned protest against Trump’s gestural rocketing of the Shayrat airbase.

Paint Turkey into the picture, however, its complex love-hate relationship with Russia, the Kurdish nationalist dimension, the bizarre machinations of its president-for-life, and you start to run out of mental capacity to grasp the full canvas. (Especially when you add-in China’s soft-power ambitions in the region….)

So we’ll ignore all that and speculate wildly instead about the energy industry.

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Noble gases

One of the reasons no-one has been too exercised about the civil war in Syria is that Syria is not to any great extent an oil-producing nation; unlike its neighbour, Iraq; where the oilfields lie mainly in the northern area where Kurdish nationalist ambitions have created a proto- home state.

Offshore it’s a different story, with massive undersea gas reserves in the eastern Mediterranean opening up opportunities for Israeli and US players.

Thus far, there appears to have been no exploration off the Syrian coast. But there seems to be no reason why the field should not extend that far north; indeed, there may be some additional reason for Moscow to take an interest: not to encourage, but to suppress competitive production.

The major fields under development are in the politically tortuous areas of Israeli waters, where an Oklahoma-based company called Noble Energy is sitting on massive reserves that are the subject of a legal action in the Israeli courts that has prevented them from exploiting their find. A decision is awaited later in the year.

The problem for all the energy players in the region is that there is so much gas under the sea – and maybe under the adjacent land; the Israeli- occupied Golan Heights, for instance – that prices have been tumbling; which naturally adds to Russia’s woes in the wake of the collapse in global oil prices; Russia being the dominant supplier in the region, and to Eastern Europe. But few buyers are willing to pile in to share in the bonanza if they know prices are only going to fall once they’ve signed the contract.

So it would be in Russia’s interests to restrict the supply of gas and force the price up; while at the same time using its Latakia and Tartus bases in Syria to break out of its Black Sea bailywick and project a little more ‘hard power’ in the region.

Noble, however (we’re not supposed to say who it is) in conjunction with an Israeli company, Delek, is talking of bypassing Syria to build an undersea pipeline directly to flood the Turkish energy market.

This would also conflict with Russia’s interests, as Gazprom is anxious to extend its market reach beyond the area of Ukraine, from which it profits little by exporting gas to a country that often fails to pay for it. And Gazprom also sells to Turkey and would not like to see its price undercut by Israeli gas. Turkey in turn is showing signs of fomenting trouble again in bi-partite Cyprus, which borders the gas fields to the west; and in other disputed Aegean islands. Does Erdogan have ambitions to explore and exploit his own ‘domestic’ energy sources?

There is the minor problem, too, that another major field is sitting off the coast at Gaza, discovered by British Gas. Israel is under pressure from Turkey to let the Palestinians immured in Gaza develop it as a means of providing themselves with a productive economy. There are both good and not so good reasons to say yes, since more prosperity for Gaza would reduce the hold of Hamas on the populace, but it’s being fiercely contested by rival interests.

And a shareholder in Noble is… President Donald J Trump. (Or was, under the Emoluments Clause he’s not supposed to be profiting from foreign investments; although the words ‘conflict’ and ‘interest’ are among the many thousands missing from his vocabulary.) Hence the presence of Noble director, George Papadopoulos as Foreign Energy Security advisor to the Trump team. (Another climate-change denier, incidentally, from the oil-soaked Hudson Institute.)

The Jerusalem Post (23 January reported on a productive meeting in Washington between Papadopoulos and ultra-right Israeli settler leader Yossi Dagan, after which George purred: “We are looking forward to ushering in a new relationship with all of Israel, including the historic Judea and Samaria” – settler code for the East Bank. Settlers are the last people who would approve a deal on gas with the Palestinians. In February, after a meeting with a bemused Prime Minister Netanyahu, Trump modified US policy on settlements and greenlighted a return to the ‘one-state solution’, effectively marginalising the Palestinians as second-class Israelis living permanently within a system of religious and ethnic discrimination.

Which might all sort of explain why General Flynn, who since leaving the Army has been earning (and failing to declare) large sums of money as a PR consultant of various kinds to the anti-Israel Erdogan regime, while also working for several Russian interests, and having fed all that US military intel to the Assad gang, is no longer persona grata in the Oval Office, and instead is urgently seeking the protection of the FBI.

A version of the story can be found on the RealNews channel:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eO13RDfDWMQ

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Over the seas to sky…

Hey, gang, I’ve noticed it’s Thursday again.

So I’m allowed a fresh Post, as my output is now artificially limited to producing only one a week, owing to the absolute numerological necessity to post my 500th Post on the exact 4th anniversary of the founding of the BogPo, next 27th February. (This being No. 486.)

Of such tiresome conceits and obsessions is the life writerly made.

So, what do I think today?

Well, I’m amused to hear that Mr Putin has announced an official enquiry into his own government’s alleged complicity in a decades’ long campaign to illegally stimulate dozy Russian athletes, as revealed in a report from WADA, the ‘World Anti-Doping Agency’, this week; the outcome of which he seems already to have decided (he has denied it. Surely niet?); while at the same time, British PM ‘Dave’ Cameron is complaining about cuts to public services in his well-heeled Witney, Oxfordshire constituency – cuts forced on the Conservative local authority by Treasury demands for ever-greater national austerity ultimately emanating from the cabinet office of… PM ‘Dave’ Cameron.

I’m less amused that Britain is still doing fuck-all to help with the migrant crisis in Europe while Germany, Sweden and Norway, Greece and Italy are drowning under the endless tide of hopeful humanity seeking asylum from the disintegrating arc of corrupt and incompetent tyrannies, proxy wars, droughts and ultraviolent gangsterism, much of it promoted by the wealthy North, stretching from Libya in the southwest to Afghanistan in the northeast. Press attempts to pin the murderous attacks in Paris on false refugees appear not to be working. As French police belatedly catch up with the remains of the perpetrators, it appears that the majority of those allegedly involved already live in France and Belgium.

There is a noxious undercurrent of isolationism here that will inevitably result in ‘Brexit’ from the EU, which in my humble view will be a disaster all-round. Not only for those Tory wives planning to acquire an agreeable visa-free third home in Tuscany, but perhaps for more important reasons.

What, for instance, will become the common language of the EU, when there is no further purpose served by them using possibly our greatest export, English? And how is Cameron to sneer at our European partners, if we haven’t got any?

Anyway, a summit of lots of European and African leaders has been held, a group photograph taken, agreement reached. We are to start shovelling vast sums of money at the often corrupt governments of the countries where the most ‘economic migrants’ are coming from, in the hope of creating freedom, prosperity and safety for their citizens, such that they will no longer want to find new lives in Europe. (‘An Expert’ calculates the sums add up to one English pound per inhabitant of the countries specified… an incentive indeed. It is also pointed out that the money is already committed in the normal annual aid budgets of the donors. But it made a nice photo op.)

So that’s alright, then. And all the governments have to do to benefit from this cash windfall is go on pushing their unwanted minorities out in precarious rubber dinghies on the choppy Mediterranean sea.

An economic migrant myself, from overpriced and crowded England to the impoverished but more affordable principality of Wales, I have tried escaping to freedom, but no-one is buying my house and I’m not getting younger, more adventurous or better organised on the travel-booking front as the years pass. It was a fine idea three years ago, but since my urologist has given me a medicalised choice to be allowed either to piss or fuck, but not both, owing to the avocado-sized obstruction strangling my urethra, it seems less like a sensible move to escape even the poorly administered and fumbling jurisdiction of the NHS*.

Besides, I know no-one in Portugal. I’ve never been there. But it looks like a nice place to go to die.  Cameron isn’t there much now, either, as he’s presumably no longer a ‘friend’ of Sir Cliff and would have to book into a hotel…. (See Post, 29 Oct)

And it’s even more affordable, and warmer, than Wales.

*Attempting to make an appointment with ‘my’ GP yesterday, while I am physically present at the surgery, the receptionist suggests I call just after 10 am today. Why? Seems nowadays you have to make an appointment to make an appointment… a slot three weeks from now has to be booked exactly three weeks beforehand, they fill up quickly, you can’t book for December 7th until 10 am tomorrow at the earliest… and nothing is available sooner, of course. It’s the weekend.

I gaze around bleakly at the empty waiting-room. No, he’s really busy…. Fuck it, I thought. Dead is dead….

 

Willkommen, bienvenue, välkomna

Two more items on the news this morning struck me as significant, although they may not be, I am getting a little hard of thinking.

One, the number of migrants coming to work in Britain from other EU countries has passed the two million mark.

Two, despite the appalling inability of any government of the past sixty years to ensure enough new homes are built for us all, so that the average number of flatsharers in TV sitcoms has doubled since the 1970s, the economy is said to be ‘booming’.

Juxtapose these two supposed facts with two others, notably: a) the ageing native ‘baby-boomer’ population leaving the workforce, so requiring the taxable support of a non-existent younger generation and b) the record low unemployment figure (1.75 million. Economists differ on what exact number you need to maintain enough flexibility, but that seems about right).

Do these headline statistics when taken together not perhaps suggest to the legions of ludicrous kneejerk xenophobes, anti-immigrant trolls, fuckwitted white supremacists, Conservative ‘think-tank’ wonks and low-wattage British nationalists that perhaps foreigners are not such a bad idea after all? That far from ‘stealing’ our jobs and raping our womenfolk, they have been taking up the slack in the economy and fuelling the boom, creating prosperity and jobs for all?

So why is ‘Dave’ Cameron trekking round Europe trying to persuade EU leaders of the benefits of controlling immigration to Britain? And why is he pretending that changes to the benefit rules require treaty change, when every other country in the EU has its own rules and assures him that his government is perfectly at liberty to set its own if it wants to?

Why does he not just get on and introduce a system whereby only ‘in-work’ benefits can be paid to temporary residents, while ‘out-of-work’ benefits require a qualifying period and a history of National Insurance contributions? What is discriminatory about it? Or is it just that he can’t rely on his hapless Secretary of State for Pork and Beans, the balding acronym known as IDS, to deliver it?

And why do people believe anything they read in the press?

 

Humor alert, sort-of

I got this feeble idea for a joke during dinner with some lovely jazz people.

They were exchanging banter at the expense of a saxophone player (not present at table) who was allegedly claiming in his other, unreal life to be a plastic surgeon. So scruffy was he in appearance, so laid-back in manner, that anyone less likely to really be a plastic surgeon they could not imagine.

Anyway, I manage somehow to think up about one new joke a year, which makes it worth recording them for posterity. So here’s my new joke, that I thought of much too late to tell at the dinner table and so missed my chance of winning respect for my improvisation skills… (ésprit d’escalier, as the French say)

Hey, I’ve got a really unusual and interesting job!

No honestly, I have. You know those playpits filled with little coloured balls kids like to jump and swim around in? Well, I work for a company that makes them! I get to travel around the country, refilling the ball-pits in leisure centres and primary school playrooms, places like that, and I supply children’s entertainment companies with thousands of playpit balls too….

Yes, I’m a plastic sturgeon!

 

Tiresome complaint, but

Domestic goddess and thinking-teenagers’ titwank, Nigella Lawson excited the Twits after a cookery demo show last week by spreading mushed avocado on a piece of toast, using only her fingers.

It wasn’t the plainly disgusting sensuality of the image that haunted so many of the hashtag harridans, but the ‘so-yesterday’-ness of avocados, reminiscent as they are, for some of the less glamorously ageing newspaper column-hags, of 1970s bathroom suites.

Well, I don’t care. I once bought a house with an avocado suite, could never afford to change it and agree, they ought to be banned. But we made £120k on the sale, so clearly avocado is not such a turnoff as might be supposed.

I don’t care, because a) I give a flying finger for overpaid word-mavens, and b) I’m not going to be pushed around by style critics who unwisely cross the boundaries between ladies’ wotsits, interior design and food.

And I don’t care, because I LIKE avocados. They’re delicious with all kinds of stuff – crab, tomatoes – versatile and give great mouthfeel. Also, I happily imagine that eating anything that looks like my prostate is going to be a healing thing.

And yesterday, guess what? That’s right! Among the last of a box of olive-green hand-grenades in Morrison’s I found one that felt suspiciously palpable,  as though it might even be eaten that very day. One that had slipped through the net, clearly. I grabbed my chance and bought it.

One of the dreadful things about supermarkets is the great confidence trick that unripened fruits, including avocados, and their tasteless, rubbery ‘vine-ripened’ tomatoes, need only a few hours’ exposure on the windowsill to become completely edible. Because we all know they will rot first, and ripen only when Hell freezes. Cunning Mr Morrison and His Ilk then slyly put out a next-door tray of said fruits of the vine, labelled ‘ripe and ready-to-eat’, and charge twice as much for them.

Of course, they seldom are. As part of the ripening process, they will have been squeezed and poked and fondled by so many disbelieving shoppers who may not have washed their hands after going to the toilet, that they are bruised black inside and crawling with e-coli.

Either way, this stuff can rarely be recommended for human consumption. Extraordinary, how the French manage to sell you flavoursome ripe fruit and luscious tomatoes. Extraordinary too, as yesterday, when I was able for the first time in a long while to enjoy the fruits of my labours, as it were: an avocado and tomato salad with Virgin oil and a pinch of crusty sea salt.

Mmmnya. Pale-greenlicious.

 

Second tiresome complaint

Isn’t it just one of the worst things that can happen in your life, when on a shining Thursday morning in November you put on your expensive L’Aigle wellies to go out walking with Hunzi, after overnight rain, in the exurban space that passes for your local park, and within a few hundred yards you experience the disagreeable sensation of your socks crawling down inside the boots until they bunch up under your feet, and you still have two miles to hobble uncomfortably before you can take them off?

Yurgh.

 

Third tiresome w.t.f.???

Okay, I deleted 74 Spam emails off my Yahoo! account without reading them, at about half-past eight this morning. I’ve had 34 new ones since (it’s ten to three). I’ve mentioned my genito-urinary problem graphically in today’s blog. Four of the 34 new Spam emails are from the people who bring you erectile dysfunction, impotence and prostate remedies… all four arrived after 12.20; none earlier. The first Edit was posted at 11.50.

And the Home Office wants a law to allow them to carry out total surveillance on everyone? I suggest that’s not necessary, since we are being constantly monitored by Eli-Lilly.

 

And finally….

From the Today programme today, we learned that the man at the Environment Agency responsible for the UK’s flood defences is a Mr….

Phil Dyke.

It’s known as ‘nominative determinism’. Now you know why.

Tearing down the walls

top 8 lessons about loans with bad credit to learn before You hit 30
astraforum.fr/testfofo//index.php?action=profile;…x
marciaphilipp@aol.com
23.232.130.74

I’ve just Deleted another 136 spam emails off my Yahoo! Account in-file thing.

I generally hit the little dustbin icon once the number goes over 25. You know my fascination with propitious numbers.

Twenty-five is just about the largest number of Spam emails whose headings I can scan visually to see if any of them are either genuine or interestingly relevant, before totally losing interest.

A hundred and thirty-six Spam emails is really way beyond my sphere of curiosity, and inevitably results in me deleting them in bulk, unscanned.

What I am curious about, however, is why I have recently started getting so many?

A hundred and thirty-six was the overnight total, received in just 12 hours. On Monday morning, after only 24 hours of not attending to the housework, I had to dump 216. At this rate, around 1,500 Spammers a week (of course many are duplicated) are sending me urgent messages about payday loans, herbal supplements, Russian women, IRS forgiveness programs, incontinence pads and reverse mortgage options, roughly one every four minutes, and I am not giving two shits for any of them, bruvv.

You’d think they’d have got the message by now. But deleting them only causes them to breed more. And, as I have bogld before, there does seem to be a disturbing pattern, a coincidence of themes appearing to be linked to stuff I have randomly Posted on this site a few hours earlier.

Take, for instance, the Spam email heading posted at the start of this extended rave. It appeared within an hour of my writing the words contained in the paragraph before the one before this, referring to ‘mortgage options’ – not a phrase I use very often, as I have none. It goes on to drivel randomly about mortgages. It is so obviously a Spam message (I am long past 30) that I am bewildered as to how it snuck like an illegal migrant onto the well-fenced desk of the Boglington Post?

Hmmn. I shall come back to it later…

At the same time, there lurks in the subterranean Spam section of my other, more presentable, Gmail account, only the one message. I have left it there for several days all by itself as a marker-stone, a tribute to the remarkable efficacy of Google’s filtration system; also because I’m feeling guilty that it’s not entirely Spam….

I hereby confess, being a single man, to having registered months ago as a non-paid-up member of a local dating site. I planned shortly thereafter to cancel my registration, on account of the unprepossessing images of everyone else on it; the 100 per cent shortage in Boglington of available, attractive women under 55 with university degrees, independent incomes and a desire for adventure without children, the insistence that I part with a large sum of money merely to be allowed to email anyone remotely fitting the description; but I can’t figure out how to escape.

Simply asking to be released didn’t seem to do it for the owners, they kept on telling me I had important messages, so I naughtily told Google they were sending me Spam.

The point being, that whether I am drowned in the stuff or starved of it, I do at least have the freedom to decide for myself whether to bin it, or to stupidly send off my bank details.

Here at BogPo, things start to get murkier.

According to Arkroyal, the WordPress Spammeister, I have been protected from the horrifying contents of over four and a half thousand Spam Comments since I commenced bogling you on 27 February, 2012. (Could he not just delete them, rather than cluttering up every server in Arizona with spurious vitriol?)

I have no way of knowing if many genuine Readers’ Letters have got caught up in the same gungy lump of smelly crud that has built up around the Spam filter at Word Central. I have not been allowed to choose for myself whether to accept or reject those messages. I have not seen them.

And yet, and yet… Of the perhaps two or three Comments I am allowed to see during the course of a week, 98 per cent are so obviously Spam messages that you do wonder what criteria he is using to decide whether to let them through or block them?

There is a certain style of writing these Spam comments that is redolent of computerised garbage, like a very poor Google translation into English from some obscure Ugro-Finnish dialect spoken only by retired herdsmen in Lappland.

I have sometimes out of desperation based these, my Post themes on the more outstanding examples of Spamulous gibberish I am invited to Approve; as with the textual contents of the message whose header begins this diatribe, with which I shall not trouble you further: it is the Bogler’s Burden, not yours, to bear.

One obvious clue is surely the length and complexity of the email address attributed to the sender, running sometimes to six lines and including some subroutines that could indeed be genuine addresses of people and companies unaware that their accounts are being plagiarised for the purpose.

Another clue is that they are always Commenting on the same, highly obscure Page; an article grimping and miring* about University entrance requirements that I uploaded as an archival item to the BogPo site nearly four years ago, and which has deservedly never once appeared in the Stats of most-read, or indeed read-at-all, items of the week.

A third clue is that they never refer directly to the content of the Page, other than effusing that I should write more of the same (sometimes with maximised h-tags, whatever they are).

I surmise therefore that there is some subterranean mechanical goings-on going-on here, in which no human agency is involved: machine-reading, machine-writing, machine-Spamming in the spidery dark undergrowth of the web, possibly for obscure purposes. Why would anyone commission this stuff, which never receives a reply? Is all as it seems?

One such message managed to get past Arkwright yesterday. It ran to over a thousand words in English, yet ultimately non-linguistic, nonsense. As I gazed at it blankly, I noticed that a black box bearing some alternative text was flashing behind it every few seconds, at subliminal speed. I immediately killed it. Has the damage been done? Am I going to develop a subconscious craving for ice-cream?

I have no idea what that was about, or why. All I know is that, from time to time, a rare Spam Comment slips between the cracks and ends up on my desk in the offices of the Boglington Post, where it shouldn’t.

In the meantime, how much meaningful communication is being lost, caught in the filter?

I recently corresponded briefly with the lovely ‘Ella’, for instance, who wrote in to commiserate and to offer some well-meaning advice in connection with a lengthy enquiry I had made into why no-one considers me employable anymore.

She attempted to reassure me that the BogPo is indeed read and admired widely in the community. Yet I have almost no evidence that it is: other than anything your Uncle Bogler has Posted on the unrelated themes of a) stately homes and how to live in one, and b) the ill-fated Comex expedition of 1967, both of which attract droves.

It now occurs to me that it is possible there is a huge chorus of readers out there, silently mouthing their praises, encouragement, delight, scorn, defiance, withering criticism and strident legalistic demands for retraction, that I am simply not hearing through the thickly padded walls of the asylum. You must think us awfully rude not replying.

Tear down these walls, Mr WordPress.

Let us breathe the air of well-optimised freedom!

 

*Hundreds of you have asked me politely what the phrase ‘grimping and miring’ means? It is my own invention!

Allow me to explain.

Today’s word is: Onomatopoeia, which as you know means a word that sounds like what it means (unlike ‘Onomatopoeia’…). Fans of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle will recall that The Hound of the Baskervilles haunts a particularly bleak and boggy part of the Dartmoor National Park in Devon. Known as ‘The Great Grimpen Mire’, it sounds just like the kind of dispiriting place you’d moan about a lot, if you were stuck there for any length of time.

Like the Labour Party’s Smith Square headquarters, possibly.

Job done.

Postscriptum

Another obviously Spamulous email is presented to me for Approval this morning, falling between the cracks at Word Central, suggesting I include more h-tags in my Posts in order to better my Googly rankings.  Mind your own business, is what I say. Crapulous baboon.

Accosting a bored teenager, I have now bothered to learn that an h-tag is the # symbol that you use to attract attention to whatever tiresome little comment it is that you have made on the Twitter channel, prattling in 140 characters or less about some pointless and probably misunderstood thing somebody almost famous has said, which you have taken completely out of context. (I agree, 140 characters doesn’t allow for a lot of context.)

Be it known to these persons present, I have no truck with Twitter, Bookface or any other ‘social media’ requiring the use of tags.  I plead whichever Amendment it is that says I don’t have to incriminate myself. I don’t like them, they are of monumental disinterest and I won’t have one in the house.

So there.

 

Alien conspiracy – we should be told!

Musiem tour guide
motoronics ltd – Aberystwyth

This job is for anyone highly interested in history science and technology, to visit musiems castles and historic sights, also exibitions where possible, the correct candidate will have the role of working as a team to research topics such as transport through time and log to create portfolio for later communications, the job is part time temporary role and its part paid & part voluntary, will also suite student who may allready taken the subjects as above for studies, transport and travel expenses will be provided, if you would like some fun or creative learning with weekends out then this is the placement you need.

A little while ago I developed a small Post on the theme of an online recruitment ad I had spotted in my inbox, for some rain-sodden enthusiast to log all the different makes of car entering and leaving the town of Aberystwyth, in West Wales, on a part-paid, part-voluntary (for which read ‘less than minimum wage if you calculate it by the hour’) basis.

I was first of all outraged that an illiterate troupe of monkeys could have been engaged to write such a piece of vertiginously ungrammatical, poorly spelled and punctuated copy.

I was happy to point out that the road on which this highly interested individual was to be stationed is in fact the A487 and not, as claimed, the ‘a470’ (sic), which is in a different (though not too distant) county. I poked fun, too, at their inability to tell the (very obvious and substantial) differences between words such as ‘suit’ and ‘suite’, ‘sites’ and ‘sights’.

And then this morning, I found the ad above posted to my online bulletin board by the Indeed dotcom recruitment empire, on behalf of motoronics ltd, the people who put the word ‘moronic’ in, and took out the initial cap. letters from, er, motoronics ltd.

Clearly, these are clues. There is something going on here, of which I (and the public at large) are unaware. I suspect no human agency is involved, or can be. I feel sure that, at long last, I have uncovered genuine and irrefutable evidence of an alien conspiracy.

Decode the unforgettable wording of this plangent request for a one-man team to visit castles and ‘musiems’ (I initially read it as ‘Muslims’, sorry, carry on…) and you come to the worrying realisation that it is pretty much the same ‘role’ as in the previous ad, a role which will be suite-ed to the correct candidate: some indigent student with an enthusiasm for ‘history science’ and an excitement for logging things ominously for ‘later communications’, only this time in an historical context, rather than beside the coast road; one who has perhaps already made a study of transport through time… yet who sometimes finds it impossible to visit ‘exibitions’.

Could we be talking actual Time Travel here?

Is this matching pair of advertisements perhaps a phishing expedition from the future? Employing an example of the strange language in which our descendants centuries from now, part-human, part-Apple, will be communicating with one another?

Is someone trying to reach us with a message of vital importance for all Mankind? (Feminists look away now, ‘Man’ in this context does not imply the thing you would like us to express our outrage about.)

What else but a projection from the future ‘motoronics ltd’ corporation can explain the unusual inconsistency of spelling, that enables a man (I am assuming it is a man, and not a heap of groaning baboons with keyboards, who have been at the fermented fruit again) to spell ‘museum’ as if he had never visited one, or ‘allready’ as if the letter ‘l’ was on sale this week; yet who can correctly man-up to more difficult words, such as ‘placement’, ‘portfolio’ and ‘temporary’?

The assumption – indeed, the only explanation – must be that archaic concepts like ‘musiems’ and ‘exibitions’ (sic) have fallen out of fashion by the year 2315, so that no-one knows any longer what they were (accounting for the occasional impossibility of researching them) or how the words were once spelled. Management-consultant chimps, however, have taken over the planet; so that ‘placements’ and ‘portfolios’ remain not only commonplace, but essential elements of the new national curriculum.

In my previous Post on this theme, I may have mentioned two salient facts: one, I have been a working composer and editor of texts for much of the last century; and two, I have been largely unemployed and otherwise completely unable to find a job utilising my literary skills for the past four years and counting. (Did I mention that I also suffer from depression and have a prostate gland the size of an orange, that gets me up several times in the night? Possibly not for a while.)

Only this, muh clandestine underground survivor resistance bogl, is keeping the flame of true words alive.

Do you sometimes feel you are living in the wrong time?

I thot not.

 

Outstanding recruitment ad of the year (or any other year)

Hi-de-hi, campers

From time to time your Uncle Bogler has been known to make disparaging remarks about obscure or badly written recruitment ads, as I continue to plough my lonely furrow through life as an unemployable man.

The following example, that arrived on the wings of one of my many daily employment opportunity bulletin alerts, however, is notable for its astonishing component of complete and utter, bureaucratic bullshit.

So much so, that I cannot resist sharing just a brief extract with you.

I’me debating whether to leave you to guess what the job actually is, but I can’t resist a spoiler. It’s for a 15-hours a week shop assistant in the ‘visitor centre’ at the entrance to a country park near Ponterwyd. I mention that, because you might otherwise think Natural Resources Wales is hoping to resurrect the great national hero, Owain Glyn Dwr; or perhaps even King Arthur of the Britons himself.

Why it is absolutely necessary to be able to speak Welsh (Fluency Grade 4) to work in a tourist attraction where 99% of the visitors won’t actually be Welsh and the other 1% understand English perfectly well is always something that bothers me, living where I do.

Read it and despair. (There is more. There is always more.)

These shared outcomes recognise the need for close working with stakeholders (including customers, communities, staff and representative groups). Multi-partner delivery will be central in addressing the key challenges associated with sustainable development and working in partnership with Welsh Government and other delivery partners, Natural Resources Wales Leadership Group will contribute collectively to deliver the shared outcomes [1] :

1. The people of Wales are safe

2. Natural resources are healthy and resilient

3. There are more and better jobs for now and for the future

4. The people of Wales are healthy

5. People live in viable and vibrant places

6. There are increased opportunities for people to achieve a better quality of life, and people are wealthier with greater equality

7. People have the knowledge and ability to make the best choices for future wellbeing

Delivery against these outcomes will require new ‘ways of working’ and Natural Resources Wales is committed to being a learning organisation adopting an ecosystems approach to deliver the NRW’s overall mission.

As a new organisation, Natural Resources Wales will face challenges in establishing itself as an exemplar in terms of how it delivers these innovative and far reaching concepts in Wales. There will also be challenges in ensuring that the organisation provides value for money for Wales and maximises the impact of sustainability for our people, communities, environment and economy.

Got that? We’ve sacked the National Assembly, the kid is in charge, so can we have two vanilla ice-creams and a tea-towel, please?

Je suis offended

I’m offended by lots of things, but principally hypocrisy.

Being offended is the extension du jour of the victim culture. Elias Canetti, in his 1964 book ‘Crowds and Power’, posits the idea of ‘stings’, minor insults which we all accumulate from the unseen horde of ‘insects’ that surrounds us, and which build up until we release them in acts of physical or mental retaliation on others.

In the absence of the old laws of blasphemy and lèse majesté, for which the punishments could be extreme, taking offence has become a popular game, a form of reverse bullying. Anyone may claim some special low status as the ‘victim’ of a perceived past outrage or present misfortune, and band together with others feeling similarly depressed about themselves. Their aim is to get one over on anyone not so afflicted, claiming the moral high ground by demanding they apologise or resign or lose their livelihood, or even by issuing – and sometimes acting out – threats of violence against the external person targeted, unless they agree to conform to the unwritten rules of the group.

This may include the appropriation of language.

Just this morning on the radio, a presenter read out a message from a listener, demanding that they retract the use of the words ‘special needs’ in relation to children, as the listener herself had two children with ‘special needs’. ‘Special needs’, she argued, should never be used as an adjective, only as a noun. It was clearly offensive so to do, as the children should not be defined by their needs. Oh. Not special, then.

And in much the same vein, my local university decided to redesignate the Special Needs exam room as the ‘Individual Examination Requirements’ room, so as not to confuse the tiny number of perfectly fit students conning their way into the facility and benefitting from extra time with the even smaller number of genuine dyslexics, dyspractics, agoraphobics, sociopaths and mild cerebral palsy cases, none of whom I imagine would take offence at the thought that their needs were special. After all, exams are not about ‘individuals’, they are designed to test the knowledge of the group.

To take a more egregious example, the other day a former England football team coach, now some kind of official blue-blazer, was pressed to comment on the story of a talented young footballer who can’t get a job because he’s served time for date-rape. The footballer, Ched Evans, is appealing his conviction, and a club, Oldham Athletic, was willing to take the risk of hiring him, until their sponsors threatened to pull out and the directors started receiving death threats and worse.

The England official, Graham Taylor, attempted a convoluted rationale to explain his theory that this might not be the first miscarriage of justice to affect the Beautiful Game. In doing so, he appeared to draw a comparison between Evans’ conviction and the suspected cover-up of police incompetence and press calumnies against the dead, following the Hillsborough football ground disaster in 1989, when many spectators were killed in a stampede.

This not wholly indefensible analogy was, with hindsight, culturally insensitive and poorly thought-through as new inquests are expensively in progress. There is, it has to be admitted, an imbalance of proportionality between the two cases. But it does not do to tread even accidentally on the tender sensibilities of the victim state, as many politicians, media celebrities and sports personalities are coming to realise, in the Age of Twitter. For, ‘anything you do say, however innocently, may be hashtagged and retweeted against you’, as the old police caution might now put it.

Naturally, the Prime Apologist interviewed on behalf of ‘the victims’ of Hillsborough, a lawyer who has made it his life’s mission to monitor the media in order to be able to express outrage on behalf of all the hundreds of people who either survived, or lost a friend, child, parent or relative in the disaster over 25 years ago, expressed outrage at the insentivity and ‘crassness’ of Taylor’s fumbling thought process. Nor under questioning did he exactly decline to demand Taylor’s shaggy head as someone unfit to lead the administration of football, as if the moral standing and verbal articulacy of the Archbishop of Canterbury were the industry benchmark; while others who affect to speak on behalf of rape victims everywhere were also massively offended at the disgusting levity with which Taylor dared to throw off the seriousness of the crime by appearing to support Evans’ right to work.

Anyone, such as the former Lord Chancellor and Justice Minister Kenneth Clarke, who seeks the protection of the right of free speech to try to argue that there are degrees of difference in the seriousness of sexual offences, is immediately howled-down by the women’s lobby, who seem to regard merely being born women as a free pass to the victim state. Not only can free speech cause offence, in many cases it IS an offence. There are many things it is now illegal to say, thoughts it is illegal to think*.

It is completely bizarre to suggest we live in a society where the right exists to express what you may be thinking. Whatever you do think, in however unguarded a moment, if made public, becomes for a time YOU. The thought is father to the man, as someone might have said. Defending a moral principle they do not uphold in practice, the Western leaders’ joining the ‘Je Suis Charlie’ march through Paris on Sunday is an act of hypocrisy, not to say electoral grandstanding.

In short, something someone said – someone who really ought not to be taken vastly seriously on an intellectual level – has provoked a storm of murderous, swollen outrage in the victim community by making a ‘crass’ comment that he apparently had no right to make in a free country. You are free to say things that offend other people, but not things that offend ME. Meanwhile, wilder elements were busy threatening those they perceived as no longer human, the board members of Oldham Athletic and their families, with criminal violence, murder and, yes, ironically even rape….

Would you dare to pillory the victim state  in a cartoon, as you might dare to joke inoffensively about God or some other religious nonsense? Rape or childhood abuse victims? People with cerebral palsy, MS or Down’s? The halt and the lame? Kids with ‘learning difficulties’? Jews? Diabetics cluttering up the A&E departments? The grossly obese? Cancer sufferers? Problem gamblers? They may be boring whingers (I claim free speech protection), but their emotional scars, disabilities and differences are sacrosanct.

Now, last Wednesday, two masked gunmen forced their way into the editorial office of a tiny-circulation satirical journal called Charlie Hebdo, in Paris, and shot dead ten staff, including the editor and the paper’s star cartoonists. They did so, as one of them explained, shortly before himself being summarily executed by cops in a Butch Cassidy-style ending, in order to defend the name of the Prophet – peace be upon him, if upon no-one else – against the scurrilous insults of a certain section of the irresponsible Western media. (There is absolutely no understanding in the Islamist world of the notion of a press uncontrolled by Government, hence the perpetual conflation of the two.)

Specifically, a cartoon suggesting obliquely that certain elements of Middle Eastern society were taking the Prophet’s name in vain, and that he might not approve. (This suggests that the Doobie Brothers or whatever their name was were particularly stupid, as they had no appeciation of irony, but we’ll pass over that in case it’s against the rules to make fun of stupid people.)

Charlie Hebdo‘s rationale in publishing regular cartoons of Mohammed in the wake of a similar Danish effort that also led to mass outrage in the worldwide Moslem community had been twofold: to ridicule what they saw as the absurd sensitivities of some of France’s six million strong Moslem diaspora, and to assert the press’s right to freedom of thought in a secular society. There was a curious degree of arrogance about it, a near-bankrupt scandal sheet with a weekly circulation under 60 thousand, taking on the mantle of defender of the faithless. There was therefore a third reason, to boost their flagging ciculation.

The iconic act of retribution sparked an immediate debate in the global media about free speech; although that was really not the point. The murders were sponsored by al-Quaeda in the Yemen as a warning to the French not to interfere with jihadi terrorism in Mali. The target, a no-account magazine, merely presented itself. Interviewee after interviewee stepped up to support the absolute right in a civilized society of any individual to cause offence without incurring extra-judicial retribution from the self-appointed spokespersons and trained killers of a different culture.

Moslem after Moslem – ‘good’ Moslems, as opposed to bad – was dragged before the cameras to atone for the actions of a lunatic fringe, ‘their’ lunatic fringe, and to reiterate the founding principles of ‘Liberté, égalité, fraternité’ which, we are reminded, were born in the bloody carnage of the Terror.

Meanwhile, the media were admitting that the majority of editors were already unwilling to criticise aspects of Islam for fear of a visit from the masked gunmen. (Incidentally, why is it that our brave policemen have also adopted the wearing of masks, along with their Dan Dare ray-guns and Terminator uniforms? Surely, it’s contrary to the Magna Carta principle of the freedom to identify one’s accusers?)

‘Je Suis Charlie’ became the rallying cry of an instantaneous, mass campaign to defend the right of journalists and  cartoonists to shout ‘Fire!’ in a crowded theatre, to draw on an old legal definition of what actually ought to constitute the responsible limitations of ‘free speech’ in a free society.

It seems that it has become almost obligatory to offend Moslems, with their corny religion and their mad devotion to some old desert guy who thought God was dictating a book, started a global war and then flew up to heaven with his horse off the roof of a mosque. They should be happy to be offended as the price of admission to Western civilization.

It’s like someone has strapped Moslems to an electric chair and is administering progressively more lethal shocks while masked men repeatedly punch their children’s faces, and a soothing (if nervous) voice asks them, over and over again, why they can’t take a joke? It’s all just a bit of fun. Either that, or it’s a founding principle of Western democracy.

But it isn’t okay to assault the tender sensibilities of the self-appointed ‘victims’ of personal insults and accidents and genetic disorders, with their well-funded charity organizations and paid mouth-frothers, taking sublethal umbrage at the slightest careless use by media baboons of what they consider to be inappropriate sporting analogies, and who affect to dictate to the majority what words are allowed to be used in relation to their self-perceived victimhood.

These ‘victims’ deserve our protection against the secular blasphemies of the age, apparently, but anachronistic religious minorities don’t.

I see.

And if you don’t agree with me, as a minority of one I shall be mightily offended.

Postscriptum

And in another case in the news today, the eminent historian Dr David Starkey is receiving murderous Tweets because he accidentally referred to a fellow guest on a TV debate as ‘Ahmed’ instead of ‘Mehdi’. Which is essentially the same name. Moslems have accused him of monstrous racism. (No doubt I shall be accused of post-lcolonialism by spelling Muslim as Moslem throughout.)

Post-postscriptum

10 people have been burned to death in Niger, where Christian churches have been set on fire in rioting over the republication in many Western media outlets (not even remotely connected with Christian churches) of the Charlie Hebdo cartoon, which for all I know hasn’t been published in Niger so they haven’t even seen it.

The Pope has said people don’t have a right to laugh at other people’s religions. Coming from the head of a murderous evangelistic two-thousand-year-old kleptocracy, that’s rich.

David Cameron has contradicted the Pope: people do have the right to poke fun at other people’s religions. That’s all right then, because I was going to call the oversensitive Moslems of Niger a bunch of ignorant savages. All in fun, you understand.

Research this

Please, everyone, it’s not ‘re-search’, it’s ‘research’.

The stress in ‘research’ falls on the second syllable. The first ‘e’ in ‘research’ is unstressed, and barely voiced at all: in the phonetic alphabet, it’s represented by a character known as the ‘schwa’, that denotes any vowel that in English is correctly pronounced only as a token grunt.

We say ‘proh-noun’, but we don’t say ‘proh-nounced’, we say ‘prernounced’. Again, the stress is on the diphthong. The ‘short ‘er’ sound given to the first, unstressed ‘o’, is the ‘schwa’. It’s a no-brainer.

The ‘er’ in ‘brainer’ is also the ‘schwa’. We don’t say ‘brainerr’. The ‘r’ is only voiced when the following word begins with a vowel, as in ‘no-brainer, innit?’ The simple rule-of-thumb is to look to where the stress falls. In English, if a vowel is unstressed, it’s probably going to be the ‘schwa’ (like the ‘a’ in ‘probably’).

I become mildly infuriated then, whenever someone on the radio, as everyone on the radio increasingly does, glibly tells me they have ‘re-searched’ some topic upon which their curiosity has qualified them to comment, however superficially. Most self-inflated experts’ ‘re-search’ nowadays consisting, as it does, of a brief visit to the summary heading of a page on Wikipedia. (The ‘e’ is stressed… as am I. The ‘a’ is, of course, the ‘schwa’. It’s ‘Wikipeedier’)

You have been told. No, don’t say you haven’t.

– Uncle Bogler