The Pumpkin – Issue 22: The emollients clause. Plus: The forensic mind of Donald Trump. Computer News.

 

“Cheer up Ma, at least Trump’s cancelled” (AP)

Hello again

With apologies to its author, Philip Cohen, may I share with you this most excellent diatribe on the subject of The Pumpkin’s favourite object, stolen from the Comments section of The Washington Post, 7 June?

Thank you.

Drumpf’s a charlatan—an arrogant, autocratic, ignorant, incompetent, inarticulate, blustering, uncouth, unprincipled, hypocritical, malevolent, divisive, thin-skinned, grossly narcissistic sociopath; a draft dodging, much sued, numerously bankrupted, pathological liar, and political neophyte, with an adolescent brain displaying chronic “status twitterus” (a debilitating condition in which twittering fits follow one another without recovery of consciousness between them)—in sum, a classic, “Dunning-Kruger” / “Peter Principle” affectee—utterly unfit to be POTUS.

…had he not been born into great wealth it’s likely he would now be living under an overpass somewhere—yet the “poorly educated” have elected this “bouffanted buffoon” POTUS, making the U.S. the laughingstock of the world.Drumpf’s a man of principles few and flexible—he offers only incoherent bluster and delusionary or naively simple answers to complex problems—we will be lucky if this crétin does not cause some major tragedy to befall us. The only thing scarier than Drumpf is the ~63 million idiots that voted for this oaf, and about whom—some may soon enough come to realise—he cares not one iota.

Those who feel this is a bit excessive and are willing to forgive the President for skimming hundreds of thousands of dollars off his browbeaten and shallow-witted son Eric’s fundraisers for a children’s cancer charity, or for claiming that he was ‘better trained militarily than most’ of the 82 thousand US troops who died in Vietnam while he was securing successive exemptions for a probably non-existent and easily curable condition, thus avoiding the necessity to prove the claim, might pause to consider his latest wheeze.

It appears that one of a series of assaults on poverty in the budget he’s recently presented to Congress is to cut funding by 29 per cent for a federal program that provides an already limited amount of housing benefit to the homeless, enabling them to have an address from which to seek work; while at the same time preserving a special government subsidy to wealthy landlords.

Mr Trump has extensive rental property holdings, as you know, including a 4 per cent stake he inherited from his father Fred in a complex called Starrett City, from which he is said to earn $20 million a year. Having, as I say, inherited the holding, Mr Trump has at times claimed it was one of the best investments he ever made. He is an incorrigible scoundrel, a liar and a fantasist, but never mind, let’s press on.

Starrett City’s shareholders have reportedly received $490 million from the subsidy alone since 2013; $28 million in the last four months.

Mr Trump, who nobly announced on taking up the job that he would forego the normal salary of $450k a year, seems to be using the office of President to guarantee himself a side-income of a few million dollars a year; what is, essentially, a taxpayer-funded backhander to himself and his cronies, whilst ensuring the very poorest Americans whom he swore an oath to protect have nowhere to live, thus lessening their chances of finding one of the many jobs he is failing to deliver.

To ensure nothing goes wrong, Mr Trump has appointed the woman who organized his wedding to Melania, Lynne Patton, a former officer in Eric Trump’s charity foundation, a person with no public service experience, to head the New York office of the Department for Housing and Urban Development.

It would be a joke if it weren’t so sad.

(Reporting: Washington Post)

The Pumpkin is honestly at a loss when reaching for the usual supererogatory expressions of nausea today to find new words to accompany this horrible, horrible man on his journey to the innermost circle of Hell, given that I used to keep pigs and have great respect for their perceptive intelligence, forbearance and selfless humanity; their grasp of foreign policy.

I will simply let Mr Philip Cohen’s resonant encomium, that provides such a lazy introduction to this week’s issue 22 of The Pumpkin, stand as mute testimony to my imaginative failure, and go take Hunzi for his morning walk.

The weather too has taken a turn overnight. After five days of record-breaking heat and humid sunshine, reeking of tanning oil, we are enshrouded in a clammy, murky drizzle.

Oh, well. Probably Yellowstone will get us instead.

x

“…there is never an ‘endgame’ in the Middle East, only a transition to something worse.”

The forensic mind of Donald Trump

To use the phrase ‘American foreign policy’ with regard to the situation in the Middle East is to do oxymoronic violence to the English language. For even the forensic, nimble and well-stocked brain of the President seems not quite able to figure out, in his own words, just what the hell is going on; the problem being, he’s the one in charge.

But the Middle East is complicated, idn’t it?

In the space of barely a month, Mr Trump met with the Emir of Qatar and assured him of America’s undying friendship and desire to sell him billions of dollars’ worth of ‘beautiful military equipment’ (the man is sick in the head, but we’ll continue…).

On his return, he tweeted out that he, Trump, had in a single two-day visit to Riyadh – during which he performed a sword dance and Ivanka was handed a present of $100 million, seemingly without strings – ended the scourge of global terrorism for ever, persuading the Saudi allies to embark on a policy of blockading evil Qatar, the source of all global terrorism.

Then, ahem, having been reminded by Gen. Mattis that there are 11 thousand US and NATO troops stationed in friendly Qatar, the main base from where operations are being conducted against ISIS, Mr Trump tweeted out again to complain that he had been misled by the Saudis and Qatar was not a sponsor of terrorism after all, so the UAE should back off.

The correction came somewhat late in the day, as (supported by Russia and Iran) Turkey had already sent troops to Qatar in a ‘training’ capacity to wave a scimitar in the hostile face of Riyadh, and the fairly gratuitous shooting-down of a Syrian airforce plane by a US airforce plane had brought Russia and America eyeball to eyeball once more over the proposed fate of the Assad regime.

Having abandoned command of his forces to the generals on the ground, Trump was now seeing things spinning out of his grasp.

Meanwhile, in a palace coup the senile King Salman’s pleasure-loving son, the war criminal in charge of all those beautiful weapons currently slaughtering Yemeni children, Prince Mohammed bin Salman, 31, has been nominated as the sock-puppet who will take over as the heir-apparent to the ‘oil-rich’ terror-sponsoring Gulf state in place of the King’s more sensible, peaceable but less US-friendly nephew, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Nayef, 57, who has, in the words of The Sun newspaper, been ‘fired’….

From The Sun (22 June):

SAUDI Arabia’s future King is a millionaire businessman who is friends with Donald Trump and recently splashed out over £400 million on a yacht.

Mid-East policy all at sea: The Serena (Getty Images)

So we must assume that once King Salman, who is said to have Alzheimer’s, kicks the bucket, Saudi Arabia will follow a pro-American line; rather than as, at present, America follows a pro-Saudi line. And if he is not in jail by then Trump will personally – and presumably financially – benefit.

Who is this a victory for?

Now, The Pumpkin has a confession. Throughout my career I prided myself on my analytical pattern-recognizing abilities and the particular strength I felt I had in being able to join the dots in complex situations: pull together the threads, grasp the big picture (enough business cliches. Ed.).

Pundits are starting to refer to the ‘endgame’ in Syria as Assad finally bids foul to regain control of the country after six years of war, thanks to his Russian pals, with whatever consequences it may bring for his opponents – my bet is a massacre – but you and I know, don’t we, there is never an ‘endgame’ in the Middle East, only a transition to something worse.

So I would really love to give you insight and clarity on the situation as it stands currently, because lots of new and strange things seem to be happening, but I’m afraid it will have to wait for someone better to come along. I am utterly at a loss to explain what is going on, so irrational and contrafibulatory do all the many actors appear to have become.

The noisy men – Victor McGlaglan

It is possible I, or they, have gone mad trying to work out the connections. It’s like John Wayne and Victor McLaglan and Alan Ladd (on his box) slugging it out in a Howard Hawks mass barroom brawl that drags everyone in, smashing chairs and bottles over one another’s heads with scant regard for who is on who’s side. No sooner do I feel I have a handle on it, than my brain suffers a chronic meltdown and everything starts to slip alarmingly sideways.

However, I can offer one possible clue.

Just last week I gave up trying to find anything worth watching on TV, and reverted to my DVD collection. One of the first films I pulled out was ‘Syriana’, a thriller set in the Middle East, by and starring George Clooney as ‘Bob’, a redundant CIA operative turned freelance, who equally has a problem knowing what is going on when he is kidnapped and tortured by the jihadis he has just sold some state-of-the-art kit to (okay, that’s not quite it, but I’m too old to explain) and has to be rescued by Hezbollah; with Matt Damon as the good guy, the fresh-faced analyst from the State Department sent to groom the heir to an oil-rich Gulf kingdom, but who gradually realises he’s being corrupted by the Deep State*.

It must be about ten years old and, although I’ve watched it four times now, I’ve never really grasped the plot.

All I know is that a key point comes – and here is the amazing synchronicity – when the ageing King of the unnamed Gulf state changes his mind about his successor and ‘fires’ his strong and stable but independently reformist heir and friend of Matt Damon in favour of a weak and dissolute younger brother who doesn’t care about ‘his people’. He will prove a more useful asset to the rogue group of CIA conspirators plotting with a giant and totally amoral oil company to turn the oil-rich kingdom into a client state, and will stop at nothing – including sponsoring arms sales to useful but unpredictable jihadi militias.

Meanwhile, the agency has succeeded at home in deflecting an FBI investigation into bribery and corruption reaching up to the highest levels of the company and beyond – as far up as Christopher Plummer, an apparently immortal billionaire politician and former CIA head who, ‘Bob’ realizes, is running the operation from behind the scenes.

Is this starting to remind you of anything?

Spoiler alert

The CIA is essentially depicted as a state-within-a-state, out of control and operating entirely on its own agenda, fractious, fuelled by dirty money and capable of causing havoc across the region in support of global energy interests, corporations no longer bound to the United States and its official foreign policy.

The last scenes of the film show Clooney as agent Bob, tired of being used by all sides, racing across the desert to warn the outgoing prince that he’s in danger, only to be incidentally vaporized in a drone strike by remote CIA operatives in the USA.

Let’s hope that’s the one part of the movie he didn’t get right.

*Just last week in an echo of the scene where Matt Damon’s son dies, accidentally electrocuted in the oil-sheikh’s swimming-pool, there was a report of children electrocuted in a swimming-pool in Turkey. It’s not a very common occurrence. I expect these odd synchronicities go on all the time unnoticed. Either that, or I am making the world happen around me.

Indeed, I have long had a feeling that the world ended in 1962 with the Cuban missile crisis, we weren’t spared the nuclear holocaust after all, we all perished, and the sense that this is all an increasingly weird and dystopian, shared near-death experience and any minute now it will fade to black is nearer the mark.

x

“The exciting thing about working for maniacs … is, anything can happen in the next half-hour.”

Computer News

Did they have inside help?

We’re aware, are we not, of Mr Trump’s undying loyalty to those who are loyal to him – until he thinks they’re not?

It’s a cuddly trait that has, we can see, provided a lot of employment since the election for party and campaign donors from all over the USA. Why, it almost led to our very own Nigel Farage getting the plum post of ambassador to Washington!

Sadly the job was not in Mr Trump’s gift. Nor did Farage have any prior diplomatic service experience. In fact he’s about the least diplomatic person you could shake a cocktail at. But we wonder what our Nige did for his strangely glowing master to deserve that one?

Anyway, in our lead story today, we saw from a report in the Washington Post that Mr and Mrs Trump’s wedding party organizer has been put in charge of housing development in New York, where Mr Trump owns a lot of housing.

It reminds me of my previous employer, Shane, who after thirty years running businesses in Japan signed his memos ‘Founder’, a clear sign of incipient megalomania. He also has an advanced appreciation of loyalty, there’s probably a Japanese word for it, that runs to putting in the job whoever is standing nearest the water-cooler when the previous guy dies.

Hence, hired as the gardener, within weeks I was managing a terrible country hotel with one part-time assistant, an obese Goth with greasy hair and bipolar disorder. I had no hotel management experience whatever after a lifetime in journalism, advertising and publishing. After Matt ran off with the petty cash it was just me, the guy in the Wellington boots standing by the water-cooler (metaphorically – there wasn’t one), cooking meals and cleaning, organizing weddings, chasing intruders at 2 a.m. and renegotiating the business rates.

The exciting thing about working for maniacs with Entrepreneur Syndrome – the belief that whatever the business, they can walk on water – is, anything can happen in the next half-hour.

So, in the Trump cabinet, there are rancid climate-change deniers with no prior experience or science qualification running the Environmental Protection and Energy agencies; the ex-CEO of the world’s greediest and most shameful oil company as Secretary of State, in charge of global diplomacy; a major donor with no public schools administration experience hoping to foist Creationism on America’s children; a multibillionaire seeking tax breaks for his mining businesses put in charge of government revenue; a Russian agent originally (but no longer) in charge of National Security; a blustering little twerp who’s not very good at lying handling the press briefings, Trump’s private banker in charge of Commerce and his not very bright, 36-year-old property developer son-in-law tasked with everything else, from Middle East peace to government reform.

It’s a bit like the amateur dramatic company I work with. Most of the male roles have to be played by women on account of there aren’t enough men.

The Pumpkin has, however, been learning from the indefatigable Rachel Maddow at MSNBC, of a loyalty appointee of an altogether more interesting stripe.

John deStefano was, until he was appointed as Mr Trump’s Presidential Personnel Director, director of a small data analytics firm contracted by the Republican campaign, Data Trust Inc., a business for which it is hard to find a listing. It doesn’t seem to appear among the top six companies on Google with that name, in the first three pages.

It’s possible that he was just being rewarded as a loyal Republican, although he is named as having campaigned as a ‘Never Trumper’. So many were.

Like Charlie Parker, “DeStefano grew up in Kansas City, Missouri. His uncle helped him to get an internship with Oklahoma Representative J. C. Watts during his junior year. Following his graduation, he worked for the House Republican Conference as a liaison to outside conservative groups. In 2006, he ran the reelection campaign of Ohio Representative Deborah Pryce.”

So he does at least have more political experience than the President. By way of further explanation:

“Conservative HQ said DeStefano’s appointment was designed “to funnel Capitol Hill staffers loyal to the congressional Republican establishment into key jobs in the executive branch.” The organization also pointed out that DeStefano has zero experience in human resource functions, which are at the core of his new role.” – Wikipedia, and see above

In other words, draining the swamp off Capitol Hill and into the White House.

As a funnel, Johnny DeStefano was the guy Trump ordered to write the letter firing Sally Yates, the Acting Attorney General, who had been trying to warn the White House that Gen. Flynn was a Russian agent. The reason he gave was her resistance to implementing the Muslim ban, but as that was being blocked by the 9th circuit and about every other court in the land, the real reason seems obvious.

Mr DeStefano also, however, appears to have been entrusted on payment of $6.7 million with collating the entire US voter registration database, 198 million names, addresses, dates of birth, voting intentions, religious affiliations an’ all.

And he accidentally left it sitting for a while in a public Amazon cloud account on an unencrypted server and, hey, guess what?

As Ms Maddow reports, it appears that as far as early research can tell, the Russian ‘hack’, which the FBI now says affected 21 states, although it may have been all 50, appears to have targeted only those wards where the majority voted Democrat in previous elections.

And where there was a corresponding overlap with the use of polling station computers using registration software supplied by companies that reported being hacked earlier, there were reports of unusual breakdowns and delays in processing voters on the door, again in mainly Democrat wards.

It wasn’t an attack on the actual votes, as far as the FBI is prepared to go at this stage. The hackers didn’t impersonate voters or change the counts or anything too overt. It was an attack on the electoral process, designed to deter Democrats from voting. A marginal outcome could statistically have made enough difference to get a candidate, in this case Trump, over the line.

But it required detailed knowledge of voter distribution. And what the implications are for the 2018 midterms we can only imagine.

Did the Russians have insider knowledge of the systems and help with targeting their disruption campaign? We know how attached Republicans are to voter suppression and other fraudulent tactics.

According to the website Carbonated.TV:

“The now-secured files contained data typical to political campaigns, some of which is already public information, but also included analysis to help the GOP best target specific voting populations. Many of the records stored on the server came from data firms other than Deep Root Analytics, one of which was The Data Trust, the primary provider of the GOP’s voter details contracted by the party for a whopping $6.7 million in 2016.”

http://www.carbonated.tv/news/data-of-198-million-voters-exposed-in-massive-leak-by-gop-contractor

 

Making monkeys of themselves

President Erdogan in his wisdom has ordered all references to biological evolution to be removed from Turkey’s state school textbooks. The subject is, says his education director, ‘too controversial’ to be taught to 14-16 year-olds and may only be discussed in universities. (BBC News)

The only other country in the Middle East to have banned the teaching of evolution is Saudi Arabia, a country also not known for its progressive views.

The Koran says God made Adam out of a lump of clay, so that’s a scientific fact. It’s actually not so far from the truth, we do indeed share many elements found in the general make-up of the universe, including those found in clay. But it was just an allegorical story. The point Darwin made is we didn’t start out like this, in human form. We got here by trial and error, starting with a small colony of prokaryotic cells. We were not made from lumps of clay, but by an evolutionary leap called sexual reproduction. It takes two.

And of course, there is now an overwhelming body, not of opinion but of experimental, empirical observation to show that, while there are other evolutionary mechanisms in play, evolution by natural selection of the most useful genetic mutations is the main means by which new species come into being over time. Basically, if you fall over a cliff it helps to quickly sprout feathers.

One student quoted in the report says his teacher asked him if he believed he was descended from a monkey? This stupid debate was settled years ago.

When even teachers are too lazy and illiterate to understand a relatively simple proposition, that we co-evolved alongside the apes, a separate branch from monkeys, from a common ancestor; that there have been many species of humanoid but we are the only ones so far as we know who survived to be what we are today, i.e. credulous, incurious naked baboons capable of swallowing any amount of allegory from 2,000-year-old books, capable of denying the evidence of our own reason, capable of electing dangerous idiots to lead us, you wonder if it’s worth teaching children anything.

Because to refute the oft-observed fact that species are continually changing asa result of ‘the survival of the fittest’ (fit meaning… oh, I give up. Not that kind of fit, the kind that means ‘best adapted to the conditions’) is to suggest that we cannot ever properly learn. Learning is a crucial stage in evolution, since before new physiological characteristics are selected for in our ever-changing, ever-challenging environment the first changes must come in our cognitive processes and behavioral patterns.

Not much sign of that.

So Turkey, ostensibly a civilized, modern and progressive nation of 80 million, has started on its long march backwards to the mud. Yes, advanced organisms like States can revert to type, but in the process they become less fit for survival and are vulnerable to extinction.

So much for Mr Erdogan and his ‘leadership’. We could have told you, Turkey, but you wouldn’t have listened.

 

Our money or your life. A thing of beauty is a joy until the neighbours move in: Welsh news. Meanwhile, in faraway Portugal…

The prophetically named Torch building in Dubai. Nobody died.

“The lifts weren’t working so we had to walk down 72 flights of stairs with everyone, that took about 10 minutes as there were people carrying their children and babies and people who just weren’t fit enough to get down the stairs.”  

– The Telegraph.

London, North Kensington, 15 June, 2017? No… Dubai, the Gulf of Arabia, 20 February 2015.

 

“The speed with which the fire spread has been paced by the speed with which politicians and the media have rushed to take up entrenched positions.”

Our money or your life

Look. The BogPo isn’t going to minimise the horror of what happened at Grenfell House two nights ago. Nothing could.

It seems unlikely that if the fire brigade and the police ever do manage to locate and recover all the remains of those who died and identify them, that the death toll is going to be less than 100. It may be a lot higher – there were possibly up to 600 people in the building. Most of them would have been asleep and known nothing of the fire until it was too late.

Virtually no-one escaped from above the 18th floor. There was no fire alarm, no sprinkler system – only one stairway all the way to the 24th floor. We believe Britain is one of the few countries in the world that permits this. It appears that refurbishment works may have included a new gas main installed for speed and cheapness within the supposedly fire-resistant stairway and not fireproofed. Fire barriers may have been removed to facilitate pipework and not replaced. If there was a smoke-clearance system, it failed. Perhaps mercifully: the victims would have been unconscious before the fire reached them.

The safety advice was to stay put and wait to be rescued. It was the wrong advice in the circumstances, although it has worked in tower-block fires elsewhere; fires that were contained, deliberately, by the design of the building.

Certainly, something caused what the extraordinary firemen who ran into that inferno could not explain at the time, the pattern and rapid spread of the fire. If the whole building had acted as a gas burner, with a forced draught up the open stairway, it might possibly explain it; giving rise to the unthinkable image of a giant fan-assisted oven.

Media attention, however, has focussed on two main aspects: the fire that visibly took hold of the cladding of the building; requiring, one feels, no further ‘evidence’ to present to the cladding industry – and the idea that it was all the fault of the rich people living in the des-res Georgian squares around about, a symptom of our Victorian attitude to the working-class.

But really, it has been ever thus: and how else does our market-led economic system allow things to be? What did we expect? Poor people have been dying in shoddy buildings since the Romans were here.

Yet the Guardian‘s veteran socialist, Polly Toynbee, approaches her column thus:

“That tower is austerity in ruins. Symbolism is everything in politics and nothing better signifies the May-Cameron-Osborne era that stripped bare the state and its social and physical protection of citizens. The horror of poor people burned alive within feet of the country’s grandest mansions, many of them empty, moth-balled investments, perfectly captures the politics of the last seven years. The Cameron, Osborne, Gove Notting Hill set live just up the road.”

The idea that, for instance, the Thatcher or even the Blair years guaranteed the happy, healthy lives of all our citizens until neoliberals and well-heeled Tory bastards betrayed the working-class and made them less safe is vacuous political claptrap. Yes, London, the ‘Great Wen’ is an otiose example of economic inequality; it always was, and always will be. It might be of interest to know how much Ms Toynbee’s own residence is worth, at current value? Does she feel it makes her personally responsible for the residents of Grenfell Tower?

***

As may be seen from the photo above of the fatefully named Dubai ‘Torch’ building, at 79 storeys one of the highest residential blocks in the world, the cladding is well alight. What you’re not seeing is the fire taking hold of the whole of the interior, as it did with Grenfell Tower. Clearly, from the photographs it looks as though in the Grenfell incident there were two separate issues, with the fire spreading both inside and out. Could the new double-glazed windows also have been a factor? Photographs show the uPVC frames  comprehensively melted, allowing the windows to fall out and the blazing cladding to enter the rooms.

(Postscriptum – it seems otherwise difficult to understand how a fridge-freezer bursting into flames in a kitchen, now the official line on the source of the fire, would have ignited the external cladding?)

Plus, of course, there is the third issue, which is that local authority-owned Grenfell Tower was refurbished in perhaps too much of a hurry, and, perhaps, as cheaply as possible: £8.7 million, to bring a 1970s block of 124 flats up to something resembling modern standards; while management of the building was farmed out to a privatized entity, the Kensington and Chelsea Tenant Management Organisation.

This was a typical local authority fudge designed to save public money at a time when government austerity measures, of which the country has grown tired after eight years – and an ideological commitment to the free market – have led to a mad belief that the private sector will deliver where the public sector cannot. In fact, it’s only led to worse cost-cutting and a loss of control and oversight, visible as much in the built environment as it’s been invisible in the social care sector for several years.

Yet it has to be taken into account that there is enormous pressure on London local authorities to find accommodation for the 100 thousand overseas workers who arrive every year to service the insatiable needs of a city growing in wealth and power; virtually a state-within-a-state, yet one which has failed – especially during the eight-year reign of the mayoral buffoon, Boris Johnson – to make adequate provision for its less well-off inhabitants amid the ‘garden bridge’, the ‘Crossrail project’ and the whatever it is, cycle ‘highway’ – vanity projects that have brought chaos to the gridlocked city.

And you have to admit, Kensington and Chelsea council did authorize the money, were spending £8.7 million pounds on IMPROVING conditions for their lower-paid workers, did presumably act with the best of intentions, however ultimately disastrous. They could not have known, although their consultants must have foreseen, that the building was absolutely not safe to sign-off. They did not set out deliberately to murder possibly several hundred residents through the malign application of inequitable standards for poorer people, that is not what local authorities do, by and large. They do their best with what they’ve got.

While the cladding was obviously a cosmetic improvement on the bare, rain-stained 1970s brutalist concrete, making Grenfell less of an eyesore for the rich folks in their leafy squares and for motorists coming in on the Hammersmith flyover, there was a clear benefit in that the flats were previously very poorly insulated; a health risk. The main function of cladding is to improve heat retention and make the units more, not less, habitable: social progress, of a sort.

Nevertheless the rightwing press is blaming the ‘green’ movement: EU environmentalism gone mad – for the addition of the panels. How confused can normally rational people get? It’s a safety issue, were the panels fireproof or not? It’s not a reason to keep the less well-off trapped in cold, damp, unhealthy conditions; or sweltering in summer behind windows that can’t be opened, just to confound the Brussels bureaucrats.

The speed with which the fire spread has been paced by the speed with which politicians and the media have rushed to take up entrenched positions.

This led, for instance, to the ludicrous pasting of communities and local government secretary, Sajid Javed on the Today show this morning. The past-retirement-age presenter John Humphrys (73) angrily demanded to know why it was taking the Government more than one day to get round to emailing every tenancy management company in the country, if indeed they were doing that, given we’ve just had an election and the PM had only finished making her appointments the day before, to find out if four thousand similar tower blocks had unsafe cladding and what did they intend to do about it?

“The Guardian’s notoriously thin-skinned leftish liberal columnists were already hard at it, bravely demanding social change”

The BBC optimistically imagines that tenancy managers all around the country would naturally take only one day to respond, if at all, to a potentially incriminating government request for complex information about building materials. Of course they wouldn’t be calling their lawyers! It’s all so simple when you’re sitting in a studio in London! Mr Javed must realise the urgency of the situation? Well, yes he did, but… The BogPo’s views on the tendentious humbuggery of Mr Humphrys are well established. He is a man with a mind like a forensic tortoise, born with a soapbox on his shoulder, who will climb onto it at the drop of a hat.

But he is far from the only one. While fires were still breaking out and firemen, not knowing if the building might collapse at any moment, working 12-hour shifts because the capital is short of 600 firefighters thanks to cuts imposed under the gilded buffoon, Johnson, were still working their way flat by flat, floor by floor, to find any survivors, The Guardian‘s notoriously thin-skinned leftish liberal columnists were already hard at it, bravely demanding social change – even that tower blocks should be outlawed, which would certainly precipitate a housing crisis. How many of them employ cleaners, gardeners, nannies?

The statistical evidence according to fire chiefs is that there are ‘two or three’ fires in high-rises every day. Seldom if ever do they result in mass casualties and the immolation of entire buildings. As the men who went in reported, there was something unique about Grenfell Tower.

Which brings us to the fourth issue: despite the urging of local authorities and residents’ associations, building safety regulations have not been reviewed in Britain for more than ten years; building owners are only lightly regulated, with little oversight. The price of land in London is driving developers to build more and more high-rise towers; while it seems that nobody much is paying attention to the use of materials banned in other countries. (It has since been claimed by the Chancellor, Mr Hammond, that this particular type of cladding is banned here too… although the BogPo suggests that he is confusing a ban with a guideline that it should not be used on buildings over 10 storeys high.)

Simon Jenkins asks rhetorically in The Guardian today: “How could people still die in this horrific fashion in one of the world’s richest capital cities?” The answer is, somebody’s fridge overheated (possible fake news alert) in a multiple-occupancy tenement building that didn’t meet safety regulations. No more, no less. Rich or poor, people die in fires. But not that often.

High-rise flats were originally designed, not to honour the minimalist 1930s French architect Le Corbusier  – a man who has done probably as much social damage in the world as St Augustine of Hippo – but by Sir Denys Lasdun, to save space while warehousing low-paid workers and aspiring young arrivals taking their first steps on the ladder in one of the most expensive cities in the world. High-rise was a new dawn, ‘vertical streets’ the quickfire answer to the problem of replacing grimy old, worn-out, bombed-out back-to-back Victorian workers’ terraces without bathrooms, inside toilets or privacy. It could all be done industrially, systematically. Lego building had arrived.

With the demolition of the terraces, the loss of community cohesion was total. Making it easier twenty years later for Mrs Thatcher to start the process of destroying trade unionism. But for the newly housed occupants, life had become a lot more convenient, more comfortable, cleaner. No more scrubbing doorsteps until the stone wore away! And that made it easier for women to go to work. Until we started using these grim concrete towers as places bereft of hope, to store the new underclass: drug-dealers, the mentally unstable, the ‘problem kids’ moved in, took over.

***

What Dubai shows us is that even comparatively rich people in ‘signature’ buildings with spectacular views and one-room flats starting at £165 thousand can be caught up in disasters; the story is the same: cheap flammable cosmetic cladding, lifts not working, fire warning systems switched off because of annoying false alarms…

“The Torch, situated in the glitzy Dubai Marina area, stands over 1,000ft tall and is one of the world’s highest residential buildings. The fire broke out on the 50th floor of the 79 floor building, while the majority of the residents were asleep…”

And no-one died. Everyone got out. But to claim as much of the media is doing that putting people in high-rise apartment blocks that can catch fire is a conspiracy against the working-class and evidence of the corruption and failure of Conservative party politics is pretty tendentious. It can happen elsewhere, and to people in higher income brackets, in thoroughly modern buildings.

The Dubai Torch fire of 2015 was followed by another in January last year when a fireworks display set fire to cladding on the 63-storey Address hotel and spread to the interior. Sixteen people were injured, but there were no fatalities. The building was badly damaged. In July last year there was a third tower-block fire in Dubai’s Sulafa tower. There were no casualties and the fire was extinguished in a couple of hours. Again, though, cladding caught fire and pieces of blazing material were falling into the street and threatening surrounding buildings.

“Phil Barry, a fire safety consultant with Gloucester-based CWB Fire Safety who has worked extensively in Qatar and the UAE, said: ‘No-one has died yet, but there will be fatalities sooner or later.’ He described Dubai’s many tower blocks as ‘an accident waiting to happen’.

“At the heart of safety concerns is the use of polyurethane and aluminium composite cladding on buildings throughout the height of the emirate’s building boom. The material was … outlawed by new building regulations in 2013.”

(Reports: Gulf Times, The Telegraph)

So somebody should have been alert to the dangers. It should not have been left to the residents of Grenfell Tower to complain of their fears in meeting after angry meeting last year, only for nobody at the management company to take any notice. (It’s been reported that two of the victims were being threatened with prosecution over their allegations against the management company.) In the light of those fires, the experience of Dubai and others in France and Australia, why was this type of composite cladding, containing a chemical producing lethal cyanide gas, still permitted in Britain at the time Grenfell was refurbished in 2014?

A safer variant of the same system, using rockwool, is said to be virtually fireproof. This was known about. But it costs fractionally more. Those lives might have been saved with the expenditure of, literally, £5 thousand: £2 a square metre.

***

“We tried for two months to get her rehoused, forming the impression that Kensington and Chelsea housing department’s diversity policy included too many people with learning difficulties…”

So, was a 40 per cent cut overall in local authority budgets and savage cuts in London’s fire services, the result of seven years of austerity budgeting, also to blame?

My mother was a resident of the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea, until her death last year at the age of 92. A private, rent-controlled tenant in receipt of housing benefit, for over fifty years since their divorce she had lived in increasing poverty and ill-health as her acting career waned, trapped in the flat my stepfather had first rented in 1946, unable to afford to move.

Just three hundred yards from Harrod’s glitzy department store, two-bedroomed flats in the newly rebuilt block next door, demolition and building work she’d had to put up with on the other side of the wall seven days a week for two years, were on the market at £12.8 million each.

The upgraded wiring… 300 yards from Harrod’s.

Until 2014 when the housing department finally stepped in, her landlords, hoping she might get out and let them achieve a more commercial rent but maybe not realizing she couldn’t, had failed to carry out any repairs for over thirty years. Single-glazed, leaky, pre-war metal-framed windows – no central heating, the flat was damp and mouldy, the carpets worn through, floor tiles lifting, half the electrical circuits dangerously out of order. She used a torch to go to the bathroom.

When the building changed hands in 2016 the other tenants moved out, leaving Rosie alone in the flat, increasingly immobile on the second floor, unable to negotiate the five flights of stairs to the front door – unable to escape in the event of a fire. No risk assessment was done by the new landlords, apart from a standard letter asking if the flat had a gas supply? She never answered it.

The new heating system. 300 yards from Harrod’s.

Until then for years she’d refused to leave. Now she became desperate, fearful. We tried for two months to get her rehoused, forming the impression that Kensington and Chelsea housing department’s diversity policy included perhaps too many people with learning difficulties who never returned our calls or passed on messages, but unless or until her new landlords actually evicted her, an imperious, independent 92-year-old woman with all her marbles, a smoker who could walk painfully only with the aid of a frame, the Royal Borough was not obliged to do anything to help.

There was a two-year waiting list for sheltered accommodation. By the time Social Services had managed to scramble together the funding for a care package that involved returning her to the flat, with no nighttime cover, she had conveniently for everyone given up living after two sleepless weeks in a frantically busy hospital ward: a terminus to the next world where anonymous, chalk-faced old women were wheeled in, died – usually in the night – and wheeled out again before the next patient arrived.

The hospital apologized just last week for losing her teeth. I cannot even begin to think of a reply.

Back at the flat, a letter on the table from her GP practice announced that she had been struck off their list, for ‘failing to attend appointments we have made for you’. With the return of an old breast cancer, she had a massive secondary on one lung, a collapsing spine, constant unmanaged pain, self-medicated with alcohol – £94 in her account and owed £9,000 on a credit card the bank had been silly enough to approve. They ended up writing off the debt.

Boxes full of other letters – she never threw away a piece of paper – betrayed the secret, that she had lived for many years by selling off items of jewellery, vintage couture dresses – my stepfather’s remaining artworks; having been been virtually bankrupted in the great Lloyd’s of London reinsurance swindle of 1986.

Perhaps that’s why, living 250 miles away, I never fully realized quite how bad things had got, on any level. She had been an actress, after all.

***

“It was yet another PR fail…”

Mrs May, under criticism for what is perceived to be her usual bloodless response to human need, visited the site, spoke briefly only with emergency service chiefs, shunned the survivors (on ‘security’ grounds!) and the exhausted fire crews, the cries of trapped and burning children indelibly imprinted on their souls, rushed back to Number 10 to declare an immediate public inquiry into the disaster, and a £5 million relief fund to rehome the survivors.

Today (16 June) she made tightly controlled visits to a hospital and a church shelter behind a wall of police who had to surround her car to keep the angry crowd at bay. Later, she hijacked BBC’s Newsnight programme to go public in a bid to set the record straight. The interview was a disaster: a stiff, overcontrolled, misjudged, scripted and uninformative performance from a Prime Minister too reticent in her manner to cope with the exigencies of the job. Truly, as one North Kensington resident told the BBC, whatever was going on inside her head, she came across as a cold fish.

The announcement of an inquiry suggested that the Government doesn’t want anything too embarrassing to come out: judge-led inquiries are slow, expensive and not required to compel witnesses or provide narrative verdicts on individual deaths, nor to allow the relatives to testify, as would be the case in an open inquest.

Compare the morning-after photographs. The Torch is only lightly damaged. Grenfell Tower is a smouldering, gutted tomb. (Reuters/Getty).

 

 

 

In any developing country in the world, one suspects the private management company’s senior executives, the cladding manufacturers, the building refurbishment contractor and the council’s housing inspectorate would be in police custody by now, negotiating tricky questions.

But it’s not the sort of thing we do here. A ‘criminal investigation’ has been started, but without a full report on how and why the incident happened, who was involved and when, with no evidence of corruption – only perhaps inept practice, inadequate materials and poor oversight – it is hard to see where it would go. As time drags on, the most likely outcome will be a civil prosecution by the Health and Safety Executive, a fine and a rap over the knuckles.

‘Lessons’ will no doubt be ‘learned’, in the same way they undoubtedly weren’t after the last major tower-block fire in London, at Lakanal House, Camberwell, in 2009. In 2013, The Guardian reported: “Deaths of six people in UK’s worst tower block fire could have been prevented by proper fire safety checks, inquest concludes.” The outcome of the four-year inquiry? Southwark council pleaded guilty to four counts of ‘breaking fire safety regulations’.

None of the specific recommendations for safety improvements that came out of that inquiry, such as the retro-fitting of sprinklers in all local authority high-rises and public schools, were ever implemented. The Southwark coroner’s verdict? the fire was “largely caused by botched and unsafe renovation work and the council’s failure to inspect the building.” Officials and ministers refused point-blank to meet community representatives and fire service chiefs. They included the then-minister, Gavin Barwell. He is now Mrs May’s chief-of-staff at Number Ten. Claims that the recommendations were being implemented were lies.

And once again amid all of the post-electioneering claptrap, the moral outrage, the over-hasty demands for instant answers, instant solutions, ‘lessons to be learned’, social reforms required but never to be delivered in our lifetime, individuals to be held accountable, politicians to be blamed, the 7-plus victims at the heart of it remain lost and anonymous, desperate friends and relatives scratching hopeful or loving messages on the wall downstairs, flowers and tributes piling up, knowing the worst.

The BogPo wonders, idly, with so many foreign migrant workers and refugees escaped with nothing more than a dressing-gown or a T-shirt, with no papers or passports or other ID, everything destroyed, how will they re-establish or even prove their immigration status, or maintain their asylum applications? Will we shortly be seeing reports of ruthless Border Force officials raiding the church refuges, mosques and school gyms, where desperate survivors are waiting with no news from the mostly absent officials, to be rehoused? There is no report of them being granted special immunity.

As with the World Trade Center, Grenfell Tower will one day be demolished, many of its former residents perhaps still entombed inside, mothers huddled together with their children, words of hopeless reassurance burned into the scorched concrete; never identified, never found.

Maybe never even known.

For they were the faceless ones; the office cleaners, the sweepers, the Transport for London staff, nursing auxiliaries, the daycare providers my mother never saw, Uber drivers, the pizza deliverers, the refugees in ‘temporary’ accommodation.

Some place to end up.

 

Chutzpah award for abysmal PR likely to bring a business to its knees in ten seconds or less

Harley Facades, the company that fitted the panels to the building, said in a statement: “At this time, we are not aware of any link between the fire and the exterior cladding to the tower.” (Photo: Daily Mirror)

 

Postscriptum:

Sunday, 25 June: Out of 34 samples of tower-block cladding so far sent for analysis on the orders of the Communities and Local Government department to the fire safety authority by local councils and housing associations around the country, as of 23 June, 34 – one hundred per cent – have been found to be unsafe.

With residents already evacuated for their own safety from several blocks in North London, this is threatening to become a hugely expensive national emergency.

x

“We were far kinder to the Welsh than ever we were to the Scots and the Irish…”

A thing of beauty is a joy until the neighbours move in

As indeed is Boglington-on-Sea, the traffic-ridden seaside town I have been trying to leave for the past five years, but which will not let me go.

Down the road from me is a pair of semi-detached cottages. Cheaply built in the 1930s, single-breezeblock construction, like too much Welsh property they are in poor structural condition, not helped by the flood of 2012 when the residents – a couple with children renting next door to the old woman who owned both the houses and lived in one, had to be evacuated and never returned. As you walk past them in winter, even with doors and windows closed you could smell the damp coming out of the houses. The woodwork is rotting, the quarry-tiled floors white with mildew.

All around the back, the garden had gone wild. It was romantic, but you could see how the old planting was being lost under exuberant piles of brambles, nettles and knotweed. Visible just were still a few apple trees, a carmine-red Camellia sinensis flowering abundantly in February. To one side of the house was a large and lovely Magnolia soulangeana, mature and stately, a glorious sight in spring, covered in flamboyant blush-pink and white, tulip-shaped flowers. Hidden inside the overgrown front hedge, the rusty carcase of a small grey Austin car from the 1960s occupied the collapsed remains of a wooden garage.

Recently, there have been signs that people are hoping to move in, work going on – but no professional builders, just a young family and a middle-aged man with a van. The old woman’s heirs, I’d imagine. Welsh properties almost always come down to lengthy ownership disputes within families. They’d started last week to clear the garden, I assumed of its overgrown undergrowth. Today I walked past and saw to my horror, they had hacked down the lovely Magnolia and were busy cremating its remains.

Involuntarily I blurted out, no, no! A blonde woman, early 30s, came out. What’s the matter? Your beautiful magnolia tree! I exclaimed. You’ve cut it down! So what? she snapped. It’s my garden, I can do what I like!

So your garden isn’t supposed to give pleasure to your neighbours? So that’s right, just kill it, I called out. Kill everything, why not!

As you can imagine, I am a little overwrought these days, what with Brexit, Trump and May and the encroaching darkness. I imagined that, because the tree – which was not in the way of anything other than maybe a two-car park or a concrete patio with a nice barbecue, not cutting out light to the house – is not still in flower, they probably didn’t even know what it was. Nor cared.

And that, gentle reader, is why (as I have bogld in the past) I hate my neighbours.

Now, after 16 years in the country I have many very nice Welsh friends. Well, a few – I don’t socialize much. But there’s another sort I would move a thousand miles to not live next to: the working-class Welsh of mid-Wales. Resentful, selfish possessiveness is deeply ingrained in them; a natural response no doubt to being invaded by the Norman English king Edward 1 in 1282, an event etched in the memory, never forgotten. The national chip on the shoulder.

Despite lopping off a few traitors’ heads we were far kinder to the broody Welsh, still smarting over being conquered by the Romans twelve hundred years earlier, than ever we were to the Scots and the Irish, whom we massacred and starved and commandeered their farms for shooting estates and booted them off to America with gusto, for centuries. They don’t hate us. Yet for some reason, perhaps because sometime in the 1530s king Henry V111 banned the Welsh language, the Welsh just cannot get over it: we English who presume to live in a united kingdom are still known, sotto voce, as the ‘colonialists’.

In the course of my work I have met a few fanatics who simply refused to discuss anything in English, even though my Welsh is too rudimentary to address the points at issue. You could warn them they were in imminent danger of being run over by a truck and they still wouldn’t budge until you hired a translator; yet there is not one person anywhere in Wales who can’t speak and read English perfectly well, unless they are maybe Polish.

I once applied to a local publishing company who were looking for an editor for their English-language editions, only to be turned down for the job because I don’t speak Welsh, the language in which the company insists on conducting everyday business. That’s despite six years’ experience editing books and twenty-five years’ more working as a news editor and copywriter.

With these obdurate people it’s always: ‘my tree, my garden, my house, my land, my country, my impossible language, my music, my pretty awful food, my terrible old van, my bible-black, prodnose chapel culture, my burdensome morality. And no-one else, especially the English, is to be invited to share in the beauty of the country or any of the better things it has to offer. It’s my beauty, I don’t want you appreciating it and I can destroy it if I like. It’s my futile gesture; my ugliness.

Welsh women, especially, are the worst: harridans, termagents, Furies. I have vowed never to become entangled with one. There is no gainsaying them; they are invariably right on every point, mistresses of every issue, refusers-to-back-down in any argument, holders of the moral high-ground regardless of the illogicality and unreason of their position; their ignorance of the facts.

I briefly worked in the advertising department of the local newspaper. Evilly underpaid, nevertheless I had some years previously been the Creative Director of an advertising agency. But no, the dumpy housewives who manned the advertising department would not, under any circumstances, allow me to correct or improve the advertising: the client had signed off on their mistakes, it was not my place to question them.

“It was like meeting Donald Trump in a provincial Welsh suburban cul-de-sac.”

Last Christmas, I drove down to my ex-wife’s house to drop off some chairs we’d inherited from my mum. The street is narrow, there’s parking on one side only, it was all taken. Across the street is a concrete apron where people sometimes park. So I pulled onto the forecourt, intending to stay only for a few minutes.

There were two women, one old, the other older, gossiping on the pavement a little way away. Immediately I got out of the car, the older woman rushed at me.

Who gave you permission to park on my space? she demanded to know. I tried to explain: I’m just delivering something across the road, I’ll only be a minute. Do you mind? Well, you got no right to park on my space, so just move! she said, the ‘bloody English’ neon sign flashing brightly over her head. You’re always parking here! (I have done once or twice over the years, no-one has ever objected before.)

But you don’t even live here! I made the mistake of pointing to the empty building. Or maybe it was the mistake of arguing with her at all. Out came the soapbox: Yes I do, it’s my house. (She doesn’t!) And you don’t even have a car! I persisted. And it’s Christmas! Doesn’t matter, you’re not having it. It’s my space, now move on!

So I ended up carting the chairs by hand all the way around the block, fury in my heart. These dimly illuminated country folk are just so possessive, disobliging – so unnecessary.

And now the uncouth Young Philistines had cut down a precious thing in a dying world, a beautiful flowering tree, just to show who owned it and what they could do with their property if they liked. We may be depressing, ignorant environmental vandals, but we have the power!

It was like meeting Donald Trump in a provincial Welsh suburban cul-de-sac. “I’m the President and you’re not!”

Aren’t other people entitled to enjoy beautiful things regardless of who owns them? I demanded pathetically, as we shuffled on, Hunzi and I. But there is no gainsaying a Welsh woman, is there. She stood her ground, Furie-like.

We can’t ever go by there again, I thought. We’ll have to go all the way round now. Fucking idiots! I called out, halfheartedly over my shoulder, anticipating the arrival of an irate husband, fisticuffs, the loss of my expensive dental bridge, as we rounded the corner of Simon’s house opposite.

He’s an environmentalist. He’ll understand, his garden’s a mess.

Somebody for God’s sake get me out of here, I thought.

Not for the first time.

x

“We are literally seeing now, the final stages of a race to the death: money versus the human race.”

Our money or your life #2

At the same time as an unknown number of people have died in a terrible fire in London, possibly over 100 on present figures, the death toll in Bangladesh from floods and landslides in a non-stop monsoon the past few days has topped 156.

Where are the Guardian columnistas challenging the neoliberal politics of the region? Why are we not furious that poor people in muslim countries are exposed to worse conditions than the rich? Why are we not demanding inquiries into the safety standards of Bangladeshi housing?

Watch the video from about 7.40: the incredible rains in Maharashtra, India. See idiot motorists commuting through rising floodwater, as if they do not recognise the consequences of what they are doing. Watch a motorcycle float down a river that was a street. Watch many motorcycles floating.

Vast areas of China, too, are underwater. Yet southern India and northern China are suffering severe drought and continuing 40 deg C.-plus heat. Food production is affected. (Postscriptum: 25 June, rescue workers are trying to find 120 people missing after a 2km-wide landlslide engulfed a village in Sichuan during heavy rain.)

Why is the Daily Mail not bemoaning the lack of environmental measures, I wonder? Why have Mr Trump and Mr ‘$100,000 a day’ Tillexxon not been arraigned on charges of criminal ecocide and failing to return their on-deposit soda bottles?

Possibly because, as the BogPo is reading in a new book called ‘Horsemen of the Apocalypse: The Men Who Are Destroying Life on Earth–And What It Means for Our Children’, by Dick Russell, exposed by a remarkable coalition of the extended billionaire Rockefeller family there has been a forty-year cover-up and disinformation campaign costing hundreds of millions of dollars by the boards of Exxon-Mobil, Koch Industries, Devon Oil and other giant energy corporations, of the fact that their own research departments in the 1970s predicted exactly this outcome if we continued to burn fossil fuels at an ever-increasing rate; and they deliberately suppressed it.

People have been purposely confused, undermined, lied to for years by false-front ‘think-tanks’ and cynical PR men who have become millionaires in the process; by glib pork-barrel politicians who have had their mouths stuffed with cash.

We are literally seeing now, the final stages of a race to the death: money versus the human race.

And money is winning.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pv-gY4Nc9wg

‘It’s the same the whole world over, ain’t it all a bleedin’ shame? It’s the rich wot gets the pleasure, and the poor wot gets the blame.’

On the subject of wealthy America, where of course the administration’s response to Hurricane Katrina set the benchmark for official nonchalance, let us remember an incident, not much reported here, back in February when, after a weekend in which fifty tornadoes ripped through Georgia and Louisiana, killing 22 people including a toddler sucked into the air and never found, desperate pleas for federal help from the counties affected fell on deaf ears.

So yes, it’s good that we are holding ourselves now to a higher standard. These tragedies are always accompanied by the hollow sound of stable doors being bolted, ‘lessons’ being ‘learned’, but this time the floppy sound of handwringing over social conditions and inequality might begin to move our political logjam a little further downstream.

I say ‘might’.

 

Meanwhile, in faraway Portugal…

Many parts of the world are starting to look like this.

The death toll in the forest fires that have consumed much of Beiras province in central Portugal over the weekend has topped 60, with many more injured. Families burned to death in their cars as they tried to evacuate their villas and villages along winding mountain roads.

The fires have followed days of 40 deg. C-plus temperatures and no rain for weeks.

Today’s running story in the British press is, obviously, the Grenfell Tower fire. There’s much discussion of the cynical refusal by successive governments obsessed with austerity to vote enough money for recommended safety improvements in public housing, or for local authorities to maintain fully co-ordinated emergency services.

A typical headline in The Observer asks: “Why does it take a tragedy like Grenfell Tower for ministers to put lives above saving money?”

You could extrapolate that sentiment on a global scale. The BogPo has recently been reporting ad nauseam on the alarming coincidence of extreme weather events all around the world. Hundreds of people have died already this year in floods and ‘once in 100 years’ storms; millions are threatened by drought.

There is no doubt whatsoever that the world is heating to danger level, with consequent effects on the weather. Fossil fuel companies like Exxon-Mobil have known this would happen since the 1970s. Yet despite increasing divestment by concerned institutional shareholders they continue to pour $ millions into campaigns to promote public confusion and denial that there is anything wrong. With $35 trillion still in the ground and over a billion cars in the world they feel they have no choice, even if it means we don’t either.

And while they proclaim their ‘green’ credentials by spending a token amount on renewables (projects that also make them money) and post lovely images of healthy crops benefitting from their wondrous developments in poisonous chemical controls, crops in the real world now shrivelled and drowning, they continue to suppress their own research into alternative methods of carbon-free power generation and engine technology by squatting on thousands of undeveloped patents.

The question therefore ought to be rephrased:

“Why does it take many tragedies like Portugal for global corporations to put lives above making money?”

 

Where will the billionaires go? (Maybe Bilbao? Whoops, BA!)

“Lo, there shall come unto you an Orange One bearing shafts of fire, and the poor shall be royally shat upon.”

“…unto every one that hath shall be given, and he shall have abundance”

But it says so in the bible…

There are numerous internal contradictions in the bible, as we know. One of the strangest is in the ‘parable of the talents’ (a talent was a coin, not the ‘X-factor’).

Jesus, we are supposed to believe, was all in favour of poor people, to whom would be given the Kingdom of Heaven, and less so of the rich, whose camels would find it easier to pass through the eye of a needle than for their owners to enter his father’s house.

We know too of his rage at the money changers setting up shop in the temple.

And yet we find this at Matthew 25:29….

“His lord answered and said unto him, Thou wicked and slothful servant, thou knewest that I reap where I sowed not, and gather where I have not strawed: Thou oughtest therefore to have put my money to the exchangers, and then at my coming I should have received mine own with usury. Take therefore the talent from him, and give it unto him which hath ten talents. For unto every one that hath shall be given, and he shall have abundance: but from him that hath not shall be taken away even that which he hath.”

Are we supposed to take from this, that Jesus was advocating taking everything away from the undeserving working poor and giving it to the rich, with their distressing tendency to reap what they have not sown?

Or was he merely describing how bad things are in the world, and somehow the bit where he repudiates the economics of regressive distribution got left out?

It sounds more like the former.

Certainly, the rich seem to take comfort from this passage, especially at the idea that instead of sticking his talent under the mattress, if he couldn’t run a profitable business the poor servant should ideally have let an asset fund-manager invest the money (and cream a fat commission off the top).

I’d guess it’s this passage, too, that led to the whole cultural thing where Jews lent money out for profit, that contributed quite a lot to the growth of antisemitism in Europe in the middle ages when Christians were banned by law from lending with interest. The medieval Jews were like the Wonga of their day: despised, but occasionally necessary.

Something similar once happened to me.

I was hired as the gardener at a dilapidated old country house with dry rot and no garden (I should have been suspicious at that point), whose owners lived 8,000 miles away on the dark side of the world.

Sensing a business opportunity, they told me by email I had to singlehandedly run it as a £100 a night hotel, that hadn’t been refurbished for thirty years and was mostly used for illegal raves.

They refused absolutely to spend a penny on replacing the old coffee-wine-and-worse-stained mattresses, the historic chipboard furniture, the broken dishwasher, unless I earned the money first. The sewage system was 200 years old, the place was running with rats, hopping with bedbugs, there wasn’t enough hot water for a bath and the advertising budget I was given for three months wouldn’t cover one quarter-page insertion in the minority-interest local edition of the national tourism brochure.

They moaned at me piteously because I couldn’t make enough money from their wonderful home to cover the heating bills, and accused me of pocketing all the money. Thou wicked and slothful servant. After seven years they paid me to leave.

In Jesus’ book I’d have done better to sell the house and invest the money in blood diamonds or crack cocaine. Actually, that’s pretty much what I advised them to do, but I was only the old gardener. Who listens?

Ripping-off the poor is the rich man’s pleasure.

And Christianity seems to provide a perverse excuse for the ‘winner take all’ philosophy that is so prevalent today, as around the world vast inequality is creating gaping rifts in the fabric of society and Trump the senile warlord, the slumdog billionaire reigns rampant over the remains of civilization.

x

A climate of concern

Google images

You might have heard of the Hudson’s Bay Company? They’re the boys who used to trade furs with trappers beyond the Arctic circle, in the 1800s?

Well, on 6 June the temperature on Hudson’s Bay was 89 deg. F.; while a temperature of 56 deg C., 132 deg F. was recorded in Sistat and Baluchestan province, Iran. (Arctic News, 6 June)

Adding to the list of environmental problems caused by man-made climate change, the latest bulletins from the Climate and Extreme Weather website, #28 & #29, report that Tamil Nadu province in SE India is experiencing its worst drought in 150 years. They’re having to plant ever-smaller areas of crops as there is nothing available to irrigate them, and many villages have less than a month’s supply of water in the reservoirs.

By contrast, only a few hundred miles to the south over 180 people have died in flash floods and landslides in Sri Lanka as record monsoon rains arrive early. India has had to send over emergency support services. Flooding in Manipur, NE India, has killed two. June 2: a ‘stationary front’ brings 600 mm of rain (two feet) to Taiwan in 12 hours. Major flooding also reported on the mainland, ‘tens of thousands’ evacuated.

I see by contrast that Capetown in South Africa is running desperately short of water – Western Cape province has been declared a disaster zone in the midst of the worst drought in a century and water rationing has been introduced in the city. La Paz in Peru is similarly suffering. Northern Bangladesh, too, is experiencing a dangerous heatwave and drought; as is Kenya, where thousands of cattle have died and villagers have no food after a three-year-long drought. Landscape views show not a tree or a blade of grass left for miles.

Saintly reputation fast putrefying in the SE Asian air.

Weirdly, however, in other parts of Kenya there are floods; while Cyclone Mora has caused the evacuation of 350 thousand people in the Ganges delta area of Bangladesh; and has trashed two enormous refugee camps for the Burmese muslim Rohingya minority, now suffering a genocide denied by the formerly heroic Aung Sang Suu Kyi, whose fragrant and saintly reputation is fast putrefying in the steamy SE Asian air.

Aljazeera news reports that millions of people are on the verge of starvation in Somalia, overflowing refugee camps that have no supplies because the NGOs have run out of money. Thank you, America. Large parts of Guyana, however, are helpfully underwater. Sulawesi in Indonia has been flooded twice in the last month.

Flash floods have caused hundreds of people to be evacuated in Germany and in Hungary; there are more floods in Greece; major flooding in Serbia, flash floods in Switzerland; but a 30 deg C.+ heatwave is forecast for central Europe up into Sweden in the coming days. Tennis players at the French Open are dropping like flies. Moscow: 12 people have died in the most powerful storm to hit the city in ‘100 years’. In Stavropol, southern Russia, five million homes are reported flooded and 60,000 people evacuated; thousands of acres of farmland have been affected. We are seeing ‘100-year’ events almost everywhere now.

In the USA Salem, Indiana is underwater again for the second time in ten years and a state of emergency has been declared across three states. Lake Poopoe, the second largest freshwater lake in landlocked Bolivia, has dried up completely for the third year in a row, and is not expected to recover. Lake Titicaca is suffering a potentially ecocidal pollution crisis, destroying tourism. Severe flooding leaves 8 dead, 40,000 evacuated in Pernambuco, Brazil. Villahermosa, Mexico, Tropical Storm Beatriz kills five. 253mm rain dumped in 12 hours.

Tuesday 30th: Phoenix, Arizona, 102 deg. F. (5 June, 108 deg. F.) Tampa, Fla 95 deg. F. Houston, Texas 89 deg. F.

Wednesday 31st: Turbat province, Pakistan, records 53.5 deg C., 128.3 deg. F.

Project Midas (Swansea University) reports a rapid elongation of the 150m wide crack that threatens to calve the world’s biggest iceberg from the Larsen C ice-shelf in Antarctica: 17km in four days. The crack is now less than 13 km from the sea at the one end where the shelf is still attached. Loss of an area one quarter the size of Wales could herald the breakup of the entire shelf. I have to lookup how big is Wales, it’s very folded.

The Washington administration meanwhile is budgeting for a massive reduction in overseas aid spending through the UN, to fund tax cuts for the poor richest 1% in America, who now own only 82 times the wealth of the bottom 50%. On his visit to Europe, Mr Trump declined to join the rest of the G8 in reaffirming the Paris accord, saying he would have to think about it; although it is known he is incapable of rational thought.

Stop Press: Wednesday 31st, he repudiates Paris, falsely arguing that it ‘damages American jobs’.

Mr Trump is, wittingly or unwittingly (he is startlingly ignorant of many things, especially business economics) on the verge of becoming a world criminal.

An ecocide, on whom responsibility sitting for the extinction of life on earth within a generation is not a fanciful notion or an exaggeration, as he has the power to act to stop it, or at least to try, albeit so late in the day; but, to please his billionaire backers who insanely imagine they can buy their way to salvation, will not.

If he pulls out of Paris, Mr Dump should be taken from the White House, by force if necessary, put on trial, convicted; strapped to a gurney and clumsily executed by lethal injection. His director of the EPA, former Arkansas Attorney-General and energy business shill, Scott Pruitt, knows all about how that’s done.

x

Where will the billionaires go?

I cannot believe the billionaires do not have some desperate plan up their sleeve to survive the coming climate apocalypse.

Just think.

Sustainable eco-domes like the Eden Project in Cornwall offer UHNW families temporary hope of survival, but at a cost.

If you earned a million dollars a year and never spent a penny, it would take you a thousand years to become a billionaire. I don’t think I’ve made a million dollars in my lifetime. Had I done so, I would need a thousand lifetimes to be a billionaire. If you won a million pounds on the Lottery, and declined to celebrate with a champagne cruise, you would still have to win 999 more Lotteries to become a billionaire.

So you have to be pretty smart, pretty determined, pretty lucky in who your dad was or pretty crooked to become a billionaire in the first place. And some people are billionaires many times over. How is that?

These UHNW (Ultra High Net Worth) individuals are growing exponentially in number as we ordinary losers keep shoveling money at them in exchange for such important, everyday items as this year’s model of iPhone, internet subscriptions, exorbitant rents, personal data or dubious financial advice. They know, surely they know, that we are all doomed, probably within a generation.

As the planet warms, feedbacks are triggered; polar ice vanishes, gigatons of methane erupt from thawing tundra and seabed, crops now glutted with CO2 can’t take up any more and die off, giving their CO2 back to the atmosphere; the oceans warm and acidify to the point where they no longer produce oxygen, the food chain collapses. Sea levels rise inexorably. Warmer air becomes heavy with water vapor, insulating clouds trap more heat. Weather systems become wilder, more unpredictable, more energetic.

As desertification begins to impact the temperate latitudes more wildfires consume vast areas of woods and scrubland, adding to the burden of greenhouse gases: CO, CO2, SO2, NOx – H2O. More and more of the human-habitable zone rapidly becomes uninhabitable, fragile economies collapse, millions flee in desperation to more northerly and southerly latitudes: migration wars break out.

If this sounds like the stuff of futuristic fiction, you need to wake up: it’s happening now, and it’s almost certainly already too late to stop it.

We’ve already fucked the atmosphere to the extent that if we stopped polluting right now, stopped everything: cars, planes, power plant, TV, air conditioning units, overnight, it would take 100 years to clear the excess CO2. But if sooty particulates in the stratosphere precipitated-out tomorrow, we would experience another 1.6 degrees of runaway warming within days. There is no science, no engineering solution that can stop it in time, that would not make things worse in the long run.

A growing number of perfectly respectable scientists are joining the ‘Extinction 2030’ club. But the models are starting to show an even worse-case scenario: it’s possible we could see 6 degrees of warming by 2021. And that’s not survivable. The planet hasn’t been that hot in the past 200 million years. Realistically it should take longer. No-one knows, exactly. But that doesn’t mean it isn’t happening now.

Three billionaires – Musk, Bezos and Branson – are racing to build a rocket ship that will take humans to Mars. But Mars is not a habitable planet, it’s all desert. It barely has an atmosphere: CO2. It’s very cold, giant dust storms last for weeks. There’s frozen water, but little solar energy to generate air and power indefinitely. You get there, put up a small tent, and that’s it – the future of Mankind in the universe, reduced to one tiny spark of optimism with not a lot around to catch fire.

It’d be pretty bleak.

Nor does the Martian ecosystem guarantee the resources needed to survive for long in a small colony without hard work, which billionaires are not used to doing; yet their gardeners and housekeepers would be hugely expensive deadweight on the nine-month journey. Robots would be needed. It’s all taking too long, and there are too many billionaires to accommodate.

A Mars mission would be fatally limited in scope: it would be like Scott’s last expedition to the Antarctic, a failed heroic gesture based on poor and hasty planning, inadequate support. Google will be our obituary: ‘thus far and no further’ etched in the Martian sand.

The solution for our threatened billionaires therefore probably lies in constructing terrestrial eco-domes: enclosed, controllable, self-sustaining environments like the Eden Project in Cornwall.

With plentiful solar and wind energy to provide air conditioning, refrigeration, oxygenation, composting of poo and recycling of waste water, these ‘living bubbles’ would enclose hydroponic farms to produce green crops, underground laboratories where proteinacious meat-substitutes could be cloned or manufactured from fungi, and medical facilities.

To go outside, protective suits and oxygen tanks would be required; especially in view of the likelihood that the highly radioactive cores of hundreds of unattended nuclear power stations around the world, deprived of their water coolant, would be melting-down.

The domes would of course have to be defensible. Unless there’s enough methane to snuff us all out, human extinction is not going to be an overnight success. There will be an enormous residue of buildings, fuel, vehicles and general ‘stuff’ to pillage, weapons stores, for useful items. It will take a few years, during which bands of starving survivors will represent an existential threat to the billionaires in their fragile domes.

Private armies will be required, well-armed, possibly with armored vehicles and even small ‘battlefield’ nuclear weapons, and they will naturally demand a share of the food and sanctuary offered by their employers. Unless their services can be supplied from the outset by robots, some means of eliminating the security people when they are no longer necessary will need to be built-in as they become a drain on resources.

Ultimately, however, no system is really self-sustaining to the extent that would be needed to support a viable colony of, say, sixty persons. Besides, unless a means of abandoning the dead planet could be found, to go out and explore the many planetary systems we are only just discovering in our galaxy, to try to find another Earth, what would be the point of surviving? It would take hundreds more people to accomplish than could be housed in the domes.

Breeding more humans in the domes would be counter-productive, as more and more resources would be needed to keep them alive. That can’t work in a closed system, we’ve tried it. You would have to initiate a ‘one-in, one-out’ policy. As the useful staff members – doctors, technicians, gardeners, cooks, maintenance people – their equipment deteriorates and their skills die off, who will replace them?

Billionaires are even now funding serious research into immortality. Lifespans in the hundreds of years may soon be achievable as we find a way to keep our cells replicating healthily. But there’s a catch in Domeworld. Their servants would have to become immortal too!

Boredom and futility would be the final killers, in a limited world of sterile pleasures where there is no more money to be made, no more challenges and goals for these alpha-males and females, other than sheer survival in a series of small, covered habitats flimsily insulated from a hostile environment inimical to all life bar the rats and cockroaches – and no Facebook!

With no more mountains to climb the billionaires would surely go crazy.

(And, lo, the very day after I wrote this little piece, hath appeared the following sign in the Heavens:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/bbcthree/item/183995d2-8d56-4028-9ca5-73394d695e10?intc_type=singletheme&intc_location=bbcthree&intc_campaign=bbcthree&intc_linkname=article_apocalypse_contentcard30 )

x

“So, for £20 I can put in a plug for British Airways?”

“In January 2011 BA merged with Iberia, creating the International Airlines Group (IAG), a holding company registered in Madrid, Spain. IAG (turnover £11.4 bn) is the world’s third-largest airline group in terms of annual revenue and the second-largest in Europe.”

Come, don’t fly with me

As you can probably guess, I have a computer.

It’s just a li’l laptop, with some peripheral things plugged in: a big screen, a mouse, some speakers, a printer.

And for what, £20, £25, I acquired a five-point switchable power-socket bar to distribute the electricity to them all, a kind of power-bar with a special little doohickey, a transformer, a power-sink, whatever, inside it, providing built-in surge protection.

So when lightning strikes or a nuclear bomb goes off somewhere, or when everybody switches their kettle off all at once, or when it’s a bank holiday, an unexpected power-surge is hopefully not going to derail my latest project by wiping my data or worse, blowing-up the operating system.

The ‘motherboard of all bombs’….

And it seems to be working okay so far.

Out there in PR land, they have a speciality a bit like my special power-bar. It’s called ‘crisis management’. Or sometimes, ‘reputation management’.

It’s about knowing what you have to do when your business fucks-up bigly, so you don’t permanently lose your reputation and thence, your business.

Like when British Petroleum blew a hole in the floor of the Gulf of Florida and had to confess, they didn’t have a stopper that fit. Millions of gallons of oil continued spewing out for days, weeks… it began to look like the end of the world was nigh. The marine life died, the fishermen were going bust, the compensation cheques got bigger and bigger… the Chief Executive was replaced but the share price kept on going south….

The eventual bill exceeded $60 billion and the loss of reputation was almost terminal. Not every big business can see the point of reputation management until they need it. And sorry seems to be the easiest word.

Self-styled crisis-management experts go around companies to provide training in how to prevent things going bad for your business, and how to deal with it when they do – as you can’t always count on things not going badly, the bigger and more complicated a business gets. Everyone knows that.

Nearly everyone.

It starts with a risk assessment. You all sit down together and blue-sky all the things that could possibly go seriously wrong, like a lightning strike or a nuclear bomb creating a power surge that takes down your entire information system, company wide.

Maybe no-one wants to seem so stupid as to mention the possibility of a bank holiday?

You draw up a plan to manage every situation, so everyone knows what they have to do; and some rough scripts, for what you say to the customers, the press – your shareholders.

Then you ask an engineer, how do we stop this happening?

And the engineer will say, well, it’s a very rare situation, hardly ever happens, but you should ideally make sure we have a backup system in case the main one goes down.

(Or, there’s this guy in Boglington-on-Sea who writes that for £20 you can get one of those special power-bars you plug your system into, that soaks up any power surges and stops your entire worldwide information nexus from going down at the same time.)

But what happens if we choose not to spend the £20 or bother having a backup, let’s just go with Microsoft Windows XP from Computer World, that’s always reliable, maybe fire all the IT people and outsource the whole damn thing to a wooden shack in Tamil Nadu, save ourselves some money?

Well, then, says the engineer, whoever took that decision is going to have some serious questions to answer if your entire information system goes down at the same time and you can’t operate the business.

But, how serious can it be?

Like I said, it happens very, very rarely.

Yeah, okay, let’s go ahead and ignore it.

But, worst-case scenario, you could find you have twenty-five thousand families jammed into airport lounges in many countries, no planes taking off, all not knowing what’s going on, on the busiest day of the year, a hot day, after they sweated for hours in traffic, at the start of the half-term holiday you just totally ruined for them and their kids, with nothing to eat, nowehere to go but home, and then you’d have to pay them maybe £100 million in compensation?

It’s never going to happen.

But what if it did, who would take responsibility in a situation that bad?

Not me, amigo.

I’m only the Managing Director.

It’s not my fault. It was a power surge…a bad reaction to a power surge… I dunno, it’s technical.

How many times have we heard this, top management refusing to resign over the most horrendous cock-ups on their watch?

“No, I can’t go, not me, I’m the only person on earth who can be trusted to fix the problem I created.”

It’s understandable, the amount these guys are paid. We recall the head of the Health Board on £250k a year who refused to go for weeks after an inquiry found that horrendous things happened, people died. She had to be dragged kicking and screaming from the building while huge cheques were being written to retain her as a consultant, only for that plan to be abandoned too in the face of a public outcry.

Now she lives on a gurney in a corridor somewhere, her worldly goods stuffed in bags underneath.

“Alex is 50 years old and originally from Bilbao in Spain.  He has a degree in industrial engineering from Central Michigan University, an MSc from the Ohio State University, and a Business Management & Administration degree from the Cox School of Business in Dallas.”  – See more at: http://mediacentre.britishairways.com/factsheets/details/86/Factsheets-3/26#sthash.7yKOPLX4.dpuf

Yes, but he’s also a Spanish omelette, no? It never even occurred to him that the flying circus would break down on a bank holiday, the putz; and that people wouldn’t see their bags again for a week.

Because he of all people should know, with his MBA, it’s over. He’s on his way, and no amount of special pleading is going to convince the ruined shareholders and the desolate holidaymakers of Britain, from where the British in British Airways (our national flag carrier) derives, albeit it’s now a rapacious, corner-cutting private Spanish company with serious staffing isues, that he should stay on.

I should know, I worked in PR. The internet will get him in the end.

Better book your ticket to Bilbao, Alex.

There’s a Ryanair flight leaving in an hour.

You can rely on it.

(PS As of Tuesday morning, £500 million has been wiped off the share price of BA’s parent company, IAG.

And now (Tuesday pm) it’s recovered, now the MD refuses to go. And by the end of the week it’s up further. That’s markets for you, completely irrational.)

x

The quality of mercy, slightly strained

The other day we at the BogPo reported on an Australian woman who walked free after her baby died in a hot car, thanks to a psychologist who testified there was such a thing as ‘Forgotten baby syndrome’.

Well now, Australia isn’t quite the liberal country of popular imagination, is it.

A Sudanese refugee who drove into a lake with her three children in the car has pleaded guilty to manslaughter with diminished responsibility, after two of the children drowned.

The judge was totally sympathetic to the fact that she was suffering from severe depression and flashbacks, having seen her father murdered in the civil war in Darfur. The children’s father spoke of how she had been a good mother who would never have intentionally harmed the children.

The judge said Guode had been suffering post-traumatic stress, signs of depression and feelings of isolation from the Sudanese community. “In my opinion, your actions were the product of extreme desperation, rather than any form of vengeance,” he commented. (BBC report)

Then he sentenced her to 26 years and six months in jail, with a no-parole period of 20 years, and said it was likely she would be deported after serving her sentence.

I’ve never really loved the Antipodeans, have you? They can be a bit, well, dry? Like their ageing tennis hero, the homophobic racist Margaret Court, possibly?

 

The Pumpkin – Issue 10: It’s so unfair.

“All I ever wanted was to be loved and admired”, said Pumpkin-Trumpkin. “It’s so unfair!”

The tip of the iceberg

It seems a lifetime ago that the worst things Donald Trump was supposed to have been involved with were a phoney ‘University’ offering bogus degrees in estate agency to suckers paying thousands of dollars, clearly a PR program gone wrong;  and his apparent muddling-up of his personal finances – on which he might have been too smart to pay income tax – with those of his companies and his tax-exempt charity foundation, into which he rarely seems to pay anything, but out of which substantial funds seem to go on demand.

The first of those charges went away after he settled $25 million on the New York court to pacify claimants. He had previously also ‘donated’ $25,000 to a political group supporting the Attorney-General of Florida, probably illegally under voting laws, where he has substantial property investments, following which another investigation into the so-called Trump University seems to have sunk into the Gulf. Truly, money can’t buy you love, but it has its uses.

But the story may not yet have ended:

http://www.newyorker.com/news/john-cassidy/trump-university-its-worse-than-you-think

Trump’s persistent refusal to publish his tax returns, expected to show what an unpatriotic, greed-fuelled, mean-spirited old ogre he is, his refusal to ‘recuse’ himself from many of his businesses or, at best, his insolence in placing his unconstitutional business affairs in the more than capable hands of his own children; the relentless plugging of his daughter’s personalised product ranges and his loss-making golf resorts, where he sells access to himself, are not actual crimes,  but merely evidence of the Trumpian ‘exceptionalism’ with which he disdains the world beyond Trump Inc. and abuses the office of President.

The strange thing about his character, The Pumpkin observes, is that for a Trustafarian born into a wealthy family, who need never have worked in his life, Trump acts at all times like an ass-poor Jewish or Italian migrant clawing his way out of the mean streets of the 1910s Bowery, willing to do absolutely anything, anything at all to survive. Values possibly inherited from his immigrant grandfather, who founded the family fortune from a brothel in the Klondyke.

His recent statements about Putin ‘the killer’ and how we know killers also exist in America may very well be an example of one of his famous Freudian ‘transferences’, wherein his many sweeping accusations against others are really a reflection of his own preoccupations. And his admiration for North Korea’s murderous Great Leader, Kim Jong-un, centres on the young – ‘what was he, 26? 27?’ – Kim having had the strength and resilience to ‘take over his father’s business’… just like you-know-who! Being a psychopath who had his uncle torn to pieces by starving dogs… well, that’s business.

Not a lot of attention has recently been paid to Mr Trump’s alleged inherited connections with former organised crime syndicates, which his father Fred Trump is said to have made back in the 1940s and ’50s while growing his New York property empire.

It’s considered unlikely that any developer would survive in a climate of intimidation and ruthless control over the supply of labour and materials without making accommodation with the city’s now legitimised old Sicilian families. Mr Trump has often been photographed at charity events in the company of one Joey ‘No Socks’ Cinque, a convicted art thief now an organiser of social occasions.

One of his earliest advisors, now dead, was the notorious Roy Cohn, of the notorious McCarthy trials, an attorney working for the mob who did dirty legal work, using the law and worse to crush the young Trump’s many opponents. Trump was also associated on the building sites with ‘Fat Tony’ Salerno, a convicted racketeer supplying concrete (!) at inflated prices; and with other known members of the Genovese family. I expect none of this material, widely available by Googling ‘Trump, mob’, has ever been proved in a court of law, even if such associations are in themselves illegal.

You see, Mr Trump is above all else a pragmatist. Don’t take my word for it, even the UK’s alt-right Daily Mail was shocked:

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-3716125/How-Trump-Mob-offer-not-refuse-killing-building-skyscraper-Donald-s-shrewdest-investment-MAFIA.html

Then there is his expressed admiration for President Vladimir Putin and his curiously gracious attitude towards Russia, the old enemy. Agreed, some thawing of relations would be nice. We don’t want another Cold War, another arms race. But there is a growing belief in the media – as The Pumpkin has been speculating for months – that somehow, Mr Trump may have got himself in a spot of bother financially with hard-nosed elements in the Moscow kleptocracy; the implication being that he is now effectively owned by it. It has nothing to do with ‘golden showergate’, or whatever the kompromat is being called, any politician would survive that sort of gossip nowadays.

At least six of Mr Trump’s campaign team are now alleged to have had contacts with Russian ‘diplomats’ before the election, a matter which is under investigation by the FBI to see whether there is a connection between those meetings, any possible breaches of State security, and the alleged hacking of the Democratic Party’s email servers. Mr Trump has hit back in characteristically bullish fashion by seizing on a story prefabricated by ranting shock-jock attorney, Mark Levin, passed to one of his most trusted sources, InfoWars, the barely-literate blog of crazed far-right vlogtroll Alex Jones and favourite reading of delusionary neofascist teenage baboons, and picked up by Breitbart News, the nihilist website co-founded by Mr Trump’s trusted consigliere, Steve Bannon and Mr Trump’s favourite, probably indeed his only, reading.

At six a.m. on Sunday, Trump was to be found tweeting, without a shred of evidence, that his predecessor, Barack Obama, the 44th President, had ordered the hacking of the phones in Trump Tower. The accusation bordered on paranoia, but may have been inspired by some vague memory of having met Rupert Murdoch. As only the FBI, CIA and other security agencies can legally (and physically) do that, hack phones; and require a warrant from a special closed FISA court that, if applied for, seems not to have been granted, FBI Director Comey has had to step in to say it’s nonsense; another intervention that has left Mr Trump no doubt screaming at his subordinates and kicking his little feet in fury.

In the past week, the journalist Rachel Maddow, broadcasting on MSNBC, has drawn attention to no fewer than three more matters of grave concern, any one of which if proven could potentially see Mr Trump not only impeached, but jailed for a considerable period of time. Again, all are extensively referenced by reputable online sources.

The first concerns Trump’s former campaign manager, Paul Manafort. Mr Manafort had to be ‘let go’ after it was revealed he had benefited to the tune of $12.7 million from his advisory relationship with Viktor Yanukovitch, the sticky-fingered Ukrainian president and Putin crony, who fled the country with, it’s said, $27 billion in public funds during the short-lived Kiev revolution in 2014. Manafort reportedly set up a number of small companies in Ukraine linked via Mossack-Fonseca in Panama with offshore investment trusts in the British Virgin Islands. One of his biggest investors was another Putin crony, Oleg Deripaska (net worth $5.1 billion), who was in for $19 million. Mr Deripaska was reportedly not happy when Mr Manafort reneged on his obligations to investors.

http://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2016/aug/16/donald-trump-campaign-paul-manafort-ukraine-yanukovich

http://www.theguardian.com/news/2016/apr/03/what-you-need-to-know-about-the-panama-papers

Other accusations of Russian money-laundering via Manafort’s shell companies have not so far stood up, but the tale is a murky one. And it has been noted that not a few Russian diplomats and businessmen having any possible knowledge of these affairs have suddenly died from natural causes, such as falling off tall buildings, since Trump came to power; or been recalled to Moscow.

One of the latter was Konstantyn Kylymnyk, a dual Ukrainian-Russian national and a known associate of Manafort’s, who is reported to have been present at a Trump rally where the Presidential candidate departed from an arranged speech to call for a halt to US military aid to Ukraine to help the elected government with its fight against the Russian military supporting rebels in the eastern Donbass region. Trump and Manafort initially denied making the decision to change the speech, but later Trump said it had been his, although he would give no explanation.

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/europe/russia-diplomats-deaths-theories-putin-kremlin-a7602201.html

Mr Trump is reported to have suffered an alarming meltdown at Mar-a-Lago over the weekend, ranting and raging and reducing staffers to tears, over the news that emerged shortly after his address to Congress that his Attorney General, Jeff Sessions, had ‘fessed up to meetings with the Russian ambassador, which he had previously denied under oath. Not because of what Mr Sessions may have done, according to the leaks, but because by confessing when he did, he stole Trump’s Congressional thunder!

http://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/inside-trumps-fury-the-president-rages-at-leaks-setbacks-and-accusations/2017/03/05/40713af4-01df-11e7-ad5b-d22680e18d10_story.html?utm_term=.5faf4faf7817

Mr Trump is perhaps understandably nervous about investigations that might attract attention to any personal dealings with Russia and its business community, that he publicly swears he never has had.

He recently appointed an ‘old friend’ of the family, Wilbur Ross to his team, in the important role of Commerce Secretary. Mr Ross (net worth $2.8 billion) was until 1 March a Director, vice-chair of Bank of Cyprus, where a number of sanctioned Russian so-called oligarchs close to Mr Putin (net worth $100 billion?) are thought to have private accounts through which they ‘clean up’ their ill-gotten gains by investing in legal entities abroad, such as property in Central London and New York. Excerpting from an original investigation by DCReport.org, the Daily Beast reports the following:

“The records Henry (a former McKinsey consultant now specialising in investigating corrupt banking practices)  combed through show that Ross and his team invested more than $1 billion in the troubled Bank of Cyprus. Ross became one of two vice chairmen of the bank. Putin appointed the other….”

http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2017/02/27/wilbur-ross-is-still-another-trump-cabinet-pick-with-underexamined-russian-ties.html

http://www.mcclatchydc.com/news/politics-government/article135001434.html

The chairman of the bank is Dr Joseph Ackermann, former CEO of Deutsche Bank, from whom Mr Trump reportedly borrowed $640 million in 2007 for a hotel development in Chicago and then at the height of the financial crisis declined to pay $340 million of it back, countersuing the bank for lending it to him in the first place. Dr Ackermann was in charge at the time Deutsche Bank was fined a record amount for money-laundering:

“On that chairman’s watch, Deutsche Bank paid $20 billion in fines. Among these was a $650 million fine for helping launder Russian money through Deutsche Bank offices in Moscow, New York City and Cyprus…. Deutsche Bank is Trump’s largest known lender, having extended him more than $300 million of loans that remain outstanding.” (Ibid.)

See also:

http://www.theguardian.com › Business › Deutsche Bank: How Donald Trump Became Deutsche Bank’s Biggest Headache

Clearly, if nothing else the President of the United States is deeply compromised by this adverse relationship between his debt and a foreign bank branch in Moscow.

Another Putin crony owning 10% of Bank of Cyprus is Dmitry Rybolovlev, who reputedly paid Mr Trump $100 million for a derelict, sprawling property in Florida, that Trump had paid $40 million to acquire just two years earlier. There is no suggestion that Mr Trump profited from the laundering of $60 million, but as he never lived there you would imagine he must have paid quite a corporation tax bill! The property was allegedly in such poor condition that it had to be demolished shortly afterwards. The money apparently came from Bank of Cyprus accounts.

MSNBC, the New York Times and many others report that Mr Rybolovlev, the ‘Fertiliser King’ (net worth $10 billion) has been sighted several times parking his impressive private jet on the same US airfields where the secondhand Trump Boeing was also parked while the Presidential candidate was on the campaign trail, and not so far apart; coincidence no doubt, perhaps Mr R. is simply a fan of Trump’s; a wealthy stalker. Perhaps he just wants his money back.

http://www.palmerreport.com/news/dmitry-rybolovlev-who-keeps-flying-in-to-meet-donald-trump-owns-russian-money-laundering-bank/1692

In the latest revelations, so outrageous that they could finally sink the legend of The Donald, it is alleged in a widely requoted article in the New Yorker magazine today that a phoney deal was set up using Ivanka as a go-between to build a ‘luxury’ Trump hotel in the former Soviet republic of Azerbaijan, a hideous tower-block wits like myself might christen The Toenail, seemingly located next to a traffic intersection in a poor and grimy uptown suburb of Baku, with no sea view and no road access, that has turned into an abandoned ‘white elephant’ project since Trump became President.

The Trump connection there, the other partner, seems to have been a family business owned by billionaire Azeri transport minister Ziya Mammadov (official salary $12,000 a year) – a man with known financial connections to the brutal and repressive Iranian Revolutionary Guard, an organisation named as a sponsor of terrorism, which is thought to have put up the money for the project – they’ve got lots, apparently, and as sanctions prevent them spending it abroad they go in for these prestige development projects through wealthy intermediaries.

ForeignPolicy.com (among many others) reports:

http://www.foreignpolicy.com/2017/03/06/trump-hotel-in-baku-partnered-with-notoriously-corrupt-oligarch-with-ties-to-iranian-revolutionary-guard-corps-new-yorker-report-azerbaijan-iran-corruption-conflict-of-interest-mammadov

But why would the Revolutionary Guard be so stupid as to invest in a loss-making turkey like the Trump Toenail?

Only if the price was not, what you might say, the actual price, and the (possibly quite large – see ‘Florida mansion’) – discrepancy could be invested onwards in weapons and oil without busting the sanctions on Iran.

Poor Donald never seems to have his lawyers do due diligence on his business deals; he only uses them to silence his opponents and creditors.

http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2017/03/13/donald-trumps-worst-deal

The $64,000 question (how antiquated that figure now sounds!) is, can he be tied to these deals?

No US President in history, not even Nixon, surely has a record of corruption allegations, dubious associates and shitty deals as long, as devious, as vicious, as expensive and as global as this; all of which has yet to be proven in a court of law, but seems to be widely and confidently documented by a growing range of independent sources. Surely, the Republicans in Congress cannot go on ignoring the evidence out of blatant self-interest?

Yet millions of Americans still believe Trump genuinely stands for the little guy and the American way, for higher wages and full employment and cheaper, better healthcare, and all the other bullshit promises, and are not interested in hearing about any of this: it’s all ‘Fake news’. Obama and Hillary Clinton are the real villains; the media is the ‘enemy of the people’.

In 2005 a 65-year-old British businessman, Christopher Tappin, was jailed in the USA for 33 months after a lengthy extradition process, for selling a consignment of batteries potentially for use in Iranian missiles during a ‘sting’ operation by US federal authorities.

“Tappin was flown to El Paso, Texas via Houston and incarcerated in Otero County jail in New Mexico before his first court hearing. At his own request, he was held in isolation. He appeared in court on 29 February wearing an orange-colored prison jumpsuit, handcuffed and in shackles.” – Wikipedia

Can we ever see Mr Trump in an orange jumpsuit and shackles? Well, the batteries (35) were for use with the Hawk air-to-air missile, a system sold to Iran by the US military during the Reagan administration. Nobody thought to dress Mr Reagan in an orange jumpsuit, so it seems unlikely.

Not even his ‘measured’ speech to Congress, outlining his budget ambitions to give a $trillion tax cut to the rich and grossly bloat the defense budget for the benefit of contractors while gouging the poor and the sick and the immigrants, could possibly convince anyone of his real intentions; but the Dumbfucks just can’t, won’t listen. Nobody likes to accept they’ve been played like a well-tuned fiddle, not even when their mortgages are being foreclosed, their healthcare stripped away and their rivers polluted by Trump’s closest associates.

And this man is in charge of US foreign policy towards Iran.

I sometimes wonder what would have happened if a deaf-blind orang-utan had run for office with a placard around its neck promising to ‘make America great again’.

But we know, don’t we.

Secretly we know.

 

What crawled out from under a…

One of Trump’s longtime buddies is a key White House advisor.

Likely substance abuser, Roger Stone, 64, has publicly called Hillary Clinton a ‘cunt’ and called for her execution. He uses vile racist and sexist language just to shock. He has inveighed against journalists with abusive tweets which he then retracts, claiming he doesn’t realise anyone else can read them.

He is currently busy, abusing anyone who fails to go along with Trump’s paranoid claim, based on nothing more than crazy tales on the neo-fascist  fake-news website he relies on most (after Murdoch’s Fox News) for info, Breitbart, that the devil, Obama, tapped the Presidential candidate’s phone (although he appears to have done nothing at all with the information he may thereby have gleaned!).

Mr Trump has stated, again by Tweet, a communications channel designed for airheads with ADHD, like himself, that he does not believe FBI Director James Comey when he says there is no truth in the allegation against President Obama. In other words, he trusts Breitbart – and the other crazed alt-right sieg-heiling teenage baboon-fodder websites – more than he trusts his own security services. No wonder they’re conspiring against him.

But of course it’s all a smokescreen to draw attention away from the alarming volcano of evidence linking the President with Russian and Iranian sanctions-busting, money-laundering activities (see above).

Stoned has also claimed (again retracted) to have a ‘back-channel’ to Julian Assange of Wikileaks (the slimy, self-regarding Australian narcissist, Assange is currently serving an indefinite prison sentence he imposed on himself when he took refuge four years ago in the basement of the Ecuadorian embassy in London to escape arrest and extradition to Sweden… (yeah, I know, that place again…) on a rape charge.

And lo, Wikileaks appears to have dedicated its sorry existence to taking down the American State – supporting Trump by channelling Russian hacks against the Clinton campaign, and now revealing the CIA’s innermost secrets as to how it is intruding into your internet-enabled kettle and hiding inside your TV to spy on you; a boot stamping on a human face forever, as Orwell put it.

Under any other circumstances one might applaud those ‘Snowdonian’ revelations, as we are broadly opposed to the Stasi State, so it sounds a mite hypocritical to criticise Wikileaks for it now.

But when it is done in the service of getting a so-called President elected who is doing, and licensing the doing by servile, crapulous and profoundly corrupt Republican Congressmen of so many horrible things, on the off-chance his gratitude will run to springing Assange with the co-operation of his new friend Theresa May, possibly in exchange for some shitty trade deal she is desperate for, under the noses of the Metropolitan Police and spiriting him away to America, where the other rather serious charges of hacking State Department intel will be dropped, The Pumpkin feels justified in taking a more high-minded Statist attitude than usual.

The reptilian Mr Stone is clearly someone who shares Trump’s complete lack of boundaries and his total moral relativism. They are, to put it mildly, visibly a matching pair of bunco-artists, lying their hideous old heads off and deliberately creating carnage and chaos, hollowing-out American institutions, even the State Department, that they hope will lead to a world better fitted for insatiable moguls to go on raping and pillaging, in which you and I become little more than servile wretches stunned by cultural mediocrity and surrounded by environmental devastation while they compete to become the first trillionaires on Mars.

Fuck ’em.

http://www.mediamatters.org/research/2016/05/09/comprehensive-guide-trump-ally-roger-stone-racist-sexist-conspiracy-theorist/210303

 

Lock him up. Then execute him.

Maybe Scott Pruitt, the butcher of Oklahoma, could be persuaded to perform the honours?

After all, former governor Pruitt will shortly be looking for a job. Excited Republicans in Congress have already brought forward a bill, abolishing his Environment Protection Agency.

As we know, his employer, President Trump has stated his belief that climate change is ‘bullshit – a Chinese conspiracy’.

The fact this grotesque, pig-ignorant arsehole is in the White House has greenlighted a bunch of dumbfuck Republicans to imagine they have a right to murder your children, deny life to your grandchildren, to massively increase the marginal profits of giant corporations that continue to rape the planet of its resources, starve its people and poison the air while paying massive bribes to keep those criminal fuckers, congenital cretins and fascist kleptocrats in office.

(Yes, I’ve had a couple of glasses of wine. So what?)

‘The Swamp’. That puddle of anoxic scum that comprises the paid lobbyists and Princeton-educated denizens of well-funded ‘think-tanks’ that reacts viscerally, ever alert to any criticism of their paymasters to instantly respond with pre-prepared slimy lies and obvious cunning distortions, to paint their honest opponents with grotesque dishonesties, heedless of the threat to life on Earth. That’s someone else’s problem.

Oh, but look, silly climate scientists can’t agree on whether it might rain tomorrow or the next day! They’re just trying to get bigger grants. They all want to put your taxes up, as well as their own. Look, it’s snowing! So they’re all wrong!

It’s fucking la-la-land.

The Swedish chemist (that foreign country AGAIN!) Walter Arrhenius discovered the ‘greenhouse effect’ of carbon dioxide emissions, 108 years ago. Some conspiracy. Almost as long-running as the gerrymandering, hypocritical fake-politics, the pork-barrel that is the Republican party.

And any position that fails to recognise the logic of the argument that says whatever is the cause of the problem, we should not be putting more CO2 into our thin sliver of breathable atmosphere than we already have, is a dangerously false position.

But look. We know that Exxon’s in-house people were fully aware of the probable consequences of continuing to burn fossil fuels back in the 1990s. A policy decision was taken, not just to bury the findings, but to actively campaign against anyone repeating them. The travesty has gained so much traction since, that the majority of poorly educated but emotionally sensitive baboons surveyed now refuse to believe ANY experts, in ANY field of research; and vote for any moron that agrees.

So, hard cheese, you’re all going to die, your obese, shaven-headed, tattooed little scumrat kids too, texting their dying prayers, they won’t have time to breed your grandkids – and sooner than you think.

If you think I’m exaggerating the scale of the denial problem, I recommend you all to watch ALL of the documentary film linked below. (I know, my blog is preaching to the converted. Tell your enemies.)

Anglo-Dutch Shell is one of the world’s oldest and biggest oil companies. Since the 1930s, off-and-on, it has been sponsoring serious documentary films about our world. As they themselves say:

“The company created its Shell Film Unit 80 years ago under the guidance of the UK’s most influential documentary film-maker of the time, John Grierson (1898 – 1972). One of the first to see the power of motion pictures to educate and shape opinion, Grierson is still widely regarded (a copywriter, I’d have used ‘revered’, more accurate. Ed.) as the father of the documentary today.

“The films Shell produced set out to inform and entertain, using action and animation to explain the mechanical marvels of the age to a wide audience. They demonstrated how people around the world could overcome challenges in health, food and transport. The intention was not to advertise Shell’s brands: the film-makers consciously took a journalistic approach, and the company name and pecten logo appeared only at the end of films.” – Shell website.

In 1991, probably by mistake, it made this short film called ‘Climate of Concern’. It is the most reasoned, calm and lucid exposition of the climate problem EVER. (I contend that one of the problems scientists today have in getting across the urgency of the situation is how lousy and amateurish they are at communicating.) The scientific equipment shown is primitive, compared with what climatologists have now. But more compelling for that.

And it is absolutely, totally, 100 per cent believable, because it comes from the OIL INDUSTRY ITSELF.

I promise you, there is nothing scientists are saying now, and that criminal lunatics like Donald Jesus H. Trump are not desperately trying to deny, that was not fully known about in 1991, 26 years ago; and that has not been coming true since. (If you believe the story that there was a ‘hiatus’ in warming in the 2000s, you’re wrong. That was also a lie. The global average temperature has increased in EVERY MONTH since 1988, without exception. At the time the film was made, the annual average temperature was just 0.5% over what they think it was in 1880. Today, it’s 1.67% above what they KNOW it was. Temperature anomalies of +30 deg C were recorded this winter in the Arctic; +20 deg C in the waters of the North Pacific.)

Here in this 26-years-old documentary film sponsored by one of the world’s largest and oldest oil companies are: the problem, the probable consequences of the problem, and some possible solutions that we have totally failed to implement until now, thanks to industrial slaughtermen like the self-interested billionaire shitty coal-mining lobby-funding Koch Brothers and the smarmy, serious, handsome-looking bilgerat and pal of the Kremlin, Rex ‘Sexy Rexy’ Tillerson, late of Exxon-Mobil’s filthy global deals department, now (for God’s sake! Are you mad?) Secretary of State of the fucking United States.

And these shitbrains you put in the White House: these cynical, compulsively lying, money-obsessed, bullying, mentally diseased, life-denying, anaerobic bottom-feeding monsters with their military faces and snow-capped heads and suppositories up their asses you think in your fathomless dumbass ignorance are representing you and your best interests, who are going to put right all the terrible things their predecessors did to make you poorer and denied you more iPhones and health insurance and 32-ounce steaks and fucking 50-inch TFT TV sets with endless garbage gameshows and tacky car-showroom ads, these treacherous but engagingly incompetent inhuman succubi from Hell’s inner circle, along with your criminal President and his ‘policy’ cunts: the life-sucking wife-beater Bannon, the teenage college werewolf Miller, they too deserve no better fate than to allow Scott Pruitt to experiment on their writhing animate corpses with fucking useless chemicals from Amazon.us, to try to exterminate them before the warders go on overtime.

Watch this film, and get your pitchforks out and sharpened, because YOU’RE BEING EXPERTLY LIED TO:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vTlYYlRN0LY

Thank you.

The Pumpkin – Issue 9: Bugger! Trump speaks in sentences! Greatest speech in history, ever. Believe me.

“I don’t know what the hell it says, some stuff, but Bannon says it’s my signature o.k., so we’ll run with it”

Bugger! Wire we doing this?

“Mr Trump, who is at his Florida resort, fired off a series of tweets from just after 06:30 local time (11:30 GMT) on Saturday. He called the alleged tapping “a new low” and said “This is Nixon/Watergate” – BBC News

Trump’s latest wheeze, creating fake news to shift the blame for Whiteyleaks onto his new hate figure, Emmanuel Goldstein Obama, by suggesting with no evidence whatever that the former President left a bug in the Trump Tower, is just the orange manchild’s way of denying the leaks are coming from his own staff and the FBI.

And the poor fuckwit doesn’t even understand, Nixon bugged his own office. That’s where the notorious White House Tapes came from. It wasn’t an FBI black op, ‘Tricky Dicky’ was so vain and insecure he recorded everything for posterity. Even the bad bits.

Once the tapes were finally subpoena’d by the Special Prosecutor, they showed the extent of Nixon’s potty-mouthed and devious corruption, his involvement in ordering the break in at the Watergate complex to steal the Democrat Party’s campaign plans.

Mr Trump has therefore just admitted that his transition team probably has enough dirt to hang him out to dry.

‘We’re Americans, we have no idea even where Russia is.”

Bye bye. It’s been fun.

x

Reading between the outlines

What has happened to the BBC, that used to be famed for its impartiality?

I listened to an hour of the flagship R4 Today programme, er, today and anyone would imagine we had woken up on a new rocky, watery planet orbiting a star only 40 light years away by Space-X shuttle.

Total, uncritical reception. The worst they could find any London-based American journalist to say about Trump’s miraculous rebirth was that he didn’t write the speech himself. That was the New York Times man. Otherwise the vox pops, the studio reactions, the long-distance interviews with stunned Congressmen – it was as if the last 38 days had all been a bad dream.

Politicians at that level seldom do write their own speeches. Especially ones as important as this. There’s been a growing movement in Congress to have Trump impeached. Seemingly the problem was that there were so many grounds for firing him, nobody could decide which to go for. His approval ratings in the country are abysmal – only 42 per cent think he’s doing a good job, the worst anyone can remember after so short a period in office.

This was a shit-or-bust speech.

And unless Trump has only been pretending to be a grammatical imbecile all these months, it seems likely someone was putting those silvery, honeyed, joined-up words into his normally angry, lying, confused mouth.

To get any kind of an objective view of the speech he made to Congress, it is necessary to turn to those alternative sources we can get here, carried via short clips on YouTube: MSNBC – Rachel Maddow. TYT (The Young Turks). John Oliver of SNL (can’t stand those ‘satire’ shows for lowbrow whoopers). David Pakman. Keith Olbermann. Sam Harris. Mike Molloy. RT – Thom Hartmann.

These are not moan-for-Hillary neolibtards and commie pinkos narrowcasting from within their snowflake paperweight bubbles, they are pretty serious people (given the obvious constraints of having to explain anything a bit complicated to their fellow Americans), some of them ex-journalists and newscasters, and they all have egos, but they are all renegades who are free to stray beyond the bland boundaries of the mainstream media to share their concerns and join some of the dots.

Senator Bernie Sanders, the Socialist presidential candidate who was forced to throw his mass of support behind the disastrous Clinton bid, has for instance delivered a sober deconstruction on TYT Nation of the speech and the policies whose outlines need very much to be read between.

This was a speech for corporate America. $3 trillion in tax cuts for the wealthiest one per cent. The removal, virtually, of corporation tax on big companies who already pay little or no tax and offshore enough wealth to provide free healthcare for all, a free college education, or rescue the economies of Haiti or Venezuela (which, no, they’re not going to do). An increase of nine per cent in the military budget – $56 billion, of which most will inevitably go to line the already overstuffed pockets of private defense contractors. ‘A trillion dollars’ (where’s he borrowing that from?) to be spent on private infrastructure projects. Cuts to welfare programs, public education. More vague promises of a new version of the just about adequate existing affordable healthcare program, to restore the ruddy health of private healthcare and insurance corporations. The blatant hypocrisy of talking about ‘clean air and water’ when Trump has already signed off measures relaxing pollution controls for his coalmining funders, the Fabulous Koch Brothers, and appointed corrupt overseers to eviscerate the environmental agencies. Nothing but vague promises of past their sell-by-date jobs for the 40 million living on the breadline; deportations and broken families for the rest.

Nothing but the tone has changed. It’s a budget by a serial bankrupt, for national bankruptcy. Theft on a grand scale. The US is in hock to the tune of $20 trillion already – what’s a few trillions more? We’ve got the biggest, most expensive army in the world, it’s gonna be bigger – who’s going to make us pay it back?

The fact that Trump has managed to deliver a speech appealing for calm and unity (who, I wonder, created the panic and disunity in the first place?) in joined-up, honeyed words without totally fucking it up does not detract for one moment from what has gone before:

…the lies, the incompetence, the chaos, the bullying, the  despair of staffers, the appointments of ringers, the shameless plugging of his family business interests, the stubborn refusal to publish his incriminating tax returns, the brutalities of his immigration policies that are licensing gum-chewing hicks to persecute Muslims and Hispanics and people of colour legally resident in the country and to impound and turn back travellers whose origins are suspect even if their visas aren’t – even former Prime Ministers: the litany of appalling horrors that have crawled out of this bizarre Oval Office in just a month, calumny upon calumny…

…not to ignore the gathering storm over his possible links via crooked associates and dodgy bankers and money-launderers and oligarchs to organised crime and hostile foreign powers, the huge debts he is said to have accumulated that leave him vulnerable to blackmail and provide him with the necessity to exploit his position for personal gain, to promote supine and self-interested incompetents to positions of power who will never challenge him…

…or the rampant electoral dishonesty engineered by the Republican party with the aid of so-called ‘Russian hackers’ – the increasingly clear connections between such nodes in the conspiracy as the Breitbart News cabal and their shadowy business interests, the Murdoch empire, Nigel Farage and the Leave.UK campaign, Deutsche Bank/Bank of Cyprus and even – for God’s sake – the Kremlin.

None of this shit has suddenly been magicked away by the febrile applause of Conservatives in the House, internally crying with relief that at last some literary genius has been found to sugar the pill and keep the ADHD President on message.

It looks like Donny took his Ritalin for once.

And now, it’s the turn of Jeff Sessions… ‘I did not have intercourse with that Russian Ambassador. I did not inhale…’

“Look guys, long fingers, big hands…”

“I have nothing to do with Russia” – The Wit and Wisdom of Donald J Trump

“The glitzy event (in Moscow), which included a swanky after-party, drew various Russian notables, including a member of Putin’s inner circle and an alleged Russian mobster. Trump later boasted that he had mingled with “almost all of the oligarchs.” Trump had hoped that Putin would attend the pageant—tweeting months earlier, “if so, will he become my new best friend?”—but the Russian leader was a no-show.” – Mother Jones website, 16 Dec 2016.

If Sessions lying to a congressional oversight committee on oath that he hadn’t spoken to the Russian ambassador to Washington is potentially a sacking offence, what the hell is this?

And if he has nothing to do with Russia, why is there an alleged Russian mobster, “property developer” Felix Henry Sater, officed in Trump Tower, New York? A man Trump has denied knowing, yet the first paragraph of his Wikipedia entry states:

“Sater has been an advisor to many corporations, including The Trump Organization.”

And why is Trump followed on a private jet wherever he goes by Dmitry Whothefuckoff, Rybolovlev the ‘Fertiliser King’, a Russian multibillionaire and crony of Putin’s who ‘overpaid’ $100 million via Bank of Cyprus, where he’s a shareholder (Director: Wilbur Ross, Trump’s old friend and now Commerce Secretary; other Director, Dr Joseph Ackermann, former-CEO of Deutsche Bank, yes them again) to buy a dilapidated mansion in Florida from Trump, that was pulled down shortly after?

Did he do that just to thwart his ex-wife, who’d been awarded $4 billion of his fortune?

You’re being fucked, America. We’re all being taken for mugs.

x

Cherry Blossom Time

© cherryblossomwatch

© 2014 cherryblossomwatch

On February 27 the first buds began opening on Washington’s famous cherry trees.

If the stonewall dumbfuck Republican deniers taking their funding from crooked energy company lobbyists in the swamp and the demented runarounds in the White House don’t admit it now, they never will.

According to official website Cherryblossomwatch.com, it’s the earliest Spring flowering ever recorded.

x

 

Dream on

“American footprints on distant worlds are not too big a dream.” – Donald H (sorry, J) Trump

There you have it.

The long-term dream of the dumbfuck alt-right fascist billionaires, right there. What the Trump presidency is all about. The underlying strategy. The Big Plan. Where the money’s gone.

Start over. Earth #2, with racial purity and proper print-your-own capitalism.

Grab some pussy, arm yourself with a full alpha copy of Google on a quantum drive, the blueprint for a New World, hop aboard a Space-X rocket courtesy of Musktours to one of those pristine rocky, watery earthlike planets NASA has found, only 40 light years from our gutted and dying world.

(Actually 40 light years is about 300,000 Earth years away at the speed of the fastest ship Musk can produce, but don’t tell Donald and Ivanka (I feel sure he’ll take his attractive daughter, his ‘terrific piece of ass’ as he calls her,  to use as breeding stock for the new master race, rather than the bothersome Melania). It’s only about 100,000 years longer than the length of time modern humans were around.

While the rest of us, on the verge of starvation and with five billion climate migrants clawing with bloodied hands at our razor-wire fences, die screaming in a methane fireball.

Hello, Jesus.

x

Fore!

“Donald Trump has lost nearly £26m ($31.8m) building his golfing empire in Scotland, his company accounts show – a sum that means the Republican presidential candidate has avoided paying any UK corporation tax on either of his two resorts.

“The latest accounts filed to the UK authorities for Trump’s two resorts, in Aberdeenshire and Turnberry in Ayrshire, also show he has sunk more than £102m ($125m) of his own money into both businesses, despite losing increasing sums on both investments.

“There is also an apparent discrepancy between the accounts and his filings last year to the US Federal Election Commission (FEC).” http://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2016/oct/12/donald-trump-scotland-golf-course-resort-losses

And where exactly is Mr Trump’s controversial new course, Trump International, that he fought tooth-and-nail to have built on a site of special scientific interest against furious opposition from residents, local authorities and environmentalists?

Why, Aberdeen.

Home of Aberdeen Asset Management, since last week Europe’s largest share juggler and tax strategist with over £300 billion of managed funds.

Part-owner of the former Deutsche Asset Management and (see above) part-owner of Rupert Murdoch’s Sky TV.

It must mean something.

A visit to Aberdeen’s prettily designed and reassuring website (motto: ‘Simple is Smart’) produces the following guest quote from Tim Harford, the larky ‘Undercover Economist’ on the Financial Times:

“The mark of success is not to avoid failure but to learn from it, adjust and adapt.”

Mr Trump has certainly learned and adapted from his many failures. Ironically, the FT (now owned by Nikkei) was founded by one Horatio Bottomley MP, a bogus patriot who pocketed the money from the sale of First World War ‘Victory’ bonds and in 1922 was jailed for seven years for fraud.

Martin Gilbert, the CEO of Aberdeen (annual salary £4.1 m), is described thus in The Telegraph:

“Gilbert is the City’s original bogeyman. Long before the likes of Fred Goodwin, Bob Diamond or any of the Libor traders, Gilbert was regarded as the unacceptable face of finance.”

“Just over a decade ago … the savings vehicles famously claimed to have “more safety features than a Volvo” … collapsed, triggering £650m of losses for 50,000 small investors.

“Aberdeen was accused of being at the centre of a “magic circle” of fund managers whose back-scratching fund raisings generated huge fees and bonuses for themselves but created a dangerous pack of cards for savers.”

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/newsbysector/banksandfinance/10471334/How-Martin-Gilbert-the-Citys-original-bogeyman-pulled-it-out-of-the-fire-again.html

I couldn’t possibly comment.

x

Pot, kettle, Pence

Remember all that shit about locking Hillary up for using a private email server on State Department business? Shit that with the help of slimy Judas Assange, the Russians and the biddable FBI director Comey helped to stuff the Democratic campaign in its dying days?

Well, at least a private email server stands less chance of being hacked than AOL, even if it’s only OAPs who still use it.

OAPs like VPOTUS Mike Pence, the walking snow-capped advert for Anusol.

It appears Indiana Governor Pence, as he was, sent embarrassing emails about security matters using his personal AOL account.

I wonder by what circuitous route that came to the public attention?

His account was hacked – laughably his friends and Contacts seem to have received from him, one of those “Help, Mike, we’re stuck in a hotel in Myanmar, can you send us two thousand bucks to pay the bill?” scams – showing that his Contacts file at the very least is now in the hands of the Russians, the Chinese, North Korea, the FBI, GCHQ, Bob Mercer’s Cambridge Analytica, the Democratic party – creatures from a rocky planet orbiting a star only 40 light years from Earth…. maybe all eight.

Who the fuck knows who does this stuff?

All we know is, Pence owes Hillary a huge apology for being an even bigger old fool than she was – and more of a hypocrite. (GOP spokes however are crying loudly, no, you don’t understand, this is different!)

Can Captain Trump’s Traumatised Transition Team take much more of this shit?

As I keep digging a shallow grave as regards connections between businesses and their men, let me just mention that AOL is owned by global comms giant, Verizon (formerly Bell labs). According to Wikipedia:

“In December 2011, the non-partisan organization Public Campaign criticized Verizon for its tax avoidance procedures after it spent $52.34 million on lobbying while collecting $951 million in tax rebates between 2008 and 2010 and making a profit of $32.5 billion.”

Of more interest to Pence, perhaps, is Verizon’s much criticised collection of metadata from customers who cannot count on their security, as the company has frequently handed over information on request… to the FBI.

You’re being fucked, America. But so is the Transition Team.

 

Essay

http://www.theguardian.com/politics/2017/mar/02/electoral-commission-urged-to-investigate-farages-brexit-campaign

Scooped!

Yes, The Pumpkin has been scooped. The day after I wrote the following piece (but hadn’t yet posted it), the above article has appeared on The Guardian Today website, pretty much making the points I’ve been trying to make for weeks. For the first time, someone is beginning to join the dots and fill-in the blanks in this conspiracy-by-numbers, this hardliner coup in America and Britain, that has so far been reported only as a series of random, apparently disconnected events and amusing speculative pieces about Trump’s sanity.

So there we are.

And here’s my piece. I wrote it for the American market, hence the slangy style; dedicated it to the amazing Mike Malloy.

By a narrow margin 48%-52% the turkeys voted for Christmas. The far from definitive result has been hailed by self-interested corporatists, alt-right media and neo-Thatcherites as the indomitable ‘Will of the People’. Or, as we say in this centenary year of the Russian Revolution, ‘The Dictatorship of the Proletariat’. And there is no gainsaying it, or they howl you down.

The European Union is a crock of shit. We all accept that. It expanded too fast, got too bureaucratic, took in some nasty countries we shouldn’t have. Bad hombres in fleamarket shellsuits and black-market trainers arrived in our Victorian terraced slums.

The one-size-fits-all Euro has fucked up the weaker economies of Greece, Ireland, Portugal and even Italy with adverse capital flows – overlending by big mostly German banks borrowing at low rates and lending to poorer countries at high rates – they couldn’t pay back, and are now being fucked over by the ECB ‘Troika’ and the IMF. We know that. My cousin Costas in Athens is a government employee, he hasn’t been paid in months and had a heart attack last year needing a quad bypass in a medical system that doesn’t have drugs, bandages. It’s a disaster.

But it was the best crock of shit we had. It produced a mass of annoying laws safeguarding workers and consumers’ rights, standardising products (my first PR client made generic parts for cars. EU type approvals made it possible for them to sell parts that fit for French and German cars), dictating (with diagrams) what constitutes a legal banana, guaranteeing food safety and traceability; toys that didn’t kill and maim children. I remember the 70s when the most fun you could have on a Sunday afternoon was to sit out and watch your car rust. That changed.

My adopted little nation of Wales is an economic basket case and attracted billions of Euros in EU development finance. We pissed it away, but that’s another story. The EU enables free flows in labour and learning, research and residence. We made the Airbus together. It did away with customs barriers – some acned teenager crawling officiously through your car looking for something he could bill you for, remember? Yet it allowed a measure of internal competition.

And the EU has done good things to resist the monstrously abusive TTIP treaty, abolished unfair cross-border roaming charges by the big cellphone corpses, thwarted putative media monopolies and hit Apple with a $13 billion bill for underpaid tax.…

Why would we throw that away? It wasn’t all bad; it created a safe environment in which we could trade internally without tariffs in a market of 450 million consumers and do business all around the world from a position of strength; and besides, we haven’t had a good war in Europe for 70 years. You can guess which way I voted.

A brash, ugly millionaire called Arron Banks wanted to stop all that. Married to a Russian, with unexplained personal net worth of £100 million, Banks “spent the first part of his childhood in South Africa and returned to the UK to attend a private school in Berkshire before being expelled for “an accumulation of offences”, including the sale of lead stolen from school building roofs.” (Wikipedia)

He stole the fucking lead off his own school roof; yet millions vote for the scam party he started.

With fingers in the online insurance racket, claiming to own a diamond mine in S Africa, “According to Companies House records, Banks has set up 37 different companies using slight variations of his name.” (ibid.)  He has been accused at times of harassment, information theft and insider trading… he also cropped up in the Panama Papers as a secret offshore investor – a right dodgy geezer.

Like a lot of bored business fuckwits with too much easy money, he wanted to get rid of all those foreign barriers to unbridled kleptocracy. So he wrapped himself in the flag and funded the ‘United Kingdom Independence Party’, essentially a disorganised rabble of curtain-twitchers, crazed Empire loyalists, ‘Just About Managing’ squeezed middle Englanders, disaffected working-class Tories and failed High Tory politicians;  and hired a man called Farage to run it.

Now, Nigel Farage is an arsehole. A privately educated millionaire former ‘commodities broker’ with US bloodsuckers Drexel, Burnham, Lambert, he likes to pose outside a jolly old pub with a smoke and a pint, wearing unspeakable ‘English gent’ clothes that make him look like a cashiered army major from a 1950s Ealing Studios comedy, as a ‘Man o’ the People’, railing against political correctness, immigrants (his wife is German, she’s divorcing him) and Big Government. His many working-class fans love him because ‘he’s one of us’, he ‘tells it like it is’, the poor boobies.

Ringing any bells?

Farage is nevertheless a genius at grabbing the limelight and bypassing the normal rules on campaigning appearances by making himself the news story. He has appeared 33 times as a panellist on the prestige BBC political debate show, Question Time. His number is on the front page of every media researcher’s contacts file.

His Wikipedia entry lists a bunch of flakey alt-right committees and organisations. He’s an elected Member of the European Parliament, that he has vowed to destroy – benefiting from a fat salary and massive expenses the meanwhile. But he’s failed to get a proper UK Parliamentary seat six times, leaving UKIP with only one member in the House; a man he doesn’t get on with.

And he’s Donald Trump’s little British bumboy.

How did that happen, that he became a pop-up politician on the Trump trail, was photo-opped in the Golden Elevator with the Sun King, and even appeared at the CPAC  Nazi rally? How was it Trump publicly tried to endorse Nigel for the (not-available) job of British ambassador to Washington – an appointment not in his gift?

The clue is in that photo-opp. Standing next to Farage and The Donald in the portal to Heaven was a gurning Raheem Kassam, editor of the toned-down British version of Breitbart News.

Finally got there.

Now, last week the walking snow-capped advert for Anusol, Mike Pence arrived in Brussels with a message: be of good cheer, The Administration supports the EU to the hilt.

This was somewhat at odds with Trump’s frequent outbursts of approval for Brexit, that threatens to pull apart the fabric of the EU and has triggered a horrific xenophobic backlash here, terrified long-stay EU citizens with British families being used by the ghastly Theresa May as bargaining chips for a ‘red, white and blue Brexit’’; Muslim women having to run the gamut of chanting racists in the streets, spitting and ripping off their hijabs.

(Let us not forget Mrs May: married to millionaire Phil, an investment manager, for six years as Home Secretary she ran Britain’s security apparatus: MI5, MI6, the GCHQ listening post, that collects data for the NSA and monitors the Russian traffic, and pushed through the most oppressive surveillance laws in the western world.)

See, this is all about information, investments and who owns them. There’s a simple problem, which is that a billion dollars, pounds or whatever is a very large number. It’s a problem to find more things to buy, places to put it. ‘Oligarchs’ end up moving it around amongst themselves. Often, it’s hot money that needs a bit of cooling down. I buy ‘x’ for such an amount, I sell it to you for ‘y’ (ten times as much?) and it’s immediately legal.

The cretinous antics of the senile manchild with ADHD isn’t really the story. The story is the money. And who else should be involved?

Through Brexit, Britain, proclaimed the Orange One, had regained its sovereignty, control of its borders, freedom from foreign tyranny and oppression… general whiteness and a warm welcome for US tech companies, defense contractors, money-laundering Russian oligarchs and Murdoch’s News Corp to operate with impunity. But Pence says they just love the EU. What gives?

(Murdoch is also close to the President. He has a bed made up in the corner of the Oval Office; his ex-wife Wendi Deng is best buds with Ivanka. Wendi, 45, has also enjoyed close relations with recent UK Prime Ministers Blair, Brown and Cameron; and is rumoured to be Vladimir Putin’s current Chinese squeeze. She gets around.)

How to swing an election

We are now learning that one of the ways the Vote Leave campaign got its marginal majority was by someone ‘harvesting’ personal data from Facebook and other social media accounts, profiling millions of voters from their ‘Likes’ and search histories, using ‘bots’ (don’t ask, I have no idea) to bombard them automatically with tailored messages to manipulate their presumed voting inclinations. Two million new mystery voters suddenly appeared on the register, days before the vote; presumably radicalised online. The website crashed.

Farage had been judged too toxic even for the official Vote Leave, so contented himself with fronting Banks’ private ‘Leave.EU’ campaign, into which the boorish millionaire sank £7.5 million. And, surprise surprise, according to a report in the mainstream Observer newspaper, it turns out that nifty Nigel is also a ‘friend’ of US multi-billionaire, ultra-ultra-conservative hedge fund manager, Robert Mercer.

Mercer also happens to be the wallet behind Breitbart News, whose co-founder and sometime editor, Steve Bannon, is Trump’s consigliere. And more importantly, he is a computer ‘genius’, a pioneer of Big Data, and the ultimate owner of a firm called Cambridge Analytica, which carried out the data grab on the British electorate on behalf of Leave.EU, that helped to nudge the Leavers over the line.

Another help for their separatist, isolationist cause was the thirty-year-long campaign of fake news about the machinations of the evil EU that had been running in Murdoch’s UK newspapers: the now-defunct News of the World, a Sunday scandal-sheet shut down after allegations of massive phone hacking (edited by Rebekah Wade, aka Brooks – sometime CEO of Murdoch’s News UK Corp. and a close friend of the Camerons); the putrid ultra-loyalist daily The Sun, and even The Times of London. Through his holdings in Fox News, Murdoch has been bidding to complete his stake in the UK’s Sky TV, whose news arm he was forced to divest under EU antitrust laws: BUT… “Mogul needs regulators to approve deal, which will give him full control of pay-TV operations in UK, Germany and Italy” (The Guardian) And they’re resisting; so the billionaires club are trying to take down the EU.

 “A committee of Sky’s “independent” (my parenthesis) directors, led by Martin Gilbert – the broadcaster’s deputy chairman and the chief executive of Sky shareholder Aberdeen Asset Management – scrutinised the deal on behalf of non-Murdoch investors.

“The committee, which unanimously accepted the deal, included the Sky chief executive, Jeremy Darroch, and the finance chief, Andrew Griffith, who are in line for a £40m payday if the deal goes through.”

And a quick trip to Wikipedia reveals that ‘Aberdeen Asset Management’ acquired a share of Deutsche Bank’s asset management business in 2007. The Deutsche Bank to which Trump owes $340 million; the unpaid balance of a loan he took out in 2007.

As I keep saying, follow the money. There’s a lot of it about.

While the FBI is faffing about, pursuing evanescent Russian hackers… They may have tried to ‘influence’ the US election by channelling what dirt they could find on Hillary and her grimy aides  through Wikileaks, whose founder, Julian Assange, remains wanted on a Swedish rape charge he believes the CIA set up so they could grab him in Stockholm. The unpleasant and self-obsessed Mr Assange is still lurking as an unwanted political refugee in the basement of the Ecuadorian embassy in London, presumably hoping Trump would be a better bet for his release than Hillary (he’s also wanted in the USA on data theft charges that could get him a very long spell in Leavenworth).

Thus we have a real live instance of private interference from the USA in a British referendum, with the aim of breaking up the annoying European union and its anti-trust, pro-consumer superstate.

I’m assuming the voter radicalisation, Big Data techniques (more usually used for online advertising) employed by Cambridge Analytica were also applied to the US election, I don’t know. What else did the Trump campaign’s Breitbart connections get up to online, I wonder? Did Russian hackers really infiltrate the DNC? Or did that come from somewhere else?

Ultimately, the story lies elsewhere. We are clearly not looking at a coup only in the USA, this is a global hijacking.

The story is the money. Follow the money!

Trump’s pick for Commerce Secretary, Wilbur Ross is a director of Bank of Cyprus, a known Russian money-laundering front with links back to Moscow and various Putin cronies – including Dmitry Rybolovlev, the ‘Fertiliser King’, who paid Trump $100 million for a worthless piece of real estate junk in Florida; a vast Xanadu mansion built so badly it had to be pulled down. He never lived there, so why buy it? Oh, right. Another director, Dr Josef Ackermann is a former director of Deutsche Bank, which has been fined $billions for money-laundering on his watch. Ask how Trump’s reported 2008 default of $340 million debt to Deutsche went away, where it’s gone and who made it go?

We’ve all been pissed on, that’s not the story. The story is who owns the President – and by extension, America?

Pithy observation

If the First World War was about the end of empire, the Second World War about national expansionism, the Third World War about global ideological hegemony, the goings-on in America show we are now deep into the Fourth World War: it’s being fought in the infosphere and it’s about data capitalism.

History however will judge they are all part of the same war.

Come back Swampy, all is forgiven

“Bristol airport is like a giant branch of Debenham’s department store – a tasteless bazaar with a runway attached”

Air travail

It generally takes me three weeks to decide how I’m going to get to France for my annual week’s treat, attending ‘boot camps’ – workshops for jazz musicians, held in agreeable chateaux .

The problem is, there’s no direct or cost-saving way of getting to the places I need to get to, which tend to be a bit out of the mainstream of holiday destinations, from where I live; which is to say, a remote backwater of the UK poorly served by transportation.

The other problem being, travel websites can’t seem to tell you which airline or train service goes to where you need to go, from where, when, at precisely what time and for how much – and if there’s a seat available – until you have correctly guessed all those things for yourself.

There’s a stopping train, two crowded coaches taking three hours just to ‘sprint’ as far as Birmingham, 90 miles away. From there, changing trains it’s still another two hours to London, and another sixty miles or so to the Channel Tunnel. I’ve used the grimy Eurostar service a few times, but it’s difficult to find a seat on the day and at the time I need to travel unless I book months in advance, long before I finally know that I’m even going to have the money to travel at all; while the fares continually whizz up and down depending on the time of day, making budgeting impossible.

Or you could drive, but once you’ve managed the seven hours to Portsmouth and the five-hour crossing and back again, assuming you could easily navigate through the backstreets of Caen (I don’t get SatNav, the sun suffices) it’s going to cost around £800 minimum, on top of the fee for the week, your food and the bar bill.

It can’t all be done in a day, whichever route you choose.

Three times, I’ve tried introducing flying as part of the mix (it’s no quicker). Twice from Bristol, a four hour drive away, to Bergerac, a tiny local airstrip served in summer by two Ryanair flights a week. Bristol airport is like a giant branch of Debenham’s department store with a runway attached, that you reach only after a mile-long walk through the perfume department. That reminds me next time to get one of those wheely case things.

Airports are increasingly like abattoirs, aren’t they. You go in and it all looks friendly and well lit with glossy stuff everywhere you think you’re going to be pleasantly rewarded with, cake shops and coffee bars; until you’re dragooned through a hidden doorway at the back and prodded onto an industrial-looking ramp that leads to almost certain doom, helpless in a pressurised cigar tube, jammed into the tiny space between a sweating fat man reading a broadsheet newspaper and a child with jam on its face playing a noisy video game on a handheld device you know you couldn’t afford if you saved for a month, being flogged prize draws and more perfume by stressed cabin crew while drunken women shout and laugh and run up and down, dangerously unbalancing the plane, fumbling with heavy stuff in the locker above your head.

It’s like a flying wine bar. And they wanted me to pay double to take my guitar.

The last time I flew, I got drunk, overslept and missed my return flight. Luckily I got a lift to Bordeaux, where I managed to get the last seat on an afternoon EasyJet back to Bristol in exchange for driving my rescuer 90 miles home in the middle of the night.

And once from Heathrow to Lyon: a saga I have previously recounted, as St Exupéry airport was where we had to call out an engineer at 2 am to release my phone from a charging dock, only to realise it wasn’t my phone, which was still in my pocket, and I spent the rest of the night hiding under a flyover while they called my name on the tannoy.

I don’t travel well, to be honest.

Which is why I’m hard pressed to understand why on earth we need more airport capacity in Britain? What we have is awful enough.

I lived for a couple of years in Hounslow, West London, not far from the airport. It was intermittently horribly noisy. Even in Central London you’re not spared the roar of Emirates’ 777s descending from their holding stacks and thundering along the Cromwell Road at 600 feet. It’s easy to imagine, isn’t it, one of those falling out of the sky onto Hammersmith, the horrific aftermath. You’ll have seen photos, I don’t doubt, of 747s approaching over Staines at rooftop height, how anyone lives there and at those prices it is impossible to comprehend.

Building an airport on marshland outside London was a wartime necessity, but as the city has expanded and overflowed it looked more and more like a terrible idea; and not just because it’s fogbound practically 363 days of the year. That’s why they built more airports, at Luton, Gatwick, Stansted, London City Docklands… while Charles de Gaulle is only 90 minutes away by TGV. And we still have the MoD airport at Northolt; Biggin Hill, Marlow, Blackbushe…. London is awash with airport capacity already!

Now however the Government – by which, I mean Mrs May – has finally shut its eyes and stuck a pin in the various plans to create yet more capacity in the Southeast of England; got bulb-headed Grayling and his PR baboons to spin up some crap about showing the quaking world that Brexit Britain is Bropen for Brizness, or whatever; bowed to the as-ever selfish and cretinous business lobby, and decided once-and-for-all (lolz!) after fifty years of arguing, in favour of flattening half a dozen ancient villages and their historic English Perpendicular churches for a third runway – at an airport that is already so busy it can barely cope – at a cost of (more hollow laughter) only £18 billion.

It’s insane, the worst possible decision. And so much for the vaunted ‘Northern Powerhouse’; Heathrow being (as politicians seem to imagine – one even said so on the Today show) in the Midlands. As far as Mrs May is concerned, that’s near enough the North as makes no difference.

I’m both flattered and dismayed that the Government – which is to say Mrs May, most of her immediate subordinates, and even her own Maidenhead constituents soon to be under-the-flightpath being virulently opposed to the plan – has adopted my own method of deciding how to proceed with travel arrangements:

…spend days consulting all the mutually contradictory oracles, take far too long dithering until your best opportunity is lost, heave a sigh of frustration and eventually just plump for the worst designed, most expensive, most environmentally damaging, most likely to go wrong arrangement that Tripadvisor can come up with.

She knows too, doesn’t she, that she can muzzle her sock-puppets all she likes; we are in for years of legal arguments and protests. Local elderly vicars and WI members will be chaining themselves to the porches of their beloved churches and lovely C18th Regency buildings, having to be cut loose and dragged away by G4S goons in the full glare of the media; the spirit (or maybe even the tenacious person) of Swampy* will return, along with thousands of environmental protestors marching through Whitehall; up in the trees and burying themselves in holes in the ground; and it’s all going to be one fucking huge mess.

What is the point? I mean, really?

I’m starting to think our unelected Prime Minister is a bit of an idiot, really. Or maybe not, maybe approving Heathrow is the best way of burying this madcap scheme for another 50 years.

*From The Telegraph, September 2013; Seasoned environmental protester Swampy (real name Daniel Hooper, of the Newbury Bypass campaign fame) has retired from protesting to a life of picking acorns and planting trees to support his four children. … Now the father of four spends his days living on the self sufficient Tipi Valley commune, which has no mains electricity or running water…”

Where are you when we need you, mate?

Glad EU-le tidings

At long last, I no longer need feel depressed and bereaved.

Britain’s Christmas-tree growers have hailed the Brexit vote as a boost to their home-grown produce, on account of a 15% increase in the price of a Danish tree. Hurrah! I knew there was a reason for abandoning our treaty partners and selling out to the Chinese. It almost makes you want to stand up and sing the national anthem.

If only anyone could remember the words.

Beating everyone to the counterpunch

NATO is reportedly deploying troops, ships and aircraft to the Baltic region to counter a buildup of Russian forces ‘on manoeuvres’ in the area.

“Nato does not seek confrontation with Russia. We don’t want a new cold war and we don’t want a new arms race,” the alliance’s head, Jens Stoltenberg, was quoted as saying. “What Nato does is defensive and it is proportionate.” – The Guardian, 27 October

Mr Stoltenberg’s logic seems confused. If we don’t want a new arms race, what does he imagine deploying a counter-force is?

Proportionate defence means just that: confrontation, and a matching-up of capabilities. To even think like this is to define the other as the enemy. Provided therefore no incident occurs leading to a tactical strike and counterstrike that could escalate into full-scale conflict, with the probable deployment at first of battlefield nuclear weapons, before a general obliteration of one another’s cities, we are indeed in a new Cold War.

Happily, the British contribution to the rapid reaction force is not due to arrive in Estonia until “next May”, according to Defence Secretary Michael Fallon, who added:

“Backed by a rising defence budget this deployment of air, land and sea forces shows that we will continue to play a leading role in Nato.”

Yes, wherever Britain goes, and indeed whenever, others follow.

By which time, we hope, the Russians will have gotten tired of their manoeuvres, leaving our heroes cold, bored and fidgety, staring out at an empty waste and eagerly anticipating their next rotation.

All 850 of them.

Advance, Australian Fayre

POKEMON GO-FREE ZONE (NEARLY)

 

…the probability of voting Brexit rises from around 20% for those most opposed to the death penalty to 70% for those most in favour.’

-British Election Study survey (from BBC News, 17 July)

I honestly don’t know how it is that I came to be sitting here, writing this stuff without being paid a penny for it.

Readers of this, muh bogl, won’t need long memories to recall that I made precisely this connection a week ago.

I wrote that MPs could, if they wanted to, have refused to recognise the result of the EU referendum. ‘Remainers’ formed a large majority in the House of Commons, and (whatever the ‘Leavers’ might have said) the British Parliament is still sovereign in its own land.

I pointed out that MPs are well aware that a similar ‘in or out’ referendum on the death penalty would produce a strong vote in favour of restoration. Which is why they won’t go near one, even though they know a large section of the public is baying for it.

I think the next point to make is about that ‘in or out’ question. To what extent were enough voters persuaded to vote ‘Leave’ only because there was no more nuanced choice? The British love a compromise, but if you force them to the sticking post they will always take the John Bull option.

In the case of the death penalty, we still have it for treason; but it won’t ever be used except in time of war. Most voters I suspect would want to bring it back for child murder, or for killing a policeman; for violent sex crimes, or a terrorist attack.

But like the chap I once stopped in the middle of nowhere and gave a lift to, who’d just done a life sentence (in those days 12 years, now more like 30) for a ‘crime of passion’ (he’d come home to find his wife in bed with another bloke), you might get a split vote over degrees of murder.

I expect the judges wouldn’t want it on absolute terms, preferring to make the judgements they’re trained (and paid) to make, free from the straitjacket of atavistic public opinion and with their sentencing options open.

A shame we couldn’t have handled Europe on that basis. Forty-three years is but the blink of an eye in the 900-year history of Parliamentary democracy. We should have given it a chance to work.

 

What’s it worth?

As you kno’, this, my entertaining and informative personal, almost daily, bogl, the BogPo has a policy of not paying contributors.

We find if they’re not busy spending money, we get so many more words out of them.

I have learned, however, that Mr Boris Johnson was being paid £29,000 a month to write his predictably droll column once a week in the Daily Telegraph.

Now he has had to give it up in order to concentrate on offending foreigners directly (perhaps he could hire Mr Cameron’s friend Jeremy Claxon as a consultant?), I shall be proposing the editor of the Boglington Post, Uncle Bogler as the most eminently experienced candidate to take his place.

The fee should suit me very nicely.

E. von-und-zu, etc.

 

Chevening disagreement

I see that Mrs May has a sense of humour after all.

She has set aside the Chancellor’s country retreat, Chevening, as a cosy home for her three leading Brexit negotiations ministers: Johnson, Davis and ‘Dr’ Fox, who will have room to carry out his medical experiments.

I shall send five pounds to the first person who has a situation comedy commissioned about three politicians who hate one another, having to share a house.

It’s a no-brainer.

 

Advance, Australian Fayre

Our new and somewhat enigmatic Prime Minister has had a chat on the phone with Australia’s PM Malcolm Turnbull and has greeted his offer of a trade agreement with Britain as a sign that we can survive Brexit, with what sounded like profound relief.

Surely, though, we already trade with Australia? They sell us billions of litres of their industrially produced wine, that you can hardly find on sale anywhere else in Europe, and we send them our junior doctors.

Turnbull has an honourable history of defiance of Empire, having snubbed Thatcher by successfully defending Peter Wright, the MI6 man who broke  the Official Secrets Act in publishing a memoir about his time as a spy, against her legal champion, Lord Armstrong.

Mr Turnbull too has just scraped through an election – I say ‘too’, but Theresa May is probably the least-elected Prime Minister since Winston Churchill assumed power in 1940, being preferred as a war leader over the wobbly Lord Halifax.

Mrs May has essentially been elected only by the genteel but steely rightwing voters of her agreeable Maidenhead constituency. We do coups differently here.

Turnbull might be less eager to offer Australian support if he realised that his gesture is bound to be spun in Britain as a sign that the Commonwealth is returning to British sovereignty, like a thirty-something having to move back in with their parents because they can’t afford a house.

(Indeed, the Australian economy has been tanking lately and they need all the export markets they can get.)

I doubt, too, that an agreement to sell us more kangaroo-based products will come packaged with the offer of a bungalow with a huge spider in the toilet, passport-free travel and an unfettered right of residence for UK pensioners ejected from Spain.

 

Plus ça change

What has been described as the most important Bronze-age settlement found in Europe and Britain’s ‘Pompeii’, Must Farm in Cambridgeshire gives what archaeologists claim is a unique insight into life in the fenland, two thousand years ago.

In addition to almost intact households revealing that our ancestors built flood-proof homes on stilts, acquired lots of stuff, enjoyed a healthy, varied diet and had separate kitchens, the settlement was ‘at the heart of a vast trading network’ throughout Europe….

Which presumably explains why the site is being filled-in and buried forever later this week.

Can’t have that.

 

Go Po!

Two teenagers were reportedly shot at and almost killed while playing Pokemon Go! late at night in a car outside a nervous man’s house in Florida. Four British kids had to be cave-rescued after straying into an underground complex and getting lost.

A man continued playing after spotting a Pidgey (What that? Ed.) in his wife’s labour ward just as she was giving birth. A boy continued playing after being stabbed by a passing stranger. A man has been dumped by his partner after she tracked a Pokemon back to his ex-girlfriend’s house. Thousands were sent fleeing in terror after a Farage appeared in Hackney…. (Okay, made that one up.)

And lots of people are getting run over by buses and falling off things and into canals, bumping into lampposts, and no doubt being driven mad pursuing little digital creatures around the world.

I don’t understand a word of it. It’s been explained to me several times, but. It’s quite exciting, though, that we seem to have a real global craze developing, of the harmless kind we used to have before the Islamic State.

Yo-yos. Hula-hoops. Bobby-sox. Miniskirts. Chain letters, and the like.

But my son has found something or other lurking under the railway bridge Hunzi and I go through on our walks, and now I don’t feel safe. It’s like going back to a time before the Enlightenment, when a boggart might get you, an elf or a leprechaun.

There be things out there ye know not of.

 

Cautious scepticism

Speaking of which, apparently half the population of the UK refuses to believe dinosaurs really existed; while 38 per cent think the Moon landing was faked.

Should they have been allowed to vote?