A very uncivil war… The Diversion bell… Uphill, down Dale… Down with the count… GW: it’s all going swimmingly. Plus: Essay, The march of the anti-Vaxxers: an open letter to a Representative from Maine.

 

 

QotW

“The drab truth of tyranny is a life spent in waiting. But the perennial romance of tyranny comes from its promising its subjects a life more interesting than any they can contrive for themselves.”

– John Gray.

 

Boris Johnson addressing parliament

“By the sacred finger of IDS, I flick my superior bogeys at you, women of humbug.”

A very uncivil war

“Even after you cut off the head, the chicken still runs around the yard.”

Trump mini-me, Johnson raced back from the UN on Tuesday (24 Sept.) to confront Parliament, recalled by the Speaker after the Supreme Court ruling that the unelected Prime Minister with a magnificent Commons majority of minus 44 MPs had lied to the Queen to get her to shut down Parliament for five weeks while he pretended to negotiate a new exit deal with the EU; although their deadline for him to present new terms, including a replacement for the Irish border “backstop”, had expired days earlier with no positive proposals from Whitehall.

It was some confrontation, and it’s still ongoing.

Against a background of scandal – the house is investigating £120,000 in public-money grants and foreign official trips he appears to have given to a busty blonde American ex-model turned smalltime internet entrepreneur, Ms Jennifer Arcuri, whose London flat he was seen leaving a number of times while he was Mayor – Johnson caused a furore when he said the Supreme Court was “wrong” on the points of law, seeming to back rightwing newspaper (and Farageist) slurs of “treason” and anti-Brexit bias against the 11 senior law lords and ladies on the bench. A familiar story.

The BogPo should have thought the judges would be well within their powers to summon Johnson to court to explain his disgraceful remarks, and possibly put him in gaol for a couple of weeks to expiate his contempt.

He then drew gasps from the assembled MPs when he appeared to traduce the late, passionately pro-Remain Labour MP, Jo Cox, who was shot and hacked to death by a white nationalist in 2016, saying the best way to honor her memory was to leave the EU.

He told women Labour MPs they were talking “humbug” when they said they were receiving regular rape and death threats as a result of his and other Brexiteers’ violent rhetoric, a verbal assault which drew cheers from the wife-beating Brexit faction on the benches behind.

Not long afterwards a 26-year-old man was arrested on suspicion of throwing a brick at the window of the constituency office of Labour MP, Jess Phillips.

Johnson described opposition leader Jeremy Corbyn as a “coward” and a “chicken” (normally more than enough to get an MP barred from the chamber) and despite objections, continually called a vote he lost by a wide margin two weeks ago on a bill making it illegal to leave the EU without a deal, the “surrender” bill, setting the goal of a no-deal Brexit in terms of a war against the 27 remaining member countries of the EU.

(He frequently makes allusions to how Britain “stood alone” and eventually “won” the Second World War, “saving Europe” – whose people should be more grateful – knowing perfectly well that that is a mindless piece of historical revisionism that plays well with the elderly dumbfucks of Farage’s extreme pro-Leave community, who would love us to do it all over again with Boris playing Winston, because they only just missed out the last time and it sounds fun. Except it wasn’t.)

Meanwhile, officials have been frantically assuring us that Mayor Johnson never gave any grants to Ms Arcuri, although the office of the Mayor does appear to have donated £15 thousand directly to her little business. Perhaps his best defence would be to admit that he’s been a bit of a chump? Everyone forgives Boris, he’s so disarming. Like a little boy, really.

Despite, or perhaps because of, his wrecking-ball, cynical, abusive, adulterous, tyrannical, atrociously rude behavior, and a verdict delivered from the highest court in the land that he is a lawbreaker and a Royal liar; a verdict to which he has responded with open contempt and threats to ignore it, triggering a constitutional meltdown, Johnson still has a healthy percentage lead among the dumbfucks in the opinion polls.

We await his imminent arrest, trial and conviction with bated breath.

As with US President Trump, what to do with his millions of frothing, deluded supporters, who cannot tell the difference between the world they see on TV or on their little screens and reality; who are bored and fractious and poorly educated; easily distracted by bogus patriotic nostrums, and who don’t care what criminal capers the leader gets up to as long as he’s entertaining them and hates foreigners enough, is another question.

Even after you cut off the head, the chicken still runs around the yard.

Postscriptum

Oh, and two minutes later I see he’s just lost another vote and won’t be allowed to suspend business again during the Tory party conference next week. He might be delighted by that, as it moves us a step closer to the election the opposition won’t grant him. Given that he can’t govern, and the opposition refuses to move a vote of no-confidence so as to keep him twisting in the wind, he surely has to resign and trigger an election he knows he can’t lose.

Can you believe a word he says? corner….

“The firm’s collapse came after Johnson told parliament his government would do everything it could to help Wrightbus. However, a government source strenuously denied any such assurances had been given.” (Observer)

Following the collapse of Rightbus with the loss of more than a thousand jobs that Northern Ireland can scarcely afford to lose, it emerges that one of the Wright family directors had been donating £millions of company money to his evangelical church.

Boris Johnson speaking in parliament.

“Gentlemen, I give you a finger. It is a finger in search of a well-filled nostril…”

The Diversion bell

“Alpha-males are rarely the answer!”

(This article was constructed yesterday, before the latest revelations concerning Ms Arcuri’s companies, all of which appear to owe large sums of money or have been wound up. Ms Arcuri herself is being chased for $100 thousand in unpaid student loans, yet she appears to have “lent” $1m to her company in recent accounts. I don’t think that takes much away from the sentence that follows.)

Has Prime Minister, The Rt Hon Alexander “Boris” dePfeffel, dePfaffle Johnson been the victim of a classic honeytrap scam?

He is currently being referred to the Police watchdog over a possible “conflict of interest” situation that may have arisen when he was Mayor of London. Following revelations in Murdoch’s Sunday Times, the Guardian reports:

“Johnson has been formally referred for potential investigation into whether he committed the criminal offence of misconduct in public office, over allegations about a conflict of interest with a US businesswoman while he was mayor of London.”

The phrasing makes the affair sound quite innocuous, commonplace almost. Conflicts of interest between public officials and businesspeople arise all the time. They may be serious, they may be incidental. The Mayor’s office probably has bigger things to do, like buying buses, than deal with minor grant applications for business start-ups.

The egregious nature of the case as reported however arises, in the view of the BogPo, from the many understated circumstantial details to be found between the lines.

The “businesswoman” in question was reportedly an MBA student who had started up a rather vague-sounding internet service, Innotech, that spawned other obscure company registrations. I’m not sure I understand what it really did, I’m sure Mr Johnson probably didn’t, but it was to do with putting one lot of people in touch with another lot.

Not the most original of business plans, seemingly. I ought perhaps to confess that I got a little carried away myself when submitting an internet-based project to my tutors while on an IT course a few years ago, and ended up having to explain widely that no, it wasn’t a real business….

The MBA student has been described as a “former model”, and the former model was, or rather is, what those terrible sexists in the popular press might describe as “busty, blonde, 23-year-old Jennifer Arcuri”. (I am guessing her age at the time.)

Other details leap out at you. In order to qualify for a £100,000 government cybertech development grant, half of which has now been witheld pending enquiries, Ms Arcuri, an American, needed to have a Tier One British residency visa, which she didn’t. They’re rather expensive and hard to get. Except that some time after meeting Johnson at a techfest, she did. Any connection has been strenuously denied.

Her subsidiary company, provocatively named Hacker House, also needed to be registered in Britain, which it was, only there’s no sign of it. It was registered to her rented flat, which she vacated last year. She’s no longer in the country. Mayor Johnson is said to have been a “regular visitor” to the flat in East London, for what purpose he declines to say.

Another qualification, the business needed to employ British staff and to train British apprentices. Ms Arcuri was listed as an employee, also her American “husband”, there were three other names but thus far none seemingly has checked out.

Journalists on The Guardian telephoned the number registered at Companies House and were put through to a number in Florida (the Guardian is now referring to yet another number in California) , where a “receptionist” – not improbably Ms Arcuri herself, or her mom – was unable to confirm an address.

Madame Arcuri seems to have been adept at making contacts on a higher plane. It was when yesterday’s Guardian update on the story mentioned the name of UK “business ambassador”, Prince Andrew, with whom she had apparently embarked on some other sort of business liaison, that the fire bell in your Uncle Bogler’s conspiracy-minded old brain began clanging insistently.

Has anybody checked to see if this lady has any prior connection, spiritual or otherwise, with the “late financier”, Jeffrey Epstein?

To enlarge upon the notion of conspiracy, I would mention Mr Trump’s known habit of collecting “dirt” to use against his political and business rivals, or on people of potential advantage; and speculate on what may eventually come out, that his former cohort Epstein, pimp and abuser of vulnerable young girls, was blackmailing his wealthy and influential clients.

As Gilbert and Sullivan wrote – “I’ve got a little list”.

The Russians call it “kompromat” – compromising material, in the form of video, photographs or letters. Was Epstein feeding Trump helpful “kompromat” on his clients?

But I’m positive there are no such connections.

I feel sure however that MI5 will be looking closely at the case, as the security implications are fairly alarming. There is a possibility, is there gnotte, that our Prime Minister, a man about whom it has been said that he finds some difficulty keeping it in his pants, may have been the victim of a classic honeytrap scam – Florida being basically known for three things: retirement homes, alligators and swampy goings-on.

Where oranges, someone wrote, are not the only fruit.

In which case there must be some concern about the possibility of the existence of kompromat, collected on the prominent Mayor of London, a useful idiot, on a just-in-case basis. But now he is Prime Minister, the keeper of the nation’s secrets, the man with his pudgy forefinger on the nuclear button.

The hope will be that we are still friends with the CIA and that any such material can be swiftly recovered.

Oh, Tory party! You keep doing this! From Profumo, through Lord Lambton, Cecil Parkinson and David Mellor, your sense of entitled inviolability so frequently lets you down. If the stench of sleaze, the “faint aroma of performing seals” is rising once again in the land, you have only yourselves to blame.

Alpha-males are rarely the answer!

Postscriptum:

Responding to the allegations using Trump’s favorite flavor of smokescreen, “it’s all a plot against me!”, a Government source said: “The public and media will rightly see through such a nakedly political put-up job.”

Clearly, in Conference season Downing Street is not without a seaside postcard sense of humor.

Ed Note: a number of the details in this piece have since changed or been clarified. I’m too tired to rewrite it, but essentially Ms Arcuri’s lawyer has auctioned the rights to the Daily Mirror, who interviewed her in a car park in Fresno or somewhere, and she says Johnson never had sex with her, she only gave him technology lessons, and there’s no kompromat. Hope that clears everything up.

Thunberg and Trudeau meet in Montreal on Friday.

“Sorry, Mr Trudeau, I didn’t recognize you without your make-up on…”

Uphill, down Dale

The shambling albino bear-man, Johnson has, as reported, casually dismissed fears of violent retribution against female MPs supporting either revocation of Article 50, or a “soft Brexit” – i.e. one that keeps Northern Ireland in the European Customs Union for another two years while a solution is found to the Irish border question.

I count 10 DUP “angels” dancing on the head of that particular pin.

Mr Johnson’s aggressive language, his constant use of inflammatory imagery from the Second World War, his blatant xenophobia, misogyny and phoney patriotic cliches are widely criticized as being – less strong-willed, than ill-bred. They are all transparently a ruse to de-fang the Farage “Brexit Party” (which isn’t a party, it’s his private company), but he says he regards any suggestion that it might have an actual effect on his deluded dumbfuck supporters as “humbug”.

Oh, really? So there’s no connection at all between the Prime Minister’s bellicose rhetoric, the screaming, hate-filled headlines in the populist press, the breakdown of democratic institutions and the rule of law under assault from the alt-right, and real life?

“Jolyon Maugham QC has revealed that his local police and crime commissioner was sufficiently concerned by recent threats against his life that he was advised to buy a stab vest” … and hire a bodyguard when attending public events. (Guardian)

Other, seemingly quite serious security precautions are being taken by the police to protect the human rights lawyer and his family, who is one of three litigants prosecuting the case in Scotland – the first leg of which they won, thus triggering the Supreme Court review – against Johnson’s illegal prorogation of Parliament. He has even spoken of having to leave the country if he wins the next stage of the case.

There are clearly some very real, scary people out there, who the police think may be capable of taking things beyond mere threats and bluster. Beyond, even, the increasingly dreary and repetitive arguments of the Brexit debate. The question surely is, who is behind them?

At this point I need to make an apology. Referred to in the story is another of the litigants, Mr Dale Vince, “millionaire CEO” of a green energy supply company called Ecotricity. Mr Vince is a leading Remainer, I understand, who is reportedly funding a team to monitor threats against Mr Maugham on the internet.

Many years ago, wouahouhouwaah, eerie flashback music….

In 1992 Dale Vince was a small-scale entrepreneur and lobbyist, pushing hard to erect a prominent windfarm in poshest Gloucestershire, where I had my PR agency. It was a project from which he might have profited. The local media and public were ranged against him.

We were a new startup, with only £5 thousand liquid capital, specializing in supporting small green enterprises, environmental groups and NGOs, working to help them professionalize their communications, which were (and are still) generally woeful. Small as we were, we had years of individual experience between us in bigger media companies.

As someone who had been following the ecology movement since the mid-’70s, I’d devised an ethical charter on which we operated under conditions of full accounting transparency, in order to shake off the general impression among those client groups that the advertising industry was just a bunch of overpaid liars, sharks and charlatans.

Which it pretty much was, as I knew after seven years working in it. Except for the overpaid bit.

And, impressively as I thought, we also shared our office space (at my invitation) with the country’s leading environmental campaigner, Jonathon Porritt, and his little team of helpers.

Asked to pitch for writing and designing a leaflet for his renewable energy campaign, I quoted Vince a derisory amount – £150 – just as a token fee, for what would have been a full day’s work for two creative people and more hours for our print-buyer. Beyond that first small brief, I was eager to propose a longer-term working relationship.

After we had driven 15 miles to his office and spent an hour discussing his needs, all on my and my MD’s time, he sneeringly dismissed us as being, basically, rapacious capitalist lackeys, and rejected the offer as being too absurdly expensive.

I have said bad things about him at any opportunity ever since, as I regarded him as being a hypocrite, a bully, a timewaster and an all-round slimeball. Worse, now he’s also a millionaire.

So no, sorry, Dale. I haven’t changed my opinion, but I’ll keep quiet about it from now on, okay?

Take one for the team.

Take 2…

A second apology is due to Mr Arron Banks, the self-promoted millionaire, frequent visitor to the Russian embassy in London, possibly Britain’s Ugliest Man, and the money behind Nigel Farage, his £1.2 million house and the unofficial Leave.EU party.

We were obviously wrong about him and would like to be sorry.

The National Crime Agency, I think it is, has declared there is “insufficient evidence” of criminality, apart from the extensive evidence with which they were presented, obviously, to warrant further investigation into his sources of funding.

As Mr Trump, he kno’, “insufficient evidence” to prosecute a successful case is not the same as total exoneration. Saying won’t make it so, so this apology is, at this stage, a little tentative. But hey, in the interests of national unity, etc.

In a previous statement, the forces of law and order had admitted, their investigation of Mr Banks, who has extensive obscure offshore holdings and apparently unproductive mining interests in South Africa, in addition to his loss-making Gibraltar-based insurance businesses, and frequent dealings with Russians (he has a Russian wife) yet who somehow funnelled £7 million to Leave.EU out of feelings of pure patriotism towards Britain, had been delayed for over nine months, since it was “too political” to start work.

Your Uncle Bogler therefore trusts there will be no ill-feeling, in the light of previous Posts, which were based on exhaustive private investigations by the indefatigable journalists at Open Democracy dot Org, and Ms Carole Cadwaladr of The Guardian group.

Although I still feel ill, to be honest.

 

The Walmington-on-Sea Home Guard receives a threat from Command to hive the oldest members off to the Civil Defence corps:

Captain Mainwaring: “I have to tell you, Wilson, that I too have taken steps to look more virile…”

Sergeant Wilson: “Oh my God, it’s not monkey glands, is it?”

– Dad’s Army.

 

Down for the count

I’ve just this minute had through the post, as I imagine have millions of other householders, an official government form that I’m being requested to complete and return.

Extending to 32 pages of densely packed questions about myself, where and in what condition I live, it purports to be, not exactly a census, but a “census rehearsal”.

The next official census, taken every ten years, is not due until September 2021.

But this form is the census! It’s the actual script! The same questions! There is no difference! And we are not, so far as I know, legally obliged under the 1801 Censuses Act, whatever, I shall have to Google it all shortly, to complete the national census, wasting hours of our time, in 2019.

The government is currently in a state of dangerous disarray and showing all the signs of administrative incompetence and bitterly divisive rancour one would anticipate shortly leading to total socio-economic breakdown. Incipient public disorder portends the imposition of what, for want of another term, one can only describe as a quasi-fascist regime under Mr Farage; one of über-nationalistic authoritarianism and suppression of liberal dissent.

This new, as-yet unborn government will, should we complete the form, be in full possession of a vast amount of my personal data with which to oppress me at its leisure.

As it does not seem to carry any legal penalty, I do not need to rehearse carrying out my solemn and onerous duty to provide the enemy State with intrusive details of my life, thank you. I’m quite prepared for when the actual performance comes.

I think I should write to them and say so.

 

GW: it’s all going swimmingly

India: At least 12 people have been killed and several are missing after heavy rain and flash floods in the district of Pune in Maharashtra state, on 25 Sept. 5 people died when a wall collapsed. Around 150 homes were also damaged. 5 other victims died when buildings were washed away by flood waters in Shivapur. Schools and colleges in Pune district have been closed. Of major concern are low-lying areas following a controlled release of water from the Nazare dam on the Karha river. 15 thousand people have been evacuated as a precaution. (Floodlist)

USA: “Parts of the Northwest and southern Canada are bracing (27 Sept.) for a potentially ‘historic’ storm that will unleash heavy snow, fierce winds and record cold — meteorologists say the timing of this storm will add to the dangers” (people aren’t prepared for winter yet). “Hazardous travel conditions and power outages will result as blizzard conditions will unfold in some areas”, with up to 3 feet of snow a possibility. “As the storm evolves, temperatures may plummet 50 deg. F. (25C) or more in some locations.” (Accuweather)

Meanwhile: “Millions of Americans across the Southeast will face record-challenging temperatures into early October as an area of high pressure remains anchored over the region” (Accuweather). Atlanta last week hit a high of 95F, 35C – 18F above average and breaking a 1950 record. “Augusta and Savannah, Georgia, both topped 97F while Columbia, South Carolina, had the high for the day at 99F, topping the previous record set in 1984.”

Record rainfall and flooding plagued Nevada and the Southwest all week, while Wisconsiners recorded a 150mph, EF-3 tornado. Three injuries were reported.

Caribbean: Tropical Storm Karen refuses to lie down. After dumping heavy rain over Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands, it’s expected to hook a left and head for the east coast USA, or perhaps Cuba first, maybe as a low-end hurricane depending on wind shear which, if strong enough, could finally rip it to pieces.

“Hurricane Lorenzo, currently spinning over the central Atlantic, first became a hurricane on Wednesday, but by Thursday afternoon, it had rapidly intensified into a major Cat 4. On Thursday evening, Lorenzo was packing maximum sustained winds of 140 mph, but meteorologists believe it could continue to strengthen and eventually become a Cat 5 storm with winds exceeding 157 mph. If Lorenzo achieves Cat 5 status, it would be the farthest east that a Cat 5 hurricane has ever been observed in the Atlantic Ocean.” (AccuWeather) “After passing the Azores, Lorenzo will then track toward Europe as a weakening TS and could impact areas like the British Isles.”

Tunnel approaching….

UN: “Earth is in dire straits, and rising sea levels will cause ‘sweeping and severe’ consequences for humans, an expert United Nations climate panel (has) warned. … sea levels are rising at an ever-faster rate as ice and snow shrink. Oceans are getting more acidic and losing oxygen (up to 3% now…).

“The agency warned that if steps aren’t taken to reduce emissions and slow global warming, seas will rise 3 feet by the end of the century, with many fewer fish, less snow and ice, stronger and wetter hurricanes and other, nastier weather systems.” (Reporting: The Weather Channel)

Scientists on the panel were at pains to point out that UN IPCC panellists are directed to be conservative and things are probably twice as bad as they say.

What the media is not mentioning while it is fixated on the avoidable consequences of sea-level rise is the part of the report where, according to the team at Arctic News: “there is 1,460 to 1,600 Gt of carbon present in the” (permafrost – plus a possible 2,200 Gt more on and under the seabed, just in the shallow East Siberian shelf alone) … The IPCC report projects permafrost (top 3–4 m) to decrease in area by up to 89% by 2100 under a high emissions scenario (RCP8.5), leading to cumulative release of tens to hundreds of billions of tons of carbon in the form of carbon dioxide and methane to the atmosphere by 2100.” … “The report fails to warn that, as the Arctic Ocean keeps heating up, huge seafloor methane eruptions could (also) be triggered (Shakhova, et al.).”

In other words, cackles yer Old Gran, as this is based on a current linear warming trajectory that is already being disrupted by nonlinear feedbacks – it’s curtains.

Plague: Deaths are being reported in the USA from mosquito-borne Eastern Equine Encephalitis, which has a more-than 30% mortality rate. There’ve been a dozen cases in Massachusetts, while “in hard-hit Michigan, they’re warning people in high-risk areas not to go outside after dusk and before dawn.” (Accuweather) Officials are praying for a cold winter.

Terra trema: There’ve been some fairly severe earthquakes in the past few days. At least 25 people were killed by a M5.8 in northern Pakistan; 100 injured in Albania’s worst quake for 30 years, also at M5.8, and worried people took to the streets in Istanbul after a third M5.8 rocked northern Turkey, damaging buildings. A M6.0 hit off the coast of Puerto Rico at the height of Tropical Storm Karen, followed by a M4.9 that damaged buildings on land and more aftershocks. There was also a M6.0 off the coast of New Zealand.

Your money: “Deutsche Bank CEO Christian Sewing (has) said central banks like the European Central Bank and US Federal Reserve ‘have used their tools to a large extent already’ to avoid global economic risks. He said they have ‘no conventional measures left to effectively cushion’ the hit of a ‘real economic crisis’.” (Express) He was speaking as the latest German numbers showed the European powerhouse led by the car industry sliding into recession. (NB – The Express is a virulent anti-EU fascist snotrag, however this does look genuinely a bit bad.)

Former Bank of England monetary policy committee member, David Blanchflower is accusing the Bank of “fiddling while Rome burns”, and says the UK economy is probably already in recession as the figures have a long lag time, while all the indicators are looking very much like 2008.

Heat the rich: 1% of English residents are responsible for 19% of all UK flights abroad. The 10% most frequent flyers took 52% of international flights in 2018. The aviation sector accounted for about 7% of the UK’s total greenhouse gas emissions in 2017. (Guardian)

Hope springs: “People who have an upbeat outlook on life have a lower risk of cardiovascular conditions and premature death”, says a new report (Guardian Science)

x

Long essay:

The march of the anti-Vaxxers: an open letter to a Representative from Maine

Rep. Heidi Sampson

House of Representatives

Washington DC

Dear Ms Sampson

I saw you interviewed tonight on a BBC documentary about the anti-Vaxxer movement in your country.

I have rarely heard such a malicious and tendentious tirade before. Well, I probably have, as I follow American politics, and I’ve also watched Adolf Hitler’s speeches. But you know what I mean. You disgracefully constructed a doctrinaire, ultra-conservative political platform from an avoidable threat to your nation’s children.

You are, of course, entitled to your uninformed medical superstitions.

Sixty million of you, after all, were easily persuaded in 2016 to vote-in as President, a superannuated playboy and ex-TV reality show host with no political, economic or diplomatic experience: a malign and vindictive solipsist – an uneducated, emotionally retarded, bullying sociopath with a history of serial bankruptcies, bank defaults, business failures, compulsive lying, gross sexual misconduct, grift, blackmail, tax fraud, money laundering and dealings with organized criminals at home and abroad.

All of that was known or strongly suspected beforehand, even to us in Europe. Your own intelligence community warned you against this fateful step, yet you still supported him. Now he stands accused of treason against your country and covering up crimes – yet your party still supports him.

Why then would I imagine you could possibly, on any day of the week, not regurgitate a ludicrous conspiracy theory promoted by someone like Alex Jones of InfoWars; like you, a leading medical specialist in epidemiology, and also someone clearly in want of secure psychiatric care, about vaccines?

It’s a truly bizarre phenomenon, human nature.

Ten thousand competent, practising medical doctors with years of training and experience will tell you one thing. One discredited, disbarred and thoroughly dishonest British practitioner, a known charlatan promoting a bogus scientific theory for financial gain on a worldwide publicity tour, a desperate individual whose reputation is thoroughly sullied, career self-destroyed, hopelessly pursuing a dangerous fallacy that has been thoroughly investigated and statistically disproven, will appear on a notorious conspiracy-theorist’s website to tell you another.

Who do you choose to believe? Don’t tell me! It’s such a romantic story, that poor Dr Wakefield. So wickedly, unfairly persecuted by evil scientists!

But they contain aluminum! No, Heidi, vaccines contain a harmless salt, aluminum hydroxide. Not the metallic aluminum, many millions of atoms of which you consume daily from your own cookware. And formaldehyde! They embalm corpses! You, Heidi, manufacture formaldehyde naturally in your own gut, from the digestive process. It comes and goes. In vaccines, it’s a necessary preservative.

My God, Heidi, do you ever look at the lists of ingredients on the packs of food in your supermarket? What you’re eating is lingering death, to put it kindly – dozens of known carcinogens like nitrates (preservative); aspartame; butane; propyl gallate. Tests show your fresh food is rich in chlorpyrifos, a commonly used agricultural pesticide your government has just re-licensed, after the President received a million dollar donation from the makers, Dow. A chemical banned everywhere else and proven to damage the brains of unborn children.

But you still force yourselves to eat it. Pro-Life? Anti-vaccine? Please, Heidi, do try.

It’s frankly astonishing; although to me, it’s equally astonishing that so many Americans believe Jesus is going to rapture them up to Heaven at any moment, or that a clump of insentient and possibly malformed cells is a human being, worthy of more respect than a born child who might die without vaccination. Are you all on some wonder drug I haven’t heard of? I’m not sure Fentanyl quite does it.

Surely, your cult of rugged individualism must clash with the obvious need for more altruistic communal responsibility? As vaccine uptakes fall, it’s other people’s kids that are going to bear the brunt of your individual selfishness. And where do you stand on lead pollution in drinking water?

I’m 70 years of age, Ms Sampson. During my childhood years I so enjoyed being made sick and missing school for weeks by the common viruses and bacilli of Measles, German Measles, Pertussis, Chickenpox and Mumps, all of which I survived. The one thing I didn’t get was Polio, which was endemic when I was very young.

That was because your brilliant Dr Jonas Salk invented a timely vaccine, which I was given, and I didn’t get Polio. Tens of thousands of children did, and a few still do. It’s a vicious, disabling disease: you die when the muscles you use to breathe go into paralysis. You suffocate, slowly. But not in my country, not yet, although thanks to your anti-Vaxxers it’s sure to return here one day.

I hope your kids didn’t get Polio, Ms Sampson. I guess to you that would have been God’s will. Your greatest president of the 20th century, and certainly of the 21st so far, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, got polio when young, because there was no vaccine. He could stand only with a back-brace, walk barely  at all, and much effort was expended by the White House staff to make him appear electable in public.

I wonder, Ms Sampson, if he would have been an anti-Vaxxer?

If you have ever visited the Indian subcontinent or Southeast Asia, you may have seen many older people with deeply pockmarked faces, some of them blind and/or deaf. That was caused by an even more deadly virus, Smallpox. Millions died from it every year. The poor things, they wouldn’t have been raptured up to Heaven by Jesus, like your sick babies, because they’re only Muslims and Hindus.

Back in the 19th century – it sounds disgusting – Edward Jenner noticed that dairy workers seemed not to get Smallpox as much as others. He experimented with scraping pus from cows infected with a related common disease in cattle, Cowpox, into the bloodstreams of healthy subjects, then exposed them to Smallpox sufferers. None of them got Smallpox, and an industry was born.

An industry whose motives you deeply suspect, of course, because you’re an expert, but one that has saved millions of lives.

Were I able to transport you back in time to 1918 and the last months of the First World War, there in a camp in Kentucky where men mustered to go fight in the trenches, an avian virus called H1N1 took hold. Sick men could not be spared, so they were sent on packed and insanitary troopships to fight in Europe. Many never got there. Others did. In the subsequent influenza pandemic that swept the world, half a billion got sick, and 90 million people died, struggling for breath until their lungs ruptured and they drowned in their own blood.

Have you been getting your ‘flu jabs, Heidi? Your annual protective inoculations? Have your parents and kids, because, you know, the old and the young are especially vulnerable. Pharma labs work continuously to keep up with the latest viral mutations, because the world isn’t the lovely place you’d like it to be. Evolution – which I doubt you believe in – goes on at the microbial level. We live in a soup of constantly mutating viruses and bacteria. Deadly pathogens emerge. They’re taking it seriously, even if you aren’t.

You asked – shockingly, I thought, mendaciously, but perhaps naively – on camera if the World Health Organization is a trusted source? What do you think, are they any less trustworthy than your own Centers for Disease Control? Why would you assume that? Oh, Heidi, it’s not because they’re not American, is it? They’re only World?

Do you know how backward, how narrow-minded your country is beginning to look, with its lowbrow medievalism, its millions of poor, uneducated, low-income families unable to afford any kind of healthcare, let alone vaccinations, or sanitary housing, and its burgeoning epidemics of long-ago childhood diseases?

Your poor, demented President retreats visibly and audibly from the complexities of a world he doesn’t understand, but in which he foolishly imagines himself omniscient: a classic Dunning-Kruger personality. He drags millions of gullible, childlike people down with him, victims of a cruel and arbitrary system of corporate greed, billionaires and corrupt politicians benefitting from astounding inequality; ordinary folks who will believe in absolutely anything he wildly promises because it seems more exciting than everyday reality. Victims who even believed his false promises on healthcare.

You’re not wrong when you say the pharmaceutical industry has a vested interest in selling its products expensively. Why wouldn’t it? The profit motive seems perfectly in line with the rest of the capitalist system you wholeheartedly endorse. Do you not accept that there is a little hypocrisy there? The prices are a disgrace, no doubt. Diabetics are dying for the price of a shot of insulin.

But the principles on which they operate are no different from those of any other sector of industry. And your President lied: he promised voters to bring those prices down. He gave huge tax breaks to Big Pharma, and instead they pushed their prices up. That’s the capitalist ethic. Do you imagine he cares?

Neurotic Americans are notoriously over-medicalized: laxatives, painkillers, slimming pills, snake-oil – but that is not your proof that vaccination is bad, only that the methods by which it does good might be bad. Your pernicious oil and coal industries also have a vested interest in making the whole world sick, but would I ever hear you castigating them, those fine American globalist corporations that prevent so many of your colleagues in Congress from going hungry?

The World Health Organization has successfully eradicated Smallpox from the world through a determined, multi-decadal program of vaccination. Aren’t you glad your children don’t die from Smallpox? It’s a filthy disease. Rotting pustules bursting all down your digestive tract, in your eyes, your vagina. Happily, thanks to vaccine, nobody gets Smallpox anymore.

Currently, they’re battling an epidemic of the Ebola virus in the dark heart of the Republic of Congo. There’s a vaccine, not yet fully tried but showing promising effectiveness. Nevertheless, over two thousand people have died agonizing deaths, their organs failing as the alien virus replicates inside and bursts out through the cell walls, spewing blood, who might well not have died but for the ignorance and animistic superstitions of the inhabitants, who – just like you Americans – regard Western medicine as a conspiracy and its vaccines taboo.

Aren’t you better than them?

And then there’s the Human Papilloma virus, that men unwittingly carry, and women develop ovarian cancers from, and many die, like my first wife, Trish… There’s a vaccine today, but I don’t really need to go on, do I?

If there was a vaccine against ignorance, superstition and criminal stupidity, Heidi, I’d make it compulsory. On the basis of what I heard you say you don’t deserve to be in office, you have no credentials: you imagine yourself to be a responsible person, a rectitudinarian in the finest traditions of public service, a crusader for individual choice and freedom, but you’re not – you’re a menace!

As a result of your wilful ignorance and doctrinaire conservatism, children are dying. Happy Jesus!

Go home, Heidi. Bake cakes. Watch TV.

You truly, utterly silly woman.

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The Pumpkin – Issue 97: Dementia news… A Big Lie… Another Big Lie… Not on the fairway… GW: Blow the wind northerly.

Quote of, er, one or two days…

Americans Shocked by Spectacle of Legislators Taking Action

“Across the U.S., television viewers watched with mouths agape at startling images of elected officials seemingly intent on performing their constitutional duties.” – US humorist, Andy Borowitz on the Commons vote to debate the no No-Deal bill.

Boris Johnson greets the Israeli prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, outside No 10

“Hang on tight, my friend, it’s going to be a bumpy ride.”

Dementia news

(This item appeared previously in The Boglington Post, 31 Aug.)

“Kevin McAleenan, the acting secretary of homeland security, told ABC’s This Week the president would lead ‘really a whole lot of government effort, and the president is going to make sure that we’re on the same page, that we’re tracking this, and that we’re going to be ready.’”

“Trump sowed confusion earlier when he said incorrectly that Alabama would be hit by the storm, forcing the National Weather Service to issue an update. He later repeated the mistake at a press conference. He also repeated his claim that he was not sure he had “ever even heard of a category 5” hurricane.

“The increasing strength of the storm makes this the fourth consecutive year that at least one Atlantic cyclone has reached category 5, according to the NHC.” And Trump’s leadership strategy?

“Americans should ‘pray for the people in the Bahamas’, Donald Trump announced from Washington” as south-eastern US states looked on nervously. That should help, although everyone is already busy praying for the victims of the latest mass-slaughter in Texas, over which the regime dares take no action whatever, with an election looming.

To be really ready for natural disasters, the Trump administration recently ordered another transfer of funds out of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (Fema) budget, an easy target, to pay for increased border security.

(Quotes pulled from a Guardian report, 02 Sept., as Dorian rips into the Bahamas at 200 mph.)

Postscriptum

Mad King Donald has appeared at a presser in the Oval Office, waving a thoroughly unconvincing map of the southeastern US, on which “someone” had used a black marker pen – known to Americans as a Sharpie – to add a big, wavery, extra bulge on the western side of the official National Hurricane Center’s forecast track of Dorian from last week, to include Alabama – where there was no prior indication the hurricane was headed.

This was in order to “prove” that he had been right all along when he twice said the storm was heading for Alabama, a claim that has been much derided in the media after the NHC said it was incorrect. Dorian would go nowhere near Alabama. The additional drawing altering the forecast – “fake news” that set off panic buying in the Sweet Home state – was in a different color.

Utterly unable to accept, ever, that he has made a simple mistake, the man is beyond mockery. He is completely insane and must be removed from office as a danger, both to himself and the country.

 

A Big Lie

MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow draws our attention to another tweet frae the tiny thumbs of the liar-in-chief.

It seems that it has now sunk in that, instead of trashing Alabama, Hurricane Dorian has trundled northwards up the east coast and is spinning about 50 miles off North Carolina, picking up energy from the warm waters, dumping vast amounts of rain and looks likely to sit there as a devastating Cat 3, with 115 mph winds until the weekend.

It’s a bad situation. So N. Carolina’s governor, Roy Cooper, has fulfilled his statutory duty and made a request for FEMA emergency aid as a million people are ordered to evacuate coastal areas. It’s the governor’s job to do that. People are puzzling, then, as to why Mr Trump has tweeted out that he is considering a request for FEMA aid put in by Senator Thom Tillis of N. Carolina. It’s not his job to do that.

Who? What?

Well, it seems Sen. Tillis is a Republican and up for re-election next year; while the pathetic and incompetent booby, Governor Cooper can’t be trusted to put in his own request for aid.

Because he’s a Democrat.

You see, it’s only a minor thing, but we have to understand that this shit-for-brains in the White House is prepared to make political capital out of anything, sink to any depths, tell any lie, trash any opposition to get himself re-elected, and that nothing he says, tweets or does from now on, if it ever was, can be trusted not to be “fake news”, in his own argot.

The alternative to re-election could be a very long spell in gaol.

 

Another Big Lie

Trump is not the only wannabe despot living in a complete fantasy world of his own making, where the economy is rip-roaring away, China is on its knees gagging to do a trade deal, non-existent hurricanes are trashing Alabama and thousands of illegal immigrants are roaming around Texas looking for women to rape and kids to sell marijuana to. Oh, and by the way, he’s The Chosen One.

Or, to put it another way, lying through his unreliable old teeth.

“Brussels has responded with bafflement to Boris Johnson’s claims that progress is being made in the Brexit talks, with EU officials saying discussions are going nowhere. The prime minister and his cabinet have insisted that the outlines of a deal are in the making and that attempts by MPs to rule out a no-deal departure will kill that momentum. However, EU officials said that nearly two weeks after Johnson met the German chancellor, Angela Merkel, no alternatives to the Northern Irish backstop had been tabled.” (Guardian, 3 Sept.)

Nor are EU apparatchiks entirely sure where these British negotiators have got to, that Johnson says are popping over to Brussels twice a week to hammer out a deal. They’ve seen few signs of them.

“’Where have these people been for the last two years?’ asked one EU official.”

Suspicion is growing in Brussels that the negotiations, such as there have been any, are a complete sham and that Johnson and his ERG cabinet have no intention of doing a deal; certainly as they have not put forward any constructive ideas, especially in relation to the Irish border “backstop” arrangement that would keep Northern Ireland in the Customs Union and Single Market for two more years, which Johnson has repudiated in favour of a vague customs arrangement, an “invisible border” based on some still non-existent “technology”.

Meanwhile the pound this morning hit $1.19, as low as it’s been since 24 June, 2016 – the day after the referendum. And a handwritten note from Johnson has been produced at a court hearing in Edinburgh, where MPs are bringing a case that his prorogation of Parliament is unlawful, showing that he had already taken the decision to shutdown Parliament without telling the public, two weeks before he sent sloucher Mogg to browbeat HM Queen into agreeing it. Something he has denied.

Wake up Britain! We’re being conned.

Postscriptum: Defeated in the Commons on a procedural motion to allow a further vote on a bill to make leaving the EU without a deal illegal – losing his first Commons vote as Prime Minister – Johnson lashed out at rebel members of the Conservative party, ordering that 21 of them should forfeit the party whip – among them, Winston Churchill’s grandson, a tearful Sir Nicholas Soames, who has been a Tory MP for 37 years.

The action has reduced Johnson’s Commons majority to minus 22 – not including the increasingly irrelevant 10 members of the Democratic Unionist Party of Northern Ireland.

Forcing so many men and women of principle out of your party just ahead of what may be a snap General Election next month and when you need to win several crucial votes in the meantime does not seem like the best idea, unless you want Nigel Farage’s Brexit party to win.

But that is the next parallel we find between Johnson and Trump: their tendency to overentitled, childish petulance and tantrums in the face of what they perceive to be personal disloyalty; “traitors” putting country first, ahead of their crazed ambition.

Post-postscriptum:

For the record, the very next day Johnson lost three more votes in the Commons, while in the face of ERG attempts to filibuster, the House of Lords voted to send the Benn bill making No-Deal illegal back for its second reading. Pro-Brexit propagandists have launched a series of vicious attacks in the rightwing media, accusing the 21 holdout Tory MPs and poor Mr Corbyn, who has declined to fall for Johnson’s call for an early election, of cowardice and treason.

History is being stood on its head, as Brexiters inflamed by the insane rightwing media blame “Remainers” in the Commons for undermining democracy and defying the referendum result, when it was Johnson, Sloucher Mogg, Duncan Cunt, Ugly Patel, Dominic the Serial Killer Raaaab and the other members of the rabidly Europhobic ERG who were the holdouts against a deal that would have seen us out of the EU by now, and who are trying to shutdown debate in Parliament.

Regardless of those abusive descriptors, or perhaps because of them, Boris’ more sensible younger MP brother Jo has resigned his ministerial post, citing “unresolvable tension” between “family loyalty and the national interest”. Brexit is creating toxic, internecine warfare across the country and must be abandoned now, for all our sakes.

Your Uncle B. has Commented: “The last time I felt like this was when watching the planes flying into the World Trade Center on TV, knowing that nothing would ever be the same again.”

The rate of suicides in Britain is now higher than it was 17 years ago, especially among middle-aged men.

Not on the fairway….

The House of Representatives’ Oversight Committee has been investigating for several months, internal messages that suggest regular US military flights between the USA and destinations in Europe and the Middle East have been ordered to stopover in Scotland, where crews have been forced to put up at Donald Trump’s loss-making Turnberry golf resort; thus diverting many hundreds of thousands of dollars of US taxpayers’ money – the sacred military budget – into Trump’s personal pocket. (Politico/MSNBC report)

Meanwhile…. the Washington Post is reporting that Trump is defunding anti-Russian influence programs in Europe to divert money to his ludicrous border wall; and witholding military aid to the Ukrainian government until they supply him with “dirt” undermining the candidacy of former Democratic Vice President, Joe Biden. I’d offer more on this, but I can’t afford the $90 to get over Mr Bezos’ paywall.

 

GW: Blow the wind northerly

Hurricane Dorian is slowly churning up the east coast of the USA towards the Carolinas, after battering the Bahamas with record winds and a massive 23-ft storm surge on 1 and 2 Sept. At least 20 people are now known to have died on the Abaco islands, which have seen “unprecedented devastation” according to the Bahamas Prime Minister. The reconstruction bill will mount into many $billions.

Update 5 Sept.: Hurricane Dorian continues tracking north/northeast and is approaching the coast of South Carolina this morning, Sept 5th. It has re-strengthened back to Category 3 and will be tracking just about 30 miles offshore the coast of the South Carolina and likely make landfall across the outer banks of eastern North Carolina. Central pressure is down to 957 mbar with sustained winds of 115 mph. (Severe-weather.eu)

Severe-weather.eu adds that Dorian seemed hell-bent on erasing Grand Bahama from the face of the earth: “Some areas of the island were exposed to maximum winds for over 12 hours, far longer than typical for hurricane landfalls. (In the event, the hurricane took 36 hours to traverse 5 miles of territory.) Additionally, major storm surge inundated large parts of the island. Reports (confirmed by aerial footage Wednesday) indicate total devastation, with buildings in some areas levelled to the ground” and boats tossed far inland.

SE Asia: “Disaster management agencies in Thailand and Vietnam report that 6 people have died as a result of wind damage and flooding from Tropical Cyclone ‘Podul’. Podul made landfall over Quang Bình Province in central Vietnam on 29 August, 2019, with maximum sustained winds of 55-65 km/h. The next day the centre of the storm had moved to Thailand, where the storm was forecast to weaken and eventually dissipate.”

Africa: At least 1 person died and almost 300 homes were severely damaged or destroyed as a result of flooding in the Central African Republic in late August. “Flooding affected areas in the north west of the country, close to the border with Chad, from 19 to 20 August. Water and sanitation infrastructures have also been destroyed.” 5 bridges connecting to flooded localities have been washed out, hindering rescue efforts (Floodlist). Parts of northern Nigeria are also continuing to experience widespread flooding after several weeks of rain.

North Africa: “More flooding has affected areas of Morocco. 2 people died after a storm, heavy rain and floods in the province of Khenifra, Béni Mellal-Khénifra region, on 2 Sept. Flooding was also reported elsewhere in the country. On 1 Sept. heavy rain in the Atlas Mountains caused a massive debris flow, resulting in widespread damage. Earlier this week at least 7 people died after flash floods swept through a small village in Taroudant province. 39 people have been rescued from flood waters in northern Algeria after torrential rain. In a 24 hour period, 127.3mm of rain fell in the city of Skikda, around 4 times the monthly average for September.” (from Floodlist)

Tunnel approaching….

Microplastics: A paper by researchers at the Scripps Institute published in Science Advances (I know, sounds a bit like Mars Attacks…) found that “since the 1940s the amount of microscopic plastics in the sediments has doubled about every 15 years. In 2010, the most recent year analysed, the pollution had reached almost 40 particles per 10cm by 10cm patch of ocean floor every year. … Humans are believed to consume at least 50,000 microplastic particles a year through food and water. The health impact is unknown.” (Guardian Green Light)

The Pumpkin – Issue 91: Warming warning:… The wages of sin… Completely unacceptable… Arrivederla, Dottore Camilleri… GW: Rockin’ around the world… On shaky ground.

Warming warning:

Latest data from NASA shows, 2019 so far has bust the 1.5 deg. C. target set by the Paris accord (now at 1.85 C) and could be headed for the upper 2 deg. C. limit or even more by next year. See below….

 

“I’ve known Jeff for 15 years. Terrific guy. He’s a lot of fun to be with. It is even said that he likes beautiful women as much as I do, and many of them are on the younger side. No doubt about it — Jeffrey enjoys his social life.” – Trump in The New Yorker magazine, 2002.

“I knew him like everybody in Palm Beach knew him .. I was not a fan.” – Trump last week. NBC has found video of him partying enthusiastically with Epstein and many women at Mar a Lago in 1992.

The wages of sin

“A $7.8 million 70-acre private island in the U.S. Virgin Islands (his primary residence owned by his Delaware-based LLC, L.S.J.), (a) Paris apartment on Avenue Foch (one of the most expensive addresses in the world), (a) $15.5 million Palm Beach estate, (a) $77 million New York City townhouse (a gift from Victoria’s Secret founder Leslie Wexner), and (a) $10 million castle/ranch in New Mexico.

“At the bottom of (the list) is another island in the Virgin Islands, Great St. James. He purchased it in 2016 for $18 million and was actively (and without permit) developing an even larger compound on its 165 acres—that is, until his arrest this past Saturday.”

“As far as vehicles, (the) entries list two Gulfstream jets (though his lawyers say he sold one of them in June), two helicopters, nine Mercedes-Benzes, nine Chevy Suburbans, three Cadillac Escalades, three Harley-Davidsons, one $375k Bentley Mulsanne, a jet-ski, and other assorted items. He has wined and dined American presidents, princes, elite academics, socialites, corporate CEOs and other VIPs.

“His alleged victims were little girls, often economically destitute or runaways or orphans—from sixth graders to high-school sophomores. Because his alleged crimes span multiple decades, his victims likely number in the hundreds—or more.” – The Daily Beast

Yes folks, that’s the extraordinary, obscene wealth a man who seemingly emerged from nowhere, with no university degree or social background, no inheritance; whose career as a predatory pedophile seems to have begun when he was given a job as a totally unqualified teacher who “charmed” parents at an exclusive private school in Manhattan*, has been able to amass before he is, hopefully, put away for the rest of his life.

How the hell?

The son of a New York Parks Department groundsman, Jeffrey Epstein reminds me – obviously on a Mount Rushmore scale – of Stephen Ward, the London society osteopath who, in the early 1960s, pimped a couple of young ladies of his acquaintance – Christine Keeler and Mandy Rice-Davies – around his wealthy and influential clients at weekend bunga-bunga parties organised at Cliveden, the stately Thameside home of Lord Astor.

Of course, Astor and his wealthy connections in government, business and the security services were never charged with procuring prostitutes or any offence. Letting their hair down is what those entitled people do. Ward, for whom many people had considerable sympathy, killed himself before his trial, fearing security charges. The story had come out when it was revealed that, in addition to the Defence Secretary, John Profumo, another of Keeler’s regulars was a Naval defense attaché at the Russian embassy.

Pillows talk.

But there was never any suggestion of activity on the scale and at the bottomless depth of Epstein’s, whose society clients for his “young love for sale” victims appear on all accounts to have included Presidents Donald Trump and Bill Clinton; both of whom have been frantically scrabbling this past week to disassociate themselves from the talented (but unqualified) pianist and mathematician who seems to have exerted such a spellbinding effect on the wealthy and powerful.

Reportedly included among his circle of “friends” also is the Queen’s second son, Prince Andrew, somewhat nebulously employed by the UK as a “business ambassador”, said to have accepted private flights aboard one of Epstein’s Gulfstream jets and hospitality at his many homes; and former Israeli Prime Minister, Ehud Barak.

It’s possible, I suppose, that some of the wealthy and powerful individuals who came into his orbit were cultivated merely as window-dressing, or to use their connections to enlarge his circle of clients.

What, one asks of the ladies’ underwear proprietor, can “Victoria’s Secret” really be, to earn Epstein a gift of a $77 million New York town house from its CEO, Wexner? How much of Epstein’s unexplained wealth, his pad in Palm Beach, his troubling-sounding private island compound on St James in the “Virgin Islands” (he owns two islands), was bought on his salary after only four years as a modest financial advisor, apparently with only one major client, at Bear Stearns – one of the early casualties of the 2008 banking crash. And how much more might have been “gifts”, teased somehow from his very private circle of extremely wealthy clients?

“Epstein is without doubt the wealthiest individual on any sex offender registry in the United States (and he is at Level 3—at greatest risk of abusing more children). … He has wined and dined American presidents, princes, elite academics, socialites, corporate CEOs and other VIPs. His alleged victims were little girls, often economically destitute or runaways or orphans—from sixth graders to high-school sophomores. Because his alleged crimes span multiple decades, his victims likely number in the hundreds—or more.” – The Daily Beast

Level 3 – at greatest risk of abusing more children, Epstein was sent to an open “weekend” prison for 13 months in 2008 as a result of a dubious plea bargain brokered by Alex Acosta, Trump’s most recent Secretary of Labor, at the time prosecuting for the Attorney General of Florida. The deal did not involve the co-operation of any of his victims. Acosta has now resigned, giving a televised press conference at which Trump postured, gazing Sphinxlike into the distance as though none of it affected him, looming immediately behind his right shoulder – like working a ventriloquist’s dummy.

Shortly afterwards, Trump vented his racist anger on the four women members of Congress.

Indeed, no-one seems much inclined to believe it was absolutely the best deal Acosta could get. When police battered down Epstein’s door at the New York townhouse last week and searched the premises, hundreds “if not thousands” of images of children and young teenagers were found; indicating that there had been no cessation of activities since his release.

And yet, Epstein’s lawyers, including his longtime “associate” and now Trump lawyer, Dershowitz, a repulsive, rheumy-eyed old roué who has owned up to receiving “massages” from Epstein’s young ladies – although he kept his underpants on and didn’t see anyone he thought was underage – are still arguing for bail, as if – instead of scuttling to their expensive island boltholes while “lawyering up” – his wealthy and influential and mostly disgusting, ugly old clients are going to rally round a second time.

A dozen new witnesses have come forward thanks to reporting in the Miami Herald, and although the cases predate his 2008 conviction, some going back to the 1990s, it seems clear that the girls he trafficked would have been pressured into silence. The FBI alleges that even since his arrest, large sums of money have been illegally wired to witnesses. Bizarrely – but perhaps indicatively – Epstein also runs an obscure charity foundation that gives money to schools and enterprises involving young people.

The latest charges could nevertheless be enough to see him put away for life – and not this time in a comfortable room to which he has a key.

What will happen to his team of “enablers” – a group of women (including Ghislaine Maxwell, daughter of disgraced media mogul Robert, who recruited “sex slaves” as young as 14 to perform sex acts with Epstein and his clients), no-one seems to know; they were offered immunity during the 2008 trial. But in the meantime, many influential and even wealthier men than Epstein are said to be “shaking in their shoes” as to what might come out in court.

IF AG Barr allows it to get to court.

*There seems to be a difference of opinion over his appointment at the Dalton school, so posh you wouldn’t expect anyone to openly come forward with evidence about inappropriate behavior between a teacher and pupils all the way back in 1974.

Some commentators are claiming Epstein was hired by the father of Trump’s latest Attorney General, Bill Barr, who was then the headmaster of Dalton. Obviously they’re hinting at some kind of enablement story, perhaps between two pedophiles, although there is no evidence that Epstein or Barr predated on the pupils. Epstein seemed less certain when questioned in court, arguing that the “17 or 18” year-old girls in his class were too “old”, before pleading the 5th Amendment.

However, investigators at the Daily Beast say Barr left the school under his own cloud several months before Epstein started teaching there. AG Barr initially recused himself from the latest investigation on a faintly flimsy pretext*, but seems to have been persuaded to unrecuse himself the next day – possibly by the same man who notoriously fired the previous AG over an unpopular recusal he felt wasn’t protecting him from potential prosecution.

*In fact Barr has a connection with Acosta, in that they both worked for attorneys Kirkland Ellis back in the day, although at different times. And Kirkland Ellis, according to TYT, was the firm that defended Epstein in the 2008 trial.

The Pumpkin feels sure there is nothing coincidental in the following medical explanation found on Google:

“EpsteinBarr virus (EBV), also known as human herpes virus 4, is a member of the herpes virus family. It is one of the most common human viruses.”

Follow the story at this and other Daily Beast pages on the same theme: https://www.thedailybeast.com/inside-jeffrey-epsteins-creepy-parties-with-prince-andrew. And: https://www.thedailybeast.com/jeffrey-epstein-dodged-questions-about-sex-with-his-dalton-prep-school-students?ref=scroll

(Only, turn off your ad blocker, they’re imagining you’re going to buy something.)

Oh, btw, we should say, Epstein has pleaded not guilty to all the charges.

Postscriptum: and now we’re being told, police at his NY pad have found a cache of diamonds, wads of notes, a false passport (long expired) – and a Saudi Barbarian address. His “bugout bag”.

 

“Oh, shut up! You never stop complaining. If anybody should leave this country, it should be you. And if you’re looking for a new home, I suggest you go to Hell.” – Stephen Colbert, The Late Show.

 

Completely unacceptable?

Outgoing Prime Minister, Theresa May has condemned as “completely unacceptable”, a provocative tweet by President Trump, telling black and Latino Democratic congresswomen to “go back where they came from” and run their own “crime-ridden, shithole” countries before coming to America and telling Americans what to do.

Three of the four women named were actually born in America. The fourth, Ilhan Omar, is a naturalized Somali refugee who arrived at the age of 8. All of them, unlike Trump, are democratically elected; but Trump – grandson of undocumented immigrants, son of an immigrant, twice married to immigrants, serial employer of many undocumented immigrants – has never managed to grasp the basic concept that, in a democracy, you have an opposition party whose job is to oppose.

It’s clearly a crude attempt to whip up more anti-immigrant feeling among his deluded dumbfuck base, who are always more than happy to be persuaded by wealthy men that it’s not wealthy men, but poor immigrants who are screwing them over, and “replacing” them. By doing this, he draws flak from the haters on the left, proving that four more years of Trump is all that stands between his support base and their imminent demise as a nation.

It should also serve, or so he imagines, to drive a wedge for his electoral advantage between the bickering conservative and progressive wings of the Democratic party, although the opposite seems to have happened, with Pelosi turning on a dime to condemn his blatant racism

Trump also needs some good diversionary smoke and mirrors right now, following his abusive tirades against May and her ambassador to Washington, new accusations from the Mueller report and the Epstein case.

Which brings us back to May, and the complete unacceptability of divisive and racist immigration policies.

Who, I wonder, sent advertising trucks out to drive around immigrant areas, telling them to Go Home? Who instigated the Home Office’s racially aggravated policy of Hostile Environment, that has resulted in innumerable cases of injustice against people with longstanding rights of settlement, including hundreds of elderly West Indian inworkers from the 1950s improperly detained or deported?

Other EU citizens still have a legal right of free movement but are finding they have no voting rights and are battling a dysfunctional Home Office system supposedly enabling them to register automatically for permanent settlement. Families with one British partner and British-born children are being broken up on the basis that the main earner no longer meets raised income qualifications – salary levels that most UK natives do not attain in their lifetime.

So many visitor visas are being denied, specifically to those from African and Asian countries, that UNESCO is no longer able to host international conferences in Britain as their delegates – qualified academics – are turned away. Now we hear that “whistleblowers” inside the Home Office are reporting how officials are falsifying information to get round an EU rule guaranteeing the right of trafficked and modern slavery victims to apply for asylum. “Legal experts have said the practice is ‘unthinkable’ and “a disgraceful and illegal manipulation of the system”, according to a Guardian report.

How many costly, sloppy data breaches have there been, and compensation awards running into the £hundreds of millions, as a result of – yes, “completely unacceptable” – Theresa May’s disastrous six-year spell as our most racially intolerant and xenophobic Home Secretary, possibly ever?

Pot. Kettle. Black?

PS – an Opinion article in today’s Guardian argues that the one good thing May did do, was to quadruple the number of Conservative women MPs, and be most supportive of them in their parliamentary careers.

Whoopee. Amber Rudd. Liz Truss. Theresa Villiers…..

‘Nuff said.

 

Bargain travel!

According to German NGO, Atmosfair, a person flying return from London to New York is responsible for 986 Kg of emitted CO2, more than the entire annual output of another person living in Paraguay.

So you don’t have to, your Uncle Bogler has looked up the average annual income of a citizen in Asuncion, and finds that at $380 USD it broadly matches the cost of flying to New York with Norwegian Air UK.

Book now!

 

Arrivederla, Dottore Camilleri

Andrea Camilleri, the Sicilian crime writer behind the popular Inspector Montalbano television series, of which your Uncle Bogler is a fan, although the BBC never seems to manage to buy a full series and soon reverts to repeating earlier episodes, has died aged 93.

The Pumpkin (“la Zucca”) comments, acidly: “So he was younger than most of the cast, then.”

 

Premature ejaculation

Scientists in the US have noted a substantial increase in pre-term births among Latina mothers in the months immediately following Trump’s 2016 election. Researchers at the Bloomberg School attribute a 3.5% increase based on official figures to stress caused by Trump’s threats against migrants. (Medical Press)

 

GW: Rockin’ around the world

USA: A “dangerous” 100-degrees-plus heatwave is forecast across the entire midwest and east coast, with “heat index” (heat plus humidity) temperatures in Washington DC, New York and Chicago possibly rising to 112F (44C) over the weekend. In the meantime, flooding is spreading northwards from the Gulf coast as the remains of Hurricane Barry dump masses of rain on southern states. (The Weather Channel)

Cat 1 Hurricane Barry came ashore in Louisiana Saturday, 13 July, but west of New Orleans, and as a weakening Tropical Storm, sparing the city the catastrophic flooding forecasters were concerned about. Nevertheless, parts of the city and other communities along the coast all the way through Texas are dealing with widespread flooding from up to 12 inches of rain this curiously elongated storm, with its two cyclonic centers, has already dumped, with up to another foot or more possible as Barry stalls over the coast. 100 thousand homes are without power. (Wunderground, and various)

Up to a few days ago, however, deep snowpack was still blocking roads in Sonora County, California…. Meanwhile, in Canada “Flooding was reported in parts of southern Saskatchewan, Canada, including Regina after 34 mm of rain fell in a short period of time on 16 July. Several vehicles were trapped in flood water after streets in Regina were inundated.” (Floodlist) There’s also been flash-flooding in Toronto.

Nepal: 64 people have been confirmed dead and 30 more remain missing in widespread flooding. Rescue efforts have been hampered by continued bad weather, which has blocked key highways and destroyed phone lines. 17 July: “Dozens” of people are reported dead or missing after torrential rain caused flash flooding and landslides near the Kashmir border in Pakistan. Houses, roads and bridges were washed away.

Heavy monsoon rains have also caused devastation in north-east India. In Assam state, officials said at least 14 people were killed and more than a million people had been affected by rising flood waters. (Guardian) In an update, 15 July, authorities are saying dozens of people have drowned and more than 4 million are affected by flooding as rivers rise to record levels in four northeastern states. Some places recorded 15-in. of rain over 24 hours. (Floodlist)

Floodlist further reports, 19 July, more heavy rain is forecast over a wide area of northern India this weekend, as the death toll over the region exceeds 250.

Bangladesh: At least a dozen people, mostly farmers in rural areas, have reportedly been killed by lightning since Saturday, according to Associated Press. A Water Development Board official said about 40,000 people had been affected, with many of their homes submerged. Refugee camps on the Burmese border have been especially hard-hit. (Guardian) While over the border, the Irrawaddy river has burst its banks. “Flooding has displaced thousands of people in northern and western Myanmar after a period of heavy rain caused rivers to overflow.” (Floodlist)

Japan: an anticyclone stuck over the Sea of Okhotsk has meant parts of Japan have had almost no sun for the last three weeks – just 3 hours, the cloudiest June/July period ever measured. Prices of some agricultural produce have skyrocketed owing to crop failures. (Express)

Philippines: Tropical Storm Danas formed as an area of low pressure over the western Philippine Sea 15 to 16 July,  moving north of Luzon Island, as it strengthened. The storm brought heavy rain to some areas of Luzon, where flood warnings have been issued.

Indonesia, however, is suffering longer periods of drought. Reliefweb reports; its impacts have already been felt in many areas. A number of regional governments have reported scarcity of clean water, declining supply of irrigation water and potential crop failure. 1000 people in East Java have contracted Hepatitis A from foul drinking water.

Europe: Dozens of people were rescued from vehicles or evacuated after flooding in Western Greece on 14 July. A storm bringing heavy rain swept through Achaia and Aetolia-Acarnania overnight, causing severe damage. The flooding follows storms last week when 7 people were killed and over 100 injured in the north of the country. The Halkidiki Region remains in a state of emergency, with many households and businesses still without power and water. (Floodlist)

A new heatwave is building from North Africa across southwest and central Europe, with a 10C temperature anomaly moving gradually northeastwards next week. France is likely to see temperatures back in the high 30s, low 40s C (100+F). (Severe-weather.eu) Revision of data from the June heatwave finds that a new all-time record of 46.0 deg. C. (114.8 F.) was set in Verargues in the Herault department on 28 June. (Phys.org)

 

Tunnel approaching….

Helter swelter: An emergency announcement arrives from the Arctic News team: “NASA data through June 2019 confirms … that it could be 1.85°C (or 3.33°F) hotter in 2019 than in 1750. When looking at how much hotter June 2019 was compared to the annual global mean 1980-2015, it was 2.08°C (or 3.74°F) hotter. … The 2°C guardrail could be crossed soon, i.e. in 2020 when looking at the long-term trend (based on 1880-June 2019 data), or in 2019 if the current El Niño strengthens (based on 2011-June 2019 data).

“Furthermore, while the long-term trend points at a 3°C (or 5.4°F) rise by 2026, a 3°C rise could eventuate as early as in 2020 in case of a persistently strengthening El Niño. (Arctic-news.blogspot.com) If the trends of the first half of this month continue, it will beat the previous record from July 2017 by about 0.025C to qualify as the hottest month ever recorded. (Guardian)

Another lovely sunny day, 26C, here in Boglington-on-Sea.

On shaky ground: Renegade earthquake forecaster, Dutchsinse (Michael Janich, of St Louis) is reporting, there are two major heat plumes erupting under the sea, off the coasts of Oregon and California. The reports are confined to his Twitter feed so your Old Gran, who doesn’t get Twitter, can’t get into any greater detail. Suffice to say, his followers are all on their knees, gibbering and praying for everyone. (What is the matter with Americans?)

With some content blocked on YouTube, Janich’s website is coming under increasing attack, he believes from the official US Geological Survey, that continues to plead equipment malfunctions, mask worrying data, downgrade magnitudes and insist that earthquakes cannot be predicted. They have even called for his arrest!

Janich has an 80% record of successful forecasts both of magnitude and location, based on the apparently illegal belief that the force of one quake transfers around plate boundaries to cause others on known faultlines and at identifiable weak spots in the earth’s crust. USGS says that’s nonsense, while appearing to be taking it seriously. There’s also another busy round of big volcanoes popping off around the Pacific “Ring of Fire”, in case you weren’t worried.

If Janich’s paranoia seems incredible (I’ve witnessed display screens on his YouTube videos suddenly being blacked-out), your Gran is just reading Graham Hancock’s latest book, “America Before”. Hancock – a “pseudo-scientist”, actually a journalist who has built a career out of trying and failing to find proof of a previous lost civilization – nevertheless has a point when he describes the vicious, career-destroying attacks US archaeologists launched for many years against any researcher daring to suggest humans could have lived in the Americas before 11 thousand BC.

That was until incontrovertible scientific evidence emerged of human settlement up to 120 thousand years earlier, pretty much like everywhere else in the world….

Postscriptum: Janich is reporting now (14 July) on a 5 thousand-acre wildfire that has broken out in Washington State, next to the Hanford nuclear facility and the LYGO gravity-wave detector. USGS reported a number of earthquakes there yesterday, that could have emitted flammable methane.
It occurs to us that the authorities might be upset with Janich more because he explores the terrain around the epicentres of volcanoes and more often than not, Google Earth allows him to zoom in on the astonishing extent of mining, quarrying, thermal bores, drilling and fracking going on, literally thousands of wells – and around former nuclear test sites – that he believes are operating dangerously in geological fracture zones, exacerbating microquakes and enabling larger seismic movements..
And on the subject of nuclear threats, a Cold War-era Soviet submarine that has been sitting on the sea bed since it sank off the coast of Norway 30 years ago, with two nuclear missiles and two nuclear reactors onboard, has begun leaking mysterious “clouds” from its ducts, containing radioactive caesium registering 800 thousand times the normal background. (The Weather Channel) Experts assure us, it’s “not a risk” to people or wildlife.
Yellowstone: Steamboat Geyser #28. That’s as in 7 months…. last year’s all-time record was 32 the whole year. (Ben Ferraiuolo website) Disturbing activity – spasmodic tremors associated with magma injection – in Hawaii. Magma believed entering Long Valley ancient caldera in California – bigger than Yellowstone. (Various sources) Athens, Greece rocked by M5.4, 19 July.

The Pumpkin – Issue 90 underway: STOP PRESS: Democracy dead – official… All the President’s (Best) Men… “Omarosa, Omarosa, men have shamed you…” Johnson: There’s more than one? God help us… GW: And the heat goes on. Essay: Where no heads roll…

Quote of the week

“The warning signs of this emergency are clear and inescapable and we have been told what the treatment is … now, in a medical situation a patient would not ignore that and neither can we ignore the environmental emergency and its dire consequences for human life” – Retired specialist, Dr Bing Jones, who has organized a petition signed by 1,000 UK doctors calling on the government to take more urgent action on climate change.

 

STOP PRESS: Democracy dead – official

News is breaking of another landmark decision in the US Supreme Court that will finally bury democracy and the rule of civil law.

In the notorious Citizens United case, in 2010 the court essentially removed restrictions on corporations buying elections, ruling perversely that corporations had the same rights as people and could therefore spend as much as they liked on supporting political candidates. Thus, Koch Industries alone was able to spend close to a billion dollars getting Trump elected in 2016.

Now they’ve gone one further and ruled that the constitution does not anywhere forbid gerrymandering – that is, redrawing constituency boundaries to favour one party over another, and the artificial rigging of local voting rolls – determining, essentially, who can and cannot vote. These decisions are in the power of sitting administrations, who may therefore now feel free to engineer the re-election of their own candidates in perpetuity. With a general election coming up.

The court, with its two conservative Trump appointees making the more liberal wing a minority, has not said it’s good, only that the courts don’t have legal powers to stop it. In theory, it could help either party, but in practice it massively loads the dice in favor of the Republican party.

Prepare for another four years of insanity and chaos.

 

All the President’s (Best) Men

Two more high-profile (“I don’t think I ever spoke to them, they say they’re good people”) Trump admin departures cropped up on Wednesday (26 June), bringing the total fired or quit during his presidency to God-knows how many – his attrition rate among senior staff – those whose positions he has yet managed to fill – is about 50 per cent.

There’s been very little coverage here in Britain of the child abuse scandal that’s rocking America, in relation to the conditions in which the children of migrants, forcibly separated from their families, are being held in detention, in what the progressive Democrat, Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez, controversially described last week as “concentration camps”. (She was photographed weeping copiously outside one, as the Texas sun beat mercilessly down.)

Recently, 300 children were moved from a “temporary” facility outside El Paso following widespread outrage, after a lawyer who visited reported that the children were forced to sleep on concrete floors with only thermal aluminum blankets for warmth at night, when the lights were kept blazing all night – as at Guantanamo Bay. Children as young as two were being cared for by older children not even related to them, as there appeared to be no qualified childrens’ nursing staff, only guards. The children had no washing facilities – toothbrushes, soap – no showers. Younger children had no nappies – diapers, whatever and were forced to soil themselves. Several had lice, or were covered in mucus – medical care for those going down with colds and ‘flu was slow to non-existent. Food and water were also in short supply.

The sociopath in chief, on whose emotionally deprived childhood this sickening policy is based, has of course denied that this is happening – anyway, it was much worse under the Obama administration – another Big Fat Lie, running counter to the narrative of despairing border patrol people who say that at least under Obama there was a policy, order, administration – not this total shambles. Asked if he was concerned about conditions, Trump made it clear in his oblique, allusive way that no, the abuse was a deliberate policy to force the Democrats to cough up more money for border security.

Anyway, it’s reported, 100 of the children have been moved back in again, apparently because they like it there so much, they are free to come and go and are well cared-for – so claimed local Republican congressman, Michael Burgess, in an NBC interview that caused much retching and hand-wringing among the onscreen pundits.

And in the meantime, the guy in charge of the shitshow, “Acting” Border Control Commissioner  – Trump has found he doesn’t have to get these problematic people confirmed in post if they’re only “Acting” – John Sanders, has resigned after only two months in the job. His expected replacement is another insane man from inside the wire of the administration who says he only has to look into a migrant teenager’s eyes to know that he will become an MS-13 gang member.

Ahead of the G20 summit in Japan, Ambassador Sean Lawlor has been neatly whisked out of office. Ambassador Lawlor – he’s not the ambassador to Japan, that’s John Hagerty (Google writes, helpfully: “The Ambassador of the United States of America to Japan is the ambassador from the United States of America to Japan”) – Ambassador Lawlor has a roving brief as Trump’s “Chief of Protocol”, a job which sounds like one of those nightmares you wake up screaming from. Trump has no regard whatever for protocol! He probably thinks it’s an indigestion remedy.

In fact, it looks like he’s been fired – they’re calling it an indefinite suspension, pending investigations. Lawlor, the man in charge of diplomatic etiquette, has been the subject of numerous complaints of harrassment and bullying from his staff, many of whom have quit, claiming that he carries a bullwhip with him in the office just to remind them who’s the boss.

I hire only the best people, Trump once said.

Actually, more than once.

And most of them have been unqualified idiots, domestic abusers, fantastically corrupt, or just barking mad. Sometimes all four.

STOP PRESS AGAIN

The Disunited Democrats have caved-in and approved an appropriations budget of $4.6 billion for additional border security measures “In order to get resources to the children fastest”, on a faint promise by Vice President Pence that children won’t have to spend more than 90 days in detention camps.

Of course, all that has to happen is they can be temporarily re-camped after 90 days before being sent back. It’s a victory for Trump’s bullying and appalling child abuse, and another step towards his insane wall. How does Ms Pusillanimous Pelosi imagine her party is going to win the election on this pathetic showing?

Impeach the fucker!

 

Alabama: Marshae Jones, a young black woman who lost her baby after being shot in the stomach during a row with her partner, has been charged with manslaughter, as the police have determined she started the argument.

Is there any evidence anywhere that America has yet left the 17th century behind? I mean, why not just burn her as a witch?

 

“Omarosa, Omarosa, men have shamed you…”

And meanwhile, the Justice Department has perhaps rashly decided to prosecute feisty former White House aide and reality TV-show person, Omarosa Manigault-Newman, for an ethics violation.

That’s right, I know. The White House! Who’d a’ thunk it?

Although she was fired months ago by Gen. Kelly, it seems Omarosa had failed to complete her vetting form while in office, which for some reason is an offence punishable by a fine of up to $50 thousand. She says it was because she handed in paperwork that was never returned to her.

Anyone familiar with tales of the administration will know only too well, it took Jared Kushner 70 (yes, seven-zero) attempts to get his vetting form accepted, as he had “forgotten” about so many meetings with Russian and Saudi diplomats, spies and bankers that the national security agency couldn’t approve him for high-level clearance, and had to be overruled by Trump personally.

Most people at the time seemed to think Jared’s chronic – possibly even cynical – abuse of the vetting procedure should have exposed him to the statutory criminal charge carrying a maximum five years in jail. But, hey, he’s family. Besides, it’s nothing compared with his abuse of his security clearance.

Omarosa is well known for claiming to have secretly recorded conversations with Trump that she says are potentially damaging, and has released only a fraction of them to date. She hastily wrote a not very well-reviewed book about her experiences in the White House that got pretty quickly buried by events, but she’s gone quiet lately.

A public trial could provide a useful platform for her to revive her vendetta against the men who unjustly fired her, and with her testimony given in court, under oath – not quite so subject to the President’s customary tweety slanders.

Space… watch.

 

Johnson: There’s more than one? God help us.

“Oklahoma’s attorney general, Mike Hunter, is suing Johnson & Johnson for billions of dollars for its alleged part in driving addiction and overdoses in his state in the first full trial of a drug maker over the opioid epidemic.

“…the company has struggled to explain marketing strategies its accusers say dangerously misrepresented the risk of opioid addiction to doctors, manipulated medical research, and helped drive an epidemic that has claimed 400,000 lives over the past two decades.” (Observer, 23 June)

Spammers, Likers etc. of this, muh bogl will recall that we have been somewhat critical recently of remarks made by the US ambassador to the Court of St James in London, Mr Robert Wood “Woody” Johnson 1V.*

Mr Johnson, a billionaire scion of the New Jersey-based Johnson & Johnson baby-powder dynasty, there’s always money to be made in bare bottoms, is on record as saying he expects the UK to accept inferior US regulatory standards, such as any still exist after two and a half years of Trump’s well-funded rollbacks, should we need to do an emergency trade deal in the wake of a not very workable Brexit.

In addition to its alleged role in the lethal epidemic of addiction to powerful painkillers, Johnson & Johnson also faces some 12 THOUSAND individual lawsuits throughout the USA, alleging that their famous baby powder has caused childhood cancers owing to talc ( a crushed volcanic rock) being a suspected carcinogen; and to the product’s being possibly cut with asbestos dust. J&J has already been ordered to pay out billions of dollars in compensation.

The company, which has denied all the accusations, claiming it has only a very small market share in Oklahoma (and therefore caused not very many deaths? Ed.), has been accused by doctors and expert witnesses of instituting a campaign of false-front “research” organizations and hiring PR agencies to gloss over the addictive properties and side-effects of opioid painkillers – Johnson owns several poppy-cultivating farms in Australia – of tampering with or selectively understating research results and using high-pressure sales tactics on GPs, providing them with false safety assurances to increase prescribing.

It should be mentioned here perhaps that Johnson & Johnson is not the only huge US Pharma corporation engaged in this filthy business. Other, similar entities are available, coming soon to a pharmacy near you.

Another report last week described how desperate Americans are travelling in convoy across the Canadian border to buy vital medication such as insulin for diabetics at prices up to ten times lower than those charged in the USA, despite Trump’s evil lies, endlessly repeated to his Nuremburg-style dumbfuck rallies, that he has already brought pharma prices down and will shortly be introducing a beautiful healthcare plan for all to replace the terrible Obamacare – something he falsely promised to do on his first day in office, what seems like a century ago.

Welcome to the NHS three years from now, Brexit dolts.

http://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2019/jun/22/johnson-and-johnson-opioids-crisis-lawsuit-latest-trial

*The words “woody” and “Johnson” are American slang for, respectively, an erection and a penis. Nevertheless they are genuinely this bloke’s names.

 

GW: And the heat goes on

27 June, and the heat is building over much of continental Europe, with temperatures already over 40C, 106F in parts of Spain and southern France, hitting 39C in Germany – June records are already tumbling and there’s another three days to go before it peaks. Most municipalities have triggered emergency measures for people to cool off. In Spain, where temperatures over 42C have been recorded, 600 soldiers and firefighters are battling a 6 thousand Ha fire near Tarragona in northern Catalonia, started by an overheating pile of shit on a chicken farm, that threatens to spread to a huge area. Homeowners have been evacuated. Update: Gallargues-le-Montueux in the Gard département hit 45.9C Friday.

Meanwhile, your Granny is trying to remain calm as the BBC puts yet another weaselly disclaimer in their news reporting, that it’s “complicated” to say if any weather event is due to global warming. Actually, we have techniques for doing that now. They go on to report that the Potsdam Institute says the last 5 years have all been the hottest in the past 500 years (which DOESN’T mean it was hotter before, it’s just they don’t have reliable records earlier, okay?). And the current European heatwave is 2C hotter and a month earlier than the last one… and the one before that. No connection, obviously. Too soon to say.

It hit 29C in my front garden this afternoon, only 85F, but I’d already taken to my bed for the duration. I may be a quarter Greek, but this new Mediterranean climate is too much for me on a liquid lunch. The secret is to keep doors and windows closed on the sunny side of your house or flat, and open them on the shady side. Update: Saturday, it’s trying to rain.

USA: A violent storm hit border areas between Tamaulipas State, Mexico and Texas, USA, from 24 June, bringing lightning strikes, strong winds and torrential rain. More than 12 inches (300mm) of rain fell in 4 hours in parts of Texas. In Mexico, the worst affected areas are in the municipality of Reynosa, where authorities say over 50 neighbourhoods were affected. Flooding damaged roads, homes and medical centres. Local media reported that at least 1 person died in the floods. (Floodlist)

Seen from a NASA satellite, Mt Raikoke erupted for the first time since 1924.

With current temperatures in northern Alaska in the mid-60s/70F, the US state up on the Arctic circle is having a problem with wildfires. A bigger problem maybe was the sudden eruption on 22 June of Mt Raikoke, a volcano in the Kuril islands, that sent an ash plume 43 thousand feet up into the stratosphere. The ash has been spreading eastwards toward Alaska and could affect flights.

In California, it’s been hot enough at the beach to cook mussels in their shells. A mass die-off is reported.

India: By contrast, the late arriving monsoon rains are reportedly weak and patchy, with the bulk of the cloud cover stuck over the Bay of Bengal. Hot, dry air is continuing to build across the north, and temperatures in sweltering Delhi have once again hit 41C, 106F. (India Today/Accuweather)

Tunnel approaching….

Fracking hell: Physicians for Social Responsibility and Concerned Health Professionals of New York have issued results of a major meta-study, finding that “90.3 percent of all (c.1,500) original research studies published from 2016-2018 on the health impacts of fracking found a positive association with harm or potential harm.”

“There is no evidence that fracking can operate without threatening public health directly and without imperiling climate stability upon which public health depends,” the Compendium states. Pregnant women and children living in fracking zones are especially at risk. The report goes on to argue that there is absolutely no merit in industry claims that fracked gas is a transition fuel, safer than oil and coal. – Common Dreams website.

http://www.commondreams.org/news/2019/06/19/we-need-ban-fracking-new-analysis-1500-scientific-studies-details-threat-health

Phase 4

“As the world keeps increasing its carbon dioxide (CO₂) emissions, rising in 2018 to a record 33.1 billion tons of CO₂ per year (GW writes: I have seen higher figures), the atmospheric greenhouse gas level has now exceeded 560 ppm (parts per million) CO₂-equivalent, namely when methane and nitrous oxide are included. This level surpasses the stability threshold of the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets. The term “climate change” is thus no longer appropriate, since what is happening in the atmosphere-ocean system, accelerating over the last 70 years or so, is an abrupt calamity on a geological dimension…” – Dr Andrew Glikson

Addressing the New York City Council Committee on Environmental Protection, Dr Guy McPherson, the leading proponent of the imminent human extinction theory, informed stunned delegates that while he supports the Extinction Rebellion protests, there is in reality nothing that can now be done to prevent runaway heating to a terminal degree within a matter of years and we should consider ourselves to be in “the hospice, phase 4”.

 

Essay: Where no heads roll

A long article in ProPublica this week looks at Trump’s bluster over Iran, and his frequent claims that the Obama administration had shown weakness when two boatloads of US sailors on a supposedly secret spying mission in 2016 were captured in Iranian waters, without putting up a fight.

The Navy ordered a strike force to go rescue the men (and one woman), but the White House ordered them to hold fire.

Within 48 hours Secretary Kerry had negotiated their release, unharmed, and the famous Iran nuclear deal Trump has ridiculously torn up, which would most probably have fallen through if there had been an armed response to the incident, was able to be signed a few days later. That’s showing weakness in the Trump universe.

In fact, the mission leader had decided not to put up any resistance, partly because they had forgotten to load any ammunition for the main machine-guns, but also because he had been reading about the nuclear deal in The Economist and realized that if he had resisted it would have dragged the military into a larger conflict and probably scuppered the deal.

He got no credit for initiative, naturally. It was lucky, though, because the officers and crew had had no political briefing, and hadn’t the faintest idea what the navy’s mission in the Gulf actually was. Also they were outnumbered and outgunned, and one of the boats had broken down… Resistance would have been pretty futile.

The real background to the story, say ProPublica writers Megan Rose, Robert Faturechi, and T. Christian Miller, was the unpreparedness of the US Navy, the lack of training and basic maintenance, coupled with a culture of senior officers not wanting to be told there were problems. It could take three months just to order vital spare parts.

Three totally unsuitable shallow-draft river patrol boats were ordered on a pointless reconnaissance mission to sail over 260 miles through the Gulf and back, far outside their operating range and in 8-ft seas. The crewmens’ reservations were passed up the chain of command until they were ignored.

The journey involved a hazardous refuelling at sea, although it seems everyone was using different maps and nobody had any idea whereabouts the supply tug was supposed to meet them, where they were, or what that odd-looking island over there was. (It was Farsi Island, a forward Iranian Revolutionary Guard outpost.)

So, fearing they might run out of fuel, the mission commander decided to change course without telling anyone, so the mother ship lost track of them, and his straight-line rule unwittingly took them across Iranian territorial waters; in much the same way, it’s widely believed, the expensive drone shot down by the Iranians last weekend had in fact strayed into Iranian airspace, despite what Secretary “two lunches in a suit” Pompeo says.

Iranians are very logical, very punctilious people. They don’t make mistakes like that.

The boats were in such poor condition that the sailors had had to cannibalise one boat to get the other two working, just to get the mission started only a few hours late, and eventually the borrowed fuel pump fell off the engine of the second boat, which lost way. So they were unable to outrun the much smaller, more lightly armed Iranian inflatables.

On receiving news they were to be released, one of the American boys began crying. The perfect propaganda image went around the world. The subsequent inquiry produced a 170-page report lambasting the terrible state of preparedness of the US Navy, the lack of training, funding, and the poor leadership, so a second report was commissioned, exonerating anyone of senior rank – especially Admiral Philip Davidson, who was in overall charge of training and preparedness – and blamed the sailors and their hapless commanders instead for the shameful debacle.

And the result of that report was both entirely predictable and deeply concerning, revealing as it did a culture of management incompetence, laziness and cronyism at the highest levels. Because nothing much has been done to improve things since. So despite Trump’s $69 billion dollar gift in 2017 to the military budget, now heading for a trillion dollars a year, the mighty US Navy is a lame duck fighting force.

The authors write:

“In 2017, the year following the Farsi Island incident, there were four major collisions in the western Pacific. The worst involved the USS Fitzgerald and the USS McCain, which each collided with cargo ships, leaving 17 sailors dead.

“Davidson, still in charge of manning and training, was tapped to help assess the significance of the collisions. He found that manning shortages and poor training factored in both. Admirals, officers and sailors were held to account.

“Davidson, though, was soon promoted and now holds one of the most coveted positions in the American military as head of the Indo-Pacific Command, in charge of all military branches in the region.”

We had an expression for it at my school: a “useless shag”. This overpromoted, useless shag – or so he seems – would be in charge of the coming war with China.

Norman Dixon’s brilliant book, On the Psychology of Military Incompetence, recounted the dreadful sagas of men let down in combat by self-serving idiots, most of whom were eventually promoted out of harm’s way, if they had not managed to get themselves and everybody else killed.

We recently celebrated Colonel Dyer’s great 1919 victory over a protest rally by unarmed Sikh women and children, unable to escape from a walled enclosure in Amritsar; turning his machine-guns on them, slaughtering close to a thousand, a heroic action for which he received promotion to General.

And we’re reminded by a new TV series of that great anti-war book by Joseph Heller, Catch-22, which brutally satirised the venality and incompetence of the officer class in the US Airforce. It got a lot of young men killed unnecessarily. Sure, they can’t all be like that.

My own experience was briefly as a civilian contractor to the Royal Air Force’s veterans’ charity.

Briefed to create an appeal to raise £5 million, my agency were stymied at every turn by one particular officer, a man incidentally who bore an uncanny facial resemblance to Admiral Davidson, which is why I recall the story. He’d been promoted, literally on “Buggins’ Turn”, to manage the charity fundraiser, despite having no relevant experience.

This guy, lazy, dishonest and incompetent, who had only ever previously run a military stores, and we can imagine how that went, threw every possible objection and obstacle in our path – it turned out, as one by one we ominously achieved the silly targets he was setting us on the way – to avoid making extra work for the people in his department and, by extension, himself.

Eventually, without a leg to stand on, we were doing so well he simply ordered us to stop what we were doing, shutdown the project on his own authority, and that was that.

As a result the appeal fell way short, and the charity went bust a year later.

But he was protected by the code – even his superiors, with whom we had been liaising throughout, could not or would not intervene to get him out of our way. Protocol, old man. The service would rather its veterans had no support, than that they should break ranks with a fellow officer to side with a civilian contractor.

You wonder how in the hell we beat the Germans. But Hitler, of course, had the solution to the problem: unsuccessful or disloyal generals were just shot. (It saved on the pensions….)

The prospects for a new war in the Gulf look somewhat bleak. Once the buildup starts, it’s going to be difficult to stop. Sheer weight and expense of US arms will no doubt prevail, the popguns are bigger, but the blunders and shirking of responsibility for them will inevitably go on, the ships will be sunk, the marines will go left when they should have gone right, the civilians will be massacred, history will later be rewritten, and no heads will roll.

 

Time to despair… Sorry mate, you’re talkin’ foreign. Ph what?… Sunk like a Stone… GW: underwater climate news (and overground too…)

Time to despair

We’re all aware, aren’t we, of the strenuous efforts made by oil and gas and coal extractors over the decades to shut down and twist debate on their own research findings that burning their products on a vast scale is causing the planet to overheat dangerously, by promoting false narratives and sponsoring willing deniers.

A new polemic from George Monbiot writing in The Guardian today, for instance, reveals that while many environmentalists are cosying up with apparent gratitude to the Shell oil and gas company for diverting $300 million to reforestation and other climate-change mitigation schemes, they are at the same time spending $25 billion on exploring for and exploiting new oil and gas reserves that must, according to scientists, absolutely be left in the ground if we are to stand any chance of avoiding an extinction-level event this century.

When that event – more of a process – might happen is still unfortunately for the scientists a matter for some conjecture, as they are not in the chicken-entrails business. Some indeed fear it could be within the next decade if certain feedbacks already observed start to accelerate out of control.

So, I feel we really need to despair more, as it’s not only the fossil-fuel energy corporations that are still cynically denying the evidence of their own research in the name of shareholder greed and even ramping up their output, knowing perfectly well the murderous, ecocidal effect it’s having on our oceans and atmosphere.

Led by their example, despite international accords the governments of increasing numbers of oil-and-gas producing countries are following suit, so that there is now realistically zero possibility of achieving goals and targets set out in recent agreements, feeble though they have been.

A BBC series that concluded last week investigated the plastics industry, which depends on oil and gas for its feedstocks, and found that producers expect to double the global use of plastics in the next ten years; while at the same time doing little or nothing to mitigate the effects both of greenhouse gas emissions from its production and of pollution, both by plastics waste and by nanoplastics particles we (and by extension every other species on the planet) are eating, drinking and breathing all the time, whose health effects are as yet unknown.

While, BBC News today reports on the upcoming G20 summit in Japan that the climate emergency rates barely a mention.

“A draft of the closing communiqué mentions climate change as just one issue among many and omits to use the phrases ‘global warming’ and ‘decarbonisation’. Critics believe that Japan is trying hard to win favour with the US on trade issues by downplaying the scale of the climate question and possible solutions to it.”

Yes, that’s the same Japan that has endured anomalous heatwaves for the last few years, that have been killing their citizens by the hundred. And days of tumultuous rain last week that led to deaths and a million people having to be evacuated on Kyushu, for the second year running. The lives of ordinary Japanese are as nothing, compared with Premier Abe’s pathetic sucking-up to the corrupt*, degenerate old monster in the White House; and the exigencies of “trade”.

The same BBC report says, too, that countries such as Saudi Barbaria – how many of those lazy Arabs have in the past two centuries made any contribution from their artificially created “kingdom” to world peace, science, art, agriculture, music, philosophy? How many Nobel prizewinners have they produced? They live their worthless, gluttonous lives on free money from the ground and get indentured Pakistani labor to do all the work – are holdouts against even last year’s pretty anodyne warnings from the IPCC, refusing to endorse the conclusions of the report.

But neither can the supposedly Green EU agree on future emissions targets, in the face of atavistic opposition from the coal burning, rutted feudal demesnes in the east.

There is nothing really left to say.

No-one in their right mind seriously believes the crisis is not real. But as politics is showing across the world, magical thinking has taken over; a form of reckless, Devil-take-the-hindmost hysteria infects the ruling elites. I suppose we can take heart from another narrow electoral victory of the center-left, this time in Denmark, from the growing popular protests against government inaction on the issue, and from the progressive wing of the hopelessly divided Democrats in the USA.

But it’s really not enough, and it’s already way too late.

It’s a good thing too, if true, that the UK of all countries, where the crisis began 270-odd years ago, has reached the point where almost half of our annual energy production comes from renewables; while outgoing Prime Minister Theresa May has promised – not that she will be around to deliver – a commitment to a zero-carbon economy by 2050.

But as the CO2-equivalent atmospheric burden of heating gases passes 562 ppm, these small gains are massively offset by the insane rush of other, much larger nations to industrialize on a broken, 20th-century model that threatens the future of all life on earth. And nothing, it appears, not even the massive economic cost of climate breakdown already being felt (see below and numerous GW diaries passim), is going to stop them.

*the latest example of Trump’s corruption: his Environmental Protection Agency is expected shortly to be licensing a controversial mining project in Minnesota to a company owned by a billionaire Chilean businessman who just happens to be the landlord of the rented $4.5 million mansion where Jared Kushner, wife Ivanka Trump and their brood live when they are in Washington.

Ethics violations? Breaches of the emoluments clause – profiting from office? Conflicts of interest? Not a bit of it, we’re the Trump gang, he’s the president, we can do whatever the fuck we like, and no-one can stop us!

 

Sorry, mate, you’re talkin’ foreign. Ph what?

A leading UN organization, UNESCO has joined other international institutions in saying it will no longer support conferences in the UK because of the blatantly racist policy of the Home Office to deny temporary visas to so many visiting academics from black and asian backgrounds, that it makes organizing events an unacceptable financial risk.

At least, racism is the interpretation one has to put on the numbers of University-accredited and fully funded delegates, with families back at home, who are being told, with no appeal, and despite being able to show their invitations and name their sponsors – no, mate, you can’t come in here because we believe you intend not to return home and you don’t have the resources to support yourself.

The quasi-fascist policy has led to some truly horrendous gaffes, such as the conference on International Development sponsored by members of the UK Parliament having to be cancelled because so many overseas delegates were refused visas.

Clearly, only the natives should be discussing International Development. It’s our money, after all. And we know what’s best for you.

Is it a deliberate act of self-sabotage, I wonder? Because if it weren’t so serious it would be a huge joke, wouldn’t it? Assuming that BEM visitors can’t possibly be academics on their way to a conference, I mean. Because of their color. Or perhaps it’s just the uneducated stupidity of Border officials failing to understand the meaning and purpose of an academic conference or exchange visit, and the paperwork involved.

But it looks more and more to me like Little Britain pulling up the drawbridge.

The no-visas approach has been adopted by a Home Office that is clearly out of control: dysfunctional, authoritarian, administratively incompetent, racially biased and certainly not fit for purpose. Its spokesmouth responded predictably to complaints from serious quarters about the no-visas policy by saying, in its inimitable, tongue-in-cheek, “Yes, Minister” style: “We welcome international academics and recognise their contribution to the UK’s world-leading education sector.”

Clearly, no, they don’t. Because they’re not part of it. So they’re destroying it.

Alison Phipps, UNESCO lead on refugee integration, was quoted as saying:

“It’s a waste of taxpayers’ money and given the irresponsibility and erratic nature of UKVI decision-making, it’s the number one item on my risk register and we cannot, with any integrity, allow that kind of finance risk to the projects.”

Phipps, reports The Guardian, is particularly frustrated by the refusal of the Home Office to issue visitor visas to academics taking part in the government’s own Global Challenges Research Fund – a five-year, £1.5bn fund that uses UK aid money for research on intractable global challenges.

“The fund’s purpose is to hire and pay overseas academics to work with the UK on a range of government-funded projects,” said Phipps. “But even though we’re using the government’s money for exactly the purpose we’ve been given it, academics we sponsor are being turned down with no appeal rights.”

The Home Office has obviously gone rogue when its nationalistic, isolationist, Kafkaesque policies are working against the government’s own intentions. But the government itself is in total disarray and cannot be expected to sort out problems like this one. The Secretary of State has been far too busy with his failed bid to be selected to lead the party, to actually do his job. The actual Prime Minister is a ghost, haunting No. 10 until that fatuous Old Etonian nincompoop moves in with his soon-to-be ex-bit of totty.

(That’s a doomed relationship if ever I saw one – and I’ve had a few. Party girl meets midlife crisis? Forget it!)

It is as if Sajid Javid, first-generation-born son of immigrants from Pakistan, son of a bus driver, is so ashamed of his lowly origins, so hates who he is, that he has been instructing his Home Office officials to go in hard on anyone black or brown since, obviously, they can’t be bona fide academics, living as they do in mud huts and up trees. Just more illegal immigrants, takin’ the piss.

What are the fans going to think, when global football stars are being denied visas to play for their beloved clubs, I wonder? Musicians from other countries, including America, are already refusing to tour in Britain because of difficulty with visas. And still nothing has been set in stone, as regards EU citizens’ residency rights post-Brexit. People are still being wrongly interned or deported, or denied access to employment, housing rentals and health services they’ve been entitled to for decades.

It’s bad enough that the number one worry of UK universities is that Brexit will virtually end exchanges with European researchers and turn off the lucrative tap of foreign students, especially from China and the Indian subcontinent, already turning to the USA and Australia for their degrees rather than suffer at the hands, both of the Home Office and of our home-grown racist street-thugs. It’s getting harder to tell the difference.

But it’ll be great, won’t it, when the whole of white Britain can finally dumb itself down to the level of the daytime TV morons who voted for this omnishambles and who still refuse to understand what it is they’ve done because, well, “there’s more of us than you so we won’t be told”.

Great, when the feckless oaf, Boris Johnson, the domestic abuser and prime narcissist, a man who treats women like internet trolls use Kleenex – who apparently declines to practise safe sex or self-control – and who couldn’t even manage the job of Foreign Secretary without constantly putting his size-12s in it, becomes Prime Minister next month, and the role model for every gormless prat in the country.

I’m 70 this year, I don’t have many years left on the rockpile. Why, dear God, do I have to spend them trapped in a rotting prison hulk moored in mid-Atlantic with this bunch of useless bastards carousing on the bridge?

 

“All our Buddha’s are made by us using the best materials available.”

Tell me, what is wrong with this commercial announcement? (Yes, I’m looking for a large stone Buddha head for my little garden. I’ve actually found one, my local garden centre sells quite nice ones, only the staff are not allowed to lift them, for reasons of Health & Safety, one gathers, which might explain why they don’t appear to have sold any.)

There, their dear: some pointers for trolls

I’m rapidly going bald, reading too many readers’ comments beneath articles written by journalists who, if not always right about things, and lacking the professional eye of a subeditor, that extinct species, so that mistakes often of omission of entire words are becoming increasingly common, are nevertheless qualified to set down coherent thoughts in writing.

But you seldom find a misplaced apostrophe in the Washington Post, or the New York Times.

For fuck’s sake, morons, what makes you think your crapulous opinions can possibly carry any weight if you can’t even put an apostrophe in the right place? I’m tearing my goddam hair out. It just goes on getting worse.

It’s its! ITS!! That’s if the subject belongs or attaches to something neutral, an object, a statement, it’s its! If you wish to abbreviate “it is”, which is good practice in writing, then it’s it’s. Got it? If you wish to abbreviate can not, it’s can’t. Will not = won’t. Should not = shouldn’t. And if you’re trying to say something belongs to it, then it’s its.

Christ on a BMX, it’s not that difficult, surely?

(A longer version of this article will appear somewhere, maybe next week.)

 

Donald Trump’s bill to the US taxpayer for his 3-day weekend golfing trips has now topped $106.9 million since he took office in January 2017. Twenty-one per cent of his time as president – 186 days – has been spent on the golf course. (Farron Cousins/TYT). Mr Trump has claimed he works harder than any president in history.

 

Sunk like a Stone

Collectors of gems should hie themselves to an obituary in The Guardian, 25 June, of the historian Norman Stone, who has – probably mercifully, by the account – died at the age of 78.

It does seem something of a miracle he lasted so long.

It’s not done to speak ill of the dead; except that nowadays it is, and all the more fun for that. Although I’m not sure what Stone’s three sons will make of Prof. Richard Evans’ cooler than cool appraisal of their wayward dad.

I wonder actually what my own kids might make of my record? Not being in the slightest bit famous – or notorious – I guess I’ll just have to self-obituarize. I can be quite excoriating about myself, if it helps. I’m only intermittently a nice, kindly bloke with an optimistic outlook and a good word to say about anyone. I try to be unpleasant and kind on alternate days; balance being all, to a Libra. But – this bogl apart – I’m not the most communicative person you’ll never reach on the phone.

Though a minor celebrity Stone, Evans reckons, was a fairly lousy, lazy historian who got by mostly on one good book, a ton of literary flair and flashes of personal charm. I can relate to that, I relentlessly sent up the A-level exam questions as I’d done no revision, let alone prior work, yet managed somehow to get an A in History, presumably A for Amusement. Marking is such a chore. My teachers were not amused, however and it took the precocious gift of a bottle of whisky to placate my form master, who had written me off entirely.

Glasgow-born Stone, fee-paying-educated on an airforce scholarship granted after the death of his father in a training accident, also Norman, managed to get into Cambridge. London-born me didn’t, so there we part ways. And from there, like the Duke of Wellington, when he was up, he was up… you know the rest.

Evans – regius professor of history at the University of Cambridge, president of Wolfson College, Cambridge and Fellow of the British Academy for Humanities and Social Sciences – starts as he means to go on:

“One of the specialities of the historian Norman Stone, who has died aged 78, was character assassination.”

And goes on brilliantly to assassinate Stone in almost every paragraph; although if the accounts are true, Stone didn’t need much assassinating; at least, not in the literary sense. His morose drinking habit was enough to kill most people off, but apparently not whatever he had come to detest in himself.

“At a time when malice and rudeness were highly prized by some rightwing Cambridge dons, Stone outdid them all in the abuse he hurled at anyone he disapproved of…”

One wonders, though, how seriously he took his habit of using his modest academic platform to hurl invective at real politicians? His blasting of Ted Heath as “a flabby-faced coward” was, incidentally, plagiarism: Private Eye magazine had been successfully sued some years earlier for using the same flame-thrower on Tory Chancellor, Reginald Maudling.

Evans lovingly details how, following the publication of his well-received (if, in Evans’ opinion, somewhat Edwardian) magnum opus on “The Eastern Front, 1914-17”, Stone then subsided into a career marked by the publication of a succession of poorly researched potboilers. Having been an editor of history books, I am aware of the notion that infects publishers’ marketing departments that the mere mention of the name Hitler in a title will increase sales by 15 per cent. Needs must.

Posted by a relieved Cambridge establishment over to Oxford where, with the help of a doubtless polished reference from Sir Geoffrey Elton, he became Professor of Modern History, it seems Stone hardly ever turned up to work, frequently expressing his total contempt for his colleagues, all of whom he dismissed as “Marxists”.

“As a teacher Stone could be inspiring, often winning over his pupils with his charm, which on occasion could be quite considerable, but he became increasingly undisciplined, neglecting his duties, and spending increasing amounts of time playing poker and drinking himself into oblivion in Soho. … On the occasions when he did appear in Oxford to do some teaching, Stone became notorious for groping his female students … and annoyed Worcester College by sub-letting his rooms to make a bit of extra money. “

You kind of warm to him.

Eventually sacked, his considerable language skills came to his rescue, and having briefly been an advisor to Margaret Thatcher, who ignored his perfectly sensible view of the reunification of Germany – she saw it as a threat – but also generously ignored the occasion on which, pissed, he passed out in her presence, his career gently declined with a succession of middle-European academic postings, supported by increasingly rightwing views – he was a fan of the embryonic dictator, Viktor Orban.

There’s a little resonance there too. My father had been a “Soho rat” in the war years and after: an actor, director, globetrotting TV reporter and documentarist who self-exiled ino France for the last 30 years of his life, where he posed as an intellectual admirer of the rank, anti-semitic ultranationalist, Jean-Marie le Pen; whom he found personally charming. I don’t think it meant anything, quite honestly, it was mostly for show: he had run unsuccessfully as Liberal candidate for Twickenham in 1964, inspired after interviewing Jo Grimond.

Evans’ obituary of Stone ends on an unnecessary note of rancour, quoting a Trumpian rejoinder from Heath:

“Many parents of Oxford students must be both horrified and disgusted that the higher education of our children should rest in the hands of such a man.”

Must they, Sir Edward? It must be a comfort, knowing what people nowadays think of your Prime Ministership. And now you two lovebirds can discuss it together.

http://www.theguardian.com/books/2019/jun/25/norman-stone-obituary

 

GW: underwater climate news (and overground too…)

France: Dozens of people have been evacuated in northern France after thunderstorms and torrential rain caused flooding and mudslides on 24 June. A month’s worth of rain fell in 6 hours. Severe flooding and mudslides were reported in Lisieux, where streets were under 1.5 metres of water. Cars were swept away, schools and roads closed. The Le Cirieux river broke its banks, flooding the village of Malicorne. Local fire crews responded to over 150 incidents. The train line between Paris and Caen was closed by a mudslide. (From Floodlist)

Meanwhile, as heat starts to build from the so-called Spanish Plume (actually it’s coming up from North Africa), Météo-France is predicting peaks of 45C (113F) in the southern towns of Nîmes and Carpentras by Friday. That would be almost 4C hotter than the notorious 2003 heatwave, that killed 70,000 people across Europe. And that was in August, not June.

Wunderground adds: “Wildfire danger is predicted to steadily increase during the week, reaching the “Extreme” level by the weekend over portions of France, Italy, Portugal, Germany, Poland, Sweden, and the Czech Republic. The European Union is already well above recent norms for hectares burned & number of fires ignited in 2019.”

While, the WHO warns: “Heatwaves occurring early in the summer have been shown to be associated with greater impacts on mortality in the same population than later heatwaves of comparable or higher temperatures.” Something to do with adjustment. And watch out for Saharan dust, warns Severe-weather.eu, there’ll be a lot of it blowing about.

UK: Hours of heavy rain on 24 June caused flash flooding in Scotland’s capital Edinburgh and other parts of the country. Firefighters worked throughout East and Central Scotland to protect communities and property as torrential rain caused widespread localised flooding. In Edinburgh, tram services were temporarily suspended after flood water covered tracks. According to the Met Office, Edinburgh saw 44.4mm of rain in 24 hours. 14 people were rescued from a flooded building in Stirling. (From Floodlist)

Balkans: Croatia and Serbia were both hit on 23 June by extensive flooding. Rivers broke their banks. In Croatia houses were flooded, roads were blocked and crops and farmland damaged. Fire crews carried out over 60 interventions, pumping water or clearing flood debris. While areas of the Serbian capital, Belgrade, saw over 100mm of rain fall in less than 2 hours, the equivalent of more than a month’s worth of rain. Images on Social media showed swamped roads and stranded cars along streets of the capital. (From Floodlist)

Poland: “The interior ministry said 90 people have drowned so far this month trying to cool off in lakes or rivers, and in Lithuania 27 people were reported to have died in similar circumstances as temperatures in the Baltic state soared above 35C. In Germany (38.5C) officials imposed a 120km/h speed limit on stretches of the Saxony-Anhalt autobahn as the road surface began to deteriorate, while rail tracks buckled near Rostock on the Baltic Sea. With temperatures in Italy forecast to hit 40C, charities were preparing to distribute 10,000 bottles of free water, while 33 of Spain’s 50 provinces will be facing record-breaking temperatures, which could reach 44C by the weekend. (Guardian)

Columbia: 2 people have been killed and several are injured or missing after deadly landslides cut the highway between Florencia and Nueva, in Huila province Sunday. Again, heavy rainfall is to blame; orange alerts are out for rising river levels. (Floodlist)

Ecuador: “Severe flooding and landslides have affected central areas of the country since 20 June. At least one person has died, 1 is missing, 1 injured and 145 evacuated due to landslides and floods. Rivers broke their banks. The heavy rain also caused a landslide in Río Blanco which destroyed at least 4 houses. Three bridges were destroyed and several roads damaged. Several communities (have been) cut-off since 21 June. Local authorities have declared a state of emergency.

Australia: It’s not unheard of for nighttime temperatures to drop below freezing in the desert, and this winter has generally seen high pressure bringing cold nights to Alice Springs, where residents’ lawn sprinklers have produced pretty shows of icicles. However, my earlier point about subeditors being an extinct species is born out by this fascinating sentence in the report of “Ice cold in Alex” (my title. It was a movie!) on Sky news.au:

“In winter, this process is exacerbated by the sub bing far too the north and therefore less heat reaching the found.”

I think we can loosely translate that as “it’s colder where it’s not sunny”. Vital science information… My friend Harry has just seen his granddaughter off to her new life as a lawyer in Australia… Doesn’t look like she’ll have too much trouble getting on there.

Tunnel approaching…

Brace for impact: The Taurid Resonant Swarm is an occasional encounter the Earth has with a cluster of meteors in orbit around Jupiter that arrives every few years at the end of June along with the Taurid shower – a twice-yearly phenomenon that normally produces no more than a pretty display of shooting stars – not that we’ll see them here as the forecast this week is for cloud cover thick enough to reach 30 thousand feet, where the commercial jets fly.

Severe-weather.eu writes: “there are some seriously big space rocks in there. In 1975 seismographs on the Moon left by the Apollo mission astronauts, detected a flurry of seismic activity, most likely caused by large Taurid meteoroids impacting the Lunar surface. The last big encounter with the Taurid swarm was in 2015. In the last days of October and first two weeks of November, bright fireballs from the Taurid stream were noted across the world, many lighting up the sky brighter than the Moon!”

Typically, the Swarm produces rocks from 1 to 3m in diameter, but in 1908 one 50m across flattened a large part of Siberia and a few up to several hundreds of meters, big enough to have astronomical numbers and create an extinction event, are embedded within the swarm. As the bigger stuff is blackened with soot, astronomers may not see them approaching until it’s too late to send Bruce Willis up with a nuclear bomb. Happily, it’s only necessary to paint an asteroid white on one side to get it to change course.

Telling it like it is: “The world is increasingly at risk of “climate apartheid”, where the rich pay to escape heat and hunger caused by the escalating climate crisis while the rest of the world suffers, a report from a UN human rights expert has said. Philip Alston, UN special rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights, said the impacts of global heating are likely to undermine not only basic rights to life, water, food, and housing for hundreds of millions of people, but also democracy and the rule of law.” (Guardian report)

Insectaggeddon: Perhaps due to the mild, wet winter there seems to be something of a minor revival in insect populations this year where I live, especially flies. I tried to keep a few alive during the winter, fearing the worst. I’m actually starting to find them quite annoying again.

I’m watching a tiny, golden wasp, less than half an inch long. It is burrowing into a hole in the ground, through the dirt between the concrete flagstones of the patio. I notice there are several holes, with little mounds. Is it hunting ants, their eggs maybe, or is it a wasp that lives in holes in the ground?

I have no idea, so I look it up. It may be a Sphex wasp, of which there are 150 species. Who knew? They are harmless and prey on aphids, of which we have a glut again this year, infesting an annoying Elderflower tree growing through my amazing privet hedge. I would cut it down, but now I know the tiny wasps eat blackfly, I’ll leave them to their lunch.

 

 

The Pumpkin – Issue 87: The State of the Art, the Art of the State… Raindance festival… Off with their heads… The gain in Spain… Oh, the pain…

Quote of the Week

“I’m ashamed of my country for what it has done. It’s torn people apart … I am sick to death of politicians, especially British politicians. I am sick to death of Brexit. I am a European. I am not a stupid, colonial, imperialist English idiot.” – Sir Elton John, speaking while on his latest farewell tour in Verona.

 

Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi on an Isis propaganda video

“Ar-har, Jim lad, we be bound for Treasure Island!”

Long John Silver speaks out in shock new IS recruiting video.

 

“There’ll be only one monarch on parade.”

The State of the Art, the Art of the State

The problem with the Trump approach to diplomacy – stir everything up, throw shit at your allies and hold your enemies embarassingly close, while gutting the State Department of traditional diplomatic expertise and listening to nobody but the tiny yammering faces on Murdoch’s Fox & Friends – is that someday you’re going to turn up to the party to find the hosts piled up in the corner, gibbering incoherently in a state of advanced intoxication and no use to anybody.

This week, Trump’s callow son-in-law, special envoy Jared “Ken” Kushner arrived in Jerusalem to unveil his pre-doomed “peace plan” for the Middle East, only to find that the Israeli government had just collapsed in a groaning heap. Who expected that?

Newly re-elected by a whisker, The Kush’s dad’s old pal Netanyahu had tried to push for a law making it impossible to prosecute him on growing corruption charges, while parties far even to the right of his hardline Likud were refusing to join his coalition, leaving him with a minority in the Knesset.

As Kushner and his entourage were descending from the skies, Netanyahu was declaring a fresh election in the autumn, his majority whisked away in part by liberal voter opposition to Trump’s clumsy efforts to influence the election last month; while the White House’s unpopular attempts to deprive the Palestinian Authority of funding has largely failed as a typically Trumpian negotiating tactic since European sources have stepped into the breach.

The Washington Post reports:

“A new campaign cycle means no Israeli politician — least of all Netanyahu and Kushner’s other interlocutors on the Israeli right — would want to be associated with any kind of compromise with Palestinians.”

Nor, with the 2020 election fast approaching, does the Post think Trump will risk giving the deal another outing in November when the possibility – most say the likelihood – of failure could compromise his anticipated triumphal return to the White House for another four years of mounting chaos, kleptocracy and spiteful untruth-telling, a nation descending into madness.

Meanwhile, an ostentatiously huge delegation of 800 American officials: security men, hairdressers, burger-chefs and military planners has been landing on harmless little Britain like mosquitos to prearrange the arrival of The Beast – no, not Trump, the two-and-a-half ton bomb-proof perk, that travels everywhere to protect the president against satirical balloons – and the rest of the Imperial baggage-train, in advance of Trump’s greatest PR coup, his self-exonerating State visit.

And, oops, his dear friend Theresa May, whose authority as Prime Minister he went to great lengths on his “informal” visit last year to undermine, is now dead in the water and sinking fast, having agreed to step down as party leader the day after the Orange Nightmare goes home, under intolerable pressure from the Trumpists and Bannonites, the hardline nativist No Dealers, Victorian throwbacks and hedge-fund managers on the far right of her formerly centrist party, who have determinedly fucked-up her futile negotiations to exit the European Union with anything approaching our national dignity and the Good Friday Agreement intact.

Who will he be left to hold significant talks with?

The Pumpkin supposes he will not be much interested in being harangued on the subject of climate chaos and the Sixth Extinction by our putative future Green King, and may wish to escape ASAP the stuffy and oppressive atmosphere of Buck House and all those dull, hoity-toity, jewelry-encrusted losers and their hangers-on, just as soon as the photo op is finished.

There’ll be only one monarch on parade.

Nor will he want to mix with the likes of poor Jeremy Corbyn, who has already set light to his own invitation to the ceremonies. In the ritual pre-visit interview with Murdoch’s rabid tabloid Sun newspaper, Trump’s inner mob boss emerged to ominously inform Corbyn – just in case he should win an electoral victory – that he was making a big mistake.

Why, then, summon forth his old pal and elevator boy Nigel Farage, Britain’s Reichschancellor in waiting! Summon the correspondingly golden-haired wunderkind and darling of the provincial tricoteuses of the aging Conservative matriarchy, Boris “Watermelon, Picanninny, Letterbox, ‘Fuck Business'” Johnson.

Summon, why not, for Heaven’s sake, the pocket nationalist, “Tommy Robinson”, martyr for the cause of racist street-violence, to commiserate over the Presidential Abuse poor traduced Mr Trump has suffered for two years at the hands of Obama’s Deep-State Democrats and their profoundly conflicted inquisitor, Bob Mueller 111, gay lover of sacked FBI Director, James Comey, who has completely exonerated the President with his notorious hoax report levelling numerous unproceedable charges of treason and obstruction of justice at him that never happened, okay?

(“I wasn’t involved with the Russian attempt to… er, no, as you were, there was no Russian attempt to…”)

The fact is, whoever the “unindicted co-conspirator”, employer of undocumented labor and convicted tax-cheat, Trump chooses to consort with, his visit will be seen by most as an unwarranted intrusion into the political affairs of the nation. It remains to be seen what tone his infamous nocturnal tweets will adopt, what petty insults and whinges and lies and false accusations his tiny thumbs will produce around his unwelcome visit, for the entertainment of his dumbfucks at home.

It’s hard to see how exceptionalist British nativism can willingly reconcile to the imposition post-Brexit of US Imperial corporate hegemony in these islands, summarised simply for consumers as “chlorinated chicken”, although it’s a lot worse than that, but stranger things have happened.

His devoted followers may not be willing to consider, or even wish to hear about, Farage’s actual political agenda, beyond doing the maximum offence to inworkers and leaving the hated EU on any terms, including the collapse of much of Britain’s remaining manufacturing industry and the clawing back of worker and consumer protections.

But the removal of our revered State-funded universal healthcare system is high on his list, in favor of a US-style, US-owned, co-pay insurance market few people and small businesses will be able to afford to buy into.

So don’t blame The Pumpkin if life in Britain is about to take a very strange and ugly turn. He’s been trying to warn everybody for years.

 

Raindance festival

“Claire Cahm was preparing to set up an anti-Trump banner on the roof of her house, in the hope it catches his eye as he flies in. ‘I don’t suppose he will see it but it’s my gesture,’ she said. ‘We all have to do what we can. I hope it’s rainy and windy so his hair flies around everywhere.'” (Guardian)

Ooh, you absolute bitch! Portsmouth prepares to protest Trump’s personal Donald-Day event. (But of course, if it’s raining he won’t attend. Military helicopters can’t fly in the rain, as we all know.)

 

Off with their heads

Asked by his nemesis Jim Acosta of the hated CNN at a press conference on the lawn if he would agree that “treason” was a crime punishable by death, and who would he suggest could be prosecuted for the crime, a curiously swollen-looking President Trump began rattling off the names of James Comey, Peter Strojk and other former FBI officers he has had fired, apparently for investigating Russian interference in the election or, as in Comey’s case, refusing an illegal order to stop investigating former Trump soldier, Michael Flynn (said by a judge to have sold out his country) and swear personal allegiance to Trump.

Mr Trump also mentioned “Crooked” Hillary Clinton, who, he said, had instigated a coup d’etat against the government, purely out of spite because he won the election. (This, from the man who has floated the idea publicly that if he loses the 2020 election, he might refuse to leave office because the vote will have been rigged.)

Given the antithetical elements in the Commentariat and all the Democrats in the House, Death Row is going to get pretty crowded.

In the meantime, Trump has seized on comments tweeted by Liz, extreme rightwing daughter of former W Bush Vice-President and broadly acknowledged war criminal, Dick Cheney, one of the authors of the neocon conspiracy known as the “American Project for the 21st Century”, that political opposition to the President constitutes treason, to redefine the meaning of the word.

Bit by bit, America descends into the abyss.

 

For fairly terrifying analysis of the extent of the coup Trump is mounting against the State which, as the President, he is sworn to protect, see David Smith’s piece, ‘The Kraken unleashed’: how Trump’s shock troops attack US democracy, at http://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2019/jun/01/donald-trump-gorka-lewandowski-hannity-fbi-treason-mueller-russia

 

The gain in Spain

As further evidence of the growing insanity of the right, a proposal by the probably incoming Popular Party president of Spain’s Madrid region to abolish the city’s successful Low Emissions traffic zone must take the tortilla.

The aim apparently is to please the Vox party, that the Popular Party needs to go into coalition with to obtain a majority. The Francoist Vox is believed to be funded by the Christian right in the USA and to be acting as a conduit for money pouring into far-right disruptive parties in other parts of Europe.

Isabel Díaz Ayuso, 40 – yes, a woman (pretty hot!) and probably a mother (her marital status cannot easily be ascertained) – has argued that traffic congestion at 3 a.m. is part of the city’s culture and what gives it its vibrancy. Increased traffic is consistent with the city’s lucrative nightlife, she says, and so must take precedence over what she admits is not an ideal environment for humans.

The scheme has rapidly cut congestion and dangerous nitrogen pollution from diesel engines by up to 50% in parts of the city, in response to EU regulation. The European Environment Agency has estimated that 30,000 additional deaths in Spain annually are caused by air pollution.

Much research recently has shown too that CO2 and other airborne pollutants, including microparticles from diesel exhaust, are damaging children’s growing brains and lungs, and actively cause cognitive impairment in adults.

Neoliberalism is literally killing people and making us even more stupid.

And these greedy, selfrighteous, self-serving fuckers on the Christian right just don’t care.

Well, if they don’t care if others live or die, babies and children, as long as they go on making money for Jesus and his Lear jet, then what is the moral bar to killing them first? (reporting: Guardian)

Just askin’.

 

Oh, the pain

In response to an interview with the US Ambassador to London, Mr Robert Wood “Woody” Johnson a couple of months ago, in which he told Britain we would basically have to suck-up US food standards if we wanted a trade deal, the Bogler pointed out that Mr Johnson’s family business, Johnson & Johnson, was facing 12 THOUSAND law suits in the USA relating to allegations that their famous baby powder is cut with cancer-causing asbestos dust.

It gets better. The State of Oklahoma is suing the New Jersey-based firm for perpetuating America’s worst ever public health crisis, that is killing more than 50 thousand people a year through overprescription of powerful painkilling opioid drugs, for conditions that are essentially medicalized, i.e. invented by doctors. The Guardian reports:

“The New Jersey-based firm, better known around the globe for baby powder and shampoo, is fighting allegations by the state of Oklahoma that it conspired with other drug makers deceptively to market opioids by downplaying the significant risk of addiction and by pressuring doctors to prescribe narcotic painkillers, including to children.”

Several other companies involved in the lethal trade, including the Sackler family, have already settled huge compensation claims. You can bet your boots the Johnsons would be the kind of philanthropic Christians who tenaciously oppose abortion, being pro-life. Being accused of killing live babies and children however is a problem for their legal team.

A superstorm cell, photographed on 27 May. America, anyone?
(Mike Coniglio, NOAA National Severe Storms Laboratory.)

GW: Gettin’ better all the time

USA: The Weather Channel reports, “A much-needed break is finally on the horizon after a month-long siege of severe weather that ranks among the worst in modern U.S. records. A 12-day streak of daily rounds of severe weather culminated on Tuesday with a major long-track tornado … across the Kansas City metro area. … The havoc this month has also included widespread flash floods across the Plains and Midwest and severe river flooding in Oklahoma and Arkansas. … Amazingly, only six deaths have been directly attributed to this month’s tornado swarm.”

The worst flood in US history?: 2,289 died in the Johnstown flood of 31 May, 1889, 130 years ago, when a 40-foot wall of water from a bursting dam roared through the town. Around 8″ of rain had fallen overnight – the weather station was washed away with its operator, so no-one knows quite how much rain fell. Many residents took refuge on a stone bridge, where a huge pile of debris including oil tanks caught fire, leading to many deaths. (Weather historian, Christopher C Burt, on Weather Underground)

Vietnam: Heavy monsoonal rainfall in China that has claimed 9 lives and ruined 23 thousand Ha of crops has spilled over into north Vietnam and killed another 2 in floods and landslides that have destroyed homes and crops. “National Center for Meteorological Forecasting warned of further heavy rain with risk of flooding and landslides over the coming days.” (Floodlist) BBC Weather reports, the monsoon is late arriving in southern India but is expected any day now.

Japan: It seems a little cooler, Japan Times is now ignoring the whole story. Earlier in the week, The Weather Channel reports, “At least 5 people have died and nearly 600 have been hospitalized as a heat wave grips Japan. Sunday, the temperature hit 103.1 degrees in the coastal town of Saroma on the island of Hokkaido, according to the Japan Times. The Meteorological Agency said that is the highest temperature at any observation point in Japan for the month of May.”

Chile: BBC is reporting, trails of destruction have been caused by a rare series of strong tornadoes that hit the towns of Los Angeles and Conception, 100 km apart, yesterday. 1 person is reported dead, others injured.

Spain and Portugal: Many parts of the peninsula have been on Orange heat and fire alerts this past week. Spain’s national weather office placed one province, Cordoba, on Red alert, the highest level in the scale, meaning soaring temperatures posed an “extreme risk” to health. Temperatures in the Andalusian countryside were expected to climb to 44 deg. C., 111F (Earth Changes Media)

“‘These are not usual meteorological phenomena, being of an exceptional intensity and with a very high level of risk for the population,’ a spokesman for Spain’s national weather office said.”

It’s expected still to be around 30C this evening, 1 June, for the 8pm kick-off of the European Champions’ League final in Madrid between British football clubs Tottenham Hotspur and Liverpool.

UK (the south, anyway ): “is forecast to record the hottest day of the year so far as temperatures are set to soar this weekend (1 June). According to the Met Office, the south-east of England could reach 29C (84F) on Saturday, 0.5C higher than the joint warmest days of the year so far, on 19 April and 15 May. The average June temperature is 17C. (Guardian Weather) Here in Boglington, it’s an agreeable 25C. Sadly, it’s a one-day wonder: Sunday it’s back to cloudy and cool with rain in the west.

“Britain is setting new records for going without coal-powered energy. In the latest milestone, it has gone for two weeks without using coal to generate electricity – the longest such period since 1882.” (Guardian Green Light)

 

Tunnel approaching…

Bali: Mt Agung is at it again. A major eruption yesterday, latest of many that have led to mass evacuations in the past two years and disrupted air travel, sent a cloud of ash up to a height of 6000 feet. Mt Etna on Sicily has also been erupting quite violently, a new fissure spewing lava in spectacular fashion.

Yellowstone: looks like the Steamboat geyser went off again briefly on 28 May. That makes 18 this year, on course for a new record to beat last year’s total of 32 (normal year is 2 or 3). USGS printouts show, there’s been major venting in the Norris Junction area this week of sulphur dioxide, ancient helium and other volcanic gases. (Mary Greeley)

 

An unwanted present… We are the rulers of the Queen’s na-vee… Internetanyahoos… Pal Joey… Head in the sand… GW: ‘I’ve got my hoodie to keep me warm’… Conservation news.

A Merry Xmas to all our reader.

An unwanted present

Wearing my house slippers, I took some bread out to the bird table for their Xmas brunch and the opportunity to slip a belated card through my neighbour’s door. Feeling a squishy moment underfoot, I looked down and realized that I had stepped in a present her little dog had left in my front garden.

Slightly fuck Christmas.

And a Merry Christmas to everyone. Donald and Ivanka. Melania.

 

Democracy inaction

“This rat-infested, weevil-ridden government, this coffin-ship of benighted fools is intolerably odious. It must be sunk, without trace.”

“We are the rulers of the Queen’s na-vee” (after G&S)

“When Raquel Rolnik, the UN’s special rapporteur on housing, called on the Government to rethink the ‘bedroom tax’, arguing that it eroded the right to adequate housing, the then housing minister Kris Hopkins labelled her report a ‘misleading Marxist diatribe’.”

The callousness and refusal to face facts of the present government is surely shown in no harsher light than in its mendacious and diffident responses to successive reports by United Nations rapporteurs on the effects of its social policies, that amount to an egregious breach of the basic ‘human rights’ of British citizens to decent treatment and a roof over their heads.

Every international advisory report is projected by ministers as a spiritual attack on British values; every inconvenient expert opinion politicized as the work of ignorant, external enemies – untutored foreigners – bent on undermining ‘our way of life’. But, of course, they also choose to rubbish expert reports from our own institutions as well, when it suits them; flat-out denying what is staring the rest of us in the face. Expediency being the name of the game.

When Professor Philip Alston ended his two-week fact-finding mission in November by accusing the government of inflicting ‘great misery’ on its people with ‘punitive, mean-spirited, and often callous’ policies, Work and Pensions Secretary Amber Rudd “used her first appearance following her return to frontline politics last week to attack a UN inquiry into poverty in the UK for its ‘extraordinarily political nature’.”

As if hunger, homelessness, mental illness and a rising suicide rate are fit subjects for political grandstanding. What else is Government for, Ms Rudd, other than reducing its citizens to a state of abject deprivation?

These excerpts are taken from an article on the Open Democracy website today, 12 December, by civil rights lawyer Michael Keller; who points out that, despite our treaty commitments, the UN’s view of what constitutes a proper compact between the State and its citizens is legally unenforceable in the face of an intractable and intransigent administration determined to redistribute wealth to the richest section of society at the cost of its poorest.

As we prepare incompetently to quit the European Union, in breach of our longstanding commitments to our allies and trading partners, and cast off into the big wide world on our own again, the BogPo is reminded of the appalling conditions and brutal regime imposed on sailors of the early 19th century by a lofty and overbearing naval officer class; where even a 12-year-old junior ensign held almost unlimited power over the ordinary able seaman.

Not even the disabled escape. “In 2016 when the UN’s Committee on the Rights of Disabled Persons found that the government was guilty of ‘grave and systematic violations’ of disabled people’s rights, the government responded by refuting the committee’s findings and its ‘offensive’ view of disability’.”

What, a view that says disabled people deserve fair treatment? Offensive? This rat-infested, weevil-ridden government, this coffin-ship of benighted fools is intolerably odious. It must be sunk, quickly and without trace.

The problem, according to Keller, is that while other rights are relatively easy to pin down, a generalized ‘socioeconomic’ right to a decent life is nebulous and without legal definition. “While the Government continues to pay lip service to its treaty commitments, any criticism based on socioeconomic rights will be branded ‘too’ ideological or political.”

It all comes down to the conflict between “human rights’ commitment to individual freedom … (and) neoliberalism’s commitment to the market, property rights and suspicion of the State.”

There is nothing that will shame these comfortable and complacent bilge-rats of the neoliberal wing of the Conservative tendency into adopting an even remotely compassionate policy towards the sick, the old, the disabled, the workless, the mentally fragile, the homeless, the refugee and the poor. Every crutch is to be kicked away; every social service bled white; every ‘assessment’ rigged, every minor infraction of the Byzantine rulebook harshly sanctioned, every minority minimised, nothing let to go unprivatized, in favour of the more convenient Protestant work ethic.

These layabouts and scroungers must work, work, work and work yet more for the good of the stockjobbers, the bond traders, the hedge fund managers, the investment bankers, the IFAs, the bent global accountancy firms propping up organized crime, the estate agents and the commodities brokers – the whole money-breathing cartel.

Wheelchairs? Mental health facilities? Meals-on-wheels? Decent, properly run care homes? Schools with roofs, that foster learning? Functioning hospitals and reliable, affordable public transport? Affordable homes and loans?

Fuck ’em.

‘Arbeit macht frei’, as the Germans put it – over the gates of Auschwitz.

Work for your freedom. Or die in the process.

We don’t actually care.

http://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/mickey-keller/in-fight-against-austerity-human-rights-is-not-answer?utm_source=Daily+Newsletter&utm_campaign=2c9a0c5f0a-DAILY_NEWSLETTER_MAILCHIMP&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_717bc5d86d-2c9a0c5f0a-408090269

 

“And there’s this little switch you flick to turn it on…”

Internetanyahoos

Calling for widespread revenge on a Palestinian who shot dead two Israeli soldiers, the son of the Israeli prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, who is facing-down potential corruption charges, has been temporarily banned from Facebook after a series of anti-Muslim and anti-Palestinian posts the social network said broke its rules on hate speech.

This deeply unpleasant, gormless little racist fucker, the overprivileged, overentitled son of the mafia sockpuppet, has been kicked off Facebook – for just 24 hours!

“A Facebook spokesperson said: ‘Yair Netanyahu posted several posts which included hate speech – this clearly violates our community standards. Due to that, this content was removed from our platform, as we would do for anyone posting similar content about any protected characteristic. Following this, Yair Netanyahu decided to share a screenshot of a removed post and called people to share it – which is the same as writing the hate speech all over again’.” (Guardian)

Meanwhile 1.5 million Palestinians, whose past generations from AD 70 until 1947 were the majority Semitic population of Israel and whose rights are supposedly protected under the founding constitution, continue to barely exist in the blockaded Gaza ghetto, dying from a shortage of medical supplies and economic opportunity.

Not to mention from the frequent punitive Heydrich-inspired* incursions by the overwhelmingly superior Israel military, arrogantly heedless of the charges of war crimes their abuses provoke from an enfeebled UN, that greet their paltry acts of resistance. The United States is complicit in so much hideous brutality.

Personally speaking, I am just sick of this. It began in the year before I was born and still there is no resolution to it. I’m well aware of the history. But it’s none of my business, I’m not Jewish.

Fuck that. I don’t care what names you call me.

Seven THOUSAND Palestinians have been shot and wounded by Israeli border forces in the name of ‘security’, using live ammunition against unarmed teenagers staging mostly peaceful or stone-throwing protests from behind the barbed-wire fences separating them from settler territory – open farmland. More than 200 have been murdered; many seized by Israeli snatch-squads and disappeared into the system. 70 per cent of Under-25s in Gaza are unemployed. The suicide rate is devastating.

Yet far from all of them are supporters of the more belligerent wing of the democratically elected governing party, Hamas; branded for political reasons as a ‘terrorist’ organization..

For some reason, a substantial section of the Israeli population – not all – have decide that the Holocaust did not enhance their claim to humanity.

Palestinians just think they deserve the same chance at life as you do, and prefer not to be blown to bits periodically by a bunch of cowardly racist bullies in Tel Aviv with overwhelming force at their disposal and connections to the Russian mafia, who have learned their brutal politics of repression from Putin in Chechnya and, before him, the Nazis in Poland.

This situation will continue as long as dumbfucks in America go on imagining that it is the Palestinians who are the terrorists and the Israeli occupiers the tragic heroes. And that Trump’s admiration for the genocidal C19th president, Andrew Jackson is somehow laudable. I’m afraid just being white doesn’t cut it.

The UN for decades has passed resolution after insouciantly ignored resolution attempting to regularize the situation. But when the crook, Netanyahu can moan about Australia recognizing Israeli West, and not Palestinian East, Jerusalem as the de facto capital of Israel – something all Christians should be shouting about – as the fatuous and ignorant oaf Trump has done, to please his slimy little plastic son-in-law Kushner and the millennarian Evangelical dumbfucks, a tickle on the wrist from Zuckerberg’s underwhelming ethics department is calculated to do absolutely nothing to halt the ongoing crime against humanity that is the Gaza ghetto.

Sorry, and all that.

*So, here I mentioned Reinhard Heydrich, the “Butcher of Prague”, just once in the aforegoing text, and lo! A documentary film about him has just popped up in the suggestions sidebar on YouTube. Do we think this is just coincidence? Of all the murderous Nazi gauleiters in all the web pages in all the world, he has to walk into mine…

 

Brexit, the Movie…

“Sandra Bullock plays a lone mother with two young children, battling an unseen force which compels you to kill yourself if you see it.” (Guardian Culture review)

 

Pal Joey

I’m most impressed.

For some unaccountable reason, four people in the past 24 hours have been visiting a long-running Page I began Posting about six years ago, cataloguing my jazz CD collection in as much technical detail as I can manage. (I haven’t Posted anything to Pages in a month of Sundays, so how people are attracted to them I don’t understand.)

Even I have trouble finding it, buried away in the mountain of solipsistic verbiage that is The Boglington Post‘s 7-year archive.

But I do try to keep the listings up to date. I have about 400 jazz CDs now, my limited shelf space has run out and they’ve started to occupy boxes on the floor, always a bad sign. As nothing, compared to an astrophysicist I vaguely know, whose entire downstairs floorspace is covered with stacked boxes 3-ft high of his jazz CDs. Then, he’s not living on the State pension.

I seldom even play them, other than the most recent, that might get the odd repeat run-through. The idea was to transfer them to my li’l laptop for portability and convenience, which I was doing steadily until I lost my cool one day and beat it to death with my great clunking fist. They can be annoying, laptops. But the new one has no CD-tray; they’ve gone out of vogue. So I had to start again, but by a more circuitous route, and I’m not bothering – it’s technical.

And in recent months I’ve pretty much stopped ordering CDs, my Kenny Wheeler phase having drawn to a satiated conclusion. I tend nowadays more to browse for my jazz listening pleasure on YouTube, where great variety if no sound quality is to be found.

Until last night when, having discovered the extraordinary pianist Joey Alexander, and listened raptly to him all evening, I flipped and ordered two of his CDs from up the Amazon. Do you know him?

He’s the 15-year-old kid from Bali who turned professional at the age of 10. And, to be honest, I think he was the better player then.

You see, most ‘awesome’ child prodigies on YouTube are the victims of pushy parents or have just superficial talents that can be spun into a short, compelling narrative and promoted to their five minutes of fame as lucrative clickbait. Joey is definitely not one of those ‘X-Factor contestant’, one-shot wonders. No Sir.

Aside from his self-taught mastery of pianistic technique, which is widely acknowledged, his jazz ‘chops’ are such that grown musicians are visibly in awe of him. His improvisational skills, ability to build compelling solos, knowledge of form and structure, maturity of touch and feeling, his exciting chord logic and every other area of his playing – even his unbelievably deep knowledge of the jazz genre – are positively surreal, in a swotty-looking little kid with a lopsided grin and Harry Potter specs.

By 12 he had already been nominated for two Grammy awards, performed by invitation at the White House for the Obamas, given concerts at the Lincoln Centre and at the top festivals around the world. His ridiculously young age – usefully he has unusually large hands for a child – has never seemingly been a barrier to his career. And it is in every sense, a proper musical career.

He has played with many of the stars of the jazz world, who are won over in the first few seconds by his infectious charm, confidence and seemingly instinctive professionalism, whether on stage or in the recording studio, and give their all for him; humbly accepting his musical leadership. They know what they’ve got. People have likened him to Mozart; although his compositions are really nothing compared with the genius of Leipzig, who composed his first symphony at the age of six – the age when Joey first sat down at a piano.

Perhaps the only fly in the ointment will be that, as he grows up – he is 15 now – he will grow into another jazz musician: brilliant, exceptional, even ground-breaking; but nevertheless no longer having the status and curiosity value of a prodigy. The world is often not kind to ex-child prodigies. He will need good and careful management to guide where he goes next.

Who could resist chucking another £25 at his recording company, anyway?

Everything confuses me nowadays. It probably helps to be 10, rather than pushing 70. So much more certainty!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=plTPRr7B4ns “Over the Rainbow” – Joey, age 10

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_1liUart72g “Over the Rainbow” – Later, maybe age 12?

 

Head in the sand

A newly discovered, but already endangered creature with a burrowing habit, resembling a miniature slow worm, has been officially named after Donald Trump.

What the poor thing has done to deserve the name Dermophis donaldtrumpi, The BogPo shudders to think. One can only hope it may survive the coming extinction to evolve into something better.

“The name was chosen by the boss of a sustainable building materials company, who paid $25,000 at an auction (in aid of the Rainforest Trust) for the right. The small legless creature was found in Panama and EnviroBuild’s Aidan Bell said its ability to bury its head in the ground matched Donald Trump’s approach to global warming. (Guardian Green Light)

Given that the Abominable No-man just called for a court to investigate the long-running Saturday Night Live TV satire show on grounds he believes it to be a Democrat party-funded plot against him, I doubt he will see the amusing side, or even – as most of us might, however ghastly – be flattered to be immortalised in this way.

Paranoiacs are never satisfied.

 

For a tolerably amusing SNL Cold Open skit on the UK’s most popular Xmas movie, “It’s a Wonderful Trump”….http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AdQl7SxOHek

 

I’m just watching alumni of UCL and Reading University competing in a semifinal round of University Challenge. And wondering how it is that I seem to be able to answer twice as many questions in less time than these now well-paid professionals in their fields? Gven that I never managed to get into a University?

 

GW: ‘I’ve got my hoodie to keep me warm’

India: 120 k/h “Cyclone Phethai, which made landfall on Monday afternoon, caused havoc for the people along the coastal districts of Andhra Pradesh. The cyclone, which was accompanied by strong and gusty winds, has resulted in heavy showers across the state and claimed two lives.” 11,600 people were evacuated as their houses are yet to be repaired after Cyclone Titli in October. There is another cyclonic circulation over the Bay of Bengal moving northwestward that may pose another threat for southern India.

“One occurrence that seemingly amused people was a strange phenomenon, which locals are calling ‘fish rain’, that happened after the cyclone. A video that has been going viral on social media shows several fishes either dead or thrashing about in the puddles formed after the rains.” (The News Minute/Al Jazeera)

Phethai is the 7th named storm of the 2018 North Indian Ocean cyclone season, the most active since 1992. (The Watchers)

Tropical Cyclone Kenanga is 800 miles SW of Diego Garcia in the southern Indian Ocean, and close by is Tropical Cyclone Cilida, that has rapidly intensified from the Invest 92S GW reported two days ago to reach the verge of a rare 150 mph Cat 5. Neither looks like making landfall anywhere soon.

Australia: “A cyclone that was predicted to wreak havoc across Queensland has been downgraded to a tropical low, after unleashing 17cm (6.6in) of rain in two hours across the north of the state. “Halifax (near Ingham) received 681mm of rain in 24 hours” – records were broken. Winds reached 170 K/h. One person was drowned. Authorities warn that Cyclone Owen could still re-form offshore on Monday. Severe weather and flood warnings are in place.” (BBC/Floodlist)

The town of Woy Woy in New South Wales is trashed by chunks of ice the size of “tennis balls” (BBC) The repair bill for damage caused by the “catastrophic” hailstorm that struck Sydney and other parts of NSW on Thursday is expected to exceed AU $125m. Insurance company stocks plummeted on the news. The Bureau of Meteorology called it the “worst hailstorm in 20 years.” Meanwhile Brisbane is sweltering through a 36 deg. C heatwave. (Guardian)

Thailand: Heavy rain between 16 and 18 December caused flooding in several southern provinces. Local media report that 1 person died and 1 is missing. Flooding and heavy rain affected 377 villages across 17 districts in Nakhon Si Thammarat Province. Soldiers and rescue workers carried out evacuations in Muang district. Schools have been closed in affected areas.” (from: Floodlist)

USA: A heavy snowstorm swept through US south-eastern states, killing at least three people and leaving hundreds of thousands without power. A state of emergency was declared in North Carolina, with some areas reporting as much as 0.5m (18.5ins) of snow over the weekend. One man died after a tree fell on his car. A search is under way for a driver whose vehicle was found in a river. Thousands of flights were also cancelled across the region. (BBC)

Another powerful storm hit Seattle on the west coast, bringing several inches of snow and knocking out powr to 300 thousand homes.

A warning of potentially deadly surf has gone out along the entire California coastline and up as far as Washington State, pushed by a succession of powerful storms out in the Pacific. Harbors have been closed. National Weather Service warned breaking wave heights could reach 40 feet, affecting beach parking lots and walkways. It could also lead to beach erosion and damage to coastal structures, the NWS warned. (The Weather Channel)

Wunderground reports, Dr. James Elsner of Florida State University finding an increase in the destructive power of U.S. tornadoes averaging 5.5% per year since 1994. Although annual numbers have remained constant, they’re getting bigger and lasting longer.

Bolivia: “Heavy rain and a severe storm caused serious damage to homes and power supply in the town of Mayaya in La Paz Department on 13 Dec. Parts of Larecaja province saw further heavy rain during the following days. Local media reported  flash floods in Larecaja Province between 17 and 18 December. (Floodlist)

UK: Storm Deirdre brought rain, ice and several inches of snow to the north and parts of Scotland at the weekend, with gale-force winds affecting most of the west coast. Homes were without power in Wales and fallen trees blocked icy roads.

Not much COP

Poland: As greenhouse gas emissions continue to rise alarmingly across the globe, the extended UN COP24 climate conference in the Katowice coal-mining district packed its tents on Sunday, as 10 thousand weary delegates flew home following the signing of a toothless, watered-down commitment by global governments to provide more ‘transparency’ on carbon emissions, in line with the already out-of-date, 3-years-old, ‘1.5 degrees’ Paris accord.

Yellowstone: the Blessed Mary Greeley records that the Steamboat geyser, largest in the park, has erupted for the 31st time this year. In a normal year you might see two or three eruptions. She is also reporting hugely increased groundlift and a large volume of magma getting closer to the surface. Could be an interesting Christmas.

Emissions: Largely ignored by COP delegates and governments alike, methane continues to pour out of the Arctic from the twin sources of thawing permafrost and seabed clathrates. Arctic-News reports levels on 09 Dec. as high as 3050 ppb. The El Niño event identified a few months ago continues to slowly intensify, with sea surface temperature anomalies up to 10C above baseline in the Atlantic. At the South Pole – height of summer – it’s about 10C to 15C warmer today, 19 Dec, than even the warming average over the past 18 years.

Promotions: In a shakeup following the departure of Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, under investigation on 17 counts of ethics violations, the department has been handed on to Zinke cronies: Deputy Secretary Bernhardt, a former oil industry lobbyist, who has appointed a former employee of agrichemical giant Monsanto to head the bureau of Fish and Wildlife. The service has already re-permitted the use of a banned bee-killing pesticide, made by….

With coal-industry lobbyist Andrew “sixteen” Wheeler at the helm of the EPA, your Auld Gran is evermore convinced Trump’s presidency is just one gigantic pisstake. He hates America because they laugh at his absurd combover, that he can’t take out in the rain. This is his revenge.

Conservation: A new study by marine biologists at Dalhousie University in Canada reveals that fish are worse off owing to unlicensed trawling inside Europe’s Marine Protection Areas (MPAs) than in the areas outside. “99% of the MPAs had no information on no-take zones … and half had no management plan.”

Meanwhile, Japan has reportedly withdrawn from the International Whaling Convention and proposes to resume unrestricted commercial whaling.

The sooner the human race is extinct, the better.