The BogPo. Dog Days and Diesels; One Sleepless Night, Trump; Granny Weatherwax’s Almanacke, 23-26 July; Am I Still a European?

Dog Days and Diesels

We’re rapidly approaching the Silly Season, the Dog Days, whatever you call August

So it’s not surprising the press and radio news are leading on a nebulous proposal by Michael Gove to ‘phase-out’ diesel and petrol cars altogether by 2040, in line with M. Macron’s equally futile ambition in France, and force everyone into electric vehicles.

The problem with electric vehicles is, they need electricity. As things stand, we haven’t got the extra generating capacity to charge-up 32 million cars and six million commercial vehicles every night – when the solar power will be down. So we’re going to need at least a couple more nukes like Hinckley Point C, the atrocious French white elephant that’s already way behind schedule and over budget.

There are other, practical problems. Electric car batteries are improving, but still heavy, wasteful of energy and slow to charge. That’s even if the charging infrastructure can be rolled out; and people can afford the expensive cars without upsetting the Bank of England, worried about ‘sub-prime’ car loans.

That’s begging the questions, with 24 years to go (!) what purchasing decisions should motorists make in the meantime? And does anyone seriously imagine Exxon-Mobil, Shell and the other Big Oil bastards will just stand by and let this happen?

Three days earlier – whouhawhouaa, cue flashback music – we were informed of the government’s plan to spend a quarter of a billion pounds funding British companies to design clever new storage batteries, that we can ‘hang on the wall’ to power our homes with stored electricity from solar panels on the roof, of which every home would have one. (A panel, that is. Roofs aren’t guaranteed.)

We would – get this – be able to sell our spare electricity to the Grid! A brilliant new idea from Energy Secretary, Amber Rudd that replaces the old idea, where at the behest of the competitive electricity generators the government three years ago slashed the ‘feed-in’ tariff paid to householders for their spare electricity, thus bringing the rooftop solar panels industry to a crashing halt.

Believe me, I’ve lived off-Grid, powering a fridge with a leisure battery is not a proposition if you want to keep your milk from going off. (Actually we had fresh milk from our goat every day, it’s just an illustration of the problem.)

Clearly, Mrs May’s parting orders to the cabinet before she takes a hike in the Dolomites, very painful, were to just come up with any old ideas to leave the British public hanging, imagining the government is still in charge until Parliament resumes in September.

When the Universities succeeded in getting the Cameron mob to treble tuition fees to £9,000, it was said this would be the ‘maximum’ they could charge. Which explains why they all immediately rushed to start charging £9,000 a year. Please don’t tell me that the opportunity to charge drivers of diesel cars £10 a day to use certain roads in cities won’t prompt every local authority in the country to rush for the numberplate recognition cameras and create this wonderful new source of free income, regardless of the level of pollution.

Eighteen months ago when the NOx emissions story first broke, I saw the writing on the bumper-sticker and enquired about selling my little diesel car. I was quoted £5,000. Why, oh why, didn’t I go through with it? I still felt, nyergh, maybe I still need it…  I might have to go somewhere.

My car’s now worth only about £2,000 and falling by the day. I imagine most of the 13 million diesel car owners are also stuck between a rock and a hard place, faced with having to find £30 grand to buy a small electric car and getting nothing back for the diesel car the government told us all to buy fifteen years ago because it was more economical and produced less CO2 – both of which are true.

Scrapping cars is wasteful and expensive – very little recycling is possible – and does nothing to reduce emissions, as to make a replacement car emits as much CO2 as driving it (www.theguardian.com/environment/green-living-blog/2010/sep/23/carbon-footprint-new-car)

And so, until they become illegal 23 years from now, the country will have lots and lots of ageing diesels chuntering about, shrinking our children’s brains. Hardly Govey’s intention, if he has one.

Meanwhile, it remains the case that electricity is not the only alternative means of propulsion. By his limited insistence on electric replacements, Gove is overlooking the possibilities of other, newer technologies we could develop, if only they weren’t being suppressed by the oil companies.

It’s reported that Exxon-Mobil alone may be sitting on as many as 3,000 unexploited patents on improvements and alternative power sources its own engineers have produced over the nearly four decades since their researchers first alerted them to the perils of burning the black stuff.

It was worth setting up those departments to find new types of propulsion, just to shut them down.

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One sleepless night, Trump

So the House committee approved Trump’s fifth pick, Christopher Wray, for the job of FBI Director, subject to Senate ratification.

It comes out in the media shortly before the vote that Wray’s law firm, King and Spalding works for Rosneft and Gazprom, the two big Russian utilities controlled by the Kremlin (USA Today report); while individuals connecting between those giant dark money-pits, Russian banks and property developments around the globe are also identified with organized crime syndicates.

Surprise, surprise, it’s Russia time again. And such a man, whatever he tells the committee, which must be getting used to being endlessly lied to by Trump nominees, isn’t going to close down the FBI’s multiple investigations into Russian Trumpola, is he? Surely not.

Wray is not the only individual with probably innocent connections to oligarchs identified by the intel services as mobsters, whom Trump is continuing to shoehorn into government positions – and remember, Trump appears from his tweets to believe that Wray will be reporting directly to him and not to the Justice Department, which he continue to try to undermine.

Who is Trump working for?

Then we hear that Wray – who is not the well-known chain of upmarket domestic lighting emporia – was paid $ millions in public-money ‘fees’ by the sleazy NJ Governor Chris Christie – formerly a friend of Trump, they’ve fallen out – to get him off charges relating to ‘Bridgegate’ (Fort Lee lane-closure scandal – only in America – look it up) without any sort of a contract or an audit trail for 11 months, at one time blocking the prosecution by allegedly concealing Christie’s incriminating cellphone.

This is the blond Thunderbirds puppet with shifty eyes, who has no record of police work, whom Trump hails as ‘a man of impeccable credentials’ – like himself, no doubt. A couple million a month should do it. I mean, he’s pretty impeccable, right? Impeccable costs.

But what of the manufactured spat between Trump and his attorney general, Jeff Sessions?

Trumbo is bullying Sessions to resign because, last week, a voice spoke to him out of the dark one sleepless night as he lay tweeting, to remind him that if Sessions hadn’t recused himself from the Russiagate investigation on conflict-of-interest grounds, he could be the one to fire the Special Prosecutor, Robert Mueller! Why, the weaselly little Georgia racist and barefaced liar whom Trump helped get elected was positively disloyal to obey the law!! He IS the law!!!

Sessions’ record in office has been pretty frightful, turning the police into a virtually unaccountable paramilitary force; strengthening immigration laws to breakup families and overriding State legislatures on even only medical marijuana relaxation. But at least he gets stuff done, unlike his useless boss. Trump is perfectly capable of replacing Yoda Sessions and his folksy, mint-julep twinkle with Ted Bundy, if he thinks he’s impeccable enough to get the Russian monkey off his back.

My god, if Trump could get Pruitt approved to head the EPA, with his 9,000 pages of emails testifying to his corrupt relationship with frackers Hamm Oil and Gas, bringing an earthquake to a street near you, he’s not going to nominate Mary Poppins to the job of paying for more brutal policing through pre-trial property confiscations, is he? Not if he can exonerate the Kushners, Flynn – and, if need be, the President himself; maybe even put Hillary in jail….

So bad.

I probably shouldn’t even think this, but IF some Navy SEAL marksman were to fire a projectile with unerring accuracy into the Golden Orb’s muddly-puddly old brains from a book depository half a mile away one sunny afternoon at an election rally in some Red state, and the President slumped lifeless to the rostrum, hairweave awry, surrounded by panicking officials and security goons, autocue devices flying everywhere, the shrieks and Omigard!s of the crowd rising to a horrified crescendo, what then?

The adoring Trump sycophant, snow-capped advert for Anusol and hypocritical alt-Christian evangelist, the vice-presidential makeweight Pence would automatically become king. That’s how it happens, by Divine Right power in America transfers instantly and effortlessly to the annointed.

So, what then, we simply carry on with a bunch of greedy, reckless and incompetent cunts like Pruitt and DeVos in charge of all the key departments of State until 2020, pushing through the same shitbag legislative program as prescribed by Charles and David Koch? Would there be roles for Bannon, Kushner – the grieving Blonde?

Or does the politically more savvy Pence get that 60% of Americans disapprove of Trump’s corrupt and nepotistic presidency, the endless, shaming scandals, the demented tweets and rages, Fox fucking News, and would he be able to settle things down and find some more convincing stooges to put in place, to try to find some calmer water to paddle in, even if he does ban abortion and women working outside the home?

And what, by the way, has happened to General HR McMaster? We haven’t spotted his curiously elongated cranium, with its more sensible contents, in the WH for weeks.

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Granny Weatherwax’s Almanacke, 23-26 July

  • 8: Number of tropical cyclones reported active in the Pacific region currently, a 40-year record.
  • Myanmar (Burma): widespread floods, storm surge drowns town: watch from 14’30” as a gilded buddhist temple is washed into the sea: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=smxPAG_yCzU&t=250s. Lack of drinking water affecting villagers.
  • China: Yulin province, widespread flooding in Yulin city washes away buildings, cars; smashes up streets.
  • China: Shanghai, highest-ever temperature recorded in the city @ 40.9°C (105.6°F), 21 July.
  • South Korea: heat advisories for 35 deg. plus in south, more forecast; widespread flooding follows torrential rain in north, around Seoul.
  • Assam, India: 5 million still displaced by flooding; death toll reaches 73. Kaziranga National Park underwater, many animals drowned.
  • Gujarat, India: widespread flooding. 63 dead. Many dams overtopped, national highways closed.
  • Thailand: “Flooding has affected several provinces, damaging 10,000 homes, and crops. Disaster management authorities have issued warnings for further heavy rain for the next 4 days.”
  • Japan: “Authorities in Akita Prefecture, north western Japan, issued evacuation orders on Sunday 23 July due to flooding after a period of heavy rain. Some areas recorded more than 300 mm in 24 hours. Severe damage was recorded in 17 cities.”
  • New Zealand, South Island: widespread flooding. Dunedin cut off by road; states of emergency declared in Christchurch, Canterbury, Otago.
  • USA: record-river-level flooding in Algonquin, Illinois. Powerful storms, more rain forecast. Widespread flooding in New Orleans as tropical storm ‘stalls’ over the city. State of emergency in Wisconsin, power outages, roads broken up in DC. Flash floods, local states of emergency in Kentucky, Missouri.
  • USA: “Excessive heat warnings were in place on Friday for Omaha, Kansas City, Des Moines, St. Louis, and neighboring areas, where heat indices will range between 105°F and 115°F. The Philadelphia area was also in an excessive heat warning for heat indices that could reach 103°F.” – http://www.wunderground.com
  • USA: Wildfires continue to burn in California, Nevada, Utah, but the huge Detwiler fire near Yosemite National Park, Wyoming, is said to be ‘coming under control’ after a week. 75 thousand acres burned. Heatwave abating slowly but still in the 90s – 105F again in Phoenix today, 95F across Florida, Texas.
  • Guadalajara, Mexico: City inundated after flash flooding, torrential rain.
  • Lagos, Nigeria: localised flooding in the city and outlying villages, continuing rain.
  • S. France: Firefighters battling 1,400 acres of forest burning in the hills inland from St Tropez. Tourists evacuated.
  • President of low-lying Palau, in the Pacific, Tommy Remengesau has complained that his garden is now normally underwater due to sea-level rise of 1 ft since 1989.
  • UK: weather service warns, rains to become heavier, more persistent.

On other disaster news: the earthquake swarm affecting the Yellowstone caldera continues in its 45th day, USGS (possibly under-)recording 15-20 quakes a day up to M3, getting shallower. Magma is thought to be flooding into the rising dome.

Magnitude 7.7 earthquake may be ‘imminent’ off California coast.

Climate & Extreme Weather News #47/Floodlist/Wunderground/Mary Greeley (USGS data- watcher)/Dutchsinse.

(The bizarre thing is, almost none of this is being reported in the mainstream media, other than as single incidents, like the French fires, which are being reported on with no reference to the fires still burning in Italy and Greece, on Corsica and Sicily, in Spain, Portugal and in the Balkans – Macedonia, Croatia, for instance, as well as in the USA, Canada, Russia…)

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Am I still a European?

Despite the bonfire of the sanities that was lit on 23 June, 2016, the answer to the question is apparently Yes.

In response to the concerns of people here in Wales, which (although the white immigrants from Birmingham voted by a big majority to Leave, which they’re welcome to do) has a large degree of constitutional autonomy from England, the ineffable Ms Jill Knight MEP, our regional representative in Strasbourg, has commissioned a detailed report on what Brexit means for citizenship rights .

It is 69 pages of closely argued, expert legal opinion, and the upshot is the British government does not really have the right to mess with your citizenship; something on which the BogPo ventured an opinion free of charge last year.

So you can either continue being what you currently are, i.e. a citizen with a EU passport, or they have to include some means of allowing you to formally establish Associate Citizenship of the EU in the abridgement treaty.

I’m not a lawyer and I found the report daunting: even the Executive Summary runs to several pages.

But if you’d like to see it, I can forward the PDF to you.

The Boglington Post: Grenfell: the envy of the masses; Wildfires, and floods: a choice of endings; See Beebies; Hips that pass in the night (Paranoia News).

UN reports 2.3 billion affected and 157,000 drowned in floods since 1995. The situation is worsening by the day.

(Photo: Gideon Mendel)

But first…

Angry questions were raised at a public meeting on Tuesday over the £20m raised by charities and individual fundraisers for the victims of the Grenfell Tower fire, with residents demanding to know why so little money had been disbursed to affected residents.

“Where is this money? It’s not reaching the Grenfell survivors,” shouted one person. “This is money that was given by Joe Public; where is it now? Who gives these people the right to say how this money is distributed?”

Grenfell: the envy of the masses

Just as the BogPo predicted three weeks ago, the bickering over the public donations raised to help the 158 families who escaped from Grenfell’s towering inferno a month ago has begun.

£20 million is a huge sum of money, especially to the typically low-paid service workers and disabled people who lived in the tower, and it would be absurd to argue that after what they have been through, both in the fire and its chaotic aftermath, they can look at it entirely objectively.

It seems, though – as we said – that no single organization has been responsible for collecting, auditing and fairly distributing the money, amounting to £126,500 for each family, whose total income may have been less than £15,000 a year. There is no coherent policy either as to what to do with the money: what it should be used for.

Clearly, most of those families have lost everything they owned. Some might have had contents insurance, most won’t. Would it be appropriate to try to put a value on the furniture and personal possessions of every individual family, the lost work time – with some attempt at compensation for the trauma – or does it make more sense to parcel the money out in grants according to the size of each family, or just award a fixed-amount per family unit in block grants, with a portion of the total set aside for contingencies?

Do the survivors who bought their flats under Right to Buy deserve more than those who were merely informal subletters? Their mortgage providers would surely have insisted on them having buildings insurance. And what about compensation for the surviving relatives of the (obviously many) more than 80 victims, many of whom would have been the sole breadwinners sending money home? Or will that come out of any public compensation due, following determination of blame?

According to the BBC, the Guardian reports, less than £800,000 of the £20m donated has been disbursed in the past five weeks. Clearly not enough is being done. But, as the BogPo recognises after many years of reading these reports, typically it never is. Squabbles over charity donations after such tragedies can go on for years. There needs to be a public administrator to hold all such donations in trust for the survivors, with a remit to waste no time getting them the help they deserve.

We need a public policy, Parliament please note. Remove your fascinated attention from the approaching nightmare of Brexit and your limited prospects for succeeding Theresa May and pay some attention please to what is going on now, in the country.

“We knew there was an inherent danger in the media turning the Grenfell fire into a casus belli for social change before the smoke had cleared. It wasn’t an issue for discussion, it was a fire…”

Reputational damage

Further to which, on 03 July the BogPo published a follow-up Post, expressing concern that unless the survivors began to show a bit more gratitude for the help they’ve already been given, a massive outpouring of community generosity and column-acres devoted to their disadvantageous social situation, seemingly abandoned in the midst of ‘the richest Borough in the country’, they might soon incur a backlash from the tabloid press and the public.

Hundreds of thousands of families in Britain face similarly challenging conditions as regards housing and the ability to properly feed their children. They may not have had to flee their homes in the night with nothing in the world but a pair of pyjamas, but their problems are not dissimilar – and they’re not being offered warm refuges, new homes, free clothing, hot meals and large amounts of cash in compensation. If they were being offered new homes, I somehow doubt they’d be turning their noses up at them.

What the BogPo feared has already begun.

A typical comment (of the politer kind – many are of the opinion that immigrants deserve to be burned to death) comes from ‘Audrey’ on Politico: “If these people were happy to live anywhere that would be fine. But to pick and choose is not right. I lived in a caravan because I couldn’t pick where I wanted. Its alright for some.”

The mainly leftwing commentators who have argued from a position of liberal embarrassment that the survivors’ condition is unique, their case more deserving, praising them for their fortitude in organizing against the forces of bureaucratic inertia, are caught in a trap of their own making. They refuse to  understand the ‘burning’ sense of injustice felt by many citizens who are equally hard done-by but are getting nothing – as they see it – in return. It’s a serious attitude problem, playing into the ‘immigrants always get special treatment’ meme encouraged by the corporatist tabloid media and rightwing websites, whose loathsome bottom-feeding editors are happy to push the immigration button at every opportunity. Nonetheless it is an attitude of which the broadsheet writers must be aware, especially after Brexit.

It’s not helpful of the metropolitan liberal elite (they do exist) to sneeringly dismiss the envy of the masses, to talk up the special nature of the problem. If indeed the low status and disempowerment of an immigrant worker does make them a special case for compassion, nobody cares. Millions of people are in the same boat economically. They may disagree on the reasons for their situation, lacking a broader perspective and insight into the underlying political conspiracy against them, but the internet has given them a medium to express their views and they are increasingly doing so in the ugliest terms.

We knew there was an inherent danger in the media turning the Grenfell fire into a casus belli for social change before the smoke had cleared. It wasn’t an issue for discussion, it was a fire in a building where lots of people died and many escaped, who have been in limbo ever since. A practical problem.

The reasons could wait.

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“The boreal forests in Siberia are burning at extraordinary rates, unheard of in at least 10,000 years. … Siberian boreal forests play a crucial role in the carbon cycle, making up nearly 10 percent of the planet’s land surface and housing more than 30 percent of the carbon on Earth.

“That means that when these forests burn, they are releasing vast quantities of carbon into the atmosphere. The loss of carbon absorption in combination with the release of carbon, creates a vicious cycle that leads to more global warming and, as a result, more wildfires.” – Sciencealert.com, 30 June 2017

As our relatively puny storms in the south of England in the last two days might serve to remind us, there are two main problems confronting the world at this moment in time. No, not Brexit, not Trump.

Wildfires, and floods: a choice of endings

The BogPo turns a dispirited eye every few days on wildfires and floods all around the planet, so you don’t have to.

The world is burning. Where it’s not flooding. It does at least give us a choice of endings…

Actually, it’s fucking depressing sitting here for hours watching endless uncut social media footage of people being burned out of their homes in drought-hit region after sizzling region, as desperate firefighters try to beat out thousand-acre conflagrations with besom brooms; while thousands more, sometimes not even that far away, as wildfires can cause storms, trudge chest-deep through filthy water towards government refuges on higher ground, watching their cars float away, indicators forlornly flashing, on the turbid brown tide.

God knows what it’s doing to agriculture, if we shall have enough food come the autumn. It’s like watching the end of the world. Oh….

You can catch up with previous issues where many more disasters are listed, but here’s today’s crop from the last six days:

  • State of emergency declared as ‘1-in-200-year’ floods inundate New Zealand’s South Island (22 July).
  • 100 sq miles of Mariposa County near the Yosemite National Park is ablaze. Thousands evacuated from town of Mariposa. Cal. Gov. Brown declares state of emergency. Dry heatwave (10% humidity) continues into fourth week over California and parts of western USA, elsewhere in US severe storms are causing flooding.
  • Ten drowned, incl. two children, in flash flood while swimming in a river gulch in Arizona. Large areas of the state affected by floods as well as heatwave.
  • Major new floods ‘unprecedented’ following storms in Maryland, USA, around Baltimore, and into Washington DC.
  • 150 fires still burning around Williams Lake, British Columbia; reptd. joining up to form larger ones. 40,ooo people evacuated.
  • CO2 level measured over BC: 743 ppm.
  • Croatia is an inferno after weeks of dry heat. City of Split menaced by huge fires. Vast areas burned out.
  • Violent storm, heavy rainfall with large hailstones floods parts of Istanbul, Turkey.
  • Flash flood inundates the town of Halkidiki, in Greece.
  • Villagers evacuated on Corsica due to wildfires. Fires still burning on Sicily.
  • 70 MILLION people now affected by flooding across northern India, seeking refuge. 100-plus drowned or buried in mud. Six die in flash floods in Kashmir.
  • Still vast areas of Hunan, Sichuan and other Chinese provinces, cities underwater. ‘Torrential rainstorms’ hit Shangxi city. 1 in. (32.5 mm) rain falls in 1/2 hour.
  • Violent thunderstorm, high winds, large hailstones batter, flood parts of Tokyo, Japan. Heatwave advisories across S Korea.
  • Widespread flooding in Timor, Indonesia.
  • Wildfires in Khazakhstan – and in Mongolia, where CO2 level measured at 873 ppm. Torrential rainstorm, hurricane-force winds, large hailstones batter, flood Kirov, Russia.
  • Hong Kong, major flooding from Tropical Storm Talas. 70 mm (2.7 in.) rain falls in less than 1 hr.
  • UK villagers and tourists evacuated as more storms hit across Cornwall and the south of England. 7 in. rain in three hours.
  • Oh, and we missed a storm with large hailstones and flooding that hit Beijing on 08/9 July, 1 dead.
  • Nearly 700 wildfires in Europe, EU area, so far  = 3 times the annual average since 2008. 70% crop damage in Spain, Italy.
  • These wildfires remember are venting huge volumes of carbon and other g/h gases into the atmosphere.
  • Parochial reporting on an event-by-event basis ignores that floods and wildfires are a unified, worldwide problem.
  • STILL PEOPLE WILL NOT ABANDON THEIR CARS!

(Climate and Extreme Weather News #45, 46. Arctic News/Floodlist)

Non weather-related disaster news, 21 July the earthquake swarm at Yellowstone is now in its 40th day. Almost 1500 quakes recorded to date – many not. Quakes getting shallower may indicate magma rising.

He’s annoying, obsessive, but there’s a rogue geologist who forecasts earthquakes online. His record is extraordinary, although the official surveys like the USGS have tried to get him shut down. If people knew about ‘Dutchsinse’, they might not have gone on holiday to the Greek islands – a predicted M6.7 earthquake struck the Turkish coast last night, 2 dead, over 1oo injured on Kos. Look for more activity in Italy. His 19 July forecast: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bCOYb_Q1xNQ. Global seismic activity is at a very high level currently.

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See Bawbees

Christ, no wonder the BBC can’t prise their tiresome ‘star’ presenter John Humphrys and other dead white males out with a crowbar.

When I worked for the BBC, I was paid about £4,000 a year on monthly contract as a bulletin writer, news presenter, continuity announcer and producer of creative programme trails on a regional breakfast show in London. That was in the 1970s. I too know what an awful life it is, stumbling out of bed at 4 am to be picked up in a chauffeur-driven Jaguar and conveyed bleary-eyed and crapulous to the studio to open up transmissions with a cheery 10-minute news broadcast at six. I do sympathise, but.

I seem to recall, there was a compulsory retirement age at the time, of 60.

Mr Humphrys is a hale and hearty 73.

Older than the BBC, and still at it – the legendary Nicholas Parsons, worth $12m.

That of course pales in comparison with the remarkable Nicholas Parsons, eternal juvenile comedy gameshow host of ‘Just a Minute!’, who is – I could look it up – 94? It’s all in the genes, as I’m sure he would say. I met him once, years ago at a charity cricket match my dad was playing in. Born three years before the BBC came into existence, his personal net worth is given as $12 million, I see – enough to keep anyone alive.

For reasons best known to himself, probably to do with the BBC’s usual craven fear of the ever-moaning Tory right, Director-General ‘Lord’ Tony Hall has chosen to post the salaries of his top 96 best-paid entertainers and presenters, making them targets of public envy and opprobrium – not to say rape and death threats.

Personally, I don’t give a fuck if they want to pay Chris Evans £2.2 million a year for a couple of hours a day, I’m sure he’s probably worth it just to keep the Terry Wogan memorial crowd fuming.

I do however quibble with autocue-readers on a quarter of a million pounds a year. “I can do that”, as someone used to say in a BBC drama series. “Gizza job!”.

Humphrys appears to be being paid £600 thousand a year. Well-more than three times as much as the Prime Minister, and five times what any of the stock politicians legally earn, of whom, it is said, he holds their ‘feet to the fire’ as the legendary Torquemada of the Today show.

I wonder how they will respond to him interviewing them now?

He is but one of a team of five (do we count Noughtie?) who alternate in pairs as presenters of the Radio 4 flagship Today programme. Without consulting the list, I seriously doubt that the two women on the show, the strike-breaking scab Sarah Montague (aka Lady Brooke) and Mishal Husein, who trans-medializes as a TV news anchor, earn even a third of what Mr Humphrys does; although he also fronts the popular and long-running quiz show, Mastermind, and is sent off on occasional junketing ‘special’ reports.

My beef with Mr Humphrys, for what it’s worth, which in my case appears to be fuck-all, is that he is a tendentious Welsh humbug, born with a soapbox in his mouth. No interviewee is ever allowed to put their case, no case is granted independent veracity, until they have signed the pledge, apologised profusely for their point of view and sworn to uphold Mr Humphrys’ Presbyterian values, to join him on the moral high-ground.

Furthermore, as a journalist he is an inveterate getter-holder of the wrong end of sticks. He will bang on at interviewees for many wasted precious minutes trying to extract some irrelevant detail or confession his researchers have told him is the point of the story, or that he has personally decided is the nub of the matter, when it isn’t, and then abandon the attempt, leaving listeners none the wiser.

He is awful. Tiresome; a bed-blocker. And at his age he doesn’t need £600 thousand a year. At 67 I live perfectly well on £14k. That, by the way, will be the tip of the iceberg: personal appearances, book royalties, ‘corporates’ and endorsements will push his earnings well past the £1 million mark. It’s past time he retired to his farm, see to the sheep.

I was probably pretty useless as a broadcaster, as I was at being a farmer, and in 1975 in youthful pursuit of creative opportunity and autonomy I committed the unpardonable sin of leaving the staid old BBC to go and work in a more senior, more exciting role in the commercial sector, and it didn’t pan out. I was never allowed back again.

So yes, John, this is sour grapes. They make the best wine.

(Dawn, and the women of the BBC are on the march. Tense confrontations have followed the discovery that they are paid virtually nothing – well, just a few hundred thousand pounds – compared with the middle-aged white chaps trousering millions. Bland but quivering-inside corporation executives are roasted by Kirsty Wark on Newsnight. Licence-payers aren’t too happy either.)

Postscriptum

A casual flick down the swill-bucket list reveals that the absolute best and most deserving of the BBC News journalists, especially foreign correspondents like the veteran John Simpson, £150k, who risk their lives filing copy from the world’s worst danger zones, are paid sod-all compared with gibberish-spouting sports commentators like Lineker (£1.79 million, not including commercial income) and the pretty-boy and pretty-girl autocue jockeys and ‘unscripted’ showbiz hacks like Strictly’s Claudia Winkelman (£550k a year).

It goes to show the BBC’s sense of priorities.

 

Helpful hints #1: Complain to the BBC

When complaining to the BBC, before keying Submit make sure you highlight the text of your complaint, Ctrl C, and paste it for safety somewhere else, like on a Word document. You may find submitting your text the first time causes it to disappear. Once gone, it is gone – there is no going back.

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Paranoia News

Hips that pass in the night

I went to bed in the early hours of this morning only mildly drunk, feeling everything to be in working order. Most things.

Which is why I was slightly surprised to find when I got up this morning, that my left leg would no longer bear my weight on the stairs. The hip, too, was sending shooting pains down my leg and up into my lower back.

Nor could I remember anyone’s name. In fact, some familiar names – I run through what and who I am going to write about each day while making breakfast – have only now started to come back to me, two hours and a pain-wracked dog-walk later. Being unable to recall the name of the editor of Private Eye, that you’ve known for years, is not something you can really take to the Accident and Emergency ward and expect any sympathy.

Was it a mini-stroke, or the wine – combined with these worn-out shoes I persist in wearing?

That the world had altered profoundly in the night was born out when I came to reawaken this, muh sleeping li’l laptop, only to find that someone or some thing had replaced my usual Firefox homepage – there, I remembered the word – the BBC News page, with an intruder called ‘Bing’. Firefox had been removed from the system, although the icons remain.

Bing, the obvious product I now realize of a non-specific Microsoft update I foolishly agreed to before toddling up to bed, appeared to offer no solutions as to how one might get rid of it and return to one’s comfort zone. There were no tabs visible, the dropdown menu offered nothing but trivial pursuits and a forwarding address to something called Edge.

What was happening to me?

The reet scary thing was, Bing would appear whenever I clicked the Firefox icon on the task bar. It had completely taken over my digital universe. How would I get back to all my usual haunts, email and YouTube apocalypse videos – the Guardian and the Washington Post – this, muh li’l bogl? Should I call my son, many miles away and busy with his dissertation? Could I bear his scorn?

What you are seeing now, dear Spammers, Likers, Followers and Those No Longer Reading This, Muh Bogl, is a workaround. Things are far from normal. The weather, too, has turned positively frigid today, rephrase that as negatively warm and humid, as it still was last night. Strangely shaped dark-grey cumulus clouds are rising like ragged columns of smoke from behind the hills.

It feels like snow in July.

 

Brexit: a thought

It ocurred to me that if we had voted by a narrow majority to Remain, the EU would have been so grateful, we’d be in talks now about how we’re going to reform it.

Instead of staring over the edge of the White Cliffs of fucking Dover down at the Long Drop, marvelling at the wondrous complexity of life.

Fucking idiots.

Some Like it Hot – interim musings on fire safety. Plus: Who is this guy, Shakespeare? And: Care in Chaos: where’s the money?

“the fire station officer’s report described the building as a ‘deathtrap’, into which he could not legally order firemen to go…”

Some Like it Hot

Having recently been made homeless, after several years’ helpful experience of hiring myself out between increasingly rare freelance consultancy contracts as a jobbing gardener and house cleaner I was fortunate in 2005 to land a job as the Estate Manager of a large and historic 18th-century country mansion, a Grade One-listed Palladian wedding-cake described by the heritage people as ‘an architectural jewel’.

Scarily illuminated by night, bats flitting through pools of garish yellow floodlighting into the deep black shadows all around, by day the mansion was revealed as a dilapidated Gormenghast, a cheap pattern-book building stuck as the result of a dynastic marriage on top of a probably more interesting and sturdy 17th-century manor house, from where Captain Johnes had mustered the militia to defend the castle against Oliver Cromwell’s men during the English Civil War, before judiciously changing sides.

A succession of eccentric and indigent owners over the years had left the place with a reputation for drug-fuelled raves and unpaid bills. Anything it had once contained of value: furnishings, collections, even fixtures and fittings had long ago been auctioned off, crowbarred out. Yet visitors found it all most enviable, I never understood why.

Infested with bedbugs to the discomfiture of the hotel inspector, who showed me his collection of angry bites but otherwise wrote kindly about us, it had, I think, 19 bedrooms (in theory – the top floor was derelict, making counting difficult). There were nine separate electrical circuits, in some of which nails were being used as fuses, and its water requirements were served by a single, half-inch plastic agricultural pipe that froze solid in winter and then burst, twice flooding the kitchen.

I lived in a sort of semi-furnished apartment at the back, three rooms and a galley (no fridge or cooker provided), on-call 24 hours a day. The pay was minimal, the hours and duties practically infinite. As the only permanent staff for much of the nearly seven years I worked there, in the otherwise empty building, apart from the rare occasions on which there were B&B guests and weekend wedding parties of up to 200 people, I was alone and responsible by night for chasing uninvited intruders out of the house and grounds. Usually they were looking for drugs, or hoping to photograph a ghost.

The new owners lived on the other side of the world and travelled incessantly on business, visiting for perhaps two or three weeks a year. They would arrive in a state of excitement, glad to be ‘home’, then rapidly tire of the limited facilities and tacky local attractions. Not having a clue about listed Georgian buildings and the horrendous repair and maintenance costs they constantly demand, they bought the house on an impulse while on holiday, grandiose but cheap, leaving the seller’s hardly unbiassed agent to commission for them a basic ‘second-gear’ mortgage survey that consisted mostly of small-print exclusion clauses.

What I saw alarmed me.

Still standing… the 270 year-old ‘jewel’ – a potential death-trap.

Beneath the floor of the impressive first-floor gallery was a four-feet high ceiling void that spanned the length of the building with no fire breaks. Through the voids of the disused rooms above ran thick bundles of old electrical cables, whose combined resistance I knew could cause them to heat up, in contact everywhere with piles of wood shavings and materials discarded from abortive attempts at restoration.

The addition of central heating had caused the fine old oak floorboards in the public rooms to shrivel, leaving gaps beneath which a centuries-old accumulation of fluff and dust was visible. The nightmare of a King’s Cross-style smouldering fire resulting from a dropped cigarette seemed inevitable*. Of course there was no sprinkler system: water might damage the historic chipboard furnishings, the crudely faked old masters.

To loud protests from guests and wedding organizers, I immediately banned smoking and naked lights anywhere in the house. It had little effect: people felt that as they were paying to use the facilities, they could do what they liked; especially the outside catering staff I had to bring in when there were too many guests for me to cook for and wash-up after on my own.

The brickwork lining the grand and ‘welcoming log fire’ in the hall was badly eroded. There was no fireback. Sparks were flying everywhere. Further up, where it could not be seen, a collapse had partly blocked the enormous chimney. For £10 extra, wedding organizers could book the fire on a winter’s night; but after the main feature of the house, its gilded rococo ‘music-room’ immediately above the hall filled with smoke one night, setting off the fire alarm, I decided it might be a good idea to stop lighting fires.

That didn’t go down too well either. It’s difficult to get people to think and act in their own best interests where money is involved. I suppose that goes for the world too.

The local fire brigade used to carry out an inspection once a year, bringing their rookie firemen up from town to show them the ropes: the derelict areas, the wiring mess, the grand wooden staircase with the flammable junkroom beneath, just by the main kitchen; where the water supply sometimes was, the decidedly dodgy alarm system, the main emergency escapes – there are seven – and filed a report, on which we were legally supposed to act.

No-one was ever able to find the fire hydrant. It was out there somewhere, beneath the brambles in the overgrown garden. I regularly used to dig it out and put the yellow marker back, until the next tradesman came along and parked his truck on top of it, and it disappeared again under a heap of building rubble. Plan B was to run hoses out and pump water from the lake a quarter of a mile away. It didn’t seem like a very good plan as the lake was in dire peril of silting up entirely.

I first became aware that experts shared my view of the safety of the building when in my second year, the fire station officer’s report concluded that the historic jewel was a ‘deathtrap’ – his word – into which he could not legally order firemen to go, not even to save life. It would, he explained kindly off the record, likely all go up in minutes. Nevertheless, we were permitted to go on using it for room-and-board lettings and public events, as the only alternative to making commercial use of the building was to do what the owners of most similar buildings in Britain have generally done, burn the place down.

The first year’s report I saw had allowed us to open to the public only on condition that certain works were carried out. I conveyed the information to them, only to be told I had to cover the cost myself by letting out rooms and organizing weddings and ‘cultural events’ such as rock festivals before they could spend anything on improvements. Sometimes it was hard to remember I was only the gardener.

Then in October 2006 the rules changed. The fire service was no longer responsible for certifying the safety of public buildings.  Owners and managers were expected to self-certify, any subsequent deaths being on their own responsibility. The safety industry became deregulated. Consultants emerged, mostly retired firemen with a limited grasp of English and £2 million of liability insurance. Firms sprang up to expensively service our fire extinguishers. The annual inspection was showing up more and more faults on the alarm circuits.

I wrote my own risk report and management plan, running to many pages. As it was quite beyond one person to carry out a proper search-and-evacuation, while if possible tackling the fire, it was a little optimistic in places; so to cover my back I engaged a consultant. For £150 his report was perhaps less fulsome, nevertheless it made more recommendations, including the addition of automatically closing fire doors, partitions, a new and fully functioning alarm system, etcetera.

Carrying out his instructions was going to be difficult. You could understand the natural resistance of the heritage people to screwing one-hour fire-resistant cladding to both sides of the original Robert Adam-style moulded internal door facings. Once again I emailed the report to the owners, and once again they ignored it, pleading poverty.

By this time we were getting grief, too, from the electrical contractor. Having rewired one wing of the house we had newly restored, giving me two more bedroom suites to clean, they were now refusing to certify the safety of the wiring in the rest of the house. It seemed like a ploy to screw more money out of the supposedly wealthy owners, a local sport, but I could see they had a point.

Having recently had to upgrade the 18th-century sewerage system under threat of a ‘cease and desist’, no-shit order from the Environment agency, who fancied our guests were polluting the local watercourse – there being no septic tank – the owners were not amused. They were starting to understand why the previous owner had walked away smiling.

Around that time I learned of a court case in which a chainstore had been heavily fined following a fire at their London Oxford Street branch, where the staff hadn’t thought about evacuating the shoppers as there was no proper management plan. No-one was hurt, but the implication of the ruling was that, if you knew there was a problem, you needed to fix it before anyone died.

The sentence could be two years in jail, I warned the owners.

The alarm was frequently going off, usually at three a.m. – a terrifyingly loud, panic-inducing, multitone klaxon that battered the senses. One such night, rousing myself from torpor, hurriedly pulling on clothes, tottering across to the office on the opposite corner of the building to switch off the racket, going upstairs to the unlit top floor, avoiding the many missing floorboards, to find and murder the offending smoke detector – dustfalls set them off – and then back out to the car-park to count the guests milling around in confusion, I found one was missing.

An elderly gentleman, he switched off his hearing aids at night, his daughter told me. Although it would awaken the dead, he hadn’t heard the alarm. That did it. I called our insurance broker and told him the full story: the reports, the wiring, the water supply – the putative dead guest. His reply?

‘I wish you hadn’t told me that’.

I emailed the owners, told them I was closing the house and would refuse any order to keep trading or put on any more events until they got the money together and refurbished the entire estate: house, falling-down outbuildings, dangerous grounds and all. I explained patiently that they were wasting thousands of pounds a year insuring an uninsurable asset. The insurers would never pay out, no matter what, and with no valid insurance and safety certificates the hotel licence was correspondingly useless, we were trading illegally.

My reward was to be downgraded. Having found and briefed the architects, I hung on for three more years, acting the part of the old ‘caretaker’ in my dark and freezing flat while contractors came and went, to the sound of power-saws and jackhammers smashing through historic brickwork.

Finally, as a hotel began to emerge they took away the apartment, that I had decorated and furnished at my own expense, to give themselves more rooms to let. I was paid off, to be replaced by a ‘proper manager’ and a battery of about twenty staff, including an obsequious greeter with an umbrella, something it had not occurred to me to put in the job description, one of my first tasks on being employed having been to write my own. It ran to many pages.

I spent the next eight years looking for another job like it, all over Europe. Although registered with more than a dozen snooty London agencies, I managed by my own efforts to get three interviews; one of which resulted in the offer of an impossible job in a boring part of France looking after an even bigger empty house and estate in even worse condition. On discovering that 95 per cent of the nearby town had been bombed flat by the Royal Air Force during WW2, I turned it down. Eventually I gave up looking and retired.

But at least, in large part thanks to my efforts, that damned old jewel is still standing.

  • In 1987, a lit match dropped on an escalator deep down under the London underground station, King’s Cross, ignited a fire in the oily detritus beneath that smouldered for an hour before bursting out in flames. Thirty-one people died and a hundred more were injured.

x

Who is this guy, Shakespeare?

Evidence of the sheer cretinous-ness of Trump’s shrinking band of true dumbfuck supporters emerged over the weekend, when theaters all over America with the name Shakespeare attached received a barrage of abusive messages, rape and death threats indiscriminately aimed at casts, management and crews.

The Washington Post reports, the cause is apparently one single production in New York of Julius Caesar, its short run in Central Park now ended, which rather daringly had a leading character loosely based on Donald Trump – who, of course, unfortunately has to be assassinated in Act three.

Not having the faintest idea who Shakespeare was, 450-odd years after his death, the dumbfucks have rallied round to protect their abusive and emotionally undeveloped orange avatar against the heinous libel by going after the person who wrote da play, imagining in their drooling, cave-troll-like stupidity that this guy Shakespeare don’t respect the boss and oughta be taught a lesson.

…Shakespeare Dallas (Texas) artistic director Raphael Parry reported the receipt of around 80 messages including threats of rape and death and one suggestion, referencing the fate of Shakespeare’s Caesar, that theater staff should be “sent to Isis to be killed with real knives”.

“We just got slammed,” Parry told the Globe. “It’s pretty amazing the vitriol, the wishing we would die and our family would die. A whole lot of them say that we should burn in hell.” Directors said they were surprised by the threats, which Parry thought were most likely generated by a toxic mix of partisan anger and basic web analytics.” – Washington Post, 19 June.

It is of course beyond the bounds of reason that a diehard Trumpist dumbfuck could appreciate how interpretations of the works of the Bard might differ from production to production, and that (too many. Ed.) directors occasionally like to have a bit of fun with them. Sweet Will, I feel sure, would appreciate the grim humour of the situation more than most. He wrote a lot about rape and death.

In fact, Trump should be pleased, up to a point. Julius was a pretty successful general – ruthlessly ambitious, endlessly demanding of loyalty, he massacred hundreds of thousands of Frenchmen and Germans. Unfortunately he flew a bit too close to the sun back in Rome, politically speaking, where even his best mate thought it better to bump him off than let him become a king.

However, his name and deeds have flourished for over two thousand years, and he has lent his surname to an entire phylum of over-mighty, authoritarian bastards who have made people’s lives a misery down the centuries.

Beat that, Donald.

x

“…it seems inevitable that one day people are going to start wondering where all the money has gone to? “

Care in chaos: where’s the money?

Simon Cowell, Andy Murray… the wealthy entertainers and sportsmen are all jumping on the bandwaggon, assuaging their guilt over the economic inequality that condemns London’s migrant workforce to live and die in crumby tower blocks, by holding fundraisers.

But is plowing yet more money into the melting pot really the answer?

Although we still have no idea how many died – the police put the number at 79 but it is likely to go on rising – we do now at least have an idea of how many persons or family units escaped the fire, the number being about 180.

By day two the public had already donated roughly £2 million, even before poor stilted Theresa May tried to save face by offering £5 million in immediate government support, with a grant of £5,500 per tenant*. That’s almost £40 thousand per tenancy, although it may need to stretch to cover compensation for the families of the dead, and any legal costs of the survivors having to re-establish their claims for work visas when all their paperwork has been destroyed.

Plus there are the free relocation services already being offered, that aren’t being terribly well handled; and the donations in kind, of food, toys and clothing. The public’s generosity has been overwhelming – and that’s the problem.

Mr Cowell’s aim of raising another £5 million, plus whatever our wealthier sports personalities can drum up, will double the money washing into the system, with seemingly no plan or guarantees as to who will receive what. The inevitable lawsuits against the management company and the renovation contractors will in future years also provide further large sums in compensation.

It all seems to me to be dangerously excessive, making superstar beneficiaries out of the Grenfell survivors – those, that is, who have not already melted away into the suburbs, unsure of their legal status – but not helping the thousands more tenants awaiting their fate in similar buildings across the country.

Coming so closely on top of the election, the whole affair was immediately politicised in ‘rich v. poor’ terms, although London has always been a city both of gross inequality and hopeful opportunity. The lack of leadership shown by the council and central government was shameful, but worse, it has left a vacuum that local community groups have had to fill. Such ad hoc arrangements post-disasters have in the past led to much undignified squabbling and resentful chaos.

In months to come, no doubt the media will be pointing fingers at the failure to create any kind of responsible, independent central administration to collate, control, disburse and audit the very large funds that are now growing unaccounted for.

The desire to help may be genuine, but given the disorganized nature of these appeals it seems inevitable that one day people are going to start wondering where all the money has gone to?

 

*Government charity is, as always, backhanded. £500 cash grants are being made, but the balance of £5,000 has to be paid into a bank account. That’s a great way of catching out the illegals.

x

“As temperatures climb in Phoenix, Arizona, more than 40 flights have been cancelled – because it is too hot for the planes to fly. The weather forecast for the US city suggests temperatures could reach 120F (49C) on Tuesday.” – BBC.

Enjoy the end while it lasts…

  • Record 100 deg F. to 120 deg F. heatwave persisting across the southwestern United States. 25 deg F. anomaly over normal June temp. reported in California. 55% of US landmass now ‘droughted’.
  • Tidal flooding along Texas, Alabama, Louisiana coast; high winds and tornadoes, up to 1 ft of rain from Tropical Storm Cindy (see below).
  • Record 95 deg F. heatwave across France, Spain, Portugal. Expected ‘hottest summer on record’.
  • Huge wildfires as reported in Leiria, Beiras province, Portugal. Two thousand firefighters involved. At least 64 dead, others missing. 26,000 hectares of forest destroyed.
  • Fujian province, SE China – still underwater. Northern China: droughted. Heavy storm, flooding hits Beijing, Tangshan. 25 June: rescue workers battle to find 120 missing after landlide buries village in Sichuan province.
  • India: heavy rain and floods in Assam, Manipur.
  • 14 die in floods in Niger, West Africa. Northern Kenya, South Sudan, Somalia, Cape Province: all droughted.
  • Floods in Honduras, Central America; Brazil, Mexico, Chile (again, this time with snowstorms).
  • Floods, landslides in Guatemala kill 11. Tropical Storm Bret trashes Jamaica, Trinidad.
  • 14 June, egg-sized hail fell during storms that brought flooding to the northern Loire region of France. 1 dead.
  • Large temp. anomalies in northern USA, Canada. 78 deg. F. forecast for Fort Simpson, NW Territories.
  • Sudden powerful storm trashes the city of Red Deer, Alberta.
  • Quick check around the ‘permafrosted’ land edge of the Arctic ocean shows 30 deg. C. heatwave in arctic Russia/Siberia.
  • Wildfires… everywhere. Grassland fires over Great Plains area reported to be 300% up on 1980s.
  • Also up 300% since 1980s, extreme storms in the western Sahel area of Africa (UK Centre for Ecology & Hydrology, April 23)
  • Wildfires started by increasing numbers of lightning strikes ‘contributing to rising CO2’.
  • Tsunami caused by undersea slip kills 4 in Greenland. Possible cause: expected increase in seismic activity as land ‘bounces back’ due to icemelt.
  • Temperatures in some parts of the UK exceeded those in Los Angeles and the Bahamas on Monday (19 Jun) as the hottest day of the year so far gripped the country. In Lancashire, roads were seen melting in the high temperatures. – BBC.

Just in case it’s all over before you read this, for the aliens who arrive too late to save us I also need to report:

  • Potentially a monster storm brewing in the Gulf of Mexico, over the Yucatan peninsula, where there’s been extensive flooding. The chance of a cluster of powerful storm cells merging together has gone from 60% to 80% since Friday, according to USA Today and others, as the system is beginning to rotate ominously. A second tropical cyclone has formed off Belize, and a third is barrelling across the Atlantic from Africa: ‘an unusual event’ to have even two at the same time so early in the season.
  • An unusually long-lasting swarm of earthquakes in the Yellowstone Park supervolcano caldera over the past few weeks – 173 shocks of up to M4.2 recorded since yesterday alone, 500 since 12 Jan. Helium and sulphur gas emissions growing, large cracks appearing and venting. If it does blow, 28 million people will die within three days and the global economy will take fifty years to recover, if ever. Conspiracy theorists are wondering why the US Geological Survey has stopped reporting it.
  • Italian scientists are also concerned about an ancient supervolcano near Mount Vesuvius, right in the middle of Naples, called Campi Flegrei, that is showing signs of waking up.
  • Russia’s defence ministry has said it will treat any plane from the US-led coalition flying west of the Euphrates river in Syria as a ‘potential target’, after the US military shot down a Syrian air force jet on Sunday. Turkish troops have moved to defend Qatar against aggression by other states in the UAE, Saudi Arabia and Egypt.
  • A two-mile wide asteroid with its own moon avoided hitting the earth last week by just 15 million miles. It’s due back in 200 years. NASA is tracking ten more large near-Earth objects.

Bye, y’all. Love you.

The Pumpkin – Issue 21: What is WRONG with him? Kill them all. Everything. Just kill it, okay? More weatherballs.

Sessions in lah-lah land

“With that ambassador ah did naht have intracourse. Dee-testable lahs you are tellin'”

“…meanwhile, he was “100 per cent” prepared to testify that he is innocent of whatever it is he is not being investigated over.”

What is WRONG with him?

Having fired the FBI director James Comey last month, the Sun King from Queen’s found himself in a quandary.

Firing Comey would not make the Russia thing go away. He would have to shut down the entire FBI to do that. Which would look a little suspicious.

He needed someone who would kiss his ring and swear undying fealty, while thrice proclaiming Trump’s innocence to the world from a podium in the White House garden.

For, Comey never said Trump himself IS NOT under investigation. He said he was not AT THAT TIME under investigation. That’s what cost him his job, his refusal to say whether or not Trump MIGHT BE currently being investigated.

Pretty clearly, because Comey would not say he isn’t, but obviously could not say he is, if he was, Trump himself now is under investigation. But dimwitted Fox newsmouths like Ann Coulter, and the flabby-faced GOP Senator Graham continue to parrot Trump’s delusional claim that Comey’s testimony “vindicated” him.

While this feeble propaganda campaign continued, continuing to insult Comey by tweet as a “liar” and a “coward”, once again implicating himself through Freudian transference, the incandescent, panicking President cast about for a replacement for Comey he could characterise as even more ‘strong and stable’ – not a liar, at least.

And meanwhile, he was “100 per cent” prepared to testify that he is innocent of whatever it is he is not being investigated over. He said so at a well-attended press conference, on camera, four days before his press-weasel Sean Spicer told another well-attended media gaggle yesterday that he never said anything of the sort.

Spicey is unravelling fast; a dead spokesperson talking. A spoke.

One of Goldenballs’ first picks for top G-man (there have been five so far) was Joe Lieberman, who had the virtue of never having investigated anyone much. After the failing fake-news media pointed out that Lieberman was a partner in the firm of Trump’s own defence lawyer, Mark Kasowitz, thus creating something of a conflict of interest given the obvious Russia-thing connection, Lieberman resiled himself.

He didn’t need to wait around for the story to get out that he had at one time lobbied for a Libyan businessman linked with the militia group that murdered the American ambassador in Benghazi – one of the many crimes for which Trump felt his opponent, Mrs Clinton, should be locked up.

Trump’s latest pick is Christopher Wray, a Yale Law School graduate – who has never been a policeman, which is a start. Wray’s credentials are, according to the five a.m. tweet from the White House, “impeccable”. USA Today reported: “He has had a decades-long distinguished career as a federal prosecutor and high-level official in the Department of Justice.”

Unfortunately, the euphoria lasted less than a day. USA Today went on to say:

“The most troubling issue that Wray may face is the fact that his law firm — King & Spalding — represents Rosneft and Gazprom, two of Russia’s largest state-controlled oil (don’t forget gas – Gaz is the clue. Ed) companies.”

The Pumpkin enjoys the use of the word “may”.

You would think, wouldn’t you, that Trump might have bothered to discover that before putting Wray in an impossible position? Unless he considers working for the Russians an impeccable credential? (In fairness, we do not know if Wray worked on either account, but as a partner in the firm it doesn’t matter, there’s an automatic conflict of interest.)

Both companies are at the very heart of the Trump regime’s links with Russia; Rosneft in particular having reportedly offered Trump a 19 per cent share of the business if he could get the Obama sanctions lifted, that have been holding up a $500 billion deal with Exxon-Mobil to drill the bejasus out of the rapidly melting Arctic.

Doer of that deal at the time was Texas Rex Tillerson, former CEO of Exxon, holder of the Russian Order of Friendship medal and now Trump’s peripatetic Secretary of State.

The Pumpkin also has a query of his own over the relationship with Gazprom, as the prospective  supply of gas from the ample Israeli offshore and Iranian/Qatari fields through Turkey to the West, bypassing Syria, seems to be a bone of contention with the Russian gas giant, that is naturally seeking to maintain the world price in order to prevent the Russian economy imploding.

Is Trump’s inexplicable turnround on Qatar something to do with the pressure of Gaz? Or – a theory just beginning to twinkle like a candle in the eye of a pumpkin – has Ukraine been plotting to set up an alternative supply pipeline through Turkey from Israel, to break the Russian stranglehold? Does that explain why there seems to be as much of a Ukrainian connection with Elect.Donald as there is a Russian one? What Manafort was doing setting up offshore companies through Panama with Ukrainian money? And what Flynn was doing in Turkey while being paid by a Ukrainian businessman through a Dutch subsidiary?

Whatever, there’s more…

USA Today goes on:

“The law firm’s representation of Gazprom raises even more serious conflict issues for Wray. Gazprom was a partner in RosUkrEnergo AG (“RUE”), which is controlled by Ukrainian oligarch Dmitry Firtash. He is under federal indictment in Chicago for racketeering charges, has had numerous financial dealings with former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort, and is generally considered to be a member of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s inner circle.”

http://www.usatoday.com/story/opinion/2017/06/08/trump-new-fbi-director-chris-wray-russian-ties-rosneft-gazprom-column/102603214/?utm_source=feedblitz&utm_medium=FeedBlitzRss&utm_campaign=usatoday-newstopstories

The internet was abuzz today with speculation that Trump is considering also firing Robert Mueller, the Special Prosecutor – claiming that he is too close to Comey. (Others might suggest it’s because he’s getting too close to Donny. The Pumpkin couldn’t possibly comment.)

The gamble would have to be that what, as described by David Frum of The Nation magazine, would be like hiring a small plane to write in smoke above the White House: ‘I’m Super-Guilty!’, will not discountenance his Republican acolytes for more than a day or two, and not disturb his dumbfuck supporters or Ms Coulter at all.

Mr Trump has of course tweeted that he is not considering any such thing, so expect Mueller – who has only been in office three weeks – to be gone before the end of the week.

The next difficulty being, only the man who put him in office, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, can fire him. Attorney General Sessions is too busy giving sworn testimony about why he lied about his Russian contacts to the Senate intelligence committee as this article goes to press.*

And if Rosenstein refuses, and resigns, there are so few appointees in the Justice Department it looks like Trump will have to find the cleaner to do it, as the next in line. (16 June, now he is tweeting out, threatening to fire Rosenstein anyway, for letting him be under investigation for obstruction of justice. The man is clearly nuts.)

The Pumpkin needs to ask again, with the greatest of respect:

What is WRONG with him?

 

*STOP PRESS: Sessions assures the committee the suggestion he collaborated with Russians during his four meetings with the Russian ambassador, that he lied about, is a ‘detestable lie’.

Did he really offer to testify just for that? Is anyone telling the truth?

STOP, STOP PRESS: Someone, ‘officials’, has confirmed to the Washington Post today that Trump is indeed under investigation over the Russia thing. Trump’s Fred Karno team of lawyers has hysterically blamed ‘leakers’ in the FBI, but no-one is buying that.

The news, however, does make it a lot harder for Trump to fire anyone connected with the investigation, such as Special Prosecutor Mueller, without another obstruction charge being laid at his door. And saves the Justice Department, especially Deputy A-G Rod Rosenstein, from having to do the dirty deed.

x

Kill them all. Everything, Just kill it, okay?

Mr Trump has not yet signed a Steve Bannon ordinance requiring that ten thousand kittens should be doused in gasoline and set alight on the Supreme Leader’s birthday. (Which happens to be today. 71. They say only the good die young.)

We can however expect it any day.

Mr Trump’s latest reversal of any legislation already on the statute book protecting civilization from total destruction has come in the form of an Executive Order lifting restrictions on fishing nets, mesh-size limits that were aimed at protecting endangered marine mammals such as whales, dolphins and dugongs from becoming by-catch.

Added to the one permitting hunting of she-bears with cubs and during the hibernation season, the shooting of wolves and elk from helicopters with automatic weapons, things hunters have clearly been dying to be allowed to do for years; the ones permitting the polluting of rivers with coal slurry, removing restrictions on methane releases from drilling activities and lifting the cap on vehicle ‘tailpipe’ emissions in cities, and so many, many more, and you have just a frenzied, pathological onslaught on the planet that must, surely, end with the arraignment of this gross, inhuman old monster on charges of crimes against humanity.

Indeed, it is impossible to see what will be accomplished by them?

The minor massacres that have seen various warlords and nationalist leaders held to account at The Hague pale into insignificance compared with what this money-breathing sonofabitch is doing to our planet.

But why? Why is he doing it?

It goes way beyond the obvious influence on his presidency of the energy-industry donors and their hugely well-remunerated lobbyists, disgusting human centipedes like Myron Ebell, his Exxon-fuelled energy advisor. Those people have known precisely the effects of burning carbon in the atmosphere for over 40 years. It’s cost them hundreds of millions to hush it up.

It goes beyond, too, any concern the four-times bankrupted Great Businessman, with his billion-dollar unpaid debts to foreign banks may have for a business community hedged about and fretting with unnecessary restrictions; conservative policies one might at a pinch just about make sense of. Trump has no knowledge of economics beyond running a medium-size family business and a TV show; by ‘running’ I mean just flying by the seat of his pants, bilking his creditors, getting by through having hysterical screaming fits and uttering threats and lawsuits if things don’t go his way.

Even the business community is reeling at some of the things he has done, as his actions will in fact hinder economic progress. The majority of voters, over 70 per cent, many tech billionaires, State governors and even energy-industry giants like the Secretary of State, Rex Tillexxon (former salary as Exxon-Mobil CEO £100,000 – A DAY), have tried and failed to persuade Trump to stay in the Paris accord, as it is non-binding and will not, as he appears to imagine, damage the economy; in fact it offers unrivalled opportunities for growth.

His huge giveaway tax-cuts to the wealthiest one per cent haven’t gone down well either. Even the business community understands that you need a thriving middle-class to buy more stuff. Giving their children asthma, poisoning the water and knocking points off their IQ is hardly going to endear him to them. His approval rating is now 60 per cent NEGATIVE.

Yet even as his presidency unravels in the total chaos of his administration amid numerous investigations of criminal wrongdoing, and the power-crazed Chief Executive resorts to a cult of personality and makes mafia-style demands that his people bow down and worship him with grotesque expressions of love, loyalty and lavish praise for his many invisible achievements, his popularity, a sure sign that he is as crazy as a box of frogs; even as he fails to get a single significant item of his program passed by the Congress, the US economy is moving ahead so fast that the Fed has had to hike the interest rate again.

How is that possible?

Well, it’s a sort of vindication of the Bannon doctrine, a logical development of Friedmanomics, the full realization of Ayn Rand, of Atlas shrugging, isn’t it: Government is just a waste of resources, a waste of money, and entirely unnecessary to an economy that, given total freedom and the removal of all laws and taxes, the total suppression of dissent, the manipulation of public opinion, the cynical abuse of democratic institutions and the disenfranchisement of the poorer class, will run itself.

Either that, or the country will disintegrate in a welter of violence and confusion that can only be good for the well-defended billionaires hunkered-down in their subterranean playgrounds, to emerge as Lords of the Universe and rebuild the smoking ruins in their image.

Trump is the summation of all the evils being perpetrated by these crazy bastards, a devil-child, and the more power he accumulates the crazier and more lethal he’s going to get.

x

Dumbfuck news

A teacher in Maryland has been suspended for Photoshopping the name Trump off the T-shirts of pupils whose photos appear in the school yearbook. Parents are furious, although one suspects other parents might have been equally furious if the propaganda images had been left in.

There is, of course, a question over whether political slogans of any kind ought to be permitted on school property: if they allow this, how would they stop a pupil supporting something more worthwhile, like Rise Against, Jeremy Corbyn, or Podemos?

And how are the kids going to feel in years to come when they proudly open their yearbook and remember they were just little dumbfucks being taken for a ride by the most spectacularly self-interested criminal failure of a US President since Warren G Harding? Especially if their parents have died from uninsured cancers?

It doesn’t appear to have occurred to the terrified Principal, who is presumably expecting a knock on the door at 4 am from one of the many local militias now assisting police with crushing dissent. After all, the new Education Secretary, Betsy DeVos spent a lot of money buying the Presidency for her friend, Mr Trump.* Who knows what Cruella DeVil could do to a school?

Anyway, if you don’t want to see a before-and-after photo of what a Trump supporter looks like while it’s still in high school, look away now:

A citizen of tomorrow.

*Footnote: a report out today (14 June) concludes that you can buy an election online for $400,000. Betsy must be kicking herself: she and Dick threw $22 million at it. (Trend Micro)

Foot-footnote: The above photograph of a pupil at the unidentified school in my story showing him wearing a Trump T-shirt and then a doctored plain T-shirt has been taken down by WordPress, at whose request and for what reason I know not.

THe BogPo republished a photograph that had been widely published already elsewhere on reputable news sites, to illustrate my point about political propaganda in schools, without making any comment detrimental to the boy and without identifying him or giving any details enabling him to be identified or targeted by anyone.

The BogPo apologizes if we have transgressed the rules and regulations of the WordPress website, but I must remark that it’s a bit rich considering WordPress is constantly sending me Spam messages that have defeated their controls and refuses to engage with my complaints on that issue.

x

“…these events are not in themselves so far out of the ordinary that they have never been observed before. But reporting them individually may be masking the global effect.”

More Weatherballs

I’m sorry to bang on about it, but turning to the BBC world weather news you’ll just get bland assurances that everything is normal, everywhere – and it bloody isn’t.

It just isn’t.

What evidence?

Well, it’s been snowing quite heavily over the weekend in northern California and Nevada, where ski resorts are enjoying a late flurry. It’s mid-June. While there’s a record 95+ deg F. heatwave building over almost all the rest of the United States east of the Rockies. Thirty wildfires are burning across Arizona, more in Colorado. Nine hundred there already this year.

It was over 105 deg F. in the daytime in Phoenix all last week; cooler today at only 96. The Telegraph reports: “The United States is experiencing its widest-spread drought in 56 years. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration reported that some 55 percent of the contiguous United States, particularly in the Midwest, suffered from drought last month.”

Although, as we reported, there were widespread floods elsewhere in the midwest.

In the Pacific Northwest, up to a foot of snow was forecast for the Mount Bachelor area, with an inch or so expected in Portland; by contrast, 86 deg F. in Hudson’s Bay north of the Arctic circle doesn’t look too hopeful for the permafrost and its volatile burden of methane.

Western Cape province, S Africa, the fires we reported on last week are still blazing. Despite the record-breaking storm that started them, the region has only 26 days’ supply of drinking water.

In Zhengzou province, SE China, 240 mm of rain fell so fast, it knocked down houses. 100,000 people were evacuated in the path of Typhoon Merbok, that crossed Hong Kong to the mainland yesterday. Exceptionally heavy monsoon rains and storms have killed twelve people in Maharashtra province, India (that’s Mumbai).

More floods are expected in New South Wales, Australia, as 200 mm rain falls in 24 hours. Not for the first time this year. Tropical Storm Calvin made landfall in Mexico, with heavy rain and landslides. 61 people have been killed in landslides after heavy rain in Bangladesh. Omsk in Russia is underwater following a spectacular storm featuring a powerful and not very usual tornado.

Oh, and it’s been snowing in Greece.

Now, these events are not each in themselves so far out of the ordinary that they have never been observed before. But not all at the same time! Not all with such intensity, such as the 120 deg F. heatwaves across India that are now a regular summer occurrence. And not in living memory in some of the places observed. Reporting them individually or even disregarding them entirely may be masking the global effect of an average rise of just 1.5 degrees.

Taken with reports over previous weeks of floods, storms, droughts and wildfires all around the world they paint an increasingly aberrant picture of a climate spinning out of control.

What’s even odder is how normal everything seems to be here, where I’m sitting, writing. Apart from the astonishing florabundance and vibrant health of the vegetation cover in our valley, the weather just couldn’t get more normal for western Britain, completely unremarkable for at least the past two years.

Which is weird in itself, don’t you agree?

(Main source: Climate and Extreme Weather News, #33)

Climate Change: a Basic Primer for Internet Trolls and Leaders of the Free World

“Dimly illuminated internet trolling baboons, on the other hand, fail their exams, push a broom in Walmart, watch Family Guy, live on pizza, which is bad for your brain, and devote their spare time to telling tenured university Professors with 30 years’ seniority that they know nothing about anything.”

 

1 What is scince and why shud we beleeve in it?

It is almost beyond belief that there are still creatures claiming to be sentient human beings going on websites, asking how come if there were ice ages and volcanoes and stuff, global warming must be a conspiracy, right?

Do these dimly illuminated baboons actually have brains? It was scientists, for instance, following a theory, who discovered in the C19th that there have been ice ages due to global warming and cooling – we’re in the middle of one now. And you believe in ice ages, right? You said so!

But it wouldn’t occur to you that scientists today might have thought of that, ice ages, volcanoes, when they point to man-made climate change and warn it’s going too fast?

The fact that there is climate change in the past doesn’t mean there can’t be today and that we’re not responsible! It’s the speed and scale of change that’s important; and the reasons for it, in case it goes so far so fast that it threatens our existence.

2 Okay. Let’s start at the beginning.

To become a scientist, you need to study some science at school, also some math. Then if you get good pass grades you go to college, university, whatever, and spend three years studying science stuff – books and that.

When you graduate Bachelor of Science (BSc) with honours,  an upper second or better yet a first-class degree, you can go on to spend another year converting that to a Master’s degree (MSc) by writing a pretty learned 10,000 words paper about anything that takes your tutor’s fancy.

A good grade at Master’s will then open the way to doing a PhD – Doctor of Philosophy degree. Some people do two, or even three. A really good grade might even get you a research council grant to cover the $25k a year cost of the PhD. That can take up to five years of further study, during which you may do research as an assistant, work in a lab, or teach.

Then you’ll have to get another degree, if you want to teach fulltime – it takes a year; or go into industry, or medicine, where you’ll spend your days performing useful repetitive tasks with test tubes and pipettes, analysing samples. You might even go into astronaut training, or like famed British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, into designing food colourings for ice-cream.

Those are not the scientists necessarily who are telling you about global warming.

If you get to be a university lecturer, you can go on field trips to study things and pursue your passion. That’s the fun part, although it’s not hugely well paid. You might for instance go to the Arctic (North Pole) or the Antarctic (South Pole) to study the rate of melting, and take ice core samples from which you can isolate gas bubbles formed thousands of years in the past, and use special equipment to tell you what they’re made from and how long ago they were frozen in the ice.

Or you can get mud samples from the seabed or, basically, under any mud and see what pollen grains from trees and flowers were there and what stuff was being burned in forest fires, thousands of years in the past, before the sea covered the land; or count ancient tree rings and compare them with the modern day, which will show how fast or slow things grew. From that you can determine how hot or cold it was in the past. It’s called research.

Finally if you survive the intense competition, the ice and the mud, after maybe five more years of studying and teaching and writing papers you’ll be voted-in as a Professor.

Getting a Professorship is pretty competitive and you’ll have to publish a lot of original, experimentally validated research, books even, and videos, that need to get past the editor and the committee on some pretty high-powered scientific journals that have been around for decades if not centuries.

Your colleagues and peers all over the world are then at liberty to chuck all kinds of shit at your research. If none of it sticks, you’ve got a result – maybe even a Nobel prize. Science is not about certainty, it’s about agreeing that you have the best explanation available at the time.

Dimly illuminated internet trolling baboons, on the other hand, fail their exams. They push a broom in Walmart, watch Family Guy, live on pizza, which scientists know is bad for your brain, and devote their spare time to telling tenured university Professors with 30 years’ seniority, research teams and access to state-of-the-art equipment and a Nobel award that they know nothing about anything.

 

3 Why do scientists apparently disagree about global warming?

Because it’s a very complicated subject they are still learning lots about. Learning and arguing is what scientists do, all the time: absolute certainty is for believers. But they don’t disagree by much. It’s a big planet, it can depend on where and how you take measurements and the range of climates is part of a dynamic system, subject to all kinds of influences.

So, please don’t tell me, warming is maybe caused by the sun…. Of course it bloody is, it’s the mechanism for over-heating that scientists are looking at, not the freakin’ sun. Do you imagine they don’t know about the sun? Jesus. And you don’t know what the Maunder minimum is, or a Carrington Event, so shut up, alright?

Climate change has caused civilizations like Babylon and the Maya to collapse before, but never on a global scale. Climate change can happen locally. We’re talking about the overall warming ‘trend’, which looks pretty small but has amplified local effects that can raise the global average over time. And it’s higher than any natural warming explains. Okay?

Global warming has been confirmed, not only by atmospheric physicists – people who study air and what it does – but by scientists from many different disciplines. Climatologists. Meteorologists. Biologists. Geologists. Environmentalists. Ecologists. Chemists. Botanists. Agronomists. Oceanographers. Marine biologists. Economists. Political Scientists. Anthropologists…

And they’re all wrong, right?

Tens of thousands of trained and qualified scientists and experienced researchers with PhDs and Nobel prizes are NOT WRONG just because one or two rogue scientists and crackpot failed politicians and swampy PR men like to pretend climate change is a myth, for whatever reason, money, or ego, financial self-interest or just to be bloody-minded.

To put your faith in a biassed minority view is irrational. The Church did not disbelieve Galileo, they just didn’t want his findings getting out.

But it’s still snowing!

The additional warming is found everywhere, not just in the air. And yes, I know, it snowed last winter where you are – big deal. In Adelaide, Australia while you froze they had many days of record heat, over 45C, and the electricity broke down. You may have noticed, an 82F spike in Washington DC – in February? In Pakistan last Wednesday it got to 53.5C – 128.3F. That’s a world record.

And still scientists are being careful not to say any individual freak weather event is in itself evidence of climate change. Why? Because they are frightened of being bullied by climate-change deniers who control the funding for research? Or because they are responsible, cautious people who know how difficult it can be to finally prove something so complicated?

It took a long time to confirm the warming because it was happening slowly and at different rates in different parts of the world, with different effects. (Climate is not the same as weather. Weather is the product of climate.) Most of the additional heat has been absorbed by the ocean that covers 7/10ths of the planet, but that’s rapidly changing too.

Now everyone – everyone that is other than cranks, liars, dimwitted teenagers, Lord Monckton and the many other people paid by the coal, oil and gas industries to post deliberately confusing messages – fake news – on websites, accepts that it is not only happening, it is speeding up – and it is dangerous.

Myths abound: there was no ‘slowdown’ of warming in the 1990s-2000s. It’s not true; a product of selective interpretation of the data. Ice cover at the Arctic and Antarctic is not increasing, it is rapidly shrinking – and getting thinner. In Glacier Park, Washington/British Columbia States, only 26 out of 150 historic glaciers remain. That one’s true.

And you need to know that even the oil, gas and coal industries know perfectly well that the earth is heating up, thanks to our dependence on them. A US scientist, James Hansen worked out the rate of warming in the 1970s, the energy industry began conducting its own research and confirmed there was a potentially serious problem. The Shell documentary film unit made a highly accurate prediction of precisely the effects we are experiencing now, back in 1991. It’s on YouTube, I suggest you watch it (it’s in color, Donny).

But surely it’s a conspiracy to get more tax money? A Chinese hoax?

What, a conspiracy involving tens of thousands of people from all over the world, all under the influence of China? A conspiracy that had to have begun back in 1889 when a Swedish chemist, Svante Arrhenius first discovered that carbon dioxide, a chemical element that makes up a small part of the air you breathe, that’s given off whenever you burn stuff, retains heat in the atmosphere?

A conspiracy that has apparently not yet been unmasked by the heads of 190 governments around the world (who normally like to disagree about everything) and their thousands of advisors, who in 2015 finally got so scared they all signed up to the first ever global agreement to try to limit emissions of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, the Paris Accord? Because they’ve all been convinced we’re putting out too much, but according to you it’s a conspiracy?

‘Don’t do stupid. Don’t be stupid.’ It’s a good motto for living.

That’s the treaty everyone else signed in Paris and ratified in Mmorocco a year later, but which President Trump is now abandoning because some people in his government told him Jesus will save us from climate change, that he doesn’t anyway want to believe is happening. He promised his dumbfuck supporters more jobs (although combating global warming is a good job, hewing coal all day, half a mile underground in the dark maybe less so), he lied bigly about coal being ‘clean energy’, of course it isn’t – and he’s pissed at the Europeans for laughing at him because he’s so ignorant, childish and incompetent.

That clever a conspiracy, huh? What, like Christianity you mean?

 

4 Let’s try logic.

You run a bath, both get in. You piss in the water. At first not much happens, but after a while you keep pissing, the water turns yellow and smells of piss. Not nice. Your friend wants to get out, right? You try diluting the piss by adding water, but the bath is already full. There is no room for more water. The water you have is disgusting. Bathnight is ruined.

Or look at it another way: the supply of air we have is limited, fixed – and is not enough to absorb all the vast amounts of gassy crap we’ve been pumping into it faster and faster for 150 years. Overload is having an effect. Elementary logic tells you, it must have an effect. There is nothing else it can be doing in a closed system into which we are adding gassy crap at the rate of millions of tons a day.

For a long time the land, the sea and the air – known as the three ‘carbon sinks’ – absorbed the crap. Plants breathe carbon dioxide in and breathe oxygen out, right? Up to a point. Now they can’t anymore. The air is getting sick; the sea is dying. Plants will soon have had enough. When they die they give back the carbon dioxide they took in, and then we all die. Everyone. Everything. Look at Mars, something like this happened on Mars.

And if you think about it some more, it really doesn’t matter if the crap we’re being poisoned by is our own crap or if it comes from Mars, plankton-brain. We’re still being poisoned by it, and if we pump out less crap of our own it may not get so bad so soon.

That’s logic, isn’t it? I mean, you can’t take the piss out of the bathwater, right?

But you can stop pissing.

There are getting on for eight billion people in the world, and billions of other animals. More people now than have lived at any time, ever.

We’re the only ones that know we’re about to go extinct. But we’re so addicted to burning fossil fuels, charging our iPhones and gorging ourselves on vast quantities of meat from animals that fart out billions of tons of methane: cows, sheep. Farm animals are responsible for maybe half the warming we’re experiencing. Humans too – we’re responsible for about 8% of the additional CO2 burden as we each breathe out 1kg of CO2 a day.

We feed cattle on grain crops that are hugely wasteful and expensive to produce from failing soils addicted to artificial oil-based fertilizers, that we could be eating ourselves; plants that don’t produce anything but carbohydrates, good oxygen and useful straw, overloading our hearts with meat protein and dairy fats.

We’re in total denial of what we’re doing to ourselves and every other living thing on this planet.

Only, the scientists aren’t in denial, I’m not either; it’s just you. Silly, underqualified old you. And in fact it looks like scientists are under-stating the speed and scale of the problem, deliberately, because the ones who tell the truth lose their jobs the quickest. That’s Darwinism for you. Politicians and the wealthy people who fund universities don’t want to admit how bad it is.

Later on I will explain what is about to happen to you.

 

5 But let’s take a breather and find out about air.

Air is a supposedly colourless, odourless mix of elements: nitrogen, oxygen, carbon dioxide, in that order, and some other small amounts of gases – sulphur dioxide, methane and some non-reactive gases like argon and neon in very small amounts. There’s a natural cycle in the land, the sea and the sky that produced the air and maintains it like it is, in a mix we can all breathe. It’s why we’re all here. But it can only maintain the composition, it can’t increase the quantity. We’re stuck with the amount we’ve got.

And we’re breaking that cycle right now because we are the only inhabitants of the planet we know ever to dig up and burn millions of years-old fossil fuels: oil, gas and coal. And burn it in enormous quantities, producing dangerous by-products like carbon dioxide (CO2), sulphur dioxide, nitrogen dioxide and methane (CH4). Water vapor, too, is a greenhouse gas, trapping the heat from sunlight close to the earth. Vast amounts of water enter the atmosphere from industry, from airplane con-trails – and as the planet heats up, evaporating from the sea. All these extra additives in the atmosphere are causing it to heat up by trapping sunlight.

Fossil fuel is stored energy from sunlight. Processes in plants and plant-like organisms in the sea and in algae ‘eat’ sunlight, turning it into food energy (carbo-hydrate) for themselves while they live. They store surplus energy, which they give off when they die. If they are buried underground or under the sea, they can’t give off carbon and so it is stored, for millions of years, in the earth – until we dig it up and set fire to it. Then it gives off gassy compounds like carbon dioxide and the rest, which we know store the heat from sunlight while they persist in the atmosphere.

Just running your car produces nearly five tons of carbon dioxide in a year. There are over a billion cars in the world, so that’s five billion tons of a poisonous, heat absorbing gas we’re putting out right there, from that one source, and it stays in the atmosphere for 100 years. (A billion is a thousand million.)

The atmosphere is only 18 km thick, and above about 3km it doesn’t have enough oxygen for us to survive, which is why mountain-climbers and airplanes carry oxygen. So there’s not a lot of breatheable air in the world. We can only use a fraction of the atmosphere – we need it to live – and we can’t make any more.

For millions of years the balance of the air was perfect to sustain life in the forms we know it now but we’re changing it. Yes, there were ice ages – that didn’t mean other parts of the world weren’t warm. And ice is water, it’s not poisonous. There have also been warmer periods. But the warmer period we are experiencing now is a hundred times faster than anything we know about before – we have a pretty good idea how hot the world has been for the last 200 million years, and it’s already as hot as it’s ever been during that time, and getting hotter.

Plant, insect and animal species are disappearing faster than at any time since the so-called Permian extinction, 250 million years ago, when a possible rapid global warming event killed 95% of all life on earth – partly due to human pressure on habitat, but partly also due to warming.

Yes there are volcanoes. They throw up all kinds of poisonous, heat-retaining gases but in millions of years all of the volcanoes in the world didn’t make much difference because the planet has a natural system for maintaining the balance of gases in the air. It may not be able to cope with what we are doing to the air and the sea now. All the agricultural burnoff in the Iron Age made a little but not much difference. The widespread loss of forest cover nowadays especially in the tropics due to commercial logging, soya and palm oil growing and the warming and acidification of the oceans are certainly not helping.

 

6 The fossil fuel business

About 250 years ago, we started digging up and burning coal; lots of coal, which is carbon, basically compressed dead trees from millions of years ago, to make steam to power steam engines and to heat our homes. The people who owned the land where coal mines were dug made huge fortunes from this revolutionary fuel source, that was much hotter and more economical to burn than living wood, the primary fuel source (and water) for hundreds, a few thousands, of years.

Then about 150 years ago we started burning oil, which is made from tiny compressed dead sea creatures, the carbon locked in their shells, from seas that were there millions of years ago. (Yes, I’m afraid the Earth is more than six thousand years old… I know, it comes as a shock.) With the advent of public utilities and the motor car, wildcatters in the USA and then all over the world, especially in the Middle East, made huge fortunes from people burning oil – and continue to do so.

It’s estimated that sales of the remaining accessible stocks of oil in the ground would be worth over $25 trillion to the oil companies, which explains why they are keen for us to carry on using oil.

Since 1980, world oil consumption has gone from 60 million to nearer 100 million barrels a day. ‘A carbon-based fuel will emit 3.15 times its own weight in CO2 when burnt’ (Quiet Road/Jim Bliss website); one barrel of oil will therefore produce 317 kg of CO2. So just burning oil alone adds over 3 million metric tonnes of CO2 to the air we breathe, every day of the year. And then there’s coal, gas and wood (biomass), and other natural processes that produce CO2 – and other carbonaceous greenhouse gases, like methane.

Can you not see that burning fossil fuels – ‘yesterday’s sunlight’ – in a closed system is bound to cause a problem? If you can’t see it, I suggest you go in the garage, close the doors and switch on your car engine. You’ll be dead inside twenty minutes.

They say there are not many famous people from Belgium! One who did more to change the world than almost anyone was Jean Joseph Etienne Lenoir. In 1859 he invented the internal combustion engine, that drives cars and airplanes and generators, and runs on gasoline refined from crude oil.

Scientists went on to discover that we could make lots of other things from oil: industrial chemicals, brightly coloured dyes, medicines, clothing, agricultural fertilizers. Plastics made from oil revolutionized manufacturing industry and ushered in the modern consumer era. Capitalists who owned the means of production and employed cheap labour made billions of dollars from fractionating oil to create many different products they could sell.

And also in the 1890s we started using electricity, power you can send down a wire to city streets, factories and homes, made by driving generators using coal, natural gas (methane) and oil as sources of energy. Demand for electricity requires burning more and more fossil fuel, although we are increasingly turning to other sources: wind, sun and nuclear energy, to generate electricity.

So since we started burning coal, gas and oil in huge quantities to power our civilization, we’ve been pumping massive amounts of these ‘greenhouse gases’, all derived from stored carbon from many millions of years-old sunlight, and so-called because they absorb heat from the sun, pissing into our small reservoir, or bathtub, of air.

And then, there are billions and billions of tons of plant matter and dead sea creatures lying around, that haven’t had time to become compressed to become oil or coal, and as they rot down they give off a gas you’ll know from smelling your own farts, methane.

Methane is also a greenhouse gas, many times more able to retain heat than CO2.

“The severe heatwave sweeping Australia has caused blackouts in Adelaide and forced 40,000 people to swelter through 42 degree heat without air conditioning.

“Overwhelming demand for electricity forced South Australian Power Networks to start ‘load shedding’ in order to conserve power, plunging parts of the state into darkness shortly before 7pm on Wednesday.

“Meanwhile, Sydney will again be battered by the heat following two days of torrential rain. (Mail Online, Feb 2017)

7 What in the world is happening?

There’s billions and billions of tons of methane (CH4 – the fat red nucleus is carbon, the blue blobs hydrogen) trapped underground and under the sea, thanks to the last of those ice ages (technically we’re still in that ice age) thawing and raising the sea level to cover the land; particularly around the Arctic circle, which is now warming at ten times the rate at the equator.

As the ice melts and the permanently frozen land in the far north of Russia, Canada, Alaska (permafrost) melts, huge farts of methane are being detected. Methane, an isotope of carbon, absorbs more heat than carbon dioxide, while the disappearing ice means less sunlight is reflected back into space, so the Arctic where there’s a lot of methane heating up very fast.

The Antarctic (South Pole) was heating more slowly, as there is less land in the southern oceans with dead plant matter to produce methane; however it is speeding up now. And as the polar oceans warm, it evens out the temperature difference, the ‘gradient’ between the colder regions and the warmer oceans.

Blowing around the sub-Arctic and Antarctic latitudes at up to 200 miles per hour is a high-altitude wind called the jet-stream, that affects the weather. It plays an important part in keeping the air mass of the latitudes separate: nearer the poles cold, nearer the equator warm.

But as the temperature gradient of the oceans evens out, the jet-stream becomes weaker. It starts to lose speed and meanders around in great loops – which explains why you might have had such a cold winter last year, as a polar ‘vortex’ – a mass of cold air – escaped into the American midwest, and another into Central Europe; when, where I live on the west coast of Britain, it was mild all winter and we had fewer storms than normal – and spring (bud-burst on shrubs and trees, visible plant growth, flowering of spring bulbs, arrival of migratory birds, etc.) arrived three weeks earlier than usual.

In China, though, the weakening of the jet-stream created a mass of still air that allowed pollution from cities and factories to blanket a huge area with choking chemical smog, bigger than France, that people had to live with for weeks. There was not enough energy in the weather system to clear the air.

And at the North Pole, where it is normally 35C below freezing, the temperature in early March was 0.1C ABOVE freezing, the Arctic sea was 4C above normal in places and the winter ice could not form. Areas of the Pacific and Atlantic oceans were reported to be up to 9C above normal.

This confusion is exactly what was predicted by Prof Hansen all those years ago, and by many scientists since.

As the air temperature rises, it takes up more water vapor, so we can expect heavier rainfall; as indeed we are seeing now, with several ‘once-in-100-years’ floods ongoing, lives and crops ruined.

Increasing sea temperatures add energy to weather systems, so hurricanes/typhoons and tornadoes are getting bigger, more frequent, more powerful. Larger areas of the globe are being affected by drought for longer periods, turning to desert or burning with wildfires that are in turn adding more greenhouse gases to the atmosphere.

Millions in Africa are, literally, threatened with starvation today, now – not in some distant future. Capetown is running out of water.

There is a real concern that if these trends continue, we in the West will not be able to feed ourselves. There was a small demonstration of this last winter when European supermarkets ran out of salad vegetables owing to severe flooding in the part of Spain where winter salad is grown. Prices trebled.

And the increasing burden of extreme climate on human civilization in parts of the world is already worsening conflicts over resources, especially water; creating a refugee crisis, that is likely only to get worse as people flee towards areas like yours, where life is still sustainable. Other species are moving northwards and southwards, away from the infernal heat at the equator; plants, animals – diseases.

Are you going to blame them? So-called Western civilization has created this problem; it’s not the fault of people in the developing world, they’re not the biggest polluters, we are.

Carbon dioxide mixing with sea water makes carbonic acid, that is killing the flora at the ocean surface that make oxygen for the planet: already we are seeing a reduction in the amount of oxygen in the air. Coral reefs, too, are dying: they’re the habitat for many of the creatures at the base of the food chain in the sea. Soon there could be no fish.

Data from ice and mud cores and tree rings give us clues to the climate at the start of the industrial revolution, 250 years ago. We know then that the concentration of carbon dioxide in the air was around 280 parts per million (ppm), which persisted into the 1900s, when we started burning oil. After that the average annual global temperature begins to increase, now by about 1.3 deg. C., and the rate of increase is also increasing.

Just last month the Mauna Loa observatory in Hawaii, where the measurements are taken because the air is pure, recorded an average concentration of CO2 over time of 410 ppm. Not so pure, then.

Doubling of the carbon dioxide load would, it’s calculated, produce between 1.5 and 5 degrees of warming. It’s doubtful life on earth can survive 5 degrees, the hottest the planet will have been for 200 million years. In parts of west Africa and central Asia, where there have been hundreds of wildfires mainly caused by crop burning, a NASA satellite in March recorded levels of 567 and 605 ppm, as well as lethal concentrations of methane, sulphur dioxide and other poisonous gases.

Each year that passes grows warmer than the last. 2016 was the warmest year globally on record – I know, it snowed where you are. It snowed in Saudi Arabia last winter too, but it was nice here. Warmer than 2015, the second warmest year on record. Warmer than 2014, the third warmest, when my town was hit six times in the winter by severe storms, winds gusting to 100 mph… According to Prof Guy McPherson, late of Arizona University (he was fired for being too pessimistic about the prospects for abrupt climate change) there has been a steady increase of temperature month on month. No one month has been colder than the previous month, as a global average, since 1990.

No, the rate of warming has not slowed down.

This is man-made. It is happening now. It is what we are doing to the planet, to ourselves and other species that also have a right to be here. It is no longer deniable. If I were dictator of the world, I would make climate-change denial a crime; just as Holocaust denial is a crime in Germany and Austria. I would lock Donald Trump up, and the rest of his climate-change denying liars in the Republican Party.

I would lock you up.

 

8 Get off the Internet

As the permanently frozen areas (‘permafrost’) around the Arctic sea known as the Tundra thaw, more methane is given off. The ground that has been frozen for thousands of years since the ice retreated is growing spongy and can no longer support buildings, roads, power lines. There are videos on YouTube where you can watch them falling down.

And there are videos showing mysterious bulges in the ground, and previously unexplained holes opening up all over the Arctic tundra, many metres across and many metres deep, that we now know are cause by huge eruptions of pockets of underground methane.

The sea off the coast of Siberia is shallow, averaging only 50 metres deep. It is an area of 2 million sq km of permafrozen tundra that was flooded when the sea level rose at the end of the last ice age.

The sea bed remained frozen; but as the surface covering of ice has disappeared and is no longer reflecting the sun’s energy back into space the water is warming the sea bed faster than in the deeper oceans elsewhere. Russian scientists worry that a sudden, massive eruption of billions of tons of methane trapped beneath could trigger abrupt, runaway warming, leading to a possible six degrees rise in global temperature within only months. And it could happen at any time in the next few years.

And that’s the fear: that the gradual warming of the world is already setting-off  ‘feedback loops’ as they’re called, that could destabilize the whole system and lead to abrupt, runaway warming which we would not be ready to survive.

So, little troll, Mr Trump – you have been told. You have been warned.

x

“…it’s a zero-sum game and we’ve already lost it.”

I’m Leaving, on a jet plane

My big fear following the Trump Paris accord meltdown, which had nothing much to do with climate change and everything to do with a President who is four years old and unable to connect with his outer adult or any factual databases, is that Britain is now left high and dry, with nowhere to go in the world to find friends.

The slightly slow Mrs May rushed in January to rope us to the sinking hulk of an America that just lost its last shred of credibility on the world stage. The abandonment of the Paris accord is Putin’s victory and Trump’s loss.

May is pursuing a ‘hard Brexit’ just to look tough, to out-UKIP the UKIP tendency; but as the Observer piece below shows, it’s a zero-sum game and we’ve already lost it.

Merkel has made it clear Europe is no longer our friend either, as they cannot trust us – a devastating condemnation of where the Tories have left us in the past year. Apart from the ‘many values’ we all obviously share with Rodrigo Duterte, we’re out on our own and it’s a foreign policy disaster as bad as anything since Munich.

And our foreign policy ‘leader’ is a vain, puffling, self-promoting buffoon who likes to go around annoying foreigners by reminding them of how Britain used to rule the world.

If you haven’t read this piece by veteran economics journalist Will Hutton, read it. Remainers will nod sagely and crack a bottle or two before swallowing the pills. Leavers will moan piteously, oh why can’t the Remainers just be more like us and we can all hold hands and skip over the edge of the White Cliffs of Dover together?

http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2017/jun/03/britain-being-led-to-epic-act-self-harm-brexit

It’s bad.

No, really.

 

For Auld Lang Syne

I might make a habit of quoting selected passages from some of my earlier Posts.

Especially where I have been particularly prophetic, as in ‘quoting’ Jeremy Corbyn on the Manchester bomb attack two days before he actually spoke the words.

Or lyrical.

Came across this just now (June 15, 2016):

Were I, or anyone, able to somehow get hold of a cosmic vacuum-pump and suck out all the uneventful, blank bits of our lives: the longueurs, the ennuies, the do-nothing times, the frustrating going-nowhere periods, the thousand-and-one nights when you were asleep on your own, not even dreaming; the terrible, dreary office jobs, the driving to Norwich and back, the stuck-at-home marriages, the slow piling-up of rejection letters and unread bank statements; all the boring things you ever did or said; dreary hours of sitting politely in waiting rooms, not leaving the theatre in the interval of a stinker, queuing at the Post Office, doing the washing-up, fidgeting through trite sermons and Greek lessons, the agonising disability of piano practice – like evacuating all the air from a Bell jar in class; and heat the rest up over a Bunsen burner, how much of a brown powdery residue of achievements and adventures and excitements would be left in the bottom of the tube?

The answer, I’m afraid, was not a lot!

But in the same Post I was able to point out with what has turned out to be unerring accuracy, to judge by Comment is Free pieces now appearing from distinguished economists on The Guardian website, the probable effect of denying access to the UK jobs market of workers from the EU; and to urge people to vote Remain.

It’s the only reason, to be honest, that I feel bad about not taking the necessary actions to attract at least a quarter of a million Followers, out of shyness and a desire for privacy.

The two Followers I still have didn’t need persuading.

Thursday’s Bogl in parenthesis: How is it Where You Are?

“A Texas man has filed a lawsuit against a woman for the cost of a movie ticket after she texted during their cinema date. Brandon Vezmar, 37, said the woman walked out of the screening of Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 2 when he complained about her persistent phone use.

“Mr Vezmar filed the petition in the state capital of Austin last week seeking $17.31 (£13.30), arguing his date’s behaviour was “a threat to civilised society”.” – BBC report

Hero.

Brandon Vezmar, 37, could well have just become the Saviour of the Universe.

Women who are congenitally unable to stop fiddling with their phones for more than a few seconds without breaking out in hives are indeed a threat, not only to civilization, but to the future of humanity. They need to be saved.

Wherever I walk li’l Hunzi, I am unable to shield him from the sight of approaching women pushing a buggy with one hand while delivering a running commentary on their vacuous thought process to some invisible friend via a small device held with the other. In a recent production of Shakespeare, the longueurs backstage were hardly enlivened by female members of the cast immediately pouncing on their phones after coming offstage, in case anything totally uninteresting had happened while they were distracted by having to do some acting.

If only there had been cellphone technology in the C16th.

By 2050 it will no doubt be reported that female babies are being born with a strange deformity of the arm, which is permanently crooked and attached to their right ear. In addition, they will have evolved hypermobile thumbs resembling small flippers with built-in predictive text.

Having said that, if my ‘paying date’ had dragged me to see ‘Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol 2’ after a slap-up $4 dinner, I’d have kicked him in the nuts and gone home to watch the box-set of Fleabag in the more intellectually stimulating company of my vibrator. A girl needs to feel valued.

But that’s just me.

x

“This lying fat orange shitbrains is just taking the piss.”

How is it where you are?

I’m hoping next time to make sure I bring the little stringy thing that connects this, muh annoying new laptop, to muh cellphone.

It’s ‘cos I have on it, some new photos of the astonishing Spring regrowth that has been erupting around us since the beginning of April.

I’d like to share them with you and may do so shortly. (Gottit!)

Eutrophication – warmer water containing added washed-down nutrients – has caused huge mats of green weed to cover the nearby river, such as I have never known. Meanwhile, a couple of rainy days have brought on the most astonishing efflorescence and a surge of green biomass such as we have never seen before, here in the river valley.

Huge clumps of wild plants are erupting either side of the rapidly disappearing footpath. Briar – fruits already forming – and nettles and cleavers and elder, Himalayan balsam, all fighting for light, tumbling over each other. Growth of grass in the verges has been rapid, dense, with the tall, undistinguished white flower spikes of plantain normally about 10 inches reaching two feet in height, vying for space with St John’s Wort, nettle, vetch and borage, Pennyroyal and cow-parsley.

Japanese knotweed stands already way above my head.

Notifiable – and  indestructible – knotweed growing three feet above my six-foot head.

Where the playing fields have not been closely mown there are vast mats of daisies, lying like late snow. In the wooded ares, daffodils, snowdrops, bluebells and harebells – all the flowers of spring – are already well over. Dandelion, buttercup and wood anemone are flowering vigorously. The gorse flowers, great acid-yellow swatches, that blazed all winter are dying off now. Bees hum on sunny days in the great pendulous clumps of mayflowers hanging from the hawthorn trees. Birdsong is everywhere.

It really is the most extraordinary Spring I think I have ever known. It began in early April. And it’s still only mid-May. In my tiny garden, I have one rose bush. It has put out three-foot-long greenshoots, each bearing heads of multiple flower buds they will be unable to support. Some flowered last week. It is still only mid-May.

This unprecedented abundance is probably because, for the first time in hundreds of thousands, maybe millions of years, Carbon dioxide – plant food – in the atmosphere is at 410 parts per million (Mauna Loa observatory, Hawaii) and rising.

On sunny days, of which we have had many, a cooling breeze blows gently in from the sea. Out of the wind, it has been comfortably in the low 70s F.

Other parts of the world are not so agreeable:

  • Twenty-seven tornados touched down in Wisconsin and Oklahoma yesterday, trashing a trailer park and killing at least two people. More scary tornado warnings are out tonite (19/05) across the midwest.
  • Donald J ‘criminal ecocide’ Trump has nominated an alt-right Christian fundamentalist, climate-change-denying ‘shock-jock’ radio talkshow host, Sam Clovis as Science Director of the US Department of Agriculture. Like Scott Pruitt at the EPA he has no scientific or sector administrative credentials whatsoever. This lying fat orange shitbrains is just taking the piss.
  • Carbon dioxide concentrations recently exceeded 560 ppm (NASA) in parts of West Africa and Central Asia, thanks to uncontrolled forest fires and annual agricultural burning. A problem with wildfires and crop-burning is that sooty particulates eventually precipitate out over ice fields where the darker surface increases melting of glaciers and sea ice.
  • Wildfires have destroyed 4,000 acres in northern Florida.
  • Record flooding with many casualties and mass evacuations has been reported just this week in Indonesia (Sulawesi/Borneo), Arkansas (state of emergency declared), Mississippi, N. Carolina (USA); Hungary/Romania; China’s Guangdong and four other provinces; Kenya and Kwa-Zulu Natal – South Africa; Chile (where over 1m acres were destroyed by wildfires in January); Haiti, Jamaica and Canada (state of emergency declared in Ontario province).
  • 137 mm of rain fell in 24 hours in Alicante, Spain; 280mm in Kamphaeng Phet province, Thailand. http://floodlist.com/america/usa/floods-arkansas-missouri-april-may-2017
  • Hundreds of pilgrims have been evacuated as heavy flooding hits the southern French town of Lourdes after days of rain.
  • A record-breaking 42 deg. C+ heatwave is affecting the Chennai area of Tamil Nadu, SW India for the second year running.
  • Two tropical cyclones are currently battering northeast and northwest Australia, with another Category 5 storm threatening Vanuatu, the second this year.
  • An earthquake ascribed to possible ‘isostatic rebound’ due to melting ice hit Greenland on May 8, triggering a massive release of methane. Methane levels have risen 256% from 1750 to 2015 and could double again by 2040 (Arctic News).
  • “The Global Seed Vault, buried in a mountain deep inside the Arctic circle, has been breached after global warming produced extraordinary temperatures over the winter, sending meltwater gushing into the entrance tunnel.” – BBC report. (The Norwegian-funded seed bank, said to be the most important reserve of plant genes in the world, was designed to last 1,000 years…)
  • While Colorado enjoyed heavy snow last night (20 May), some scientists are forecasting an ice-free Arctic ocean by September. Admittedly they have been saying this for the past four years. However, thanks to Arctic methane eruptions polynomial trendlines (best/worst-case scenarios) are pointing to possibly a global 3 deg. C. rise over 2018 and a potential, unsurvivable 10 deg. C. rise by 2021. (Arctic News).
  • April was the third warmest month ever recorded across the USA. Temperature in Washington DC yesterday touched 93 F.

The Pumpkin – Issue 17. The Bartered Bribe. Plus long essay: 100 Days of Sod ’em

“…gold is your God; which of you have not barter’d your conscience for bribes?”

The Bartered Bribe

By: Our Chief North America Correspondent, John Sopoor. ©2017 @support_us.gov

You know, I keep going back to a Post of The Pumpkin on 21 April which began with Oliver Cromwell’s famous 1653 speech dissolving the Long Parliament, and finding more and more resonances with Trump’s White House.

Once again I am indebted to Rachel Maddow at MSNBC for exhaustively explaining (her explanations can be pretty exhausting, and then you don’t get the meat of the story because she’s gone to a commercial break and the rest hasn’t been uploaded, but we’ll persevere) the background to yet another potential shitstorm, this time involving the plastic toy, Special Advisor and general US Government, Jared Kushner.

I have often exclaimed in mock despair that there appears to be no end to the stories and allegations of dodgy dealings surrounding  Trump and his family, going back into the mists of time and before; and it seems into the future, with no reprehension; no clarity, no remorse. I guess some families are just like that. The Borgias spring to mind.

But the Pumpkin’s famed despair is beginning to lose its mockiness. I read on the hot-news ‘crawler’ unspooling beneath Ms Maddow as she outlined the latest Trump family financial plans that, for instance, Ivanka Trump’s lovely face is now to be found on billboards announcing the opening of the Trump Tower in Manila, capital of the Philippines.

Now, Mrs Kushner – Ms Trump – Ivanka has an official position in the US government. She was appointed three weeks ago as a special advisor, given a title: ‘First Daughter’ (her wicked stepmom remains a prisoner in the gilded Manhattan tower), her own office and a brief in the White House – and a top-level security clearance.

Under the Emoluments clause of the constitution it’s illegal for public officials to profit from foreign business transactions, but here she is, advertising Orange Daddy’s hotel business, that she and her brothers Donny Jr and the Little Nazi, Eric, are supposed to have been put in charge of precisely so he isn’t compromised by his ownership of said businesses while he abuses the Office of President of the United States.

Well, fuck that for a game of soldiers.

Not only that, but Trump has invited Rodrigo Duterte, the President of the Philippines, to the White House – Duterte, a squalid little pockmarked thug who publicly called President Obama a ‘fucking son of a whore’, makes salty jokes about personally raping the women his soldiers have missed and has operated an open policy of paying police death squads and vigilantes to hunt down and murder anyone suspected of involvement in the drugs trade, the number of his victims now at 7,000 and rising; has compared himself favourably to Hitler, and who has boasted that he has personally murdered people, is considered by Trump a fit person to enjoy his chocolate-cake hospitality at the expense of the US government.

Could there be a connection? Is the US taxpayer, of whom The Pumpkin is one, paying for a private Trump Tower Manila-flavoured thank-you gift to Duterte? I don’t suppose in the midst of everything else we shall ever know.

Kushner is in fact all over the press today, it is necessary only to Google ‘Kushner, Guinea’ to get the story from several newspapers behind Maddow’s exposé of his business relationship with Beny Steinmetz, an Israeli businessman whose companies are in the New York South District Court dock right now, charged with paying massive illegal bribes to the government of Equatorial Guinea for iron ore mining rights, following an FBI wiretap operation involving the widow of the late President, Sekou Touré.

Israel-based Steinmetz is alleged to have invested almost $200 million in Kushner’s properties, including a Trump Tower project, since his firm was indicted under the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act. That in itself would be prima facie evidence of corruption.

Yet nothing seems to touch the Trump family. The recent piece of brilliant investigative reporting by Adam Davidson in the New Yorker magazine linking Trump Organization via Ivanka to a deal over a Trump Tower in Azerbaijan that appears to have been part-financed with laundered money from the Iranian Revolutionary Guard (a proscribed terror organization) in breach of international sanctions, through the profoundly corrupt Mammadov family, seems to have attracted barely more than a yawn, and a ‘well, he’s Trump, what do you expect?’ from the authorities. (The Trump lawyer who carried out the apparently innocent ‘due diligence’ search and greenlighted the illegal project in Baku has been given a key post in the administration.)

These kinds of deals are going to be increasingly difficult to uncover, as one of Trump’s earliest executive orders rescinded an Obama rule that companies involved in the energy and mining industries have to declare payments to foreign officials for extraction rights.

No prizes for speculating why he passed that particular Trump Turd, then.

Meanwhile details are emerging from the Wall Street Journal of some more of ‘Mr Kushner’s’ financial arrangements, including the news that he is indebted to more than 20 banks for a total of over $1 billion, part-guaranteed by Machiavellian billionaire speculator George Soros. Unfortunately he forgot to declare it when accepting his multitasking role as a White House advisor to his equally deeply indebted father-in-law, President Donald Trump.

There’s one world for them, and fuck the rest of us.

‘A mock-presidential cumface, like Frankie Howerd being sodomised by a camel.’

Sayings of the Week:

“Money is no longer a measure of value; for most people in the West it is merely a form of energy, like gas and electricity. The new currency of capitalism is data.” – Uncle Bogler

x

Long Essay

100 Days of Sod ’em

The problem, it seems to The Pumpkin, that the world’s media is having in presenting the mad, ugly, dysfunctional face of Trump to the public is that the appalling things he is doing – or trying to do – and the bizarre way he is going about doing them are so bewilderingly stratified as to be almost incapable of coherent rationalization in policy terms.

(A mock-presidential cum-face that, excuse me, rather resembles the late comedian Frankie Howerd being sodomised by a camel.)

Instead of grasping the bull by the horns and campaigning full-out to get the President removed from office urgently as a threat to national security, so clearly mentally unhinged is he, the media is salami-slicing Trump’s grotesque first 100 days, spinning out a catalogue of monstrosities as a disconnected series of odd events, and thus failing to present a holistic picture; presumably for considerations of space, as a comprehensive blow-by-blow critique is going to take a fair-sized tome.

Can The Pumpkin do better? Well, not a lot, but he’ll try.

For instance, we appear to have forgotten already that only a little over a week ago Trump had sent V-P Mike Pence, a weirdly smirking snow-capped tailor’s dummy, to South Korea, where he was threatening all-out nuclear war against tiny North Korea, until his boss realised that the nuclear-tipped ‘armada’ he thought someone had despatched to the southwestern Pacific to threaten President Kim was in fact 3,500 miles away in the Indian Ocean on exercises with the Australian navy.

Yes, within his first 100 days, the Commander-in-Chief of the most powerful force on earth had managed to lose an aircraft carrier, two destroyers, a frigate and some supply ships.

Today, instead, he is lauding Kim Jong-un as ‘a smart cookie’ whom he would be ‘honoured to meet’ – this is the 33-year-old mass murderer and personality-cult leader in charge of the most repressive, over-militarized regime on earth. The Daily Mail reported, not without relish:

“North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un executed his uncle by having him stripped naked and eaten alive by starving dogs while he watched, a report claimed yesterday.”

Honoured? Fuck’s sake. Make America great again, kowtow to a teenage psychopath who starves dogs. It’s pretty demeaning, but you can understand the envy with which the fragile ego constrained by civilized values contemplates the possibilities of absolute power. MSNBC’s ‘Morning Joe’ Scarborough, thrown to starving women….

It’s only a few other days since Trump made a snide comment about how Kim had been involved in ‘failed’ negotiations with President Bill Clinton, not realizing that it was so long ago it would have had to be his father, Kim Jong-il. (Indeed, according to Prof Chomsky, North Korea has several times tried to make peace with the US by giving up its nuclear ambitions and been rebuffed.)

However, it does seem the strategy has been working, inasmuch as President Xi has been so alarmed by Trump’s aggressive irrationality, his ignorance of affairs in the western Pacific and charmed by the chocolate cake dessert at Mar-a-Lago, that he appears to be co-operating in cramming a lid at least for now on his chubby Korean ally’s more provocative nuclear flag-waving.

Nor, it was demonstrated in another weird appearance before the press last week, could Trump recall who his oyster-eyed acolyte, the Speaker of the House, Paul Ryan is. Instead, he kept confusing him with former Senator Ron Paul, founder and practically the sole member of the Libertarian Party.

He continues to obsess like a dog at a bone about the election result, in which he failed by 2.8 million votes to win a popular majority; and about the poor turnout at his inauguration, holding more and more rallies of the faithful to convince himself that he really won, that he is really loved by the people.

He isn’t loved by the CIA, however; as, at a memorial service in January for their Cold War dead, he delivered an atrocious speech in the poorest possible taste, praising himself, his election victory and his record turnout.

You see, he’s too old for this. He’s still not in the mental space labelled President of the United States, and may never be.

Since taking office, Trump has not ameliorated his habit of reacting petulantly to every perceived criticism; continuing to Tweet out bilious, misspelled vengeful messages in the early hours in response to anything he half-remembers seeing on TV news. It got him into serious trouble early in March when, at 06.30 on the 4th, this appeared:

“Terrible! Just found out that Obama had my ‘wires tapped’ in Trump Tower just before the victory. Nothing found. This is McCarthyism!”

The story is cloudy. Trump’s grasp of the history of McCarthyism is tenuous, to say the least. He later amended the analogy to ‘Watergate’, as he has a habit of self-incrimination by subconscious blurting, but it appears he was jumping to conclusions after seeing a story from Breitbart News among his morning briefs, that was subsequently traced to a so-called ‘alt-right’ website, InfoWars, run by the demented shock-jock Alex Jones; and thence to other obscure rightwing sources; and may ultimately have had its origins in a manufactured leak back in the White House.

The story broke just as the FBI investigation into connections between team Trump and Russian intelligence was getting interesting. When FBI director Comey dismissed the wiretap allegations as unproven and absurd, Trump proceeded via Fox News to an even wilder allegation against the British intelligence monitoring service, GCHQ, that provides the NSA with all the latest European and Russian scuttlebut, plus of course weekly copies of this, muh bogl.

Two weeks later, however, there appeared to be some tangential truth in Trump’s madness when it became clear that GCHQ was the source of the original allegations against Trump staffers, in particular one Carter Page, a ‘deniable’ self-deluding international fixer, as the British had intercepted conversations in 2015 with Russian agents who were already under routine monitoring and the FBI had obtained a FISA order to surveille Page.

The story thus dissolved into the normal smoke-and-mirrors of friendly clandestine spying operations between nations and took the heat off the President and what if any role he may have played in allowing or encouraging Russian military intelligence to hack his competitors’ servers to dig up dirt he could use against Clinton.

Trump thus felt totally vindicated, until on the 20th FBI Director James Comey confirmed to a Congressional hearing that Obama was innocent but he was still investigating the Russian connection. The hearings were abruptly halted by Republican chairman Devin Nunes when it became clear that the next key witness was going to be Sally Yates, the former Acting Attorney-General, who had been abruptly fired by Trump over ‘what she knew’ about National Security Advisor, General Mike T Flynn – who had himself been fired after lying about his Russian connections.

So bizarre and clearly panic-stricken was Chairman Nunes’ behaviour in attempting to suppress his own investigation – fed another anonymous ‘intelligence dossier’ via the back door of the White House ‘proving’ Obama’s treachery, he subsequently pretended to hand it in to the Presidemt and then claimed that the hearings were continuing in secret at his home without any of the committee members being invited – he was eventually forced to recuse himself and would do well to book himself into rehab.

But the hearings have not been resumed as the matter has since proceeded up to the Senate, where there’s again a small Republican majority. It seems unlikely to get any further; there is talk of Grand Juries already sitting, but the Justice Department is being packed with Trump appointees who will surely not dare to challenge him. There is as yet no sign of the kind of dogged Special Prosecutor who did for Nixon or Clinton.

This astonishing kerfuffle was so irregular that it seems almost to have been forgotten about, but it clearly illustrates the disturbing nature of the administration and the smokescreen of chaos with which it has deliberately surrounded itself.

The fact that Trump had instantly Tweeted out his total belief in a phoney claim made in a most dubious publication without bothering to check the facts with his security advisors and the FBI surely indicates either that he is temperamentally unfit to be the President, or that he rightly has no faith in his security advisors.

Nevertheless he is still there, and may be until January, 2021 at least. It is hard to see who or what will remove him, other than if he were to make a determined sexual assault on Nancy Pelosi on the floor of the House.

“…no sooner has the liberal establishment expressed amazement and concern over one bizarre interview or scandal brewing than there will come another, and another to confound everyone.”

Meanwhile, the ‘Golden Showergate’ dossier, a 35-page report compiled by former British MI6 Russia-desk officer Chris Steele from Russian intelligence sources indicating that Trump might have been the victim of a kompromat operation by Putin’s spies, and that he was a potential security threat, remained in the background, parts of it being confirmed occasionally by Congressional investigators, the FBI and the CIA, to no apparent overall effect.

The story of Teflon Donald’s first 100 days, about the historically unprecedented success of which he has already begun making promotional TV commercials, complete with paranoid attacks on the ‘fake news’ media, also reveals the unprecedentedly shambolic nature of his fumbling maladministration, his incredibly poor and uninformed capacity for rational thought or judgement; and ignores his past criminal associations, his doubtful financial record, his compulsive lying, his boasting, his ungrammatical confusions, his ignorance of detail, his ‘flip-flopping’ (We prefer the more grown-up ‘bewilderment’. Ed.) on so many key issues.

This week, for instance, we had more of his rambling, incoherent, self-contradictory assertions – the latest of which is that former President Andrew Jackson, a brutal slavemaster and genocide of Native Americans whom Trump greatly admires for his ‘big heart’, was so concerned about the issues surrounding the origins of the Civil War that he might have prevented it had it not been for Abraham Lincoln invading the South.

Never mind that he died sixteen years before the first shot was fired by the Confederacy at Fort Sumter.

Now, detailed examination of this rubbish – Trump also speculated that, had he been there at the time, he would personally have prevented the war, and complained that ‘nobody (but him) ever asks’ about the causes of the war – the purpose of possibly several hundred books on the subject he will never have heard of – which were much misunderstood, would lead one to the conclusion that the President a) has no knowledge whatever of American history, yet is perfectly prepared to pose for his Dumbfucks as an expert; and b) is so mentally unstable and narcissistic as to constitute a danger to the free world.

For it must be obvious to anyone with eyes to see, that he is also posing as a President.

But there is no time for such detailed examination, because no sooner has the liberal establishment expressed amazement and concern over one bizarre interview or scandal brewing than there will come another, and another to confound everyone.

The media is never going to convince his supporters that they made a stupid decision, even when it is clearly shown that his American Healthcare bill, that failed abysmally at its first hurdle and was withdrawn without a vote, sneaking back this week in a barely revised form, will not only disqualify millions of poorer Americans – including themselves – from holding adequate health insurance, but will penalize many with pre-existing conditions so severely that they will simply be left to die.

That is actually Republican Party policy, to get the sick and the State-dependant off the books as fast as possible; while at the same time gerrymandering constituencies by the simple expedient of disenfranchising black and Latino voters likely to be Democrats, and passing laws preventing Democratic party politicians from passing laws.

Numerous other of Trump’s huge and generalized campaign promises, seemingly made on the hoof, have turned out to be bullshit. But not all. And advantage is being taken of the abrasive tone of his campaign speeches by other sections of his party.

Among some of the extraordinary laws Republican States administrations have been trying to pass since the election is, for instance, the formal exoneration of motorists who kill demonstrators by running them over if they obstruct the highway. The Pumpkin hopes that was fake news. States that had liberalized personal marijuana possession are being forced to recriminalize it. Masked and well-armed State police have threatened they will be out early, kicking down doors. Oklahoma has been racing to execute more prisoners before they run out of drugs to do the job.

A kind of licensed brutality is in the air, but so little is comprehensively reported that it doesn’t look like a takeover by the authoritarian far-right, which it plainly is.

First Amendment freedom of the press to criticise the President is also becoming an issue.

The coverage by the mainstream media that reaches most Americans is disturbingly supine and respectful, as if they are dealing with a normal person, a normal administration that is perhaps just a little wayward in its early days, but which will straighten up and fly right eventually.

“I’ve got a little list”

Any actual criticism is shrugged off by the Trump propagandists as ‘fake news’; but like Nanki-poo, they’ve ‘got a little list’. The ‘enemies of the people’, as he continually calls them, aware of corporate financial pressures on their editorial staff and the ongoing loss of advertising to the internet, the rise of so-called ‘citizen media’ making the cost of investigative reporting prohibitive, the ‘failing media’ is conspiring to prevent Trump making America great again, and that’s what his supporters will believe until their dying day.

In fact, many Americans have met their dying days since Trump took office: not only the service personnel unnecessarily sacrificed to his vanity and military incompetence. The toll of record floods, raging wildfires, supercell storms and tornados, droughts, record temperatures and big-freeze ice storms is running into the hundreds, just this year. Sixteen more, including several children, died in floods and tornados only yesterday in Texas and the midwest – Trumpland. The climate is running rapidly out of control; and so is the oil-fuelled, coal-burning President, in hock to the denial industry.

And nobody cares, nobody apparently wants to see that their hero is just the extreme manifestation of the elitism of the rich and powerful, the very embodiment of ‘the swamp’ he promised them he would drain; that he has not the slightest interest in helping people he calls ‘the losers’ but, with his history of bankruptcies and lawsuits, his tax avoidance and huge unpaid debts to foreign banks, is out only to enrich himself and his already obscenely wealthy friends, driven mad by money; and, if the allegations prove true, his Russian paymaster.

The Pumpkin could enumerate literally dozens of horrible, awful things Trump has either initiated or agreed to.

What human being but a complete sadist or the crazed ‘supermom’ Sarah Palin, with her Tea Party morality and her sexually incontinent children would readily agree to sign an order licensing hunters to shoot hibernating she-bears with cubs?

It is incomprehensible that such a minute detail of administration should occupy any President in his first 100 days, yet there he was, his camel-fucked Presidential cum-face glowing like an amber traffic light next to his ridiculous squiggle on a document licensing many such horrors, a gurning crew of sycophantic macho hunting loby poltroons lined up proudly behind him for the photo-op.

This is surely one monstrous old poser, a cretin bereft of most human values, who is bound straight for Hell by express delivery.

“A cretin surely bound for Hell by express delivery”

The man is wittingly or otherwise an ecocide, a world criminal, having attempted to push through more than fifty such orders removing protections and precautions for the environment, for the climate, for wildlife in a frenzied onslaught on our fragile ecology, with no comprehension, no compassion, no vision – no belief in anything other than the power of money; as if we can eat money, drink it, breathe it – survive it.

He has been obsessive in his vindictive, childish determination to remove every trace of his more popular predecessor, Obama; to trash his reputation and to exceed his excesses with barbaric enthusiasm.

Federal agency budgets have been cut savagely*, NASA has been told to drop its satellite weather monitoring program; the National Monuments lands are under threat of development, permits being granted for aggressive pipeline projects and unrestricted drilling in formerly protected wilderness areas, the Arctic, all in the name of creating ‘thousands and thousands’ of jobs that will in fact disappear as US energy production goes into overdrive for no commercial reason – global demand is already far exceeded, the oil price has collapsed.

Energy industry transparency is being shut down; coal revived and dishonestly or foolishly promoted by Trump as ‘the cleanest energy ever’. Government scientists are being barred from publishing climate research, federal agencies barred from carrying out their duty of issuing public information on environmental matters, their administrations hollowed-out, gone. Climate change? ‘It’s a hoax’. (Has been since the 1880s when CO2 was first outed as a greenhouse gas. A long time to maintain a hoax involving tens of thousands of trained postgraduate scientists, possibly.)

The problem is, you see, once Trump has to get to grips with a little basic science, he becomes the greatest atmospheric physicist the world has ever known. Who better then to declare global warming a hoax?

Then there are his financial dealings; the dealings of the smartest negotiator, possibly ever; the smartest businessman. Simply Google: ‘Trump’, plus the name of any Russian bank – Alfabank, Sberbank, Deutsche Bank; ‘Trump’ plus Azerbaijan; ‘Trump’ plus Rybolovlev; ‘Trump’ plus Moscow, plus Mafia…. Even the rightwing Daily Mail was shocked by that last one. The evidence of money-laundering, of association with criminal enterprises at home and abroad is everywhere you look. Every day throws up the name of another oligarch with alleged connections to Trump and his gang.

For The Pumpkin, Trump’s most unique attribute is this: a man born into wealth, who need never have done any work in his life, something in his upbringing, some Trump family gene, some parental abuse has caused him to live his life like a ragged-arsed immigrant clawing his way out of the Bowery in about 1910, willing to do anything at all, whatever it takes to survive.

The gold of Trump is just leaf, the swagger and smarm a veneer. Underneath he is pure Charlie Chaplin; pure Bugsy Siegel, pure Clyde Barrow: a poor bastard who has turned himself through the desperate desire to prove himself good enough for his father, but who can only measure his progress in money, into a deceitful, facile thug.

His closest associates in the White House, his campaign team, his transition team… many of them are tarnished by similar allegations, financial dealings with corrupt foreign oligarchs and governments; attempts to thwart FBI investigations; billionaire ‘disruptors’ pursuing obscure rightwing and Christian fundamentalist causes, using their vast wealth to influence the outcome of elections, to undermine democratic institutions and cause profitable chaos in order to grasp more.

Wall Street sharks are filling the administration – we should understand that, while on the campaign trail Mr Trump admonished Goldman Sachs in particular, they are the financial advisor that made most of his connections to lenders such as Deutsche Bank and Bank of China, lenders to whom he owes more than a billion dollars; and to whose former executives he has in return entrusted all of the major financial arms of the State.

These are not conspiracy theories, those people are quite open, even boastful about their objectives and methods. They believe, apparently not without good reason, that they are at last untouchable: the Masters of the Universe, back in overwhelming numbers and in reach of real political power at last.

Trump’s immigration policy has been wild, insane, sickening. He has encouraged dreadful divisions in US society, turning people against foreigners and Muslims;  branding all migrants in this land of migrants as criminals, drug dealers, rapists.

Families that have been settled in America for decades are being torn apart as thuggish border goons interpret their remit, unopposed by Congress, to drag hardworking fathers and mothers in handcuffs, even from hospital beds, away from their American children to detention centres from where after a perfunctory hearing they are bundled out, having committed no crime other than to exist, to countries where they have no homes, no connections, no work.

Extra judges are being press-ganged to sit on 24-hour immigration tribunals; punitive funding cuts threatened against ‘sanctuary cities’ whose mayors refuse to impose draconian rules against useful and productive ‘illegals’. It is an onslaught that invites comparisons with Nazi Germany.

Yet immigration is vital: the native American birthrate is well below replacement, the population – as elsewhere in the Western world, is ageing.

Trump’s boneheaded and valueless attempts on ‘security’ grounds to ban temporarily, people traveling from countries from where no actual terrorist threats have ever emanated, the so-called Muslim travel ban, that absurdly has not been applied to prolific terror-sponsoring nations like Saudi Arabia and Pakistan, ended twice in chaos and confusion, leading to face-offs with the courts and those he reviled as ‘so-called judges’, risking in his ignorance of the workings of Government a major confrontation between the Executive, Judicial and Congressional branches of the State.

Even a former Norwegian Prime Minister, Kjell Magne Bondevik, on his way to a prayer breakfast (don’t ask me. Ed.) was detained for two hours of questioning at Dulles airport, an incriminating Iranian visa stamp in his passport. And there’s talk of more and more oppressive Homeland Security – the compulsory surrender of personal media passwords, for instance; while Trump has readily signed over to internet service providers the automatic right to sell subscriber data – both measures in fact reducing the national cybersecurity.

He seems to do whatever anybody tells him, provided they are rich enough.

Trump’s much-vaunted promises to build a grandiose and ineffectual wall between the US and Mexico, that Mexico would pay for, that would divide border communities and hinder normal commercial flows worth $billions, have so far thankfully remained unfunded, despite his unfounded belief that it would totally halt the flow of drugs and illegal migrants into the USA.

His vain threats to impose punitive trade tariffs on Mexican goods, it has been shown, would have a negative effect on American consumers, while his promise to scrap the North American Free Trade Agreement, NAFTA, that he has now abandoned, merely showed him up as being ignorant of its real economic benefits and the costs of ending it. He persists in the hubris that isolationism is the way to restore the stagnant incomes of Americans, while the Federal Reserve continues to print money to lubricate the banks and holds interest rates at zero.

In his first 100 days, so many of his spontaneously generated campaign chickens have come home to roost. Being President is more complicated than he thought. So, Donald, go?

Likewise, another ‘ten-minute briefing’ at the White House with NATO chief Lars Stoltenburg caused another 180-degree turn in policy: ‘failing’ and ‘irrelevant’, NATO is now important once again; although one cannot be sure that he has been cured of his erroneous belief that NATO pays the USA money in exchange for a defence umbrella, and that many member States are not paying what they owe. Hence his $390 billion ‘invoice’ to Angela Merkel.

No, Donald, that’s not how it works! It’s a treaty organization guaranteeing mutual defense. NATO members are independent nations. They commit to keeping their defence budgets at a certain level, but they all have different GDP to begin with! Different defence requirements. And the treaty obliges them to come to your aid too, if the USA is attacked. NATO is not, as he hoped, some kind of standing army, that will take on ISIS terrorists on its own initiative.

This is a man almost entirely ignorant of the affairs of State, of how the world works, of the history of international relations, who is undergoing a learning-curve that seems almost entirely beyond his capabilities to negotiate. Is that not a serious enough failing in a President, in the Commander-in-Chief of the most powerful armed force in world history, by whom one mistake could end human civilization?

Earlier in April, while at dinner with the Chinese President at his vulgar golf resort in Florida, Mar-a-Lago, from which he continues to profit while in office, Trump theatrically left the table to sanction a strike by 59 cruise missiles on an airbase in Syria, thereby overturning his own non-intervention policy. It appeared to be an emergency, but by a strange coincidence, his entire security team were already there, waiting in another room.

The strike was ineffectual and although justified as a show of force to tell President Assad he couldn’t use chemical weapons on civilians, and to tell President Xi the US has a tough guy in charge who means business, it was widely seen as a convenient distraction from the FBI’s investigations into Trump’s Russian connections.

Mr Trump later expressed awe at his own military power and suggested he had just realized you had to be careful with this stuff as missiles could kill people. Nine civilians, including four children, died so that he could discover the principle. It was reminiscent of Mr Trump’s revelations regarding uranium, that could be used to make ‘bad things’, who knew?; and his naive query as to why, if we have nuclear weapons, we don’t use them more? Was he joking?

No, his budget provided for billions of dollars to increase the nuclear capability, that is already sufficient to eradicate all life on the planet several times over.

But a strong military is essential for the defence of the nation – and good for share prices.

Soon afterwards his airforce dropped an 11,000-lb MOAB air burst bomb on a cave complex in Afghanistan, killing – it’s thought – 36 ISIS guerrillas, a piece of theatrical sabre-rattling designed to intimidate the North Koreans, against whom Trump began fulminating the next day. His record of drone strikes has far exceeded even that of his predecessor, Obama; ‘collateral’, civilian casualties have quadrupled as his military has been told there will be no criticism, no comebacks, whatever they have to do to get the job done. (The ‘job’ is to eradicate the so-called Islamic State by saturation bombing, another futile policy.)

Since Trump took office, US troops have been sent by the thousand in secret to several more potential theatres of war. He has placed a blanket ban on announcing military operations. He has previously said that the objective of US military policy should be to ‘seize the oil’. He was persuaded not to do that in Iraq, only when it was pointed out to him which side the US was fighting on.

The corrupt appointments: his family members, friends of the family, his financial backers, the party’s financial backers, the backers and staff of Breitbart News, gimlet-eyed military hawks, demonstrably stupid, venal and incompetent local political hicks, all rewarded with key government posts they are not remotely qualified to fill; other, many other posts left vacant – key ambassadorships, heads of department – all are indicative of his inexperience, his isolation as CEO of his own business.

His proposed tax reforms, for instance, all one page of them (in easy to read bullet points), benefitting corporations and the top point two percent of the most wealthy to the tune of, literally, trillions of dollars; gouging the poor and the middle-class, will scarcely pass with no-one in the Treasury in charge of the country’s tax planning; but that post remains unfilled too, another empty department.

Under the toxic Attorney-General, Jefferson Beauregard ‘Jeff’ Sessions 111, who lied about his meetings with the Russian ambassador and had to recuse himself from any investigation of Trump’s team and its unexplained connections with Russia, the Justice Department is filling up with Trump appointees, after he fired all the circuit judges in January without any replacements lined up. The southern racialist, anti-civil rights, anti-abortion advocate and avowed Confederate supporter, Sessions has been busy removing any legal constraints on the actions of the police nationwide.

General Flynn, the first National Security Advisor, waved through by the Trump administration on the basis of an old security clearance that should have been revoked after he was fired by Obama as head of the Defense Intelligence Agency, lasted 24 days in post before having to stand down after being caught lying about connections with Russia. They began to emerge in 2016, and have still not stopped emerging, as he took substantial sums of money as an undeclared ‘foreign agent’ for obscure PR efforts on behalf of Russia, and of Turkey – financed by the Russians.

Trump’s son-in-law, the 36-year-old property speculator Jared Kushner, too, who is wearing a bewildering array of ‘hats’ in the White House, including a brief to re-engineer the entire administrative machinery in Washington, was caught lying about contacts he had with Russian Ambassador Kislyak; while since the inauguration a number of prominent Russian diplomats, bankers and business ‘contacts’ based in Washington (and one or two in Moscow) have unexpectedly died, including the Ambassador to the UN, Vitaly Churkin – whose autopsy results have been Classified.

The Russian connection extended to apparent attempts to influence the election through the hacking of Democratic party servers and the release via the ever-useful Wikileaks of what the FBI found were non-incriminating emails sent and received by Hillary Clinton and her campaign manager John Podesta. In March Mr Trump seems to have employed a British politician, Nigel Farage, as a go-between to Wikileaks founder, Julian Assange – but Sessions has since had a new warrant issued for Assange’s arrest on old charges of leaking classified documents.

(Beware of Assange’s revenge!)

Farage is an associate of Raheem Kassam, the UK editor of Steve Bannon’s Breitbart News website, and a ‘friend’ of ultra-rightwing billionaire fund manager, Robert Mercer, who with his daughter Rebekah funds Breitbart. Other Breitbart writers and section editors have received posts in the administration, including ‘Dr’ Sebastian Gorka, a British-Hungarian security analyst with suspected connections to a secretive neo-Nazi movement in Hungary (he has now left the administration). Mercer’s company, Cambridge Analytica, is alleged to have been behind computer ‘botnet’ attacks on the British EU referendum, in which Farage campaigned prominently for ‘Brexit’.

Bannon and other wealthy disruptors are linked in a tenuous network with Republican funders and Russian oligarchs promoting religious and racial ‘purity’ and an Islamophobic, antisemitic agenda. They seem in the early days at least to have ‘captured the castle’ as far as Trump and his administration were concerned, giving rise to the suggestion that the President is merely a ‘useful idiot’ in a plot to undermine Western democratic institutions and to destroy the US government in its present form – as Bannon boasted was his intention in a speech to the Conservative CPAC conference in January, at which young, wealthy male delegates notoriously gave a Nazi salute, shouting Heil Trump!, apparently without irony – a plot in which the Russian president Putin is suspected of having a disruptive hand.

Trump seems to have an unhealthy regard for ‘strongman’ dictators: in addition to his expressed admiration for Duterte and North Korea’s Kim, he has happily received at the White House such humanitarians as General al-Sisi of Egypt, Binyamin Netanyahu of Israel and Viktor Orban of Hungary – an old friend of Gorka’s – and has refused to criticise either Putin or the increasingly paranoid Erdogan of Turkey, to whom he Tweeted congratulations on scraping through a referendum giving him absolute powers for life (Following which, Erdogan proceeded to arrest or suspend another ten thousand government officials as ‘plotters’ supposedly supporting his nemesis, the US-exiled cleric Fetullah Gulen).

Indeed, Trump has praised both of them lavishly; and it seems General Flynn’s missions may have helped to bring about a rapprochement between the two countries – as indeed did those of Russian oligarch Aleksandr Dugin – and, perhaps, advanced a lucrative undersea gas pipeline deal bypassing Syria for Noble Energy – a company drilling in collaboration with the Israeli energy sector, in which Trump has shares; one of whose former directors, George Papadopoulos is an Energy Advisor appointee in the Trump administration.

Yet he pretty much cold-shouldered Angela Merkel and Japanese Prime Minister Abe, appearing to fall asleep standing up and noticeably refusing to wear his translation earpiece at their joint press conferences, so he had no idea what they were saying.

As a result, his foreign policy is a total muddle that no-one can clearly follow. As is his administration.

His Foreign Policy pointman, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson – former boss of America’s biggest oil company – has no diplomatic experience, and virtually no diplomatic or administrative support at the State Department, which has been hollowed-out with over 500 appointments still vacant; there are 34 ambassadors yet to be hired, many to key countries around the world – South Korea, Japan, Singapore. Entire foreign desks, including China, are missing. Is it deliberate? It feels like a Bannon policy.

The Commerce Secretary – an old ‘consigliere’ to the Trump family, billionaire Wilbur Ross was until this March a major investor in and vice-chair of Bank of Cyprus, a known conduit to the west for sanctioned Russian money. His fellow directors included the former head of Deutsche Bank, another money-laundering bank that lent Trump hundreds of millions of dollars, much of which he was unable to pay back. Who owns those debts now? Trump connection Dmitry Rybolovlev owns 10 per cent of the bank. Trump was reported to have benefited from a property deal they did in Florida, to the tune of $60 million. The property was subsequently pulled down as being unfit for habitation.

The former Attorney General of Oklahoma, the climate-change-denying baboon Scott Pruitt, equally has no-one running the key departments at the Environment Protection Agency, that he has vowed in any case to destroy as it conflicts with the demands of his benefactors, the energy companies. He has sued the EPA on behalf of fracking interests on 14 separate occasions. Pruitt fought for years to prevent the release of emails subpoena’d by environmentalists expected to show his connection to the fabulously wealthy mining and energy extractors, the Koch Brothers; America’s third biggest polluters of all three carbon ‘sinks’.

Trump’s appointment as Education Secretary, Betsy DeVos, had no public administration experience in the Education field, other than co-owning a business pursuing student debtors. A Christian fundamentalist, she’s the wife of Amway pyramid-selling multi-billionaire and friend of Trump’s, Dick DeVos – who as the owner of healthcare corporations stands potentially to benefit from the new American Healthcare Act if it ever passes.

DeVos’ Spectrum Healthcare was revealed in February to be one of only two users sharing a mysterious email server in a small town in Pennsylvania, traced to the Trump Organization. The other user was the Russian Alfabank, owned by Mikhail Fridman, an oligarch who, Fortune magazine reported, was planning to divest his oil holdings in Rosneft and go into ‘US healthcare’.

Other, lesser appointments reveal a catalogue of incompetents promoted above their capabilities, with woeful CVs, suggesting that no-one in their right mind would want to work for this failing administration.

One success Trump can claim is the appointment of a far-right Supreme Court judge, Neil S Gorsuch, 49, who has an unblemished record of finding against individuals in cases involving corporations and whose career has been bankrolled by oil, sports and leisure industry magnate, Philip Anschutz (net worth $11 bn). To get him appointed, the Republicans on the Approvals committee had to get Congress to change the rules, having filibustered furiously for over a year to keep President Obama from filling the vacant position with a Democrat, but hey, it was a triumph. Of sorts.

Mr Gorsuch’s first act in office was to use his casting vote in favour of executing another black man.

Trump’s relationship with the press has been a disaster of epic proportions, thanks to his hapless, blustering, bullying dimwit of a Press Secretary, Sean Spicer, and his lunatic PR flack Kellyanne Conway – inventor of the ‘alternative truth’.

While there may be humour in the situation, less humorous have been the threats issued against journalists by Trump’s senior policy advisor, Stephen K Bannon; and now, hollow threats by the pathetic Reince Priebus, the White House’s sidelined ‘Chief of Staff’, to rewrite the First Amendment to the constitution in order to modify the concept of free speech for the press. Even to think that might be possible is to countenance the kind of authoritarian administration that characterized Germany in the 1930s; yet Trump’s compulsive, illiterate 3 a.m. Tweeting accusing minor female celebrities of being too fat makes him a pretty comic, second-rate Hitler.

Can we just laugh him out of office? Well, no. He wouldn’t even attend the annual dinner last weekend of the White House Press Corps he despises, after being insulted with humour last year. His only eye on the world is Fox News.

And it just goes on. The refusal to release his tax returns; the leaks, both intentional and not; the illegal profiting from foreign government money funnelled through his hotel in Washington, subsidised by the government estates department that owns the freehold of the building; the threats to sue anyone who writes the sort of things I am writing here; the smell of cover-up and national decay, the permanent smokescreen of confusion and chaos – the primacy of money above humanity.

Indeed, the only question one can ask is, in Trump’s own notorious words, just what the Hell is going on?

To say Trump’s presidency has thus far been a cataclysm and promises only to get worse is an understatement. His military men are still looking for some excuse to go to war, probably with Iran unless North Korea runs another nuclear test or Assad gasses some more civilians or China blockades the South China Sea. Maybe even with Russia, if they step out of line. He seems to have no moral compass when it comes to discussing pre-emptive strikes.

The energy industry with its vast power to lobby governments and to buy politicians like you’d buy a pound of bananas is clearly in charge now of both domestic and foreign policy, regardless of the increasingly alarming, adverse climate data Trump is rushing to suppress; in fact, you could describe it as a global coup unfolding, a grab for the last of our fossil fuel reserves. And the Pentagon is right there with them, Trump’s office is stiff with retired generals – he looks up to strict, authoritative men, like his Dad presumably. He’s a mess of post-parental conflicts and complexes.

Even now, teaching packs are being sent out to schools, telling children climate change is a hoax, there’s nothing to worry about. Will Mrs DeVos stop them? Well, she wants schools to teach Creationism and abstention rather than birth control, she’s homophobic too, so the Pumpkin doubts it. Obama’s liberal edict permitting transgender students to pee in whichever bathroom they prefer has also been rescinded.

Women’s rights too have come under ferocious attack, especially since the four-million march outnumbered Trump’s inauguration crowd; family planning clinics around the world have been defunded from government aid programs. Consumer protections, pollution controls, vehicle emissions limits are being trashed as ‘business-unfriendly’ – and to hell with children’s developing brains.

One hopeful sign, Trump himself has acknowledged in his 100-days interviews that the task of playing at being President is beyond him, telling the world how happy he was just running his family property business and franchising his name and Ivanka’s decorative schemes out to developers of Trump this-and-that around the world; her Chinese sweat-shop-made clothing ranges that he continues to promote on her behalf despite his hypocritical and economically disastrous demands that US businesses buy and sell and manufacture only in the USA; his Canute-like attempts to rollback globalization.

Healthcare? More complicated than expected. The role and purpose of opposition parties? Unexpectedly obstructive. Syria? Complicated. North Korea? His new friend Mr Xi, who executes more prisoners than Arkansas, has explained: it’s complicated.

The man demonstrates it with every breath: an arrogant, thin-skinned, spoiled, narcissistic, childish buffoon; ignorant, unlettered and not in control of his thoughts: he has no mental discipline, no ordered mind; he is observably barely literate: ‘Some of my best friends, contractors, good friends, can’t read or write.’ he told a campaign rally. ‘That doesn’t mean they’re not smart.’ He has stupid ideas, but reverences them as a toddler might proudly present its mother with a nappy full of shit: look ma, see what I just made!

His aides, alarmed, reported that he has the attention span of a four-year-old with ADHD and does not take briefings or read papers of state, he just watches TV all day between signing stuff he doesn’t appear to read. He spends three days a week golfing at Mar-a-Lago, at a projected cost to the taxpayer of $30 million a year; it’s another business, as well as his other golf courses around the world, that he continues to plug mercilessly for profit despite the clear conflict of interest.

He doesn’t care. The theft, the kleptomania are blatant, and his supporters don’t care as long as he allows the mentally ill to own guns – another of his early edicts. His sucking-up to the National Rifle Association has been craven and disturbing: especially from a former gun-control advocate, he now wants to arm the nation three times over, it’s great for jobs. Never mind the thirty thousand gunshot fatalities every year, against which ‘terrorism’, which he equates purely with Islam, white racist attacks don’t count, pales into complete insignificance.

Trump supporters are a kind of death cult.

It’s understandable they felt left behind, he was a symbol of change – only not in the way they expected. Many indeed hope he will bring about the End Times, when they shall see God, get to meet Jesus.

When he promised to ‘drain the swamp’ and has instead appointed lobbyists and Goldman Sachs executives and promised to let Tillerson’s buddies drill on open range in national parks and on monument land that is pretty much sacred to those people, when he cheats on his healthcare promises so their mothers and children are going to die prematurely from cancers, and stinking-rich corrupt Republican politicians tell them Jesus will take care of them if they live right, when he proposes to blow another $50 billion on the military, and they still think he’s great, that he’s cleaning out the stable and raising the stars and stripes, well, who are we to deny them this extraordinary fantasy world they’re living in?

It’s been 100 days that shook our world, and The Pumpkin can’t see the shaking is going to stop until Vice-President Pence exercises his constitutional right and duty under the 25th Amendment to have the senile President carted off with his arms folded, like that’s ever going to happen; or until Mr Comey and the FBI get their finger out and arrest him; or Congress impeaches him.

Like that’s ever going to happen.

The best the USA can hope for is that he will eventually come to and realize, he’s too old and tired and befuddled to run again. Let Jared have the job; let Ivanka.

In the meantime, although the Democrats have also become flaccid tools of the corporate overlords, at least a Democrat victory in the mid-term elections next year might wrest control of the Congress out of the hands of the Republicans, many of whom are as batshit crazy, dumb, actually evil and corrupt as any of the swamp-monsters, billionaire Christian fundamentalists and fuel-fossils in the White House.

And hope for President Elizabeth Warren in 2020.

 

*Not so, we hear. Voting on the budget, following the global March for Science, Congress has inserted modest increases for federal science programs this year. Not all is rosy: Trump’s orders are for cuts to bite in 2018.

 

Postscriptum

My admiration for President Duterte of the Philippines just went up a notch.

Trump, whose new American Healthcare bill passed the House and if ratified in the Senate (unlikely) would see hundreds and thousands of Americans condemned to an early death for lack of medical care while the money goes to tax breaks for the wealthy, invited the self-confessed murderer to the White House.

And Duterte told him no thanks, he’s far too busy.