The Pumpkin – Issue 23. Grenfell: Oven foil. Trump: Blood libel. Cough Please, That’ll be 50 dollars. Plus: Voters on a roll; and: Putting all his eggs in one Brexit.

“Aw, Miliband only had to eat one sandwich and it was curtains for him.” (Mr Mogg takes tea at the Leadsoms.)

Photo: Ken McKay/ITV/REX/Shutterstock

Oven foil

“Its chief executive, Robert Bond, is understood to have told Gould in a letter that her “inflammatory statements are highly damaging to our reputation and our business and will be defended by us in the strongest terms possible”.” – The Guardian, 30 June

Thus the firm that fitted the lethal cladding to Grenfell Tower responded to the leader of Camden Council, Ms Georgia Gould, with a threat to sue her for ‘damage to their reputation’, after she expressed disappointment that the polystyrene-filled aluminium-foil panels Camden had paid them to fit on their own high-rise blocks had failed safety tests, along with the interiors, resulting in the evacuation of hundreds of residents in the middle of the night.

Irony is truly dead on both sides of the Atlantic.

Mr Bond is clearly unaware of what his lawyers wrote in reply, otherwise he would surely have removed the word ‘inflammatory’ before clearing it for press release.

He seems also to be unaware that regardless of the outcome of the inquiry his company no longer has a ‘reputation’, certainly not of the kind he would prefer, and will have to start building one all over again.

There are reputation-management agencies that specialize in putting these things right, if he cares to Google one. He can form an orderly queue behind Kensington and Chelsea Council’s jug-eared leader, the impermeable Mr Nick Paget-Brown.

Postscriptum: Five minutes after saving this Post, in a fast-moving news environment Mr Paget-Brown has obviously seen what I wrote and announced that he will do the honourable thing as soon as anyone else can be found who is too cloth-eared and rhino-skinned to refuse the opportunity of hauling the Royal Borough through the rest of this unholy mess. Deputy ‘Rock’ Feilden-whatever has also announced he is stepping down. I don’t suppose knighthoods will follow, but at least they’ll escape the twitstorm.

Claiming that time would show there had been no lack of help or leadership from the council in the wake of the fire, last night Mr Brown terminated a cabinet meeting rather than face questions from his own councillors, having just discovered there were journalists in the press gallery. Journalists who had had to get an emergency High Court injunction to be allowed in; unlike the relatives and survivors kept outside for fear of ‘disturbances’. This morning word came from Number Ten: Theresa is displeased.

Our public officials and company directors are just completely fucking clueless, aren’t they?

Being largely white, middle-aged, conservative boobies-in-bubbles, they obviously have no idea of the way the world has been changed by social media to ensure that no-one can now get away with these kinds of incompetence, evasions, bluster and bullying. Their lives and those of their blameless ghastly wives and children will become a perpetual misery until they throw their hands up and resign.

The current issue of Private Eye magazine contains a horrifying litany of Tory refusals at local and national government level over the past seven years to pay the slightest heed to public and expert concerns about fire safety in social housing and schools, largely on the grounds that any regulation is bad for business. Not just refusals, but actual sneering at people’s wimpish requests for antediluvian safety standards to be updated.

Thus, the strategy of the Brexit leave campaigners, of Trump, to put about the nonsense that the needs of the ‘business community’ (a bunch of undereducated, overpaid sexist bores in bad suits, with bad-breath and dandruff for brains, basically) must necessarily for the sake of the nation be placed above any consideration of human life and dignity. (It’s not, incidentally, something which the majority of business owners in the UK insist on, it’s just Tory dogma that they do.)

The current Communities Secretary, Mr Sajid Javed, for instance, who now finds himself having to oversee the government’s response to the Grenfell Tower tragedy, was responsible previously as Mr Cameron’s Business Secretary for a Tory initiative to deregulate, among other sectors, the building industry, the ‘red-tape challenge’, in a race to the bottom of the heap to save £10 billion.

His predecessor, the morbidly obese Mr Eric Pickles, is said to have responded to a possibly costly Welsh Assembly initiative to fit sprinklers and save lives in social housing with a witty tweet: ‘Will the last housebuilder driven out by Labour from Wales to England please turn off the cement mixer?’

Fat cunt, as the trollers say.

Rock on

These fatuous and cynical, self-serving oafs will, one assumes, never share any of the responsibility for the disaster. Meanwhile, we are learning that the safer type of cladding originally specified in the Grenfell Tower contract was substituted at the last minute by one costing £293,000 less to please the deputy leader of KCBC, the improbably named Mr Rock Feilding-Mellon, who had been moaning about the budget and the colour scheme.

The report is in The Times but you have to pass a paywall to read it.

x

“He is seriously psychotic and must be removed from the White House immediately. This is no longer funny…”

Blood libel

Childe Donald has been at it again.

Only women bleed.

In a bizarre early morning assault on cable news channel MSNBC’s soon-to-be-married presentation couple, ex-Congressman ‘Morning Joe’ Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski, daughter of former Carter White House security advisor, Zbig – holder of the Order of the White Eagle (‘officially instituted on 1 November 1705 by Augustus II the Strong’) – among a fusillade of childish insults Trump tweeted that they had begged him to visit Mar a Lago ‘for three days’ at Christmas but he wouldn’t let them stay because she was ‘bleeding heavily from the face’ after having plastic surgery.

In fact, age 50 she had recently had a chin-tuck; rather less surgery than most residents of Palm Beach. Photographic evidence shows no sign of heavy bleeding, but we know what Mr Trump thinks of photographic evidence and we are surprised he has not convened a commission at public cost to examine the evidence for signs of tampering. Mr Trump too, seems remarkably taut around his demented old eyes for a man of 71.

Mika B’s offence had been to poke fun at the notoriously thin-skinned president, alluding to a request from Time magazine that Trump take down a fake cover he seems to have had designed-up with his own face on it, framed copies of which had been found adorning the walls of several of his tacky golf resorts; a story that originated with the New York Times, adding copyright theft to his list of many crimes.

On the show this morning, the couple contradicted Trump’s version, saying that he had invited them (shades of Guess Who’s Comey to Dinner?); that Joe had gone alone but Trump had insisted in his best Godfather style that Mika also came, that she interviewed Melania (‘who I like very much’) for 20 minutes and then they left.

The story got weirder when Scarborough revealed that someone on the Trump team had previously tried to blackmail him, telling him in a phone call that the notorious fake news tabloid the National Enquirer had a salacious story on the couple ready to print but they would spike it if he stopped criticizing the President. Followers of the show look away, but Scarborough was a big Trump supporter until the scales fell from his eyes as things started to get really, really bad.

(You’ll never hear any of this from the BBC, that continues to maunder on appreciatively as though Trump was not a significant risk to humanity and a cannon so loose you’d never catch up with it, but just the President of the United States on a normal day at the office.)

Where it all shades into a Stephen King novel is that, according to Scarborough today, Trump had previously gone off on a rant about Brzezinski in front of an entire room of Republican politicians, again fantasising about her bleeding from her ‘eyes, from her ears’… Something, Joe said, his informant had found ‘frightening’.

Then there was that other precedent when, after one of the candidates’ debates, he described the interlocutor, Megyn Kelly (late) of Fox News, who had asked him a pointed question about his referring to women as ‘fat pigs, dogs, slobs and disgusting animals’, as a ‘bimbo’ and claimed she too was bleeding: ‘she had blood coming out of her eyes, blood coming out of her – wherever’.

He is seriously psychotic and must be removed from the White House immediately. This is no longer funny. To have elected a president who openly fantasises about women bleeding from the eyes and the vagina, and who has frequently boasted of assaulting women in the belief that they welcome it because he is so rich and powerful – he’s not actually wealthy, he appears to be a net debtor, along with his entire shitty cut-price TV crime-family – is a devastating wound on America that has to be cauterized.

That the revolting old slug almost certainly relied on the furore his tweets would create – indeed, even many leading Republicans were appalled, although they don’t dare impeach him for what it might do to their funding – to draw attention away from any other disturbing things he might have been doing since yesterday, the Muslim ban perhaps, ‘Trumpcare’, Russiagate or his renewed threats against China and North Korea, against Germany and NATO, where do you stop?, is not a reason to doubt that the very real nature of the disturbing sexual fantasies which he shares with the nation ought to result in his being removed to a secure unit, pdq.

x

A half-Nelson with dumb stuff

In advance of the G20 at which he has been booked to go head to head with his macho money-idol Mr Putin, Mr Trump has stepped outside the ring of Presidential gravitas with an internet video ‘meme’ he has had produced, portraying him (in a suit) at a wrestling bout assaulting and overpowering a character with a CNN logo for a head, before being victoried with a raised arm by the hunky black wrestler in the ring.

The 45th and last President of the United States of America counts to ten. Missing nine.

He has actually spent your and my tax dollars on this witty but somewhat crapulous ‘meme’, a one-man party-political his dumbfucks are just going to love, so illiberal and unelitist is it, so not at all clever, so redolent of their own fuckwittedness. Dumb stuff rules, okay?

It’s a bit liberal snowflakey of me, but I know, and you know, that when their parents and kids start dying from curable illnesses they can’t afford to pay tens of thousands of dollars to treat, just maybe a tiny light will go on in their mushy brains.

But by then the Tangerine Dream will have told them, it’s all Obama’s fault.

And they’ll go yeah, right. Obama.

He was a bad dude. Re-elect the Orb!

Death is good.

 

Postscriptum: The Pumpkin recently speculated that billionaire Republicans might be planning to escape from the uninhabitable cinder their greed is turning the world into, by starting a colony on Mars. Lo and behold, Commander Trump yesterday held a hastily convened conference to announce that he is reviving a long-defunct quango, the National Space Council, to drive toward a colony on Mars.

“Our travels beyond the Earth propel scientific discoveries that improve our lives in countless ways here,” Trump drivelled, listing “new industry, technology and space security” among the benefits. (Washington Post)

Odd, coming from a President who has signed countless Executive Orders in his first weeks in office destroying scientific research, raising trade barriers and putting heavily polluting dinosaur industries centre-stage of his doomed plan for economic revival.

x

“Even other Republican Congressmen hadn’t seen the ‘final’ version until it was announced on Tuesday night…”

Cough please. That’ll be fifty dollars

According to a KFF Kaiser Foundation poll, only 38 per cent of Americans have so far understood that the so-called Obamacare replacement health bill currently in front of the Senate provides for $800 billion cuts to their basic Medicaid care program.

Sixty-two per cent have no idea what is in the bill. Many Trump supporters among them still believe his pre-election campaign promises to substitute Obama’s ‘failing’ (actually, pretty successful) American Healthcare program with something much, much more beautiful and have not bothered to check the horrifying truth.

That the Affordable Healthcare Act is going to force – not 22 million, the latest estimate is 32 million – mostly children and elderly people and people with pre-existing medical conditions from the poor and lower middle-class – out of health insurance altogether; while it gives carte blanche to the drug companies and clinics to raise prices.

The cuts in the Medicare and Medicaid safety-net programs to fund a tax giveaway to the top 1% will then finish them off; the implication being that this is yet another Republican attack on the black and ethnic minority communities, to go with their attempts to force such people off the voting rolls in many states.

‘Obamacare’ took seven years to pass both houses of Congress and underwent hundreds of amendments and thousands of hours of debate. The AHCA – ‘Trumpcare’, has had a paltry few hours of consideration by a select cabal of conservative Republican Senators in closed-door sessions. Even other Congressmen hadn’t seen the ‘final’ version until it was announced on Tuesday night, and it’s actually worse news than the original bill that passed the house of Representatives last month; a bill even Mr Trump derided as ‘mean’.

So ashamed of this shit was the supine old Trump-sucking leader of the Senate, Mitch McConnell, that he had to postpone a final vote scheduled for last Thursday over the 4th of July holidays to allow for some reconsideration.

Meanwhile, many house Republicans are now deeply worried that if they don’t pass the bill, billionaire backers allied to the notorious Koch Brothers might defund their hugely expensive re-election campaigns next year; while if they do support it, the voters will eventually cotton on to what they’ve done and kick them out anyway.

So in the meantime, two things have happened.

One, Mr Trump is luxuriating in the furore created by his over-the-top disgusting campaign of insults and blackmail tweeted at the MSNBC presenters Joe and Mika, which is ongoing. This has provided helpful distraction from criticism of all the other disgusting things he has been doing, of which more in a mo.

Two, it is diverting media attention from the Wall Street Journal story that an elderly party fixer called Peter Smith, who died in March, had given them an interview in which he confessed to having put together a ‘team’, including computer specialists and a Russian interpreter, to try to get the Russians to release the Hillary Clinton ‘private server’ emails to the Republican party – and that he was reporting to, among others on the Trump campaign, General Flynn.

Mr Smith, it seems, was responsible twenty-three years ago for masterminding a Republican campaign to discredit President Bill Clinton. In what came to be known as the Troopergate scandal, two State troopers were persuaded to lie about escorting the married President to private assignations with a number of women and standing guard while he, er, dallied.

x

“The Nuremberg Race Laws formed the cornerstone of Nazi racial policy. Their introduction in September 1935 heralded a new wave of antisemitic legislation that brought about immediate and concrete segregation.” – Holocaust Encyclopedia

On a roll

Resistance is reportedly growing among State officials to a letter demanding that they hand over to a special inquiry Mr Trump has set up to look into ‘voter fraud’ at the last election, complete lists of voters amounting to more than 200 million registrations, including details of their religious and voting affiliations, social security numbers, military service records and much, much more.

Appointed by Mr Trump to head the inquiry is Mr Chris Kobach, an obsessive anti-immigration campaigner who has lobbied assiduously for a national register of Muslims, similar to the one ordered of the Jews by the Nazis in 1935.

“As Secretary of State of Kansas, he has implemented some of the strictest voter ID legislation in the nation and has fought to remove nearly 20,000 properly registered voters from the state’s voter rolls. After considerable investigation and prosecution, Kobach secured six convictions for voter fraud; all were cases of double voting.” – Wikipedia

Insane, clearly. Another one.

Faced with a revolt by 44 state governors, one of whom suggested Mr Kobach could ‘go jump in the Gulf of Mexico’, a furious Mr Trump has come out with a strong statement demanding to know what they have to hide?

More to the point, what is he hiding?

It is yet another of Mr Trump’s famous diversionary tactics, an irrelevant accusation making the Governors the villains and inciting his dumbfuck supporters, who will undoubtedly interpret just the question as clear evidence of wrongdoing, there being no smoke without fire. (The smoke/fire principle of course does not hold good in relation to the FBI’s protracted investigations into their golden hero’s murky financial dealings and possibly treasonous activities, of which there is obviously not a shred of proof.)

The answer is probably nothing, as Mr Trump’s claim that ‘three, maybe five million’ illegal voters deprived him of an overall majority of the popular vote, which went to the hated rival Hillary Clinton, has already been thoroughly investigated by independent experts and found to be wholly without foundation.

The number of duplicated or illegal votes, they found, was vanishingly small.

Mr Trump, however, has never accepted that he did not win, both in the Electoral College (which he won) and overall in the popular vote. Like a dog at a bone, he cannot let the knowledge go that Mrs Clinton proved more popular with 2.8 million voters, it sears his soul that he is not universally loved and admired for his great successes.

Meanwhile as the farce continues, in which Mr Trump’s fragile ego syndrome hogs centre stage, the Middle East is falling apart; relations with the Chinese have sunk back into South China Sea, North Korea remains unresolved, Gen Mattis still wants to invade Iran and over a thousand administrative posts remain unfilled; including 500 at the State Department, where Secretary Tillexxon is tearing his hair out for lack of support.

So, as with everything he does, you are left wondering whether the Orb is just vindictive, untutored, thin-skinned, childish and senile, or whether there is some underlying rationale, some strategy behind the endless self-incriminating abusive tweets, the rain of Executive Orders (many of which cannot be carried out without a vote in Congress), the huge waste of public money and growing loss of confidence among America’s allies around the world, the mounting contempt and shame at home for his Presidency, reversing all the limited progress made under his hated (more popular) predecessor.

If you want to know where this obsession with voter numbers is headed, what this unprecedented and probably illegal demand for supposedly private voter details is about, remember two things:

One, it is the clear aim of the Republican majority to gerrymander the vote in their favour by disenfranchising tens of thousands of Democrat voters, kicking them off the rolls before next year’s midterms. This was partly what the Russian intervention was about, to get at the voter data. The information which Kobach initially said would be publicly available, but has now rowed-back and said will be confidential (except to the security forces, Russian hackers and anyone who will pay for it, presumably), is invaluable in the process of controlling the mass of the American people.

And two, Mr Trump vowed many times on the campaign trail to remove all Muslims from American soil; a policy clearly espoused by the likes of Steve Bannon, funded by the spectacularly rich alt-right orthodox Christian fundamentalists, Bob and ‘Bekah Mercer, and others who have espoused the cause of a holy war against both the forces of Islam and scientific modernism in the USA.

To date, in six months a furious Trump has managed to force through almost none of his legislative program, which is why the Healthcare bill means so much to him. He complains that the opposition Democrats keep inconveniently opposing him, he continues to blame Obama for everything (when he is not screaming abuse at his staff), he refuses to initiate any action over Russia’s role in the election… blaming Obama for that as well.

And he is a bad enemy to make. For, as Melania’s PR has tweeted, you hit him once, he hits you back ten times. A true son of Roy Cohn, the ruthless Mafia solicitor ‘friend of the family’ who figured so large in the young Donald’s business education, let’s hope she is not speaking from bitter experience.

Nevertheless he is determined to force through somehow, by hook or by crook, all the absurd, overblown promises of Bannon’s nihilistic, destructive policies he made last year to the dementedly screaming, hate-filled dumbfucks in a hundred aircraft hangars across America; egged on by Flynn and his Russian observers.

So to find out what happens next, after Mr Trump and the Republican party fixers get to know exactly who is voting where, how and out of what conviction, and to what religious creed they affiliate, you should turn to:

http://www.ushmm.org/wlc/en/article.php?ModuleId=10007901

x

Steel yourselves

‘And finally’… only joking, finality is a pipedream.

Despite overwhelming evidence and advice that it would be a disastrous move and lead to a global trade war, the Golden Orb has announced yet another inquiry, this time into how Chinese aluminum and steel prices are destroying American jobs and are thus A Bad Deal for Murca.

It is simply impossible to believe this disastrous tangerine effigy actually cares a damn about American workers, otherwise he would not be so keen to kill them all off. So one has to assume he imagines slapping a 20% tariff on imported Chinese steel, of the kind he uses in his own construction businesses and his new friends, the Kochs, use in their tar-oil pipelines, will somehow benefit their employers. (Things go better with Koch.)

“China has many predatory practices in the way they deal with us, with intellectual property and trade barriers for us.” – said Trump, reverting to his old gripes against China after a brief period in which he was being nice to them in the hope that his new ‘friend’ Mr Xi would clobber North Korea for us.

Mr Xi has clearly made the mistake of not fulfilling the loyalty pledge Mr Trump squeezed out of him over sticky chocolate cake at Mar a Lago.

These are presumably the same ‘predatory practices’ in ‘intellectual property’ that have seen Mr Trump and his non-US slave-employing daughter, feminist icon Ivanka, gain more than fifty exclusive product licences between them – including one for Trump-branded prostitution – using a Xi-ordained fast-track that might otherwise have taken them millennia to obtain.

There’s no gratitude among oligarchs.

x

All his eggs in one Brexit

Richard Cuck, seen wearing second prize at the Portadown horse show.

Does this slackjawed man look genetically damaged to you? No, he doesn’t much to me either. Just a mite depressed. You don’t get that Louis Vuitton luggage under the eyes at his young age by not imbibing copious drafts of misery juice.

No need to worry, though. Mr Richard Cook (for it is he) won the EU referendum. We’re leaving, God knows how – when, or why. Possibly it was due to an unexpected donation to the Leave campaign from Mrs May’s new friends in the Democratic Unionist Party, who are refusing to say where the money came from.

The caption to the photo in The Guardian says : ‘Richard Cook, the chairman of the Constitutional Research Council, which has no website, publishes no accounts and is not obliged to reveal its donors.’ Photograph: Universal News And Sport (Europe).

The CRC appears to be a by-blow of Mr Cook’s own small business, Cook Consulting, and a temporary parking-lot he registered, Five Star Investments. Another director of CRC/Five Star was listed as Mr Peter Haestrup, a Dane.

According to The Guardian: “Haestrup was named in an investigation into an arms scandal in 1995. Hundreds of AK-47s, anti-tank grenades, pistols and rocket launchers were dropped from a transport plane into West Bengal in what the Indian authorities described as “the biggest crime in the country’s history”.

No wonder Mr Cook looks so worried. Vengeful Thuggees might emerge at any moment from the undergrowth with death in their eyes.

Entirely concidentally, Richard – a former vice-chairman of the Scottish Conservative and Unionist Party –  also has interests in former West Bengal. Fancy that! The Guardian reports once more: ‘In 2012 his company, Cook Consulting, signed agreements to deliver environmental projects in Karachi worth more than £600m.’

A 13 July, 2012 BBC report reprinted what reads like a stock press release hailing the agreement, which mainly consisted of a £550 million desalination plant to provide drinking water to the city. The story gave no indication as to where Cook was getting the money: another blind alley. Mr Cook’s sources remain just as opaque four years on.

The absence of any evidence of Mr Cook’s finances is linked with a substantial donation, almost half a million pounds, in advance of the Brexit vote, via our new friends the Democratic Unionists (DUP), to the Leave.EU campaign and current Go On, Let’s Leave the EU as Painfully as Possible minister, the freshfaced empire-loyalist Tory baboon, Mr Steve Baker.

In default of a Leave vote in Northern Ireland, the money is said to have found its way to the UK mainland via a special dispensation that says donations received in the Six Counties don’t have to be declared to the Electoral Commission, in case they explode or perhaps come from one banned organization or another.

“In his register of interests, Baker states: “As chair of the European Research Group (ERG), I accepted £6,500 from the Constitutional Research Council to fund hospitality for ERG members and their staff at an event on 19 December 2016.”

So that can’t explain the total donation of £435,000, most of which according to The Guardian was spent on printing and distributing a ‘wraparound supplement’ to the Evening Standard newspaper, a modest enough project urging Londoners to vote Brexit – which they didn’t by a majority of 2:1, so that was a bit of a waste. Never mind! We’re OUT!

Ah, these think-tanks. Endless hospitality, ’tis a wonder they have time to think. You often wonder, too, where they get the money – who from, and what for. Possibly from wealthy speculators keen to advance their private interests, bypassing the tedious framework of democracy? Who can say.

While, bizarrely – perhaps like Alan Bennett he is 40 years older than he looks, or just one of those people you occasionally see written-up in colour supplements as having an unusual hobby – Cook:

“…like Baker, has been a supporter of the Freedom Association, the organization founded by a group of Tory MPs alarmed by the rise of trade unions and Irish republicanism.”

Neither cause has been exactly fresh in the public mind since the Thatcher era. But you know Unionists, easily alarmed.

Not all the money appears to have filtered through Northern Ireland to the mainland, though. Some went west.

According to Open Democracy UK, there appears to have been a payment of £32,000 to a Canadian company thought not to be many miles through snow-tracked wastes from Aggregate IQ, an obscure data analytics firm and referendum fixer whose ownership is, according to the Observer (articles passim), traceable to Mr Robert Mercer, the multibillionaire hedge-fund manager, ultra-orthodox Christian ‘disruptor’ and IT whizz behind the Breitbart News website.

The exact origin of the money remains shrouded in the misty Celtic twilight. Except that the third director of Cook’s short-lived Scottish-registered company, Five Star Investments – now wound up – is a known Saudi Arabian intelligence officer.

Now, a noted conspiracy theorist, I can imagine any number of reasons why the Saudis might want us out of Europe, but it’s hard to articulate one.

The Pumpkin should have thought the deal might possibly have attracted a more productive investigation as a possible case of money-laundering, than as a breach of the pathetic and toothless Electoral Commission’s barely enforceable rules on cross-border political donations and election spending.

Luckily, the Serious Fraud Office is being wound-up also and merged with the stationery purchasing department at Mrs May’s whizzo new National Crime Agency, so the DUP can sleep easy on their £billion pile, another cash bonanza from the endlessly gullible British taxpayer when it comes to Northern Ireland.

x

All Change…

In the space of four days:

  • More than 35 wildfires are burning across the SW United States. The uncontrollable fire at Brian Head in Utah has consumed over 54 thousand acres and continues to spread. The forecast is for continuing 95 deg. heat and rising windspeeds. (Less than a month ago, the governor of Arkansas was declaring a federal emergency owing to extreme flooding and storms.)
  • A flash flood has left parts of Mexico City underwater. (A number of people were killed the previous week including eleven trapped in a bus in floods and landslides in Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador.)
  • Multiple wildfires are reported in Siberia as the boreal forest and tundra continue to blaze due to record temperatures ‘not seen in the past 10 thousand years’, according to Russian meteorologists. Krasnoyarsk sweltered in 37 deg. C. last week and is still in the mid-20s this week. In the North Caucasus, record rainfall has caused devastating flash floods. Moscow has been hit for the second time in five weeks by an abnormally violent thunderstorm, leaving two dead and a dozen injured.
  • Gerona in Spain was battered on Friday by a freak hailstorm, leaving rivers of ice two feet deep flowing through the streets. Watch it at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sqfa6do4u50, at 25’30” in, it’s a most bizarre sight. 150 mm of rain falling in a few hours has left parts of Berlin underwater.
  • Greece has a 42 deg. C-plus heatwave, with wildfires and melting roads.
  • The city of Chennai in drought-stricken Tamil Nadu state, India, has run out of water and rationing has been tightened. North of there large parts of Assam state are underwater, as are neighbouring areas of Pakistan, with deaths reported.
  • More severe flood warnings are out across Hunan province, central China, but the list of Chinese regions afflicted with major floods is over 40, too long to include.

(Climate and Extreme Weather News #39, 26-30 June/Floodlist.com)

Anger management issues, #1 and #2. Syria: a grotesque deception? Plus: Cheese-dreams; The Sekulow Society…

“I am sanguine even when the Prime Minister of a minority House bribes the tiny and rebarbative Democratic Unionist Party of Northern Ireland with my money for their vote…”

Anger management issues

I am so angry in general, I find I am no longer angered by things I would have been angry about before.

Specifics

A part-privatization of patient records-handling in the NHS is reported today (27 June) to have led to a backlog of 700 THOUSAND files missing from patient/doctor consultations up to 2014, many of them related to cancer investigations and child-protection issues. The company sat on the information for three years, until it was discovered that the records had simply been stuffed into a cupboard and ignored by directors of NHS Shared Business Services, a company created especially to transfer paper records between hospitals and GP surgeries in England. There appears to have been no oversight.

“A spokeswoman for NHS SBS acknowledged there had been “failings”.” – BBC News

There have been cases in the past of postmen who hid their sacks of mail at home or destroyed them as they were ‘too heavy’ to deliver. As the Royal Mail was basically guaranteed by the monarch, the outcome has generally been a salutary prison sentence. It has long been my view that civilization is falling apart, due to underfunded and over-rigidified systems operating in an era of increasingly baffling complexity. But paper records? Come on!

(Okay, so I’ve got cupboards full of unopened bills and statements. This is different!)

More specifics

A hundred and fifty people, including children and babies, are burned to death in Pakistan. A fuel tanker has overturned at speed on a bend in the road, much like the bend outside my house where the fuel trucks hurtle by, going at 50 mph in our 30 mph zone. Fuel is leaking, poor people arrive with cans to try to take the leaking fuel.

And some fucking baboon lights a cigarette.

And do you know what? I can’t even get angry. Not at the baboon – Pakistan is a poor country, full of village idiots who can’t give up smoking and often underestimate the volatility of benzo-hydrocarbons – nor at the foolish folk who forget this always happens when poor villagers try to steal fuel from leaking tankers and pipelines, usually somewhere in Nigeria. Nor at the driver, who should be in gaol, nor at the corrupt crony-capitalist system that deprives poor people of fuel and the money to buy some, while bludgeoning them into insensibility with religion.

So, in far-off Portugal, 65 not-so-poor people are cremated alive in their cars or overcome while running away after dry-lightning sets off a huge, fast-moving forest fire in the middle of a catastrophic heatwave that is sweeping Europe. I should be angry that the European Union, German bankers and the IMF have forced austerity measures on Portugal after making high-interest loans to the government that can’t pay them back, so that planned safety measures such as cutting fire-breaks and making public fire-refuges in that enormous forest had to be delayed. But it’s futile getting narked with them, they don’t read muh li’l bogl and wouldn’t care much if they did.

While in China, rescue workers are frantically digging for 120 people missing after a 2 km-wide landslide, the side of a small mountain, buries their village after heavy rain. So what? I find myself shrugging. That’s how it goes in those countries. 159 people died in mudslides and flooding in Bangladesh the previous week, 150 people died in mudslides and flooding in Sri Lanka the week before that – many more in Chile. Should I get angry that villages are built under weak and overhanging mountain slopes and the rural poor have little choice but to to live in them, under the monsoon rains that get heavier year by year? Maybe.

Should it continue to upset me greatly that this is the fault of the lying bastards from Exxon, from Shell, from Hamm and Koch and Devon, Murray Energy and Peabody Coal – giant corporates who have spent hundreds of $millions over decades funding climate-change deniers and stuffing the mouths of politicians and journalists with cash, while racing to burn the last vestige of our inherited energy at the lowest possible cost to enrich their already overwhelmingly rich stockrobbers? That their CEOs are racing to build underground compounds and spacecraft to Mars, buying superyachts and hiring private armies to try to survive the hell they’re making, in which the rest of us have already begun to perish by the thousand – next year, the million? Not really. What can we do? It’s already too late to do anything, even killing the money-monsters won’t stop it.

And here we are in jolly old Britain, gaping at the unexpected news that so far, and despite the inspections we imagined they must have undergone over the years, one hundred per cent so far of the cladding samples from 600 high-rise public-housing tower blocks in England where the poorer sort are condemned to live and sometimes die have failed their safety tests; while some blocks don’t even have fire-resistant doors (1,000 such doors have not been fitted to just five buildings in north London), or proper fire escapes – and are served by unprotected gas pipes. That’s the supposedly safe type of cladding, mind, not the unsafe type that caught fire somehow on the Grenfell tower in north London, killing 79 (that’s 18 dead recovered so far, including the six who jumped; plus 61 still missing… out of possibly hundreds more whose hidden prior existence is suspected but not confirmed, perhaps even covered-up), two weeks after the event.

And the US company that makes the cladding, Arconic, part of the aluminum giant Alcoa? They’ve decided to stop selling it because the regulations in Europe are so complicated. I’m assuming our mutual extradition treaty will enable the police to extract the directors on manslaughter charges? Well, it is complicated: dated UK government regulations would have prevented the use of this type of cladding in these circumstances but were not enforceable owing to deregulation of the inspectorate, so the building trade introduced its own, lower standard…

I ought to be angry about that, right? I mean, politicians should be going to gaol?

Well, I can get somewhat angry when the minister with a special portfolio for vanity projects like the uneconomical Hinckley Point B nuclear power station, whose Sino-French electricity if it is ever finished will cost five times as much as the wind and solar juice we can make ourselves – HS2, the costly and destructive high-speed rail link that will cut 20 minutes off the journey time between London and Birmingham for anyone who can afford a ticket, which won’t be us – the polluting and unimaginative third runway at Heathrow, requiring the bulldozing of historic villages, all in the interests of ‘global competitiveness’ and the Godalmighty ‘business community’ – when ‘Lord’ Andrew Adonis fails to mention fixing the cladding problem, the housing crisis, the defunding of schools and universities and the broken health service as possible priority ‘infrastructure’ projects…

But I don’t. There won’t be enough migrants to build them anyway.

I am sanguine even when the Prime Minister of a minority House risks the disintegration of the Good Friday peace accord, inviting new acts of terrorism, by bribing the tiny and rebarbative Democratic Unionist Party of Northern Ireland for their votes with $1.5 billion skimmed off the budget (if there was one) for the ‘unaffordable’ necessities aforementioned; money that will presumably have to go towards mitigating the unmitigated disaster of the open-ended energy subsidy scheme created by the dog-faced leader of the DUP’s Bible-thumping Parliamentary squad, Ms Arlene Foster. Money perhaps to be rescued from Brussels, that will certainly not now be going to the cash-strapped NHS, as promised by the lying Brexit cunts (Conservative and Unionist Neo-Thatcherites).

And now I am struggling on behalf of the 320 million citizens of the United States of America to get angry, when I read that the Koch brothers, David and Charles, their worth as human beings measured at $48 billion dollars apiece, have issued an ultimatum to the Republican majority on the Senate and their leader, the flexible Trump-licking apparatchik Mitch McConnell: toughen-up and pass the repeal bill of Obamacare, that will doom millions of losers to uninsurable medical misery; pass the $500 billion tax cuts for the top 1% on Fortune’s rich list, who own between them half the wealth of the world, or they will defund Republican candidates in the 2018 midterm elections, on whom they otherwise plan spending $400 million buying their votes and their lies about climate change.

Well, the tar-sands ravaging Kochs won’t defund, will they. That’d be pretty self-defeating. Unless they buy the Democratic party instead, which they could easily afford. They have no political allegiances, they’re not even human beings anymore. They’ve bought themselves out of the human race. They just eat and breathe and shit money while ripping the heart and the lungs out of our dying little blue world; the Saromans, the miners of Mordor. And the poor old GOP senators: damned if they do, double-damned if they don’t. You have to feel sorry for them, before you string them up. But there is no doubting who owns the government, and it ain’t the American people.

No, I cannot today get unduly exercised over the state of the world because I am already so fucking angry, overall, that no horrors can make a difference.

For I am becoming unreasonably furious with the shave-head, tattoo guy renting next door. He spends his entire life screwing about with an old van he’s somehow acquired, out in all weathers – under a tarp in the rain – taking the wheels off, putting them back on again, fiddling with the engine, painting the windows black – not in the yard, right out on the street, on the main road there, look – opposite my house, in the entrance to the side-street where I need to find parking space every day, on the narrow pavements and on people’s private forecourts when they’re out. (It’s a nice, quiet, middle-class estate.)

Enough screwing with the van already! For weeks this man-child has been driving me nuts. He doesn’t even have proper tools for the job.

As, among the many crude modifications he’s made is the installation of some fucking enormous boombox system, that goes ”boom-slump, boom-slump… (pause)… thump-dump, thump-dump… (pause)… boom-thump, dump-wump all fucking day long, shaking the house while he’s out there fucking about with the van, that never goes anywhere more than ten yards around the road, the estate, where no-one ever used to let me park without sticking a threatening note on my windshield. Not a musical note to be heard, just bass fucking thump-wump, that you can hear a mile away.

Get a job!

Christ, I hate poor people. They’re so – always in your face.

They’ve probably got more money than I have.

x

“…why would he not concoct some foreign policy misadventure to show what he is really made of?

Syria: a grotesque deception?

In a bizarre development, Mr Sean Spicer, the frazzled White House spokesmouth sent out daily to lie for America, has announced at a late-night press briefing that the President has received ‘intelligence’ that President Assad is planning a fresh chemical attack on ‘his own people’, including, of course, many ‘innocent children’.

Trump’s response, he goes on, should that happen will be to launch a direct missile strike on Damascus, at the heart of the Assad regime, aimed at cutting off the head; regardless of the Russian interest. And regardless of any innocent children who happen to get in the way of his expensively acquired ordnance. The USA, he points out, is militarily far more powerful in the region than is Russia.

The reaction of the Pentagon and the generals on the ground in Syria has been wondrous to behold.

Nobody told them.

“The White House must have solid intelligence about a possible Syrian sarin attack but why they chose to send [a] message to Assad and Putin via press release isn’t clear,” Daryl Kimball, the head of the Arms Control Association said in a tweet. (The Guardian, 27 June)

Why ‘must’ they have? (Sorry, I’d tweet that but I don’t have a Twitter account. Ed.)

One of Mr Trump’s key campaign pledges was that he would never again involve the United States in unplanned foreign adventures as his predecessors had; and that for the sake of US forces abroad he would impose a blackout on advance information of military operations.

So here he is, going back on his word again, twice. Is this another ‘you’d better hope there are no “””tapes”””‘ moment, a childish bluff he has post-rationalized as ‘smart’, to ensure that Mr Comey would not be lying when he told the Senate Trump had leaned on him… er… ooops… that could rebound on him bigly?

And why is it not clear why Mr Trump is conducting military strategy by press release? Normally he does it by tweet, but his staffers are having some success in prising him off his iPhone. Or he just invites the Russians into the White House and tells them in person. He screams at the press like a bitch when they criticize him, but doesn’t mind using them when it suits.

How it suited on this occasion was that Trump had only one outlet for the statement that he could control: Sean Spicer.

With the Orange Clown’s approval ratings still hovering in the mid-to upper thirties and the Senate and FBI investigations into his money-laundering activities and Russian contacts and the pathetically misguided attempts he has made to shut them down showing no signs of stopping, why would he not concoct some new foreign policy misadventure to show what he is really made of?

Which is: pathological lies, self-incriminating tweets, confusion and contradiction, ignorance and obfuscation, mindless greed and nepotism, crony capitalism beyond caricature – plus a horrible series of blunders in the Middle East that have brought Saudi Arabia to the threshold of war with Qatar.

Responding to this ’45 minutes’ dirty-dossier announcement, our own beloved Defence minister, arch-Tory cunt and chinless bully-boy Fallon, goes all kneejerk once again. Of course we will follow Mr Trump into the jaws of hell, no questions asked, regardless of the consequences. Not that we’ve been told about this either.

Who is he speaking for? The nation? Parliament? The DUP?

Why do we allow ignorant and inept politicians to conduct foreign policy on our behalf? Who asked them to create misery around the world, that comes back to bite us? What do we get out of it?

There seems to be a money-tree somewhere contingent entirely on the whims of the Tory party. We can’t afford to provide mental health outpatient services for our disorientated young people, so that they have to be ripped away from their families and sent to the nearest secure bed 300 miles from home, but by God we can still waste millions of pounds worth of ordinance we’ve bought from the Americans, risking a world war to massage the bleeding ego of the most disgusting, crooked and incompetent old monster ever to occupy the sacred office.

We can always find money for a good war.

I am hoping this crazed announcement is only Spicey going rogue. He’s as mad as his master, for sure.

x

Cheese-dreams

I’ve always supported the idea of radio as a natural home for ‘beautiful voices’.

Modestly, I used to be acknowledged as one such myself.

Listening to a voice that is damaged or grating is not a particularly pleasant experience. Some visual content might help to extenuate the sometimes excruciating or merely annoying aural sensation of an impedimented speech; okay on TV, perhaps, but on its own, it makes it difficult or even impossible to move into the sacred communication space between ear and loudspeaker.

A regional accent is generally acceptable, provided it is not so strong as to make it incomprehensible. That means most regions, the most difficult to the southern English ‘RP’ ear being the Northeast, Glasgow and – most difficult of all – Belfast, where interviewees with poor education, no vocal training or consideration for the foreign listener speak so fast and furiously, not a word can be made out. That a Northern Irish accent can be soothing on the ear is evidenced by the dulcet tones of newscaster, Kathy Clugston.

An inveterate listener to Radio 4’s Today programme, I am still perturbed by the voice of presenter Nick Robinson. I know that he survived throat cancer, which has left his voice with a rough tinge. I respect the years he spent as chief political correspondent, a title condemning the holder to doorstepping a succession of Prime Ministers outside Number 10, which obviously he can’t go on doing in the cold night air without further damage to his vocal chords, but the sympathy factor doesn’t make him easier to listen to; while I feel mainly that his high-handed style of interviewing doesn’t fit the early-morning need for a more gentle takedown of political pretension.

There is no doubt that Dame Hilary Mantel, best-selling author of the Tudor romance Wolf Hall – one of those books like Stephen Hawking’s A Brief History of Time and Proust’s A La Recherche des Temps Perdu which one suspects many may have in their bookcase but few will have read from cover to cover – is an enormously intelligent, well-read and interesting person.

Despite realizing the importance of her perception of history as something which, as with our modern God, we have internalized over generations, until of course it came to the historic blunder of voting to leave the EU, I have found it difficult to listen to her current series of Reith lectures. Her wheezy, wavering, disembodied soprano is like checking-in to a half-timbered old country-house hotel and waking paralysed in the middle of a terrifying night of post-prandial port- and cheese-dreams to find yourself being harangued by the ghost of a dead child.

I learn that it may be the result of steroidal medication for endometriosis or some other medical condition. She has not had an easy life. For that reason I stuck with the latest episode and found it rewarding. To quote from her forthcoming foray: ‘History is what remains in the sewer after the centuries have flowed through it.’

A gal after my own heart.

 

The Sekulow Society

I am unable to manage my anger, however, after reading the following story:

http://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2017/jun/27/trump-lawyer-jay-sekulow-donations

For it seems Mr Trump is not the only scam-artist making a fortune out of well-meaning but gullible charity donors. This lying scumbag he employs as an attorney is just as unspeakable, only worse, as he professes to be a Christian. He’s not, it seems instead that he’s a bottom-feeding invertebrate in a toxic sludge pond.

  • UB

PS (Script, to be read over the phone in a reassuring but menacing voice):

“You may like to make a donation NOW to cover your use of the BogPo/The Pumpkin. I’ll understand if you are poor and can only afford $100 dollars or so. It’ll be worth it to save your immortal soul and avoid burning in the fires of eternal damnation, brother/sister.

“You can save your kids from getting cancer too by sending me all the money you have. If not, I’ll just sue you for it, you un-Christian cheapskate.

“Thank you for your time, have a nice day.”

 

 

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

 

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

Hello again

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

Thank you.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(Reporting: Washington Post)

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

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

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

Oh, well. Probably Yellowstone will get us instead.

x

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

The forensic mind of Donald Trump

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

From The Sun (22 June):

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

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

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

Who is this a victory for?

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

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

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

The noisy men – Victor McGlaglan

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

However, I can offer one possible clue.

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

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

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

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

Is this starting to remind you of anything?

Spoiler alert

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

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

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

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

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

x

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

Computer News

Did they have inside help?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

According to the website Carbonated.TV:

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

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

 

Making monkeys of themselves

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Not much sign of that.

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

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

 

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.

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

The prophetically named Torch building in Dubai. Nobody died.

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

– The Telegraph.

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

 

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

Our money or your life

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

***

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

***

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

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

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

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

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

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

(Reports: Gulf Times, The Telegraph)

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

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

***

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

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

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

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

The upgraded wiring… 300 yards from Harrod’s.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

***

“It was yet another PR fail…”

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Maybe never even known.

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

Some place to end up.

 

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

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

 

Postscriptum:

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

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

x

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Not for the first time.

x

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

Our money or your life #2

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And money is winning.

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

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

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

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

I say ‘might’.

 

Meanwhile, in faraway Portugal…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The question therefore ought to be rephrased:

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

 

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)

May wins: Election Special. Plus: Striking a blow for intelligent pensioners everywhere. And: The Guardian – Hell hath no fury like a 50-year-loyal reader scorned.

“I have accepted in the interests of national unionism that the earth is strong, stable – and completely flat.”

 

“…if they rumble me, already at 34 a lifelong Labour voter, I could end up as several trays full of bleeding, raw-meat canapés…”

Election Special

Three words I never imagined I would hear in my lifetime:

“Labour wins Kensington”.

This election has thrown up many wild surmises and strange portents, but the idea that one of the country’s wealthiest boroughs should in a thousand years by a majority of 20 votes have elected a Labour politician to represent it, the posh part of London where indeed your Uncle Bogler first drew breath and shortly afterwards inhaled his first Capstan Full Strength, is possibly the most unexpected.

I can only conclude that so much property has been flogged off at inflated prices to UHNW (Ultra-high net worth) foreigners laundering their ill-gotten gains, Qataris and so forth, that their much put-upon housekeepers, bored chauffeurs and window-box trimmers are the only ones actually living in Kensington during the week, who are eligible to vote.

I recall, indeed who could ever forget, being invited to an election-night party at the Knightsbridge cottage home of Lord St Aubyn, an old school chum of my stepfather’s.

It was 1984, and Mrs Thatcher was in the process of securing a resounding majority from a nation grateful for her torpedoing of the Argentinian capital ship, the General Belgrano, with the loss of hundreds of young lives, in a cowardly attack while it was steaming away from the Falkland Islands.

The tiny house – more of a pied à terre – was packed with identical-looking 30-something city boys wearing identical striped Jermyn Street shirts and red braces, their identically self-satisfied, blue-jowled faces flushed with champagne and the smell of power.

“They set up a terrible baying noise”

Each time the TV anchors announced another Conservative gain, they set up a terrifying animal baying noise and stamped their Gucci loafers like rutting stags. Rare news of Labour MPs clinging on to their traditional heartland seats produced a low, threatening rumble of hatred, boos and howls of derision – cries of ‘out with the smellysocks!’.

It was clear these Masters of the Universe were historically unaware of where their money had come from in the first place.

After about forty minutes of this I thought, God, if they rumble me, already at 34 a lifelong Labour voter, I could end up as several trays full of bleeding, raw-meat canapés, and fled into the chilly March night.

I don’t recall that Lord St Aubyn received a thank-you note from me, rude I know, but ever since that awful night when the scales finally fell from my eyes, I have hoped (in the Trumpian sense) to someday witness the beautiful sight of a Tory MP dangling from every lamp-post in Whitehall.

x

“…I feel I have as much right to satirise the Golden Orb as anyone sipping cocktails in libtard snowflake Manhattan…”

 Too much of a coincidence

The election has been a satisfying victory for we conspiracy theorists.

Who would have dreamed last Thursday that Her Majesty’s Government would end up as the hostage of a tiny bunch of incomprehensible flat-earthers from Belfast?

Clearly, some hidden hand is engineering all these close-run things producing political turmoil around the world?

It is surely not a coincidence that the US Congress has found itself since last November in a similar situation, a minority government dominated by wealthy loonies who believe the world was created in six days and global warming will be fixed by God.

If you haven’t been keeping as close an eye as I have on the incredible events in America – perhaps you’ve not yet retired, I can recommend it – you will not for instance have heard Senator Mark Green of Tennessee defending the disastrous Trumpcare health bill, that on independent analysis threatens to deprive 23 million of the poorer sort of person of their affordable medical insurance while putting $ billions more in the pockets of the wealthiest, whitest 1 per cent.

Sen. Green’s thesis is that the poor don’t need health insurance because Jesus will take care of them. If they have insurance, he argues, they will be less inclined to go to church and pray for salvation; consequently if they get sick it’s their fault.

I assure you he is not the only Republican to express similar sentiments.

Indeed, we find Republican administrations all over the country emboldened by the election of President Trump to pass barbarically regressive legislation, for instance criminalizing the popular protest that is protected by the First Amendment.

Lawmakers in Elk Bend, Minnesota were forced to flee the building after passing a law enabling the county to arrest and charge protestors for the costs of policing demonstrations against themselves; such that had forced them to flee the building. In Washington, a GOP lawmaker recently introduced a bill that would consider protesters to be domestic terrorists (salon.com). North Carolina is hoping to make any kind of public protest illegal, Tennessee having already tried to pass a law protecting car drivers from prosecution if they accidentally run over and kill a protestor blocking the street.

Now, we all know that 97 per cent of the population of Tennessee wake up every morning in their coonskin caps to find themselves still living in the seventeenth century. They can count their lucky stars and stripes on the seven fingers of each hand for Jesus’ love and mercy every day of their blessed lives, and look forward to another sunny afternoon burning witches, scalping injuns, defending the Alamo and marrying their first cousins.

Draining the Swamp: Mr Trump goes to Wall Street.

But this is now the tradition proclaiming Trump as the Great Reformer, returning the US and indeed the world to the era of commonsense, no-nonsense, working-class, outdoorsy American exceptionalism; a viewpoint that is one thousand percent flat-out contradicted by everything the man has said and done since he bullshitted his way into office on a minority vote, appointed five Goldman Sachs executives to his otherwise oil-soaked cabinet and set about lighting a bonfire under every piece of socially progressive legislation that has ever helped the ‘common man’ survive the heartless brutalities of the ruling elite; while drilling the hell out of their cherished monument lands.

(There are currently moves to permit uranium mining in the Grand Canyon and fracking under formerly protected national parks. EcoWatch reports that the federal government is privately subsidizing with taxpayers’ money the already vastly wealthy fossil-fuel bidness to the tune of $700 billion a year.)

America: land of living history

Living in so many time-zones, America must indeed be a strange place. I’ve never been there, never had a desire to go there, but unlike President Trump I am in a very small sense a US taxpayer. I have an IRS number, thanks to a residual trust fund set up by the great-grandfather I never met, whose Irish daughter from Delaware married my gold-digging English paternal grandfather.

Consequently though with every word I write I drift further away from ever being allowed entry via General Kelly’s closing homeland security gates, I feel I have as much right to satirise the Golden Orb as anyone sipping cocktails in libtard snowflake Manhattan or snarfing at their own jokes and cynically milking the witless audience whooping it up on one of those terrible late-night ‘comedy’ shows.

While from the safety of distance I have observed pithily on the subject of time-zones that America has 21st-century technology, mid-20th-century infrastructure, a 19th-century political system, 18th-century justice and 17th-century religious beliefs, based on a 16th-century sense of entitlement to steal anybody else’s land in the name of God and the Crown.

Living history, indeed.

It seems too much of a coincidence, as I say, given events in the USA, that Theresa May has delivered her political agenda into the clutches of a tiny handful of politicians belonging to a minority party founded by that monstrous, bellowing bigot, the Revd Ian Paisley*.

As does the Republican-controlled Congress, so do DUP members of Parliament include proclaimed anti-abortion, anti-same-sex marriage, homophobic, Islamophobic, anti-Catholic, climate-change denying, alt-right fundamentalist Christian Bible truthers and six-day creationists (to be taught in schools, etc….).

Most importantly, they demand the return of loyalists’ right to have a British Union flag flying provocatively over Belfast City Hall – one of the most contentious issues of recent times. A campaign strangely reflected in the recent controversy over flying the Confederate flag and displaying the statues of heroic slave-owning Civil War generals in darkest Alabama.

You see where this has to go?

But at least the minority of DUP followers voted to Leave the EU, unlike the rest of the population of Northern Ireland, so that’s alright.

Strong and stable, then. Not a coalition of chaos.

*We do not forget, however, ‘Dr’ Paisley’s remarkable late-life conversion and friendship with the late Martin McGuinness, former commander of the Provisional IRA.

The flat-earth society awaits the arrival of the mothership.

A time of contradictions

Someone who will no doubt be delighted by this happy turn of events is Mr Jim Dowson.

The Pumpkin has previously commented at length, based on various press and webnews reports, on the activities of this Belfast-born, DUP-supporting, refugee-hunting, alt-right Christian ‘millionaire’ disruptor, who applied his US Patriot News website last year to helping secure both victory for Donald Trump and the Brexit vote – as he believes.

‘Now where did I put my pen?’ Mr Biros Johnson, author of ‘The Idiot’s Guide to Managing Stationery’.

Although Mr Dowson will be disappointed that thanks to significant Tory gains over the Scottish National Party he has been unable to secure a second independence referendum for Scotland, another of his disruptive ambitions, nevertheless Mrs May seems fixed on course for the ‘hard Brexit’ he has campaigned for (ie total economic separation from Europe and an end to EU immigration).

Assuming, that is, she survives the attempts by Boris Johnson, Michael Fallon, Amber Rudd and others to replace her as leader, there being no creature as feral as a Tory scenting blood-loss.

It is of course a time of contradictions, where the old left-right political certainties no longer hold. There is a problem with hard Brexit, specifically in Ireland, where the DUP is in fact supporting the idea of a ‘soft border’; a ‘harder border’ with the Republic would undoubtedly lead to a return to smuggling, gang warfare, IRA violence, Loyalist violence and the complete breakdown of the already fragile Good Friday agreement.

Mr Dowson might not mind that. As described on Wikipedia, in 2012 he co-founded the Protestant Coalition, described as an ‘anti-politics party’, in the wake of which there were violent demonstrations over the vote in Stormont to ban any flags from being flown over City Hall:

“Dowson, a Christian fundamentalist, also led an anti-abortion campaign, the UK Life League. In May 2011 he and (Paul) Golding had launched a new far-right, nationalist movement in Britain, Britain First, to protect “British and Christian morality” and campaign against Islam, immigration and abortion.

Dowson left Britain First, apparently feeling that burning mosques was ‘un-Christian’. At the same time there was some interest in his fundraising activities.

Nevertheless he has been videoed supposedly supplying equipment by night to a party of Bulgarian neo-Nazis hunting down Syrian refugees along the border. His Budapest office is home to his self-styled ‘Knights of Malta’ group, as well as to former BNP leader, Nick Griffin; the Knights’ funding, it’s reported, comes in part from Konstantin Malofeyev, a deeply conservative nationalist oligarch who is a patron of the Russian Orthodox church and yet another ‘spiritual advisor’ to President Putin.

So there’s plenty to feed your conspiracy theories there, guys.

Get to it!

x

Who guards the Guardian?

There are two kinds of people, aren’t there. People who read a newspaper because it reinforces their deepest prejudices, and people who read one because they love a bloody good argument before breakfast.

Were I entirely in the latter category, I should purchase a paper copy of the Daily Mail every day, however I don’t. I have an aversion to people who use words like ‘purchase’. The Daily Mail reinforces my deepest prejudice against the middle class, and against the half-human child-eating succubus who edits the paper on a salary of nearly £2 million a year.

Instead, I’ve been a Guardian reader for almost 50 years.

Much of the time I do it because of the pain it causes me. Guardian writers are so fucking smug. Yet their suburban university-educated liberal opinions broadly sit alongside and seldom disturb my own rather more furious vision of the world. I find them trustworthy on facts, anyway, whatever the angle.

Of course, I stopped buying the printed paper version several years ago, while trying simultaneously to give up drinking a bottle of wine every night. I came back to the online version, which is for now at least paywall-free (why call it a ‘paywall’, like something Donald Trump would insanely demand Mexico should pay for? Of course no-one is going to pay for something that prevents them from enjoying it. Call it a ‘special offer’ or something.)

However, I am getting sick and tired of The Guardian‘s prejudice against me.

Here, for instance, is Zoe Williams pontificating sonorously on the election outcome, having invented a new word, ‘subliminating’:

“It is entirely right that, one day, someone would have the genius idea of putting something in a manifesto that actually offered something to the under-60s. We have had decades of decisions made in the interests of the older voter, which have locked the young out of everything, from housing in their own country to the freedom to move to a better one.”

You see? I’m the one who’s been prevented by ignorant and deluded middle-class Daily Mail readers from moving to a better country by their grossly irresponsible, shortsighted and selfish action in voting to drag Britain out of the EU, preferring to transfer our precious ‘sovereignty’ to Boris fucking Kerfuffle Johnson.

Yet for the past year The Guardian has been moaning lazily in cliche-ridden article after cliche-ridden article that, because I’m in my late 60s, while squatting in toadlike isolation in my £1 million, five-bedroomed house and forcing my children to flip burgers to pay exorbitant rent for living in my wine cellar, I must have voted Leave and screwed it up for everyone younger.

Of course I bloody didn’t, and I don’t know anyone here of my own generation who did. What do you think, we’re stupid or something?

Fuck you.

I’m the one who can’t now risk selling up and retiring abroad as I’d been planning, to teach, paint, make music and live on flavourful ripe tomatoes, bread and artisanal cheese and rough red wine, in case I get chucked back out again.

Not only that, but here on the BogPo I was warning as long ago as 2013 that we were heading for the brink of the White fucking Cliffs of Dover. Did you take any notice, bloody Guardian? No, you just sailed on smugly imagining no self-respecting Islingtonians could possibly take issue with your remote-viewing psychic analysis of the state of the nation.

Then for a year after the disaster of the referendum your failed sociologists and Sir Simon Jenkins have wasted thousands of column-inches wringing your liberal hands over the poor misunderstood middle-class and desperately trying to work out what’s gone wrong with the nation when the fish-porters of Sunderland are able to pervert the course of the future?

Wankers.

Yet day after day The Guardian‘s well-paid columnistas continue to drip this ageist poison into the ears of the millennial libtard readership (that’s the second millennium, not the first, which I remember so fondly) whom they are hoping to cultivate beyond the inevitable paywall, insinuating – nay, declaiming that it’s the elderly who are responsible for their economic misery.

Bollocks to that, frankly.

On the one hand you have the Mail, edited by the bullying chauvinist son of a military service-shirker who, unlike Ralph Miliband, sat out the war in New York quaffing champagne with movie stars, blaming it all on the immigrants.

On the other, is The Guardian persuading my 20-something children by my second marriage that euthanasing the old man with the tiny house in the thundering outskirts of a busy seaside town and paying off his retirement mortgage is the only solution to their economic woes.

Well.

Guardian readers who are increasingly confronted with heartbreaking messages about supporting free journalism with voluntary (for now) subscriptions and cash donations, and who may have read with alarm that the title lost £69 million last year and is treating its journalists as if they worked for Sports Direct, need to know about an item that appeared in Private Eye a couple of months ago.

According to the Eye, the Scott Trust, that owns The Guardian and guarantees its independence, is sitting on a cashpile of £700 million.

The Boglington Post. Striking a blow for intelligent pensioners everywhere.

 

Postscriptum

“Hell hath no fury like a 50-year-loyal reader scorned.”

OMG. Only a day after I wrote this piece, the Guardian editor, Katherine Viner, has announced that as part of her extreme austerity agenda, it and its Sunday sister paper The Observer are to go … tabloid.

Her weaselly excuse being that it is somehow an inevitable development of print technology in the 21st century.

That is the fucking end of civilization as we used to know it. The Berliner format was a thing of rare beauty, that gave the paper its distinctive market appeal, branding its readers as a cut above.

If this was Ms Viner’s idea, she should be boiled in oil, doused in animal slurry and handed over to the Taliban for re-education.

Oh, sorry, she is the Taliban.

The paper was getting dire enough as it is, months of snide articles briefing against Jeremy Corbyn being followed in the wake of the election with a wave of sycophantic, hypocritical drool hailing him as the New Messiah; in most cases by the same writers, clearly under marching orders from the appalling Viner woman.

I vow here and now that I will never touch this scabby little organ with a bargepole, ever again. You have now totally fucked it with me and I am converting my laptop thing to the New York Times forthwith.

Hell hath no fury like a 50-year-loyal reader scorned.

x

A ruddy good show

A propos well-paid Guardian columnists, Matthew D’Ancona today contributes a bizarre piece confessing that he ‘radically’ failed to notice that there was a groundswell of support building for Jeremy Corbyn, ‘like many other Commentators’.

Yes, Britain is a long way from North London, isn’t it.

Having confessed that he doesn’t know what he’s talking about, he then goes on to anticipate – indeed, to request – in arrogant Guardianista fashion, publication of a timetable for Theresa May’s resignation.

Finally, on the topic of the inevitable Tory leadership backstabbing bloodfest, that has already begun, he writes thus:

“…do not discount Amber Rudd. In fact, give the home secretary the serious consideration she deserves. In the seven-way shouting match of the BBC leaders’ debate on 31 May, she stood in for the prime minister, though her elderly father had died only days before, and did so with poise, dignity and emotional intelligence as six other politicians berated her. She looked like a leader in waiting.”

Of course, he doesn’t fancy her. As leader of the charge to rehabilitate the saintly Ms Rudd, and sounding like a thoroughly polished and professional PR practitioner looking for a special advisor role in Downing Street, Mr D’Ancona has obviously failed to read the newspaper that has employed him for many years; he may be losing his memory, or he has a ‘radically’ different take on reality from most of us.

On 21 September, 2016, for instance, David Pegg and Holly Watt reported:

“Amber Rudd’s business career has come under scrutiny following a Guardian investigation that reveals her involvement with two companies in an offshore tax haven, and another where her co-director was jailed for fraud.

“The Guardian has also discovered new details about her previous career in venture capital during the boom and bust 1990s. One enterprise led her to become a co-director of Monticello, a company that was at the centre of a share ramping investigation.

“She was also involved in a company prospecting for diamonds in Siberia that was traded on a notoriously unregulated stock exchange.”

This was shortly after her white-haired old ‘venture capitalist’ father Tony had been investigated for the umpteenth time by the financial regulator and declared to be totally unfit to be trusted with other people’s money.

The authors of The Guardian report concluded:

“Though there is no suggestion she was involved in any wrongdoing, the disclosures may cause her some embarrassment…”

Well, if I were Michael Gove or Boris Johnson, Michael Fallon, Nicky Morgan – any Tory politician indeed circling just offshore scenting blood in the water, I’d say they just may.

x

And what’s the naughtiest thing Amber Rudd ever did?

No, not running through wheat. According to an old school chum, on their last day at Cheltenham Ladies’ College she tied the legs of the chairs together in the dining-hall!

And then became a merchant banker.

Lock her up!