Home » Ain't life great. » The Pumpkin – Issue 22: The emollients clause. Plus: The forensic mind of Donald Trump. Computer News.

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.

 

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