The Pumpkin – Issue 64: Trump’s ultimate stay out of jail card… Nobody normal… Breaking the Family China… Hurricane watch – GW: Pick me up and whirl me around!… Buzzfeed News.

“He had already opined that a sitting President cannot be indicted for federal crimes.”

Trump’s ultimate stay out of jail card

The news that broke from Washington on Friday evening was neither news, nor really breaking, which implies something unexpected had happened.

The Congressional committee vetting the Presidential nomination for the vacant seat on the Supreme Court had voted, as everyone expected, to send the name of Judge Brett Kavanaugh forward to the Senate for ratification.

The Republican-controlled Senate.

Mr Kavanaugh, as everyone now knows, had been accused by multiple women of various sexual assaults, including participating in gang-rapes of drugged sophomores while at Yale, supposedly one of America’s finest Ivy League institutions.

By dint of allowing only one complainant to make her case before the committee, a Dr Blasey Ford, the bullyboys of the Congress avoided the need for further embarrassing hearings. Given the proximity of mid-term elections, it was all to be done on one day.

Kavanaugh himself described the proceedings as “a national disgrace” and (Trump’s line) a Democrat plot – there being nothing like a judge’s summing up to nobble a jury, especially in a case against himself.

Kavanaugh is also reputedly an alcoholic. When asked in the hearing if he had ever passed out through drink, an obvious disqualifier, he shot back insolently at his (female) Democrat questioner: “No, have you?”

Indeed, much of his emotionally overwrought evidence to the committee, some of which is already being dissected in the media as false, and his reliance on his churchgoing family as an alibi – (he claimed his little daughter had asked him to “pray for the woman, daddy”, at which point the entire female population of the planet collectively threw up) – suggested he was not really suitable to be hearing cases in the highest court in the land, but has an immature personality, an overly religiose affiliation and an overentitled, Ivy League view of the world.

Oh, and he’s probably a bit of a liar, no.

Surely, with these mounting accusations hanging over him, any honorable candidate would at least have offered to recuse himself, rather than bring the court into disrepute, with the possibility of multiple inquiries and suspicions continuing into the far future? The court, I suppose, that already contains Judge Clarence Thomas, who has labored under accusations of sexual impropriety for years.

Why would anyone in future respect the verdicts of such a flawed institution?

Not unlike his nominator, Mr Trump, who stands accused by no fewer than 19 women of sexual contact (he says it’s four), and who has almost certainly committed further criminal offences in using campaign funds to buy off “kiss-and-tell” stories from other women, yet has accused the four women who have come forward so far to testify against Judge Kavanaugh as being liars in the pay of Clinton’s Democrats.

Oh, please Donald, put a sock in it.

Sadly, the other judges on the bench don’t get a say in whether or not this plausibly slimy individual gets to bring the reputation of the court waltzing into the realms of la-la land.

In view of the lack of “corroborating” witnesses, who hadn’t been invited, and under severe pressure from the President, the committee was able to shrug off the perfectly believable accusation, arguing that while Dr Ford was probably being truthful, she could not prove it was the 17-year-old Kavanaugh who had attempted to rape her at a school dance; although she had testified under oath that she was “100 per cent” sure.

Mr Trump has been incredibly fortunate. Few Presidents get to nominate two partisan conservative judges in their first 600 days in office. There was, to be sure, something fishy about the resignation of Judge Anthony Kennedy, since Supreme Court judges are appointed for life, and he is still very much alive.

But for Trump, who knew nothing much else about him, notwithstanding his frequent protestations that the judge is “a wonderful man”, there was something special about Kavanaugh.

He had already opined that a sitting President cannot be indicted for federal crimes.

Trump’s lifelong modus operandi has been to commit quasi-criminal acts and then to divert attention from them by blame-shifting onto others, or by arguing that even if he had done something bad, others had done worse; or failing that, simply by muddying the waters. If he can, he will engineer things so that he cannot be easily prosecuted – as with his serial dismissals of FBI agents and his threats to withdraw security clearances from individuals who could testify against him.

His final getout has always, of course, been to buy off his accusers.

He is unintelligent, it’s true, and poorly informed, but he has low cunning in spades. From the moment of his dubious election Trump set off around the country, starring in rabble-rousing rallies at least once a week, pandering to the worst instincts of his supporters.

Through his rambling speeches, he carefully set up a number of “straw men”: his long-gone opponent, “Crooked” Hillary Clinton – no evidence of crimes has been laid at her door, but the crowd still likes to chant the old slogan from the campaign trail, “Lock her up”. The Democratic party, forever plotting against him. The lying press, the “enemy of the people” (except for outlets he likes, Fox News, the Cartoon Channel, and so on.) The bumbling Intelligence services, always getting everything wrong.

And even the law enforcement community: the FBI, and the Justice Department. They’ve all been a big letdown, are traitors, and maybe there are conflicts of interest, who knows?

So that whenever he needs something, he can blame any setbacks on the phantom conspiracy against him, the Deep State. And, by extension, claim that women who come forward with credible allegations of sexual assault are merely plotting with the Democrats or Hillary Clinton, or the “fake news” media, to destroy Donald Trump: the revered object of his dumbfucks’ disillusionment with the American Dream he pretends to embody.

It’s classic Mein Kampf tactics, but not everyone has read that whiny little prison book, and thinks instead there must be something in what their President says.

His endorsement of Judge Kavanaugh has, as he has made abundantly clear, nothing whatever to do with the man’s record as a judge – indeed, it’s not really clear: Kavanaugh has refused to allow his ten thousand pages of court records to be taken into consideration.

If you went for a top job and insisted on redacting your CV with no explanation, how far would you get?

It is instead entirely consistent with Trump’s frenetic campaign to discredit any and everyone involved in the multiple investigations of treason, obstruction of justice, egregious breaches of Foreign Emoluments law, conspiring with a foreign power to fix an election and lesser, mainly financial, crimes against him, his family, and his campaign team

Desperate to make them go away, by his frankly inappropriate partisan interventions the President has succeeded in polarizing public opinion around the issue of this really rather inappropriate judge character, and his refusal to back down, despite the risk of dragging the already tarnished image of the Supreme Court of the world’s leading nation into the gutter, purely out of personal pride.

Worse, in the view of The Pumpkin, is that the storm surrounding the allegations of abusive and inappropriate sexual conduct in his college days, allegations that are truthfully hard to stand up, is possibly obscuring many other reasons why this sanctimonious, overprivileged little redfaced shit ought not to take his place on the bench.

There must be a question mark over his professional credentials, his career record. But nobody seems to be interested in his legal qualifications while the sex thing, that was frankly years ago, is still swirling around.

In the 2017 case of Garza v. Hargan, Kavanaugh – an evangelical Christian – was the standout judge ruling against the right of a 17-year-old immigrant, anonymised as Jane Doe, to consult a doctor about an abortion, despite abortion being legal in Texas to 20 weeks; and despite a prior circuit court ruling that she should have the abortion.

The girl had been forcibly taken into protective custody and was being held against her will by anti-abortionists who were preventing her from receiving medical attention unless she agreed to carry the baby to term.

Kavanaugh’s position was that they should wait while a prospective adoptive mother was found, and he deliberately set the next hearing for a date in the 19th week of her pregnancy. (MSNBC reports.) His Christian and pro-life supporters have described the decision as “compassionate”. (Politico)

The Pumpkin would venture to suggest a different adjective.

Barbaric.

Kavanaugh, who is only 53, may now join Trump’s previous nomination, Judge Neil Gorsuch, on the bench for life. Gorsuch, who has been the career-long protege of the multibillionaire oil-to-entertainments mogul Phil Anschutz, is notorious for having never once ruled in favor of an individual appellate against a corporation.

“The case took seven years and went before seven judges but in the end, Detroit native Alphonse Maddin celebrated victory against the delivery firm that had fired him for seeking warmth after his truck broke down on a dangerously cold winter night. Of the seven judges, six sided with Maddin but one found in favor of the company and wrote a scathing dissent.”

Mr Justice Gofuck.

That version of the story ignores that a) it was 30C below freezing when Maddin was running out of diesel after his rig broke down in the snow, so he detached the trailer and set off in the cab to find some gas; and b) he’d been told to wait for a rescue truck, but it couldn’t get through, so he acted on initiative. Had his engine cut out, he would have frozen to death within half an hour.

And yet the anal retentive Gorsuch, cosseted all his life by another man’s money, who has likely never done a day’s labor other than jerking his own prick, could not bring himself to rule with judicial wisdom and commonsense in favor of the working man and against an unfair contract of employment. Why not? Working men built the goddam country.

The Supreme Court is truly compromised if – when – Kavanaugh is confirmed. It already contains Judge Clarence Thomas, accused of sexual impropriety against a female clerk. In his case, too, a woman’s reputation was regarded as not worth putting ahead of that of an important man – especially a black one.

Justice? You’re kidding. It’s about power. Corporate power. Male power.

But at least Trump can sleep easier, knowing that if he is indicted for crimes of money-laundering, sanctions-busting and racketeering, as soon as the case reaches the Supreme Court he’s home free.

What Special Counsel, Bob Mueller will make of it is anybody’s guess.

http://www.politico.com/story/2018/07/06/trump-supreme-court-pick-kavanaugh-immigrant-abortion-teen-700856

PS in a dramatic development, a woman protestor cornered the occasionally moderate Rep. Sen. Geoff Flake in the elevator and persuaded him to vote against the confirmation unless there was a further investigation of the allegations (and other matters) against Kavanaugh. Backed into a corner, knowing that 60% of the women in America would otherwise vote Democrat in November, Trump ordered the FBI to look into it. Sen. McConnell then imposed a rigid 7-day deadline on the investigation, virtually guaranteeing nothing much will come of it.

Watch, space.

x

“Christie called up Trump’s campaign manager, Corey Lewandowski, to ask why this critical job (to attend a legally required White House briefing for senior staff of all parties involved in planning the Presidential race) had not been handed to someone who actually knew something about government.

“‘We don’t have anyone,’ said Lewandowski.”

xNobody normal

An entertaining Long Read feature in The Guardian (27 Sept.) by Michael Lewis, extracted from his, the latest of many Donald demolition books and one I shall certainly have to add to my collection next week, takes us on the bumpy, scary flight through the critical two-month transition between Trump’s unexpected election in November, 2016 and his assuming the role of worst President in world history, ever.

Anyone who still doubts the truth of that assertion after all that’s been written about him and wants to give him the benefit of their kindhearted doubt, should understand: it’s not that malicious and misinformed liberal media hacks conspiring with sour-grapes Hillary and the Democrats have claimed without evidence that Trump was totally not expecting to win the election, not competent to run the country and knew less than nothing about what was supposed to happen if he did win – and wouldn’t listen to anyone who tried to tell him, and still doesn’t.

No. It is that Trump really was totally not expecting to win the election, actually is less competent to run the country than practically anyone you could think of, he really did know less than nothing about what was supposed to happen if he won – and he absolutely wouldn’t listen to anyone who tried to tell him, and still doesn’t.

And if you feel like scoffing and hooting, don’t be silly, nobody that unprepared would run for President, he’s a successful business tycoon handling major projects, there must have been people in the Republican party who knew how to run a campaign, they would never have adopted as a candidate, a 70-year-old, subliterate, fourth-grade spoilt brat, a superannuated, pussy-grabbing playboy who can barely tie his shoelaces, a lazy “fuckin’ moron” who would fail to impress most sentient humans he employed, a Great Negotiator who would wander out of summit meetings forgetting who he was talking to, and a man has told over 5 thousand recorded lies in 600 days, well, I’m afraid you’re too good for this world.

This book will add tonnes to the groaning weight of evidence that the ignorant, arrogant, thin-skinned and unreconstructed narcissist, Trump was and remains wholly unfit to remain in the White House; where in recent weeks, aided and abetted only by the scheming college vampire and lifelong racist, Stephen Miller – one of the very few slithy toves left from the alt-right swamp of the original Bannon “kill everything” squad – he has set about comprehensively severing America from its global moorings and sailing it rudderless into the unknown.

No wonder he’s such a fan of Brexit.

And the main reason he is unfit, judging by the narrative of Lewis’ book, is that he failed utterly to pull around himself the security of a team of competent men and women who might not have had to submit to his grotesque and insecure demands for constant grovelling adulation; his biting sarcasm and bullying, his screaming tantrums and refusal to listen to any advice but that of the little halfwitted Fox News anchors yarping incessantly on his TV screens – or occasionally that of the incompetent bunglers, religious maniacs, sexual and financial deviants, wife-beaters and snakes-in-the-grass he did manage to appoint.

Which was apparently almost anyone who could write in with an actual CV, or to whom the party owed a favor.

You could walk into almost any department of the US government and hear people asking the same question: where were these people who were meant to be running the place?

Formerly a State prosecutor, Christie, the heavyweight Governor of New Jersey, in 2005 had put Jared Kushner’s father away for five years after a trial on tax charges, from which the minor detail emerged that Charlie had engaged in a little witness-tampering, blackmailing his brother-in-law, a prosecution witness in the case, by compromising him with a prostitute in a motel room and, when he wouldn’t co-operate, sending the tape to his own sister.

It kind of set the tone for what was to follow.

Whatever the justice of the sentence, Kushner Jr had to swallow green bile when Christie, a long-term “friend” of the Donald, stepped in to lend his considerable avoirdupois to rescuing the campaign from electoral oblivion; especially when the Access Hollywood “pussy grabbing” tape emerged. His presence caused a certain amount of tension in a White House denuded of expertise, know-how and useful contacts, already stricken with panic. He didn’t really fit in.

Christie had to contend not only with opposition from the family, but with Trump’s legendary eccentricities; one of which is a lifelong belief that, whosever it actually belongs to, the money is his. Lewis tells the amazing story of how, summoned to the private Trump floors in New York’s gilded tower – Trump hadn’t apparently yet realized that as President he would be obliged to work and live in a cramped little four-storey slum in stuffy Washington DC, that he would never be allowed to develop, or affix his name over the pofrtico – Steve Bannon stepped from the gold-paneled elevator to find the boss red-faced and screaming in fury at Christie.

“Oi wants me fuckin’ minney!” The Pumpkin’s management style leaves a little to be desired.

Obama’s preparations to hand over the government had been superb … What could go wrong?

The rule is that, to ensure a smooth handover of power, the top 500 jobs in government need to be filled by the incoming team before the day of the inauguration. While the Government covers expenses – offices, cars, phones – the candidate has to pay the staff out of donor funds. Trump didn’t know that. He didn’t seem to be aware even of the need for staff: he had always run a lean business.

He had not, of course, put one cent of his own money into the campaign, despite the lies he repeatedly told the adoring dumbfucks at his Nuremberg rallies. Nor did his HR department actually know 500 people, or indeed any with the experience to assume those positions, other than the ones working for Obama, who were now streaming out of the building.

Notwithstanding, his fundraisers had raised a budget of several million dollars for the purpose of staffing the administration. Yet President-elect, Orange Chump seems to have mistaken the funds for his own personal bank account. Lewis writes:

“Bannon stepped off the elevator to find Christie seated on a sofa, being hollered at. Trump was apoplectic, yelling: You’re stealing my money! You’re stealing my fucking money! What the fuck is this? Seeing Bannon, Trump turned on him and screamed: Why are you letting him steal my fucking money? Bannon and Christie together set out to explain to Trump, federal law. … To which Trump replied: Fuck the law. I don’t give a fuck about the law. I want my fucking money.”

And that, dear Trumpologist, absoltely puts it in the proverbial nutshell: “I don’t give a fuck about the law, I want my fucking money”.

It is the perfect distillation of the entire gameplan of the permatanned bankrupt criminal entity millions of opiate-deadened Americans, gun-toting bigots and religious crazies chose to become the Leader of the Free World: a man unfree, trapped between the law and his desperate need for money; a man deeply in hock to the Russian mob.

People don’t understand that a bungled transition becomes a bungled presidency.”

You see, he is insane. Not just a bit rough around the edges, understandably lacking detailed knowledge of the demands of the job, the law, government, the constitution – in a typically feeble report this morning, the BBC’s John Sopoor referred to Trump as a “politician”, but he isn’t and never has been and never will be that.

Polticking is not his way of doing things; which is basically, to break people’s arms and legs if he doesn’t get whatever he wanted, that he just lost interest in. He’s only ever played at being a wealthy business buffoon who inherited and lost money and didn’t pay much attention in school, a bullshit billionaire (he once let slip to daughter Ivanka that he was $8 billion in debt – see the interview at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hCer9g-fh8o).

A tragically flawed character? No, more clinically non compos mentis. Psychologically profoundly damaged. Incapable of rational cognition; lacking boundaries, self-awareness or moral scruple; a sociopath driven entirely by his basal ganglia – the “reptilian brain”.

Nobody normal behaves like that, a child stamping its foot forever, from whom you’ve just taken a loaded revolver in case someone gets shot, and he wants it back; and he will never forget you did that.

Do they?

The Fifth Risk by Michael Lewis is published by Penguin Books on 02 October. Order now! I have….

http://www.theguardian.com/news/2018/sep/27/this-guy-doesnt-know-anything-the-inside-story-of-trumps-shambolic-transition-team

 

Smashing the Family China

Possibly the oddest war in history may be about to break out.

Relations between far-distant China and Sweden (“Sweden! Who knew, Sweden!” – © D Trump) have descended into a series of unflattering tit-for-tat exchanges.

The two nations are yelling at one another over a strange incident in which a family of Chinese tourists, we are led to believe, turned up a day early at the Stockholm hotel they’d booked, and being refused a room, insisted on camping overnight in the lobby.

After failing to persuade them to go away and come back the next day, staff called the police, who escorted the Chinese outside. The visitors then began kicking-off and screaming in the street at the top of their lungs, protesting they were being kidnapped.

The son later made a complaint that the police had roughed them up, and the embassy intervened with a fullblown diplomatic rebuke to the Swedish government, which had enough problems at the time as it was during an election period in which the Western media were agog to see if the world’s most liberal nation was about to turn fascist.

A deluge of anti-Chinese memes from the public, and a poorly judged ten-minute satirical slot on mainstream Swedish TV alluding to the eating of dogs and other unsavory Oriental habits, have further served to rack-up the tension.

The Washington Post comments:

“Some observers suspect ulterior motives. Analysts see a link between the Chinese government’s vehement reaction and the fact that Sweden has been pushing for the release of Gui Minhai, a China-born publisher with Swedish citizenship who has been detained since January after publishing unflattering books about Chinese leaders.”

It certainly looks like a put-up job, involving a cast of what poor mad Alex Jones of Infowars would undoubtedly term ‘crisis actors’. The Chinese are ludicrously sensitive, given their size and growing economic power, their four thousand years of culture, to any hint of criticism. Indeed, internet memes have been taken down, of Supreme Leader Xi being compared with the chubby, lovable Pooh Bear Disney character, to whom he bears an obvious resemblance. If he can’t take a little affectionate ribbing, what hope is there for continuing reform?

More seriously, the rate of imprisonment or worse of critics labelled as dissidents: human rights lawyers, artists and journalists, even political opponents branded without much evidence as corrupt, certainly not as corrupt as their accusers, has been increasing rapidly.

Concerns are being raised over the fate of China’s leading international movie star, Fan Binbing, who has not been seen in public for several weeks; while news of her birthday, normally celebrated by millions of fans on internet sites such as Weibo, has been suppressed.

The Cleveland Courier reported:

“She was booked to star with Penelope Cruz in the Hollywood film “355” and has a role in the upcoming Bruce Willis-Adrien Brody feature ‘Air Strike’. Yet for nearly three months, Fan hasn’t been seen or heard from in public in any verifiable way. One of China’s wealthiest entertainers, Fan pulled down tens of millions of dollars for her roles, along with handsome sums in appearance fees and product endorsements. Some of those contracts may have landed her in hot water with the authorities.”

While The Guardian story points to what appears to be some private jealousy on the part of powerful State officials at her growing influence and wealth – and possible involvement in “a public scandal over actors underreporting their earnings”, which she had previously denied.

“An article in the official Securities Daily in August said she had been ‘placed under control and will accept legal judgement’. The story was quickly removed, and any mentions of it were scrubbed from Chinese social media along with Fan’s name.”

It’s pretty disturbing when someone so prominent can simply be made to disappear. (We’ll assume she hasn’t just been kidnapped by Kim Jong-un to make a picture in Pyongyang (that has happened before!)).

It illustrates that China is not really the great new consumer society opening up to the world, as the PR image portrays it. In reality, it remains the nasty, small-minded, thuggish dictatorship it always was, riddled with corruption, illegality and human rights abuses at the highest levels.

And they eat dogs.

 

Hurricane watch

GW: Pick me up and whirl me around!

The hurricane/typhoon/cyclone (all the same thing) season is well under way. Weather-watchers in Australia are bogling at the emergence of Tropical Storm Liua, expected to become a Cat 2 cyclone bringing heavy rain to the Solomon Islands, as it is “exceptionally rare” for a southwest Pacific cyclone to develop as early as September, the season not normally beginning in the southern hemisphere until November. In fact it hasn’t happened for 70 years. The forecast track has it possibly affecting north island, New Zealand later next week. (Various regional news outlets)

‘Enormous’ Typhoon Trami seen from the International Space Station, 26 Sept.

Typhoon Trami is no longer at the moment a ‘supertyphoon’ as windspeeds have dropped from 160 to about 105 mph owing to a replacement of the eyewall, a 30 mph dry wind shear and the churning up of colder water from depth. However, it’s enormous – still 400 miles from Okinawa, it’s already causing heavy rainfall as far north as Japan’s southerly main island of Hokkaido, where it’s expected to arrive possibly as a strengthened Cat 2 or even 3 on Sunday with potential for 20 inches or more of rain. (Wunderground/CNN)

Post-tropical Storm Leslie is puzzling everyone as it is stuck, going round in circles over the Gulf Stream in mid-Atlantic, picking up energy but no rotational organization. Wunderground’s Dr Jeff Masters is still expecting it to do something more interesting, windspeeds strengthening at least temporarily to at least Cat 2 hurricane force. The forecast tracks are a blur but suggest some southwestward movement toward Bermuda. “We may be dealing with Leslie for a long while to come”, writes Jeff.

Nearing the Lesser Antilles, off-on Tropical Storm Kirk has reorganized. “Kirk’s structure improved on Wednesday morning, with a growing convective core and improving outflow at upper levels. Kirk is traveling over warm waters (sea surface temperatures around 29°C or 84°F) that extend to some depth, and wind shear is less than 10 knots, so Kirk might intensify a bit more and approach (or perhaps reach) hurricane strength by Wednesday night or Thursday. Kirk has only a brief window of time for intensification, though, as it will soon encounter the wall of wind shear that’s kept the Caribbean free of tropical cyclones in recent weeks.” (Wunderground)

Update Friday: Tropical storm warnings were flying on Thursday afternoon for the Lesser Antilles islands of Barbados, St. Lucia, Dominica, Martinique, and Guadeloupe as Tropical Storm Kirk cruised west-northwest at 14 mph through the island chain. With top winds of just 50 mph at 2 pm EDT Thursday, Kirk was primarily a heavy rain threat, with up to 10” of rain expected across much of the region. Kirk’s center will pass over or very near the island of Martinique by late afternoon Tuesday.  (Wunderground)

Update Saturday: TS Kirk dumps between 6 and 10 inches of rain on Barbados in under 15 hours

After reaching Cat 4, Hurricane Rosa has made its northwestwards turn outward of the Mexico coast and is progressing at 14 mph towards Baja California. “Life-threatening surf” conditions are predicted. Wunderground’s view is it will weaken over the coast before heading inland, dropping 2-3 in. of rain over the Arizona desert, pushing yet another storm front up through the midwestern “corn belt” into Minnesota and Michigan, where they must be getting fed up with this. Amateur weather watcher, MrMBB333 points out, it is quite an unusual track for an eastern Pacific hurricane to take.

Update Friday: Rosa is rapidly strengthening about 550 miles southwest of the southern tip of Mexico’s Baja Paninsula. With top sustained winds of 105 mph Rosa is feeding on very warm waters and a moist surrounding atmosphere amid light wind shear less than 10 knots. These conditions favor Rosa becoming the seventh major hurricane of the season. (Wunderground) Massive flooding already affecting Cabo San Lucas, southern Baja.

Invest 98-L meanwhile – “zombie Florence” – fell apart over North Carolina, limiting rainfall to just another inch or so. The remnants are heading back out to sea. (ABC News/Wunderground)

Infared satellite image showing Zorbas’ distinct hurricane “eye” as it heads toward Crete, Saturday 29th.

And in Europe, Medicane Zorbas… Greek authorities have issued a Red alert for Kefalonia and the SE. “An intense cyclone is confirmed – severe wind and life-threatening flash floods are expected in some areas.” (Severe-weather.eu). Satellite imagery shows sustained winds of 85 mph gusting to over 100 mph around a formal “hurricane” eye. Such an organized cyclone is very rare in Europe but consistent with the general misbehavior of cyclones in 2018.

Medicane Zorbas arriving off Kytheria island.

Friday update: Gale force winds have already battered Greece this week, forcing authorities to shut down ferries and schools and causing flight delays. The strong winds toppled trees on to power lines in the northern suburbs of Athens, with the fire department saying it received more than 350 calls to remove debris. Schools remain shut. On the western island of Kefalonia, schools were evacuated near a wildfire that was being fanned by the strong winds. The last medicane in Greece, dubbed Cyclone Numa, killed 21 people. (from Metro report)

Update Saturday: the wildfire in Kefalonia is burning “out of control”, fanned by severe storm force winds. (Keep Talking Greece news)

More “messy sky” syndrome. The skyscape here changes with bewildering rapidity, yet there’s little wind.

Canada: 21 Sept. 6 confirmed tornadoes, one at F3 (out of 5), touched down in the Ottawa area causing severe damage and lengthy power outages. The federal agency says the unexpected tornadoes — 3 in eastern Ontario and 3 in western Quebec – reached gusts of up to 265 kilometres per hour as they destroyed houses, buildings and power lines. Several people were injured. Ottawa U. climatologist, Paul Beckwith says the shifting jetstream is changing the normal distribution of tornadoes in Canada and the USA.

Are they spying on us? Blobby clouds materiallze, grow fat and then dissipate again, vanishing back into the ether. Is there more water vapor in the atmosphere these days, thanks to warming?

UK: Is a giant, 1200-mile wide, 85mph storm out in the Atlantic going to arrive over these isles next week? Are we being told?

Here in Boglington-on-Sea we have wall-to-wall clear blue sky and unseasonally warm early Autumn conditions; although a gossamer-thin layer of very high altus cloud can just be made out via polarizing lenses, filtering the sunlight a little. Nevertheless, we say nyah-nah! to the naysayers. (I can’t decide whether to buy a home weather station or a pollution monitor, financially it’s a toss-up. But it’s The Pumpkin’s birthday next week, so we’ll have to decide. Generally nowadays he has to buy his own presents.)

Friday update: blue sky again today – but those weird little blobs (imagine a 9-year-old kid’s drawing of clouds) and messy sky syndrome returned yesterday afternoon, and again yesterday morning, and again on Saturday (lower, right) when the sky went from clear blue, to a few shining blobs, to looming masses of blobs, to completely clear again in under an hour. Some jet trails did not appear to be attached to any aircraft we could see or hear. Take it from me, there’s some higher intelligence operating here, of wot we wit not.

In case anyone believes the Express is a reliable source of weather information, today’s headline screams of “SNOW Forecast!” as an “Arctic blast” hits Scotland. Further in to the story it turns out the Met office says a cold, windy, rainy front is expected over the weekend. Turns out, it’s only the bookmakers who are taking bets on “a flake or two”. I.o.w., more Express bullshitty clickbait.

Pictured, right: we’ve had more than two months of these mysterious ‘blobby clouds’ like a child’s drawing, often appearing low in the sky on sunny days in ones and twos, growing and clustering together, often in serried rows or forming “trains”, before vanishing just as mysteriously leaving a clear blue sky.

Or is it always like this, and your Uncle Bogler, the man with the cameraphone, is going mad?

 

 

 

Article in progress, about the elections in Brazil and the threat posed by the front runner to the rainforest

The ends of the earth (provisional title – do we really want to run this here? Ed.)

“Deforestation rates have been trending mostly upward since 2012 and will surely escalate if a raft of proposed laws and regulatory changes to weaken environmental protections are enacted. Brazil lost 2,682 square miles of Amazonian forests in 2017. That is almost nine times the size of New York City and 78 percent above the government’s own target for meeting its obligations under the Paris accord.” (NYT Opinion piece: The Amazon on the Brink?)

“To his credit, (President)Temer pledged in Paris to cut his country’s carbon dioxide emissions 37 percent below 2005 levels by 2025. His actions since then tell a different story. Last year, the Environment Ministry’s budget was cut nearly in half, as part of a national austerity plan amid Brazil’s punishing recession. … (Elections, 07 Oct): “The current front-runner, Jair Bolsonaro, is a climate-change skeptic who has been called “the tropical Trump.” He has threatened to take Brazil out of the Paris climate accord.” (NYT)

Around 45 forest defenders and environmentalists are being murdered every year by corrupt logging interests, soya and palm oil planters; recently there appears to have been a genocide of a native tribe getting in the way of mining rights.

Is there any hope for the Amazon, one of our principal oxygenators and carbon “sinks” – any more than for endangered rhino, the African elephant or the leopard, perennial victims of the insane trade in bogus “harmonious” Chinese medicines?

(Maybe the story doesn’t need more elaboration? We get the picture. Ed.)

(New York Times report http://www.nytimes.com/2018/09/26/opinion/amazon-climate-change-deforestation.html?rref=collection%2Fsectioncollection%2Fopinion&action=click&contentCollection=opinion&region=stream&module=stream_unit&version=latest&contentPlacement=5&pgtype=sectionfront&wpmm=1&wpisrc=nl_todayworld)

 

Buzzfeed News

A Bee-feature in the Guardian (28 Sept.) gives some hope for a saner world.

With one in every 200 people keeping bees, Slovenia may be the world’s most bee-friendly country.

The first country in Europe to ban neonicotinoids, its citizens are encouraged to plant bee-friendly flowers and shrubs. In the capital, Ljubljana, one of the cleanest cities in Europe, the Bee Path project “encourages citizens to plant nectar-bearing flowers, hands out seeds, organises tours of bee-related locations, and supports the faculty of architecture to design new forms of city beehive.

“Grass is cut later to prolong the blooming of flowers. The use of glyphosate herbicide for fighting weeds is prohibited in public areas. An educational bee house was erected in the botanical gardens to research the lives of urban bees. School beekeeping clubs are booming. There is even a bee-based kindergarten.” A special “rapid response” team is on call to go out and transport rogue swarms back to their hives.

As a result of these and other measures, bee populations in Slovenia remain healthy and no cases of colony collapse disorder have been reported recently.

Are you reading about it, Mr Gove? Hello, mayors Khan, Burnham and others? How about your cities? (The useless teenage masturbators who run Sheffield council, where secretive contractors are cutting down all the inconvenient trees and people have been imprisoned for protesting, might like to know that in Ljubljana alone, “There are 65,000 registered trees, and authorities now only plant nectar-bearing trees.”

The Pumpkin admits, he has hosted almost no bees in his little garden in West Wales this year, despite encouraging the rampant growth of flowering Sedum and not trimming his laurel hedge. And very few individual bees, although still quite a wide range of species, has he seen on his walks either.

Frankly, given that there is no arable farming here, usually to blame for bee loss, he has no explanation other than climate change disrupting the seasonal breeding cycles of plants and their pollinators.

Could try harder, Britain.

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How to stop a hurricane. (Warning: You will need $40 billion a year)… Jumpin’ Jack’s Not Very Flash…Stormy Weather… GW: “Splish splash, I was takin’ a bath, ‘long about a Saturday nite”… Censorship news…

Quote of the week

“One cubic metre of air at a temperature of 30°C can hold about 30 grams of water vapour. A cubic kilometre of such air contains the same energy as the Hiroshima bomb…. Hurricanes can be hundreds of kilometres in diameter and so contain tens of thousands of Hiroshimas.”
-Dr Stephen Salter, writing in Arctic News (14 Sept.).

How to stop a hurricane. (Warning: You will need $40 billion a year…)

Stephen’s topic is hurricane mitigation. He reckons that by using 600 times the mean output of all the electricity generated in the USA over 200 days, you could cool the volume of seawater it takes to kickstart a season’s worth of Cape Verde Atlantic hurricanes by 2C, thus probably preventing them from forming (unless the water is even warmer…).

A more practical way of preventing hurricanes then would be to spend $40 billion a year on building and maintaining a fleet of 100 ships specially designed and equipped to spray saltwater droplets of a particular size into the air, causing hurricanes to turn into ‘gentle tropical storms’. That’s just the Atlantic, by the way.

For those of us who remember his entertaining columns containing madly logical ideas in New Scientist magazine, the name of the late ‘Daedalus’ comes to mind.

“Comrade, famous spire is 123 meters! Who knew?”

 

“Now we know. He’s the real ‘little rocket-man’…”

Stormy Weather

So, “Full Disclosure”, the short-awaited memoirs of Ms Stephanie Clifford, aka Stormy Daniels, award-winning porno movie director, grande horizontale and Trump Nemesis, is hitting the stands about now and threatens to out-best-sell even last week’s Get Donny! best-seller, Bob Woodward’s fearless White House exposé, “Fear”.

Apart from the obligatory stories of her abused childhood, the key to rocketing sales of Stephanie’s tell-all tome is obviously going to be the more descriptive passages concerning That Night of seemingly not so steamy Passion at the Golf Club, and the exact dimensions of the priapic pussygrabber’s orange junk.

Reviewing the book, The Guardian‘s Tom McCarthy writes that Stormy reveals all in “excruciating detail”…

SPOILER ALERT

“She describes Trump’s penis as ‘smaller than average’ but ‘not freakishly small.’

‘He knows he has an unusual penis,’ Daniels writes. ‘It has a huge mushroom head. Like a toadstool… I lay there, annoyed that I was getting fucked by a guy with Yeti pubes and a dick like the mushroom character in Mario Kart…

‘It may have been the least impressive sex I’d ever had, but clearly, he didn’t share that opinion.’”

So now we know. He’s the real “little rocket-man”…

Presidential image (boingboing.com)

“Fear” on the other hand has had a lukewarm reception in Washington. Apparently, journos inside the Beltway are yawning, rather. There’s nothing the doyen of investigative journalists has dug up that tells them anything they – or we – didn’t already know.

And, opines Politico, since the Kennedy era, as expectations of the rectitude of the office-holders have waned over the years, we’ve learned that all Presidents are pretty inconsiderable people on the inside. Trump especially is benefiting from public neurasthenia: nobody cares how badly he behaves, how dangerously incompetent, capricious, corrupt, vindictive, money-obsessed, narcissistic and ignorant he might be, it’s all hard-wired into the political mindscape.

(It doesn’t bode well for Number 46, whoever that’s going to be….)

“…the combination of decades of disillusion, along with decades of Trump’s behavior hiding in plain sight, go a long way to explaining why Woodward’s merciless account has changed so little… Long before Trump, our would-be leaders began to strive to convince us not of their heroic stature, but their human dimensions.” (Politico Magazine)

The knowledge therefore that, to go with the Hobbit-like dimensions of his tiny hands and feet, the Leader of the Free World has a winkie like a button-mushroom and not much clue what to do with it; even banging a porn star while his undocumented new wife was still nursing their infant son, and being spanked on the bare bottom with a copy of Time magazine, might once have been Trump’s electoral undoing; not now.

Likely, the image will evoke feelings of maternal sympathy among the more matronly dumbfucks, and among those of his MAGA hat-wearing supporters for whom a very big gun collection has to substitute for whatever.

(Or a mushroom cloud? Ed.)

 

Retail news extra

Jumpin’ Jack’s Not So Flash

“The perfect metaphor for post-Brexit Britain: a chain of bog-standard discount stores where stuff comes pot-luck in crates.”

Tesco has opened the first of a chain of discount mini-supermarkets, branded ‘Jack’s’. The report in The Guardian says:

“Heavy rain and winds did not deter bargain-hungry shoppers on the opening day of Tesco’s new discount chain, Jack’s, with long queues to enter the store and the car park overflowing. At 10am on Thursday, the formal opening time, 150 people were waiting to enter the new supermarket in Chatteris, Cambridgeshire. The store is Tesco’s attempt to fend off the German discounters Aldi and Lidl.”

They got a free cupcake, and a jute bag-for-life. Grateful shoppers apparently then took the empty bag along to Aldi, down the street.

“Or we could just stand in the street and chuck groceries at you…”

What the report doesn’t really explain is why Tesco feels it needs to go to the extra expense of adding another chain of convenience stores to its existing stable of, er, convenience stores – and why, just to compete with Aldi and Lidl, it has given it a patronizingly downmarket name, weakening its own famous brand, and briefed its store design team to make it look as completely shitty as possible?

Why not just reduce your prices? It’s the perfect metaphor for post-Brexit Britain: a chain of bog-standard discount stores where stuff comes pot-luck in crates; a lowering of horizons to adapt to a dysphoric new world of food banks; of scrimping and saving and making-do for the down-at-heel.

The founder of Tesco, Jack Cohen would certainly recognize it. The son of Jewish migrants to the grim East End of London in the early 1900s, his first shops did away with doors, to make them – as his Wikipedia entry says – more like market stalls: a dog-eat-dog environment where, after leaving elementary school at 14, he survived on his wits.

Welcome to the future.

 

 

GW: “Splish splash, I was takin’ a bath, ‘long about a Saturday nite”

Your old Gran thinks you’ve probably heard enough about Hurricane Florence and Typhoon Mangkhut to last a month or two, as even the MSM (mainstream media) seems to have woken up to the synchronous superstorms as a sensational news story this past week.

So here are some of the less reported wild and wacky weather scenarios we’ve dug up from the litter of the past ten days:

Algeria: the city of Tebessa was underwater (12 Sept.) after flash-flooding during a torrential rainstorm washed away hundreds of cars. A child died and another is missing.

Turkey: 13th, a powerful storm dumped 147 mm rain in a day, caused flash-flooding in Bandirma, in the north of the country. Again, cars seem to have been the main victims. Is the planet telling us something?

Spain: the narrow streets of old medieval towns prove ideal for heavy rains to turn them into raging torrents. Several towns have been affected by flash-flooding since the 7th September. On the 14th, 50 mm rain fell on Malaga in under half-an-hour. Video has just been posted of a powerful storm that battered Granollers, north of Barcelona, on 7 Sept., felling trees and ripping off roofs. Intense rainfall brought flash-flooding to the city.

Climate & Extreme Weather News #136/ Indianfoodies website/

USA: as remnant hurricane Florence (42 dead) moves north, Virginia has been struck by destructive tornadoes – 1 dead. Up to 6 inches of rain flooded basements, stranded cars and prompted evacuations in two locations on the east side of Green Bay, Wisconsin, Monday night. There’s been severe flooding around Raleigh, Va. “Where these clusters of thunderstorms stall for a period of a few hours, localized flash flooding is likely, with rain rates of 1 to 4 inches per hour. If these clusters stall over parts of Iowa, southern Minnesota and southern Wisconsin, flash flooding might occur faster, given soil moisture remains high after last month’s flooding.” – The Weather Channel

Hurricane season news: Wunderground’s Bob Henson reports:

“…every ocean basin in the Northern Hemisphere is now running above average for accumulated cyclone energy … The Atlantic’s ACE is running 28% above average for this time of year, and the 10 named storms and 5 hurricanes in the Atlantic are both well ahead of average counts for this point in the season. … At least part of every ocean basin on Earth saw record-warm SSTs during August, according to NOAA’s monthly climate report issued on Monday.

(The Carolinas are still struggling with the aftermath of Florence, which broke all State records, dumping up to 33 inches of rain before moving north. Rivers are still rising, and the city of Wilmington (pop. 120,000) may be cut off for a second time since the weekend, requiring emergency supplies to be helicoptered in.) (Wunderground)

Nigeria: Mrs May’s raindancing has done the trick… 100 people have died during two weeks of intensive rainfall. Many areas have experience localized flash flooding, (while) wide areas of the country now face flooding from the country’s major rivers after long-term rainfall in Nigeria and river catchments in neighbouring countries caused the Niger and Benue rivers to rise to danger levels. (Edited from Floodlist report)

Office workers in Hong Kong thought they’d been hit by an earthquake.

Philippines: Over 70 dead and 50 missing after 135 mph Supertyphoon Mangkhut clipped the north of Luzon island; widespread crop and property damage. At least 4 people died after the storm made landfall again 80 miles from Hong Kong, where it blew the windows out of high-rise office blocks and rained papers off the desks. As of 17 September, Mangkhut had dissipated into a tropical depression and will continue to weaken. However parts of south west China and northern provinces of Vietnam could see intense rainfall and strong winds. (edited from Floodlist report – also, see CEWN #126 for video)

UK: Remnant Cat 1 hurricane Helene continued weakening rapidly along its forecast track, out of the Azores and up the Irish sea… feared windspeeds and rainfall totals failed to materialize over Ireland and western Britain. Unrelated, Storm Ali is, however, heading in off the north Atlantic 19 Sept. with forecast windspeeds of 80 mph. (Various sources)

Update: First of the season, Storm Ali brought winds gusting in the Scottish highlands to 115 mph. 2 people were killed, a woman in the Irish Republic when a caravan blew off a cliff; a workman in Northern Ireland when a tree fell on him. A number of people were injured by flying debris. Thousands of homes in Scotland without power.

A second storm is forecast for tomorrow, 20 Sept, further south, bringing up to 4 in. of rain and possible flooding to Wales; and another for Sunday 23rd. The words ‘atmospheric river’ have not passed the forecasters’ lips, but that is what the map looks like as the fragmented jetstream winds (175 mph) ferry a belt of rainstorms eastwards across the Atlantic through northern Europe.

Climate news:

“Bad things can happen when you’re talking about a storm this size. It’s called Mother Nature.” – So ran a tweet from the chump-in-chief, Trump, warning Carolinians to evacuate ahead of H. Florence. Think Progress website has a report of new research he won’t want to hear:

“The authors of a bombshell new analysis, ‘The human influence on Hurricane Florence,’ disagree (that it’s just ‘Mother Nature’). They find that human-caused global warming has supercharged the atmosphere so much that it is boosting the very worst of the projected rainfall totals by more than 50 percent. (And they were talking about 18 inches, not 33…)

“ThinkProgress asked coauthor Dr. Michael Wehner of Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBNL) whether ‘your analysis allows us to say the storm is more than just Mother Nature?’ He replied in an email:

“‘Indeed. The most important message from this (and previous) analyses is that “Dangerous climate change is here now!’

Local news:

After waiting until a quarter past one for the rain to ease off, Hunzi and I took the plunge before his bladder exploded.

Almost literally plunging: the brief lull ended within a few minutes and it came bucketing down again. Luckily I had my golfing umbrella, that I use to deflect passing traffic. Only my left sleeve bore the brunt.

On the way we passed the nearby river monitoring station, where I now realized why workmen had been so busy the past couple of weeks.

The new river level gauges they’ve installed will give the management authority an extra 6 feet to play with.

Should they need as much, I fear for my neighbours across the street, whose houses are 3 feet below road-level and were flooded out in a 2-day storm, June 2012. The rise in river level was down to a mistake at the hydro-power dam upstream, not to Mother Nature, so it hasn’t happened since. But….

There’s Something They’re Not Telling Us….

 

Yellowstone News: The Blessed Mary Greeley reports, the Steamboat geyser, biggest in the park, has gone off yet again – that’s the 19th time this year (17 Sept). Normally 1 or 2 times a year, if at all, the frequency is now roughly every 4-5 days and getting shorter, with longer and more violent outwellings.

20 Sept: Part of the Norris Junction area of the park has been closed to visitors, as another geyser, Ear Spring (‘A normally docile hot pool’), has been chucking superheated steam, rocks the size of bowling balls and discarded junk 30 feet into the air. It hasn’t erupted since 1957. (US Geological Survey newsletter)

Other, normally quiescent geysers are also showing unprecedented activity. Groundwater temperature has increased to 206F. USGS also reports, a new geyser has formed near Old Faithful, and an 8-foot diameter area around it is ‘breathing’, ie the ground is rising and falling by 6 inches – every 10 minutes! (This is perfectly natural, apparently. Although no-one’s noticed before. Think: boiling porage…)

 

Censorship news:

‘Dutchsinse’, alias Michael Janitch, the St Louis-based earthquake forecaster, looks like he’s been finally shut down by a concert party of USGS and international geo-agencies who have put out a joint statement claiming he’s just a big fat liar. Your Old Granny, who has sat through many of his three-times daily roundups at agonizing length, has to say there’s no evidence of that. A more painfully honest truthsayer would be hard to find.

He actually has a better-than 80 per cent record of accurately predicting timings, locations and magnitudes of quakes to within reasonable self-set tolerances, based on a simple theory of mechanical pressure distribution across plate boundaries that the experts say is scientific bullshit, as: “you can’t predict earthquakes”. The problem is, he can – and does; without pretending to have supernatural powers.

So what is the point of milking taxpayers to maintain those official agencies, if the best they can manage is to tell people there’s just been an earthquake or a volcanic eruption somewhere – something the people on the spot might have noticed for themselves? What purpose does that serve? What good do they actually do? Oh, right, they measure things. And attack anyone they don’t agree with.

The point is, surely, that as a US citizen Janitch has a 1st Amendment right to promote his theory and telecast his analysis free from libellous censorship campaigns by aggrieved parties? He invites subscriptions, but his website is provided free of charge, with no paywall. So he’s not cheating anyone – and he’s right far more often than chance. Given his extensive global following, unlike USGS and the other agencies he may in fact have saved lives.

Veteran Yellowstone watcher Greeley, although unqualified as a geologist, is clearly serious in her intent and fairly clued-up, basing her analysis on years of reviewing publicly-available ground monitoring data; although she’s been predicting an eruption at any moment for the past five years at least.

I hope I’m not being unfair, because the data are becoming faintly alarming.

She may believe, but she doesn’t preach; it’s not her fault most of her followers seem to be on their knees night and day, wailing and gnashing their dentures – some unfortunately praying for the volcano to erupt soon, an event the Parks Department estimates could immediately cause 23 million casualties, so they can meet Jesus. That’s a heck of a line even for a good book signing.

If Greeley, and some less informed YouTube supervolcano doomsayers piggybacking on her website; also many less credible phenomenologists, are allowed to carry on promoting their end-of-the-world, second-coming scenarios and conspiracy twaddle, how is it that a knowledgable, intelligent and serious amateur like Janitch, however controversial his ideas, can be forced off the internet by vested interests?

Is it purely because they find him embarrassing – especially at a time when science itself is under attack from corrupt and irresponsible, unqualified politicians led by a climate-change denying US President, who really ought to know better?

Perhaps we should be told. My conspiracy theory is, they’re afraid he might one night forecast some truly terrible event, information over which they would have no control and that might cause mass panic when it came true.

Just sayin’.

 

 

 

The Pumpkin – Issue 62: Salmond phishing in Scotland… Painting the skeletons pink… Phooarh!…GW: Wash me down and blow me!

Amen Corner

“We get climate change wrong too often… Manmade climate change exists: if the science proves it we should report it. To achieve impartiality, you do not need to include outright deniers of climate change in BBC coverage.”

– Long overdue memo from Head of News, Fran Unsworth to all BBC producers.

Ghoul’s out for ever. (Justin Tallis/AFP/Getty Images)

The Pumpkin says: Two hurrahs for Auntie Fran! Fuck off, Lawson, you moneygrubbing ecocidal old ghoul. Back in your grave. And clear up the soil and maggots after you. (See Posts passim)

http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2018/sep/07/bbc-we-get-climate-change-coverage-wrong-too-often

 

“Is sexual kompromat not precisely the tactic Trump and his cohort have been using for years to crush their enemies?”

Salmond phishing in Scotland

Along with many sources, The Pumpkin has previously speculated about the provenance of the variously named Trump International Golf Links project, also known as Trump Aberdeen, or Trump Balmedie; where its $120 million startup funding may have come from, since it certainly did not come from the near-bankrupt Trump Organization in the USA or any cautious British or US banks; and through whom it was channeled.

There are and were numerous other concerns about the development, of course. How Trump railroaded through planning consent over the objections of the community and properly concerned environmentalists; what role the then SNP leader, Alex Salmond played in swinging the decision; how Trump opposed the siting of an offshore wind farm – he hates wind farms – a project supported by Salmond; his bullying and harassment of local resisters – his attempts to massively increase the size of the development, despite the fact that it’s been making heavy losses, partly thanks to the retreat of the North Sea oil industry and the winding-down of Aberdeen as its capital.

And then there was the well-reported instance of Trump’s dimmest son, Eric bragging to a golf journalist that they got $100 million from some golf-mad Russians for course developments. At the time, according to Wikipedia, there were only 9 functioning golf courses in the whole of Russia, and only 4 PGA-registered professionals. The boast was backed up by Donald Jr, who told another journalist that “they were always in and out of Russia”, where the development funding was virtually limitless.

This seemed to contradict Trump Sr’s frequent forceful assertions that he had no business with Russia. None.

Anyway, that’s not what The Pumpkin has been thinking about this morning. Another well-sourced piece by Adam Davidson in The New Yorker this week, entitled “Where will the Trump investigations go next?” (a question on many people’s minds as elections approach and some kind of denouement in the Mueller enquiry is eagerly anticipated) has revived our curiosity, to the point where he lazily dialled “Salmond/Sorial” into the Googlebox and sat back, waiting for any nugget to fall into his lap.

And, unlikely though it may seem, numerous reports have popped up, linking the two names.

Still an Executive Vice-President at Trump Organization, George Sorial was Trump’s point man on Aberdeen: the guy who did all the negotiating, the railroading, the project management and the harassment of the natives (including cutting off their water supplies and throwing high ramparts around their properties) – as well as the relationship-building with Salmond, who somehow became convinced overnight that the development on a Site of Special Scientific Interest would after all be A Good Thing for Scotland, despite all evidence to the contrary.

It seems that part of the relationship-building involved a Salmond scheme whereby Trump, Sorial – and, by extension, Donald Trump Jr – were flattered to be added to a list of international business movers and shakers named as “Global Scots”, honorary nationals who would commit to promoting Scottish business interests worldwide – presumably in anticipation of a Yes vote in the 2014 Independence referendum, a vote that never arrived.

The newly adopted Republican candidate, Trump Sr was swiftly dumped in early 2016, ostensibly because of the multiculturalist SNP’s objections to his campaign promise to introduce a ban on Muslims entering the USA. Donald Jr’s delisting came soon afterwards because, as any fule might have expected, he simply hadn’t fulfilled any of his commitments to promote Scottish business, being too busy chasing tail, pomading his hair (I bet he’s a Dapper Dan man!) and slaughtering endangered animals for their body parts.

There then came attempts to drop Sorial.

Buzzfeed reported (November 30, 2016 – 3 weeks after Trump was elected President)

“According to a freedom of information request from the Scottish government, Salmond gave Sorial the role on the basis that he was “responsible for the Trump developments in Scotland”, he would be an “advocate” for the country, and his parents were from the Scottish island of Lewis.

“However, after being told Sorial was still a Global Scot, Salmond told BuzzFeed News that Sorial should step down from the role. The former first minister has been a vocal critic of Trump since relations between the Scottish government and the tycoon soured over the construction of a wind farm near his golf course.”

The Pumpkin has been wondering about poor Mr Salmond, who has just last week had to resign his seat in the Scottish Assembly and crowdfund an appeal for his legal fees, in order to fight accusations of sexual impropriety made against him quite out of the blue by “two women”.

Is sexual kompromat not precisely the tactic Trump and his cohort have been using for years to crush their enemies and punish or silence their disloyal “friends”, bringing them back into line? One thinks of Charlie Kushner, father of Trump’s son-in-law Jared, part of whose 5-years sentence of imprisonment was for witness tampering – insomuch as he tried to silence his brother-in-law with a DVD of an encounter with a prostitute in a motel room, which Kushner Sr then sent to his own sister, to put a little more pressure on her husband.

And we have heard Trump protege and quasi-legal bagman, Michael Cohen not only pleading guilty to financial violations, but fingering Trump as having ordered him to payoff a porn star and a glamour model out of a special slush-fund created for the purpose, using corporate donations fraudulently elicited to buy access to the White House; while speculation surrounds another Trump associate who may or may not have been involved in silencing a woman who is claiming to have spawned an illegitimate child by Trump.

No wonder he so admires Boris Johnson.

We then have the lurid details of what may or may not have happened in a Moscow hotel room in 2013, as listed in the notorious so-called “Steele dossier” among other instances of compromising information the Russians may or may not have on the President.

So there’s a lot of this sort of thing going around. Were the women put up to “hashtag Metoo” Salmond? Most probably no, but allegations of groping and worse are the kind of “black information” Trump has reportedly stored up for years against individuals he encounters, to secure lasting loyalty; silence (Omerta), and to use against his victims later as necessary.

Could we suppose, taking things to their extreme, that Salmond’s about-face on his apparent loyalty to Trump Org., the defiance of Trump’s thwarted Islamophobic program, the row over the wind farm and the perceived slight of the Leader of the Free World no longer being considered to be an honorary Scotsman have penetrated the notoriously thin skin of the President, and earned poor Alex the dubious distinction of becoming the victim of a Mafia-style vendetta to destroy the career of the ebullient former cruise-ship entertainer?

Betrayal being the number one crime in the Trump playbook? And when Trump Org. has announced it plans further leisure developments in Scotland?

As Davidson writes:

“Some have argued that Trump didn’t knowingly break the law—that he was just impulsive and unfocussed and would, accidentally and without proper due diligence, end up working with crooks. My source told me that this was nonsense: of course Trump knew when he was breaking the law. “Come on. He was trained by fucking Roy Cohn.* Seriously.”

http://www.newyorker.com/news-desk/swamp-chronicles/where-will-the-trump-investigations-go-next?

http://www.buzzfeed.com/jamieross/donald-trumps-right-hand-man-is-still-an-ambassador-for-scot

*By all accounts, Cohn was an absolute swine, acting as an implacable and cunning prosecutor in the notorious Joseph McCarthy anti-Communist “witch-hunt” hearings; an attorney for the brutal Gambino crime family, and a friend of Trump’s dodgy property developer father, Fred.

In a related earlier piece, however, Davidson recounts how he attended functions at Cohn’s grand mansion, that were almost royal garden parties; and where, like Trump, Cohn would insist on holding open sessions at which rich and influential men – policemen and judges among them – would step up to offer him effusive public praise, adulation that he wallowed in.

The extraordinary thing, Davidson says, is that unlike Trump’s Imperatorial cabinet meetings at which everyone is mercilessly forced to grovel and praise God for his existence and their jobs, Cohn’s guests genuinely seemed to mean it. For those who weren’t his victims, he seemed to offer loyal friendship and a likeable side.

And that’s the secret of success.

Something the thin-skinned and vindictive tinpot dictator, Trump never learned.

http://www.newyorker.com/news/news-desk/where-trump-learned-to-love-ritualized-flattery

x

“Instead of producing a potboiler one would have hoped Woodward might have credibly pursued the paths trodden by veteran Trumphunters, following the money to expose the dark underbelly of America’s worst ever President.”

Painting the skeletons pink

All America is agog at the publication in the failing New York Times of an op-ed piece by an anonymous contributor, described as “A senior member of the Trump administration”, calling the President out as an erratic and incompetent lunatic, whose wilder policy initiatives have to be buried by his staffers before they can do any harm.

The situation is being made very much worse by an incandescent Trump demanding the miscreant’s head on a platter, to be charged with “treason” (the irony escapes him). If he would only shut up and stop reacting like a child to these provocations, The Pumpkin opines, it might look a lot less like the accusations are true.

Nor is it helping, that the piece has come out only a day after the official publication date of “Fear”, the new “piss-and-tell” book about the churning guts of Trump’s White House by legendary investigative journalist, Bob Woodward (of Watergate fame). No collusion? Possibly not.

On Thursday, the supine BBC managed to find a queue of three Trump apologists, including the discreditable neofascist missing-link, Gorka (“why, oh why?” etc. – BBC listener), who all spouted the same incredible lines about what a great job the President is doing and this is all sour grapes from the lyin’ Democrats in cahoots with da fake nooze media.

Meanwhile Trump was saying pretty much the same thing, boasting about his historically high poll ratings. (He recently told one of his flashmob rallies that he didn’t know if they had polls in Abraham Lincoln’s time (they didn’t. Ed.), but if they did Trump’s ratings would be beating them….) He is insane, in case it hadn’t already occurred to you.

The latest WAPO/ABC polling puts him down at 36% national approval, by the way, with 52% thinking he’s a total trainwreck and 49% calling for his impeachment.

Anyone who knows anything about the workings of great newspapers like the NYT knows they don’t print unverified gossip from anonymized sources without very careful checking. They certainly don’t fake-up op-ed pieces of this seriousness themselves and then source them to non-existent senior members of the administration. Trump isn’t calling for them to be shut down because they tell lies about him.

Trump has now embarked on what one can only describe as a “witch hunt” to out the witch who wrote the piece, sparking fevered speculation as to the true identity of his critic – who, as a staunch Republican, hypocritically went out of his or her way to applaud some of the shittier “achievements” of the administration, such as the utterly cretinous trade policies, the wreckage of the public health insurance system, the vainglorious superfunding of the already bloated military, the rollback of consumer and environmental protections and the budget-busting $1.4 trillion giveaway to the party’s funders; none of which has added a jot of happiness to the lives of the vast majority of Americans.

So, for the past few days his closest advisors, a group known as “the adults in the room” have been rushing to deny responsibility. Many commentators are pointing at Vice-President Pence, on the basis of various clues, such as the use of the world “lodestar”, a metaphor Pence is constantly using; and the fact that he has gone off somewhere at this rather crucial time and had to send his fridge to a press conference*.

The Pumpkin’s betting is on Trump’s public defender, Rudy Giuliani – with help over the more difficult spellings. Trump is alleged to have said very terrible, almost shockingly terrible things to poor Rudy in the past, totally emasculating him, whenever the former mayor of New York’s TV performances have not defended the President sufficiently robustly.

Is this Rudy’s Revenge?

Whoever it is, Sessions, Kelly, whoever, given the reluctance of the debutant to step forward, doesn’t this look like a case of painting the skeletons pink? Should Trump go down any time soon, this individual will be able to step forth from the shadows, this ersatz Deep Throat, and proudly proclaim their patriotic instincts and innocence of the Trump stain. Look, my skeletons are still alive!

There is also, of course, the possibility that Trump himself commissioned the piece from a ghost writer, to take the wind out of Woodward’s sails – and sales. It wouldn’t be the first time he has misled the “enemies of the people” in this way; and none of the allegations of his bizarre behavior is original, they’ve all appeared in print before.

It’s a handy distraction, too, from the Congressional hearings on his pick for the Supreme Court, Brett Kavanaugh – who, when quizzed about any previous connections he may have had with anyone on Trump’s legal team, prevaricated that “he couldn’t remember” and asked his inquisitor, the forensic Senator Susan Harris, to suggest some legal names because he didn’t know any. So that’s a rubber stamp, then.

But who knows? It’s bound to come out soon enough.

In The Pumpkin’s view, it’s a shame Woodward’s book is being filleted by the media for the more lurid tales of life in the Trump White House, until it appears that they might be the major or possibly the only theme. I hadn’t budgeted for another Trump tome this month, I’m still pondering ordering Craig Unger’s House of Putin, House of Trump. At least it’s not just more in-house tittle-tattle, of which I have four volumes already.

We can all see from his forgetful behavior and manner of speaking that the President is senescent, almost certainly in the early stages of dementia. We sense too that he is annoyingly inept as an administrator, ignorant of foreign affairs, industry and economics; a vain, crass, incurious and demanding bully, a whining, childish, foul-mouthed solipsist with no regard for anyone other than himself and his own fatuous saloon-bar theories; that he has succeeded in life only through mendacity, extreme venality, adroit publicity and affecting the threatening posture of a Mafia chieftain. He has also revealed a surprising capacity for cowardice.

We know all that.

We already have a raft of books and articles based on the testimony of dozens of leaky insiders describing Trump’s manic outbursts, his “senior moments”, his impulsive policy-making and his horrible dietary habits. So I guess we shall just have to see what Mueller can do, while Trump furiously tries to undermine the credibility of the Russia investigation, brutalizes the Justice Department, slags-off the media and packs the courts with unqualified placemen.

Whatever finally comes out from Mueller may gain no traction at all among the Republican voters.

As the much-decorated doyen of investigative journalists, instead of producing a sensationalist potboiler one would have hoped Woodward might have credibly pursued the paths trodden by veteran Trumphunters like David Cay Johnson, Craig Unger and Adam Davidson, following the money to expose the dark underbelly of America’s worst and most corrupt ever President.

Because the real question few dare to ask is, what terrible secret is it, that he is apparently willing to destroy the presidency to protect?

Shall we ever be allowed to know?

*Younger readers, if any, might not recognise the reference to a Monty Python sketch. Carry on.)

x

Phooarh! Trump strikes out

“Never mind, Mr President, it can happen to anyone. Let’s get you all cleaned up…” (photo: Empirenews.net)

Despite his insistent promises to the adoring dumbfucks on the campaign trail that he wouldn’t have time to play golf because he’d be permanently in the Oval Office, “working my ass off for you” (massive cheer!), and a virulent campaign of Fox poo claiming his predecessor, Obama, was never off the golf course even during national crises (“he plays more even than a member of the PGA”) the website Trumpgolfcount reports that after just 590 days in office, the Fat Fibber has spent 349 days at his own golf resorts, while Obama managed only 328 days golfing in 8 years.

Total cost to the US taxpayer so far: $77 million. (Cost to local businesses forced by the security service to shut up shop while he plays, incalculable.)

But he works so hard – at least four hours a day including an hour for lunch, according to White House insiders – he surely deserves the time off. How else would his tacky resorts make any money?

x

GW: Wash me down and blow me!

Hawaii: “Back up to Category 3 strength on Thursday afternoon, Hurricane Olivia remains on a long-term course that looks increasingly likely to take it across the Hawaiian Islands. Located about 1200 miles west of Cabo San Lucas—and was heading west-northwest at 14 mph. Update (11:30 pm EDT Thursday): Olivia has now attained Category 4 strength, with top sustained winds of 130 mph.” (Wunderground) Weaker Hurricane Norman passed well to the north of the islands this week. Hawaii was battered last week by 135 mph Hurricane Lane bearing up to 53 cm of rain, the most powerful storm in a quarter of a century.

Guam: “Though it was just a minimum-strength tropical storm with 40 mph winds on Friday, Mangkhut promises to become a ferocious typhoon over the next few days. The system is surrounded by a large envelope of very moist air and it will be traveling over very warm SSTs of 29 – 30°C (84 – 86°F). …The Joint Typhoon Warning Center predicts that Manghut will rocket to typhoon strength by Sunday local time and will be a Category 4 typhoon by the time it nears Guam on Tuesday.” (Wunderground)

Bermuda: Hurricane Florence, which had strengthened into the first major hurricane of the 2018 Atlantic season, weakened to a Category 1 storm Thursday as it moved on a path toward Bermuda. As of 5 p.m. ET Thursday, the storm had maximum sustained winds of 80 mph but was expected to reintensify Friday, the National Hurricane Center said. Large swells from Florence are expected to hit Bermuda starting Friday. Life-threatening surf and rip tides are possible.” (CBS News)

Mexico: “Flooding in the city of Piedras Negras in Coahuila state, (on the Texas border) on 04 Sept. affected more than 10,000 residents. Around 20 people were forced to evacuate and stay in temporary accommodation. Roads in the area also suffered damage. No injuries or fatalities were reported. Local Civil Protection said that more than 150mm of rain fell from late Monday 03 Sept. to early Tuesday 04 Sept.” (Floodlist)

USA: “Kansas Governor, Jeff Colyer issued a state of disaster emergency declaration for five Kansas counties affected by flooding from 02 to 04 Sept. An estimated 300 people were displaced, with areas around Manhattan worst affected.” Over 9 inches of rain fell during the storm. (Floodlist) The east coast may feel the force of Hurricane Florence later in the week.

India: “At least 19 people have died in flood-related incidents in Uttar Pradesh since 01 Sept. Nearly 300 villages have been affected. Many of the deaths were a result of collapsing buildings or lightning strikes. Over 220 houses have been damaged or destroyed in the heavy rain and flooding over the last 4 days.

“The flood-hit south Indian state of Kerala has declared a health alert after 11 people died of leptospirosis or rat fever in the last two days (to 04 Sept.). Health officials in the state said there was no immediate cause for alarm and the situation was under control (! Ed.). Flooding has killed around 400 people in Kerala since June.” (BBC Weather)

Australia: Has been accused by Pacific nations of trying to water down the Boe Declaration on emissions reduction. “Dr Bill Hare, a lead author on the IPCC fourth assessment report, told Guardian Australia that Pacific leaders were growing increasingly disenchanted with Australia’s refusal to commit to cutting carbon emissions, even as their nations faced massive economic, physical and social disruption, even existential threat.”

UK: The Met Office has confirmed, 2018 was the hottest summer they’ve ever recorded in England, and the joint-hottest for the British Isles as a whole. The 10-day forecast from 08 Sept. is completely chaotic, although not extreme, as the huge loops currently in the jet stream break apart into separate segments and go spinning off over the course of the next week. Watch the BBC weatherman struggle to explain!

 

Scary corner

“Roundworms from two areas of (the Siberian permafrost) came back to life in Petri dishes, says a new scientific study. Some 300 prehistoric worms were analysed – and two ‘were shown to contain viable nematodes’.

“‘After being defrosted, the (possibly 42 thousand year-old) nematodes showed signs of life,’ said a report today from Yakutia, the area where the worms were found. ‘They started moving and eating.’

“Both are thought to be female.”

Siberian Times

 

Blogging: the Thief of Time… Losing our marbles… GW: A mortal blow… GW Color Supplement: Skating on Thin Ice…The mystery of the missing CO2… Beating poisons into ploughshares… Yellowstone news.

£117 million: the total amount to date that Open Democracy has traced to a spending spree by Liam Fox’s Department for International Trade just on CONSULTANTS, all of whom are on record otherwise as judging Brexit to be a complete disaster, while Fox continues to insist even No Deal will be a huge success for British trade.

“A spokesman for DIT said: ‘We really don’t care [if a company] is for Brexit or against Brexit …. It is very much about providing services that deliver value for money for the taxpayer..'”

http://www.opendemocracy.net

 

Blogging: the Thief of Time

“(The research) found that the amygdala – an almond-shaped structure in the temporal (side) lobe which processes our emotions and controls our motivation – was larger in procrastinators. In these individuals, there were also poorer connections between the amygdala and a part of the brain called the dorsal anterior cingulate cortex (DACC).

“The DACC uses information from the amygdala and decides what action the body will take. It helps keep the person on track by blocking out competing emotions and distractions.” – (BBC Science, 01 Sep)

No-one can accuse your Uncle Bogler of procrastination!

Why, his side-lobes are positively bulging with almond-shaped structures….

For, here is part the first of The BogPo, concerning NEXT THURSDAY, and it’s still only this Saturday!!!

There’s not much more one can really say on the topic of procrastination, except that I have still not opened last Monday’s mail, containing as it does a worrying-looking Brown Envelope – I suspect it may not be a cash bribe. It went straight into the bureau, third drawer down, a Valhalla from which I avert my eyes whenever I head for the kitchen where I am gazing with as-yet unengaged fascination at the glutinous evidence of the past three days’ worth of microwavable instant meals.

Nor have I done much about returning to the builder’s merchant to see where the fuck my bricks have got to, the lovely mellow bricks I paid for, the Best Bricks, but did not collect immediately and the halfwits SOLD THEM a second time to some other customer or customers unknown, and now we can’t seem to find any more of the same ones and I’m stuck with HALF A BEAUTIFUL WALL I’ve built in my garden, and £150 lighter.

In fact after putting it off since whenever, end of July when they said more might be coming in, I did go back last Monday, but for no accountable reason – kismet, karma – despite a sign saying “Opening Hours 08.00 to 17.00” the gates were still locked mid-afternoon and I haven’t been able to face going back again since.

I hate arguments, my assertiveness is off the scale (the bottom of the scale), so my amygdala concocted some story about the builder’s merchant having gone into administration and fed it to my DACC, which promptly decided to turn around and go home, telling me to come back Tuesday, or phone, or something. The almond-shaped structure is still making up its mind when would be best to construct a new narrative in which I think about it some more.

In any case, with my uncomfortably awkward catheter and messy leg-bag changeovers and painful contractions and always feeling tired and floppy and with the rats still gnawing at my stomach in the mornings and all, I’m no longer fit to work on a building-site, lugging 25kg bags of cement and stuff around the garden, which exists on several levels.

(Good news on that front, the tragic letter to the hospital I’d put off writing since July about my horrible catheter, that I finally got round to sending off last week, has paid dividends – the consultant appointment’s been brought forward by three months! Good old NHS, I say. (Local electrician regales me with the story of his father-in-law, diagnosed with cancer on Monday and operated on on Thursday… by the Spanish health service.)

Maybe a lesson there? I’ll go back Monday. Find a builder. Sort it out.

And probably tackle last week’s post. Or maybe the washing-up.

Honest.

“Prof Tim Pychyl, from Carleton University, Ottawa, who has been studying procrastination for the past few decades…” (BBC Science report)

You’d think he’d get on with it, wouldn’t you?

 

1,400: number of additional deaths (and 48 thousand extra asthma cases in children) annually the US Environment Protection Agency expects to be caused by their own new “set-them-yourself” state-by-state pollution rules, replacing the federal Clean Power Plan stalled in the Supreme Court.

 

Losing our marbles

The fire that destroyed the National Museum in Rio de Janeiro, eradicating in a single night the traces of two thousand years of proto-civilizations in South America and of the 200-year history of modern Brazil, is the best argument one can think of for not returning the Elgin Marbles to Greece.

Not because the frescoes would be in peril if they were reattached to the Parthenon, or carefully curated in a special climate-controlled building with mood lighting for tourists (it’s doubtful if Greece could afford one of those now) but because of what they represent: the diffusion of many cultures throughout the world.

Because their return to Athens would be perhaps the greatest of all possible symbolic acts at a time when rising small nations the world over are demanding their stuff back; and we mustn’t give in to them! (Except of course for the desecrated remains of slaughtered “native” humans, their retention is a shameful obscenity. Stuffed primates are bad enough.)

The fire is being likened by the woe-cryers to the loss of the Library at Alexandria, or rather Libraries – there were two, parts of the, also lost, great Museum – in which vast collections of works from classical antiquity lovingly preserved by the Ptolemies from Alexander’s time perished: the first in 48 BC after Julius Caesar set fire to the city during his romantic intervention in the Egyptian civil war, the second in 391 AD in a fire started by a zealous mob rioting in support of the Christian emperor Theodosius, who had decreed that all symbols of paganism should be destroyed.

So it is to carnal desire and religion that we owe our habit of insouciance as regards our common culture, what else? (I recommend the account on the website of Encyclopedia Britannica: http://www.britannica.com/topic/Library-of-Alexandria)

“Carnal desire and religion…” tribal totems presumed lost. (Riotimesonline.com)

It seems to be a moral imperative, especially among tyrants, to concentrate the symbols of the culture they rule over in “The Greatest” this-or-that ever seen. The Alexandrian libraries may have contained over a quarter of a million texts: only copies and some few original fragments remain of works by the great Greek philosophers and playwrights; and those, only because they were probably compulsorily “borrowed” by Strabo and other Roman colonialists and taken back to the Imperial City, where many would subsequently have been lost in Nero’s fire, or the Sack of Rome.

Just think what the Testaments might reveal to scholars nowadays, had more original Biblical texts as well as those in the Greek survived. The histories of the Persian, Greek and Roman empires, too, might look somewhat different in more detail. And we should have more great comedies to revive at the National.

But there is an equal desire among the rulers to erase the past.

Numerous more recent acts of cultural iconoclasm have accompanied the reigns of, for instance (my spelling corrector just interpreted that as”insane”!), Henry V111, in his “dissolution of the monasteries”, the pillaging of the vastly wealthy old religious establishment of England; Oliver Cromwell, the revolutionary Puritan “Protector” who disapproved of all forms of religious iconography and symbolism; Robespierre and the Paris mob; Joseph Stalin, ditto, and the rapacious C19th looters of Egyptian grave goods.

Flashing forward to the present, we have had to stand by and witness the brutal iconoclasm of modern barbarians: the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia, the Taliban in Afghanistan, the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, al-Shabaab at Timbuktoo, the Cultural Revolutionaries of Chairman Mao – the US Army, that turned the ruins of Babylon into a lorry park – whose political credos embraced the absolute eradication of evidence of all previous dynasties in a fanatical desire to rebuild societies in their own image.

That, and to make a bit of cash selling stuff on the global black market for antiquities, with which to buy arms – and to line the pockets of the intellectual hypocrites proclaiming themselves the new leaders.

If Truth is indeed the first casualty of war, in that overused metaphor, then Culture is possibly the second. “When I hear the word culture”, grumbled Goering, “I reach for my Luger”. (In fact he was quite a cultured man. He just knew, like Mr Steve Bannon, that the fundamentals of Nazism required a return to a more heroic age.)

The safest way to preserve the physical history of world nature and human development, the collections and the expert curators’ poorly paid jobs, is surely thus not to concentrate them in one place, to hoard them in the name of protecting and projecting some vain sense of superior nationhood, but to spread them around the country and the planet for the edification of all.

By all accounts, the government of Brazil is guilty of failing catastrophically to maintain the cultural heritage of the nation. The fire precautions in that sprawling colonial palace were “about to be updated”, but consisted for the time being of some smoke detectors and hand-extinguishers. The building was not even insured. Staff rushed to save what they could, as the collections were their livelihood, but were beaten back. A few items may have survived: the 12-thousand year-old skull of a native girl; some curious pieces of dinosaur, an interesting meteorite…. The collection sounds provincial, but it also contained hundreds of recordings of the unique languages of tribespeople now gone extinct, and other invaluable cultural DNA; including many works from the European classical period, presumably lost forever.

Unless, that is, we can find a trove of South Americana, collections of pre-Columbian art and artifacts, precious photographs, contemporary paintings, explorers’ accounts and recordings of vanishing tribes, squirrelled away in the bowels of the British Museum and other major centres throughout Europe and the USA; especially in Portugal, the colonial power in Brazil, from where vast quantities of treasure were extracted; from which something might be rebuilt?

(Oh dear. The Great Lisbon Earthquake of 1755, which caused 30 thousand casualties, a huge tsunami and subsequent fires might have done for much of the colonial spoils collected in the latter. But the policy of the British government preparing for the Blitz was to disperse the great collections around the country, in mines and caves, and thus they largely survived WW2.)

You see, you cannot discount natural disasters as well as the sweep of history, when you want to preserve your heritage and the curiosities of the bygone world around you. You imagine these great buildings housing the heavily edited detritus of your civilization and the records of human progress to be invulnerable, inviolate, durable; a focus for heartfelt patriotism, their demise is unthinkable and so too often unthought of, when funds are scarce. (It appears the curators of the Rio museum were having to crowdfund the wages of the cleaners.)

No, the safest and, incidentally, the most useful way to secure your local cultural heritage is to ensure it is as widely dispersed as possible. We’ve done it with human DNA, a pocess that ought to be a lesson to the hoarders of artifacts. Put it about a bit!

Modern technologies can be useful; recordings, photographs, “virtual reality” tours, digital transcriptions posted on the worldwide web can give the flavor – remembering these too are vulnerable to fire and flood, tectonic political upheavals, technological superannuation and “Carrington” events – and are indeed being more widely used in archaeology, especially in the attempt to restore what the IS baboons have left of Palmyra from extensive survey records.

Images and transcripts are, of course, no substitutes for the real thing; but it depends on WHY you want to cling on to the past: you can argue that any evidence is equally valuable. Would it matter, would anyone notice, if the British Museum hung on to the marbles only as faithful reproductions made of powdered resin with the latest technologies, from 3D images scanned by lasers, and dumped the vexing originals in the river Thames?

They’re just chunks of carved stone. Future generations (if any. Ed.) will still know precisely what they looked like, as far as the fleeting impressions gained by circulating museum visitors and internet browsers with limited attention spans go. They will know the history, if they care to find it. Experts have studied the things until they were practically worn out with peering and pondering, learned texts and theses have been written and peer-reviewed, thousands of photographs exist – what else can anyone say about them? Do old stones really speak?

Of course, the Greeks would take a dim view: it’s the symbolic act of returning the stolen marbles that’s the important part. And it’s the symbolism of losing the great museum in Rio that seems to be the harshest wound for Brazilians (most of whom probably never even went inside). At a time of social uncertainty, corruption and gnawing austerity the people have nothing left to rally round, but a burned-out shell, open to the sky.

It’s just a pity they didn’t rally round sooner.

x

GW: A mortal blow

Japan: The strongest to hit in 25 years, 135 mph Typhoon Jebi slammed into the port of Kobe, western Japan yesterday, 4 Sep., killing “at least” 10 people and injuring many others. The toll is expected to rise. Several people were injured at Kyoto station when part of a glass ceiling collapsed. Kansai airport, a major transport hub serving Osaka, Kobe and Kyoto, was cut off and pasengers stranded when an ocean tanker was blown into its bridge to the mainland. (BBC and others)

Pile o’ chrome… cars thrown in a heap by Typhoon Jebi, Kobe, Japan 04 Sept. (BBC)

Tuesday 4 Sep: “Evacuation advisories were issued for 1.19 million people, along with a stronger but non-mandatory  evacuation order for a further 16,000, as the wind and rain began to intensify on Tuesday afternoon.” More than 700 domestic and international flights were cancelled, along with scores of ferry and train services. Rainfall totals reported 500mm or more. (Guardian and others)

USA: 70 mph Tropical Storm Gordon is pouring rain on the Gulf Coast region Wednesday after it made landfall Tuesday night west of the Alabama-Mississippi border, killing a child in the Florida Panhandle, the National Hurricane Center said.

“The child died when a tree fell on top of a mobile home in Pensacola as Gordon whipped the region with tropical storm-force winds and heavy downpours, a spokeswoman with the Escambia County Sheriff’s Office said.” 4 to 6 inches of rain are expected as Gordon dissipates and moves up into the already rainsoaked midwest and as far east as Pennsylvania, with more risk of flooding. (CNN)
India: Flooding and landslides have been reported in the remote mountain state of Nagaland, on the border with Myanmar, since late July. “At least 11 people have died”. (Floodlist)

Atlantic: Tropical Storm Florence is still evolving along a very uncertain track that could possibly bring it close to Bermuda by Monday 10 Sep. with a US East Coast landfall later in the week. Forming out of Africa and now near the Cape Verde islands, “Invest 92L” has better possibilities for development as a Caribbean hurricane, to be called Helene. “Invest 93L” (“Isaac”?) is just now crossing the West African coast.

Pacific: Two named hurricanes in the western Pacific, Norman and Olivia are both expected to give Hawaii a reprieve, passing “well to the northeast”.

Arctic: Two major cyclones are affecting the region at present. Bigger waves and warm air/rain will breakup more of the ice.

 

(Image: Telegraph.com)

GW Color Supplement: Skating on Thin Ice…

This year’s extended heatwave around the planet has at least led to the news media finally beginning to “join the dots” of global warming and its destabilizing effect on the world’s weather and agriculture; albeit in the usual sensationalist and short-lived way.

Journalists and politicians and scientists reporting from their own limited silos of study, or vaguely promising “action on climate change”, are continuing to hold out warnings of disasters to come “by 2100”, or “by 2050”, seemingly without there being any realization that such dates far in the future are of purely academic interest.

There is unlikely to be any residual human civilization by 2050 capable of thinking much about “electric cars” or “renewables” or “carbon transfer taxes” or “Paris targets”, as our children struggle against the odds to keep the race alive.

To give you a flavor of what real climate scientists are saying, the following (with full acknowledgment) is a heavily edited summary of a report posted 24 Aug on the website of Arctic News.

This is a reliable source compiling from field research and satellite data a (roughly) monthly update by a group of polar experts and distinguished external contributors, calling themselves “Sam Carana”.

(It is still not safe for climate scientists to risk their grants and tenure by making the direst predictions public, whatever the known facts may be.)

The full report should be accessed on http://www.arctic-news.blogspot.com/

“North of Greenland and around Ellesmere Island is where for thousands of years (Arctic) sea ice has been the thickest, in many places remaining thicker than 5 meters (16.4 ft) throughout the year. The loss of this sea ice indicates that the buffer is gone. (NASA images are adduced in evidence: the area is all blue water.)

“As long as there is sea ice in the water, it will keep absorbing heat, so the temperature doesn’t rise above 0C at the sea surface. Once the buffer is gone, further energy that enters the Arctic Ocean will go into heating up the water. Numerous feedbacks are associated with sea ice loss.

“As warming continues, heat will reach methane hydrates at the seafloor of the Arctic Ocean, causing them to release methane. (And) for the first time in human history, mean global methane levels as high as 1900 ppb have been recorded*. Adding up all warming elements associated with disappearance of the sea ice could result in additional global warming many times as much as the current global warming, in a few years time.”

And from an earlier post:

“The sea surface near Svalbard (most northerly habitation) was 22°C or 69.2°F on August 13, 2018, 16.4°C or 29.5°F warmer than 1981-2011. On August 6, 2018, mean global methane levels were as high as 1896 ppb. On August 8, 2018, they were as high as 1898 ppb. Importantly, peak levels on the afternoon of August 6, 2018, were as high as 3046 ppb.”

As can be seen, atmospheric methane increased globally from 1896 to 1901 parts-per-billion in under three weeks this August, with further potential for almost doubling. Depending on its duration in the atmosphere, methane is 100 times more potent a greenhouse gas than CO2, to which it decays.

Methane produces more heat, but heat (in various ways) produces more methane…. that’s the feedback loop they’re most worried about. The increase in range, intensity and frequency of forest fires is another case in point; as is the increasing intensity of rainfall, where it occurs, and the energy of storms.

In addition, “Sam Carana” has been arguing for a couple of years that the Paris target of 1.5C degrees of warming is not only unrealistic – it is also long out of date. The International Panel on Climate Change has never used a fixed start date for the 0.89C of warming they keep claiming is the maximum so far. Even that, says “Sam”, is more warming than the planet has experienced at any time during the 200 thousand years of modern Man’s existence.

Applying a 1750 start date (as the decade when Britain began burning ever-greater quantities of coal to produce steam for industry and transportation), they argue, cumulative warming is already up to 1.85C. Plus, by taking measurements at 2 meters above land rather than at the sea surface, as the IPCC does, we arrive at something in excess of 2.3C, already 0.3C above the “maximum” ever-allowable change set in Paris.

And, “Sam” points out, that’s the day/night, summer/winter, equatorial/polar “average” over the whole globe – the mean temperature of the planet. But it’s not the modest-seeming increase of a degree in mean temperature that’s the immediate threat: it’s the extremes of heat and cold that kill people, animals and plants.

Looking at the average rise in summer temperatures taken only at the hottest times of the day, we’re up to something more like 4 degrees in many parts of the world, which, other scientists concur, with the amount of future warming already built-in, threatens a runaway effect within a matter of years rather than decades, leading to a civilizational and ecological collapse that will not realistically be survivable.

(The use of a “wet-bulb” index to measure more precisely, the effects of heat on the individual, indicates that prolonged exposure to temperatures in excess of 35C and high humidity, normally survivable for short periods and where shade and water are available, greatly increase the risk of death from heatstroke.)

Already in many cities around the world, peak summer temperatures are approaching 50C, with little relief at night.

Don’t say we weren’t warned.

 

*Postscriptum: the European Copernicus Atmospheric Monitoring Service (CAMS) satellite images are showing massive quantities of methane pouring out of the Arctic circle, especially over Scandinavia up into Siberia – but also down into China and the Himalayas. Hotspots are appearing in the Arctic ocean too, including off Novaya Zemlya in the shallow Eastern Siberian Sea. Total air-column concentrations locally are up in the mid-2000s ppb. Conspiracy theorists are pointing to days on which data appear to be missing from both CAMS and NOAA websites and a curious switch between two entirely different color-coded scales charting the levels of concentration.

Unfortunately I’ve been warned off commenting on Margo’s Healing Corner website where this story is credibly available as she goes off on a religious rant threatening unbelievers with being blocked if we dare to write anything bad about her friend Jesus.

I wasn’t going to, but we have the same problem with the Blessed Mary Greeley, that her basic knowledge of geology provides a credible enough narrative for the Yellowstone story but all else is ill-informed New Age gibberish…. It’s a shame more informed, secular sources don’t appear to exist for those of us who wish to follow the global warming story in this sort of detail but don’t have the scientific chops for learned papers and can’t stand Prof. Paul Beckwith’s increasingly deranged videos in which he slowly reads out other people’s research papers at tedious length.

My personal view is magical thinking is not going to save us, either in this life or the next. But I suppose people need to grab on to something.

 

The mystery of the missing CO2

Global CO2 is measured officially by the NOAA at the Mauna Loa observatory on Hawaii’s Big Island, at an altitude of 4,900 meters.

On 11 March, 2018 the concentration was approaching 413 parts-per-million, as against an estimate of 285 ppm in the pre-industrial era. 120 years ago, the Swedish chemist, Svante Arrhenius calculated very accurately that a doubling of the pre-industrial level would result in 4C to 5C degrees of global warming. We are rapidly getting there.

Or are we?

It seems the concentration of CO2 on 02 September was only 405 ppm, a drop of 7 ppm. We assume there is some seasonal fluctuation to account for it, but it still seems a weird result, given the somewhat trying conditions under which the measurements must have been taken.

Mauna Loa is the world’s largest active volcano. Racked by earth tremors this year, it looms just a few miles to the north of Mt Kilueia, that has been erupting violently for months as its magma chamber has emptied out via old lava tubes into people’s back gardens 25 miles away, its collapsing caldera belching out a combination of gases including CO2 and sulphur dioxide. Would that not affect readings a few miles to the north?

Meanwhile, thousands of barely controllable CO2-emitting wildfires have been blazing since April across vast areas of the world: in the SW Australian winter and the Siberian spring; across Central Africa and South America; in Mongolia; all across the west of the USA – a record season on the coast – and up into British Columbia, where more than 500 fires are still burning; all through Scandinavia and up beyond the Arctic circle; in Germany and Greece, Portugal and Israel; even outside rainy Manchester, England, afflicted for three months by a pan-European heatwave – the second in two years, remember Lucifer? – and crop-killing drought.

Where has all that extra CO2 gone to?

We should be told.

 

Beating poisons into ploughshares

A report in the current issue of Private Eye magazine by “Muckspreader” looks at the recent decision by a US court to fine Monsanto heavily for not publicizing research linking their ubiquitous Roundup weedkiller product with cancer.

Without glyphosate, were it to be banned, UK farmers will have to radically alter their methods, says the author – him/her anonymous self a farmer. Farmers are heavily reliant on the chemical to kill off the rhizomes of couch grass and other perennial weeds, clearing the land for planting – and to “harden” cereal crops by, effectively, stopping their growth all at the same time so as to make harvesting more efficient (that’s all going into you and me, by the way. Yummy.)

A ban on glyphosate would mean going back to ploughing the land, which sounds somehow comforting and Green.

What the story doesn’t mention is that ploughing releases massive quantities of carbon stored in the soil back to the atmosphere, in the form of CO2 and methane; and is thus better avoided.

Oh dear. Months of horrible chemotherapy, or join up with a roving band looting supermarkets for scraps of food in 60 degrees of summer heat?

Our choice.

Yellowstone news: The Blessed Mary Greeley reports that the Steamboat, the park’s largest geyser, has just erupted for the 16th time so far this year. The previous most active season ever recorded was 2003, when it went off just 3 times in the whole year. Park scientific director, Michael Poland reassures her, it’s perfectly normal for geysers to erupt.

Giving justice the bathtub treatment… St Theresa’s jungle interlude… When might the Jeremy mudslinging turn to violence?…GW: We’re singeing in the rain.

“Trying to understand superstition rationally is like trying to pick up something made of wood by using a magnet.” – Philip Pullman.

 

“…and then you pull tight on the arms, like this, and tie the straps around the back, so…”

 

“It is surely a fair question to ask what the hell is going on?”

Giving justice the bathtub treatment

As The Pumpkin wrote on 13 Aug last:

More interesting developments in the Trump obstruction of justice inquiry:

“Rachel Maddow shows the prevalence of classified intelligence in the Trump Russia investigation and notes that the people Donald Trump is threatening with having their security clearance revoked are those who would need that clearance to testify for the investigation.” – MSNBC TV “blurb”, see: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sXTy99W8jsw

The process of witness tampering appears to be continuing, but with more sinister undertones. Maddow was reporting then on the ouster (as the Americans quaintly call it) of Peter Strzok, the FBI’s point man on Russian agents operating within the USA, earlier in the month.

Strzok was fired after a long series of abusive tweets from beneath the tiny thumbs of the American President, who seems to delight in these ad hominem attacks on individual citizens, in much the same way as my cat likes to confine live rodents in the bathtub, up whose smooth sides they cannot escape, and playfully torture them to death.

The official reason for Strzok’s firing was a series of emails he had sent in early 2016 to a colleague he was having an extramarital affair with, mildly criticizing – satirizing might be a better description – the crop of candidates vying for nomination in the presidential election race – among them, the thin-skinned and vindictive child-dotard, Donald J Trump.

Mr Strzok had already accepted a disciplinary penalty for the unprofessional conduct, and had acquitted himself well at a Congressional hearing that descended into pantomime when elderly Republican senators with closets no doubt rattling with skeletons started pushing him to apologize to his wronged wife; but we recall the earlier firing at the insistence of Trump of Andrew McCabe, the Deputy Director of the FBI, just one day before he would have qualified for his long-service pension. Hell hath no fury like Trump scorned.

Especially when he is terrified of being indicted on conspiracy charges.

And as Maddow and others pointed out, Strzok had unrivalled knowledge of the activities of the Russian intelligence community and their US agents; while McCabe was potentially a material witness in any future court hearing over former FBI Director, James Comey’s insistence that Trump ordered him to drop the inquiry into his national security advisor, General Mike T Flynn – now widely disregarded as having been a Russian “asset”.

White House counsel Don McGahn (note: the title is precise: he is NOT one of Trump’s personal clown-car legal team but is the senior lawyer responsible for matters to do with the building, staff, contractors, etc.) was fired at the weekend, in a tweet announcing his “resignation”, seemingly because Trump was pissed-off by the revelation that, unknown to him, although he pretended otherwise, McGahn (almost the last of the original “grown-ups”) had been co-operating extensively with the Mueller inquiry. As reported in The Guardian:

“Trump said in a tweet that McGahn would depart in the autumn, by which time the administration hopes to have installed Brett Kavanaugh on the supreme court. McGahn has taken a leading role in handling Kavanaugh’s nomination.

“I have worked with Don for a long time and truly appreciate his service!” Trump said (delivering the coup de grace, or the old heave-ho).

As in fact he should: McGahn has performed sterling service in assisting Trump to pack lower US courts with conservative judges who might be sympathetic to him and his cronies; and in leveraging the corporate shill, Neil Gorsuch onto the bench of the Supreme Court. Despite grave doubts as to the circumstances surrounding Mr Justice Kennedy’s unexpected decision to retire, Kavanaugh’s appointment looks likely to go through on the nod, as no-one seems to have the stomach for a fight before the November mid-term elections.*

And the lawyer had been instrumental in the firing of Acting Attorney-General, Sally Yates, after she tried to warn the new President via McGahn that Flynn was a known security risk, and was ignored: presumably, the turn of events that the Mueller team were most interested in finding out more about. Again, his “ouster” by tweet could be seen as a warning to other White House staff to clam up or find themselves stacking shelves in Walmart.

The short-odds betting is that next to go will be the poison dwarf, Attorney-General Jeff Sessions, whom Trump has never forgiven for recusing himself from the Russia investigations as a consequence of having had meetings he lied to Congress about, with the Russian ambassador, over the vexed question of maintaining sanctions on certain aggrieved oligarchs.

(After NBC’s Lester Holt**, Mr Kysliak was, of course, the second person Trump bragged to about having lifted the threat of the Russia investigation by firing Comey.)

Trump has spared no microdigital effort in abusing and belittling Sessions, and has frequently been reported screaming and wailing in fury about him; since Sessions, whose departure few will mourn, is mostly what stands in the way of his firing the Special Counsel, Robert Mueller; something McGahn allegedly warned him against trying.

With the barely noticed departure of the White House’s ethics lawyer, Stefan Passantino, the very next day, that advice clearly hasn’t gone down well either, adding to the impression that Trump is clearing the decks of all the annoying liferafts on what may soon prove to be the RMS Titanic.

Thus, Justice Department official, Bruce Ohr appears to be only one more name among the latest victims of a Trump-inspired witch hunt aimed at removing anyone who knows anything about Russian intelligence operations possibly touching on Trump’s election. As Wikipedia describes him:

“Bruce Genesoke Ohr (born March 16, 1962) is a United States Department of Justice official. A former associate deputy attorney general and former director of the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF), as of February 2018 Ohr was working in the Justice Department’s Criminal Division. He is an expert on transnational organized crime and has spent most of his career overseeing gang- and racketeering-related prosecutions, including Russian organized crime.”

In a slightly odd bit of Wiki editorializing, that has come from who-knows where, we also learn that:

“Ohr was little-known until 2018, when he became a subject of conservative conspiracy theories (that would be the sewer pipe of invention gushing from Trump’s pal, Sean Hannity, nightly on Fox News, then. Ed.) and Republican scrutiny over his purported involvement in starting the probe on Russian interference in the 2016 election. He was criticized by President Donald Trump. There is no evidence that Ohr was involved in the start of the Russia probe. According to a comprehensive review by ABC News, Ohr ‘had little impact on the FBI’s growing probe into Trump and his associates.'”

Those associates presumably include Mr Felix Sater, a former business partner and denizen of Trump Tower, from whom Trump has previously been keen to distance himself, despite what appears to be ample evidence of “collusion” between the two men. Sater has long been fingered by media sources as a soldier in the powerful Russian mafia clan of Semyon Mogilevitch, the FBI’s “world’s most wanted man”, widely believed to have been a white-knight investor in Trump’s failing Atlantic City casinos and properties in New York in the 1990s.

And it was Ohr who several years ago indicted Mogilevitch in his absence, on charges of murder, racketeering, money laundering, people trafficking… oh, you know, bad stuff.

It is surely a fair question to ask what the hell is going on?

“If you turn up for tea unannounced, don’t expect cake.”

  • How does initiating a perfectly legal inquiry into possible criminal malfeasance qualify an official for the Trump bathtub treatment, of personal intimidation and ultimately the loss of their career?
  • Why would Trump apparently rather risk impeachment for obstructing justice than allow the Justice Department to pursue allegations of which he asserts he will be fully exonerated – claiming fatuously that the investigation itself is illegal?
  • What primary loyalties does the President have, and to whom, that appear to be overriding his oath of loyalty to the American people?

The Wiki article has been smartly updated: only two days ago, Ohr was dragged into a closed session of the Congressional intelligence committee – the one chaired by the increasingly haunted-looking Senator Devin Nunes, who for more than a year has been desperately rushing around, inventing all sorts of fantastic reports and other “evidence” of Trump’s innocence and trying to get his own inquiry shut down.

The line of questioning seemed to revolve around Ohr’s – as far as anyone knows, non-existent – “collusion” with British former MI6 Russia specialist and private security consultant, Christopher Steele.

To that end, Sen. Nunes was reportedly to be found in London recently, pushing on doorbells at MI5, MI6 and GCHQ, hoping to get some dirt on Steele, whose 35-page “dossier” on Trump and his multifarious connections to Russia continues to exercise the President’s fertile imaginings as to the source of the FBI and Mueller enquiries, that in fact began long before a concerned Steele sent his research to the FBI and it then somehow leaked to the Buzzfeed news website.

Needless to say, the febrile Nunes was sent away with a very British flea in his ear. If you turn up for tea unannounced, don’t expect cake.

Back in Washington, in the gruelling late-summer heat the stench of corruption, lies, intimidation, suspicions of treason and cover-up must be becoming unbearable.

But the Republicans continue to press wilting nosegays to their faces and, with downcast looks, scurry by.

*In the event the Kavanaugh hearing has dragged on, with more and more evidence emerging as to his past dubious decisions and possible background as a protector of a judge accused of serial sexual harrassment of staffers.

**Trump is now accusing NBC of editing (“fudging”) the self-incriminating Lester Holt interview, seen by millions, in much the same way he has pretended the “pussy-grabbing” tape was a fake and it isn’t him seen climbing into and out of the bus. What Trump said about firing Comey because of the Russia investigation is quite clearly visible and audible in one take in the interview, which is still available online. It’s another desperate lie that will only be believed by the Cult of the True Dumbfucks. He’s totally delusional.

 

St Theresa’s jungle interlude

Your Uncle Bogler has been remiss in taking little interest in Prime Minister, Theresa May’s adventures in Africa; other than noting that rarely does the media bother to separate the Dark Continent into its component nations, of which there appear to be no fewer than 54 currently internationally recognized.

It’s all just “Africa” to us white folks.

May: the “Hit me with your rhythm!” shtick. We tried to find a shot of the Maybot gettin’ down wid da kidz, but it seems she just couldn’t stop herself displaying her empathy to all and sundry.

For the past three days, long enough to see Africa in all its cultural homogeneity, Mrs May has been dragging around a trade delegation in the vain hope of belatedly catching up with the Chinese as the principal colonial power de nos jours. Three days, three vast countries should do it.

In our postcolonial shame, the European nations (supported by Mr Trump, whose knowledge of African affairs is confined to his recent spat with former “advisor” and fellow reality-show maven, Omarosa Manigault Newman, a name already fading from memory) have essentially ceded the lucrative development prospects for the mineral- and land-richest parts to Mr Xi’s “Belt and Road” project for global economic domination.

Five African nations are among the world’s fastest-developing, and it was to three of those – South Africa, Nigeria and Kenya – that Mrs May gave her full attention, being filmed several times (as if we did not get the first time that she is a real groovy hipster), jerking about in a bright red jacket like a splinter of bloodied wood, promising to scatter another £4 billion in aid from her magic money-tree if only the African “shadies in Mercedes” would also drum-up a few tariff-free trade deals to take the heat off her floundering Brexit strategy.

Some discussion on the Today program countered the views of the Brexiteers, that the EU imposes fierce trade barriers on African goods, that we could helpfully remove to everyone’s advantage were we out of it. Most trade we do with “Africa” under EU rules turns out to be relatively or entirely tariff-free already, apart from the vexed question of African sugar cane vs. European sugar beet production. The advice seemed to be that moving to World Trade Organization rules would actually worsen the situation qua African farmers.

Er… and that’s it, essentially. Britain’s tiny 0.7%-of-GDP aid budget, invariably resented on behalf of their uninformed and begrudging readers by the professional grumblers at the Mail, is henceforth not to be spent, either to feed the very poor or the very rich, nor yet on emancipatory programs for religiously corralled womenfolk; but on global security, the outing of child slavers and molesters and the sending of other helpful advice about important matters Africans don’t yet understand. To that end, we are to install a branch of GCHQ, or something like it, a call-centre possibly, in Kenya someday.

In other words, the “Africa” aid budget is henceforth to be spent on us.

Much difference it will continue to make.

 

Middle East

When might the mudslinging turn to violence?

“The relevant agency involved is considered to be the strategic-affairs ministry, a government department set up in 2006 whose main function is to minimise threats from, primarily, anti-Israel movements abroad…. The ministry is likely to be fulfilling its duty to the state by helping any opposition to Corbyn. It may be many months or even years before the extent of such help becomes clear.”

Open Democracy’s strategic affairs editor, Paul Rogers, has written what to this elderly blogger appears to be a rational and balanced account of the likely investment of the Israeli state in the current campaign against Jeremy Corbyn and the efforts to brand him and half his party “anti-Semites”. It may be found at:

http://www.opendemocracy.net/paul-rogers/netanyahu-s-corbyn-problem?utm_source=Daily+Newsletter&utm_campaign=5ab663bdf5-DAILY_NEWSLETTER_MAILCHIMP&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_717bc5d86d-5ab663bdf5-408090269

We at the BogPo have frequently queried the value of such pejorative labelling. Sticks and stones, and so on. The higher you go up the political food chain, the greater I suppose must be the impact. I have no animus whatever against Jewish people, but I have from time to time raised an unwarranted Imperial eyebrow over the inequitable and often brutal treatment of Palestinian natives by representatives of the “Settler state”.

It seems the Israelis have no intention of living in a peaceful and harmonious relationship with anyone, but have retained since the wars of the 1960s a habitually aggressive, massively well-armed, self-defensive militaristic posture based on the edgiest of relationships, not only with neighboring states and the rest of the world, but with their own internalized, demonized “Other”: the native Palestinian minority.

I suppose if anyone read those pieces they would immediately cry “witch!” – a shorter term for “anti-Semite”. And frankly, I don’t give a toss. Call me anything you like, but don’t decry or deny my right to write what is in my heart. I’m not some kneejerk lefty, I firmly believe Mr Corbyn’s tenuous reign over a divided opposition party with no clear strategy on anything is an utter shambles. He has ruinously split the Labour movement, given free rein to a malicious anarcho-syndicalist tendency we thought had gone away forever; while he himself is a tiresome, supercilious old backbench sniper who has spent a political lifetime being a reactionary pain in the arse and can’t lose the habit.

There seems to be no centre to him.

On Palestinian rights, however, I cannot help but agree with him; since that is a position I have held since before I was even aware of his existence. And that is not a defence of terrorism, any more than is the historical reminder from time to time that Israel is a State founded on terrorism, committed both by and against the Jewish majority. This is no time for self-righteousness.

Where my opinion shades into that area where cries of “anti-Semitism!” are loudest and sharpest, is in my view that dividing a nation into first and second-class citizens and walling-up large numbers of the latter in secure enclaves, of the kind we are not supposed to call “ghettoes”, depriving them of the means to thrive, inflicting condign punishment on them for the feeblest of acts of resistance, are evils learned from the tenets of late 1930s German nationalism; lessons from history that perhaps ought not to be repeated as policy in any civilized, modern country.

That such behaviors are also characteristic of the attitudes of successive governments of the United States of America for over 250 years in respect – or for lack of it – of their native tribal minorities, colonized, brutalized and reduced at the hands of settlers in their relentless quest for land and treasure, and latterly of their large African slave population even post-emancipation, offers perhaps a sidelong glance at the close bond enjoyed between the two nations.

Your Uncle Bogler is therefore content to have his prejudices reinforced by Mr Rogers’ thoughtful article. It will be so easy for the “Zionists” or however you want to brand Ambassador Regev, Rabbi Sachs (a deeply furrowed man, who is forever crying “witch” on critics of Israel, even our finest satirists, from the best of protective motives no doubt); anti-Corbyn nemesis Margaret Hodge, and the legion of apologists and fellow travellers here and in the USA, to cry “anti-Semitism!” on Open Democracy; as contributors no doubt soon will.

Easy to spin Paul Rogers’ article as a paraphrasis of the old global conspiracy myth, that is being attached by resurgent quasi-fascists the world over to poor Mr Soros, who has only ever tried to help (except when his depradations on Wall Street damn near wrecked the British economy).

It is increasingly impossible to say anything about the matter; we recall that the poisonous Regev last year succeeded in preventing even a Holocaust survivor from speaking, for she was daring to use the N-word in her criticisms of the Israeli government. Such bullying and suppression of the right to voice one’s criticisms freely is becoming as commonplace as is the supposed “anti-Semitism” of the Labour movement, that has traditionally battled all forms of racism in the streets, in the factories  and on the hustings. What has changed? Little, I suspect; other than the leader and his famous appearances throughout his career on all the “wrong” radical platforms alongside reprehensible men of violence.

Sorry, but that does not make him one of them; any more than having to entertain the Mugabes and the Ceausescus and the Trumps makes HM the Queen a brutal dictator or a corrupt fabulist. It is surely only Corbyn’s judgement, not his morals, that is suspect.

Mention of an Israeli government department dedicated to preventing the election of a pro-Palestinian British Prime Minister – I am always amused by the importance former dominions still attach to Britain’s faded global glories – is bound to excite the pro-Semitic glands of the British wing of the Tel Aviv lobby and the Board of British Deputies.

Let’s not risk the Z-word either: as Rogers reminds us, there are Christian Zionists aplenty in the perfervid, Trump-voting alternative reality of the US Bible-belt. The Z-word, to its opponents, is simply code for settlement, more illegal settlement, giving no quarter – the imposition of a religiously apartheid state and the vision of a shining city upon a hill. In essence, though, all moral authority has been abandoned on the bonfire of Mr Netanyahu’s bluff realpolitik.

All one can do is point helplessly to the nobler aspirations of the founder, ben-Gurion; and to the Proclamation of Independence by the Provisional Government of Israel:

“The State of Israel will be open for Jewish immigration and for the Ingathering of the Exiles; it will foster the development of the country for the benefit of all its inhabitants; it will be based on freedom, justice and peace as envisaged by the prophets of Israel; it will ensure complete equality of social and political rights to all its inhabitants irrespective of religion, race or sex; it will guarantee freedom of religion, conscience, language, education and culture; it will safeguard the Holy Places of all religions; and it will be faithful to the principles of the Charter of the United Nations.”

Is it too “anti-Semitic” to call “bullshit” on the present regime, that continues to flout every single one of those hopeful promises of the founders? Who will naturally say, “well, these Palestinians, whoever they are, we are not responsible, have brought misery upon their own heads by not respecting the primacy of the ingathered exiles in our own land; which, of course, was promised to us by our exceedingly vengeful God. We, on the other hand, have made the desert bloom… thus, we shall continue to destroy the olive groves of the ungrateful, bulldoze their villages, murder their children and punish their desire for self-determination”.

To quote again finally from Rogers, summarising the views of the pro-Israel lobby group in the US calling itself innocently, “The Middle East Forum”:

“The message is clear: in the contest between Israelis and Palestinians, the former is the victor – and there will never be a two-state solution. In this view, any talk of peace can only mean that Palestinians in Israel, the occupied territories, and elsewhere, must accept whatever Israel decides about their future. That is the reality and there is no alternative.”

And judged by his every word and deed, that is clearly the view of Mr Trump, whose foreign policy is bent to the service of his personal enrichment, and that of his indebted son-in-law, Mr Kushner.

Unless Mr Regev and the rest are willing to claim that their statist policies are uniquely those of the Semitic peoples (to which Palestinians, incidentally, also belong) and of the Hebraic religion, which would be a strange thing to acknowledge, they can scarcely complain that to oppose such policies out of conviction and a sense of fairness is an attack upon them personally, on their religious beliefs, their customs and habits, their place and rights in society; perhaps, even a call for widespread cemetery-desecration, pogroms and worse.

The two are simply not to be conflated; and, frankly, I cannot see how the present and growing tensions are being eased by the flinging about of wild assertions, showboating by certain individuals, and the growing intransigence being shown by both sides in what seems to me a very silly political argument, behind which far more sinister forces are lurking.

 

GW: We’re singeing in the rain

USA: powerful storm with 90 mph winds knocks down trees and power lines and damages buildings, leaving 100 thousand homes without electricity and some without gas supplies, across a swathe of Michigan on 28 Aug. (Local press reports) Thanks to a perturbation of the jetstream, the heatwave plaguing the far west for months has lurched eastwards, with 5 wimpish men players retiring from the US Open tennis at Flushing Meadow owing to 38C, 100F degrees heat and lethal humidity. (BBC)

Atlantic: “A strong tropical wave that emerged from the coast of Africa on Thursday morning is likely to develop into Tropical Storm Florence by Friday” (31 Aug – moving towards the Cape Verde islands). Favoring development of Potential Tropical Cyclone 6 are warm sea surface temperatures, while wind shear over the eastern tropical Atlantic is a moderate 10 – 15 knots. And: “A tropical wave located on Thursday afternoon near the Dominican Republic was headed west to west-northwest at 10 – 15 mph. This system has the potential to develop into a tropical depression next week in the Gulf of Mexico. A flood advisory was in effect for much of Puerto Rico on Thursday afternoon (30 Aug).” (Wunderground)

Mexico: Extensive flooding followed heavy rain in Sonora County on the 23rd. The town of Nogales was badly affected. Flash flooding was also reported on the 26th at Junquito, near Caracas in Venezuela. Images show cars and people washed away.

China: Typhoon Rumbia brought intense rainfall and flash floods in the east of the country; cities of Huanan and Shendong affected. In Taiwan, 7 people died in flooding and landslides on 23 Aug, following intense rainfall measured at up to 1.2 meters in 24 hrs in some mountainous areas. “Violent waves caused five cargo ships and oil tankers to run aground off Kaohsiung Harbour.” (Floodlist add)

Japan: After Typhoon Cimaron passed over the island of Shikoku, already downgraded to a tropical storm,13 people were left injured and many properties damaged. It’s due to make landfall again in Korea on 31 Aug. Flights were grounded and 180 thousand homes left without power. Heavy rain is continuing, with rates recorded over 130mm/hr. BUT….

“Supertyphoon Jebi (maximum Cat 5, now north of Guam) is expected to track northwest toward Japan over the weekend. Meteorologists are predicting that Jebi will make landfall to the east coast of Japan by Tuesday, September 4. Although the winds will have weakened from the severe 165mph, they will still be a strong 105mph when Jebi makes land.” (Express). Jebi is the most powerful storm of the current season so far.

Thailand: images emerging of the extensive flooding caused by TS Bebinca twelve days ago, as the river Nan burst its banks.

Ukraine: The city of Lviv was extensively flooded on the 16th.

(Most of the above: CEWN #134)

Myanmar: “Monsoon rains have caused a dam to overflow, inundating the nearby township of Swar and surrounding villages. At least 50,000 people are thought to have evacuated their homes during the early hours of 29 Aug. (Reuters). Images on social media show teams from fire services and military helping to evacuate people from flooded areas.” (Floodlist)

Sweden: Cooler weather arriving just days ago seems to have ended the hottest three months on record for much of the country – and the worst wildfire season. Barbecue restrictions have been lifted. The national weather bureau reports that Stockholm had its highest average temperature (day and night) over the summer, at 22.5C. Hästveda in southern Sweden claimed the record for the hottest overall temperatureof 34.6C, 94F on 26 July. (The Local, Sweden)

Wildfires: With almost 1 million acres burned, the wildfire season in British Columbia, Canada is already the second worst on record – after 2017. Over 600 fires are still burning and air quality in Vancouver is off the scale for unbreathability. Meanwhile, the drought in New South Wales, Australia is continuing, and spring wildfires are plaguing the state again. NASA images show fires burning all around the globe, especially in regions where farmers burn stubble – central Africa is a mass of flame and smoke from this dumb practise.

 

In a searing speech delivered on Thursday night during a visit to Sydney, Tuilaepa Sailele, prime minister of Samoa, called climate change an “existential threat … for all our Pacific family” and said that any world leader who denied climate change’s existence should be taken to a mental hospital. (Guardian)

 

Surviving climate-change… Call it “refocussing”, Sajid… The EU needs to make an example of Hungary, and fast… The Wit and Wisdom of Donald J Trump #27… GW: and the heat goes on… The water no works – a personal reflection (May contain embarrassing medical details).

 

Surviving climate-change 

Near where I live is an unspoilt bay, and behind the beach is a low-lying, reclaimed estuary, from where in the 1850s the river was diverted away along the coast to deliver more water to the harbor.

Separating the two is just a shingle bar.

And living in a blue, two-room tent on the land side of the shingle bar, protected by a fence made from driftwood and stuff in garbage bags, is a homeless man.

He’s been there since last autumn.

He seems to bear a charmed life, as every spring-tide and storm surge now washes right over the barrier into the river and the fields behind. How the waves don’t wash him away, seems like some kind of miracle.

Truly he’s an inspiration to us all.

 

Home Office News

Call it “refocussing”.

“94 year old South African Myrtle Cothill visited her only daughter Mary, aged 68, in the UK in 2014. Whilst in the UK, Myrtle’s health deteriorated and her family were told that if she left she would be at greater risk of death within months of her return to South Africa. After a huge public outcry Myrtle was granted leave (to stay) on human rights grounds in 2016. But she is left to pay the fees to extend her visa every 2.5 years. It’s a huge financial burden as Myrtle obviously cannot work, her 68-year-old daughter Mary lives on a small pension, and Mary’s 62-year-old husband David (who suffers from Parkinson’s) battles on working part-time as a cashier in a supermarket.” – Petitioner, Jan Doerfel

Yes, the Home Office is once again threatening to order their barely sentient G4S goons to wrestle a 94-year-old blind woman with health issues onto a plane back to South Africa, where she has no living relations, her only daughter being British (a former nurse, and a registered carer).

But if she bungs the government twelve hundred quid, she can hang on for another couple of years.

Are we really that hard up, we have to start blackmailing vulnerable elderly couples caring for their aged parents?

Have we really become so intolerably nasty, cruel, miserly and grasping a nation? The sixth largest economy in the world? For why?

Oh, right. No room for foreigners, eh? When 6 per cent of the land mass of Britain is categorized as “developed”, we clearly have a problem finding space.

Except in Myrtle’s case, obviously. She’s living in her daughter’s house. The house is already there. So the problem doesn’t arise, does it.

Oh, well, what about Resources, eh? She’s non-productive and eating up our taxes demanding NHS healthcare for complex issues.

So am I (see below). And I get paid the State pension for doing it. Pay me £100 thousand and I’ll leave tomorrow. Cheap at the price.

And by the way, I doubt she qualifies for free NHS care, after only two years on a temporary residency visa.

But she’s not like us, she’s African! A funny color!

Actually not. She looks just like your grandma. And mine. Not all Africans are Zulus. But she does have a funny accent, so let’s send her back to bongo-bongo land.

Mrs May’s big election manifesto promise was to take care of the “Just about managing” lower-middle class. A promise totally, some might say cynically, abandoned as she teeters helplessly this way and that atop a fence of her own making over her party’s irreconcilable divisions on Brexit strategy, a crisis that has subsumed all other policy delivery and thwarted the functions of responsible governance.

Did she really mean ‘whites’?

Millions of people like “Mary” and “David” are living under this Toryshambles in conditions of worrying borderline poverty, many of them elderly first-generation migrants, a small step from potential disaster, watching their tiny incomes and benefits shrink while their costs of living rise inexorably. The coming reprise of the banking crisis will destroy them.

Conditions, one has to add, entirely brought upon themselves by the “Just about managing” class voting (twice, at least) in what seems like total ignorance for this historic blunder: the double-whammy of an inept minority Tory government buoyed up by Irish bigots, and Brexit.

Against this background runs an undercurrent of xenophobic resentment encouraged by the media targeting the same demographic, that has infected the bureaucracy so deeply that only root and branch reform can weed it out. And who can be bothered? We’re all right, Jack.

With so many injustices piling up as a result of Theresa May’s “Hostile Environment” policy on immigration (clergymen’s daughters are the worst, ain’t they?), the unthinking autocrat’s political solution to competent humanitarianism, the Home Secretary clearly has some Home Work to do over the holidays, don’t you, Sajid?

Call it “refocussing”? It’s enough to make you tear your hair out.

Er…. Oh.

 

“Europe is entering a new dark age. But it is already too late. They have no idea how dark the age is going to get”

The EU needs to make an example of Hungary, and fast

Or, then, you could consider the case of Hungary.

In 1956, a student protest escalated into a fullscale revolt against communist rule and the government fell. The Soviet Union sent tanks into the capital. “On 4 November”, recalls Wikipedia, “a large Soviet force invaded Budapest and other regions of the country. The Hungarian resistance continued until 10 November. Over 2,500 Hungarians and 700 Soviet troops were killed in the conflict, and 200,000 Hungarians fled as refugees.”

To cement his position in power, here in July 2018 the ultra-rightwing nationalist demagogue and one-time liberal protégé of George Soros, President Victor Orban has pushed through legislation, among other things criminalizing NGOs that provide aid to legitimate asylum seekers in his country. Hungary is barring its doors to refugees in open defiance of the UN Convention and EU law, to secure the popularity of this calculating thug among his white supremacist bigots re-running old battles against the Ottomans.

Open Democracy reports:

“The new laws target individuals and groups who provide assistance – including legal advice – to asylum seekers. Those convicted face up to 1 year imprisonment. NGOs that provide advice and assistance to refugees also face a potentially crippling tax of 25%.

“The legislative changes were labelled the ‘Stop Soros‘ laws. George Soros is a Hungarian-American billionaire financier and philanthropist. He has given large sums of money to immigrant and human rights groups over the years. He has also long been the target of far-right and antisemitic conspiracy theorists, including in his native Hungary.”

For the Orwellian fanatics beginning their assault on European democracies, it’s essential to have a hate figure, and for the expediently anti-Semitic, Islamophobic Orban the Hungarian-born Jew, Soros, who once paid for him to go to Oxford university, will do; just as Turkish voters are being taught by the clearly insane President Erdogan that his former friend and colleague, the exiled cleric Fetullah Gülen, is responsible for their ills; almost all of which have been brought about by Erdogan’s own economic incompetence and dogwhistle isolationism.

Was this Hungarian refugee kid maybe you, Orban, you miserable, ungrateful little fucker?

Clearly, this overbearing item, Orban has no grateful recollection of the events of 1956. I do, I remember my grandmother, an officer in the Red Cross, being dispatched to Vienna to process his terrified refugee family – at least, those like them who perhaps did not collaborate – and bring them to safety in the UK.

(That was the year after my grandfather, a postwar economic adviser to the Hungarian government and senior wartime MI6 executive, met a suspicious death in 1955 while ‘on holiday’ in neighboring Yugoslavia.)

We took in 27 thousand Hungarians, and if the Home Office were doing its job it would now round up any surviving refugees and their “British” offspring and intern the whole fucking lot in a camp on the Isle of Man, to remind Hungary what the outcome of their beloved leader’s pro-Russian fascist policies will inevitably be.

Buit they won’t, because I feel sure there is some not-so secret admiration in the British government for Orban’s hardline stance on immigration.

If Orban does vaguely connect with the events that must have affected his family 62 years ago, it has moved nothing in his black and empty soul, other than a hatred of the left, of anti-authoritarianism. It goes without saying, this shitty fucker needs to be expelled from the European Union, and fast.

Nothing in his expedient regime meets the rules and higher aspirations of the Union, so he should take his Ruritanian rutted feudal demesne, get on his ox-cart, and leave, now. Let him serve the Russian Tsar. We should not waste another tax cent on the bastards.

What ambitious pigs like Orban, Austrian vice-president Strache, pretty-boy Wilders, the Le Pen Addams family and Italy’s curiously not-quite Prime Minister, the n’drangheta mob-sponsored Salvini – not to mention Rees-Mogg, Johnson and the rest of the Brexit cunts – are not noticing, is that they have almost no time left in which to work their shitty little power-plays.

It’s over.

We’ve fucked the planet. Something entirely new and different from the 1930s is needed now, and they ain’t got it.

Europe is entering a new dark age. But it is already too late. The current crop of rightwing hopefuls have no idea how dark the age is soon going to get for them and everybody else.

 

The Wit and Wisdom of Donald J Trump #279

Speaking at a veterans’ fundraiser in West Virginia, Trump solemnly informed the gathering that coal is the best form of energy for “national security” because it’s “indestructible”. You can’t bomb it, like you can a pipeline, and it’s not affected by rain…. (Yes, he said that!)

Mr Trump has previously imagined at a rally last year that “clean coal”, a scientific term referring to storing carbon emissions from coal-fired power stations underground, an expensive technology still at the experimental stage, meant you wash the dirt off before burning it. Seriously.

We can only imagine that Mr Trump’s fascination with coal derives from his gratitude to some of his biggest donors, Koch Industries and Murray Energy.

Meanwhile, investigations are focussing on Mr Trump’s relationship with Fox News, which, it now appears, may have made $15 million-worth of undeclared campaign contributions to his election campaign in 2016 through hours of free advertising masquerading as serious reportage.

x

GW: and the heat goes on

Japan: “Flooding and landslides have killed at least (76) people and left dozens missing in western areas of Japan. Most of the deaths have occurred in Hiroshima prefecture, which has been hit by torrential rain since Thursday. Hundreds of homes have been damaged. About 1.5 million people have been ordered to leave their homes and three million more advised to do so. Authorities say it could potentially be the worst weather disaster Japan has seen in decades. … In the town of Motoyama, 600km west of Tokyo, 583mm (23in) of rain fell between Friday morning and Saturday morning.” – BBC News, 08 July

Pakistan: “Severe weather, including dust storms and heavy rainfall, has affected parts of Punjab Province in Pakistan over the last few days. At least 6 people died after flooding in Lahore, capital city of Punjab province, on 03 July. Local media reported record levels of rainfall in the city. Further heavy rain fell in other areas of the province the following day. … a further 7 people have died and 29 injured in different areas of Punjab Province since the flooding in Lahore.”

Nigeria: “Local media are reporting that at least 8 people have died in flooding in Niger State. At least 2 others are still missing.”

USA: “Heavy rain caused surface flooding in Houston, Texas, on 04 July. Some central areas recorded 7.8 inches (in 24 hrs). Several bayous, including the White Oak Bayou, broke their banks. 3 southern Minnesota counties have declared a state of emergency as flooding caused by torrential rains washed out roads and damaged property.” – Edited from Floodlist reports.

“Thousands were forced to leave their homes in Santa Barbara County, Ca. on Saturday as a fast-moving wildfire driven by strong winds and triple-digit temperatures destroyed 20 homes and other buildings, and officials declared a local emergency. The Holiday Fire, one of more than three dozen major blazes burning across the US west, broke out on Friday evening and raced through the seaside foothills. The flames forced more than 2,000 people to flee their homes, and left thousands more without power.” – Guardian, 08 July

Italy: “As much as 130 mm of rain (5 in.) fell in under 4 hours on 03 July in the town of Moena and surrounding areas in the province of Trentino, northern Italy. The torrential rain caused rivers to overflow and sent mud and flood water raging through Moena’s streets. Other areas of the province also saw severe weather, including thunderstorms, lightning strikes and strong winds.”

UK: Our heatwave continues – still no sign of rain in West Wales. Wildfires continue to burn here, and outside Manchester. Scotland has recorded its hottest ever day, according to provisional figures from the Met Office. On Thursday 28 June, a temperature of 33.2C degrees was measured in Motherwell, North Lanarkshire.

Atlantic: after a month of quiet, the first Atlantic hurricane is strengthening for an assault on the Lesser Antilles islands. Hurricane Beryl is tiny: only 35 miles wide, but packin’ a punch. (Latest: No, Beryl has weakened to a TS but a new system is forming SW of Bermuda. Sea temperature and windshear are not currently conducive to hurricane formation.)

The Weather Channel/ Floodlist/ Guardian/ BBC

 

The water no works – a personal reflection

(May contain embarrassing medical details)

Once again your old Uncle B. has had to draw upon the seemingly infinite resources of the NHS to get him out of trouble.

He’s beginning to realize that however young you imagine you look, and however invincible you feel as you are lugging 25kg bags of ready-to-mix concrete and large paving slabs about your tiny garden, ignoring your protesting muscles, anno domini is creeping up behind you – fast.

My sweet new neighbour was astonished the other day when I confessed that I planned to turn 70 next year. “I thought you were maybe in your late 40s!”, she exclaimed, disappointment written over her pretty brow (her boyfriend has left her.)

Readers, Spammers, Likers, Trailers – and Those No Longer Reading This, muh bogl –  will be au fait with the dismal tale of my retinal surgeries earlier this year, that have left me with a degree of vision in one eye that resembles looking through the bottom of a beer glass, only with a missing bit in the middle.

Opticians tell me sadly, no improvement can be expected, no lens can correct it.

Yesterday, more drama ensued as an ambulance arrived and bore me off to the local hospital.

I felt a bit embarrassed about that, as I was not dead or gasping for air, had not fallen down the stairs or accidentally mistaken weedkiller for milky coffee.

I did try, twice, to get in the car and drive myself to Casualty, but the discomfort was extreme – no cash for a taxi, and after four hours of desperately trying to drain my old bladder – Blad the Impaler, as I have christened him – to be rewarded only with a few drops at about 4 a.m. and nothing at all thereafter, the agonizing contractions were coming thick and fast.

(Such wimps, we men. If we only knew! Sigh.)

I had Googled “urinary retention” at about 3.30 a.m. and become alarmed at the possible knock-on effects of all that straining, not least the damaging back-pressure on my kidneys. Newton’s Third Law also comes into play when you squeeze that hard, that often into your pelvic floor, as any pregnant lady kno’, and it gets leaky the other side.

At 05.30 I called the hospital, but after twenty minutes with the phone in Casualty ringing off the hook the receptionist advised me to call my GP Out of Hours service, who in turn told me to go to hospital. I explained about the car, the discomfort, the contractions; she agreed that an ambulance was the best option and she was calling one for me.

After another hour went by, and no ambulance, I called the GP again. The surgery was awake by now, and casually informed  me that today’s waiting-time allowance for non-emergency cases is four hours, although the ambulance station is only four minutes from here. I explained about the non-“emergence” of any urine for the past ten hours, the back-pressure on the kidneys, and she relented. My conveyance arrived four minutes later. Almost.

Once inside the medical campervan I underwent a battery of tests, blood pressure and sugar, heart still beating, pupils correctly dilating – all the while noticing that my arms and legs appeared embarrassingly begrimed with concrete dust and garden soil. So tired had I been after lugging half the stock of my local builders’ merchants home, that I had thrown myself into bed without showering, which I rarely bother with anyway.

The clodpolls had sold the rest of the pile of bricks I had earlier reserved and paid for, and had been collecting 50 at a time. “Sorry mate, you can’t get hold of those now for love nor money”, said the man, with much eye-rolling, sucking of teeth and, finally, an offer of a small compensatory discount for non-matching bricks – so now I have to construct a strangely piebald wall.

Life has consequences, of which deep embarrassment is one. Be Prepared! was the motto when I was a boy scout, and I had ignored it. Never put off until tomorrow… etc., but just take that shower; vacuum that sitting room; walk that dog; badger that urology department for an appointment; have those bricks delivered now, while you can!

The proximate cause of the blockage, I suspected, was the bottle of Merlot I’d imbibed while sitting on a hard chair in my sitting-room watching the shadows lengthening over the Centre Court at Wimbledon, enjoying the friendly banter and televisual comradeship of Claire, Boris and Martina, all the while inflating my old prostate, already the size of an avocado, crushing my urethra flat.

It happens sometimes, about every six weeks. I’ll spend half the night straining over the wc to little effect, but always there’s been relief as the sun comes up and I get going with the milky coffee and have to rush to the drain behind the kitchen in a sort of Pavlovian response to various psychological triggers, before spending a day dodging behind trees and whizzing in people’s front gardens.

After that, it’s always settled down – always, until the day the ambulance arrives and the curtains of the neighbours start twitching in curiosity and hope.

And now, Dear Persistent Reader, now I have a bag strapped to my concrete-dusty leg, filling with slightly bloody-looking urine as the catheter the willy-man shoved up my pipi gradually drains what may turn out to be the rest of my life away, through a bewildering complex of tubes and ingenious valves: a contraption it will be my task now to master and manage, possibly forever.

I forgot to ask him, what happens if you get an erection? Probably you never will again. And I worry about going swimming. But it’s quite handy, never having to rush to the bathroom, or worry about finding a tree. You just go wherever you are, even while having conversations with unsuspecting neighbours!

It is punishingly sore, though; and I have had to adopt a curious, crouching gait, slowly hobbling along after Hunzi, who still requires walking twice a day in the exurban space that, etc. (Later I discover lovely Mario, the Italian charge nurse who speaks little English, has strapped the thing on too low down on the leg, causing the tube to pull tight.)

It may be like this, only until I can get to see the urologist, a Ghanaian gentleman who also speaks little English, in what I have been hopefully promised will be a fortnight’s time. He might release me from the contraption, provided no lasting damage has been done by it. These NHS people are all very lovely and helpful, albeit incomprehensible, but I couldn’t help reflecting that my biopsy (happily negative) was twenty months ago and there’s been no follow-up contact since.

The NHS is great in emergencies, when you finally get through on the phone; when the ambulance finally arrives. Nowadays, that’s about as far as it goes. Endless forms are filled, that you suspect will go nowhere (“So, P., can you tell me about your medical history? Are you allergic to anything? No? Cool!”); repeated, not apparently relevant tests (blood pressure checked three times in two hours, although why? I’m not ill!), all procedurally highly efficient, no doubt – but once you’ve been gratefully discharged with a bagful of spare tubes and minimal instructions as to how to manage the rest of your life (“Any questions, see your GP” – never mind the three-weeks waiting time), you’re entirely on your own.

Apart from Hunzi, that is. You’re never alone with a lovely dog.

He even slows up for me, looking anxious.

Bless.

 

 

Son of Novichok… The last human?… An aviation mystery… GW: Upstairs in the attic, blowin’ up me rubber ring…

Polling finds that “20 percent of Americans would deny Muslims who are American citizens the right to vote.” While 68 percent of Republican voters support separate internment for the children of migrants at the border. – Washington Post report.

 

“And afterwards we can sign a non-disclosure agreement…” (photo: knowyourmeme.com)

 

“You’d have to invoke quantum theory to explain it.”

Son of Novichok

A couple living in Amesbury, Wiltshire (eight miles from Salisbury, scene of the nerve agent attack on Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia last March), Dawn Sturgess and Charlie Rowley, were taken to hospital on Saturday night, unconscious, with a mystery illness at first assumed to be a drug overdose.

“The police and government … said they were keeping an open mind…. By the end of the evening, the police announced the tests showed it was Novichok, a type of nerve agent originally developed in Russia.” – BBC News

Someone had recognized the symptoms from the last incident. As it just happened to be the same hospital that saved the lives, just about, of the Skripals. And just up the road, boffins at the chemical weapons research establishment were instantly able to confirm the samples were indeed Novichok.

Lucky, or what? I mean, it could have happened anywhere. And again, none of the unprotected first responders appears to have been affected, even though they did not immediately know they were dealing with a deadly contaminant engineered to kill on contact.

What are the odds, eh?

England getting to the quarter-finals of the World Cup; a minister lying in the House about a deeply pessimistic report of the disastrous Government attempts to iron-flat the social security system; a Prime Minister floundering as Brexit bully-boys in her cabinet send her ultimatums to wreck the economy; a drama involving an entire youth football team trapped in a cave complex in Thailand have left this astonishing story somewhere down the running order, but by tomorrow it will be number one, and rightly so.

Just what the hell is going on? As Mr Trump might ask.

No-one has any idea, and what remains of the government is clearly panicking; while the police advice to the frightened people of Amesbury? “Wash your clothes. Don’t pick anything up unless you know what it is.” Very helpful, I’m sure. What does “anything” mean? What does this stuff look like? It’s a secret!

Then there’s the media. The BBC’s security correspondent, Gordon Carrera, is also floundering. His unlikely explanation: “Perhaps this is some of the Novichok prepared for the attack (in March) and discarded – maybe somewhere like a park, a house – and maybe these two came across it.”

Perhaps. Maybe. Just what you want from a security expert.

Look. Forty-something couples living in agreeably sleepy country towns, people called Dawn and Charlie, can’t automatically be assumed to be involved in post-Soviet era skulduggery.

But might they be?

Murders in Midsomer generally involve shotguns, quarrels about overgrown Leylandii hedges, adultery – or hitmen from The Smoke whacking crime barons’ retired business rivals. They don’t include deadly compound nerve agents and GRU goons acting on a nod from Putin.

Apart from the weapon of choice, and the proximate locations of Salisbury, Amesbury and the grim facility of the Porton Down biological warfare establishment, it might seem nothing would link the two murder attempts – assuming they were murder attempts, and not accidental own-goals.

The initial response of the Russians to hot accusals from Mrs May in the wake of the Skripal incident was, as usual, to argue that it was only the West trying to discredit Putin prior to his re-election in May. Or, to divert attention from her problems over Brexit. Or it was MI6 tidying-up one of its own double-agents who’d gone rogue.

The obvious reason then for attacking innocent villagers apparently at random would be for Russian agents to exonerate the Russians: “there’s an epidemic of Novichok in your country, comradeski; it’s not ours, it must have escaped from Porton Down, and been left carelessly where anyone can find it; why, would you think we would deliberately target a former double-agent living peacefully in retirement in the heartland of the British defense industry?” And so on.

So, a diversionary tactic to cover-up for the first attack. Really?

The BogPo will return to this diverting spy story as soon as we learn more – if we ever do. The key, we suspect, will lie in the occupations of the two victims and what relationship they have with Porton Down, or with the security establishment; a key that has tantalizingly not yet been turned after four months. We are being told absolutely nothing.

Because the sheer impossibility of the story is that this poisoning could have been accidental. If the attack on this couple was accidental, then so must have been the attack on the Skripals – and therefore not an attack at all. What are the odds against two innocent couples being accidentally poisoned eight miles and four months apart by the same Soviet-era military nerve agent no-one wanted to admit still exists?

You’d have to invoke quantum theory to explain it.

For now, it seems highly unlikely that Dawn and Charlie are just collateral damage from the previous incident. They have to be connected. Novichok has, we learned at the time, a half-life: its effectiveness decays. March was a long time ago for this stuff to have hung around. Why Amesbury? And why now?

And, what, the would-be assassin just happened to throw a bag of it away, where four months later, Dawn and Charlie, out gathering magic mushrooms in the forest, managed to find it and smear themselves with it? It’s a compound substance, the individual chemicals are non-toxic. You have to blend them to make it active. Or so we are told.

The extent of their involvement may never come out, but involved in the Skripal affair they most certainly must have been somehow.

The probability of a second Russian attack in the UK using a banned military-grade substance, right in the middle of the feelgood World Cup football tournament in Russia, after the global furore caused by the last one, is vanishingly small, although it will be blamed on them. Is that what they are relying on? The sheer implausibility of this awful thing happening twice?

There are no coincidences in the world of espionage.*

*So, poor Dawn died, “Theresa May said on Thursday that Salisbury and the wider area remained “very much open for business”. – Guardian – She’s definitely losing it.

While Charlie regained consciousness and apparently told police they found the novichok in a perfume bottle. A few days later the police announced they had identified a number of Russian suspects.

 

Sometimes there’s an air of ‘fin du monde’ about a sunset over a housing estate on the west coast. (Photo: The BogPo)

Nature Notes

“…one could almost be the last human on earth. Someone has to be.”

The last human?

Hunzi and I take our daily constitutional along the cycle path through the exurban space that passes for our local park, round the small, tangled wood beside the town sewage works and back. It is, as I have noted before, a space far from the nearest poisoned farmland, compartmentalized into many enticing habitats:

  • A clear, pebbly-bottomed stream, once long ago teeming with salmon and sea-trout, now shrunk in the unaccustomed weeks of sunshine (thanks to a blocking high-pressure area out in the Atlantic) to less than half of its normally quite respectable girth;
  • its murmuring, tree-lined banks, mainly willow and alder, where hopeful signage tells us voles are being protected. I’ve never seen one, only a kingfisher once, ducks, and a couple of times a heron; plenty of feral cats, though;
  • open areas of heath-like quality, infested with gorse and broom; shoulder-high thickets of brambles;
  • an impenetrable forest of spiny sloe-trees (Prunus spinosa) planted by Post Office workers in honor of a colleague long deceased;
  • marshy areas, temporarily bone-dry, supporting patches of reed-grass, bullrushes and goat-willow;
  • hanger woods creeping up hillsides crowned with open sheep-pasture;
  • succession woodland on the valley floor pockmarked with overgrown, ancient flood-traps, where bluebells in the early spring radiate their ultraviolet glow amid discarded bag-waste and the detritus of winter floods;
  • an arboretum, mostly birch, their trunks crazed with some virus that is causing great black galls and cracks in the silvery bark, filled with a powdery orange mildew;
  • two railway embankments (one a narrow-gauge line with a Puffing Billy steam locomotive, for tourists), warrened by rabbits;
  • a half-acre wildflower meadow rapidly filling with new bracken, so late in the season; its tall grasses drying brown in the heat;
  • a private cricket ground, scorched and brown; the university playing fields, newly shorn of their riot of buttercups; the sewage works popular with shit-hunting gulls, before you come upon the industrial estate and community recycling facility….
  • some ribbon development visible through the trees, halfway up the valley sides;
  • a nearby, thundering main road, beside which Hunzi, Katz and I have been condemned by my Committee of Discarnate Entities and the immutable Karmic laws of the Universe to live, surrounded by shouty people with power tools.

We walk through all of the above for about 40 minutes as usual, listening for the loud explosions of the seed cases of the gorse in the sunshine. It is late June, 24 degrees with a faint sea-breeze hardly troubling the topmost leaves and – albeit half-blind in one eye, and through sunglasses – over the course of two miles I observe the following tally of wildlife:

  • 1 meadow brown butterfly.
  • 1 moth, gray, of undetermined species.
  • 2 worker bees, foraging among the bramble blossoms.
  • Possibly 2 or 3 other bees on the wing, not pausing long enough to be identified.
  • 2 grasshoppers, heard not seen.
  • About a dozen flies, some trying halfheartedly to be annoying.
  • 1 blackbird, ground-feeding.
  • 2 corvids – I never know, are they jackdaws?
  • 1 pigeon, stupefied upon a wire.
  • In the far distance across the rooftops along the side of the valley, four or five gulls.

Otherwise all is still, silent apart from some desultory midday birdsong and the distant rumble of traffic. Around us, in the overgrown verges, the woodlands and the meadows, amid the ridiculous profusion of early summer verdure, that ambushed us only three or four weeks ago, is an ominous shortage of invertebrate life.

On this stunning day, blue sky smeary with the jet-trails* that tragic American halfwits are constantly posting they believe are proof of a conspiracy between NASA and the Pentagon to control the world’s weather, a conspiracy that must have involved tens of thousands of aero-engineers, maintenance crews and airline executives from a hundred countries for over 60 years without anybody saying anything, on this, the flattest of flat earths (bounded, presumably, by the Ohio state line), we appear to be facing extinction.

Not that there is anyone much around to notice: a postal worker on his way to work – we acknowledge one another with a cheery grunt almost every day, whom I have never seen wearing long trousers, a man in his 50s – and a solitary cyclist, a person I don’t recognize, a visitor helpfully dressed for identification purposes, unmistakably as a cyclist.

The welcome disappearance, after a busy weekend, of waddling, multiply tattooed  harridans, their snarling pitbulls and even more obese daughters pushing prams with one hand while keeping up intense monologues on their cellphones with the other; the lack of joggers dispelling clouds of Lynx in their wake, the dearth of silly grownups on roller-skates and skateboards are welcome reminders that one could almost be the last human on earth.

Someone has to be.

It might not be too bad.

 

An aviation mystery

* Jet trails, hmmmn. You know what? They’ve stopped!

The usual messy sky over the valley. (Photo: the BogPo)

Here just outside Boglington I walk Hunzi for two hours every day around the valley, observing with mild trepidation that we seem to be directly under a busy flight path for commercial airliners heading out to sea en masse, up to 20 at a time.

The sky is usually, as I have written, criss-crossed with vapor from their engines, spreading out and creating a high-level haze of stratus cloud over the valley.

And since the weekend, at least – it takes time to register these things – they’ve pretty much completely stopped. Disappeared off the radar, as it were.

I’ve spotted only three, maybe four, in the past week; two of those way off in the distance; and last evening at sunset I heard a solitary airliner cruising overhead, but could see nothing in the clear blue sky.yh

The weather here has been most unusually dry, hot and sunny for weeks, and we have even had our very own wildfire – it burned for four days and there were helicopters and everything, dumping water, but it didn’t make the national news.

Otherwise, nothing. I point out the empty sky to a few other dog walkers I judge capable of independent thought, and they look mildly surprised and say, oh yes, you’re right! We hadn’t noticed. (That’s Boglingtonians for you, they never notice a thing until you point it out to them.)

But nobody has an explanation.

It’s another mystery to be cleared up in the fullness of time.

 

GW: Upstairs in the attic, a’ blowin’ up me rubber ring

Canada: “6 more people have died in Montreal’s heatwave, bringing to 12 the city’s total death toll from the extreme weather conditions that have gripped central and eastern Canada, health officials said on Wednesday.” (Guardian). Emergency services have received over 1200 calls as temperatures have lingered for days in the mid-30s C, 90s F. Another 5 possibly related deaths were recorded in Quebec’s Eastern Townships.

India: 16 people died as a result of severe weather in Maharashtra, many in lightning strikes, between 22 and 24 June. Santa Cruz observatory in Mumbai recorded 231.4 mm rain in 24 hours. Since 29 May, over 1 million people have been affected by heavy monsoon rains and severe flooding in the north-eastern states. As of 25 June, the number of deaths stands at 239.

“At least 3 people died in Jammu and Kashmir, northern India, after days of heavy rainfall. Authorities suspended the famous Amarnath Yatra pilgrimage due to threat of floods and landslides.””Floods and landslides caused by heavy rainfall since 01 July, 2018, have claimed 12 lives in Nepal, with a further 6 injured and 3 still missing.”

Vietnam: floods and landslides triggered by recent heavy rain in northern areas of the country have killed at least 7 people and destroyed almost 50 houses. Nam Giang in Lai Chau province recorded 386 mm (14 in.) of rain in 24 hours to 24 June.

Myanmar: At least 30 people have died in floods and landslides in Myanmar since early June when this year’s monsoon rains began. 6 people were killed in a landslide that buried a staff quarters in Kachin state on 22 June and 5 more in flooding elsewhere. Record rainfall fell in Mon State on 17 June. Rakhine state and Magway Region were severely affected by flooding and landslides in early June.

Darfur: torrential rains on 21 June destroyed 430 houses in six displaced persons’ (internal refugee) camps in Zalingei, Central Darfur. High winds accompanied rain that lasted all night. Large numbers of families are now living in the open after the rain destroyed their houses and they lost what little they owned.

Ghana: “five people have been confirmed dead and one missing following a heavy rain that caused flooding in some parts of Kumasi. Heavy rain began during the evening of Thursday 28 June. During a 24 hour period to 29 June, Kumasi recorded 115mm of rain. A further 76 mm of rain fell the following day.”

Edited from officially sourced reports on Floodlist.com/ 

Oman: the coastal city of Quriyat (Qurayyat) on Tuesday 26 June posted a 24-hour low temperature of 42.6°C (108.7°F) from local midnight to midnight. “According to weather records expert Maximiliano Herrera, this sets a new world record for the hottest 24-hour-minimum temperature ever recorded.” The maximum temperature in Quriyat peaked at 49.8°C (121.6°F), and topped out at 50.6°C, 123°F in Joba – another record.

USA: 30 June: baseball-size hail pelts north Texas, Colorado.

A dome of intense heat—not too far from record intensity for so early in the summer—will migrate from the Rockies to the Midwest and Northeast by this weekend, accompanied by worsening air quality. An unusually thick layer of dust from the Sahara will bring hazy skies to the central U.S. late in the week. Temperatures are expected to reach or exceed 110°F in Arizona on Tuesday and Wednesday.” Dangerous levels of ozone are being warned of.

Meanwhile, thanks to cooler waters over 2,000 bathers have reported being stung by jellyfish off the coast of Florida in the past two weeks. Wunderground specialist, Dr Jeff Masters complains that the Atlantic hurricane season has got off to a disappointingly slow start, but “June has already seen four named East Pacific storms with the arrival of Daniel on Sunday, and at least two more named storms are possible this week before the month is out.”

“At least one person died in flash floods that hit areas around Des Moines, Iowa, on 20 June. The city of Johnston recorded 8.4 inches (213.36 mm) in 24 hours. Rivers broke their banks and emergency services including teams from Des Moines Police department carried out dozens of high water rescues of people trapped in flooded homes or vehicles.” (Edited from Floodlist)

Europe: Heat warnings are out across much of southern Europe and across the Mediterranean to the Adriatic, where amber warnings have been given for severe thunderstorms over Greece. Details on Meteoalarm are, as usual, scanty, so we can’t be sure what a yellow advisory will add up to in Spain, but we find that even the Irish Republic is being warned of temperatures in the high 20s C, while here in Boglington tomorrow we are looking at a possible 30C, 86F.

Welcome to the apocalypse. Saddleworth Moor, Manchester, England, 28 June. (Danny Lawson/PA Images via Getty Images.)

UK: as temperatures climb into the 30s C, high 80s F, a brushfire has consumed a 4-mile stretch of Saddleworth Moor, Manchester, after weeks with almost no rain. The peat subsoil is smouldering, making it difficult to contain. Denizens of the US west will no doubt have got over the limitations of the language by now, but Britain’s first major wildfire in years evoked all the cliches, as the “dry as tinder” scrub burned, “One resident described seeing “ash falling like rain” (more like ash, shurely? Ed.) and another said it “looked like the apocalypse”. The Hollywood version, presumably.

How brown was my valley? The view across the parched Boglington cricket club ground, 02 July. (Photo: The BogPo)

Here in Boglington we’ve had three days of wildfires burning further up the valley, but as yet nothing to make the news. People here are curiously incurious. You point toward the roiling smoke plume three miles away and the heavy haze hanging over us and they say, oh yes, we thought we could smell something, what is it? 33C is the forecast for tomorrow and apart from the smoke we still have wall-to-wall sunshine and more scorching heat forecast, odd for usually monsoonal late June.

Russia: “a crane driver died trying to prevent his rig from falling on the city’s wedding palace when a powerful storm hit Bernaul on the 23rd June. It left the city almost totally without electricity and caused water supply shortages. Traffic lights failed, and trees, fences, billboards were smashed.” – Siberian Times

According to its Wikipedia entry, Abakan is the capital city of the Republic of Khakassia, located at the confluence of the Yenisei and Abakan Rivers in central southern Siberia. As of 7 pm this evening, 25 June, local time, the temperature there was 35C, 95F.

Greece: flash flooding followed 24 hours of heavy rain in the south and midlands. 28 and 29 June the rain moved north and east, causing widespread flood damage and washing out roads in Albania, Bulgaria and Romania.

Meteoalarm/ The Weather Channel/ Siberian Times/ Floodlist

Storm over Barnaul, Siberia, 23 June. (Picture: Vyacheslav Postnikov)

World Cupballs

“Well, his arm was not in an unnatural position. It’s still joined to his body.” BBC commentator.