A new BogPo emerging: Trapped in the work ethic… “Appointments Co-Ordinator”: The Angel of Death… Trump’s weird weather balloon continues to inflate… GW: It’s a hard rain’s gonna fall

Revolting Quote of the Week (Look away now…)

“Perhaps Iain Duncan Smith would be caught scraping wax out of his own ears and spreading it on a Jacob’s Cracker; or licking his own belly-button fluff off a stick as if it were fairground candyfloss; or sprinkling dried smegma flakes from beneath his foreskin on to a strawberry ice cream and saying: ‘Yum! Yum! I love eating smegma!’ Everyone will have the food they need.” – Stewart Lee in The Observer, 8 Sept., after former Tory leader and chief architect of the New Poverty, Smarmy Duncan Cunt was caught on camera in the Commons, picking his nose and eating the bogeys.

 

Trapped in the work ethic

There’s an excellent dissection of modern-day society on Open Democracy today (pub. 5 Sept.). Phil Jones writes on Millennials’ obsession with “Brand You” – the neurotic pursuit of “employability” that occupies so much of people’s leisure time – and, indeed, of their working time, as they concentrate on finding the next job, and the next.

“If work/life balance feels like a bad joke, the need to market oneself is even worse – a joke that goes on forever, never to deliver. Needless to say, the joke is on us as we spend our lives working ever-more to receive ever less.”

Jones regards it as a mental health crisis.

Actually, I’ve always thought that the universal activity of looking around for better opportunities is one of the more agreeable diversions from work, and probably one of the primary causes of our woeful lack of productivity in Britain: an economy shivering through an unending winter of employee discontent.

Your Uncle Bogler is no millennial, except in the sense that sometimes he feels like a thousand years old. But he regards himself as having often been years ahead of the game. He thinks back to his last job, and the one before that, and the ones even before those, as times of obsessively reinventing himself through successive redraftings of his CV – this was mostly before lInkedIn and Instagram and all the rest of it. “Brand You” was always “Brand Me”.

So maybe it’s not such a new thing. Because 30, even 40 years ago I always felt the need to move on was the ideal form of progress. And, having milked every employer I ever had of more and more responsibility, always working silly hours way beyond my job description, never feeling sufficiently rewarded for it, it wasn’t long before I would start looking around for something more interesting to do.

Every so often I would go off for a while and employ myself, although I was my own worst manager and employer, always hopeless at structuring my time, doing accounts, finding business, networking and the social politics of being preferred for jobs I could do standing on my head, over reassuring Yes-men. It was always a great relief to get off that merry-go-round horse and hop onto a passing ride; a dodgem car, or the ghost train.

Indeed, after what? seven years! of retirement, I still wake up every day wondering where my next career move is going to come from.

Seventy, as they say, is the new 50, and finding work at 50 was hard enough. Nobody wants to hire someone afresh at the peak of their powers, there’s always a suspicion, isn’t there, that if you’re looking to get hired at 50 there must be something wrong with you; and, if hired, you’re probably thinking you can run the place a lot better than the insecure twenty-somethings blundering about in charge, which of course they won’t appreciate.

I didn’t. But having been given my own department to run, a budget and a free hand with hiring and scheduling, even at the callow age of 24 I didn’t make the mistake of not hiring more experienced people than myself to deputize, more than to do the actual nuts and bolts work; making up for the gaps in my knowledge and providing reassurance to the directors.

I made sure some of them got paid more than I did. Some of them were even women! And yet there was never any question who was running the show: it ran on my probably lunatic ideas (it’s called “innovation”), my energy, my hours, my creative imagination, my (well-regarded) precocious, professional input. I endeavored to induce a sense of co-operation – collegialism, rather than the tired cliche of “teamwork”, that absurd militaristic or sporting trope, the fallback of too many workplaces run by managers trained, rather than educated.

It’s an attitude I can pride myself on, and with me free to concentrate on my own contributions to the end-product, rather than constantly having to keep an eye on the personnel (except in one egregious case, of one serial responsibility-evader – he was the annoying baby of the team), we rapidly earned the envy and hatred of our competitors, as well as higher ratings, which I regarded then as the mark of success.

Few people, I imagine, get the chance to do that sort of thing nowadays. I won’t go shelf-stacking in Morrison’s because of it. Five minutes into the job and I’d almost certainly be thinking of the Manager much as one might contemplate the promising intellect of a primate in a zoo, adept at winkling its earwax out with a stick, wondering why Head Office was so willing to put up with the glaring inefficiencies and sheer gutlessness of its regional systems, its risk-aversion, and – privately seething with discontent at the massive discrepancy in our relative rewards – itching to move on.

It’s not a good look, as we corporatists say nowadays.

http://www.opendemocracy.net/en/oureconomy/brand-you-how-employability-came-dominate-our-lives/?utm_source=Daily+Newsletter&utm_campaign=92c44be1e6-DAILY_NEWSLETTER_MAILCHIMP&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_717bc5d86d-92c44be1e6-408090269

 

Trump’s weird weather balloon continues to inflate

The bizarre story of how Trump has been defending, like an oversexed terrier clamped to your leg, his mistaken warning that Alabama was going to be hit by Hurricane Dorian, took an even weirder turn tonight when someone at NOAA, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric  Administration, issued a statement confirming that Trump had been correct, and that Alabama had been on the track list – albeit briefly – for 12 hours.

The Trump-affirming statement appeared to contradict the opinions of NOAA’s own scientists.

Trump called the press to the Oval Office on Wenesday and showed them a map that had obviously been doctored by someone, a person widely believed to be the 4-year-old child calling itself the 45th President of the United States of America, Commander-in-Chief of US forces and Leader of the Free World, by drawing an erratic extra bulge on a very early Hurricane Center track forecast with a black marker pen, to include Alabama, after the National Weather Service had tried to correct him.

Hurricane Dorian was going, they said, nowhere near Alabama. His claim, defended in a series of vindictive tweets savaging the media for trying to make him look bad, led to some panic buying in the state, while critics have argued that it may also have led to potentially lethal complacency in the Carolinas, far to the east, where the Category 3 storm did in fact track after killing hundreds of people in the Bahamas.

Certainly, there’s a law against promulgating false weather forecasts.

The point being, that Trump’s mental condition is now under serious scrutiny, as he had clearly made a simple mistake and it wasn’t, to begin with, of any importance; nobody would have cared, and he could just have brushed it off with a disarming apology, if he had an ounce of charm or good manners. Instead he is still doubling and tripling down on it with a series of increasingly disturbing lies, and what appear to be increasingly intimidatory tactics.

Now there’s a major rift between the nation’s various weather bureaux, with a spokesman for the National Weather Service’s employees calling the NOAA statement “disgusting and disingenuous” and accusing the NOAA of “managerial malpractise”, perpetrated for political reasons.

A quick call to Granny Weatherwax confirms, after delaying an appointment for many months, late in 2017 Trump nominated for the head of the NOAA, the former CEO of a private forecasting service, Accuweather, one Barry Lee Myers, a non-scientist.

Myers had previusly made a substantial donation to the campaign fund of a leading Republican senatorial candidate, the ghastly Rick Santorum, in an attempt to get Congress to sideline the National Weather Service and benefit Accuweather’s commercial interests by effectively outlawing free public weather forecasts.

He was not confirmed in post. So, according to Wikipedia, “since February 2019, NOAA has been headed by Neil Jacobs, as acting Under Secretary of Commerce for Oceans and Atmosphere and NOAA interim administrator. NOAA has not had a confirmed leader since January of 2017.”

Neil has a somewhat more impressive CV than Barry:

“Previously as the Chief Atmospheric Scientist at Panasonic Avionics Corporation, he directed the research and development of both the aviation weather observing platform and weather forecast model programs. He was previously the Chair of the American Meteorological Society’s Forecast Improvement Group, and also served on the World Meteorological Organization’s aircraft-based observing systems expert team. Dr. Jacobs holds a bachelor degree in mathematics and physics from the University of South Carolina and masters and doctoral degrees in atmospheric science from North Carolina State University.” (NOAA website)

Now all he needed to do was to tell Mad King Donald to just drop it, but sadly being only yet another “acting” head of department among many, he can’t. Because his position is unconfirmed by the Senate and still in the gift of the President, he just has to do what the demented orange infant – whose uncle, let us remember, lectured in electrical engineering at MIT, qualifying Trump as a scientist summa cum laude – tells him to do.

Just get him out. Forget who he is, concentrate on what he is, which is certifiably bonkers. It’s cruel to keep him there. Just send in the men in white coats, stick an anti-spit bag on his head in case it’s catching, the megalomania – and cart him off with his arms folded.

How hard can it be?

 

“Appointments Co-Ordinator”: The Angel of Death

The NHS over in England is instructing area health trusts to write to London’s GPs, telling them not to refer patients to specialist consultants unless it’s a matter of life or death. “A spokeswoman” is quoted as saying:

“Some ideas will affect clinical services and in putting forward our plans we want to emphasise that the safety of our patients and the quality of our services will always come first.”

The spokeswoman added that they would ensure no patient waited more than 52 weeks for treatment.” (Guardian)

52 weeks is, as my Likers, Spammers, etc. all kno, a year.  No patient will wait MORE THAN A YEAR for treatment. Some idea… Some quality, first. Is this a health service or a national extermination program? Statisticians have been reporting for some time now that life expectancy in Britain is no longer increasing. This looks like one possible reason, you might agree.

Commented Health Secretary, Matt Hancock: “zzzzzzz. Wake me up when we’ve Brexited”.

My own local health board in Wales has adverted instead to a different method of imposing the death penalty on patients. Someone naming but not signing themselves “Appointments Co-Ordinator” will write to you, telling you you need to make an appointment – whether you do or not.

Failure to respond by telephone within 14 days will result in them assuming you no longer want or need treatment, or you are no longer living in the area, or you’ve died, and unpersoning you. Telephoning will produce a recorded message, telling you there is a half-hour wait to speak to someone.

Last March, for instance, I ignored – well, I tried phoning first, and then I ignored the letter because I already had a consultant appointment, made directly through his office. But you can no longer do that. And in early May I had another letter, informing me that, as I had obviously died or gone away, I no longer had a consultant. Although I had been to see him, and had various procedures in the meantime.

So, I was forced to waste the time of my GP and my consultant getting myself put back on the list. I’ve since had another letter, demanding I make an appointment – for what sounds very much like a preliminary assessment to begin receiving the consultant support I’ve already been getting for my prostate condition for the past five years.

And, of course, if I don’t phone within 14 days, I’ll be struck off again. Which rather makes a nonsense of the huge expense of the various scans, tests, surgical investigations and clinical procedures I’ve already had, since they’ll need to be repeated.

“Appointments Co-Ordinator” is not, obvious to say, a clinician, but a bureaucrat. (That’s if they really exist and are not simply an algorithm.) “Appointments Co-Ordinator” has no idea if my condition requires treatment or not; or what treatment it requires. But it certainly requires treatment.

And in writing to people in late August, “Appointments Co-Ordinator” clearly runs the risk of encountering recipients who are away on holiday, as I was when the letter arrived.

I replied immediately by letter – it’s written evidence – asking “Appointments Co-Ordinator” to check with my consultant to see if the appointment was relevant or not, before wasting everyone’s time making it.

Needless to say, after 14 days I’ve had no reply. “Appointments Co-Ordinator” can dish it out, but she can’t take it.

Which you might understand fills me with anger. Striking patients off consultants’ lists while they are receiving treatment (I have never missed an appointment) without reference to the consultant or further investigation of the circumstances in which a patient has failed to respond in time – a follow-up letter, perhaps – is a gross breach of medical ethics and saves no money at all.

All it does is close cases on open files, when they may need to remain open – thus artificially and, in many cases, one suspects temporarily – shortening overburdened consultants’ waiting lists (and the lives of the patients) to comply with official quotas.

 

GW: It’s a hard rain’s gonna fall

Bahamas: “Health minister Duane Sands has warned of the probability of a very high death toll in Abaco and Grand Bahama as the catastrophe continues to unfold. He told people to brace for a ‘staggering’ final count, when speaking to local radio late Thursday. ‘The public needs to prepare for unimaginable information about the death toll and the human suffering,’ he said.” Grand Abaco is said to be virtually uninhabitable. The UN has called for aid for up to 70 thousand homeless survivors. (Guardian and others)

Chuntering up the coast, Dorian has been bumping into the Carolinas, back at Cat 3, bringing severe flooding to coastal regions, and is set to make landfall in a third country, Canada, over the weekend before spinning out across the Atlantic in pursuit of weakening Tropical Storm Gabrielle, heading for the British Isles later next week. Several other Tropical disturbances are reported in the Atlantic, although none is as yet favored to intensify – Dorian will have churned up a lot of cold water in its wake and left a turbulent atmosphere that should discourage more hurricanes for a while at least. One meteorologist is suggesting remnant Dorian could trigger a UK heatwave. (Express)

Vietnam: Tropical Depression Kajiki, which closely followed Tropical Cyclone Podul, has brought heavy rain to parts of Vietnam and Laos, causing further flooding and landslides. Authorities report at least 2 people have died and 2 are missing in Laos, while 5 fatalities were reported in Vietnam with 3 people still missing. Heavy rain in catchment areas has also increased levels of the Mekong River, which has reached flood stage in parts of Thailand, Laos and Cambodia.” (Floodlist)

Africa: Over 40 people have died and 70 thousand are affected by flooding in Niger, West Africa, where rivers have far exceeded Red level flood stage. Other countries of the region have also seen major flooding and casualties over the last few weeks, including Nigeria and Mauritania, along with Central African Republic and further north, Algeria and Morocco. (Floodlist)

India: Flooding caused major disruption to road and rail transport in Mumbai and areas of the surrounding state of Maharashtra. 214.4 mm (8.5-in.) of rainfall was recorded in 12 hours on 4 Sept. India’s public service broadcaster, said that out of 150 weather stations in Mumbai and Maharashtra, 100 weather stations received 200mm of rainfall within 24 hours. The rain cause massive urban flooding, clogging streets, damaging homes and causing transport disruption including bus, train and flight cancellations. (Floodlist)

Japan: Tropical Storm Faxai intensified rapidly Saturday (7 Sept.) to become, now, a Cat 3 supertyphoon, with 130 mph winds, heading straight for the main island. “Destructive winds are likely across southeastern Honshu, and destructive waves are possible on Japan’s southern and eastern shores. In addition, 3 to 8 inches of rain is likely in southeastern Honshu, with isolated amounts up to a foot possible. Flooding is possible in the Tokyo metropolitan area.” (The Weather Channel) The storm has delayed the arrival of teams for the Rugby World Cup.

Previously: Supertyphoon Lingling “skyrocketed from a CAT2-equivalent to CAT4-equivalent system in only 6 hours late on September 5th. Indeed, satellite imagery showed impressive structure, with a well-developed, extensive central dense overcast and an impressive, well-defined eye. Peak sustained winds increased from 105 mph (169 km/h) to 130 mph (209 km/h). It tracked directly across Japan’s Miyakojima island”, and will “track north over the East China Sea into the Yellow Sea in the next two days, likely retaining significant strength. Possible landfall in North Korea early on Saturday, although track is somewhat uncertain.” (Severe-weather.eu)

Update, 7 Sept.: 3 killed as 155mph Typhoon Lingling bumps first along the South’s coast, then smashes into North Korea. 8 injured. Flights grounded, and thousands without power. (London Evening Standard)

USA: “Record-challenging heat will make it feel like the middle of summer across the southern United States through the weekend. Dry conditions and plenty of sunshine will stretch from eastern Texas to Georgia on Friday as an area of high pressure settles over the region. Temperatures across much of this area will climb into the middle to upper 90s F, while farther west in Louisiana and eastern Texas, highs are expected to peak near 100 F.” (Accuweather)

“A raging wildfire near Quincy in Plumas County erupted to 24,000 acres on Saturday, forcing evacuations in the area, the U.S. Forest Service reported. The Walker Fire broke out Wednesday inside the Plumas National Forest about 11 miles east of Taylorsville. The blaze was at 2,000 acres on Friday morning, before strong winds in the area rapidly caused the fire to grow, burning over 17,000 acres by Friday night. As of Saturday morning, the fire had covered 24,040 acres and was zero percent containment (sic). (Sacramento Bee)

After the storm… Just where do you start?

Mexico: The Weather Channel reports “Tropical Storm Fernand is closing in on landfall in northeast Mexico where it will bring a threat of heavy rain and flooding. Tropical Storm Gabrielle has also formed in the eastern tropical Atlantic Ocean”, and is on a track that may see it spin nor’eastwards towards the northern British Isles later in the week, where remnant Dorian is also heading after passing over Nova Scotia with 75mph sustained winds… “But that’s not all: The National Hurricane Center (NHC) is watching two other areas in the Atlantic for possible tropical development as well.”

 

Tunnel approaching….

Yellowstone: The Blessed Mary Greeley reports, there’s been another swarm of more than 40 small ‘quakes up to M2.7 in the Mammoth Mountain volcanic area, to the north of the Long Valley supervolcano caldera in SE California, near where there was a series of major quakes 2 months ago, including a huge M7.1. The last “small” eruption, which created Mono Lake, was only 250 years ago; but the USGS says there’s only a one percent chance one of the volcanoes could erupt again in any one year. Which is to say, a one in a hundred years chance…. and it’s been 250 years since the last eruption? Ooops.

It’s believed the magma chamber – estimated at 240 cubic miles! – could be contiguous with that of the not far-away Yellowstone volcano in Montana (11.5 Grand Canyons’ worth), where there have also been swarms of quakes recently.

Australia: The government of New South Wales is evacuating fish from the lower Darling river – part of the country’s major Murray-Darling irrigation basin – ahead of predictions of another scorching, dry summer. Last year, millions of fish died and other river-dwellers were almost wiped out as the Lower Darling fell to record low levels, partly due to overextraction. Agriculture Minister, Adam Murray said: “We’re staring down the barrel of a potential fish Armageddon.” (Guardian Green Light)

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#grinder… The Irish border question: What is an Irish border?… The Madness of King Donald… Music, history… GW: The weather here has been as nice as it can be

Hi, welcome back, me.

#grinder

Yes, I had a good time, thanks. Glorious weather after the first day, and a memorable meal at a busy Michelin-starred restaurant on the divine banks of the Loire. Chef/patron emerges: “Smell zis Caledonian peppair!” He’d personally gone to New Caledonia in search of an especially fragrant pepper to put in his little battery-powered machine and brought it all the way to our table to let us poor departing Brits (and one London-based American) smell it. That’s what it takes to get one star.

For a whole day since returning, despite another gruelling all-day train journey with improbably explained delays, during which I managed to wet myself when the valve failed on my leg bag while I was falling in love with the stunning blonde passenger sitting opposite, in tiny denim shorts, and ended up instead chatting helplessly with a dyslexic theoretical physicist about string-theory, as you do on our local sprinter train, a guy with several PhDs, I have a cautious and totally misdirected sense of jaunty optimism.

Fuck it, I thought. I am the Chosen One.

We should all maybe tell ourselves that more often.

Photo: Reuters

President Donald Trump with the prime minister, Boris Johnson, and others in the background

“He who smelt it, dealt it!”

 

“It’s as certain as night follows day that in the event of a referendum the entire cabinet would agree in a heartbeat to restoring Irish unity, which would solve the problem at a stroke.”

As Johnson descends on louche old Biarritz for another pointless G7 meeting to be hijacked by Trump, his abusive tweets, his capricious nonsense and his insatiable neediness, we look at….

The Irish border question: What is an Irish border?

Technology exists to track your movements and mine. Do not imagine that someone, somewhere, with the right authorization, could not, if tipped off to certain worrying keywords, or simply because you bought some branded product, log-in to a system that is tracking your every movement, purchase and utterance; and, with access to 5G, will soon know to the nearest half-meter where you are standing or lying, robbing a bank or screwing your boss’s wife.

They are already doing it. You think your stuff is Off? It ain’t. Unless it’s dead (or you are) it’s still transmitting.

So, imagine you have a truck full of shivering sheep, baa’ing piteously on their way to meet the Inevitable. (Again.) Ahead of you is a separation between one customs tax regime and another. They levy different tariffs. Some official clearly needs to know that you have trucked your terrified sheep across this border, which has no physical barrier, but which divides a higher-priced region from a lower, thus attracting people who will profit by bending the rules.

He or she will need to register that you have transhipped 135 sheep from one jurisdiction to the other, in order for more officials to send the producer and the retailer their bill and claim the tax – plus VAT – for the Government. Assuming, that is, that your sheep have not been diverted into a quiet field somewhere.

Such a barrier would naturally encourage producers on one side to smuggle their sheep across to buyers at night, and buyers to move them on at low cost into a higher-priced retail and consumer market, pocketing the difference. Bad men with guns would exploit the higher price on one side, and be prepared to shoot when questioned; or when they think someone is telling on them; or, more pertinently, competing with them. I’m pretty sure they’re digging the auld Armalites out of their rural hideyholes as I write. There’s nothing the rural Irish like more than a good ambush.

The activities of these gangsters are masked beneath centuries of political, alcoholic and religious pieties, justifying their murderous ways. Their largely bogus “movements” have in the past set off bombs callously killing non-combatants, and even conducted two wars to retain their opportunities for profit. It’s called smuggling, and wherever it happens it’s a murderous business.

And then, imagine that the complicated geography of the region means that, in order to get from a low-tax regime to the higher one, goods have to pass through the higher tax regime from the lower, and then back into the lower and on to the higher.

Who the hell is going to keep track of that?

Packed on trucks, the goods leave the freedom of one set of customs taxes and standards, to pass through a different jurisdiction, the UK, with different customs taxes and standards, in order to enter once again the former jurisdiction, the Irish Republic; and then, possibly reprocessed (unless they are to divert hundreds of expensive miles northwards through the UK to Scotland) have to pass once more across this barrier, the border, to enter the UK once again. The process, of course, having attracted more tax liabilities.

I’m sorry, there are those who think this is a good idea, but I don’t. And I’ll happily kill you over it, when the gloves finally come off, because you deserve it. You’re a bunch of fucking ignorant, selfish, disinterested, determined klutzes who haven’t been paying attention, and in your infinite laziness you believe anything you’re told by bad people you think are on your side because they sell you pictures of very young women with big naked tits just like your mum’s.

And there we come on to people. People living or working on either side of this putative border will have different rights and degrees of citizenship. No barriers separate the people south of the border from the people east of the bigger island that separates them physically by water from the other jurisdiction to which they belong. But the borders between the continent and the smaller island to the west, and to the north of an arbitrary line drawn across the island in 1926, now create differential rights, rules, loyalties and responsibilities of citizens in the south from those in the north.

A major part of the decision by a very small majority of UK citizens to leave the EU related to their objection to the principle within the EU that people should have an automatic right to live and work in any member state. As soon as several poorer East European countries with quite alien cultures joined the union, voters saw a potential threat and panicked. In future, however, anyone will be able to get in over the new, invisible Irish border. The assinine slogan, “Take back control of our borders”, will be turned on its head. Fucking eejuts.

Their vote will substantially reduce the existing right of all EU citizens, however “acceptable”, to live and work in the UK, unless they meet stricter criteria, possibly than less qualified people from other countries the UK will be forced to make its own trade agreements with. But if there are no border controls between the south and the north of the island of Ireland, and the south is in the EU and the north isn’t, then the movements of people will need to be carefully monitored too.

I’m sorry this is all so boring. Blame the Leavers.

After all, I have just popped over to France for a week, and been biometrically analysed three times and presented my passport three times going out, and twice coming back, after enduring a lengthy spell in a restive queue, and the UK is still in the EU….

Lost control of our borders? How, exactly?

(If we have, I’m sure the lowering pairs of thuggish-looking Border Force goons hanging around every corridor and hall in their black uniforms with arms folded menacingly would soon reimpose it. Is Britain the only country that greets its visitors with Force? Every time I come home I feel sickened by this fucking country.)

Unless another delay is granted while British politicians pass their one greedy little brain cell around the table to try to find a ‘unicorn’ solution to what is a totally impractical geographical problem, by leaving the European Union without agreeing to open borders for customs tax and immigration purposes, in other words by retaining the existing regime but with even fewer controls and no say in what happens, the United Kingdom cannot remain united.

is this what these fuckwits wanted?

I do not imagine for one second that the fish porters of Sunderland and the demented Empire Loyalists of Tunbridge Wells thought about this problem for one second before seizing the opportunity to leave the European Union, an institution of which they were and remain entirely ignorant, other than suspecting it to be run by a cabal of garlic-munching foreigners bent on removing our hallowed right to behave as badly as we like..

It’s certain as night follows day that the entire cabinet would agree in a heartbeat to restoring Irish unity, which would solve the problem at a stroke.

Of excellent landscape value, and producing very good beef, nevertheless Northern Ireland is an ungovernable province. It hasn’t had its assembly government working for close on three years now, since the Catholic Sinn Fein party walked out on the pretext that the Protestant Ulster Unionist parties were blocking moves to institute an official dual-language policy (English-Irish, which practically nobody speaks) and other, frankly symbolic, issues, such as on which days of the week could the British Union flag be flown over Belfast city hall.

You might conclude, as most people do, that the Northern Irish are among the most stubbornly divided, batshit crazy people on earth.

Despite that, the British government has shown no inclination to revert to the old centralized rule from Westminster, while the terms of the Good Friday agreement that ended a vicious 30-year civil war never anticipated this rift known as Brexit and rather relied on not having to sort out the border issue all over again, removing, as it did, the border. Which is 300 miles long.

So, what could technology do?

Well, every sheep has its own “passport”. A sort of “baa-code”. All farm animals, every cow, pig, sheep or horse, have had to have individual numbered documentation tracking their progress from birth and vaccinations through to every movement off-farm and transhipment to slaughter, as part of the total traceability of foodstuffs imposed through the European Union since the late 1990s and the outbreak of Bovine Spongiform Encephalitis (BSE), that still has to kill many thousands of people who ate contaminated beefburgers at the time. (The gestation period is up to 50 years.)

One suspects Mr Johnson and several older members of the cabinet may well be coming down with it. (We are also waiting cynically for John Selwyn Gummer’s daughter, to whom as Agriculture Minister he force-fed burgers to prove they were fit for consumption, to succumb. Sorry, I just loathe Tories. I expect she does, too.)

So it is perfectly possible using GPS in combination with 5G, using implants, to track the movements of every member of the doomed livestock community, that we should not be eating for the planet’s sake, but which we could nevertheless tax to our hearts’ content, knowing exactly where they have been and when throughout their too-short lives.

Then, were I to walk out of my local supermarket with any inanimate object valued by the retailer at more than a couple of quid and bearing some kind of transponder, klaxons would sound and the large security man would pounce on me to demand restitution or, more probably, my imprisonment.

If it can be done cheaply in shop doorways, surely similar tracking of goods and people across invisible boundaries is possible? It would require vast computing power to track billions of movements of goods and people via GPS, and automatically debit their bank accounts, but it can be done. The cost would initially be terrifying, but by scrapping the silly £100 billion-and-counting HS2 vanity project and ignoring our £1.3 trillion national debt, it might be done.

There are surely enough investors out there with money burning holes in their pockets to make the lucrative practise of customs control a viable business proposition.

If we really have to.

 

So, Farewell then, David Koch, 79. Net worth $51 billion. In a special tribute, Granny Weatherwax writes: “Did you take it with you, you fucking greedy, hypocritical little piece of ecocidal shit? I hope you died screaming.”

 

The madness of King Donald

Departing this weekend’s G7 in Biarritz, Trump put in an impassioned plug for holding the next one at his Doral golf resort in Florida, insisting to world leaders: “I’m not interested in money”.

According to a new report by Citizens For Ethics and Responsibility in Washington, thanks to his refusal to divest from his business interests as required in the constitution, including his golf resorts, Trump has been involved in more than 2,300 financial conflicts of interest benefitting himself since taking office.

Trump has tweeted-out his approval of a comment by a conspiracy-theory-peddling radio show host that Jews in Israel regard him as their “King”, and believe that he is “The Second Coming” of the Christ. Pundits rushed to point out that, technically, real Jews are still awaiting The First Coming. He later informed the servile gaggle of journalists on the White House lawn that he is “The Chosen One”. No-one dared to question it.

On numerous recorded occasions, President Trump has, for whatever reason, told his dumbfuck supporters and even business delegates that “five or maybe even six years, even before I thought of running for President”, he was named Michigan’s “Man of the Year”.

There is no such award. Oh, and he first announced he was thinking of running for President in 1988.

Twice in the past week Trump has asked aides for input on “his” idea of dropping thermonuclear bombs on hurricanes as they form off the African coast, to prevent them reaching the USA. The NOAA has humbly responded that it might not be such a great idea for the rest of the planet, and wouldn’t work anyway. (The average hurricane generates energy equivalent to a 10 megaton bomb every 20 minutes.)

The White House rushed to clear up a statement he made at the G7, that Melania Trump had met with North Korean leader, Kim Jong-un and agrees with him, what a great guy the world’s most murderous dictator is. She never has met him. New spokesmouth, Stephanie Grisham explained, the President really meant that the First Lady just “feels like” she has got to know him well.

A photo of Melania at the G7, looking like she couldn’t wait to get her lipgloss around Justin Trudeau’s manly dick, has gone viral.

And, though it’s been widely reported, it’s worthwhile recording – lest we forget – last week, Trump proposed buying Greenland from the Danish crown. Rebuffed by Denmark’s young female PM, he went off on one, calling her “nasty” and cancelling a proposed visit to Copenhagen. Two days later, after a phone call between them, he described her as “a wonderful woman.”

In much the same vein, he flip-flopped twice in the week on tougher background checks for gun buyers and once on cutting payroll taxes to boost the economy, while at the same time asking in a notorious tweet, who is the bigger enemy of America, President Xi of China or his own appointee, Federal Reserve chairman Jay Powel? (misspelling Powell’s name). Leading economists described his tweet as “crazy”.

As Anderson Cooper commented, it’s one thing for a President to make policy reverses – another, when he doesn’t himself seem to know or care what, if anything, his own words mean, or what he has said, from one day to the next.

The wit and wisdom of Donald J Windbag:

“I think I know more about the environment than most.” (Spoken at a press conference at the G7 in Biarritz.)

 

White supremacists in Arkansas have cut down a tree planted to commemorate the Elaine massacre in 1919 of up to 800 African Americans across the state.

 

Jazz alert

Music, history.

Since returning from a full-on week trapped in an agreeable French location with a bunch of musicians – amazing professionals as well as stumbling amateurs like me – I’ve tried to avoid falling into the trap of telling myself, enough is enough, and kept listening to jazz since arriving back earlier in the evening than I had feared; despite the delay at Shrewsbury caused by a passenger claiming to have had their luggage stolen with their ticket in it.

Thus I have discovered the lovely Robert Glasper, to whom I am listening a lot.

However, last night I devoted twenty or-so minutes to watching the outstanding young Afro-British cellist, Sheku Kanneh-Mason, winner of the 2016 BBC Young Musician of the Year award, playing the Elgar concerto at the Proms.

I have to say, emotionally engaged though he always is, and technically superb, I found the whole thing a trifle perfunctory. Perhaps because there’s nothing much more anyone can do to flog new life into this old, post-First World War nostalgia-horse, but partly also because the Birmingham Symphony Orchestra all looked supremely bored. In particular, the violinist with a ginger beard seated immediately behind the soloist, who kept rolling his eyes and pulling disdainful faces, who should be moved or sacked.

Right now, however, I am writing with one brain while riveted on YouTube by the other to a filmed 1965 Belgium tour performance by the John Coltrane quartet, music of an octane so high I am writing this on the ceiling for safety. I had not come across the video before. It is, quite simply, whatever your level of understanding of music, whatever genre and Magus you believe to hold the One True Flame, spectacular and, indeed, magisterial.

The concert – only 37 minutes survives – is performed to a packed house. Wondering in passing what Sir Edward would make of it (I imagine his patrician old head exploding, the sound reverberating ominously around the Malvern hills – although, let’s remember, he lived on well into the Jazz age – perhaps not jazz quite like this), to the accompaniment of the unbearably suspended tension of a 396-bar (okay, I haven’t counted them. It’s several minutes long), positively heroic, symphonic solo by Tyner on what is surely Coltrane’s best-ever production of “My Favorite Things”, I was moved to post this Comment underneath:

“Belgium, 1965. The year the murderous kleptocrat (and reputed cannibal) dictator, Mobutu Sese Seko finally seized power in the African nation with the worst history of white colonial brutality of all, the Belgian Congo. The true “Heart of Darkness”. Not a single black person in the audience. And yet… they’re sucking this coruscating black anger up and owning it. Funny old world.”

John Coltrane (ts, ss), McCoy Tyner (p), Jimmy Garrison (b), Elvin Jones (dr).

 

Eat your little hearts out, Trump, Putin….

In 1970, supported by the Americans, the increasingly unhinged Mobutu held an election in the DRC to consolidate his rule. The only candidate, he won with a vote of 10,131,669 to 157. (Wikipedia)

 

GW: The weather here has been as nice as it can be

Okay, I am going to mention this. During the late June heatwave in which parts of France saw record 45 deg. temperatures, it was pointed out that the new record maximum, at 5 deg. C above the old, roughly, was in itself a record increase in the record.

Announcing the hottest ever August Bank Holiday Monday in Britain, the Met Office said today, temperatures had reached 33.2C (91.8F) at Heathrow by 14:16 BST, beating the previous record of 28.2C set two years ago. (BBC)

I think we can draw from that, that summer maximum temperatures in northern Europe are running roughly 5 deg. higher now than they were only a few years ago.

Buckle up.

(And today in Boglington-on-Sea it’s 15C. Brrr.)

China: “At least 9 people have died and 35 are missing after torrential rain caused flooding, mudslides and debris flows in Sichuan province on 20 August, 2019. More than 100,000 people have been evacuated , including thousands of tourists. Roads have been blocked and bridges damaged, making access to affected areas extremely difficult. Provincial disaster authorities were using helicopters to access areas and deliver relief supplies.” (Floodlist) And: “4 people were dead with 11 others reported missing after multiple mudslides hit Wenchuan County, SW China’s Sichuan Province” (citing People’s Daily).

Wunderground adds: “Severe flooding and landslides have killed more than 200 people within two months across China. More than 60 people are missing, and about 1.3 million people were displaced.”

Philippines: 2 people have died in landslides and floods in the Philippines, where Laoag City is under a state of “calamity”. and 1 in Taiwan after strong winds and torrential rain brought by Tropical Storm Bailu. 9 people were injured in further weather-related incidents in southern Taiwan, where over 750mm of rain fell in 48 hours. Thousands of households were left without power and transport was severely interrupted, including dozens of flights. (Floodlist)

Laos: Northern provinces have been affected by flooding after heavy rain. (Floodlist)

Nigeria: Flooding has been reported in numerous states since around 16 Aug., leaving houses and crops destroyed and causing fatalities. Flooding has also affected some central areas of the country, including near the capital, Abuja, and in Niger State where the city of Bida recorded 86mm of rain in 24 hours to 23 Aug. (Floodlist)

A large and potentially devastating series of fires is raging in Central and parts of Southern Africa. Among the regions at risk is the Congo Basin forest, the second-largest tropical rainforest after the Amazon, mostly in the Democratic Republic of Congo. (NYT)

Spain: “The streets of Madrid have been turned into rivers as flash-flooding and hail inundate Spain’s capital. One of the worst affected neighbourhoods was Arganda del Rey where cars were washed away in the torrents of water while huge piles of hail built up along some streets. The Spanish subway department declared several metro stations and highways closed.” (Guardian, 27 Aug. – video http://www.theguardian.com/global/video/2019/aug/27/piles-of-hail-flash-floods-and-a-tornado-hits-spain-video ) In other news, a “spectacular” and “brutal” tornado grazed the Andalucian town of Campillos, near Malaga, leaving residents and tourists shaken but unharmed. Yellow weather warnings are still in place for “torrential” rain. (Various media)

A severe storm hit the Valencia region on 20 August, 2019, causing flash flooding in parts of the provinces of Castellón, Alicante and Valencia. (Summer rainfall records tumbled.) Some areas recorded more than 40mm of rain in less than 1 hour. El Toro in Castellón recorded 41.8mm of rain in 20 minutes.” (Floodlist) The severe weather events follow another strong plume of N African heat pushing up across Europe.

Guatemala: Heavy rain has caused flooding and landslides in several departments over the last few days.

Bolivia: As fires continue to rage in Brazil, nearly a million hectares (6,200 sq miles) of farmland and unique dry forest have been destroyed by weeks of blazes across the border in Bolivia, where the flames have now reached the country’s Amazon region. Ironically, while Bolsonaro expresses contempt for threatened tribal peoples and encourages big business to destroy the Amazon rainforest, Bolivia’s President Morales, himself from a tribal background, thought he was doing the indigenous peoples of the forest a good turn by licensing them to clear more farmland. (Guardian)

Your Gran remarks, bitterly: All such squalid, greedy, pig-ignorant eco-criminals should be dragged out of their fucking palaces and hanged in the public square.

USA: The last week of August is likely to bring yet more heavy rain, lightning, big hail and flooding to the already rain-sodden Great Plains. (The Weather Channel). Lightning struck a flag-pin on a golf course in N Carolina leaving an interesting pattern of scorch marks around what locals are promoting as “God’s hole-in-one”. 6 people were injured by a lightning strike at a PGA tournament in Atlanta. Multiple homes were evacuated in Los Angeles on 25 Aug, after a wildfire started in Eagle Rock. 44 hikers were evacuated from a national park in Arizona because of lethally high temperatures. Rivers in Alaska are “too hot” for salmon to spawn, threatening the fishing industry. (Accuweather)

Floodlist reports (27 Aug.): Thunderstorms and heavy rain brought flash flooding to parts of Arkansas and Oklahoma from 24 August. Among the worst hit areas was Fort Smith, NW Arkansas, where police report that 1 person died when a vehicle was swept off a road by swift waters. Accuweather reported, the area received 8.5-in of rain in two days, 4 times the normal monthly total.

Barbados: “A tropical storm warning is in effect for Barbados in advance of Tropical Storm Dorian, a compact system that has the potential to strengthen quickly. Tropical storm watches have been hoisted for St. Lucia, St. Vincent, and the Grenadines. (The Weather Channel). Monday 26 Aug.: “Tropical Storm Dorian is headed toward the Windward Islands where it will bring heavy rain and strong winds later Monday into Tuesday, but has an uncertain future beyond that in the Caribbean Sea.” (The Weather Channel). An NHS forecast puts Puerto Rico in its sights as Dorian intensifies to a possible hurricane by the weekend.

UK: A new record temperature was set for the late August bank holiday weekend, with 33.3C recorded at Heathrow on 25th. It’s the second time in one day that the record has been broken after a temperature of 31.6C was recorded earlier – beating the 31.5C record set at Heathrow in 2001 (Independent). Monday is expected to go fractionally hotter still (BBC). The UK has experienced several new record highs this year. Most of eastern central and northern Europe is headed for 35C, 96F all this week, with the heat pushing up into Scandinavia by the weekend. (Severe-weather.eu)

Greece: “Hundreds of tourists were evacuated from hotels and beaches on the Greek island of Samos where a wildfire broke out Saturday, officials said. Nearly 70 firefighters and 13 engines were battling the fire in the east of the Aegean island. Around 1,000 people were evacuated to the nearby town of Pythagoreio from several hotels.” (Daily Sabah) “Over 50 fires have broken out nationwide over the last 24 hours, fanned by gale-force winds, the fire department said.”

Turkey: “Two people were injured in the Black Sea town of Terme, Turkey, on Monday, Aug. 26, when a city bridge collapsed after a period of heavy rain.” (Accuweather)

Poland: “At least four people died and more than 100 were injured in lightning strikes during a thunderstorm. The worst hit a group of hikers at the summit of Giewont, a popular peak in the Tatra range in the south of the country. A fifth person was killed in neighbouring Slovakia. At least one of the victims was said to be a child. The storm is said to have descended suddenly after a sunny morning.” (BBC)

Australia: “Firefighters were racing to tame an enormous blaze in southeastern Australia with officials warning it could merge with others to create a “mega-fire” if weather conditions worsen. Crews have been battling fires that flared in high winds and searing heat across the state of New South Wales last week with more than 200 homes so far destroyed and many others damaged.” (Telegraph, 27 Aug.) More than 40 fires have been burning across Tasmania, while more than 100 fires were burning in Queensland, 23 Aug, where 1 person has died. (9 News) Meanwhile the forecast is for cold fronts bringing heavy rain across much of the country. Fucking weird.

Australia has just experienced its third-hottest July (a late mid-winter month) on record, beaten only by records set in 2017 and 2018, as fire and water authorities in the eastern states prepare for a worse than average fire season. The year-to-date temperatures from January to July were the second warmest on record, according to a monthly statement from the Bureau of Meteorology. (Guardian) (Let’s recollect that midsummer in Australia is 21 December.)

Tunnel approaching….

Yellowstone: While your Uncle has been away, a M5.4 earthquake under the Cosco volcanic field in SW California set off a new swarm of quakes over in the Yellowstone caldera. The Blessed Mary Greeley records the epicenter as being not far from the China Lake military base and geothermal pumping operations.

As news reports of a M2.9 quake triggered by fracking operations near Blackpool, England, were coming in, the biggest yet, renewing calls for a permanent suspension, there was a M4.5 beneath the Kansas fracking zone, showing that quakes caused by hydraulically fracturing substrata have a cumulative effect and tend to get larger over time. (Dutchsinse)

NASA reports, a 340-meters-wide asteroid called Apophis, after the Egyptian god of Chaos, will whizz by Earth at an altitude of just 19 thousand miles in 2029. (Express, currently obsessed with clickbaiting readers fearful of apocalyptic asteroid strikes, most of which happened millions of years ago – old news.) That’s within the margin of error for orbital calculations and brings this potential planet-killer inside the orbits of our weather satellites. But don’t worry, etc., plenty more out there.

So, Farewell then, Jeff… Still crazier after all these years… Has He Shot his Fox?… It’s just a silly phase we’re going through… Arse Attacks #2… GW: And the beast goes on… Issue 94 of The Pumpkin extends its tendrils.

Other Quote of the Week

“Every photo of Cummings going into Downing Street sees him shiftily meeting the camera’s gaze with the same defensive sneer you’d see on the proprietor of a holiday caravan park who has just been released on police bail after a fatal gas explosion thought to have been caused by poor maintenance. Britain really is the land of crap Rasputins….”

– Marina Hyde, in The Guardian, 9 Aug.

 

So, Farewell then, Jeff

Let’s not get too cynical, shall we, about the timing of society pimp Jeffrey Epstein’s “apparent suicide” (Guardian), following an earlier apparent attempt on his own life last week, while “on suicide watch” in the Metropolitan Correctional Center in New York. (“The facility is widely considered to be one of the most secure in the country.” – BBC)

We feel sure it must have had everything to do with feelings of personal shame and remorse, the certain loss of his privileged millionaire lifestyle; the prospect of spending the rest of his life behind bars, where his status as a bit of a celebrity nonce might make things uncomfortable for him. And as we know, careless is generally the middle name of whichever private contractor runs these facilities.

It surely had nothing to do with the 2,000 pages of evidence, naming names, in the trial on a charge of slander against Epstein’s mistress and alleged procurer of underage girls, Ghislaine Maxwell, released last week by a New York court; Ms Maxwell having unwisely accused one of the witnesses in Epstein’s trial, Virginia Giuffre (15 at the time) of lying.

(As Oscar Wilde said, “Don’t ever go there”!)

After all, why would Epstein have wanted the opportunity to defend himself in court, having bothered to plead not guilty to all the charges? Unnecessarily inconveniencing all his wealthy and powerful friends, some with extensive connections, I should imagine, in the criminal underworld.

Having been tried once before, and agreed to serve 13 months, most of it on the outside, where he allegedly continued his unsavory pastime of importing underage girls to entertain his rich and famous clients, I expect he just didn’t want to have to go through all that again.

And look, there’s the story, obviously denied, in the overnight British press, “Prince Andrew touched my breasts….” From another young witness, Joanna Sjoberg:

“I just remember someone suggesting a photo, and they told us to go get on the couch. And so Andrew and Virginia sat on the couch, and they put the puppet, the puppet on her lap. And so then I sat on Andrew’s lap, and I believe on my own volition, and they took the puppet’s hands and put it on Virginia’s breast, and so Andrew put his on mine.”

So, British royalty. May as well just get it all over with, eh? Puppets. What was that about?

Water under the bridge.

(As you may imagine, the Twittersphere is atweet with this story, the consensus seeming to be that this will be one for the conspiracy theorists for all Eternity. More sober commenters point out that all may not yet be lost as more civil actions are pending, that may rely on the same evidence coming out.

Unfortunately for her, Ms Maxwell is now the one most likely to bear the entire brunt of public opprobrium that had been reserved for her “boyfriend”.)

 

A police patrol car on its way to an incident was struck by a falling bear in northern California last weekend, causing the vehicle to crash and explode. The bear made its escape. (Various sources)

 

“who will dare to tell the king he’s crazy?.”

Still crazier after all these years

I imagine it’s almost certainly illegal to wish that someone would just take the shot and end this. Although I expect in their waking moments, most compassionate, rational people do.

Trump and the Third Lady pitched up at a hospital in El Paso on Tuesday, the Old Mexican border town where 22 people died in a mass shooting last week at a Walmart store, carried out by a 21-year-old white man armed with an assault rifle. The unrepentant suspect, Patrick Crusius had just posted a lengthy manifesto on the 8Chan race haters’ website, dedicating his desire to end immigration and prevent the “replacement” of the white race to the president’s deliberately inflammatory statements of previous weeks.

Was the presidential party there to commiserate with and support the survivors and the medical teams working round the clock to save the wounded? Would the president make a statement admitting that his attacks on migrants and people of color, his strident demands that they go back to where they came from, his encouragement of racially hateful chanting had gone too far? Would he apologize, and announce immediate action on lax gun ownership rules?

Well, we wouldn’t really know, as the media was barred from going in the building.

To rub the point in, Trump had brought along with him a White House camera crew. He, and he alone, would control the news agenda. “Mine is the only light in the room.” Thus he had himself filmed, grinning broadly, making a thumbs-up gesture, while Melania diffidently poses with the newsworthy baby whose young parents were shot dead trying to protect it. Their deaths meant nothing more to the First Family than an opportunity to exploit a half-Mexican baby.

They are not looking at the baby. They are looking away, possibly at another camera. Don’t look at the baby, they are saying, look at us! Don’t make the baby the center of attention, the headline news, we’re the ones who matter here!

This man is as sick in the mind as any human being can possibly get. But also as mean, and ruthless.

As the unwelcome and embarrassing visit wore on, drawing the media’s attention, across Texas ICE – the immigration police – on Trump’s order launched a series of raids, netting hundreds of supposedly undocumented Latino migrant workers, many resident for decades, leaving their bewildered children stuck at home or at school – or themselves rounded up and disappeared into containment facilities not fit for slaughtering cattle.

Later reporting suggests that one raid, in Mississippi, may have been connected with unwanted union activity at a chicken plant. You see, it’s not all about the race thing. Never was.

Back at the hospital, private cameraphone footage revealed the First Oaf, Trump grinning and bragging to appalled and embarrassed medical staff that his crowd size outside was bigger than the “400 or so” who had greeted losing 2018 Congressional candidate, Beto O’Rourke, at his most recent rally in El Paso – his home town. It was the most important thing he had to tell them, as he never stops telling everyone, that he still can’t believe he’s really the president.

Police estimated O’Rourke had drawn a crowd in excess of ten thousand. But that would have meant nothing to Trump, as he was furious that O’Rourke had dared to question the ethics of his visit to the survivors and grieving relatives; who had requested that he not come. My crowd being bigger than yours, obviously because I say it is, makes me a winner and you a loser. So – “Be quiet!”, he imperiously tweeted the younger presidential hopeful, after a fusillade of insults.

It was yet another vindictive attack on a perceived enemy by the paranoid narcissist with the nuclear codes. For Trump, life is a zero-sum game: I win, you lose – and “Trump” (it’s how he refers to himself, in the third person) never loses. With his little thumbs on the tweeter, he will always have the last word. And it will always be the nastiest.

In much the same way as he publicly crowed on the night of 9/11, with nearly three thousand office workers and aircraft passengers dead or dying, that his tower block would now be the tallest in Manhattan; or as he claimed last month to an audience of chronically sick firefighters, police and paramedics, who really had been there, that he was down there with them at Ground Zero, “helping people” and “moving rubble” (actually he was giving a radio interview), it was another fantasy born of a total deficit of human empathy and understanding; making every crisis all about himself and his own tragic feelings of victimhood.

Reportedly, on the way back from Dayton, Ohio, where he visited a second hospital containing nine more victims of white nationalism, shot up within hours of El Paso, Trump had another one of his meltdowns, and has been screaming abuse at hapless staffers who had “allowed” him to visit the hospitals without the media present, as he is now being widely accused of hypocrisy and insensitivity and has no witnesses to prove otherwise.

We wonder why.

No normally sane person says and does those things; let alone someone with the power and responsibility of the office of president. Congress has to understand what hundreds of mental health professionals have been saying since he took office: Trump is crazy, and getting crazier.

It’s not supposed to be funny, it’s not a joke – it’s not a criticism, a put-down, anti-Americanism, Antifa-antics, snobbish lefty-liberal horseshit, “Doctor internet” theorizing or lazy late-night satire:

It’s exactly what mental illness looks like.

Someone has to act on it, to end the nightmare.

Besides the criminality of which he is widely and evidentially accused, the cronyism, it is simply inconceivable that a man who is so profoundly limited – on top of the psychological damage from which he already suffers as a result of his parental rejection issues – a man whose perceived reality is 360-degrees self-invented, who can view the world only through the flattering prism of his own ego, his own wants; who continually lies to aggrandize himself when it doesn’t matter, and denies his actions have consequences; who has an insatiable craving for approval, a man in any case so poorly structured and incompetent, how should such a person be allowed to continue in the highest office, to which he was inadvertently elected?

For his own sake he has to be taken into care, at the very least for a period of psychiatric assessment. He is a clear and present danger to himself and to the country; his assaults on scientific research alone should indicate that he inhabits a separate reality; never mind the damaging trade wars, the tearing-up of treaties, the unwanted interference with foreign governments and the fights he picks with his country’s allies. The idea that he should be permitted a second four-year term is unconscionable.

It is criminal of the Republican party to insist that such a person should remain trapped in the very situation that is making his illness so much worse. He was never fit for the job. A humane constitutional mechanism to suspend him from office exists in the form of the 25th amendment.

But who will dare to tell the king he’s crazy?

How would he even have the mental capacity to agree?

 

Angela Merkel has been caught on vacation in the Tyrol, reading a book called “Tyrant: Shakespeare on Politics”, by Harvard Professor Stephen Greenblatt. The book purports to draw parallels between tyrants in Shakespeare’s plays, and Donald Trump.

(“A rather simplistic, naive narrative.” – Bloomberg)

 

Has He Shot his Fox?

David Pakman is reporting that Trump has abandoned Murdoch’s Fox News, after months of increasingly rancorous tweets aimed at presenters like Shepard Smith and Chris Wallace, who have honorably attempted to retain some measure of editorial objectivity on this, one of the most rightwing of networks.

Trump’s real obsession has been with the daytime show, Fox & Friends, which falls into the Features category, rather than news. It’s said that numerous policy decisions and reversals have been announced from the Oval Office within minutes of rabid frothers like Laura Ingraham, Judge Jeanine Pirro and Brian Kilmeade commenting in characteristically over-the-top ways on the issues of the day.

Some of Trump’s staff appointments have been of totally unqualified people who just happened to have worked or guested in ways he approves of, on Fox & Friends. He feels some panellists have turned against him, particularly legal pundit Judge Napoletano, who has sometimes declared Trump’s initiatives to be illegal. Of course, one of his closest confidants is the overemotional motormouth presenter and millionaire slum landlord, Sean Hannity.

But of late, even Fox & Friends has been critical, for instance of his backing away from military confrontation with Iran. Now, reports Pakman, Trump is endorsing an even more rabidly rightwing and conspiratorial media outlet, the One America News Network, OAN – an amateurish cable network with fewer than 400 thousand subscribers – although with his support, that looks set to rise.

He recently tweeted that he would rather watch “fake news CNN” than Shepard Smith, but that “whenever possible, I turn to OANN!”

The station has promoted as real news, most of the usual online conspiracy theories cooked up by swivel-eyed Trump supporters like Alex Jones of InfoWars on the fringes of his campaign during the 2016 election; for instance, that Democrat intern Seth Rich, who died in a street mugging, was murdered on the orders of Clinton campaign chairman, John Podesta – himself at the helm of an international pedophile ring based in the (non-existent) basement of the Comet Ping-Pong cafe in Washington.

According to Wikipedia, OAN – or OANN – is owned by Robert Herring Sr, mildly crazed President of Herring Networks, a millionaire who made his fortune printing circuit boards:

“Originally launched with the intention of targeting a conservative and center-right audience, OAN states a goal of delivering credible national and international news coverage throughout the day while its prime time political talk shows illustrate a conservative perspective. The channel is pro-Trump (and pro-Russia). Both Vanity Fair and The Independent in London have accused the channel of promoting falsehoods and conspiracy theories.”

Herring is currently hoping to acquire Al Jazeera’s US operation to improve OANN’s standing. (We recall, do we gnotte, Trump’s support for Saudi Barbaria’s boycott of Qatar, one of which’s objectives was to get Qatar-owned Al Jazeera closed down, which might well have helped Herring’s ambition along some.)

Suspecting that by supporting OAN, Trump might just have been hoping to move Fox’s coverage back to the far-right, from which he believes it has drifted, and to continue its slavish approval of him, The Guardian reported scathingly in June:

“The obscure One America News Network (OAN) makes up for its lack of clout or viewers by covering every Trump utterance, recycling conspiracy theories, downplaying Russian threats, bashing the mainstream media and championing the ‘Make America Great Again’ agenda.”

Former OAN employees confirmed to the Daily Beast, basically that the network is a crock of shit, and a terrible place to work, being in effect the personal mouthpiece of the Herrings, father and son.

If Pakman is correct, and OAN has won, watch out for even more bonkers initiatives and dangerously illiberal policies emerging from the biddable gogglebox president’s TV room, where he spends hours a day in “executive time”, communing with the little yammering faces in the ether. It seems they have indeed won, as on 8 August Herring tweeted:

“COMING SOON! You will be able to watch the president’s favorite news network by becoming a supporter on Facebook. One America News is launching a LIVE 24/7 feed — you will be able to tune in anywhere in the world. More details to come!”

Which prompted a frantic “Do not send money!” disclaimer from a company called OAN, whose URL Herring had declined to register as OANN was several thousand dollars cheaper, hence the extra N for Network – even though it barely is one yet.

What Rupert will have to say is anyone’s guess. He and Trump haven’t been friends for some time.

Media monster

The 45th President of the United States of America, probably the most petty and vindictive one ever, went ballistic last week and began tweeting furiously when he heard a Fox interview with a former Google employee, who “confirmed” a rumor (believed by Trump) that the online search monster was deliberately suppressing conservative websites – untrue, as it happens, the guy had just been fired and was feeling sore.

Under his savvy campaign director, Brad Parscale – formerly of Cambridge Analytica – Trump’s digital effort has already spent $9.3 million dollars on over 2,000 Facebook ads for 2020, including creating improbable support organizations, such as “Latinos for Trump!”, using brownish actors.

Techniques learned, obviously, from the Russians.

 

It’s just a silly phase we’re going through

As things in Britain and the USA slide gently out of kilter, with the rise of authoritarian gangster-capitalist juntas run by crazed, unelected rightwing ideologues in hock to a gruesome coalition of insane tech billionaires, hedge funds, Russian mobsters and the evangelical churches – practically the whole of southern England and Wales was without electricity yesterday, for no obvious reason, while there have been rolling blackouts across New York – and the numbers in poverty continue rising as fast as the rich can bank the money, spare a thought for the people of Zimbabwe.

Eighteen months ago they were freed from the malign rule of one half-insane, senile dictator, Mugabe, 94, only to fall into the hands of another reptilian incompetent, his former bush colleague and war criminal, Nelson Mnangagwa, age 77 and three-quarters. One look at his face tells you exactly how much mercy to expect from this former warlord.

Why on earth Africans always seem to imagine that these now elderly men who once fought brutal guerrilla wars, first against colonial rule and then against one another, committing endless rapes and massacres, are competent to run modern democracies, I have no idea, but they always seem to end up getting themselves elected, swanking around in black Mercedes, stuffing their Swiss bank accounts and grinding the faces of the voters.

Reports from Harare say people outside the city, where the rich still dine out, are literally going hungry, scraping by on a handful of meal and a few leaves a day. The UN says 4 million will need aid. Children are reported to be collapsing in school from hunger. There’s no power twelve hours a day, rampant unemployment, hospitals bare of medical supplies and the currency is virtually worthless.

This in a country Mnangagwa promised would be a haven for foreign investment – only to find himself hamstrung by the IMF and Mugabe’s vast debts, facing an almost perpetual state of austerity and drought punctuated by cyclones and floods.

Which makes this statement from a government minister all the more ironic, considering how things are going on the streets of their former colonial masters’ home country, Britain, where schools are on short time, begging for donations to buy teachers and having to feed 50 thousand children through the summer holidays – where homelessness has gone beyond the power of government to fix, and where, in a couple of months’ time, we may be begging the EU for emergency supplies of food and medicines, with the army on the streets:

“These are temporary issues as the market adjusts,” said Energy Mutodi, the deputy information minister. “This is an economy that is transforming into a more robust and innovative one … it shouldn’t be mistaken for a crisis. We expect prices to stabilise. We are going through a phase where we need to sacrifice and make some savings.”

Ring any bells, George Osborne? Philip Hammond? Boris Johnson – Lord Wolfson – anyone of the brightly optimistic school of Western socio-economic disintegration? Because, whatever befalls us in November – don’t mistake it for a crisis, it’s just a transformation into something worse.

 

Arse Attacks #2

Tonight, The Observer is reporting:

An Observer analysis of Land Registry documents and EU subsidy databases reveals that a farm in Durham, which Cummings jointly owns with his parents and another person, has received roughly €20,000 a year for most of the last two decades.

That’s the Dominic Cummings, archBrexiteer and Iago to Boris’ Othello, Asterix to Boris’ Obelix, who has frequently attacked farming subsidies because they allow us to compete unfairly with African producers.

 

GW: And the beast goes on… 

China: “At least 18 people have been killed and more than a million forced from their homes as Typhoon Lekima hit. 14 people were also missing after a landslide was triggered by the storm, state media reported. Lekima made landfall between Taiwan and China’s financial capital Shanghai. The storm was initially designated a “super typhoon”, but weakened slightly before landfall – when it still had winds of 187km/h (116mph). Lekima is now slowly winding its way north through Zhejiang province, and is expected to hit Shanghai, which has a population of more than 20 million. Fallen trees and power cuts are widespread.” (BBC)

Sunday 11 Aug: now 28 dead, 20 missing.

USA: “A broad area of the central United States will be at risk for violent thunderstorms and flooding downpours this weekend …with the worst of the thunderstorms focused on South Dakota. A brief tornado was reported in Lyman County, South Dakota, on Friday, with many more thunderstorms producing damaging winds and large hail in the state. The greatest threats from the storms are likely to be be high winds, which can gust to 70 mph, as well as hail and flash flooding.” (Accuweather)

Australia: The land of sun downunder is having a tough winter. “Strong winds continued to lash parts of New South Wales on Saturday, with snow hitting the Blue Mountains and stranding some drivers on the Great Western highway before it was reopened. And in Victoria, where a woman died (and 2 children were injured, one gravely) after a tree fell on a car, the cold, rain and strong winds were forecast to stick around for the weekend. Winds topped 113km/h on the south coast’s Montague Island on Friday. (Guardian) Emergency workers have dealt with hundreds of calls for help. At Stockton, in Newcastle, the wind ripped the roof off an old people’s care center, forcing the evacuation of about 30 people.

Meanwhile… More than 60 bushfires are burning in New South Wales, two months before the start of the fire season. How this is happening at the same time as the state is affected by rain and snow, your Gran fails to comprehend, but this is being reported today, 10 Aug., by News.com.au. I guess it’s a big place.

UK: Rail passengers endured a second day of disruption, this time caused by severe winds and flooding rather than power outages. After travellers recovered from delays of up to 12 hours on Friday following the National Grid failure, weather caused chaos in the national rail network, ports and roads. (BBC)

The Pumpkin – Issue 81: If it moves, chop it off… The Great White Whale conspiracy… Facts, dear boy… Whaddo I know?… GW: We all live in a Yellow Submarine… There goes the sun… When is a burger?

Saddest Quote of the week

Found beneath an Oleta Adams video:

When I lonely I really want to be hugged.

 

It’s estimated that Americans may have inadvertently spent $40 billion in 2018 on online shopping, while drunk.

(The Pumpkin’s ever-expanding jazz CD collection and ever-shrinking savings can attest, it’s not just Americans…)

 

“And was your dad born in Germany too?”

 

If it moves, chop it off

To the annoyance of many Western celebrities, the diminutive Sultan of Brunei, a Mr Bolkiah, who, without wishing to seem racist, resembles a worried-looking marmoset with a very large bank balance, has implemented Sharia in his tiny statelet on the island of Borneo (pop. 440,000) and is proposing to stone gay people to death and cut off the hands of shoplifters, as he needs the votes of the Muslim majority.

Meanwhile, according to the Guardian, his brother Jef:

“…embezzled $15m (£11.5m) from the state during his tenure as finance minister in the 1990s. He was revealed to own 600 properties, 2,000 cars, a private Boeing 747 and several works by Renoir, Manet and Degas. Jefri’s flamboyant lifestyle, which came to light in a series of court cases, involved a harem of foreign mistresses, the purchase of erotic sculptures of himself with his fiancee, and a luxury yacht he called Tits.”

All perfectly halal, according to the Qu’ran. Meanwhile the senior brother, Sultan Bolkiah has hastened to assure the human rights brigade around the world that these sentences are very unlikely to be imposed as sodomy in Sharia requires two upstanding independent witnesses for a conviction.

 

Oh, what a tangled web we weave, when once we practise to deceive.” – WS

The Great White Whale conspiracy

“The U.S. Justice Department is investigating whether $100,000 donated to a Trump-related political fundraising committee originated from a fugitive Malaysian businessman alleged to be at the center of a global financial scandal, according to people familiar with the matter.” – The Wall Street Journal, 13 March, 2019.

So, what’s the Orange Booby got himself into now, with his terrible judgement – or is it just rotten luck at frequently making business connections who often seem to be… a trifle gamey, let’s say?

Well, the “businessman” is a pudgy Chinese-Malay financier, Low Taek Jho, or Jho Low as he is known, aka the “Billion Dollar Whale”, who has vowed not to give himself up to any jurisdiction where his guilt has already been presumed. That’s about six so far. He’s thought to be in hiding in Hong Kong, or maybe as a guest of the Chinese government on the mainland; and rumored to have had plastic surgery to lessen the risk that Interpol will find him. His share of the loot has been put at $10 million, but that’s a likely huge underestimation.

“Low—who became infamous for ripping up Manhattan clubs with $160,000 bar tabs and plied Lindsay Lohan with champagne on her 23rd birthday—was indicted last year in the U.S. on three counts of conspiring to violate foreign anti-bribery laws and launder money. He also faces charges in Malaysia for his alleged role in a scheme to steal billions of dollars …” – The Daily Beast 12 March, 2019.

“Billions of dollars from a state fund (1MDB) meant to help the Malaysian people went missing, disappearing into the shadows of the global financial system.* According to US and Malaysian prosecutors, the money lined the pockets of a few powerful individuals and was used to buy luxury real estate, a private jet, Van Gogh and Monet artworks – and to finance a Hollywood blockbuster. … Authorities in at least six countries (are) probing a vast web of financial transactions stretching from Swiss banks to island tax havens to the heart of South East Asia. Goldman Sachs, one of Wall Street’s most powerful banks, is facing criminal charges in Malaysia – which it says it intends to vigorously defend.” – BBC News special report, 2 April, 2019.

And, oh, look, here’s Trump’s old friend and retired Republican Party charity chugger, Elliott Broidy popping up again:

“The US Justice Department is investigating whether longtime Republican fundraiser Elliott Broidy sought to sell his influence with the Trump administration by offering to deliver US government actions for foreign officials in exchange for tens of millions of dollars, according to three people familiar with the probe.

The FBI is: “investigating claims that Broidy sought US$75 million from Malaysian businessman Jho Low if the Justice Department ended its investigation of 1Malaysia Development Bhd (1MDB), the country’s state investment fund.” The Straits Times, 18 August, 2018.

And, again from The Daily Beast, September 2018:

The team of lawyers and consultants working for Low (in the US) included (New Jersey Governor and former Trump campaign organizer, Chris) Christie, lobbyist Ed Rogers, Trump’s longtime lawyer Marc Kasowitz, Trump Organization lawyer Bobby Burchfield, and vice chairman of the Trump campaign’s joint fund with the Republican Party, Elliott Broidy.”

So, in short, what do we get from this? Well, nothing in life is certain, not even in Trumpworld “death and taxes”, but a brief summary of the allegations goes:

In the summer of 2018, as the Mueller Russia probe continues to draw the crowd in its agonizing buildup to ‘nothing to see, folks’, Malaysian playboy, Jho Low is on the run, wanted by authorities for his part allegedly in shaking down a sovereign wealth fund from which $4.5 billion has gone missing.

A fund created by Prime Minister Abdul Razak, ousted in 2018 by the 92-year-old former PM Mahathir Mohammed amid allegations of corruption, and who was subsequently arrested on charges of embezzlement. (His case comes up in court today, 3 April, 2019.)

“Californian businessman” Broidy, who is so close to Trump he took the rap for paying $1.8 million to Shera Bechard, a Playboy model whose baby Trump allegedly had aborted, apparently in turn tried to shake down J-Low for $75 million on a promise to get his friends, the Trump administration to make the FBI’s investigation go away.

Represented by numerous lawyers and influencers directly connected to Trump, J-Low is thought to have subsequently paid/laundered £100,000 illegally as a foreign entity through a named US intermediary into a SuperPAC set up to fund Trump’s bid for re-election in 2020.

You couldn’t make this up, and there’s more.

Before we go on, most Important: “An attorney for Broidy said in a (brusque) statement: ‘Elliott Broidy has never agreed to work for, been retained by nor been compensated by any foreign government for any interaction with the United States Government, ever. Any implication to the contrary is a lie’.”

I think they mean “imputation”,  but that’s American lawyers for you. Ever! Depending on who you lie to, lying is no more an offence in law than collusion. And just watch that qualified word, “government”. Not “fugitive Great White Whale”.

Meanwhile, according to the Straits Times report, the Justice Department has subpoena’d records related to Broidy’s financial dealings from another Trump ally and Republican fundraiser, Steve Wynn, billionaire owner of Las Vegas casinos. Mr Wynn has reportedly had to step down from his executive role facing allegations of sexual misconduct and reports of attempts by his company executives to bury them, as Reuters and the WSJ have just reported today (02 April).

His lawyers insisted: “Steve Wynn is completely cooperating with the investigation and he certainly has no reason to believe that anyone acted improperly in anything he knew about or was involved in.”

The way this is going, I should not be surprised if Madam Zhang, the Chinese woman who bluffed her way past lax security into Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort, clutching a Chinese passport, announcing she was there for a non-existent event and brandishing a bag containing four Chinese cellphones , a laptop and a USB stick loaded with undisclosed “malware”, wasn’t linked in some way to the local Chinese grubby massage parlor lady, Madam Yang, who has been photographed with and sells access to Trump at his club, and all of them involved in a Chinese government or Huawei technology spy plot.

For, read on….

Oh, no, look, don’t. I’m going to leave you with a link to the Straits Times story at the end of this piece, because Shakespeare was spot-on as usual when he wrote: “Oh, what a tangled web we weave, when once we practise to deceive.” My brain just won’t stretch to all of this. But, reading between the lines, improbably:

You’ll thrill to the allegations, all obviously vigorously denied, that Broidy also solicited $millions from the Chinese government in exchange for a promise to persuade the Emirati of Qatar to help them extract an exiled billionaire dissident, Guo Wengui from the USA. Guo was apparently spilling the beans over corruption allegations against high-ranking officials in the purportedly squeaky-clean Xi regime. Googling his name turns up three interesting facts: 1, he also calls himself Miles Kwok; 2, he has taken Emirati nationality, and 3, he is a good friend of one Steven K Bannon.

That Broidy subsequently tried to sue Qatar for “hacking his email accounts” after he invented the story, fake news retweeted by Trump, that Qatar was a global funder of terrorism – an accusation that went away only after Qatari investors “loaned” $500 million to Charlie, ex-con father of Trump’s near-bankrupt son-in-law and chief White House policy advisor, Jared Kushner, under helpful pressure from his friend Crown Prince bin-Salman of Saudi Arabia, to whom (to oil the wheels, it’s inferred – source: MSNBC) Kushner had used the clearance Trump granted him – against the advice of security advisors – to slip a top-secret CIA list of names of Saudi dissidents and political opponents who ended up being imprisoned and tortured in the Ritz-Carlton hotel in Riyadh (MSNBC reports), a list possibly including the murdered Washington Post contributor, Jamal Khashoggi…. (That last bit is my own “implication”, but it would explain Mr Trump’s adamantine refusal to point the finger at MBS if it also implicated, a) his son-in-law, and b) his practise of handing out security clearances like candy, wouldn’t it.)

Oh, and (spoiler alert), that Broidy’s wife’s law firm has also provided “advice” to Jho Low.

So somehow, yes, woven through the whole murky tale like a rogue orange thread can dimly be perceived here and there, the bulky figure of President Donald J Trump – who claims to the amusement of the golfing world to have won 18 golf titles, some of which do not even exist.

Welcoming the former Malaysian Prime Minister whose name has been for two years at the centre of the 1MDB scandal, arrested last year and suspected of embezzlement in the sovereign fund he himself created, on 12 September, 2017 the President’s little thumbs had tweeted:

“It was a great honor to welcome Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak of Malaysia and his distinguished delegation to the @WhiteHouse today”.

And praised Najib for “his country’s financial investments in U.S. companies”. (LA Times)

Presumably, the “distinguished delegation” would have been guests at the Trump International Hotel at the old Post Office building in Washington, where foreign diplomats and lobbyists pay up to $170 thousand per room, per night, to hover in the President’s lucrative anteroom; and from which, so far as anyone knows, Trump has not recused himself as the beneficial owner.

So much of this convoluted story contains elements that will be entirely familiar to everyone who has followed what anyone knows of the Mueller investigation, and the extensive, excellent reporting by investigative journalists over the years of the workings of the Trump empire and its global network of pretty fruity business connections. And yet it is a story no-one is piecing together, although it is far more indicative of corruption than Russiagate.

There is of course no suggestion that Mr Trump is personally implicated in the 1MDB scandal, or in the murder of Jamal Khashoggi; although he is suspected of having had some possible knowledge of the Saudi hack of embarrassing sexts from the phone records of his arch-nemesis, Jeff Bezos, owner of the Washington Post – text messages and photos that somehow ended up in Trump’s friend David Pecker’s supermarket gossip-rag, the National Enquirer. And the Post has been most critical of MBS and his role in the Khashoggi murder in recent months.

No, the point of this piece is merely to suggest that perhaps sufficient due diligence is lacking in certain places where US political campaign finance and foreign policy are involved; and that the President and officers of Trump Organization do seem remarkably unlucky in their choice of associates.

When, oh God, will it ever stop?

http://www.straitstimes.com/world/united-states/trump-fundraiser-under-probe-for-allegedly-seeking-us75m-from-jho-low-over-1mdb

*And, oh dear, here’s Deutsche Bank again… The bank that, where the Trumps were concerned, never liked to say no.

Bloomberg and others report, a senior former DB official, Tan Boon-Kee is on garden leave after being interviewed in connection with the bank’s role in helping to raise $1.2 billion for the 1st Malaysian Development Bank fund, IMDB, much of which has gone missing.

“Investigators in Singapore have asked Tan about her dealings with Malaysian financier Low Taek Jho. Low, wanted in Malaysia and Singapore for alleged money laundering, has been described by U.S. prosecutors as the man behind the 1MDB scheme, though he has consistently denied wrongdoing.

“The inquiry aims to determine whether Deutsche Bank might have violated foreign-corruption or anti-money-laundering laws.”

Goldman Sachs was also being investigated after billing possibly excessive fees of $600 million for helping to launch the fund. “Tim Leissner, an ex-Goldman executive who pleaded guilty last year for his role in the scandal, has been helping with the Deutsche Bank examination.” Tan is also a former Goldman Sachs banker.

Money, they say, makes the world go around. Principally, it seems, by going around the world.

 

We all love a winner

The story I love most about Trump cheating at golf is when he managed to win a tournament he wasn’t even playing in.

The tournament was taking place at his Bedminster club in New Jersey. Seeing the strength of the field, he shot off to play a round at a different club in the next county, and later called in to his club captain to ask what the winning score had been. Told it was 73, Trump immediately claimed to have just shot 72 on the other course, which made him the winner, and ordered the poor guy to replace the name of the winner on the board with his own. Later his caddy confirmed, he’d actually shot 84.

This is the President of the United States of America, such an egoist he even has to cheat at golf. Time will surely make him out to be one of the most fascinating psychological studies of any political figure in history.

PS – The Pumpkin’s confident assertion that the famous “oranges” slip-up, when Trump took three goes last week at struggling to pronounce the word “origins” before giving up, after imagining (not for the first time) that his father was born in a “lovely” part of Germany (Fred Trump was born in The Bronx in 1905) is indicative of Alzheimer’s, may not prove correct. “Mini-stroke” seems to be at least worth considering.

 

Facts, dear boy

An interesting piece on the Politico website today examines the evidence for Trump’s vainglorious claim to be a winner, not just on the golf course, and finds that Washington Post researchers have tracked down well over 60 court cases he has lost in the past two years; mainly on points of law instituted to prevent dictatorial actions on the part of the Executive – America, of course, being the Land of the Free.

Where Presidential edicts are concerned, specifically, they say previous incumbents have had a 70 per cent success rate at defending their policies in the lower courts. Trump’s has fallen to just 6 per cent. Among hideous things he has so far been prevented from doing, are extending drilling rights into the Arctic marine reserve, and forcing people to work for their Medicare.

Of course, we remember the early failures of his nitwitted immigration policy, the discriminatory so-called Muslim ban, that had to go all the way to the more pliable Supreme Court before even a limited version could be implemented.

And it’s all apparently down to the incompetence of the many Trumptards he has casually put into administrative offices for which they have not the slightest interest, knowledge, experience or qualification.

“In case after case, judges have rebuked Trump officials for failing to follow the most basic rules of governance for shifting policy, including providing legitimate explanations supported by facts and, where required, public input. … Two-thirds of the cases accuse the Trump administration of violating the Administrative Procedures Act (APA), a nearly 73-year-old law that forms the primary bulwark against arbitrary rule.”

Interviewed by Politico, one researcher tellingly observed what others have suggested is a key point about the Trump method of administration:

“…they were more interested in making announcements of deregulatory change than in the change itself, so the risk of a judge blocking their actions didn’t concern them all that much.”

In other words, Trumpism is all about style over substance. Facts and Acts don’t come into it. But the betting is, he has a large enough base of dumbfucks who BELIEVE him when he says he has succeeded against the odds in carrying out these wonderful promises, making America great again, that they will vote for him in 2020 regardless of however little he has actually managed to achieve.

White House aides, however, are pointing to signs that he is too old and tired and disillusioned to really want to run again, and is just going through the motions. It will depend, I suppose, on the outcomes of more cases against him, some of which could see him locked up for life should he leave the relative security of the Presidency.

(He is also going around chuckling that he has already lined up another Conservative replacement for the one remaining liberal voice on the Supreme Court, the ailing, 85-year-old legend, Ruth Bader Ginsberg – whom he expects to die any day now. Prompting the question, in the cradle of Democracy why in the hell is the President constitutionally allowed to pack US courts with his own supporters? What idiot thought that one up?)

 

Whaddo I know?

Do you ever have one of those moments where you question everything you think you know? It can be disconcerting.

I was working with a group of actors the other evening, when the subject of “Morocco leather” came up. It was mentioned in the script. One of the younger members of the cast wanted to know what it was?

I immediately launched into one of my knowledgable, elderly wise man-splanations. It was, I asserted confidently, that fake leather fabric you find covering Edwardian (early 20th-century brown) furniture, desktops and so on, usually green or maroon and often with gold tooling.

Before I could finish, however, the questioner had whipped out her cellphone, referenced Google and searched online – it took her all of five seconds – and interrupted me with the news that it was actually goatskin, and came with typographical emboldenings:

“Morocco leather (also known as Levant, the French Maroquin, or German Saffian from Safi, a Moroccan town famous for leather) is a soft, pliable form of leather widely used for gloves and the uppers of ladies’ shoes and men’s low cut shoes, but traditionally associated with bookbindings, wallets, linings for fine … ”

I shan’t bother reading on beyond the headline. “Fine” what? I don’t really care what. I am crushed, and never wish to see or hear of another item made from Morocco leather, lest it remind me of my human failings. Except, of course, that it occurs in one of my lines in the play, so I shall have to be reminded of it about thirty times more, nightly.

Needless to say, since that night I have been discomfited; uncertain, twitchy and neurotic. I feel keenly that I have lost my own compass, and my standing within the group as their oracle and sage; the One who Knows Everything, the All-Seeing Eye – the best bloke for the pub quiz team

I’m now just a daffy old man whose opinion and knowledge are not to be trusted on any subject; even one concerning the past, of which I have considerable – possibly too much – experience.

How many other total misapprehensions have I been laboring under for almost 70 years?

Apart, that is, from a belief in a world of certainties?

 

GW: We should all live in a Yellow Submarine

Iran: The death toll from major floods and landslides over the past 15 days has risen to 62. The southern province of Fars had been hardest hit with 21 dead. 14 people had died in the western province of Lorestan and 8 in the northern province of Golestan. With many unaccounted for the count could still rise. Over 140 rivers have burst their banks, sweeping away roads and bridges. Most of the country has been affected by flooding since March. The north-east was swamped on 19 March before the west and south-west of the country were inundated on 25 March, killing 45 people. (Guardian)

Syria: Flooding has also affected thousands across parts of Iraq and Syria over the last 10 days. Over 6,500 families were affected as flooding hit refugee camps in Northern Syria between 29 to 31 March, 2019. Tents were swept away, and personal belongings were destroyed by the torrential rainfall. 2 people are reported dead. The Union of Medical Care and Relief Organizations said: “The flooding this season has been terrible and combined with the overcrowding in the camps, is making a bad situation much worse. (Many people have lost everything.) … We call on the international community to provide immediate humanitarian aid, assistance and necessities to those affected.” (Floodlist)

USA: More severe weather has been moving up on the jetstream from the Gulf through the southern states, bringing thunderstorms and “baseball-sized” hail. Temperatures in the southwest are already warming up: Phoenix Az. is posting in the high 90sF, 36C.

Southern Europe: As a slow-moving deep low bringing snow back to the British Isles, in some quantity in the north, drifts gradually southwards, “torrential rainfall (up to 250 mm) and excessive snowfall are expected in parts of the Alps and Apennines in SE France, north Italy, western Slovenia and NW Croatia on Wednesday and Thursday. Significant flooding is possible locally”. (Severe-weather.EU) Update Mon 8 April: Heavy rain fell in parts of Greece over the weekend 05 to 07 April, 2019, causing some flash flooding, in particular on the islands of Rhodes and Crete. Around 20 rescues were effected. This is the third wave of flash flooding to affect Crete since mid-February. (Floodlist)

An eerie image of the jetstream resembling the tormented face in Munch’s The Scream, posted on Arctic News. From Earth Nullschool.

 

There goes the sun…

A lengthy article in Forbes, the business magazine most quoted for its lists of the wealthiest people you’d hope never to meet, makes for depressing reading on the subject of solar energy.

Unless we can manufacture cheap, steady-state, virtually indestructible solar panels, experts say, we are building up a huge problem for the future with large quantities of waste materials having nowhere to go, other than to dumps in poorer countries, and toxic residues from disposing of old or broken panels.

Even while panels are still working, researchers have found heavy metals like cadmium are leaching into the ground; while panels that get smashed, for instance by tornadoes, require the broken glass to be swept up along with all the soil and stones, that make the processing of glass cullet impractical.

The cost of recycling ought to be born by the manufacturers and suppliers, but the added cost often means they go bust, leaving the public to pick up the bill – which is precisiely the problem in the sunniest countries, that tend to be the poorest, but where there are the most panels to safely dispose of – and the weakest regulation.

Chinese companies have adopted a somewhat cynical solution of selling older, used panels on cheaply to Africa and the Middle East, as they’re not required to operate at peak efficiency.

The replacement life of a solar panel in one of those huge arrays is unexpectedly short – maybe only months. And at today’s raw materials prices and with the difficulty of recovering the more valuable contents, it’s not really economical to recycle them.

Oh dear, what to do?

I’ve got a good idea for Forbes. There’s lots of black stuff in the ground we could set fire to instead.

Easier. Cheaper. More… wealthsome.

 

Postscript corner

Bugger burgers

Burger: “a flat round cake of minced beef that is fried or grilled and typically served in a bread roll; a hamburger.
a similarly shaped food item made of a specified ingredient.” (Google)
Burger: 1. Meat or other food pressed into a round, flat shape and fried: 2. short form of hamburger. Learn more. (Cambridge Dictionary)
Gentle Spammers, Likers etc., I think I’ve just become a Leave voter. The dastardly EUs of Brussels are proposing that “burgers” not made with meat must henceforth be known as “discs”, so as not to confuse people, who are of course incredibly thick.
The dead hand of the meat trade lobby is being perceived behind the edict. But it is abundantly clear from the many definitions on the market, that the inclusion of ground meat is not essential to define the term “burger”. Nor will you ever see a “burger” grazing in a field. The burger is not the meat, it is the presentation of the entire dish.
If the EU wises to clear matters up, perhaps they could start with the confusion caused by people calling burgers made with ground beef “hamburgers”.
Or, as President Trump spells it, “hamberders”. He has Alzheimer’s and so is to be excused for reverting to baby language. He is likely to become dreadfully angry and confused, though, when his valet brings him his bedtime “cheese disc” in future.
Hamburgers are not made from ham, but may have originated in Hamburg, a rough port city where anything goes and the sailors are too drunk to tell the difference.
It seems eminently clear that these faux politicians have little understanding of etymology, let alone of how ridiculous they make themselves. The “burger” does not refer to the filling, but to the overall design: sesame bun, wilting lettuce leaf, blob of pepper sauce, slice of Kraft plastic cheese an’ all.
But then why would you expect MEPs on £110k a year plus vast eating-out expenses to know what a friggin’ “burger” is? They can afford not to have to eat shitburgers, “shit discs”, whatever, like the rest of us do.
It’s just that Boris Johnson’s mythical EU ban on bendy bananas comes to mind. That, and Mr Trump lying to a crowd about the Democrats’ Green New Deal taking away their burgers (along with their guns and SUVs). That, and the recent discovery that rightwing Australian PR guru, Lynton Crosby has been channeling £millions in untraceable notes into a social media campaign for the ERG to tell porky-pies about Brexit ‘No Deal’ being as good for people as breathing carbon dioxide, nicotine or Strontium 90.
Should we call Fake Nooze on the whole sorry story? It sounds like it. Or was it an April Fool?
We should be told.

The Pumpkin – Issue 73: He’s gone completely nuts… The Dunning Kruger Effect strikes again… Straight thinking… It’s something in the air… GW 2019, and the beast goes on….

“No-one has as much hair as me. I have the greatest hair of any president, maybe in history. I am ordering a complete shutdown of hair until we know what the hell is going on.” Serenaded by a barbershop quartet, Trump adopts the bald approach and shaves the day.

He’s gone completely nuts

He’s been unable to persuade House Leader Nancy Pelosi that she’s really the one who is causing the shutdown of large parts of the government, putting 800 thousand employees on garden leave or forcing them to work unpaid for the last two weeks, because the Democrats won’t vote funding for the wall.

It’s a ploy for which he is on video recently saying he takes full responsibility. But now he doesn’t.

Following their meeting, the madman declared that he is prepared to shut the government down “for months or years if necessary” and call a State of Emergency to enable the army to take over the running of essential services, if he does not get his $8 billion for the border wall. He will order the Corps of Engineers to build it, using contingency funds from the military budget.

Supported by the Republican leader in the Senate, the creepy old slimeball Mitch McConnell,  a supine Trumpsucker who would kill his own grandchildren to save the profound corruption wing of the party, Trump has in effect declared war on the House of Representatives, now with a substantial Democrat majority, and on the US Government.

Pundits are gauging his mood and think that he is probably bluffing, but the threat to declare a State of Emergency is something they have been fearing since he was first elected.

It would be a first step towards achieving the absolute authority Trump craves. Most of the key positions in his cabinet are currently filled by “acting” executives he can replace at will. He has no legal team capable of defending him, so some drastic action is required.

Declaring martial law and assuming executive powers would allow him to round up and imprison his political opponents and detractors, as he has many times threatened to do, without trial.

He could shut down the media, and suspend the Justice Department, ordering all investigations into his and his family’s extensive criminal activities and the literally hundreds of civil suits outstanding against him be stopped in their tracks.

It’s not about the wall, it’s about Mueller.

In case you think it’s an exaggeration to say he has truly gone out of his mind, try this:

 

The Dunning-Kruger Effect strikes again

“How do you impeach a president who has won perhaps the greatest election of all time, done nothing wrong (no Collusion with Russia, it was the Dems that Colluded), had the most successful first two years of any president, and is the most popular Republican in party history 93%?”

Trump responds with a tweet to an ill-advised criticism in the House, praising himself to the skies. Does he really believe this nonsense? Because it’s all a complete fantasy. That paragraph alone contains five provable lies.

Psychologists, Drs Dunning and Kruger came up in the late ’90s with a fascinating theory: some people are too stupid to know how stupid they are, thus assuming wrongly that they know more than anyone else.

We’ve all heard Trump boasting that he knows more than his generals about dealing with ISIS, and more about tax than any accountant (except, obviously, his own). He admitted ruefully that the dreadful US healthcare system that he had told MAGA rallies from Hicksville to Okeefenokee he would fix in a heartbeat was in fact “complicated”. Who knew? He knows all about nuclear science because he had an uncle who worked for NASA. He invented the phrase “fake news”, that maybe nobody had ever used before. All of the media his public image totally depends on, that fantasy that he is a successful billionaire business mogul, is “fake” and “failing” – “enemies of the people”. The entire criminal justice system from the failing FBI to the disloyal Justice Department is a Democrat conspiracy against him.

He understands the polls “a lot better” than many pollsters, which is just as well because they’re giving him only 34% approval for the job he’s not doing well, and 80% disapproval for his border wall, although he says it has overwhelming support and will keep out criminals, drugs and diseases. Border patrols, he says, are arresting ten terrorists a day; many appear to be children. Contrary to the advice of fire and forestry experts, he still insists that raking California’s forest floor regularly will prevent wildfires, which were made worse by the authorities syphoning all the available water off and sending it to the Pacific.

Just two days ago, he commented that technology was something he knew more about than anyone else. He’s making Medicare stronger for all while defunding the program to pay for tax cuts for the wealthy, including himself. Puerto Rico is an island surrounded by lots of “ocean water”, he informed us he had just learned, while 3,000 people did not die in the botched aftermath of Hurricane Maria, that figure from research commissioned by his own administration was made up by Democrats to “make me look bad”.

”Clean coal” is, of course, coal that has been washed before burning. His inauguration crowd was visibly the biggest in history; the photographs showing a virtually deserted plaza were faked. Millions of undocumented migrants voted for Hillary Clinton, which is why he won. The Lockheed-Martin F-35 fighter, the most expensive flying weapons platform in history, which he claims to have helped design, is literally invisible, you can’t see it.

Climate change may be a hoax, “many scientists have said it’s a hoax” (98% of the world’s scientists must be complicit in a 140-year-old hoax then, because they all say it’s real, as do Exxon-Mobil and Trump’s own science policy department), “It may be a hoax, I don’t know”… (he always qualifies his more questionable assertions in such a way as to suggest he would be right if only you believed it too….)

The recent vertiginous slide in the stock market is “just a blip” and all the fault of the Federal Reserve bank (although he caused it by his winnable “trade war” with China, having taken credit for the previous rise that was due to the policies of the previous administration)… While his tariffs that are “bringing back millions of American jobs” and his assaults on migrant workers are causing shutdowns and layoffs and farm bankruptcies….

For many more totally false and self-aggrandizing assertions, try: http://www.politifact.com/personalities/donald-trump/statements/byruling/false/

His verified untruths now running at over eight a day, Trump is clearly very confident in the amazing breadth and depth of his knowledge, but sadly none of it turns out to have much basis in fact. Some of it is expedient lying for political effect, but much more of it seems to be based in some delusionary alternative reality he inhabits.

And by his compulsive outbursts of rage tweeted against the Special Counsel enquiry, to the despair of his defense team, and his emplacement of outspoken, biased defenders within the Justice Department and the courts, he continues to implicate himself deeper and deeper in the federal crime of obstructing justice; for which he can be indicted.

Indeed, he may be one of the most profoundly stupid and ill-informed people ever to hold the office of President; carried over the line by irrepressible narcissism.

So much so, that he lacks the mental apparatus to know he’s not the brightest bulb in the chandelier, and that’s Dunning-Kruger at work. Impervious to expert advice, incapable of absorbing more than the simplest of cartoon briefings, seemingly barely able to read, his policies informed by the little yammering TV faces on Fox & Friends, from where increasingly he imports his staff appointments, he has chosen instead to assume he is the smartest person alive.

“I’m, like, a really smart person – a very stable genius,” he told a CNN reporter. He told another interviewer, without his unique brain the economy would collapse. He had earlier claimed that both Vladimir Putin and Margaret Thatcher had hailed him as a genius.

Researchers found no truth in the assertion, Trump having seized on the word in a mistranslation of a speech in which Putin described him as merely ‘colorful’.

But he’s not alone. Dunning-Kruger appears to infect many politicians. Here’s another great example:

The train now departing…

The British Transport Secretary, Chris Grayling is a very tall man with a head shaped like a lightbulb. He has been under fire all the past year for the abject failure of an attempt by the government-contracted train operating companies to reschedule their timetables in a supposedly co-ordinated manner, that led to chaos on the network with thousands of cancelled services – some trains reportedly not heading to the advertised destinations, stranding passengers miles from where they needed to be – and had to be abandoned.

It has been admitted that the failure was because no-one was in overall charge. As Grayling himself has pointed out, he is not a “railway specialist”. So it wasn’t his fault no competent individual had been appointed to oversee the complex project.

A 3% fares hike that came into effect on 1 January with no sign of improvement in the dirty, unreliable and overcrowded service has understandably pissed-off hard-pressed commuters – again. Britain has by far the most expensive train fares in Europe, per mile. Grayling says, it’s all the fault of greedy train drivers wanting more money.

Alternatively, he says, it’s because the train operators need loads of money for investment (much of it goes in executive bonuses!) – it’s the same lame excuse every year.

Either way, it’s nothing to do with him; a 140% increase in passengers being shoehorned into groaning carriages and often stranded by the endless “engineering works” or “leaves on the line”, must, he says, be proof of the popular success of the railways. Although one might conclude, it’s his failure to ensure the maintenance of the roads, the lack of parking, increasing town-center pollution charges and the ever-rising cost of city living that are driving people who live out beyond cycling distance to board the cattle-truck commuter trains in increasing numbers.

Meanwhile, the UK government has been trying to frighten rebel Conservatives in Parliament by making a huge deal out of emergency preparations for major freight delays at ports leading to shortages of food and medicine in the event that Brexit goes ahead without a formal separation agreement. Effective customs protocols and systems haven’t yet been put in place or even invented. The costs of stockpiling are rising – $120 million to date.

With less than three months to go, “Failing Grayling” as the press are calling him has played his part by handing a $19 million contract to a small, unknown company to operate additional cross-channel ferry services to speed the importation of vital supplies from France. A company that owns no ferries and has no experience of maritime freight operations. Questioned on the BBC about this perverse choice, Grayling replied that people should be pleased that he’s supporting a new British business startup – one of whose white, middle-aged male directors appears to be a hefty party donor. Plus, he had made sure they had a watertight contract (my pun, sorry.)

So the company has gone full-steam ahead and published a website, detailing its terms and conditions of business, its contract with the taxpayer, and is now being ridiculed on social media as it appears they simply cut-and-pasted a pre-written document from some fast-food supply company and accidentally omitted to re-word large sections of it.

Grayling’s watertight contract for a cross-channel supply lifeline is all about pizza delivery.

Commentators are demanding to know, how the hell does this incompetent, bungling nitwit keep his job? No-one has an answer – least of all Grayling, who continues to show a total lack of self-awareness as he blunders from one ministerial post to another, trailing chaos in his wake.

Yet his interviews reveal him to be a man of boundless self-confidence, and the Dunning-Kruger Effect is probably all that is carrying him through.

Like Trump, Grayling is so stupid, he doesn’t know he’s stupid.

It doesn’t bode well for all our futures.

Postscriptum, 26 May: Since the above, Grayling’s department has paid out a further £83 million in compensation to actual ferry operators or companies with ferry operating experience, who were not included in the tender process as they argue they should have been. The original contract with Seaborne Ferries has been cancelled, at full cost.

Yet you can find many people still posting comments claiming Labour is the party of financial mismanagement.

 

Straight thinking

“It would never occur to him to ask what books will be in the library, since he himself barely reads.”

“US President Donald Trump has mocked the Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi for funding a library in Afghanistan. Mr Trump suggested the contribution was of no use to reconstruction efforts in the country. ‘That’s like five hours of what we spend,’ the US president mocked.”

Everything this dumb bastard says or tweets is based on the crudest of transactional analyses.

The idea that libraries are educational, civilizing influences and have been since writing was invented would never occur to him as a developmental tool, so crudely fashioned is his reptilian brain.

Since he has none, the moronic Trump does not value knowledge; does not comprehend – cannot comprehend – the priceless nature of learning to an isolated tribal country like Afghanistan, that has been at war for decades and is increasingly controlled by puritanical, religious primitives almost as crude and reactionary as the President of the United States and his Evangelical base.

It would never occur to him to ask what books will be in the library, since he can himself barely read and has no interest in doing so.

Will there be fiction, to open up new horizons and introduce stimulating creative ideas? Poetry? Will there be a reservoir of the region’s long history, promoting ideals of courage and sacrifice that can be built on? The foundation stories of the nation? Or will there be textbooks, the basic building-blocks of learning, spreading enlightenment, internationalism and the roots of future value-creating innovation? Will the books help to spread the ideas of liberal democracy; bring healing and reconciliation to a fractured nation? Will they teach engineering, economics, medical science and technology? Or will the books be all of these and more?

He doesn’t give a fuck.

He’s the president, and you’re not.

A library – a room full of dumb old books – is just not expensive enough to compare with all those $trillions and lives both military and civilian successive US administrations since 9/11 have wasted pursuing the Great Game, that he thinks should be paid back in treasure. As if India is somehow in debt to him personally.

But it did occur to him to praise the Russians for invading Afghanistan in 1979; a history of which, evidently, he is entirely ignorant.

Fuck Donald Trump, right to Hell.

He wouldn’t know.  He’s never read a book; not even the ones he lies constantly about having written himself. He’s just a thuggish, bullying imbecile stuffed with junk food; a Frankenstein creature cobbled together by the media out of the volumes of rotting cheeseburger that lumbering suit contains; a brain, made from congealed greed and expedient lies; a philosophy of Bannonite nihilism imposed on a mob-boss mentality that has shown an extraordinary degree of compromise and cowardice during his two years of bullshitting his way around the office of President.

A lifelong minor criminal, a cheating small businessman sanctified by a garbage TV show, now a senile buffoon who can no longer imagine how you close an umbrella.

It is possible no man has been hated as much as Donald Trump is hated, by millions of Americans aghast at his incompetence; his rudeness, sheer nastiness; and by people of sensibility around the world, for the thuggish gangsterism, childish tantrums, celebrations of ignorance, betrayal of ideals and fathomless corruption he stands for.

If as the Evangelical Christian conman, former convict and fellow borderline psychopath, Jim Bakker, says, Trump has been sent by God and must be unquestioningly obeyed, then it is surely to teach us a lesson in civics.

Never again should any sentient body of people even dare to think of electing a totally unqualified and so obviously unfit candidate merely on the grounds that you’ve seen him looking powerful and decisive on TV (you think the word “reality” in “reality show” means it’s real?), he’s a bit “different” from conventional politicians; he dares to “say what we are thinking” and takes no nonsense from so-called experts, the liberal elite.

It’s liable to be the end of your world and mine.

Because you’re not thinking straight.

 

It’s something in the air

Some years ago, the British biochemist, Dr Rupert Sheldrake proposed a strange theory: that once something had happened once, it reduced the odds against it happening again. The cosmos was capable of learning from experience.

For instance, crystals all form in the same way, once the original crystal has formed. Why? Is there some kind of cosmic energy field that arranges things so?

Learned behaviors in biological organisms too seemed to spread in a kind of contactless way, that he put down to genetic memory. Sheldrake called it the field of “morphic resonance”, and conducted an experiment at long distance, whereby pupils in the UK were set to solve a math problem that was then given to pupils in faraway Turkey, timed against a control problem both groups had already solved, to see if the Turkish pupils got any faster once the new problem had first been solved in Britain.

Sorry to disappoint, but I absolutely forget what the outcome was. Probably inconclusive. Because, of course, Sheldrake was roundly mocked and accused of practicing New Age pseudo-science by his colleagues in the biochemistry community.

Although he continues to obtain appointments to various, apparently serious, parapsychological research posts – mainly in US universities – and wins awards, his theory of morphic resonance remains unproven out on the fringes of rational science.

Except that there does seem to be a curious connection, possibly spiritual, between the UK Conservative party and the Trump so-called administration to suggest a possible proof.

While there is no direct chain of command, nevertheless the British Home Secretary, Sajid Javid, a man with a face looking as if it was created by a mildly sozzled balloon-animal entertainer at a children’s party, the second-generation son of an immigrant Pakistani bus driver, seems to have had a very similar epiphany to that of US President Donald Trump, only a few days behind.

Both men coming imminently from migrant family stock, are nevertheless committed to the same course of demonizing refugees in exchange for the bigot vote.

Javid: “…a face looking as if it was created by a mildly sozzled balloon-animal entertainer…” (Photo: James Gourley/Rex/Shutterstock)

There used to be an ad for an insurance company who claimed: “We won’t make a drama out of a crisis”. In Mr Javid’s case – he refers to himself, apparently, as “the Saj” – he has been busy over the holidays doing precisely the opposite: claiming that the attempts since the beginning of November by about 200 bedraggled Iranian migrants to cross the Channel in small inflatables amounts to a national emergency, worthy of recalling the British Navy to fight them off.

The teenage Defense Secretary, Gavin Williamson, a fresh-faced ex-fireplace salesman who pops up at every turn eagerly offering to put soldiers on the streets to quell non-existent public disorder and hand out rations, as Our Boys have nothing better to do, immediately rallied to the flag, pulling his little fleet of warships back from every corner of the globe to defend the Realm. But then, he too is gunning for Theresa May’s job when he grows up.

The resonances between this absurd exaggeration and Trump’s bullshit pre-midterm elections propaganda campaign, shoving out massive quantities of fake news about the terrifying so-called migrant “caravan” wending its way from Honduras to the Mexico border where, without his $5bn Wall, they would be primed by the Jew Soros in league with the failing Dems to invade, bringing in drugs, gangs, murder, terrorism, pollution of the white race, unknown diseases and people willing to do shitty jobs, are striking; albeit the American version is land-based and the British, in the finest tradition, maritime, both are examples of calculated rabble-rousing that are falling rather flat with the majority.

Without any apparent collusion, both men seem to have hit on much the same idea of closing the borders, both for promoting themselves as decisive leaders facing down an existential threat of exaggeratedly enormous proportions; and for dividing their countries over a matter exciting much irrational debate and manufactured tension.

To enhance his voter appeal, The British Saj cut short his holiday in South Africa and flew home to confront the armada of desperate people as brown as himself, only to end up more red-faced as colleagues opposed to this rather obvious pitch for the leadership of the party post-May gleefully leaked that he and his wife Laura had been largeing it in a £1,700 a night safari lodge, while over a million Britons had been enjoying Christmas dinner at their local charity food bank.

What both men are resolutely ignoring is the illegality of denying genuine refugees the right, guaranteed by the United Nations, to apply for asylum and have their cases fairly heard. The claims are the same: you don’t know who these people are; there could be terrorists among them; they’re being trafficked by bad men; the crossing is dangerous so they mustn’t be allowed to try; they should apply in the first country they come to; sending rescue ships will only encourage them; there’s no room at the inn, etc., etc.

Meanwhile, as reports emerge of extensive child abuse going on in the makeshift holding pens to which the appalling Kjaersten Nielsen, US Homeland Security Secretary, continues to send hundreds of children ripped away from their migrant families at the border, the British government still has no knowledge of the whereabouts of more than 500 refugee children, legally qualified to join family members in Britain, who simply vanished from the makeshift camps across the Channel after a campaign led by the fascist-leaning Daily Mail resulted in a halt to the program they were meant to be admitted under.

And, following the efforts of the French police to eradicate the unofficial Calais “jungle” camp, men, women and children are sleeping in the open in fields around the Channel ports, hoping against hope that someone will ferry them the 26 miles to what they foolishly persist in imagining might be freedom.

While all there is in the air is the oppressive miasma of manufactured prejudice, the fear that “once you let one in, they’ll all want to come”.

Proving conclusively, Sheldrake’s theory of morphic resonance.

 

No discrimination

Texas police looking for a white man described by several witnesses in connection with the drive-by shooting of 7-year-old Jazzmine Barnes have arrested 20-year-old Eric Black Jr.

Mr Black is… er, black.

 

GW: 2019, and the beast goes on….

Australia: “Adelaide has seen temperatures soar to 41C as SE Australia sweats its way through 36 hours of intense heat. Further inland, Port Augusta touched 44.7C, Ceduna 45.5C and Nullabor 46.2C at 1.40pm. On Friday, Melbourne is set to hit 42C, a ‘once in a decade’ heat event. Several wildfires are being reported. Parts of New South Wales including Sydney are sweltering through day 10 of a heatwave”, although on 2 Jan. the city was battered by an intense hailstorm powerful enough to smash car windows, while strange cloud formations were reported.

‘Mammatus’ cloud over Sydney, 2 Jan. (Dylan Robinson/News Corp)

And then… The “change will be even more dramatic in Melbourne late on Friday afternoon. The 40C Friday will turn into a high of just 22C on Saturday. Melburnians could see a drop of between 15 to 20 degrees in just one hour on Friday afternoon as the cold front careers through.” A wildfire in Tasmania has burned 30 sq miles of forest in a conservation area. Meanwhile “the cyclone season is in full swing in Queensland with Cyclone Penny looking like it will make a handbrake turn and come straight back towards the coast.” (all reporting:  News.com.au)

 

USA: The overnight low in Phoenix, pretty much the hottest city in America, dropped to 30F, -1C on 02 Jan. as Winter Storm Fisher brought up to 6 inches of snow to the Arizona desert. Wintry conditions have since arrived in Texas and Oklahoma, where freezing rain has caused multiple car crashes. The jetstream is reportedly slumped all the way down into New Mexico where up to 3 feet of snow has fallen at altitude near Los Alamos. (The Weather Channel)

Nevertheless, European forecasters Severe-weather.eu are predicting a rapid warming over the whole continental US, with temperatures climbing over the next 7 days to 10 to 15 degrees C above normal for January. Residents of Sanibel Island, Fla. were bemused on 22 Dec. to experience a tidal surge through the town, produced by a ‘meteotsunami’ caused by a rapid change of barometric pressure. “Temperatures dropped by almost 10 degrees in Southwest Florida as barometric pressure momentarily rose by 1.6 millibars. Waves were projected to be about 1.7 feet at 1:30 p.m. but reached 5.04 feet before decreasing rapidly over the next hour.” Wind gusts measured by the National Weather Service spiked at 54 mph as a storm brought heavy rains and tornado warnings to the Naples area. (Naples Daily News)

Philippines: Death toll from floods and landslides inflicted by Tropical Depression Usman is now 105. Almost a quarter of a million people have been affected. “The storm has caused severe damage to agriculture, with costs estimated at over $6.5 million.” Heavy rain that began on the 29th Dec. was still falling on 3rd Jan. (Floodlist)

Sri Lanka: Severe weather from late December has affected over 125,000 people. At least 2 died and 5 were injured. …Strong winds, heavy rain and flash flooding began around 22 December and continued for several days. Sri Lanka’s Department of Meteorology said 365.1mm (13 in.) of rain fell in Mullaitivu district, in 24 hours to 22 December.

Europe: A cyclonic Bora wind over the Tyrrhenian sea is expected to produce up to half a meter of snow over central Italy and a secondary cyclone forming over Greece pushing up through the Balkans, may bring as much as 30 cm of rain to parts of Turkey in the next few days, moving on into the Caucasus with heavy snowfall in the mountains. With a developing Sudden Stratospheric Warming event, the polar vortex is splitting, bringing very cold weather down from the Arctic that’s likely to persist. (from The Weather Channel)

Update 5 Jan: Europe faces a deep freeze next week, amid forecasts of a giant snowstorm over large swathes of the continent. The AccuWeather warning system has issued a blizzard alert for areas of Germany and Austria so far. (Express) Up to three feet of snow is expected to affect many Alpine resorts – good for skiers, but only if they can get there!

Update 7 Jan: Over the weekend, 7 dead, ‘several more’ missing as skiers are unable to cope with the extreme conditions. Another 4 ft is expected in Austria by Thursday.

 

End notes

  • “Public opinion polling indicates that although there is widespread acceptance of climate change resulting from human activities, the public’s preparedness to pay for action to mitigate climate change is actually declining – even as climate scientists warn of the increasing urgency for action. These results signal a serious problem in the public communication of climate change.” – Dr Mary Debrett
  • According to Professor Boris Worm of Dalhousie University, Nova Scotia, and co-researchers in five countries, the trendlines are showing that if we do not act immediately to protect the oceans, the last saltwater fish will die sometime in 2048.
  • A record $3.1m has been paid for a giant bluefin tuna at Tokyo’s new fish market. It was bought by sushi tycoon Kiyoshi Kimura, who runs the popular Sushi Zanmai chain. Stocks of Pacific bluefin have been depleted by 96 percent from their pre-industrial levels. (from Guardian)

The Pumpkin – Issue 68: Who do they think they are kidding?… Bunfight in the dorm, chaps… Finding one’s way… GW: ah, but you may as well try and catch the wind

Quote of the week

“Everything is going according to plan. I don’t know whose plan it is, and I think that it’s a really stupid plan, but everything is going according to it anyway.” —  Dmitry Orlov

 

PS We value your privacy. We haven’t the slightest idea who you are but we will just as soon as we’ve plastered cookies all over your hard drive and stolen your Contacts file. #Iaccept.

 

 

“These terrorizing acts are despicable, and anyone responsible will be held accountable to the fullest extent of the law. Next question?”

 

“…they are symptomatic of the contemptuous gangsterism that is threatening the already tenuous security of the world.”

Who do they think they are kidding?

The extraordinary hypocrisies of Mr Trump and his Arab buddy, bin-Salman, are squeezing the world into a parallel universe through a wormhole in reality.

On the one hand, Mr Salman has branded as “a heinous crime”, the absolutely grim torture and murder of a mild-mannered opponent, actions for which he knows perfectly well he was directly responsible. He is, in his own words, a heinous criminal. But one so powerful, none dare say so other than himself; he cannot be held to account by lesser mortals; and thus, he must be innocent of any wrongdoing.

On the other, Mr Trump has whipped his supporters for months into a frenzy of frothing hatred against a cast of heinous baddies inhabiting a parallel universe he has created from absurd lies; direct abuse that has inevitably resulted in a co-ordinated attempt on the lives of his victims. And now he is blaming the media, the “enemies of the people”, for twisting his innocent words in such a way that it has “divided the nation”, which he piously hopes will now come together as one under Trump.

It is simply astonishing. Who do they think they are kidding? Neither man is willing or able to take responsibility for their barbaric words and actions; but instead finds a way to gloat over them instead. Both are straight out of the Mafia playbook: “Fascist Dictating for Dummies”.

These infantile denials are an insult to the intelligence, of course. They will appeal only to the thickest and most brutish elements whom they hope to recruit. But they are symptomatic of the contemptuous gangsterism that is threatening the already tenuous security of the world.

Clearly to the Prince, his goons Skyping their filthy deed, the cries of the victim as he is chopped into living pieces, back to the palace, his divinity is such that he cannot possibly be responsible for the crime for which he is responsible. The heinous crime was carried out by those lower down the chain of command. Once responsibility reaches him, it is no longer a heinous crime he can brand as such, but some kind of administrative detail.

Clearly to the US president, like his mobster heroes a degenerate creature of ratlike cunning and fathomless stupidity, of whom the best that can be said is that he is not thought to have actually killed anybody, he bears no responsibility either for the act of brownshirt terrorism his stunted rhetoric has unleashed. It is not even terrorism, because that would require adherence to the Islamic faith rather than to the prescriptions of Mein Kampf, but a “terrorizing act” which he thoroughly condemns.

“Will nobody rid me of this turbulent priest?”

In 1170, the English king Henry 11 cried out in frustration over the political opposition of his former friend. His bodyguards took him at his word. They rode from London to Canterbury cathedral and hacked Archbishop Thomas à Becket to death on the steps of the high altar. When he realized what his words had done, Henry set off to crawl to Canterbury on his knees.

That’s what you have to do, you see, when you take responsibility for a heinous crime.

It is, after all, the legitimate party of Democratic opposition that is the criminal entity, the ‘angry mob’ that seeks to destabilize the peace and unity of the nation over which Trump benignly presides; and their evil sponsor, the Jew Soros, who is paying a ‘caravan’ of Honduran refugees fleeing an intolerable State created for them by successive US regimes (no-one has yet thought to mention the increasingly frequent floods), a dollar apiece to smuggle a hundred Isis fighters into the USA; many under the age of five.

Over in the Philippines, meanwhile, Mr Trump’s hero, the squalid thug Duterte, has recently been speaking of his regrets over certain actions in his life, while continuing the policy of encouraging his barbarous goon squads to go out and murder common drug addicts, over three thousand of whom have now died. Mr Duterte confesses to having personally murdered some people, we aren’t told who. But he regrets that, obviously. These Catholics.

The only honest actor in all this has been Mr Putin. He has openly refused to condemn anything that has gone on, which is good, because he has his own litany of grubby expediencies to account to himself and his God for.

Do these men of modest intellect and great cunning seriously imagine we are taken in by their self-serving nonsense? Of course not. The crocodile tears they weep over the misguided actions of their alter-egos, that are invariably the fault of others, critics, subordinates, the media – us – are not intended to engage our sympathy or to make us feel somehow better about the crimes they are busily committing against humanity.

They are instead meant to reinforce the image of untouchability which their power conveys upon them. To intimidate and silence us.

Being as they are so far above the law; a place, incidentally, where we stupidly put them, there is no crime they cannot commit, no excuse they will not get away with, tongues firmly in cheeks, to retain their iron grip on the money.

And so we move toward new and more terrible crimes even the blood of Christ is not going to be able to wash away.

 

“That’s all right, your highness, it’s just a bit of blood. My husband Philip can mop it up later.”

Bunfight in the dorm, chaps…

There’s an end of term feeling about the British contingent in Brussels and Strasbourg. They’ll have to be out on the street, clutching their binbags, by 29 March next year, to avoid running into parliamentary elections – you know, democracy. They still have that in Europe, I’m told.

Several thousand in all, including the civil servants. Where will they go? What will they do? How will they live? Will they have to sleep under the railway arches, all now owned for £1.4 bn by rapacious US hedge fund, Blackstone Corp.? What will be the effect on waiting times in Casualty? Will they steal our jobs? Empty the food banks? How will we accommodate all those “remigrants”?

Answers on Question Time, please.

Having campaigned for years to destroy the parliament, a large cohort of UKIP MEPs attended a meeting yesterday about their terms of severance and were delighted to learn that any who had been members of the Parliament since 1999 (yes, Brexit cretins, we were heavily represented in the EU! It was not an “unaccountable” body of foreigners straightening our bananas, as you were led to believe, it was a contingent of unaccountable Brits) would be eligible for six-figure compensation packages.

As well as long-service, their packages will also be dependent on their actual turning-up-and-voting record.

“The Ukip voting average is brought down by the party’s former leaders Nigel Farage and Paul Nuttall. Farage has attended 40% of roll-call votes, the worst voting record of all British MEPs at the European parliament.” (Guardian)

Yes, even Nuttall managed to attend 52% of the debates. And that’s an accurate figure, not one of his.

Now, my philosophy, for what it’s worth, is that if you are going to respect someone and look to them for leadership, it might as well be someone who truly deserves your loyalty, not some shitty loudmouth con merchant dressed like Jeremy Thorpe. That just lowers you in everyone’s estimation, eventually your own.

Because, of course, those payments amounting to several million Euro will be coming out of the money you didn’t realize we were going to have to continue paying, to meet our obligations to the EU during the transition period.

Your money – and the NHS’s. What were you thinking?

Farage, however, may be obliged to return all or some of that £150 thousand reward for his slimy treachery, his bolshy, loutish behaviour in the chamber, and shameless profiteering on expenses. Compensation is contingent on MEPs being unable to find alternative work, and Farage is said to have trousered around three-quarters of a million pounds since 2015 just from speaking engagements, TV appearances and his shit phone-in on LBC.

And you thought he was a great bloke, “one of us”, you poor boobies.

Just wake up, you’re still being conned.

 

Finding one’s way

I know they’ve had a few problems with wildfires in the Napa Valley, but I really must comment on how pisspoor American wine is.

It’s like they make it for babies.

I’d vowed to swear off the red stuff for a night or two, prior to my long, partially-sighted drive back to a place I’ve visited every year for the past three years, for musical purposes, and still I can’t work out how to get there.

Yes, yes, Google maps, etc. I’ve been shown fifty times how to set that up on my cellphone, and fifty times I’ve failed.

Eight o’clock approaches and I’m anxious to get my lamb cutlets under way, but the old demon, my inner alcoholic emerges. Surely, just one more night won’t hurt?

And off we traipse obediently to the garage store, where the only Cabernet to be had that doesn’t look like it might be novichok is something called The Original Dark Horse, being possibly a veterinary sample; and, gritting my teeth, I swipe £9.25 off my card, knowing I can get this stuff for less than half that price at the supermarket a mile away, and head home, a “bold wine with a big personality”, made personally by Beth Liston, in hand.

Does this stuff have sugar in it? I can’t read the ingredients, maybe grape juice?

I’ve not packed yet.

x

GW: ‘ah, but I may as well try and catch the wind’ – Donovan

“7 of the 10 strongest landfalls in recorded history have occurred since 2006” – Wunderground

Marianas: Reports are coming in of massive damage done to the northern Mariana islands, a US dependency, that took a direct hit from 180 mph supertyphoon Yutu yesterday, the equal-most powerful Pacific hurricane of the current crowded season. We know of only one death so far, but “little has been heard” from outlying islands. No doubt somebody will eventually explain to the moron-in-chief that these are US citizens, but at the moment the mayor of Tinian is warning that with the port out of action it may take many months to restore electricity. The day before the typhoon, the temperature at Guam International Airport hit 93°F – the hottest October temperature ever measured on Guam. (Dr Jeff Masters, Wunderground)

Hawaii: East Island, a remote spit of gravel and sand that sat atop a coral reef, has vanished under the sea after coming into contact with Hurricane Walaka, an intense storm that surged past Hawaii earlier this month. Scientists have confirmed the disappearance of the 11-acre island after comparing satellite images. (Guardian, 24 Oct). The loss removes an important breeding ground of the Monk seal. Never mind, 11 acres is about the size of the new bit of land added off the shore when Mt Kilueia erupted throughout May, June and July.

Australia: A “gigafire” south of Broome, NW Australia, has consumed an area of 2.2 million acres, among the largest wildfires ever recorded anywhere. There are no reports of casualties – such a sparsely populated region, they have only 100 firefighters available. Spring in Australia has abnormally high temperatures already and the long-range forecast gives 80% chance of a much hotter than average summer – given that last summer was the hottest recorded. Sea temperature off the east coast (Gt Barrier Reef, e.g.) is up to 5C above normal. (Robert Fanney webcast/Dr Jeff Masters)

Mexico: the better-publicized “Hurricane Willa slammed into a sparsely populated section of Mexico’s Pacific coast near Isla Del Bosque, Sinaloa, around 9 pm EDT Tuesday as a Category 3 hurricane with 120-mph sustained winds. Thousands of people were evacuated. The remoteness of the location meant that the worst damage was relatively confined. There were no immediate reports of deaths or missing, authorities were still trying to reach several small communities near the coast. There was no word from officials on conditions at the Islas Marias, which were struck directly while Willa was at Category 3 strength.” (edited from Wunderground)

Trinidad and Tobago: suffered their worst ever flooding event after a tropical wave passed over on the 24th bringing torrential rain.

Europe: Outrageous weather is forecast for many places early this week, with a mixture of torrential rain in the Balkans, massive snowfalls in the central alps, snow in Spain and Portugal, cyclone-force winds gusting 150 k/h over Sardinia, severe thunderstorms over Italy’s east coast, a huge Saharan dustcloud pushing northwards, all accompanied by “unseasonal warmth”in the Mediterranean and across north Africa. (Severe-weather.eu)

The Terminal Beach…

Yellowstone: Steamboat #24 confirmed (25 Oct); ground uplift and shaking continuing; more superheated water comin’ up.

And, says the Blessed Mary, the USGS spectogram service – internet-available charts showing rising magma, gas releases and ground motion – has been shut down without explanation, following a substantial increase in sulfur and CO2 releases.

UK tree con

Announced in Mr Hammond’s budget, 29 Oct., “more than 10m trees will be planted across England with the injection of £60m of new funding over five years, as part of what the government billed as its ‘drive to preserve the country’s greenery’. The bulk of the money, £50m, will pay landowners for planting trees that lock up carbon, which observers said raised questions over how accessible those woodlands would be to the public. That fund, the Woodland Carbon Guarantee scheme, should pay for 10m trees.

So the Tories’ landowning friends get a £55 million cash bonus! It costs approximately 50p each to buy whips in bulk. Most won’t survive, the prospect of more stands of fast-growing, money-making spruce is worrying on all sorts of environmental grounds, and the optimism of the Woodland Trust in imagining these little trees in their first few years are going to be sequestering a sufficient volume of CO2 to make the slightest difference to “climate change” makes you wonder who is conning whom?

Cloud story

It’s a bright sunny day in late October. Off on the horizon is a band of heavy looking cumulus. The sky otherwise is blue, with just some worn-looking shreds of cloud and vapor trails – it’s a busy day for aviation. Out of the cold NE wind, it’s quite warm.

I observe a cloud formation outside my window. With the frame as a reference, I notice the cloud does not change its location in the sky for about an hour. Yet, it is being steadily eroded by the wind. By the time we get back from our walk the cloud has been worn away almost to nothing but is still identifiable from its unchanged outline, and it’s still in exactly the same place in the sky.

On our walk I notice a small ‘blobby’-type cloud appearing low in the north, out of a blue sky. It grows and becomes more dense. We walk on about 30 yards and I look up again, to see the cloud has completely vanished; evaporated. On the way back, on exactly the same stretch of roadway I see that another small cloud has appeared in the same part of the sky. By the time we have walked on about 30 yards it too has disappeared. About five minutes later the same thing again: cloud appears, cloud disappears.

God is up to his old tricks again.

High-level winds rip a cloud to shreds but the cloud doesn’t move in the sky. Can you explain that?

The Pumpkin – Issue 65: Did we really think it was going to be so easy?… Bar, bar, black sheep… Own gooaaaalll!… I was President of the United States (no, not that one!)… Daddy, I can’t breathe… GW: Meteorological meltdown

Quote of a while ago

“Allowing the fossil fuel industry to dictate our relationship to the environment is a form of collective insanity.” – Chris Hedges, US public intellectual, 2013

 

“Don’t be in such bad mood, comrade! Take silly box off head! We see highest cathedral spire in Europe, maybe throw scumbag off, what’s not to like?” Expelled GRU agents from Amsterdam arrive at Heathrow….

 

“History seems to have found a way of repeating itself in the sense that we have a “leader of the free world” who is profoundly uninterested in what you or I have to say on the subject of freedom…”

Did we really think it was going to be so easy?

We no longer recall what was the first appalling thing Trump did after he became president. A rash of articles and podcasts soon appeared, confidently predicting his imminent impeachment.

Possibly it was his transgressive inauguration speech: bitter and vengeful, no thanks to anyone, projecting a bleak view of a broken America, burning and crime ridden, a home to immigrant murderers and rapists, an economic basket-case humbled on the world stage – pictures which few in Washington recognized; promising nothing but the tough approach to everything, the ominous slogan Make America Great Again! holding out hopes of advancement for the white man, but nothing but more years of misery and abuse for the rest. The first US President to make a policy plank out of an ambition to jail his political opponents for imaginary crimes.

Twenty-two months – 600 weird and disruptive days – later, he’s still there, worse than ever.

Did we really think that you and we could bravely call ourselves The Resistance and, wielding the weapons of reason and logic, learning and tolerance, through our sheer niceness, disarm with mere words the lowering forces of the new brutocracy?

That our wit and sarcasm and aphorism-rich dinner-party conversations and books and essays and late night satire shows and blog posts by the million would soon remove the threat of a cunning and degenerate, criminal monster, a feral clown bent on absolute power, the naked horror of the unbridled neoliberal world he represents?

I’m sorry to keep harking back to Germany in 1932; but I can find no closer parallel in history, other perhaps than Don Siegel’s 1952 anti-Communist motion picture, “Invasion of the Bodysnatchers”; a Sci-Fi allegory of the panic then sweeping the USA, that “They” were coming – They being The Pod People!

At first nobody believes it; but gradually, as the pods duplicate themselves as everyone’s next-door neighbor, and co-opt the townsfolk into handing out more pods, the whole town is taken over, nobody heeds the warnings, nobody cares anymore; until, finally, just when you think he’s managed to escape to a better world of domestic appliances and cars with fins, Matthew, the still-battling hero is revealed in the final shot to have become one of Them… The only hope is eternal vigilance!

There’s an excellent plot summary on Wikipedia. Attempting to warn the citizenry:

“Matthew and Elizabeth are chased across San Francisco. They hide out in a Health Department building, and witness pods being distributed to people gathered in the square outside. They are eventually trapped by Jack and Kibner, who tell them that the alien species simply wants to survive and it is beneficial for humans.”

Is this starting to remind you of anything?

Do you still have a Health Department to hide in? Probably not.

Possibly the last two holdouts in the Republican Senate, Jeff Flake and Susan Collins, “Matthew and Elizabeth”, opted at the last minute to vote for the last judge on earth any sane administrator would want to put in the Supreme Court, approving Kavanaugh only because it hadn’t been decisively shown by an incomplete investigation everyone agrees was derisory, that he is the bad person they previously imagined him to be; while the sidelined naysayers who actually knew the man are still trying to warn everyone that he is?

Yes, Jeff and Susan joined the Pod People.

As I keep a’boglin’, I’ve just been reading a most excellent book, The Fifth Risk, by Michael Lewis (although it rambles off-topic at times and I found the ending rushed and inconclusive. Sorry.) Of the six – well, five-and-a-half, I gave up on the execrable “Fire and Fury” by Michael Wolff – books I have so far read about the Trump administration, this one is the most chilling.

Cleverly, Lewis sets up the argument that the average US voter fears and loathes their own government more than the Devil, and is profoundly mistrustful even of the efforts of the dedicated and highly qualified men and women working for poor wages in the great agencies of State to try to make life better for them. This is the constituency to which the Orange Candidate appealed.

But Trump’s careless gutting of the budgets and personnel of these useful institutions he doesn’t understand and despises, merely to please the worst instincts of those untutored deplorables who hate Big Government but do not realize that it’s made up of lots of useful Small Government, is counterproductive and will damage your health.

Here, for instance, is Kathy Sullivan, feted as the first woman astronaut to walk in space, a hugely qualified scientist with degrees in both oceanography and astrophysics, who out of a sense of public duty becomes a senior government official – Assistant Director of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the NOAA.

Kathy is both puzzled and saddened in 2011 when 158 people are killed unnecessarily in the town of Joplin, Mi., and hundreds more injured, having perversely ignored an urgent tornado warning from her department because they don’t believe in the government weather service.

Yet it was the NOAA – part of the Commerce Department – that pioneered the science behind tornado warnings, and set up the National Hurricane Center, another useful institution under threat, that also puzzles over why so many Americans would rather drown than listen to government safety advice.

Worse was to come, however, when the Trump maladministration took over, driven by the “small government = more money for us” doctrine of the Republican party, that Steve Bannon advised Trump to take to nihilistic extremes.

A corrupt financier and “friend” of the Trump family, Wilbur Ross was put in charge at Commerce. He turned up on his own, without any staffers appointed to manage the huge and multifaceted department, having no idea what the functions of the department were, and unprepared to listen. Lewis writes: “Dozens of civil servants sat all day waiting to deliver briefings that would, in the end, never be heard.”

(This is precisely why in Britain we don’t make Civil Service appointments renewable on the basis of which party is in government. It’s a ridiculous waste of talent, energy and experience to have to start again every time you have an election. How they vote is up to them. Ridiculous Americans.)

The elderly satrap, Ross (80) was unimpressed to hear that an important part of Commerce was doing atmospheric and ocean science. He had no interest whatever in science, and said so, good and loud. He had until that point been the co-vice chair of Bank of Cyprus, a notorious money-laundering vehicle dominated by Putin oligarchs. He was interested only in gains, however gotten.

It was not until the following October that anyone was appointed to run the NOAA. In the end, the pick turned out to be the CEO of AccuWeather – the private company with a paywall, that gets its weather data free from the NOAA; yet which had lobbied hard in 2005 for a law denying the National Weather Service the right to broadcast free weather forecasts; and made substantial contributions to party funds.

Barry Myers’ primary interest, one assumes, is to shut down government scientific weather forecasting that competes with his commercial service. This hidden privatization, says Lewis, is the philosophy running now through government: if there’s a commercial competitor that could be making more money, departments are being defunded, gutted or closed.

As with Trump, it eventually came out that Ross, though wealthy, is not a billionaire, as he claimed. He’d lied to Forbes Magazine, that keeps track of the personal net worth of wealthy individuals, that he had $3.7 billion in the bank when, in fact, his wealth was at best $700 million. A miserable man, there were stories of him pocketing sweeteners from restaurant tables rather than having his cook buy them in a store.

It’s also been alleged that he recently pilfered $120 million by systematically cheating a business partner. The case was settled out of court, so we can’t know for sure. Stung, Forbes wrote:

“If even half of the accusations are legitimate, the current United States secretary of commerce could rank among the biggest grifters in American history.”

Not, perhaps, as big as one Donald John Trump, who has been outed in the New York Times this past week for tax frauds totalling over $500 million; dating back even to infancy when, at the age of 3, his father Fred had “employed” him in the family firm on a salary of $200,000 a year, to avoid taxes.

People like the Pulitzer prizewinning financial journalist and inveterate Trumphound, David Cay Johnson, have been bobbing up and down for years like the character in the movie, played by Kevin McCarthy, shouting about this stuff: “They’re coming!” (His body is later found around the corner…)

And no-one listened to him. They thought he was mad – until approximately half the country’s 120 million active voters had put into the White House, a Pod Person who has spent almost two years now sucking out their souls and recasting them in his own disaffected, mean and greedy likeness.

Who, guided by über-Podperson, Adolf Hitler’s best-selling self-help manual, “Fascist Dictating for Dummies”, is someone who poisons everyone he comes in contact with, subverting their moral universe and bending them to his selfish and endlessly demanding will: a blackmailer, a gaslighter, a taker, a briber – a psychopath, with the mind of a wilful four-year-old.

HR disaster

One of the so-called “adults in the room”, General HR McMaster, was a highly regarded, highly decorated 3-star general, said to be possessed of advanced intellectual capacities, extensive scholarship and great sagacity. Equipped with a curious, high-domed cranium, he surely has room in it for at least three normal human brains.

Yet, appointed as National Security Advisor to steady the ship in the wake of the departure of the suspected Russian agent and all-round weasel, General Flynn, he soon found himself profoundly morally compromised in the service of a cunning and degenerate criminal, a practised deceiver; himself suspected of fidelity to a foreign power.

“There is nothing that the president takes more seriously than the security of the American people. The story that came out tonight as reported is false. The president and the foreign minister reviewed a range of common threats to our two countries, including threats to civil aviation. At no time, at no time, were intelligence sources or methods discussed. And the president did not disclose any military operations that were not already publicly known. Two other senior officials who were present, including the Secretary of the State, remember the meeting the same way and have said so. Their on-the-record accounts should outweigh anonymous sources. I was in the room. It didn’t happen.”

“It” was the widely reported meeting in the Oval Office between the Russian Foreign Minister, Sergei Lavrov; the Russian Ambassador and reputed FSB spymaster, Sergei Kislyak, and Donald Trump, recently installed President of the United States of America; the three of them alone, save for a “photographer” from the Russian state news outlet, Tass. Trump had requested McMaster and his Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson, leave the room. So yes, they were present – until they weren’t.

The Washington Post later reported, they had confirmed sources that at that meeting in May, 2017, Trump had boasted to the Russians about a top-secret Israeli intelligence operation he knew about, to infiltrate the ISIS high command, that had resulted in a worldwide ban on passengers taking laptops openly on aircraft, after a specific warning about a bomb plot.

So furious were the Israelis at this gross betrayal, reported the Post, that for a time they ceased sharing intelligence with the CIA. Who in turn, stopped sharing intelligence with Trump.

To calm the furore – people still made a fuss about Trump’s cavalier approach in those faroff days – Gen. McMaster had been sent out to face reporters on the White House lawn, and what he said to them was a lie; a statement concocted by the spinmeisters, Conway, Hicks and Spicer, to protect the loose-mouthed Trump; a fatuous, bombastic oaf who could never resist showing off his self-assumed superiority in all matters, and could not be trusted with State secrets.

Once you have told your first lie in Trumpworld, it gets easier, and you enjoy the love. Soon, however, you will find yourself employed without choice to gnaw the heads off little puppies….

A year later, the profoundly compromised McMaster was fired by Trump, and resigned from the army without promotion; a national disgrace, who had nevertheless dared to stand up in some measure to Trump’s infantile caprice, and may have bought us a little time. The more compliant John Bolton – an inflammatory Iran hawk with no military background, to avoid the Vietnam draft (like W Bush) he’d joined the National Guard – was brought in at Security to ramp up the sense that all would now be chaos, orchestrated like a Boulez symphony by the increasingly bullish (but no more intelligent or well-intentioned) president.

The economy was booming!

Trump by the beginning of 2018 was consolidating his reputation as a highly unpresidential and unpredictable, autocratic thug, given to making vicious ad hominem Twitter attacks in the middle of the night on his perceived enemies, his day-to-day policy-making dictated by whatever the little faces were yammering at him on the screens everywhere tuned to the Fox News channel; still with no apparent interest in the levers of government or the advice of advisors, contemptuous of international allies and treaties; whose mental state was giving serious concern.

Yet the economy was booming, thanks to rising interest rates that were driving the markets to dizzying new heights; and a resurgent dollar, that he would surely, eventually come to regret, along with his tariff wars. No-one imagined he was responsible, the boom had begun under Obama. Thanks to his insane tax cuts for the wealthy (and himself, if he paid any) the national debt had climbed to over $22.5 trillion, social programs were being defunded, but at least the economy hadn’t collapsed. Yet.

Led by the amoral southern plutocrat, “Mitch” McConnell, the Republican party was beginning to realize, they too were profoundly compromised by their association with this senescent, bullying old sex-pest; a serial liar, financial criminal and business fraud with highly dangerous connections; a degenerate, narcissistic sociopath without empathy, compassion or decent instincts toward anyone; a self-invented Mafia boss it would be dangerous to cross. Who wants to be murdered by Tweet?

Yet, lured by the fanatical support of his “base” in the Red states heartland of America, and by his appeal to the evangelical Christian right, whose high-minded hypocrisies they all espoused, the Republican-controlled Congress chose the path of least resistance and most moral hazard, and are now so deeply enmired in Trump’s gluey web of deceit and corruption that they can’t see a way out; but must go all the way with him into the deepest shit any American can remember.

You can maybe now understand why, earlier, I raised my graying head above the sandbags and mentioned the shade of Adolf Hitler. There are of course no similarities to justify a direct comparison, we have in many senses moved on and – though there are, what, faint reflections, echoes? – ours is a very different world, in which consumer-capitalist techno-economics has largely replaced militarism as a tool of power projection. Also, Hitler was 38 when he came to power: Trump is 72 and has less time to kill.

Nevertheless, in 1930s Germany many perfectly wise and responsible men and women living in an unstable social compact next to a disaffected working-class did allow themselves to be co-opted into a state of complicity – silence at best – with what they must have realized was a truly evil world vision projected by a nasty clique of moral degenerates; yet which excitingly allowed them to express a darker side of themselves that had been long suppressed by social norms and conventions. Many took to wearing cool uniforms and summarily executing inconvenient or noncompliant people and those they persuaded themselves were not fully human. Until the Red Army arrived in Berlin, there were no comebacks on that.

History seems to have found a way of repeating itself in the sense that we have a “leader of the free world” who is profoundly uninterested in what you or I have to say on the subject of freedom, tolerance, intellectual endeavor – justice, but who seeks to draw us in to his demonic powerplay; to share in  the thrilling wickedness of the scheme he proposes, to tear up the existing order, the useless constitution, whatever it says, to expel the “Other”; with, at the end of it all, the promise of “People like us” – white and in debt – ending up on top of the heap. And to make him rich in the process, what’s not to like?

With Senate approval of the appointment of another conservative judge who will license whatever mischief Mr Trump may get up to: then, now or in future, we move a step closer to a New American dictatorship; a thrilling scenario in which anything might be possible, where all your enemies, the people you hate, the clever ones with the money, the schooling and the entitlement, the ones keeping you down, the black and the brown ones, the Jews and the Muslims can all be made to go away – with no need to ask where.

I predict that the appointment of Judge Kavanaugh will be taken as a further sign the new world order is open for business. Monkey business.

With all our cleverness, our educated ability to see through the lies, to mock and gibe and question the authority of the President – as Stephen Miller, Trump’s pet college vampire once percipiently warned us never to do – to apply all our elitist techniques of rational thought and articulacy to make the monster go back under the bed – did we really think it would be so easy?

To turn back the cyclical tide of history with our words?

Our ever-so elegant, inadequate, powerless words?

God help us.

x

Bar, bar, black sheep

The hearing to elevate the controversial Judge Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court, an appointment for life, is approaching its end with a Congressional Judiciary Committee review behind closed doors of the really thorough FBI report on his dodgy moral background, that the Feds’ve had all of three working days to investigate and write up.

The two or three un-proof-checked paragraphs of testimoy bh a limited group of non-witnesses will be spun into a full exoneration, nothin’ to see here folks, the big clunkin’ rubber stamp will be wielded, Trump will make a great victory speech to the dumbfucks, and the US Supreme Court will become even more of a disgrace than it already is.

By the time you read this, there seems little doubt the nomination will have been waved through, thanks to the appalling Senator McConnell, a rich old polecat who will say and do anything to make the Republican Party richer. “Fine young man, perfect judge material” to gerrymander the court’s decisions in favor of wealthy appellants and swivel-eyed pro-lifers for the next 30 years. Dozens of potential witnesses, victims all clearly lying, paid by the Democrats, Soros…. hashtag disgraceful.

Forty witnesses all queuing to talk to the FBI about the thuggish and emotionally damaged fratboy, Kavanaugh were resolutely ignored in the whitewashing of this redfaced individual, screaming his innocence to a sympathetic audience of Republicans, mostly men, who are now so besmirched with the shit spewing from the White House that they can never be washed clean, not even by the blood of Christ.

And then the psychopath, Trump, will humblebrag and whine and boast to his pet dumbfucks in some barren hangar in Nowheresville, Arkansas that, yet again, he has achieved a momentous triumph of policymaking to make America great again – remembering, as we no doubt shall, that the only reason he pushed this sanctimonious, drunken, overemotional wreck forward in the first place and spent the next two weeks personally calumniating anyone who criticized his lousy choice, including sexual assault victims – hateful women – was because Kavanaugh had assured him the President couldn’t be prosecuted for federal crimes while in office; and Trump has started his 2020 run for re-election already.

We are reminded now, however, that this is not the first wholly inappropriate appointment Trump has tried to foist on a judiciary already groaning with conservative white men.

Commenting on the trend, Michael Wolff writing in The Guardian last December examined the notorious case of Matthew Peterson, a hapless Trump nominee for a District Court judgeship in Washington, who couldn’t answer a single legal question put to him at his Senate hearing and admitted that he had never tried a case before in any court, anywhere. Wolff went on:

“The ABA (American Bar Association) unanimously rated another of Trump’s nominees as ‘not qualified’ because he was a 36-year-old blogger with a strong ideological bent and no trial experience: Brett Talley. He was the fourth Trump nominee the ABA found to be devoid of judicial merit. Talley is married to a White House lawyer, by some strange coincidence.

“On the other hand, Talley did blog about his total support – ‘financially, politically and intellectually’ – for the National Rifle Association, just one month after the massacre of elementary schoolchildren at Sandy Hook school in Newtown, Connecticut.” So much for judicial impartiality.

“Last month (November, 2017) the Republican-led Senate judiciary committee confirmed him to a lifetime job as a judge in Alabama.” (His nomination was later withdrawn.)

In the words of Michelle Obama: “What is the matter with you people?”

Judge Kavanaugh’s appointment is clearly too much, even for the ABA, representing thousands of lawyers, who have given him the thumbs-down principally on the basis that he’s not considered sufficiently competent AS A JUDGE…. In addition, he has refused to allow scrutiny of his previous record in court. Why is that?

But it’s no longer a legal matter: his appointment is now purely a partisan political fight to the death; no shred of decency or modesty will motivate this horrible man to recuse himself altogether, so as not to bring the Supreme Court of the United States into further disrepute.

“…many months into the Trump administration, thousands of officially required positions have still not been filled.”

We recall, perhaps, that it was a principal policy plank of one unmentionable German chancellor in 1933 to pack the judicial benches with party supporters, before starting on the show trials and brutal executions of his opponents. A similar policy fuelled his Soviet near-neighbour’s justice system for many years. Unfortunately, human society is adequately furnished with individuals awaiting only official sanction to pull the lever on their fellow men and women and watch them swinging.

But Trump was merely continuing with his nihilistic Bannonite policy of, it seems – we must conclude, mustn’t we, and not be tempted to assume, that he is just a total ignoramus, or a paid agent of the Kremlin – of undermining and ultimately bringing low, all the revered traditional institutions of governance in the USA.

In other words, the stuff going on in the background, while no-one is looking.

As previously mentioned, a new book, The Fifth Risk, by Michael Lewis (Allen-Lane/Penguin Books) cleverly sets up the numerous vital functions and formerly principled management of the great federal agencies as serious-sounding Aunt Sallies, creating value and delivering forward motion, before laconically – and without resorting to in-house gossip or the usual expletives and pejorative insults – pointing out that, many months into the Trump administration, thousands of officially required positions have still not been filled; or are occupied by Trump loyalists and chancers with no special knowledge or experience of the job whatever, who have set about defunding key environmental, medical and social programs to profit private corporations.

So, while packing the courts with unqualified placemen who will do the President’s bidding and keep him out of jail, where in most people’s view he belongs*, Trump is using the same ploy to insert his version of the Brownshirts at all levels and in all areas of responsibility for national government, to quietly and surreptitiously push through some of the most repressive, socially damaging and retrograde policies ever attempted, far away from Congressional scrutiny.

Only the latest of these, former conservative prosecutor Caren Harp – a graduate of a “Christian law school”, was put in to run the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, and has quietly set about dismantling all its Obama-era attempts to put rehabilitation and education at the forefront of its policy statements. The Guardian writes:

“Under the agency’s old vision statement, the office expressed a desire for America to be ‘a nation where our children are healthy, educated, and free from violence’.

“After Donald Trump entered the White House in January 2017, the phrase was changed – without any public notice or consultation – to ‘a nation where our children are free from crime and violence’.

“Other changes to the agency’s websites included removing guidance … to stop putting children into solitary confinement, avoid placing girls behind bars and address the disproportionate impact of courts and prisons on black and other minority kids.”

This new policy is surely at odds with Mr Trump’s professed views on gang violence, since it is clear that harsh reformatory regimes breed and do not deter crime. The defunding of youth projects in the inner cities, too, can only increase the propensity of young people to join drug gangs, being the only remaining source of income for families seeing savage cuts in social supports, such as food stamps.

On the other hand, the private companies that profit from contracts to run the prison catering, the work programs (inmates sewing McDonalds’ uniforms on 20c an hour), the laundries, the education, such as it is – the transportation and maintenance, will be straight in there, making their fortunes out of detaining as many inmates for as long, and as often, as they can. Rehabilitation is nowhere on the list

The Pumpkin therefore asks the questions again: Is all this being done for doctrinaire political reasons, implying at least that there is some philosophy, however maleficent, behind it? Is it just the hatred of the marginalized underclass which Trump sweats from every permatanned pore at his weekly Nuremberg-style rallies?

Or is it a deliberate attempt to start a class war in America; a real, shooting war to, as it were, restore the Confederacy, or at least to violently rehabilitate its white supremacist, rural Christian aims and values, tearing the country and its fragile social compacts; its paper constitution, apart?

Is that what Trump’s Russian creditors have said they want him to do?

*Oh yes, he does!

x

Own gooaaaalll!

Despite a hearty school upbringing, The Pumpkin knows little of the art of football; principally because he has never known the heartache and the joy of supporting a particular club, that he might associate with his ancestral community.

Frankly, he sees, but does not fully get, the point. Dragged by his well-connected father to a tedious west London fixture in the rain at the age of 9, that ended in a low-scoring draw, he was further traumatised by being introduced after the match to a famous footballer who had just stepped out of the team bath. Traumatized, in the ensuing 60 years he has attended out of paternal obligation, only one, equally tedious fixture ever since.

At least he kept his children away from the dressing rooms.

Nevertheless he is not unaware of the general demeanor of the sport in the UK: the recent years in which leading clubs have been purloined from their underperforming local boards, answerable only to the fans, by big global business; often by foreign billionaires with dubious sources of income, cashing in on hugely lucrative TV deals while their whiter-than-white money spins in the tumble-dryer.

The Pumpkin recalls, he once occupied an apartment in West London above an elderly couple, the husband of which had been a professional footballer in the pre- and post-war years, interrupted by service in the army.

Tommy Law had played for Chelsea and, as an international, for Scotland. He was paid £5 for turning up to a match, £3.10s if not required to play. He had one or other of his legs broken six times by hard-man defenders, eventually forcing his retirement. The £1,100 raised at his benefit match was his pension.

Portugal and Juventus star, Christiano Ronaldo is paid €30 million a year, and still can’t avoid accusations of tax cheating and sexual assault. But, by God, he produced one of the greatest goals in history at the last World Cup… sorry, where was I?, oh yes.

Manchester United.

For some reason, the most famous football club in the world. Any 9-year-old kid kicking a ball around on a dirt patch in a favela in Rio or Lagos knows at least two English words. And yet, it seems, the iconic club is in deep shit. Its vastly overpaid players under their temperamental manager Mourinho have barely mustered a goal so far this season. A profound air of gloom hangs over Old Trafford ground. Why?

Because it is owned by Americans, possibly.

“The six Glazer siblings who collectively own 97% of United’s voting shares were paid approximately $23m (£18m) in dividends, the third year dividends have been paid. The total paid to them and the other financial investors was £22m, following £23m in 2016-17 and £20m the previous year, a total of £65m out of the club. The salary packages paid to directors and senior executives, which includes the six Glazers, was £13m, following £12m in 2016-17 and £11m the year before. A year ago, the Glazers’ holding company, Red Football, sold 4.3m shares in Cayman Islands-registered United, for $17 per share. That is a further $73m (£56m) made by the Glazers from their heavily leveraged acquisition of a football institution.” – David Conn, The Guardian.

What the fuck has any of this devious business shit got to do with football?

It’s not even the money. United is a huge global franchise awash with money, it can afford to pay the Glazers $100 million a year for doing what appears to be fuck-all. The point is not the money: it’s that they are in it ONLY for the money. The game, the tradition, the history of the community means nothing to them.

Why is there a single ripped-off, traduced and disappointed United fan who still supports this incredible profit-making exercise for a foreign entity that is only in it for the money, a corpse with a capitalist face, that cannot manage to produce either success on the pitch, or entertainment for the fans?

Just go! Walk out! Don’t turn up! Don’t buy the overpriced season tickets, the merchandise, the hype. Find a park, get a ball and start again. Support another local club – I know, City, but. The Glazers don’t give a fuck about you, mate. They would if you weren’t there, even for a month.

There’s not a single homegrown player in the United squad, just a bunch of spectacularly overrewarded haircuts imported from all over the world, spending nine tenths of their time on the bench, listlessly buying Italian sports cars; while the superstar manager known as “The Special One”, who has barely managed this season to persuade his players that the aim is to kick the ball into the net at the other end, moans that he’s not allowed to spend £millions more buying up more no-hopers he won’t “get on with”; because interpersonal relationships are apparently everything, and earning the money by winning matches isn’t.

Everyone can see, the whole fucking shemozzle is completely corrupt, blown wholly out of proportion and so far removed from the working class community roots that spawned “The Beautiful Game” (some of us poshos find Rugby Union aesthetically more pleasing and a damned sight more exciting) that it barely still deserves to be called football.

It’s just a game of Monopoly played on a Subbuteo table.

 

I was President of the United States (no, not that one!)

Look, I see nothing wrong with Trump appointing Lorna Marks, his wife’s fave handbag designer, as US ambassador to South Africa. It’s a job, somebody has to do it.

And at least Pretoria gets an ambassador. Many more important and strategic capitals around the world are still awaiting the Orange One’s pleasure.

That Marks was born and lived in South Africa at all, even for a short time, seems a vast improvement on the relevant connections between other ambassadors and their host nations.

Of course, she’s not very black and may need some coaching to appreciate the complexities of life in a vibrant multicultural environment, a “Rainbow nation” nonetheless afflicted with extremes of poverty, wealth, crime, racism and corruption, and in the grip of a narrow clique of old reactionaries. (No, not the USA!)

Being a fashion designer is no more an indication of incompetence than any other trade experience, and if you can get away with charging $400 thousand for one bag, you’re no slouch when it comes to persuading women, at least, that it’s a great idea to respect your brand – which, as Ambassador, would be brand Trump.

Sure she’d be absolutely fine.

I wonder if we ought to draw the line, however, at misrepresentation; although the diplomatic community, especially, is rife with fantasists.

Marks has repeatedly described her friendship with the late Diana, Princess of Wales, although there is no evidence of it. She has also claimed to have played tennis at Wimbledon. As indeed might have any member of the All England Club and their guests on the 350 days when the famous WTA tournament is not in progress.

Not THE Royal Ballet, as it turns out; the Royal Ballet’s local affiliate in her home town of East London, “in the Buffalo City Metropolitan Municipality of the Eastern Cape province.”

By the same token, I can claim to be a performing member who has had various leading roles with the National Theatre of Wales.

Local affiliate, naturally.

More of a community theatre sort of thing, really. But quite good.

While, many years ago, it says on my CV, I was a BBC newsreader.

Local radio, only for eight months, but it was still London.

Not East London, mind.

Fairly central, in fact.

x

Daddy, I can’t breathe

A heartbreaking story emerged this past week, from the inquest into a bright, attractive young girl who was done to death in 2016 by the food industry.

15-year-old Natasha Ednan-Laperouse died in hospital after a traumatic flight to Nice, aboard which she had suffered an extreme reaction to a Prêt-á-Manger baguette she had eaten in Heathrow Departures, that contained sesame seeds that were not declared on the label.

The details are fairly harrowing, as her father fought to save her and the cabin crew ran around like headless chickens.

It later emerged that six other nonfatal cases of extreme allergic reactions to Prêt baguettes had previously been reported. That fact alone, and the lack of a warning notice, could cost the company dearly; as we all hope it does.

Being as I am, the thought did cross your Uncle B.’s mind that it must have been the moment the parents were dreading, and hoped would never come. Because from the age of 8 Natasha seems to have been allergic to pretty much everything added to food. As she grew up and became more independent, the likelihood was that, sooner or later, something would get her.

The idea that the fast-food industry could ever achieve total purity is a fantasy; the rule should be, if something you eat might kill you, eat at home.

My girlfriend had a condition called coeliac disease, which involves severe reaction to wheat gluten. She was always being laid low by some careless inaction or other in the catering trade. I recall one incident when she ate some French biscuits we thought were safe, that included ‘farine de Blé’, translated in the dictionary as cornflour. It subsequently turned out that Blé can mean pretty much any grain, including wheat.

Prêt, it seems, benefits from a rule that says food prepared centrally and distributed to outlets must display full information on the packaging, but food such as sandwiches prepared locally in its small shops needn’t. The loophole being, that ‘prepared’ doesn’t necessarily mean all the ingredients are locally sourced – like the baguette with the tempting filling.

“Responding to (the health inspector’s) evidence, Dr Sean Cummings, the acting senior coroner for west London, said: ‘It seems on the face of it a bit strange that a local sandwich shop can benefit from that regulation … but that an organisation that sold … 218m items (a year) could also benefit from that regulation … A cynic might think it was almost a device to get round regulation relating to information on food allergens.’” – Guardian

Happily, I’m not allergic to anything I’ve eaten so far in my life, but a sort of nagging, possibly cynical  doubt persists.

Given the huge increase in compensation awards there has been over the past twenty years, why do food manufacturers run the risk of killing their customers, when a few simple precautions might prevent tragedies occurring?

I’ve just tucked in to a plate of Chilli con Carne, prepared for reheating by The Authentic Curry Company, of Aberdare (just add rice). It’s actually quite good; although obviously not as good as the version I make, when I can be arsed to cook for myself.

And at the end of a comprehensive list of really quite natural and normal, healthy ingredients, we find the following:

ALLERGY ADVICE: Produced in a factory or made with ingredients from suppliers that use Nuts, Gluten, Crustaceans, Fish, Eggs, Peanuts, Soya, Milk, Celery, Mustard, Sesame Seeds, Sulphur Dioxide & Molluscs.

Now, that list would kill just about anyone. Any Orthodox Jewish consumer would be instantly struck dead. The Authentic Curry Company of Aberdare might as well lace their perfectly healthy and natural minced Welsh beef, onion and beans product with novichok.

What is wrong with you? Why in God’s name risk using a supplier that can’t guarantee their production lines are so clean, your consumers can safely eat off of them? Why would you ever want to use a supplier who clearly doesn’t gve a fuck if your consumers live or die?

Who would ever suspect your microwavable (3-minutes) ersatz Tex-Mex-style evening meal for 2 (big enough, indeed, for one), would be such a minefield of common allergens?

Are you sure you’ve left nothing out? Penicillin, maybe? Emulsion paint? Nigel Farage’s toenail clippings?

Or is it you? Are YOU also the factory processor who adds nuts, egg and oyster shells will-ye, nill-ye to your Chilli con Carne, in the course of an evening’s shift?

Because my girlfriend could have a reaction to just one slice of gluten-free cake coming into contact with a cake-slice that had previously been used on another cake containing wheat flour. I witnessed it. I saw it happen – the rash, the swollen and painful joints, the bleeding. Great, for a professional musician. In severe cases it takes only homeopathic concentrations of gluten to have an effect.

The food industry really has to get its act together.

Then, you can say that about pretty well anyone these days.

Meanwhile, Mr and Mrs Ednan-Laperouse have had to bury their pretty, vivacious and endlessly helpful daughter, age 15, her only crime being to have an immune system too sensitive to survive in the modern world of adulterated processed foods and inadequate supervision.

 

Sorry it’s so long.

GW:

Hurricane watch: “A tropical storm warning was in effect for Pinar del Rio and Isle of Youth, Cuba, and a tropical storm watch is in effect for the east coast of Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula from Tulum to Cabo Catoche. The National Hurricane Center now predicts that PTC 14 will approach the northern U.S. Gulf Coast at close to hurricane strength on Wednesday. The next name in the Atlantic storm list is Michael.”

Wunderground tracking data has Michael proceeding up through Alabama and Florida into the east coast states in the coming days. Something I’m sure they will welcome after ten months of storms. It’s already been part of a larger system causing havoc in central America, that:

“…will continue to bring heavy rains to portions of the Pacific coasts of El Salvador, Nicaragua, Guatemala, and Honduras through Monday, (with) dangerous flash flooding and mudslides. Over 2700 people were in shelters in Costa Rica due to flooding, and over 1000 in Nicaragua”.

In the eastern Pacific, 1000 miles west of the Mexican coast, “Hurricane Sergio is proving resilient as a major hurricane. As of 11 am EDT Saturday, Sergio’s top sustained winds were 125 mph, keeping it in the Category 3 range. Global models agree that Sergio will carry out a sharp U-turn from Sunday into Monday, then accelerate toward an expected landfall on the west coast of Baja California around Thursday”, and on into Arizona in the wake of last week’s Hurricane Rosa. (Wunderground)

Meanwhile another hurricane is forming in the Arabian sea. Tropical cyclone Invest 99A could strengthen and arrive later in the week, either in Yemen, or in Oman, in the wake of July’s Hurricane Mekenu, which killed over 30 people. Hurricanes are not uncommon occurrences in the region, but seldom at this time of year: “On average, storms strike Oman once every three years, and usually before June or after October” (Wikipedia).

Post-tropical storm Leslie is still stuck in mid-Atlantic, with no agreement as to where it might go next: east, certainly, but to the Canary Islands, or further north to the Azores? Place your bets. Update: Wunderground map has it strengthening now (Monday 8 Oct) and tracking as a Cat 1 hurricane towards northern Portugal and Galicia in the footsteps of last year’s Hurricane Isobel. It’s certainly pushing hot air up as far as my town, where it’s getting on for 17C.)

(From Wunderground)

 

Update Friday 12th Oct: An interesting possibility has arisen. Severe-weather.eu sugests, Leslie has not done the anticipated U-turn into the open ocean, but is instead about to become the first hurricane in recorded history to hit Madeira. It may then move north, to clobber Portugal in the southern corner, the Algarve – still as an actual hurricane. Meanwhile remnant hurricane Michael, originally expected to whizz over to the Bitish Isles, is forecast on a new track as a post-tropical storm, bending southwards of the British Isles towards the Bay of Biscay, and may even arrive in northern Portugal the day after Leslie…. Making Portugal, one suspects, one of the few countries ever to have been hit by two different storms in the space of two days, that have both previously been graded as hurricanes.

Comment:

Meteorological meltdown

It was reported separately in the news today (Monday, 8th Oct) that US Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, was visiting Seoul after “successful” talks with officials in Pyongyang. Meanwhile in nearby Incheon, the IPCC was launching its latest report on climate change, the last for a while, prior to the next round of talks in Poland.

Neither report mentioned anywhere that the Korean peninsula has been trashed in the past two days by former Cat 5 Typhoon Kong-Rey, now downgraded to TS but still packing strong winds and heavy rain, causing at least two deaths, widespread damage and cancelled flights. Kong-Rey was one of two top-level (160 mph sustained winds) Cat 5 typhoons in the Pacific simultaneously last week; a highly unusual concurrence.

Does this omission not seem bizarre to you? That the BBC’s point-man on Environment, Roger Harrabin, should deliver a 30-seconds voicepiece about climate change from a live hurricane zone without once even ironically mentioning the extreme weather event occurring outside the hotel bar?

The IPCC conclusions are both alarming but also comforting, in that they still offer the world’s governments twenty years in which to reduce emissions (at a time when many countries are complacently proposing to increase them) into the mid-century, before we have to start worrying next about “2 degrees”; with a (frankly unachievable) target of zero by 2050. And again, sea-level rise and “1-in-10 years heatwaves” are presented as the main consequences of failure. (We have had three heatwave years running here in Europe, and certainly six since 70,000 people died in 2003. 2018 was the hottest summer ever in California too.)

This is insanity. Two reasons:

1 the “pre-industrial” baseline, from whence temperatures are said to have risen by “1 degree”, appears to have no definition, but was said on the BBC to be “the past 100 years”. By 1918, the industrial era had already been in train for over 150 years. Taking 1750 as the baseline, roughly when Watt and Newcomen were building steam engines heated by coal, based on tree-ring and ice-core data the global mean temperature has already increased by 1.8 per cent, according to the world-renowned climate scientists posting under the collective pseudonym “Sam Carana”, on Arctic-news.blogspot.com.

2 “Sam Carana” further point out, the IPCC data is based on a flawed methodology, measuring global temperature at sea-level over both land and sea. Measured on the more standard 2-meter land contour, where most of us live, you get a higher number – 2.3 degrees. In addition, the global mean temperature is not the number we most need to fear: it obviously includes both the lowest and the highest temperatures measured everywhere, summer and winter, by day and night. But it’s not the mean that kills you! The average hottest temperature, i.e. the average of temperatures recorded at midday, in summer, may have already risen by as much as 4 degrees. That, too, is the increase in the average annual temperature in the Arctic region, where anomalies of up to 35 degrees were being observed last winter.

There are still Posts on Arctic News offering us 10.2 degrees of warming by 2026; an obvious rapid extinction-level event unprecedented in the history of life on earth.

Nor does the IPCC report – yet again – take much cognizance of the perhaps 60 different “feedback loops”, mechanisms for more abrupt warming that are already being triggered, or are on the verge. Arctic methane is obviously one, with the recent discovery that the permafrost layer, rapidly thawing, and a source of methane in itself, may be capping huge reserves underground, to add to the 100 Gt in the ocean. News that 1.5 degrees would allow us to save some coral reefs might comfort spear-fishers, but the fish will be long gone by 2050.

And in a peculiar statement, the arch-prophet of global warming, James Hanson, is quoted as saying:

“1.5C gives young people and the next generation a fighting chance of getting back to the Holocene or close to it. That is probably necessary if we want to keep shorelines where they are and preserve our coastal cities.”

“Probably”? But our shorelines are already being inundated! Miami, San Francisco, the Carolinas… Dakar, the Maldive Islands, Fiji… many, many places are already experiencing sea-level rise due mainly to water expanding as it warms, bringing flooding misery to urban areas at high tide. Desalination is weakening the Gulf Stream. Warmer water is being pushed into the Arctic ocean. The circumpolar jetstream wind is becoming chaotic. The icefields are melting at an alarming rate, and will go on melting even if we bring industrial civilization to a grinding halt by 2050, as unless we can rapidly remove the carbon from the atmosphere and find somewhere to put it, that 1.75 degrees is already baked-in!

Probably.

Except for another of those little feedbacks, the loss of the global dimming effect produced by pollution from all our industrial output would lead to runaway warming, starting within days.

We should be preparing, not for a long battle with the energy producers and citizens outraged by limits on their consumption, but for social and economic, meteorological chaos. Perhaps we already are, as States appear to be adopting more and more repressive models of governance.

But, as with the reporting from South Korea this morning, no-one is even noticing that it’s raining outside.