Americans in Britain, you have nothing to fear but Trump himself… Kicking the immigration ball out of the park… Daylight Raabery: kenneling the Brexit Bulldog… GW: bemoaning again the shortage of paper towels… The Living End: God damn Microsoft and their lousy enterprise.

Essential reading

“Nationalism, tribalism, dislocation, fear of social change and the hatred of outsiders are on the rise again as people, locked in their partisan silos and filter bubbles, are losing a sense of shared reality and the ability to communicate across social and sectarian lines.” – Michiko Kakutani, writing in The Guardian. http://www.theguardian.com/books/2018/jul/14/the-death-of-truth-how-we-gave-up-on-facts-and-ended-up-with-trump

“The President should be above the law, Sir.”
“What law is that, Brett?”
Trump welcomes his pre-pick to the Supreme Court gravy train.

 

“By all means, wear your tartan trews and carry a man-bag”

You have nothing to fear but Trump himself

Americans living in Britain also have to worry about Trump’s visit to Britain, according to the U.S. embassy there. The U.S. State Department has warned Americans in Britain to “keep a low profile” and “be aware of your surroundings” this week due to demonstrations being planned against the president. – Washington Post

American officialdom at its most paranoid. “Be aware of your surroundings”, what, are innocent tourists from Omaha once more going to wake up in foggy Limehouse Reach with sore heads and a metallic taste, trussed and rolled, asking of the concerned copper bending over them: “Officer, where am I?”

Look up to the sky, guys. Does a humorous protest involving a large orange effigy of your infantile President wearing a nappy flying as a blimp above London look like evidence of a wicked conspiracy to threaten the lives of your citizens on the streets – many of whom will undoubtedly be keen to share in the general revulsion here at the demented baby-snatcher’s furtive visit to your special relations?

Or is it an example of that unfathomable British irony you just don’t get? (I particularly liked the protestor bearing a placard: “We shall over-comb”)

The general mood in Britain at the moment will more likely see Americans embraced on the streets, if they dare to emerge from their air-conditioned hotels and bank offices, along with everyone else from wherever in the world they hail, as fellow victims of the global conspiracy to screw the common people.

By all means, wear your tartan trews and carry a man-bag, if it so pleases you. We have never been so united in our inclusivity as we are the morning after our multi-ethnic young footballers somehow carved a triumph out of a predictably dreary defeat in Moscow.

If you don’t want to read this bit, look away now:

Alfred, Lord… tennis on!

Your Uncle B was otherwise glued to the second of two totally incredible, historic quarter-final men’s tennis matches in one gloriously hot and sweaty afternoon at Wimbledon – on TV, but nevertheless – and saw almost nothing of the football.

Singles tennis is like one wall-to-wall penalty shootout lasting four hours, a duel to the death with a passion and intensity and an athleticism rarely seen on the dank pitches of the North.

After his fascination with the early rounds, Bogler decided he never wanted to watch another football match in his life: just a lot of expensive haircuts strolling around, kicking the ball back and forth to the goalkeeper, hacking at one another’s shins, tugging pathetically at one another’s shirts, harrassing their opponents pestilentially like annoying sand-flies, wrestling strikers to the ground, falling over and rolling about in feigned agony, hamming it up like Sir Henry Irving playing Romeo, making sickening appeals of childhood innocence and loss, wheedling to the referee with much eye-rolling, gesticulation and gibbering supplications to Heaven, none of it with any apparent intention of ever scoring goals, being the whole purpose of the game; but occasionally taking wild swings and hoofing the ball over the stand – having, in England’s case, seemingly no knowledge of how to do it, other than through the determined application of professional techniques for the obtaining of setpiece free kicks….

Did Gareth Southgate never tell Raheem Sterling it is absolutely within the rules of the game to take the odd power-shot from the edge of the box, or pass to an unmarked shirt, rather than run around in circles waiting for the fullbacks to arrive and dispossess him of the ball?

Ugh. Boring, boring. VAR? Humbug! And I won’t even start on the awful mateyness of the commentators, or the curious fact that neither the BBC nor ITV, who were sharing the coverage alternately, would ever deign to mention that a match was being televised on the other’s channels. Fucking childish, if you ask me.)

Get over yourselves, teenage State Department baboons barricaded in your hideous new (“Such a bad deal”) embassy.

You have nothing to fear but Trump himself.

 

“…the lesson would have been salutary to those who still imagine that a white face and calf-length shorts are a mark of national greatness.”

Kicking the immigration ball out of the park

The WaPo also comments boldly today on the multi-ethnic nature of European teams and the fringe debate going on between French intellectuals as to whether we should allow ourselves to remark openly that 85 per cent of the French squad comes from African minority backgrounds, or simply accept that we are all citizens of La République now, regardless of hue and culinary differences.

(We should all gang up against Croatia for the final, however, recalling their wartime support for the Nazis and the exclusive whiteness of their players, also for bringing their domestic politics so blatantly into the European Championship in 2016.)

It’s a pity in a way that England didn’t get through to a final against France, a team we might have beaten, as half the England squad also consists of ethnic minority players native to Britain. I fear we run the risk of being labelled racist for even observing it, but the combined effect would have been salutary to those who still imagine that a white face and calf-length shorts are a mark of national greatness.

I’ve been noticing something different, which is that the further east and north you go in European football, the fewer black and brown faces you see in their squads.

This chimes with the BogPo’s frequently Posted opinion that there is a religious-right, white-nativist movement lurking behind the disruptive and – as we are finding out too late – illegally financed campaigns to bring down the EU, the US constitution and other democratic institutions, largely emanating from the East, where a new Soviet bloc is emerging*, where klepitalism is the new collectivism.

A more rational explanation for the anomaly is, of course, the post-colonial movement of former native subjects to the ‘mother countries’, that has been going on since the 1950s. Nor Croatia, nor Poland, nor Iceland, nor Sweden, nor Russia have ever made colonies of African nations and consequently have no obligations to their past imperial connections.

In fact you can tie the two together. It is a curious phenomenon noticed by researchers following the EU referendum, that the fewer immigrants there are living in any part of the country, the greater is the local hostility to immigration.

Wikipedia recorded not long ago that the entire Muslim population of profoundly Islamophobic, virulently racist Hungary, busily erecting fences to keep out the brown tide of Syrian refugees against all norms of civilized compassion, not to mention UN and EU rules, was less than 5,500; most of them ethnic Hungarians.

Incidentally, what happened to Hungary as a once-great footballing nation? Ferenc Puskas, and that lot?

Maybe they could use a few limber young Africans to pep-up the squad?

*To illustrate this alarming assertion, a convoluted situation is emerging in the Czech Republic, one half of the divided former Soviet satellite state of Czechoslovakia, where a far-right, libertarian, anti-immigration government led by a wealthy oligarch Prime Minister under investigation for corruption has had to go into coalition with a regional bloc of hardline, old-style Communist politicians linked to Moscow in order to stay in power.

Watch that space, if you can!

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“By appointing him to purportedly “negotiate” Britain’s inevitable no-deal exit from the EU, Mrs May has guaranteed her own departure.”

Daylight Raabery: kenneling the Brexit Bulldog

In the wake of the resignation of the hapless David Davis, Britain’s so-called “Brexit Bulldog”; who is, one imagines, relieved to have found a way out of the firing line, new Brexit Secretary, Dominic Raab gave a fairly shoddy account of himself on the BBC’s Today show this morning.

The poor chap has been dumped in the unenviable position of having to promote St Theresa’s waffly agenda for Brexit, supposedly agreed unanimously by her fractious cabinet at a meeting last week, when he obviously doesn’t believe a single idea in it can or should be allowed to work.

Despite his reputation as an up-and-coming Tory high-flier with half a brain, his answers to some fairly light grilling by Mishal Husein consisted almost entirely of dredging up the good old Vote.Leave slogans.

The May compromise deal will absolutely allow us to “regain control” of our laws, our sovereignty, our borders, our courts, our senses, our women and our knife criminals;  guarantee jobs, allow us to trade freely with the rest of the world (i.e. the USA) with no customs tariffs or hard borders, and to rebuild the empire while curbing unwanted immigration – except, obviously, for where our shitty trade deals with the rest of the world (i.e. the USA) might oblige us to take in more of their citizens….

It’s heartbreaking, how stupid these Brexit moral imbeciles think we 48 per cent – nearly 17 million – Remainers are. It’s all lies, they know it, flying-unicorns land, but they won by a tiny margin, so we have nothing to say about it. And the pity is, the triumphalist Leave tendency in the minor shires and the abandoned wasteland of the north is still painfully unaware of what really underlies their misplaced vote.

That’s because Raab is at heart more of a Brexiteer than any of the ambitious plotters in – or now out of – the cabinet.

Revealed by Open Democracy yesterday, is the probably well-known fact that Mr Raab is deeply involved with and influenced by the ideology of the Institute for Economic Affairs, a messianic neo-Thatcherite libertarian think-tank masquerading as an educational charity, which has quietly insinuated itself into the heart of the Tory party over the past few years, calling itself the Free Enterprise Group.

The IEA is linked with a number of conservative Christian lobbying and funding institutions in the US, on whose web pages butter would not melt, but which are clearly engaged in the experiment to cleanse the Union of its heretical multicultural socialist-democratic elements and unsavory permissivist tendencies.

Just taking one as a for-instance, the Templeton Foundation funds university projects in such esoteric areas as research on the biological basis of Atheism.

Reading between the disarming lines on their tasteful website one senses the only reason for funding research to discover a scientific basis for disbelief in the improbable (it’s called rationalism) would be to reassure believers they can use anti-science to counter those unbelievers who are opposed to their set of improbable dogmas.

In other words, to convert the heathen.

Open Democracy finds that the IEA is reluctant to reveal the sources of its funding, however the Templeton Foundation is said to have donated more than half a million dollars to the IEA through the American Friends of the IEA, which was originally set up with tobacco money to fight the campaign against smoking.

Are we draining the Swamp? You bet! Right into your living room.

The IEA invites speakers like Raab, who are on published record as arguing that the British worker is a lazy fellow, and that for his own good, among other things, the abolition of workers’ rights, environmental and consumer protections, the total privatization of the NHS, pensions and State welfare fallbacks, combined with tax cuts for corporations, are necessary components of the New World Order.

Do you see the parallels between Raab’s intentions and those of, say, Steve Bannon, whose poisonous libertarian ideology based on the snivellings of Ayn Rand still infects the befuddled old brain of the US President?

Do you see how this plot against consensus liberal democracy, “The Thing”, is unfolding?

With just those few hints of an agenda that obviously demands the dismantling of the EU as our protector of civil liberties and the “caring State” in favour of an ultra-capitalist free-for-all, one sees immediately the nature of the enemy, the true aim behind Brexit being to deregulate the economy in favour of the wealthy and the exploiter class.

One of a clutch of new Tory MPs elected in 2010 who are believed to form the core membership of this so-called Free Enterprise Group, Raab is now the fox in the chicken-coop.

By appointing him to purportedly “negotiate” Britain’s inevitable no-deal exit from the EU, Mrs May has guaranteed her own departure.

And an eternity of spin and misery in corporate servitude for the rest.

 

GW: bemoaning again the shortage of paper towels

Afghanistan: at least 10 people are known to have died and many others are missing after a landslide brought on by rapid ice melt on the 11th and 12th caused a dam to burst in the northeastern province of Panjshir, sweeping away a village, Floodlist reports. Rescue teams have been sent to the area.

Puerto Rico: “The remnants of Hurricane Beryl brought heavy rain and wind to (the US protectorate) from 09 July, causing flooding, and (to the) Dominican Republic from 10 July, where almost 8,000 people (were) evacuated. The National Hurricane Center said Beryl had weakened to a tropical storm on 7 July, as it approached islands in the eastern Caribbean.”

Mexico: severe flash floods have again affected several states and cities, including Monterrey, causing widespread damage.

India: “Authorities have rescued hundreds of people stranded in the state of Maharashtra after heavy rainfall and flooding. 1,500 passengers were evacuated from a stranded train about 40 km north of Mumbai. 3 locations recorded more than 200 mm of rain in 24 hrs on 10 July.”

Japan: death toll in the Hiroshima floods now 179. “A heatwave in southern Japan has killed at least eight people, dealing another blow to a country still recovering from the worst flooding in decades. Six people died on Saturday, and two people on Sunday, Kyodo News reported, as thousands sought medical treatment for heatstroke and heat exhaustion.” – CNN

Russia: prolonged heavy rainfall caused the river Chita in Eastern Russia to burst its banks, flooding the city of Chita, 8 July.

USA: A newborn baby was killed and several people injured when a sudden storm struck Watford City oil town in N Dakota on 11 July. A 127 mph EF-2 tornado ripped through a trailer park. Phoenix Az. experienced 70 mph winds, torrential rain AND a blackout dust storm on the 10th, almost 100k residents were left without power.

UK: The longest, driest heatwave in 40 years continues, with many areas defying forecasts of storms, and temperatures are set to rise again at the weekend. Salad crops have failed and supermarkets are relying on imports.

Meanwhile, the country has racked up its first thousand hours in a year when no electricity needed to be generated by coal. “Renewables provided record amounts of electricity, with more than 7.4% coming from solar over the past four weeks. In 2012 (coal) supplied 40% of electricity – this year so far it has provided less than 6%.” – edited from BBC News, 13 July

Northern Hemisphere: “The first six months of the year have made it the hottest La Niña year to date on record,” said Clare Nullis of the World Meteorological Organization.

“Taiwan is the most recent place to report a new high with a temperature of 40.3C in Tianxiang on Monday. This followed a flurry of other anomalies. Last week, a weather station in Algeria reported a maximum 51.3C on 5 July, the highest temperature reliably recorded in Africa. In California, daytime records were also set last week at Chino (48.9C), Burbank airport (45.6C) and Van Nuys airport (47.2C). In Canada, at least 54 deaths have been attributed to the prolonged heatwave and high humidity in Quebec. Montreal saw a new record high temperature of 36.6C on 2 July. In Europe, the WMO has warned of droughts, wildfires and harvest losses after the second hottest June on record. Over the past two weeks, records have been set in Tbilisi (40.5C), Shannon (32C), and Belfast (29.5C)” – edited from Guardian report, 13 July

Edited from Floodlist/ CEWN #128/ BBC News/ Guardian Green Light/ CNN

 

The living end

God damn Microsoft and their lousy enterprise.

For days, the BogPo has been persistently dogged by a message from the beanbags of Microsoft, politely requesting an urgent appointment to upgrade my system.

The messages became more insistent, until yesterday I was offered the opportunity to set a time, or else. I dialled through to 23.30, by when I expected there would be no more tennis on. (In the event, thanks to the marathon semi-final between two enormously tall men, Anderson (RSA, 6’8″) and Isner (USA, 6’10”), that ended 26-24 in the fifth set, there almost was.)

Microsoft immediately concluded that I must have meant 16.15 and pursued me every 20 minutes throughout the afternoon’s viewing with a button asking them either to get on with it, or please to wait just another hour as I was busy.

Eventually I took the dog out and left them to it.

When I returned, I found a series of pages on the screen, one after another offering me choices to setup this or that feature. I chose what I hoped would be the least invasive options of my personal space, that wouldn’t allow them to track my every fart and scratch, and toddled up to bed.

This morning, lifting the lid I find the computer is stuck in Sleep mode, where I definitely did not leave it. Pressing keys and wiggling the mouse fails to wake it. Turning it off and on again finally works, until a message comes up, asking me to restart again as it needs to diagnose and repair a C-drive error.

What have these incompetent lunatics at Microsoft done now? To my brand-new, barely affordable laptop, shiny-silver and thin as a biscuit, that I have had only a month?

And now I find that their slime-trail over my computer has terminated a number of my regular accounts: The Washington Post no longer recognizes me as a subscriber, The Guardian  and BBC iPlayer want me to sign in… I don’t know what my fucking passwords were three years ago, do I? Does anyone?

And then I notice that, for some unknown reason, the control bar of the WordPress WP program is no longer offering me the Underline option. The icon has just vanished.

Why do I have a feeling that nothing is ever going to be the same?

God damn them and their lousy enterprise.

Fucking Microsoft.

 

 

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Long Essay: Are we alone in deep time?… Back you go, then… GW: feels like makin’ history… Journey’s End.

“It wasn’t just racists who voted to leave Europe…. Cunts did as well.” – Comedian, Stewart Lee, 2016

 

Long Essay

Are we alone in deep time?

“We’re used to imagining extinct civilizations in terms of the sunken statues and subterranean ruins. These kinds of artifacts of previous societies are fine if you’re only interested in timescales of a few thousands of years. But once you roll the clock back to tens of millions or hundreds of millions of years, things get more complicated.”

Astrophysicist, Adam Frank poses an interesting question in an article in The Atlantic this month, based on a “scientific” paper published in collaboration with Dr Gavin Schmidt, the director of NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies, in the International Journal of Astrobiology.

In view of the enormous scale of geological time in which anything could be hidden, the poverty of the fossil record and the blink of an eye during which Mankind has existed, could there ever have been a previous industrial civilization on Earth comparable to our own, perhaps millions of years ago – since when, all physical traces of skyscrapers, roads, drive-thru McDonalds, discarded iPhones and other artifacts would have been eliminated by the churnover of the ever self-renewing surface of the planet grinding everything to dust and squishing it down to rock? If there was, how would we know?

Well, it seems the answer lies in the chemical trace elements their activities would have left as a distinctive layer in the ancient rocks, deep down. And yes (spoiler alert), there may be some. Or maybe not….

Masters of the Universe… our civilized  Silurian ancestors. (Pinterest.com)

As with much breakthrough science, the question arose out of a casual conversation Frank was having with Schmidt one day about the possibility of finding traces of life on other planets, given that there is some mystery about why we haven’t yet found evidence of aliens “out there”, given the ever-growing realization that other viable planets exist in their billions.

Maybe we’re too late, and their own civilizations have destroyed them, in much the same way ours is about to destroy us.

In just the way a civilization on earth ten, twenty, fifty million years ago – or even during the age of dinosaurs, 250 to 65 million years ago – might have destroyed itself, possibly many times over, through overconsumption, climate change or catastrophic loss of the primary resource-base. (The theory seems to me to ignore the bounceback factor evident in the fall and rise of all known human societies. Maybe there wasn’t one.)

Frank and Schmidt have named it the Silurian hypothesis, after the intelligent lizard-beings of Dr Who, and offer an interesting range of possible chemical traces that have been detected, or that might well be detected if searched for, that could be evidence of ancient technologies in action.

For example, looking at what is about to kill humans off as the dominant species, there is CO2, traces of which are found in core samples. There is plentiful evidence linking increases in atmospheric CO2 to “dead ocean” events, such as are beginning to alarm modern oceanographers, where a complete lack of oxygen due to warming water has triggered ecological collapse and mass extinctions. The cause of past atmospheric changes was most probably natural seismicity or perhaps a global conflagration, but there is an outside possibility of species-induced warming.

The difference being, almost all of those extinctions in the fossil record (and it’s the “dead ocean” events that precipitated the billions of tonnes of dead animal and plant matter that are the basis of the carboniferous fossil fuels we are burning so recklessly today) took place over thousands of years. We’re managing it in under three hundred – unless you add in the pretty negligible effects of the previous five thousand years of “slash and burn” agriculture.

Your Uncle Bogler, as you might expect, being no scientist at all, has some thoughts to throw in the pot.

Firstly, what is meant by a “civilization”? Does it have to be industrial?

Comparison of the technological and scientific paradigm in the early 21st century with that of the Greeks and the Romans between 1500 and 2500 years ago, the Babylonian and Egyptian civilizations and the Chinese, reaching back a further few centuries, reveals many similar features as well as the obvious differences: constructed habitation, agriculture, animal husbandry and the storage of surpluses enabling settled communities, wheeled (animal-drawn) transportation leading to the creation of roads; writing, mathematics, medicine, representative art, investigative philosophy, materials science including metallurgy, common belief structures including faith in the supernatural, funerary practices, transcontinental and oceanic trade, education, money, taxation, representative democracy, the manufacture of luxury goods for consumption by hierarchical elites – constant, unremitting warfare.

All of those features are with us today.

Motive power until the late 18th century CE was provided by wind and water or by animal and human drudgery – muscle power – before being replaced by steam. Weaponry has become more deadly. Combustion culture is still with us in the form of cars, factories, public lighting and power-plant. Communications technology and the mass distribution of images and information, together with automated systems for trade and transportation, date only from the past 250 or so years, and until quite recently (before we started reverting to the old primitive methods: wind, sun and water) were entirely dependent on generating energy from finite resources at the risk of dangerously altering the climate; a threat that has possibly slipped beyond our control.

“I have just cut this man’s head off. He insulted my hat. Give me your little dog, or else!” Babylonians were even stranger than Silurians… (Wikipedia)

The combustion engine/electronic communications aspect of our “civilization” was entirely denied to those earlier societies I have mentioned (there were others: no archaeo-botanist now thinks the jungles of Amazonia and Cambodia are primeval ecosystems), but no-one denies them the right to be known as “civilized”.

If you think of a hypothetical society mainly dependent on bananas – the leaves and plant stems used for clothing and construction, the fruit for food, the skins for shoes (joke) then it is quite easy to imagine what would happen to the people if disease or drought suddenly destroyed the plantations. Does their fragility make them any less “civilized”?

So where is the line drawn between “advanced” and “primitive”?

The management of available resources is the main indicator of the level of civilization a society, whether human or otherwise, can attain. In which case we can safely include under the banner of civilization any human society that rises above mere subsistence in terms of its sustainability of organization, the degree of intercommunicability and physical security it may offer its members. That would include, for instance, the plains Indians of North America, the remnant tribes of the Mato Grosso, the aborigine of Australia or the headhunters of the highlands of Borneo, all of whom sustained their way of life for millennia. (Let’s not forget the headhunters of Celtic Wales, circa 50 BCE!).

All are in most senses civilizations. The argument perhaps rests on what degree of civilization produces the telltale traces of its past existence that are required as evidence after millions of years?

For, as Frank points out, the only known part of the planet that has remained unchanged and in plain view for more than 1.5 million years is one small plateau in the Negev desert of Israel. Everywhere else that’s as old has been turned over and plowed under, drowned or pushed up into mountains by the drifting continents, tectonic uplift, earthquakes, volcanoes, wind and rain, shifting sands and changing sea levels.

Frank’s article speculates poignantly on what geologists will find of us in ten million years’ time? Just a thin layer of imperishable plastics waste, he suggests. Embedded within it, Beethoven’s late quartets.

Indeed, all physical evidence of a highly developed, technological civilization based on fossil-fuel and electric (or some other, unknown) motive power dating from millions of years ago would by now exist only as a few trace elements layered deep in the rocks. It would have had to disappear sufficiently long ago for the carboniferous fuel deposits we depend on to have re-formed, at least about 30 million years. What chance would a nomadic tribal society or one building with natural materials – mud and thatch – communicating perhaps by telepathy, have of letting us know of their past existence? (the same obviously goes for other worlds.)

Your Uncle Bogler has one other answer:

It’s in the genes, silly scientists!

Could sheep possibly be the descendants of a “higher” civilization? It seems absurd.

You need to get out from behind your PhD firewalls and apply a bit of eclecticism to your geophysical researches and paleohistorical speculations. Or talk to a behaviorist. Try, for instance, keeping sheep.

Remaining traces of an earlier civilization predating even our mammalian ancestors, whose rise began 65 million years ago as the planet recovered from the near-terminal Chicxulub meteor collision and the age of dinosaurs abruptly ended, might be buried in our current behaviors, many of which are predicated on the basic ideas of social organization and resource management required of all civilizations.

The planet has gotten through a wide variety of climatic conditions, life-changing extremes and profound alterations in habitat, that have steered all the organisms we currently know from there to where we are now, with a lot of sacrifices along the way; and produced millions of viable species – any one of which could, for a few hundred thousand years at least, our “pinprick in geological time”, have been the proto-civilizers we are hunting for.

Just look at how many goes the planet had, to produce Homo sapiens from a range of hominid options; and all in just a couple of million years.

But let’s start with something simpler.

From keeping just a few sheep, I discovered two things about them that might unexpectedly point to inherited civilizational traits, masked by our methods of husbandry. They have hunting instincts, together with considerable cunning; and they seek shelter (a desire they are seldom granted under the pastoral management system we have devised for them over millennia. They didn’t evolve that themselves!).

Two common traits of primitive civilization.

In the first instance, while I was feeding corn to our hens, the sheep (who were allowed in the yard) would try to steal the food. After a few goes that resulted in them being chased away, they devised a system whereby one sheep would make a lunge for the corn while the others hid behind the stable. While I was chasing the miscreant away, the others would dash out and steal the corn.

In the second instance, when kept in a paddock where there was an old, disused pig ark, the sheep at night would herd their lambs into the back of the structure and then block the open doorway with their own bodies, to keep foxes out.

This certainly does not sound like the stupid creatures of myth; but let’s not forget too, that sheep are self-organizing into tribes with strong social bonds, have dominant leaders, a good-as-human ability to recognize individuals in the flock; while their young engage in imaginative play – including races and dominance games like “king of the castle”. They are not just the cud-chewing, barely sentient, toothsome fleecy creatures we have bred them to be.

The question is, are these archetypal forms of behavior evidence of ascending-dominant, or decadent-recessive genetic factors? Are they evidence of newly acquired proto-civilizational skills, that are slowly evolving – or the residual characteristics possibly of past modes of living, that have been lost through evolution and outbreeding from their ancestral heritage?

What would a more advanced civilization make of humanity only a few hundred years after a global nuclear war? Would they believe these primitives once walked on the moon, explored the fundamentals of quantum mechanics and bio-engineered new organs?

Could sheep – among many species, including ourselves – possibly be the descendants of a “higher” civilization? It seems absurd. But then, go back far enough in time and sheep weren’t sheep. In a sense they are a new species, artificially created by Man through selective breeding. Why do we constantly imagine that evolution invariably progresses towards “higher”, more complex systems? It’s trial-and-error.

The same questions could be asked of animals like squirrels, that store food against hard times – and can quickly work out complex ways of getting to it – or birds, the living descendants of dinosaurs. Many behavioral traits shown by nonhuman animals do relate to civilizational behaviors in modern Man and might therefore have originated with our long-ago common ancestors.

Just as we do, for instance, birds build nests to facilitate the organizational requirements of breeding and rearing their young with a greater probability of species survival than merely dumping them on the bare ground.

Like us, they have developed elaborate courtship rituals and co-operative social organization. They teach their young to fly, and pair-bond – sometimes for life.

Some are tool-users and problem-solvers. Some are capable of sophisticated mimicry of sounds, including human speech, in addition to broadcasting a wide range of calls understood by other birds as warnings, invitations and the creation of “eruv”-style bounded territories.

They have advanced navigational skills we have lost, and practice the avian equivalent of transhumance, moving seasonally over great distances to new feeding grounds and returning unerringly to their breeding places.

Were these behaviors more or less developed in the good old dinosaur days, possibly? Could they be surviving traces of past proto-civilizations, rather than mere adaptations? What might have been the social and environmental imperatives that initially drove those common behaviors and embedded them in our genetic inheritance?

Is it necessary to believe we have somehow come up in the past 300 thousand years (a pinprick in time) from related hominids, through a perfectly linear process of evolving as ever more superior beings with opposed thumbs and big brains and gym memberships? Is that not just self-deluding speciesism, putting us at the top of a very tall tree while ignoring the branches? Is a tree not just as extensive below ground as it is above?

Coming more up-to-date, we can observe civilizational traits in primates descended in the not-too distant past from our own ancestors.

Apes too display individualism and social organization, territorial delineation and defense, an eclectic diet based on a hunter-gatherer lifestyle, responsible parenting, grooming and courtship behaviors, posturing and calling, tool-using, shows of respect for their dead, hierarchy, taboos – murder… a fondness for alcohol (!).

Where are those archetypal behaviors derived from, other than from earlier ancestors?

And who is to say those distant ancestors did not share at least the same civilizational traits, enough that they could weave them into an organized society: why is it necessary to believe they are recently learned or acquired traits, or just “animal instincts, as distinct from human rational thought, rather than behaviors inherited from forgotten early models just as, or even more sophisticated than today’s?

Could those unknown ancestors going back tens of millions of years not have developed definable civilizations before emerging in our lineage, our own “multiple intelligences”, instincts and skills passed down from theirs? Are we not in that sense ourselves living proof of past civilizations? Have we really only just discovered since Newcomen and his steam engine, since James Clerk Maxwell and Benjamin Franklin, since Locke and Hobbes, how to be “civilized”?

Or is that just cultural hubris, cutting us off from our distant, civilized past?

 http://www.theatlantic.com/science/archive/2018/04/are-we-earths-only-civilization/557180/

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You would imagine the prime purpose of a thinktank is to think.

Back you go, then

Evidence that not everyone is descended from distant ancestors with pre-civilized traits comes from The Guardian today:

“The government needs to be far more ambitious in its plans to register the estimated 3.4 million EU citizens in the UK after Brexit, with outreach programmes in pubs, schools, hospitals and libraries, a thinktank report has said.”

You would imagine the prime purpose of a thinktank is to think. This one seems to be more concerned with tanking.

What demographic do they think they’re dealing with?

I have not personally visited a pub or a school in years. I drink silently alone at home, like most civilized middle-class people – smelly old pubs have been going out of business at the rate of two a day for years. Hospitals are in way over their heads just trying to find enough empty beds with spare nurses to keep the service afloat, let alone administer the racist Home Office’s hate-filled immigration policy.

Most of the libraries have been closed as the collateral damage of government austerity cuts. Anyway, who goes to libraries in the age of Kindl? Only rough sleepers.

Where the baboons who infest the murky world of thinktanks have been for the past forty years is difficult to determine. They seem to inhabit a John Major England of nurses on bicycles, warm beer and cricket on the village green.

Not unlike Americans, in fact.

Maybe we should investigate their immigration status?

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You can’t keep a dandelion underground for long… Spring cautiously arriving in West Britain.

GW: feels like makin’ history

Your old granny’s mummy was pregnant with her in 1949, when the temperature in London last topped 29C, 84F in April. But here we are again.

17C above the average. Feels like makin’ history.

And as she predicted when reporting on how everyone was moaning about how cold it was during the visit last month by the Beast from the East, the popular prints (and the BBC website) are once again full of homely advice about how to stay alive in the infernal heat of the day. (Stay indoors and drink plenty of fluids… don’t wear a silly costume if you’re going to run a marathon…)

We really are a bit sad in this country, where nothing but the internet trolling (and the desire to run in a silly costume) ever really goes to extremes.

Colombia: At least 2 people have died after a month’s worth of torrential rain fell in the city of Cali, Valle del Cauca department on Tuesday 17 April, bringing the death toll to 12 in the past week. Local officials said that 68.5 mm of rain fell in 2 hours.

Tanzania: death toll in Dar-es-Salaam flooding reaches 15. Further flooding in Kenya has left over 33,000 people displaced. Local authorities say that more than 20 people have died over the past 10 days.

USA:  flooding from Winter Storm Xanto in New York City and New Jersey. Emergency services were called on to rescue around 50 people trapped in their cars. Heavy rain also affected parts of West Virginia, where a state of emergency was declared. Floods from snowmelt and rain have also affected northern Montana, where a state of emergency is in force.

“The flooding follows a massive storm from 13 to 15 April, 2018, that reached from the Gulf Coast to the Midwest, bringing with it heavy snow, hail and tornadoes. Up to 2 feet of snow fell in the Dakotas, Minnesota and Wisconsin. At least 5 people are thought to have died as a result of the storm.”

2 people have died as a result of the extensive prairie fires still raging in Oklahoma, Kansas and Colorado. Hundreds of square miles and more than 25 homesteads have been destroyed. Storms are predicted for the weekend in the south, but generally an easing of the wintry conditions is forecast.

Martinique: Heavy rain, lightning strikes and hail caused landslides and major flooding on 16 April. In one 6-hour period, 250 mm rain drenched Le François, 125 mm falling in just 1 hour.

Puerto Rico: ignoring 2,000 dead in New Orleans in the wake of Katrina did little to improve George W Bush’s reputation, but the towel-chucking moron soldiers blithely on, having utterly failed the people of Puerto Rico, stricken by hurricanes Irma and Maria six months ago. News reaches us that the entire power grid for the island (pop. 3 million) was down again Monday after a digger accidentally knocked over a transformer. 40 thousand homes have still not been reconnected at all.

At the same time, authorities have approved $125 million for repairs in the wake of floods in Hawaii – another island in the middle of a big ocean.

India: 15 dead in Calcutta storm. Large parts of Central India including Rajastan, Gujarat and Madhya Pradesh are under an extreme heat advisory as temperatures climb past 40C, 104F.

United Kingdom: Blown by an onshore breeze, Granny Weatherwax’s Wunderground location moves from West Wales to Nether Edge shock! “One of the 28 electoral wards in the City of Sheffield, England.” (Wikipedia) Pop. 18,990. Says Gran: “My, they do find some interesting places to send me to!”

Edited from Floodlist/ Wunderground/ CEWN #111/

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Journey’s End

11 April, and Arctic sea ice volume was again at a record low for the time of year, threatening an ice-free ocean between July and September (Arctic News website, 17 April). Loss of ice allows more heat to enter the ocean and speeds deglaciation of the Greenland ice sheet, freshwater causing Gulf Stream current collapse. Feedback mechanisms might then result in rapid warming with an ominous rise in methane release.

Former University of Nevada bio-climatologist, Prof. Guy McPherson warns that:

“Rapid temperature rise will affect agriculture across the globe, threatening a collapse of industrial civilization, in turn resulting in an abrupt halt of the sulfates that are currently co-emitted as a result of burning fuel, reducing global dimming, which will further add to a temperature rise that is already threatening to cause people across the globe to perish at massive scale due to heatstroke, dehydration and famine, if not perish due to nuclear radiation and further toxic effects of war, as people fight over who controls the last habitable places on Earth.”  Arctic-news.blogspot.com

This scenario could start to play out with frightening rapidity this year or next, leading to human extinction by 2026. McPherson, at one and the same time the most depressing and the most depressed human being on the planet, ever, enjoins us all to be kinder to one another in our remaining days. Most of us, he suggests, will be dead within 18 months from now.

It kind of puts Brexit into perspective.

Global seismicity remains in a state of excitement, with several M6 or greater quakes reported in recent days. As if 27 inches of rain were not enough:

“The U.S. Geological Survey’s Hawaiian Volcano Observatory observations and measurements of the Pu‘u ‘Ō‘ō eruption on Kīlauea volcano’s East Rift Zone during the past month suggest that the magma system beneath Pu‘u ‘Ō‘ō has become increasingly pressurized.”

“Mount Ioyama, a volcano in southern Japan has erupted for the first time in 250 years, spewing steam and ash hundreds of meters into the air, as authorities warned locals not to approach the mountain.” This is the third Japanese volcano to erupt in the past four months, that has not erupted in living memory.

A corporate training video mocking-up a BBC news bulletin announcing the outbreak of nuclear war has got loose on YouTube, without its disclaimer. Well, it’s only a matter of time.

While citizen journalist reports continue to pour in to the website of phenomenologist, MrMBB333 of strange and unusual animal behaviors, mainly in snowlocked midwestern America, where hungry birds, raccoons and deer – even cougars – are said to be walking right up to houses and staring at people as if asking for help; and of a tsunami that terrified residents on the shore of Lake Michigan. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o5K6ayaZkiM&t=104s

Most of his followers seem to agree: it’s the government manipulating the weather.

Arctic News/ Mary Greeley website/ MrMBB333 website

We no longer vote, we purchase. Woman of the Dunes. And NOx? Get rid of the fucking thing!

“What opinion polls have taught us is that politics is not about practicalities: it’s about opinions.”

We no longer vote, we purchase.

By: Chief Political Correspondent, Laura Facebook ©2017. @Laurasweeplace.

Director Comey demonstrates his strange thumbs. And Gary Cooper’s lovely eyes…

Ten days ago I wrote a piece called Wake Up Britain, You’re Being Disrupted!

I seemed to be the only person who had noticed that the FBI Director, James Comey, had agreed at a Congressional Intelligence Committee hearing on 20 March that Russia had had a murky little hand in the Brexit referendum.

So although I still appear to be the only person who has noticed, as there has been no mention of it anywhere, nevertheless I was delighted to read an article on the Guardian Today website this morning, in which various politicians appear to have woken up to the threat posed to the democratic electoral process by ‘Dark Money’ ops.

Except that the article had appeared since I went to bed at midnight and was already Closed for Comments by half-past ten this morning, indicating that its quota had been filled by ‘Dark Thoughts’ while Britain yet slept.

The Comment I wanted to make was that the Electoral Commission, which looks into such matters, seems to be living in the previous reality; worrying that ‘political parties’ may be using technology to get away with influencing voters outside the normal rules of election spending. It is something they feebly admit they can do nothing about, since the bulk of the spending is invested in creating the technology and that can be done outside the period during which spending is controlled.

And actually, my point is that it is not political parties generally that are sucking-up vast volumes of data like a Korean trawler in a Yellowfin tuna shoal, and using it to target automated messages – bots – against individual voters; it’s hostile governments and wealthy private individuals – Disruptors – seeking for their own ends to undermine our democratic institutions.

Political parties have ceased to have any relevance in the Facebook age of individual realities. They haven’t quite noticed yet: but in the USA, for instance, the traditional two-party system is completely broken, as it has become impossible to show that there is any degree of unity within the philosophical boundaries that were once defined by the party labels. Politicians affiliate with whoever is going to spend the most money getting them elected; not with one another, or with blocs of voters united in opinion or aspiration.

This is also completely true of Britain’s disintegrated Labour party; and increasingly of its Conservative rivals. While voters might still retain some measure of loyalty to one side or the other, it’s purely symbolic: they want what they want. MPs generally don’t. When it comes to party agendas and manifesto pledges ideology has become amorphous, out of shape; broadly malleable, and responsive to individual needs and single events – such as a Daily Mail headline.

The more important vote politicians are chasing now is the consumer preference. We no longer vote, we purchase. What opinion polls have taught is that politics is not about practicalities, policies, outcomes: it’s about opinions.

This matter of choice has arisen, I contend, as a result of fifty or sixty years of consumer capitalism, whereby the acquisition of products and the commoditisation of debt; the availability of plastic money as a substitute for the real thing, that does not have to be earned; individual preference, brand loyalty if you like, has replaced the group dynamic – the social altruism – of political affiliation.

People long ago ceased to be referred to as ‘customers’ or ‘passengers’, whatever defined them as the users of specific services; we all became ‘consumers’. The idea took hold that as consumers we had general rights, rather than a specific contract. Thus students became consumers of education, entitled to achieve a degree regardless of academic attainment. Sick people purchased with their National Insurance tax subvention, medical services of which they had a right to demand cure.

The internet has enabled the widest possible exchange of subjective performance reviews of individual experiences consumers have with purchases – of products and services, but also of political policy outcomes as they affect the purchaser. Hence the widespread view that politicians are all the same, all corrupt, all out for themselves – it’s not true, necessarily, but it accurately reflects the attitude of the perennially dissatisfied purchaser – who is indeed ‘out for themselves’ in demanding exceptional treatment related to their private situation and aggravated when it is not forthcoming; principally because someone else is getting it unfairly.

Thus in politics, voters have become consumers of political services at every level, from the right to expect working drains and less immigration, to the right to demand that we leave the European Union, or the United Kingdom – as political outcomes, or products we have purchased with our votes; regardless of the wisdom of such actions from a historical and economic perspective. Our consumer satisfaction is reflected in the polls, and is thus invarably negative – as all products and services are marketed with an expectation of built-in dissatisfaction in order to keep us consuming.

Another win-win-win for the uber-capitalists, I fear. And still they keep on grabbing more.

Anyway, it’s a worthwhile read:

http://www.theguardian.com/politics/2017/apr/01/dark-money-threat-to-uk-elections-integrity?utm_source=esp&utm_medium=Email&utm_campaign=GU+Today+main+NEW+H+categories&utm_term=219998&subid=19570602&CMP=EMCNEWEML6619I2

And for a companion piece that restates what I have said many times on this, muh bogl, that the EU was our last line of defence against the corporatist Big Data takeover of our country, here’s Will Hutton:

http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2017/mar/26/finally-reacting-disruptive-supermacy-of-facebook-and-google

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The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, has announced plans to charge the owners of diesel vehicles £24 a day to enter the Inner London area.

Cough, splutter, croak: the ‘yellow fog that rubs its back upon the window-pane’ (TS Elliot)

I was just three years old, born and living in London, in December 1952 when the Great Smog arose, and in five days of choking, sulphur-yellow emanation carried off twelve thousand of my fellow Londoners.

Of course, I wasn’t really aware of it. Maybe I was even shipped out for safety to my grandparents in the western suburbs, I have no memory of it. I survived, anyway, although my repeated bouts of “bronchitis” – actually, undiagnosed asthma – put me in the school sanatorium with great regularity thereafter. I got through a lot of books; a lot of watery, concentrated National Health orange juice, the only cure.

But I do remember other, similar events as I grew up.

Most of those who died were elderly people whose health had been damaged long before, in the privations of the Great Depression and by years of war rationing, inhaling brick-dust and smoke from the bombing. Most of them had smoked heavily all their lives; many lived in mouldy, draughty, damp and dusty, unheated housing with coal or gas fires, and worked in unregulated industries.

It was in that sense a culling of the weak-chested.

So I do sympathise, I really do, with city dwellers. I left London 35 years ago, moving erratically westwards until I arrived on the coast at Boglington-on-Sea, where fresh, onshore Atlantic breezes blow the filthy stuff – air – up the valley, across the hills and far away, back into the begrimed faces of the people of Birmingham whence it probably came.

Even so, our sunny days are often masked and cooled by a thin veil of brownish cloud, or the diaphanous wisps of con-trails merging overhead; while out at sea, the coast of Ireland sixty miles away may be identified by a line of darker sky staining the horizon.

Pollution.

In the light of growing health concerns, the Mayor of London, Sadiq Khani has announced plans to charge the owners of polluting diesel vehicles £24 a day just to enter the Inner London area; and other measures. Furthermore, after chatting to his counterpart in Paris, he proposes to have diesel cars banned from London altogether by 2025, via a strategy of limiting their access during the daytime.

It isn’t a problem for me, as I no longer have a reason to drive into London. But I do, I have to confess, own a car with a small diesel engine, that I use dreadfully inefficiently as a local runabout, seeing as I never go anywhere nowadays. My Committee of Discarnate Entities has been prompting me to sell it for months now, but it’s just too damned convenient. Besides, I like it.

For I was one of the thirteen million motorists conned into believing diesel cars were nowadays cleaner and cheaper to run than petrol; although the instant you think about it, it can’t be true. All of us have at some time in our motoring lives been stuck behind a lorry grinding up an incline in second gear, belching black stuff. We secretly know, don’t we, that we’re pumping out the same greasy mix of gases and sooty particulates; only less visibly. (In my defence, I have never seen anything nasty coming from my exhaust.)

We believed diesel had changed its spots. Thanks to improvements in refining, the stuff was practically drinkable. It would carry us further on the same quantity, and be less damaging to our engine. It had low sulphur. And when burned, it was 25 per cent less laden with CO2, the greenhouse villain. We knew diesel emits more particulates; but particulates were good, because they cut down the sunlight that’s heating the planet. And anyway, the particulate filters in the new generation of smaller, more efficient diesels would take care of it; just as the catalytic converter and the removal of lead ‘anti-knock’ additives, new engine designs had taken care of the problems with petrol.

Diesel has a high content of nitrogen which, when burned, produces various oxides of nitrogen: NOx; while the filtration of larger particulates leaves the smaller, more damaging particulates unaffected. These get into the lungs more easily and can trigger asthma and cause children’s lungs not to grow fully. Three hundred thousand British children live within 150 yards of a main road. Burning any fossil fuel has its downsides; which sounds like a rather cynical underestimation of the probability that we are on the verge of the greatest mass extinction since the Permian, 250 million years ago, thanks to our brute stupidity and selfishness.

Nitrogen oxides at ground-level react to produce O1 – ozone, a poisonous gas (not to be confused with good ozone way up in the stratosphere which cuts down life-destroying UV radiation.) Plus, of course, if everyone reverted to petrol-driven cars, logic tells us the CO2 emissions targets couldn’t be met… 13 million petrol-fuelled cars output 61 million tonnes of CO2 annually, so we’d expect an additional 15 million tonnes of the warming stuff from any mass changeover.

So electric cars are the answer in cities… No, you’re just shifting the emissions from the cars to the generators.

Listen, don’t let anybody – least of all, the Mayor of London –  tell you atmospheric chemistry is easy, or free from ‘fake news’. Wikipedia describes NOx thus:

“NOx is a generic term for the various nitrogen oxides produced during combustion. They are believed to aggravate asthmatic conditions, react with the oxygen in the air to produce ozone, which is also an irritant and eventually form nitric acid when dissolved in water. When dissolved in atmospheric moisture the result can be acid rain which can damage both trees and entire forest ecosystems.”

But, as an example of how complicated the arguments are, it is necessary only to turn to the website of Science Daily, which scoops up the latest reports – such as:

“Climate researchers are warning that efforts to reduce air pollution could, if not well designed, make global warming worse. Limiting emissions of manmade nitrogen oxides, a strategy to control ozone in the lower atmosphere, would result in increased methane abundance and lead to additional greenhouse warming.” – American Geophysical Union

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2001/04/010417075108.htm

For, as we know, methane is many times more efficient at absorbing heat than is CO2.

Now, this raises several questions. Is the effect on climate change and citizen health so strong as to really make a difference, given the relatively small quantity of NOx produced by however many diesel vehicles there are in a city like London? Aren’t the supposedly cleaner gases produced by burning ordinary refined petrol just as likely to have indirect harms too? Sulphur is one, that turns in rainy weather to H2SO4 – sulphuric acid.

Nitric? Sulphuric? Carbonic? You takes your choice.

Then, we have to consider what proportion of nitrogen pollution in the city is attributable to smaller, more efficient diesel-engined private cars, and what to the many other sources of NOx – including commercial vehicles, boats on the river, fashionable wood-burning stoves, aircraft overflight and many industrial processes. A 2005 report from the University of Washington found that 22 per cent of NOx – over 8 million metric tons worldwide – comes from natural background emissions in the soil. (Ibid.)

So maybe the Mayor of London needs to order the Royal Parks tarmacked over, as they produce more NOx than private cars?

As I’m not an atmospheric chemist, I have to write ‘finally’ here. Although it’s a lot more complicated and convoluted I’ve reached the limits, both of my understanding and of my interest. But in defence of us poor diesel drivers, who paid a premium price for this extra efficiency and environmental kindness we were promised, that since the scandal of VW’s clever software that ‘fixed’ the results of lab tests turns out to have been a bit of a hoax, and who now stand to lose a lot of money, I should point out:

The unpleasant and unhealthy smogs that have returned to London since the 1956 Clean Air Act ended the winter misery of coal-induced sulphurous miasmas have one element in common with them: the weather.

This winter over large areas of the northern hemisphere, high pressure systems predominated, creating what are known as ‘inversion layers’, where lighter, warmer, smog-laden air becomes trapped under a layer of heavier, colder air and with the lack of wind at low altitude can neither dissipate nor get blown away. As little is done at the time to reduce the sources of these emissions, the air gets progressively fouler. Indeed, some studies suggest that in the centres of the world’s megacities, vital oxygen levels can drop to dangerous lows.

Climate scientists have blamed these high-pressure systems on a weakening of the jetstream wind owing to warming of the Arctic reducing the ocean temperature differential with the north Atlantic and Pacific. It seems likely therefore that we can blame this last winter’s smogs on global warming caused by the very gases that are choking our citizens.

What I have not yet heard anyone say in regard to this, I would say irreconcilable, argument between the advocates of diesel versus petrol-engined cars, and the damage they are doing, both to the environment and to our children’s and old people’s health, is the blindingly obvious:

There are far too many cars in our cities.

You don’t need a car in London! Get rid of the fucking car, it’s costing you a fortune to park, to run. You’ve got 24-hour public transport, you lucky things! Just think how much money – and how many lives – you’ll save.

So, wake up, Sadiq. Ban them all!

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Spring is Sprung

Despite the belief among a growing number of scientists that we’re doomed and life on earth has nine years to go before a Permian-level extinction, hasn’t this Spring just been fucking spectacular?

I suppose it depends on where you live, but here on the west coast we had no snow this winter, a couple of days and a few nights of ground frost only; only one winter storm (max 94 mph) and average rainfall.

Last week the sun came out and everything just exploded into leaf, blossom, flower and growth confusingly all at once. Lawns became suddenly snowy with a thick carpet of daisies; bluebells lurked in odd corners, yellow anemones and cheerful dandelions clashed vibrantly with the gorse – never have I seen gorse so thickly covered in acid-yellow flowers. Birdsong fills the air as the little feathery tweets vie for territory over the constant thrum and roar of the traffic.

My neighbour dug over his scabby front garden to make a lawn. Within five days the grass he seeded was already up and two inches high. Not all of this ought to be happening so early in the year. Even holidaymakers were arriving, months early.

I’d been noticing for the last few years that vegetation cover in the shit-strewn exurban river valley across the road, that passes for our local park, has been getting denser. We boast a variety of environments and habitats, from marshland and succession woodland to the sewage farm and a cricket ground; all of it is thriving as never before.

I read that it’s down to the extra CO2 in the atmosphere.

Spring, as they say, is in the air! Enjoy it while it lasts, peeps.

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Woman of the Dunes

You may be following the latest twist in the Watergate saga.

A Scottish judge has ruled on a legal technicality against a case brought by retired social worker Rohan Beyts, who was suing the Trump Organization for breach of her Data privacy after three Trump employees at the International Golf Course near Aberdeen photographed her ‘taking a whizz’, as Americans say, in the rough.

They subsequently sent the photographs to the police as evidence that a criminal offence had been committed. A prosecution was brought, but rapidly dismissed as the law in Scotland allows ramblers in the open countryside to take a discreet pee if they need to; even on the hallowed sands of a $120 million Trump links course.

I may move to Scotland in that case.

This intrusion on her private moment, argued Beyts, as she had committed no crime, violated her right to privacy under the Data Protection Act.

Sadly, Sheriff Donald Corke was reluctantly unable to convict because, despite bristling with CCTV cameras and computers containing visitor and employee records, the loss-making TIGC had somehow overlooked the legal necessity to register under the Act and could therefore not infringe it.

Nevertheless he had some pretty strong words to say about Trump’s hired goons:

…she was entirely within her legal rights at the time, and her distress at being photographed and charged was very real. She had “a reasonable expectation of privacy”. She shouldn’t have been photographed, Corke said. “I have to emphasise that officious bystanders who photograph females urinating in the countryside put themselves at very real risk of prosecution”, he added. (BBC News)

So the poor woman ended up paying £300 costs, although that’s been more than covered by the £3,000 raised from a crowdfunding website.

It’s a 9-iron short of a sand wedge from at least two points of view; not least showing as it does how poorly Donald Trump’s thuggish business methods have gone down in the locality.

First, any mention of women urinating in the same breath as the name Donald Trump must raise a wry smile; and secondly the Orange Buffoon just signed off on another of his larky Executive Orders, effectively abolishing the US equivalent of the Data Protection laws relating to internet service providers and platforms.

They can now make whatsoever use of your data pleaseth them, without your knowledge; and it’s an ordinance that hasn’t gone down very well, even with the Dumbfucks: the ruling has polled an 80 per cent national disapproval rating, to match Mr Trump’s historically unprecedented personal low 35 per cent approval after only 75 days in office.

So bad.

Added to which, the new Director of Homeland Security, ‘retired Marine Gen. John F. Kelly’, is reportedly considering extending ‘extreme vetting’ to ALL non-US nationals entering the country – not just terrorists and brown people, but even returning residents and nationals of friendly countries with reciprocal visa waivers.

Yes, Brits too, we’re so special.

‘Extreme vetting’ means examining your social media and other data usage for signs of anti-Americanism, or even connections to it. Visit Disneyworld next holidays and you may find yourself having to hand over your laptop, all your passwords, your email Contacts folder, your mobile phone (to inspect the photo files and see who you’ve been talking to) and answer a battery of new questions about your attitudes to ‘right to life’ (abortion), ‘religious beliefs and affiliations’ and the ‘war on terror’ (Islamism), with a very good chance that if you aren’t sufficiently onboard with the program, they’ll send you home – or worse.

Among the checks he expects to add would, of course, be intense scrutiny of blog Post contents.

Ooops.

Ah well, at least my numbers might start to creep up.

Mr Kelly is quoted as saying, if you don’t like America, don’t come. He’s got a funny way of being likeable. Tourism numbers are already substantially down as a result of the failed Muslim ban, so this latest Trump-pleaser is likely to send them crashing through the floor, costing the hotel and resort trade billions of dollars.

Therein lies hope for travellers, as many of Trump’s oligarch cronies and indeed the Orange Hotelier himself depend on tourism dollars for a sizeable slab of income, and are likely to notice when they have shot themselves in both feet.

The chance is, of course, that outrage among the US’s allies around the world could also result in retaliatory measures against US tourists entering our quaint old countries. Tourism employs three million people in the UK, 75% of them British nationals; and Americans, our number one visitor nation, spend around £3 billion here.

Suck on that, Theresa.

Next time don’t hold his hand, reminding us of Clint Eastwood and Clyde the orang-utan – just push him down the fucking stairs.

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Scumbag News

Britain awoke this morning to a photograph of ‘Dr’ Liam Fox, the Business Brexit, palling-up with Rodrigo Duterte, the underdressed Philippines dictator who has likened himself to Adolf Hitler – for stupidly mentioning who’s name Mr Ken Livingstone is – again – being investigated, although he has said nothing illegal as far as anyone can see; just dumb.

In Duterte’s Philippines, around ten thousand people have been murdered by police death squads and vigilantes at his express instigation since he came to power, for having any connection with the drugs trade – even just alleged users. Indeed, he claims to have murdered a few folks himself, just to show how it’s done. And of course not long ago he was referring to the US President as ‘that son of a whore’, and so on.

Why is Dr Atlantic even speaking to this potty-mouthed, pockmarked little psychopath? It’s not for medical reasons, but to try to set up some squalid trade deals to replace our perfectly good existing arrangements with the EU; to which end, Fox uttered the immortal words:

“We have a foundation of shared values and shared interests”.

What a total cunt. But yes, you probably do, ‘Dr’ Fox.

Britain is proud of you.

(Photo: The Guardian/British Embassy, Manila)

To Sanity and Beyond: Trumpkins, and a BogPo Manifesto for Labour

The Wit and Wisdom of President Donald J Trump

“We want to start making our products again. We don’t want to bring them in; we want to make them here. That doesn’t mean we don’t trade because we do trade, but we want to make our products here.

“If you look at some of the original great people that ran this country, you will see that they felt very strongly about that.”

Yes, Donald, thanks for the historical detail, expressed as if by an unlettered idiot; I read about it in the Declaration of Independence.

It says something like:

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, — That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.”

Of course, it could be an ‘alternative fact’ that the original great people that ran this country ever said such a thing. And, however technically, you may believe you derive your power from the temporary consent of at least a large minority of the governed; and that your constituents may indeed have perceived – somewhat blindly, I may interject – that you are the man to effect their Safety and Happiness.

But I see nothing about the unalienable right of a handful of deplorable billionaires to sequester half the wealth of the American people for their own ends. I see nothing democratic about a system of democracy under which local legislatures controlled by political parties can simply disenfranchise whole swathes of their adult voter populations with a stroke of the pen in order to gerrymander their constituencies.

I see nothing smart about antagonising other countries, making violent and destabilising threats, merely because your fellow businessmen have chosen to profit mightily from exporting their manufacturing processes there.

I see nothing in the Declaration of Independence about making secret alliances with inimical foreign powers, nor about squalid, geriatric ‘pussy-grabbing’ Presidents who have avoided paying their income tax for twenty years by exploiting dubious loopholes, refusing to cede the unconstitutional control of their global business interests to anyone other than the plastic-faced junior members of their own families.

I see nothing about tyro fascist administrations threatening the freedom of the press unless editors agree to print their barefaced lies and propaganda in place of more self-evident truths; about blatant interference in the affairs of independent businesses; about rule by executive order and menacing Tweet, bypassing the people’s Congress.

I do however register the phrase ‘just powers’.

“But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.”

Did ‘some of the original great people that ran this country’ make themselves clear enough for you, Mr President?

Warlord

Poor Barron Trump.

Not only could the President not spell his name, but at the age of 10 he already looks on camera like more of a snooty little moneybags than his father did as a teenager.

Privileged, pampered, entitled – damaged.

Of course, it’s unworthy to drag the kid into the general shitstorm of hatred for his horrible giant-baby father, who has just made donating aid to  family planning clinics around the world illegal, in order to please his sick-shit Christian VPOTUS Mike Pence – the guy who delivered the Evangelicals vote for the no time for God-botherin’ Trumpkin.

You don’t get to choose your parents, now clearly they won’t get to choose you.

And that contemptuous sneer on his angelic little face might only have been nerves. How would you feel, up there on that podium, gazing into space, wondering where all the people your dad says he can see have gone?

Being raised by the servants of advertent parents who value themselves not by their real wealth and what good they can do with it, but by the amounts of money they can convince other people they owe without consequence – is, in my view, child abuse.

And we know, don’t we, that as Papa Schtrumpf packed the pampered and wayward little Donald off to military academy, from where he mysteriously failed to get drafted for service in ‘Nam, thus ensuring his survival to abuse the parents of those who fell in a later futile Presidential war, the poor little sprog is going to have to do the whole British Royal Family thing: cold showers, gridiron quarterbacking, scorpions in his socks… character-building stuff – before being generously awarded academic qualifications and embarking on the round of nightclubs, money-grubbing slappers, late-night rescues from police custody by expensive lawyers, car crashes, cocaine and the paparazzi feeding-frenzies that doubtless awaits the Crown Prince as he grows up.

But I really can’t bring myself to care for that cold and arrogant little face. The boy is visibly a monster in the making.

Yes, I know, it’s unfair to disparage the heir-apparent at such a young age. Poor, poor Bazza. It’s not his fault he has the expression of a kid who knows that one day when at the age of 23 he inherits the White House, he will be even more of an arrogant, self-serving little bastard than his geriatric dad, grinding the faces of the losers, abrogating trade deals real people sweated years to put in place, testing out how huge are the insincerities he can get away with, how much extra money he can make, on the ideological grounds that ‘Murca is not just a lump of rock on the same planet as the rest, but a nation fully entitled by its hidden history of genocide and immigration by the formerly huddled masses, by its massive nuclear arse ‘n’ all, to its insistent third-rate hegemony over a dying planet.

Happily, none of us is likely to have grandchildren who will survive the coming extinction, thanks to his father’s staffer picks, of the human – and every other – race. Little Barron Trump with his cool, fifth-grader ‘blow-me and be my first lady’ Hollywood kid hairdo is the last of his line.

But no fair! Kids grow up to rebel against their parents. Barron might well yet become the secret leader of the American Socialist Party. The most cheering thought that occurs to me right now, however, is that he’s going to have to be best buddisz with Cruz Beckham. Or that he turns out gay.

Reading his expression as his geriatric father was sworn in to become already on Day One the most unpopular president in US history, you worry about the other little billionaire ‘friends’ who will be security-vetted to play Minecraft with him in the White House media room.

I mean, if he drowns one of them in the waterboarding pool, if a gun goes bang while he is enthusiastically showing it off, if another mate dies from a cool party-drug overdose, if security has to call in the Cleaners to mop up an actress, we know, don’t we, that someone ain’t goin’ to jail.

But a kid who looks like he already pulls the wings off of flies …..

Oh, stop it! Just a kid. Unfair.

(Memo: sack self. Ed.)

 

Weather News

44 million face ‘crippling’ ice storm this weekend…
Officials beg Trump to send help after storms kill 20 across the South (NBC News)
Tens of millions throughout the plains and the Midwest are bracing for dangerous winter conditions that could last for several days.

Across the South, 50 unconfirmed tornadoes were reported from Thursday to Sunday as four severe storms moved south from Georgia and Mississippi into the Florida Panhandle, said Frank Giannasca, a senior meteorologist at The Weather Channel.

The worst of the damage was in Georgia, particularly in Dougherty and Cook counties. Seven deaths were reported in Cook County, where a tornado demolished (200 homes on) a mobile-home park (in Adel).

“If you were to see it today, it’s like a war zone,” Adel Mayor Buddy Duke said at a news conference early Monday evening. In Dougherty County, Georgia, where four people were killed, county commission Chairman Chris Cohilas said Monday that he has been “begging FEMA for boots on the ground. it looks like a nuclear bomb went off”

Get used to it.

Does Trump send help? We don’t hear.

Maybe he’s too busy with his new position as C-in-C, ordering his special troops fighting ISIS alongside Kurdish militias in Iraq to ‘take the oil’. Questioned, Press Secretary Spicer tells journalists it’s not the sort of policy the administration wants to discuss publicly.

So it’s true? That’d be a first.

 

Church Times

“One must observe, must one not, as well that no congregation ought to have been too taken aback by the unexpected news that the Koran recommends that Muslims should not worship Jesus?”

An unholy row is simmering in Glasgow after a Scottish Episcopalian minister, the Very Revd Kevin Holdsworth, dared to include a reading from the Koran in a service at St Mary’s Cathedral last month.

One of his colleagues, the only Revd Colin Ashenden, who is the Queen’s chaplain in Scotland, has resigned from the Chapter in order to be able to criticise the Very Revd Holdsworth freely, because of His Veryness making him a little less assailable by the lower ranks, presumably.

Now outside the tent pissing in, Revd Ashenden said the passage, which explains (in Arabic) that Jesus was the son of Mary and a great prophet but sadly not the Son of God and ought therefore not to be worshipped by Muslims, had caused “serious offence”; although the intention one infers was to make the point that Jesus isn’t worshipped by Muslims, but that nevertheless they hold him with such reverence that native Christians might look on them at least with grace, if not exactly favour.

“There are a number of members of the congregation who have written open letters complaining of the profound upset they experienced as people who are part of the Eucharistic community who had come to worship Christ,” Slightly Revd Ashenden is quoted as saying, in a BBC report.

Are we supposed to believe that the Very Revd Kevin was making a serious attempt to convert his congregation to the ways of the Orient? That he expected them to suddenly worship Muhammad instead? Perhaps anticipating the elevation to the throne any day now of Charles 111, the ecumenical crown-prince with a thing for Islam? Or was it merely ‘for information’, as they say?

Services can get pretty repetitious after years of attendance, and it’s not uncommon for pastors of all denominations to try to liven them up a little, if they can. Perhaps the Very Revd Kevin saw importing an inoffensive Muslim student to read a bit from his own holy book as preferable to riding a unicycle naked up the aisle with a plastic daffodil stuck up his bottom?

One must observe, must one not, as well that no congregation ought to have been too taken aback by the unexpected news that the Koran recommends that Muslims should not worship Jesus.  Otherwise, they’d be bloody Christians, wouldn’t they?

It summarises the main difference between two of the main divisions of the old Abrahamic religion, really. The third, Judaism, is also equivocal on the thorny subject of whether Jesus was the Son of God or just a posthumously successful if slightly off-the-wall prophet and anti-Roman guerilla leader – although later Romans played that down.

We have known about it all for quite a while now. About 1,394 years, indeed.

Now, I think it’s probably quite a good thing that Muslims are occasionally reminded that their own Islamic community as portrayed in the Daily Mail and elsewhere, perhaps on Nigel Farage’s boring chat show, doesn’t contain the only tiresome, hypocritical, self-regarding, uptight, thin-skinned, ignorant God-botherers in Britain, worse even than Radio 4 listeners; and that Islam doesn’t have a monopoly on howls of outrage over the most idiotic points of doctrine anyone could possibly take umbrage at on a wet Sunday afternoon in Barmulloch, when they’ve finished the easy crossword.

Let us remind ourselves soberly of the fate that befell corner-shop proprietor, Mr Asad Shah, hacked to death (in Glasgow, as it happens) by a Muslim fanatic who accused him of apostasy over the sending-out of cheery Christmas cards to his Christian customers. (Did the killer not read the bit in the Koran where it says Jesus was born to Mary? That’s what we’re celebrating, fuckhead.) And, of course, of what might befall you if you were to retweet a line-drawing even just for critical review purposes, should it purport to share the mildest pleasantry about the humourless, bitter and vindictive You-know-who Upstairs.

Such extreme religiosity isn’t confined only to fundamentalist Islam, as we see. Very often, religion is the last resort and only hope of the desperate. The Very Revd Kevin’s dimwitted but noble attempt to introduce a note of ecumenicism probably wouldn’t play well to a Glasgow congregation; the city where even the football teams hate one another along sectarian lines, and they’re both technically on the same hymn-sheet.

It’s a Good Thing, I suppose, that the Eucharistic Community in Glasgow doesn’t go about driving lorries over the corpses of Christmas shoppers, machine-gunning the patrons before blowing themselves up in theatres, but is merely content to write prissy, aggravating ‘open letters’ to unheeding Bishops, protesting at being asked to think for a moment beyond the walls of their limited mental capacities.

Muslims in turn might remind the Eucharist Liberation Front (Glasgow branch) that cannibalism, even the mild, symbolic variety practised in the C of E, ought to inspire revulsion, not worship, in any sensible human being. And it’s illegal. Only not, I think, in Britain?

A former choirboy, it always struck me as weird how one could spend hours intoning dreary Victorian hymns about Jesus dying for our sins on the cross, before eagerly celebrating the Original Sin by tucking-in to parts of him, as represented by a wafer biscuit and some indifferent plonk that have miraculously been transmuted by a Very Revd in a frock into His Actual Body and Blood (in the case of Catholicism, only symbolic in the case of the Prods – same victim, different verdict).

Clearly, one man’s worship is another’s three-course meal.

But what this tendentious nonsense demonstrates is that religion is a kind of mental illness; the utter, self-abasing dependancy on a phantom parent. Was a peripatetic rabbi with heretical views, for whose existence there is almost no historic evidence other than a bunch of cut-and-paste Gospels and some misogynistic epistolary exhortations from @Peter’s PR man, Paul of Tarsus, the Son of God (whatever that means?), or was he not?

Who cares?

Who can prove it either way?

There is no accounting for what might cause offence (such as this Post!) to any high-minded person living in the grim, dark, bandit- and pibroch-infested, snowbound country made out of sheer granite, that invented Presbyterianism for the amusement of industrial workers on Sundays, as if hewing two tons of coal a day wasn’t penalty enough for being born.

Long before the Yahoo! website gave the world’s congenital cretins a platform for their Komodo-dragon salivating, poisonous prejudices and (pardon me, Babe) pig-ignorant opinions, that have now inexplicably come to command the centre-stage of our political discourse, religion was a useful outlet for humans to express their fathomless and violent irrationality in a safe space.

As long as they didn’t fall out with one another over the precise details.

Postscriptum

I see I have a Like! But I’m confused. My Liker has responded before (unlike the rest of you lazy tossers content to float on my li-lo rather than blowing up one of your own). Indeed, every time I slag-off religion in my hearty, ex-muscular Christian fashion, up she pops with a Like.

The possessor of her own website, thanking Jesus for saving her – and not the other few hundred victims of her condition who die every year; not the medics and the drug-company research assistants and the shrinks who presumably turned her life around – I am nevertheless very happy to accommodate, nay even welcome, Beautybeyondbones to my world of sanity, and beyond.

 

THE BOGPO MANIFESTO

If the Labour Party can’t get it together and the Lib-Dems are too small to matter, while UKIP just basically stinks, then it’s up to me to devise a manifesto for the 2020 election.

Instead of paying corporation tax to the Treasury, all limited and public liability companies should be required to ensure their employees receive a much higher ‘living’ wage, no less than one twenty-fifth that of the highest paid executive. Shareholder dividends and executive bonuses should be capped at a realistic percentage of profits. Employees should be encouraged to join shareholder schemes and to achieve Board representation (see below for rules applying to Directors’ appointments.)

This higher wage would be offset by a ‘universal basic income’ of £140 a week for all qualifying by right of residence over 18, and £200 a week for all qualifying over 24. Those on the lower rate would pay no tax on their UBI; while those on the higher rate would pay a 10% marginal tax on income over £200 a week, to help offset the UBI. All other income over £200 a week would attract tax at 20%. Personal allowance should be scrapped.

Saving should be encouraged, with banks unable to set a differential between savings rates and loan rates of more than 12%. Savings rates should be sustained at a minimum of 3% above LIBOR. Customers should be limited to no more than three debt instruments, being credit cards or other loans, and receive a free financial health-check (not a sales call!) with an accredited advisor once a year.

Companies would pay their employees after deduction of basic income, which is paid by the State. All benefits, except Housing Benefit and the Personal Independence Payment, would be scrapped. Payable for all at 68, the State Pension would top-up the basic income by £40, to £240 a week.

The National Health Service to be assisted by a levy from additional taxation on sugar, refined wheat, tobacco, alcohol (but not wine), aviation, intensive livestock farming, financial transactions over £1 million and new cars. Available only to unemployed and seeking work or disabled and unable to work, Housing Benefit should be extended to those with mortgages from Day One, but be tapered off after 40 weeks (as opposed to the other way round at present). The ‘bedroom tax’ should be abolished and replaced by incentives to let spare accommodation.

Companies should be required to pay an ‘automation dividend’; a 40% tax on jobs that are replaced by automated systems, robots, AI etc. or that are outsourced to developing countries.

This revenue could be used to reduce or eliminate student tuition fees. Higher-level degrees are to be admitted to the student loan scheme. University degree years should be made more flexible and early years provision increased. Mature students (over 30) returning to or starting degrees should continue to receive the basic income and pay no more than 20% towards housing costs. Local authorities relieved of the burden of education costs would increase their social services and social housing provision.

Properties bought for ‘investment’ and left empty for more than six months should attract 100% purchase tax and the money spent on ending homelessness.

Other incentives to work or study should be created; low-interest credit unions promoted and a diesel car scrappage scheme introduced. ‘Faith schools’ and fee-paying public-schools registered as charities should lose their charitable status and become public liability companies (PLCs). Grammar schools and Academies should be absorbed into the comprehensive system.

All company directors prior to appointment should be required to pass a ‘business driving test’ demonstrating knowledge of the Companies Act, Employment Acts, the Shops, Offices and Factories Act and the Health and Safety at Work and Working Time directives (or whatever will replace them), as well as relevant consumer protections; also passing a numeracy test, verbal reasoning test and a psychometric evaluation of their fitness to employ staff.

Companies should be required to offer job appointments as a priority to British permanent residents before widening their search to include non-British passport holders. That includes the Governor of the Bank of England. The types of contracts offered to employees should be legally clarified and brought under the Employment Acts to prevent ‘zero-hours’ and other ‘freelance’ or self-employed workers from exploitation. Employees should have an expectation of wage increases in line with inflation.

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

Keep calm and carry on Moaning

From our Business Editor, ©2016 Sterling Pound @longliquidlunch

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

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

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

That’s patriotism for you.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Trumbo parachutes in

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

I’m actually worried about that.

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

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

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

Horrible, horrible Paulie!

And still they love him unconditionally, the dumbfucks.

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

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

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

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

We’re gonna defeat ’em

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But the Dumbfucks go on believing his horseshit.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It’s known as Simulation Theory.

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

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

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

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

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

Pshaw. Stuff and nonsense!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And round we go again.

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

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

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

Politics: a curious affair

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The thin red, white, blue, yellow and/or green line: Why standing still is bad for you

(Football alert)

1.

On top of a steep hill a mile from where I live, where cows now placidly graze, you can still see the concentric rings of the ancient earthworks of an impressively large Iron Age fort. It’s a well-defended strategic position, giving wide views over the bay and inland for several miles along the valley. Two millennia ago the inhabitants would have been showing their blue bottoms and heroically brandishing bronze daggers before being cut down by the well-drilled mobile mincing-machine of the Roman army.

Perhaps half a mile from there, next to the sea, the stub of a tower rises forlornly above ruined walls and battlements, the grassed-over keep of a once-mighty medieval castle, around which a bastide town grew and turned into a jolly destination for Victorian day-trippers. On the other side of the harbour, the sealed-off gun embrasure of an overgrown World War Two concrete pill-box points blindly out to sea, never having fired a shot in anger.

For centuries, generals and rulers have been constructing fixed defences in an attempt to deter, detain or repel invaders. Of course, we’re all familiar with the Great Wall of China; Hadrian’s Wall; Offa’s Dyke – Israel’s ‘wall of peace’ – Trump’s wall of Mexicans.  By the middle of the C17th, Britain’s medieval castles had become no match for Cromwell’s mobile artillery. After the Civil War many of them turned into, or inspired the building of, grand private houses, architectural whimsy for the nouveau riche in a nod to the ancestral world of chivalry; or were just allowed to decay into the landscape, to the delight of the poets and artists of the Romantic movement.

Nevertheless, the redundant strategic value and vast cost of fixed fortifications seems never to have troubled the notoriously rigid cast of mind of the military. During the Napoleonic Wars, the famous white cliffs of Dover were extensively tunnelled and fortified against an imagined invasion, that never came. Pressed into service again in the Second World War, the Dover fortress had limited effect as a long-range gun platform, able to shell fortifications on the French coast; as an observation post, and as an ammunition dump. It’s now a tourist attraction. It was the ever-moving sea, and the fluid war in the air that prevented the Wermacht from setting out in the invasion barges.

In the 1930s, seemingly oblivious to the recent butchery along a static Western front, literally deadlocked, with its thousands of miles of hasty fortifications linked by trenches, failing to note that the British invention of the ‘Land Ironclad’, the highly manoeuverable tank, had turned the ground war at Cambrai; but mindful only of two wars lost in the C19th against an expansionist, unifying Germany, French War Minister André Maginot ordered the building of a chain of massive bunkers and fortified artillery positions linked by a railway along the German border: the Maginot Line. In the event, in 1940 the German ‘Blitzkrieg’ just drove round and through it all, encircling the garrisons in their rear, before moving on to occupy France.

Never a master strategist, against the advice of probably his best general, Erwin Rommel, and heedless of the abject failure of Maginot’s grandiose project, Hitler then ordered the construction of an ‘Atlantic Wall’. Built by slave labour, using up every ounce of concrete and steel Germany had to spare, a chain of supposedly impregnable gun emplacements and forts was constructed along a 3,000 mile coastline from Norway to the Spanish border. Taking heavy casualties, as air and sea bombardment had made little impression, nevertheless the Allies simply drove through, round and over it, and on into occupied France; as Rommel, who advocated a mobile defence-in-depth, had predicted.

Built by master castle designer, James of St George, to subdue the Welsh and give his supply ships safe access from the sea, the C12th castles of Edward 1 were an obsessive project said to have cost more than ten times the amount of money in the royal exchequer, a staggering sum expressed in modern money of £33 million; which might in its time have roughly equated to the £60 billion cost of renewing Britain’s now strategically outmoded but nevertheless mobile Trident fleet of four nuclear submarines. It wasn’t enough; there was no money left for maintenance of the garrisons and the castles soon fell down, or being betrayed from within were easily overrun by rebellious local warlords.

The massive Crusader castle of Alamut, in Syria, was thought to be impregnable. Occupied as their main base by the feared Ismaili sect known as the Assassins, after an eight-year seige it fell to the Mongols on their versatile little ponies and the Fidai’in were put to the sword. These formidable-looking stone structures in reality proved to have little more than symbolic value and their (mostly – some have been restored) ruins are now UNESCO-listed tourist sites. In the ironic words of the Romantic poet, Shelley: ‘Look on my works ye mighty, and tremble!’

(Is there a point to all this, Bogler? Ed.)

2.

Which is all but a mighty masonic preamble to the point I wanted to raise, about the ‘defensive wall’ that is ordered into place in football whenever a free kick is given in front of goal, just outside the penalty area; or whenever a ‘corner’ kick is given.

This human Maginot Line, a fixed fortification – players in the ‘wall’ are not allowed to move before the ball is kicked – seems to me, a complete non-expert who has been riveted to the Euro 2016 tournament for all of a week now,  eating up two entire games in a day, to be quite self-defeating on a number of fronts.

Firstly, the deepest and most mobile defender is the goalkeeper, whose view of the kicker is partially blocked by the line of players forming in front of him (or her); a comical sight as eight or nine young men stand there, nervously clutching their private parts in case they come into contact with a well-struck round of artillery. Twice in the past week, we have been treated to the lovesome sight of Britain’s most expensive export, the Real Madrid winger Gareth Bale (annual salary Eu 15 million), playing for his tiny home country of Wales, bend the ball skilfully over the heads of the ‘wall’ and curl it into the net; the goalie having no time to react.

Tying up all but two members of your team in the penalty area seems to me to be tactically unsound. Often, the free kick rebounds off a player in the wall, and the free positioning of the attacking team gives them options to make new plays, either a shot at goal or a pass to another player who can move into position, from where to shoot or to put the ball into play across the goal for another attacker to run through and score, while the players from the defensive wall are still trying to reposition themselves to ‘mark’ the attacking players. And sometimes the opportunity to counter-attack is lost by having not enough players ‘up front’, to receive a long pass from a defender.

This seemingly unshakeable faith in fixed fortifications still seems to infect all areas of the combative human psyche; it’s the limpet versus the crab, as history – and logic – suggest that mobility and defence-in-depth ultimately pay better dividends.

Anyway, I also wanted to comment on something that seems to happen far too often, when an attacking player receives a pass or a rebound on the edge of the penalty area, they seem to lose their heads and take a wild swing at the ball, sending it ballooning over the top of the goal into the crowd. It hasn’t caught my attention just once, it happens time and again that highly paid, highly trained professional players fail – unlike Mr Bale – to control the ball well enough when faced with an open invitation to score. Why they then look so bewildered and chapfallen, I have no idea: they’ve just behaved like an idiot.

(What are we to make of Senhor Ronaldo, the perfectly coiffed Portuguese matinee-idol and Real Madrid centre-forward, missing several open goals and a penalty kick against Austria, eh? Eu 17 million a year? Blimey, I’d offer to do it for half that.)

There has been a suggestion that the official ball has become too light, so that it is less easy to control in the air. Bale’s ability to curl the ball more than other players might be down to his recognising that: angling his foot to impart more spin to the side, striking lower on the ball, he can be more like a snooker player playing off an angle. (When I used to play at school, balls were still made from cow-hide with an inflatable inner ‘tube’ of rubber. In wet weather you could practically break your leg just kicking one.)

The tendency of young players to overshoot is more probably due to that rush of blood to the head that comes when they see an opportunity to show-off (and to put a few extra millions on their next contract). And, admittedly, with defenders hurtling at them from all sides they don’t have very much time on the ball in which to line-up their shot.

What I have noticed, however, is possibly a correctable error: players in that situation always seem to lean backwards slightly when they come to kick the ball. If they could be trained to position themselves over, rather than behind the ball, the shot would stay lower and be better controlled.

Just a thought.

(Yes, Bogler, now kindly get about your business. Ed.)

 

Okay, well…

Is it your impression too that things are going a bit, well, strange? It’s like the planet is passing through some sort of cloud of hysterical irrationality gas. Taylor Swift is really a person of very little importance in the scheme of things, okay? Jesus.

As Major Tim hurtles back to earth in a 3,000 deg. ball of fire (he rose into the sky originally on a column of the same stuff, you may recall), weirder things than the hysterically nationalistic British media coverage of our lone astronaut hero are happening everywhere.

Take sport: The Olympic Games. Not only are this August’s Games in Brazil threatened by the Zika virus, and there are the usual delays in getting everything built on time, but Rio de Janeiro municipal authority says it has run out of money to pay for any public services during the Games and is threatening to cancel them unless bailed out. Buses may stop running and garbage pile up.

In the background, the International Athletics Federation is having to investigate what its new President, the former medium-distance gold-medallist Lord Seb Coe ‘knew’ for years about the long-term concealment of drug abuse in the sport; having been recommended to the job by a top official who has since been found guilty of corruption.

At the same time, the IAAF is trying to ban Russia from competing in the Games because it has no faith in the Russian anti-doping agency. Two dozen Russian athletes have had their medals withdrawn from the London Olympics after their dope tests were recently reviewed; while the world’s ‘sexiest tennis player’, grunty ice-maiden Maria Sharapova has been hit with a two-year drugs ban. Mr Putin is reportedly entering a new Olympic event: madly hopping.

To France, and Euro 2016. Following a series of domestic terrorist attacks last year, the French riot police have totally lost it, attacking the usual rowdy but well-intentioned bunch of miscellaneous England fans with batons, teargas and pepper spray, goading them into acts of defiance and gaoling several of them in an absurd overreaction to a few chairs and bottles being thrown in a drunken spat that may, it transpires, have been provoked by Russian ‘fans’.

It seems no-one has told the French that the once-feared English football hooligan (known as ‘les fuke-offes‘) is now an overweight, perspiring, middle-class dad wearing a pair of inadvisable shorts.

It then became clear that a group of 150 specially trained and superfit Russian ‘ultras’ were also agitating in Lille, attacking British fans and throwing flares and firecrackers at the match between the two countries. The suspected leader of the Russian provocateurs has been deported. Mr Putin, despite having been photographed with Alexander Szprygin, a known neo-Nazi, has naturally cried Foul! But the Russian team has been warned by UEFA; any more trouble, and you’re out.

Thirty-five thousand NATO troops are meanwhile playing war games on the Russian border with Poland.

Just as the matches were getting underway, a lone knife attacker assassinated a French police commander and his wife at their home in Magnanville. The Guardian reported: ‘Larossi Abballa, a Frenchman previously convicted of taking part in a jihadi recruitment network and claiming allegiance to Islamic State, streamed a video of the fatal attack on Facebook Live.’ Perhaps the failure of the French judicial system to tackle home-grown terrorism has struck a raw nerve with the CRS, but somebody needed to tell them: English football fans are not the IS, and this heavy-handed persecution based on ancient prejudices is only going to compound British feeling that it’s time to get out of Europe.

Meanwhile, on Thursday more flares were thrown onto the pitch and a firework blew up a stadium official during the match between Croatia and the Czech Republic. Croatian fans then began fighting amongst themselves and the game had to be held up; following which, Croatia, having led 2-0 for 87 minutes of the match, conceded two goals to finish with a 1-point draw – if they’re not disqualified.

The problem was not Croatian animus towards the Czech opposition. It now appears the Croatian fans are evenly divided between those who like the national team as it is, and those ‘ultras’ who wish to protest that it (and Croatian football in general) has been hijacked by two crooked politicians in particular. The Balkanisation of the terraces had begun! Their domestic dispute is now manifesting itself as protest against their own team on the field, with several Croatian players suggesting in despair that they should just go home and forget it.

The question remains, how so many spectators are able to smuggle powerful fireworks into the grounds, despite the ‘tight security’.

Also on Thursday, as the bitter political infighting over the European referendum was rising to a climax, a widely-admired young British MP was gunned-down in the street by a lunatic armed with knives and a home-made pistol. 52-year-old Thomas Mair, a ‘quiet man’ spoken well of by his neighbours, gave his name as ‘Death to traitors, freedom for Britain’ when he appeared in court, charged with murdering 41-year-old mother-of-two and champion of Syrian refugees, Jo Cox.

Ms Cox joins the Venezuelan opposition leader Herman Navare and ‘at least six’ ANC campaigners in South Africa this year as victims of a rising tide of gratuitous ‘voter violence’ against politicians. The ultra-right-wing USApoliticstoday-dot-paranoid website reported that Russian security recently warned Donald Trump of a plot to assassinate him; the story was picked up by some even crazier sources, mostly promoting ethnic-cleansing of Muslims. Trump supporters and Trump himself have expressed considerable hostility towards anti-Trump demonstrators at rallies’ as well as towards Muslims.

(postscriptum: 21 June, a young British (non-Muslim) drifter has been charged with trying to steal a  security man’s gun with which to shoot Trump at a rally in Las Vegas. He’d been practising with a 9mm Glock at a public gun range in California. In the wake of the Orlando massacre, the worst gun crime in the USA since Wounded Knee, the Senate has rejected moves to prevent suspected terrorists buying assault rifles over the counter, on grounds of the 2nd Amendment guaranteeing their right to bear arms.)

My own view, previously stated, that the senseless murder of Jo Cox seemed to cap a month of rising Chauvinist rhetoric by members of the Leave campaign and in the right-wing press, ought perhaps  to be tempered by the news today that Ms Cox was also vocal in her opposition to a neo-fascist organisation, Britain First, that advocates expelling Muslims. Perhaps the reasons for her death lay even further to the right than Nigel Farage is prepared to stand without holding his nose.

(There is no knowing what crazies will do. A doleful list on Wikipedia of US political assassination victims since 1800, for instance, includes the Mayor of Long Beach, Louie B Edwards, gunned down in 1939 by his own police security detail after switching his vote to oppose Governor Dooley; Ed King, Mayor of Mount Pleasant, Iowa, killed in 2013 by a fellow councillor in a row over a drain, and dozens more.)

Politics is a dangerous sport, racking up the nationalist rhetoric really doesn’t help. Nor I suspect will French Economy Minister, Emmanuel Macron, who warned today that Britain will be reduced to the status of Guernsey, a small offshore trading post and financial services provider on the fringe of Europe, if it votes to Leave the EU. I suspect not many Britons will recognise his picture of a return to the Iron Age – the Plastic Age, more like. But he is right, that is exactly how and what we used to be and there is no reason to think that in the 23rd century, virtual Phoenicians will not once again be trading in Cornish tin and Beakerware, while the rest of us paint our bottoms blue and shout at French people.

So, yes, you’re right, Emmanuel, but please shut up, tait-toi cheri, you’re not helping.

Meanwhile, in a standout gesture, Baldwin County, Alabama refused to lower the US flag to pay its respects to the victims of last week’s Orlando ‘gay club’ massacre, in which 49 young people were shot dead by Omar Mateen and another 53 seriously injured, arguing that it wasn’t a sufficiently serious event. Mateen, a failed former G4S security guard, has since been outed as a ‘closet gay’ who had no success at picking up partners at the Pulse nightclub, which he frequently visited. His attractive young wife has been charged with complicity.

Perhaps he thought IS stood for ‘I Suck’.

An Australian politician, Bob Katter, 71, was at the centre of a row after making an election video in which he is depicted shooting two of his opponents dead with a toy gun. Bob, leader of north Queensland’s Australia Party, described the video as ‘screamingly funny’. Media commentators shrugged: so, he’s an Australian politician! What did you expect?

And finally – In India, a man has died in a cinema, apparently from a heart attack, while watching a horror movie called The Conjuring 2. He was taken to a hospital mortuary in Tiruvannamalai, where later, the Times of India reported, it was discovered that his body had gone missing.

So, I thought that was spooky enough, until I read that the latest Internet craze sweeping America is for new dads to see how many Cheerios they can balance on their baby’s nose while the child is asleep.

There’s nothing like humiliating your kids before they do it to you.

 

That strikes a chord

Has composer Stevie Wonder (with Syreeta) ever thought of suing the Stock, Aitken, Waterman songwriting machine for several million bucks for ‘borrowing’ the chords from the Detroit Spinners’ 1970 hit, ‘It’s a Shame’, on Rick Astley’s celebrated 1987 Rickrolling single, ‘Never Gonna Give You Up’? (Just noticed it… baritone, Astley’s new album hit the Number One spot on Friday. One in the eye for the girlie castrati tendency.)

We should be told.

Led Zeppelin, too, are in trouble for ‘borrowing’ the plagal cadence of chords used in the first six bars of a 1968 melody called Taurus, by someone called Spirit (now dead, portentously) in the famous acoustic guitar intro to their 1971 prog rock anthem Stairway to Heaven, generally considered by non-Spirit fans (teetotallers?) to be one of the great musical statements of the 1970s, if not of all time.

Page and Plant are being sued for $gazillions by a rotweiler working for the estate that owns the copyright. The prognosis is not good: US courts have previously ruled that even a three-note phrase is copyrightable; while Kraftwerk notoriously obtained a German court ruling that copyright on a sampled drumbeat can be infringed, even if it is virtually unrecognisable as the original. (And did the German court not realise that pretty well every drumbeat imaginable, including those electronically faked by Kraftwerk, had previously been played by the likes of Gene Krupa or Ginger Baker?) In Zep’s case, however, it’s the whole four chords.

Currently, lesser talents – let me put it another way, less successful talents – are suing Ed Sheeran, Justin Bieber and Justin Timberlake for a share of their huge royalties. But it’s not always that way round. The Stones mercilessly clobbered a barely known Wigan band, the Verve (see, I’m sampling some of this stuff from the ‘M’ website… sorry) for sampling The Last Time – when they had actually got permission, but used too many of the notes. All the royalties and a full writing credit were awarded to Messrs Jagger and Richards, whom I can now only think of as greedy rapacious bastards. Another recent win, the late Marvin Gaye’s family took Pharrell Williams and Robin Thicke for $5 million over a song, Blurred Lines, that sounded to me (I’m an amateur musician) nothing like the original Got to Give it Up, except in some echo of a similar production style the plaintiffs claimed was unique to Mr Gaye.

It seems everyone in the music business has always tried to get a little extra mansion tax from suing everyone else: Wikipedia carries a long and dispiriting (sorry!) account. And with sampling it gets very murky: sampling attribution has become a whole new branch of the legal industry. But needs must, as ‘illegal’ downloading and streaming and burning and Spotiwhatnot is making it ever harder for musos to scrape a living from selling their stuff; although it really all began with the cassette recorder.

Of course, there would be no point in suing the late Harry Carroll and Joseph McCarthy for ‘borrowing’ the melody for the Judy Garland song, I’m Always Chasing Rainbows, wholesale from Frederick Chopin; they gave him full attribution. Anyway, it was already out of copyright. And who knew Mozart wrote Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star?

 

A note on terminology

A note on terminology: The BBC uses the term migrant to refer to all people on the move who have yet to complete the legal process of claiming asylum. This group includes people fleeing war-torn countries such as Syria, who are likely to be granted refugee status, as well as people who are seeking jobs and better lives, who (sic) governments are likely to rule are economic migrants.

*Official explanation on the BBC News website

From the Office of Herr Professor Doktor Ernst von-und-zu Bogl, Boglheim am Rhein, 18 June (for it is he):

“In line with the BBC’s lazy and stupid policy of discriminating against foreigners in general (provided, of course, we are moving – the others are probably dead) by lumping us together under the single, arguably pejorative heading of ‘migrants’, thus enabling the Daily Mail to write pithier, more encapsulated headlines and Boris Johnson to tell bigger porky-pies, the Board of Trustees of the Boglington Post have decided to use the term ‘freeloading tossers’ to collectively refer to the BBC Board of Governors, Director-General Tony ‘Haw-Haw’ Hall, Head of News, Mr Jams ‘Brexit’ Harding and any or all of the serried ranks of smug, self-congratulatory unicorns at Broadcasting House helping themselves to salaries of £300,000 a year-plus out of our licence money just for shoaling around in glass and chrome fishtanks, sipping latte Macchiati and talking cleverly in their obscure foreign dialect, while the programmes endlessly recycle.”

  • Proprietor-at-large

 

 

 

With the utmost gravity

Huzzah for Big Science!

Yes, gravity… well, there it is. We knew apples fall from trees, and why. We just didn’t quite believe it. But now we know.

Experts have explained. It’s all got to do with a big rubber sheet.

You see, when you drop a heavy ball on a rubber sheet it rolls down and makes a dent in the middle. And that’s gravity!

Some of the weedier boys at my prep school had to sleep on rubber sheets, so I don’t find it hard to picture the space-time continuum as Einstein predicted it would look, sort of thin and stretchy and smelling of urine.

Apparently, after twenty years of staring at the cosmos through a special gravity telescope, last September to coincide with the 100th anniversary of the publication of Einstein’s Theory of Life, the Universe and Everything science experts detected a wave of actual gravity, a billion light-years away.

It was making a high-pitched squeaking noise.

It might be that Schroedinger’s Cat caught a mouse and is torturing it to death in my bathtub. It’s that sort of noise, a desperate plea for mercy. But it’s more likely to be the rubbery squeak of two black holes, eating one another up in a frenzied porno sort of way.

It doesn’t explain why we’ve had gravity for quite a long time, 400 years, and no-one could find it before. Was it a gravity wave passing by that caused the apple to fall on Isaac Newton’s well-filled head? Were there other waves that got here sooner, we just didn’t notice? Is a gravity wave like light, you never know where it’s going to turn up and when it’s not a wave it’s more like random bits of tiny stuff?

So, if gravity comes in waves, how come we don’t rock up and down and feel nauseous all the time? Why only now? And is finding gravity waves really going to change everything, like the experts are saying? Like, in future will we have gravity computers and gravity cars and gravity burgers and gravity action movies and gravity bombs?

Perhaps we should be told.

Still, there’s a few Nobel prizes gravitating towards those scientists, I feel.

 

An international bind

So it’s crunch week for Cameron. Can he get a deal in Europe that makes Britain a special case forever?

The question ought to be, why did he get himself on this hook in the first place? There is no evidence that EU ‘migrants’ come to Britain just to claim benefits. It’s bollocks. For a start, they’re not migrants. They have a perfect right to live and work anywhere in the EU. Just as we do. For now.

If he had just held a referendum on the basis of the status quo, but put a sufficiently persuasive case, without undermining the already fragile British faith in EU institutions, if he hadn’t allowed immigration to become an issue, but had negotiated on the basis of a Europe-wide agreement rather than making it an in-out ultimatum, he might very well have won.

As it is, the deal is so weak and unenforceable that he is likely to lose.

This poor Old Etonian booby should never have been elected Prime Minister.

He doesn’t have the intellect. He doesn’t have the judgement. He doesn’t have the depth.

 

Minding your Bs and Qs

Please understand, I worked for 15 years as a copywriter in ad agencies.

So I’m no stranger to the more dishonest literary confections with which companies desperately seek to dress-up unpopular decisions.

About four years ago, for instance, in an effort to clean up its image and attract institutional buyers for the shares we taxpayers paid billions for to rescue their incompetent, semi-criminal executives during the 2008 debacle, having failed to sell their sorry asses to the even more corrupt and insolvent Co-Operative Bank, my own bank decided in its panic to dump a few million of its less well-off customers into a new ‘plain wrapper’ subsidiary, TSB.

TSB had once upon a time been the Trustee Savings Bank, a mutual that got swallowed up in the 1980s by the slavering raptor that was Lloyds Banking Group – coincidentally, a client for whom I wrote a lot of advertising copy in the day.

Telling me by letter that I was too poor and indebted to make the cut, the copy-weasel advised me that my account was being moved to TSB ‘to increase my consumer choice’.

Of course, the choice on offer was, allow us to move your worthless account after 30 years man-and-business to the last-chance money saloon, or fuck off and die. In other words, no choice at all.

I was somewhat alarmed yesterday to see Everything Must Go! posters plastered all over my local branch of B&Q, the world’s fourth largest DIY shed chain owned by Kingfisher Group, former destroyers of the popular Woolworth high-street brand (they couldn’t compete with Everything £1 shops).

I could only assume they must be completely incompetent businessmen, because further investigation revealed what had escaped my radar last year, that they were closing half their B&Q stores nationwide.

This is especially inconvenient for me as I had their kitchen designer round to do an estimate a couple of months ago and was proposing shortly to have my kitchen refurbished, and do some other redecorating, and now the only places in town offering the potential to find the stuff I need are three tiny, understocked backstreet deco shops, basically ironmongers whose grasp on 21st-century fashion in interior design is tenuous to say the least.

Faced with a 35-mile drive to the next B&Q along, and with a 30-mile drive in a different direction if I want lumber, you can imagine the effect on my already ground-down, expensive porcelain dentures when I Googled to check-out the situation and picked up the following load of horse-shit from a last-autumn’s news archive:

“Over the coming years B&Q will be transforming its offer to customers as part of an ongoing initiative to enhance home improvement retailing.

“To respond to the changing needs of customers and how they live and shop, B&Q is changing the shape of its store network across the UK.”

You mean you’re closing our store, shitbrains, because you can’t make enough money in the modern world to keep it open. So going online is the last fling of your particular dice, right? Where you’ll be competing with Everything £1 again? Choking my road up with your delivery trucks?

Idiots.

Why not just admit to what a bunch of useless, incompetent, freeloading pricks you appointed to your board, Kingfucker? Or would that have screwed the share price, and your Xmas bonus?

Worse, the magnificent incentive we’re being offered to buy up all the bankrupt stock is “10% Off Everything!”

Maybe if you’d knocked 10% off your fancy prices in the first place you wouldn’t be in this situation now?

I think I’ll wait, thanks.

 

A lightbulb moment

So, gradually, gradually the weather starts to improve.

Hurricane Imogen passed on, leaving our seafront trashed again. One day they will open the new bandstand, but maybe not in my lifetime.

Since then, it’s been cold, but we’ve had two consecutive dry days, the first time that’s happened since October. Upside, it’s hazy but blue, and the sun is shining once again through my expensive UV-resistant double glazing on Avi, the light-starved avocado tree.

She’s still getting the enormous daylight bulb treatment every day. I’m not really sure if plants know what time of day or night it is. Do they just need 12 hours of full-spectrum irradiation in every 24, or does it have to be between the right times, like imaginary sunrise to sunset if they were living in Portugal? Is Portugal on GMT?

Because that’s asking too much of me, honestly. Dawn in the man-cave tends to arrive at about 10 a.m. when I get up, and sunset occurs at about 11.30 p.m. when I toddle off. I should perhaps put a note on the screen to remind me of the time. I see that science experts are hoping to trial various anti-Alzheimer’s drugs in the near future, but I think I’ll just stick to Post-Its.

No pun intended.

As you know, I cannot throw away a cardboard box, and yesterday I was sadly reading the upside-down text on the box Avi’s bulb came in, which is on top of a cupboard in the kitchen, and it says it has ‘intelligent technology’.

There’s convergence for you: a lightbulb with intellect.

Anyway, she seems a bit happier now.

Bless.