The Pumpkin – Issue 49: Bolt-on accessory… GW: Not Singin’ in the Rain… Long Essay: Labour, a sorry State of affairs.

“…it’s hard to see why Trump didn’t just give the job to Alex Jones.”

(Apologies for delay in completing, further health issues.)

Bolt-on accessory

“State Department intelligence analyst Christian Westermann told committee staffers Bolton “got red in the face … shaking his finger at me” in a dispute over language Bolton planned to use in a speech that discussed Cuba’s biological weapons capability. Westermann said he felt Bolton wanted him fired over the matter. Bolton said he had “lost confidence” in Westermann for recommending changes to the speech without consulting him first.” (USA Today)

Yale law graduate, virulent Islamophobe and all-round TV savage, the Mark Twain-mustachio’d Irishman John Bolton allegedly has a filthy temper and a propensity to lash out at colleagues who don’t see things his way. In this particular case, Mr Bolton was busily manufacturing “evidence” for a report alleging Cuba had a biological weapons program, which his staff knew it didn’t. He would later go on to support President W Bush’s false assertion that Saddam Hussein had “weapons of mass destruction”, in order to justify “regime change” in Iraq.

The art of persuasion: John Bolton wields the finger of Fate.

As a Fox News studio pundit, in prominent press articles he has more recently recommended similar “regime change” in Iran, with the tearing-up of the international agreement on Iranian nuclear weapons development, and a first strike nuclear attack against North Korea. In fact, it’s hard to see why Trump didn’t just give the job to Alex Jones. Fling wide the doors of the madhouse. (Mr Jones is now saying he no longer supports Trump. Who next?)

This is the man President Donald Trump has been listening to with growing approval for months and has now appointed to the key post of National Security Advisor in place of the more level-headed General HR McMaster, with whom he is said not to have got on. So, no party bag for you, egg-head. Let’s recall that Mr Trump’s judgement was that McMaster’s predecessor, General Mike Flynn, was an all-round good guy. Later, however, he complained that no-one had warned him that Flynn was a known security risk. That was after he’d fired Acting Attorney-General Sally Yates for trying to warn him Flynn was a known security risk.

You see what we’re dealing with here?

And the problem is, the National Security post is not subject to Congressional scrutiny: it’s in the gift of the President.

Bolton is frequently referred to as ‘former UN ambassador’. The term relates to a short stint he spent at the UN as a sort of vacation intern, put there by Bush – who wanted him to have the job full-time – during a Congressional summer recess, after the Senate had refused to ratify his appointment on the grounds that Bolton was prominently on record as saying “The United Nations doesn’t exist … it occupies a 38-storey building in New York and if you took the top ten storeys off, no-one would notice.”

Non-Americans would have been equally alarmed at the sentiments he expressed, that the UN should just shut up and do as it was told because America was the only relevant power in the world. In this regard, he reminds us of Mr Nigel Farage, the campaigning British politician and a member of the European Parliament, whose singleminded dedication to destroying the organization that pays him a very handsome salary and vast expenses, which he hardly ever attends except to insult and berate his foreign colleagues, led ultimately to the Brexit vote.

But there’s more.

“Carl Ford, the former chief of intelligence and research at the State Department, told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee that Bolton was a “serial abuser” of low-level employees and a “quintessential kiss-up, kick-down sort of guy.” (See USA Today article.) Melody Townsel, a businesswoman working on a government contract in Moscow in 1994, said Bolton, sent to persuade her to withdraw a complaint about lack of funds, threw a tape dispenser at her and made remarks about her weight and sexual orientation. She remarked about the experience in Moscow:

“Mr. Bolton proceeded to chase me through the halls of a Russian hotel — throwing things at me, shoving threatening letters under my door and, generally, behaving like a madman. For nearly two weeks, while I awaited fresh direction from my company and from US AID, John Bolton hounded me in such an appalling way that I eventually retreated to my hotel room and stayed there. Mr. Bolton, of course, then routinely visited me there to pound on the door and shout threats…”

(Extract from Todaysworkplace.com quoting The Daily Kos website*)

And it’s now being reported that Mr Bolton enthusiastically  took part in a number of pro-Trump campaign promotional videos on Facebook, as part of the experimental program run by Steve Bannon’s Cambridge Analytica and/or its US parent company, SCL, to subvert the electorate with microtargeted messages based on the misdirected personal data of 50 million Americans.

Mr Bolton denies any such connection with Cambridge Analytica, which seems odd considering a superPAC (unlimited political fund) “run by John Bolton” and funded by the Mercers has reportedly paid Cambridge Analytica $1.1 million since 2014 for “research”, according to an official review of campaign finance records. (Democracynow.org)

With another Iran/NK hawk, Mike Pompeo at State; Larry Kudlow, a poorly regarded Fox TV finance pundit echoing his antediluvian views on the economy, and Fox TV lawyer Joseph DiGenova now leading the defense against the witch hunters following the ousting of John Dowd, Mr Trump now has only three barriers remaining before his ego achieves the total power it craves, independent of any politicians, qualified advisors or people who aren’t certifiably psychopathic: his Chief of Staff, General Kelly, the parent he hates for grounding him; the Defense chief, General Mattis, a dangerous communist – and Bob Mueller, the implacable Justice Department bloodhound investigating his financial crimes under the guise of an inquiry into the fake-news collusion with Russia.

All three will probably be gone by the end of the month.

PS: Oh, oops, 26 March… DiGenova’s already been fired before he even started. Conflict issues… Trump had only previously seen him on Fox News, met him and didn’t like him after all, saying he and his Fox News TV lawyer wife (who came as a package) looked “scruffy”. (Trump is of course a total fake president: childlike, incoherent and mad as a fruit bat.)

*A joke occurs to The Pumpkin: the White House should be renamed. Toadysworkplace….

 

Trump not considered criminal target in Mueller’s Russia inquiry – reports

“According to a person familiar with the investigation, the president is a subject of interest but there’s not enough evidence to bring charges. The person was not authorized to speak publicly about private conversations and demanded anonymity.” – Guardian, 4 April.

Don’t tell me, let me guess… David Dennison? John Miller? John Barron?

 

Watch now:

weather.com/en-GB/unitedkingdom/great-outdoors/video/baby-elephant-in-thailand-cuddles-with-american-tourist

 

GW: Not Singin’ in the Rain

Australia: following on from Cyclone Marcus, safely out at sea and degrading but causing big waves off the SW coast around Perth, Cat 3 Cyclone Nora with gusts up to 270 km/h has arrived in the fortunately sparsely populated northern territories, where residents have been warned to find ‘stronger housing’, and up to 300 mm of rain is expected. The storm could track across to Darwin city, still clearing up after Marcus. Much of Queensland is already affected by flooding. Meanwhile in Victoria, S Australia, successive fronts are causing damaging winds across a wide area. Tasmania is particularly affected.

PS Queensland: Port Douglas recorded 593 mm (2 ft) of rain in 24 hours to 26 March, 2018. Flash flooding wipes out Cairns caravan park, 42 rescued. Meanwhile the mercury hits 46C, 115F on the Mardie sheep station in Western Australia.

Indonesia: Torrential rains. Floods. Landslides. “Indonesia’s National Disaster Management Authority (BNPB) said that so far this year, more people have died in landslides in Indonesia than any other type of natural disaster. Since 01 January 2018 there have been 197 landslides in the country, which have left 53 people dead, 60 injured and 1,369 homes damaged.”

South Korea: heatwave. Extensive early-season wildfires destroy homes, force evacuations.

South Africa: “Parts of Gauteng Province in South Africa were hit by a severe storm from 22 March, 2018. Some areas recorded more than a month’s worth of rain in 24 hours. Areas around Johannesburg and Pretoria were particularly badly hit. Strong winds have downed trees and heavy rain has flooded several roads, causing major traffic problems.”

USA: The “Pineapple Express” storm hit further north of Santa Barbara than predicted and so did not cause the feared landslides in the area affected by the Thomas fire. There was severe flash-flooding in Sacramento county. Some areas recorded new rainfall totals and a number of households were rescued from flooding. Damage was minimized by dredging operations following February’s disaster. Winter Storm Uma blankets Iowa and Minnesota in up to 16 in. of snow.

A band of heavy rain is causing concern for flooding from Texas to Alabama – but residents of Amarillo were celebrating 0.24 mm after a drought that has seen only 0.01 mm in the past 160 days. Owing to the prolonged drought, “half of the winter wheat in Kansas—the nation’s largest producer of the crop—was ranked in poor or very poor condition by the U.S. Department of Agriculture as of Sunday.” “The low temperature at Bush Intercontinental Airport on Tuesday was 73°F, which ties the warmest daily low ever recorded in Houston in March.”

Mexico: Mexico City, 1 dead as extraordinary ‘rain bomb’ falls from cloud.

Brazil: Still raining. Flash flooding in Belo Horizonte; Assis; São Paolo (again). Flash floods in Medellin, Colombia.

India: A rise of 8C in a day brings heatwave conditions back to Mumbai: 41C, 106F. Mercury hits 44C (111F) in Gujarat. African, Indian, Chinese heatwave forecast moving northwards into Europe, Central Asia by 5 April. 40C-plus too already in Iraq.

Northern Europe: Another beastly blast of cold air from Siberia is forecast for the Easter weekend, bringing more snow across central and northern Europe, with continuing below-normal temperatures forecast at intervals through into May. Russia’s Ministry of Emergency Situations reports that melting snow and ice jams have caused flooding in Altai Krai region. “As of 27 March, flooding had affected 55 rural settlements.” Over 1000 residents evacuated.

Southern Europe:  Storm Hugo brings heavy rain, snow and flooding to northern Portugal and Spain; high Mediterranean winds ship huge volumes of floodwater over the coastlines of Corsica, Calabria, Sardinia. Dense Sahara sandstorm turns skies orange, blankets Crete. Heavy snowfall in Algeria.

A report by EASAC – the independent European Academies’ Science Advisory Committee – finds that extreme precipitation events globally have increased by 400% since 1980.

Grand Solar Minimum

You may hear a lot about the ‘GSM’ being responsible for the cold weather/new ice age that’s upon us.

It’s bullshit: the last refuge of the ‘man-made climate-change’ denial lobby. The earth isn’t warming, it’s cooling? Your Granny doesn’t think so. The sun isn’t cooling either.

The idea behind the theory is that there’s very little sunspot activity at the moment. (As sunspots are cold, surely lack of them ought to mean it’s outputting more heat?) As the amount of energy reaching the earth from the sun fluctuates normally through an 11-year cycle, there’s an idea that a much longer so-called Kondratieff Wave brings about a Grand Solar Minimum; also known after its theorist as a “Maunder Minimum”, at roughly 150-year intervals, when the world is plunged into a Little Ice Age.

Actual astrophysicists tell us we’re on the downside of another 11-year cycle, but so far there’s nothing to suggest it’s anything out of the ordinary. Also, the calculations of climatologists suggest that at most, the solar cycles make a difference of plus-or-minus a third of a degree. That and other background factors are already allowed for in calculations of the degrees of warming attributable to the 39 billion tonnes of CO2 and other stuff we shove into the air annually.

Meanwhile, despite the cold weather and a persistent weak La Niña, adjusted global temperature is still marginally higher than last year, and the years before that. 16 of the last 18 years have been the warmest on record. A 4.1C high-temperature anomaly has been recorded over Antarctica (25 March).

ABC/ Weather.com/ Floodlist/ Paul Beckwith/Wunderground/ CEWN #105, #106

 

Long Essay:

Labour: a sorry State of affairs

Look. I’m a pro-semite, if such a thing can be said to exist.

I’m not myself semitic, of course, but I’m glad of the presence of our Jewish “community”. They seem like a great bunch of people, bouncy and fractious, lugubrious and self-deprecatingly humorous by turns. People with admirable resilience and a fascinating culture, the product of two and a half thousand years of adversity. Not all, obviously. There are always non-conformists, outliers, backsliders, secularists. It doesn’t help to generalize. But I am not now and am never going to hate (as I never have) an entire clade of people for being a bit, well, unusual. Difference is what makes the world go around. I can be pretty unusual myself. I confess, I do sort of hate many named individuals, but I cannot hate an entire people for merely being as they are: not myself.

(Why do I even have to preface my critical opinion with a disclaimer? Is it come to this? Should I refrain in the interests of decency from mentioning my three past delightful Jewish girlfriends? I’d claim that some of my best friends are Jewish, but it wouldn’t be true: I don’t have any friends at all now, it’s easier.)

Would it be too anti-semitic, then, to note that, once again, nervous Israeli conscripts (is there any other kind? Could they not put something relaxing in the tea?) have been taking pot-shots, firing tank shells at innocent parsley farmers, blasting them to bits obviously without any legal repercussions, who strayed as they thought too near the border (an internal border: Israel likes to keep its enemies inside) – and firing live ammunition rounds at despairing demonstrators armed with stones and confined behind razor wire, killing and wounding many hundreds? And then the tiresome old lie: armed terrorists, human shields, most regrettable… justifies nothing, but, you know, the military.

And this, experts say, as a warning or provocation to Israel’s external enemies: Shi’a Iran, and its proxy external army, the 50-thousand-strong Hezbollah militia, currently battling everyone’s enemy ISIS in Syria, Israel’s other enemy, and holding together a fragile peace in Lebanon. No-one in the region is any longer good or bad; just enemies. Iran who, it should be noted, are the enemies of Israel’s new friends, the Gulf Arab states, Salafist Saudi Arabia. There are too many bad actors in the region spoiling for a fight.

Their allegiances are temporary, unstable and should be discounted, frankly. Just shoot back at whoever is shooting at you.

Are we to approve these Biblical acts of smiting the innocent and the guilty alike, in preference to being culture-shamed and name-called by paid shills for the Israeli junta? There are hundreds of thousands of Jews who are equally appalled that this insanity goes on, and on, without commitment to a resolution. Is there any degree of tolerable disapproval of the actions of the Israeli State that does not incur outraged denials, shirt-rending appeals to history, to God, to Justice, and a further stirring-up of fearfulness among the Jewish diaspora by the community leaders themselves? Is there an end to the impotent stupidity of Hamas?

Yes, I hold certain of the Jewish leaders guilty of stirring up and exploiting the old fears as a political weapon. Sorry. We are living at a time when the Internet has made it easy for everyone to hate everyone else. I can be proved wrong, but I am not sure more people really now hate and issue tangible threats to Jews as do those opposed to Muslims, politicians, Hollywood producers, women, TV personalities, “baby-boomers”, Brexit moaners, people with disabilities, taxi-rapists or any other identifiable minority group.

And might it overstep the bounds of semitism, pro- or anti-, to observe that the “right-wing Likud government” of Israel seems to have been taken over by gangsters: international oligarchs, friends of Jared Kushner, intolerant religious Pharisees, settler lobbyists, refugee American wackos and out-and-proud racist cunts like Defense Minister Lieberman, while the “hard-line” prime minister, the rectitudinous Mr Netanyahu, is mired in charges of corruption and influence peddling?

I’d be anti-that. Wouldn’t anybody?

And would it be too anti-Semitic to ask, why now? Why has something Mr Corbyn – I haven’t met him, we’re the same age but I don’t like what we’ve seen of him, he seems a most dreadful humbug (but such a genuine one) and I think I would prefer it if he never becomes prime minister – something stupid he said or did six years ago, why has it emerged only now to highlight his most tremendous failing, that as a Friend of Palestine he and his shadow cabinet rabble must all be rabid Jew-haters? They obviously aren’t, so who’s saying it – and more importantly, why? How have we got from there to here?

And how has a media furore been created around these “five thousand anti-semitic” – er, things – that members of the Labour party have supposedly done, that need to be “investigated”, whatever they are and whoever they were done by? (You should, I feel, be prepared to endure something of a furious backlash when you mount campaigns of disinformation like this.) Targeted, and forced competent officials to resign for not being sensible enough of other people’s instances of anti-semitic – things, unspecified tweets, what? the borderline is as thin and wispy as an eruv – and created a general air of suspicion and damaging, unwanted disunity in the body politic at this critical time? What Mr Trump might call a “witch hunt”?

This is playing with fire.

Why, you would almost imagine some people are beginning to worry that Mr Corbyn has become too popular for the nation’s good and might, if returned to office, say characteristically nasty, anti-semitic things about the Israeli government and refuse to toe the American party line, invite al-Q’aida into a coalition or fall out with Crown Prince bin-whatsit, refusing to sell him bombs to kill more Yemeni children (you see, I’m not one-nation prejudiced). But we might perhaps make another note, this time that over the past year there have been intense but short-lived media-driven onslaughts on all sorts of people: men, Russians, the Parole Board, Trump…. They come, they go.

Which brings me on to the Board of Deputies of British Jews, the Jewish Council and that sinister apologist for the crimes of the gangster regime, Mr Mark Regev, now the Israeli ambassador to London – his reward for years of bullying the BBC into silence, lying, name-calling and cranking-up the moral blackmail to shut down criticism of his paymasters in Tel Aviv. Regev, who recently forced Manchester University to, essentially, no-platform a Holocaust survivor for likening Likud to the Nazis – perhaps a somewhat extreme position, but maybe she should know? And then had the chutzpah to demand total editorial oversight of the rest of the conference proceedings, like a perfect little fascist…. Would it be too anti-semitic to dislike this repellent individual intensely by name?

No doubt he would say so. Not for his religion, his Australian ethnicity (Regev is not his birth name), but for the horror of what he is glibly excusing.

In former years those reasonable, respectable bodies of, no doubt mostly elderly men, who confined themselves largely and with dignity to overseeing Jewish affairs, now possibly under the influence of the new representative from Tel Aviv, who has some pretty persuasive tactics under his belt, seem to have formed an aggressive triumvirate of corncrake lobbyists unafraid of intervening, not to say rabble-rousing, to subvert the normal course of British politics. It is of course their privilege, we could use some new political parties, but not one advancing in a phalanx of unsubstantiated allegations.

It may be that they have an entirely genuine cause for concern, it may be that Britain has become a cesspit of sieg-heiling Jew-baiters, cemetery-desecrators and synagogue-burners. It’s just not something I’ve really noticed going on, just as Mr Corbyn – call him Jeremy – blindly failed to spot the glaring Nazi-era tropes in the offensive public mural he defended (six years ago) against two coats of council whitewash, assuming (one assumes) that its purpose was purely to highlight the oppression of the poor by the world’s banking community in the wake of 2008.

We are left to contemplate, too, the corresponding attacks on Mr Ken Livingston, whose questionable assertions about Hitler and Zionism (I edited the original AJP Taylor essay for an anthology, it’s not all that conclusive) have been interpreted as evidence of systemic prejudice in the Labour party, perhaps because he stubbornly persists with them – as if what he thinks matters any longer. But being an old cynic, it did immediately occur to me that there is more going on in Regev’s world than meets the eye; and that the Nazi-era tropes are not confined to the display of anti-semitic public artworks.

You see, Israeli politics has been dominated for decades by the need to turn history on its head. The approaching 70th anniversary of the Nafqa, as Palestinians call it – apocalypse – when 680 thousand residents of Galilee who had tilled the land for generations were driven from their homes like Native Americans, to spend more generations in refugee limbo, killed, or both, to allow the State of Israel to invite all and sundry to come and live there, would to anyone other than an extremely conservative Israeli or a wealthy Labour donor be a significant anniversary of an act that has caused untold misery, global violence, moral ambiguity and division down the years.

Modern Israel’s take on it however makes themselves out to be the victims, justifying the oppression of an entire people. Under the watchful eye of a military state barely clinging anymore to the moral high ground their founders claimed, the land-grabbing and the illegal settlements, the casual brutalities and the occasional massacres go on, and on, justified apparently by random acts of defiance by the oppressed and the forceful efforts of the lobbyists.

Even the Israeli press, at least the liberal Haaretz, has this to say today, 1 April – Easter Sunday:

Israel and the United States are no longer interested in a pragmatic and equitable two-state solution, if they ever were. In exchange for a truncated Palestinian mini-state that won’t control much more than the Palestinian Authority does, Abbas is now being asked to not only recognize Israel but to acknowledge the Jewish people’s inherent, biblical right to the Land of Israel, a statement that would constitute a repudiation of the entire history of the Palestinian national movement.

It might also require the Muslim Abbas to acknowledge the primacy of the Jewish bible as a title deed to the land. You see, that’s where you can get by endless bullying, lying, defiance of international conventions, ultraviolence and special pleading. And, might I add, in complete defiance of the somewhat nobler aspirations of the founders, as expressed in the famous 1947 UN speech by David Ben-Gurion:

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

And anyone who doesn’t approve of that elegant eviction order is an anti-semite, pure and simple.

Seriously, Ben Gurion was well aware of the dilemma. In creating a State of Israel to which he felt Jews were absolutely entitled to “return” from the Diaspora according to their ancient compact with “God” and the recent horrors of the Holocaust, he recognized that he was taking away the homeland of the Palestinians who had lived there for at least two thousand years. (Modern Israeli archaeologists now realize, the “Arabs” as the Zionist settlers called them are a fully related semitic people who predate even the first Hebrew settlement and who stayed on through and after the Roman expulsions, which were more limited in scope than the mythology suggests.)

Yet although he clearly understood it, Ben Gurion could never accommodate himself to “Arab” resistance to the occupation. He continually defied external criticism of his and his successors’ warlike State actions, attempting to combine extreme reasonableness and open offers of co-operative citizenship (the “one-state” solution, more-or-less) with threats of unlimited morally and politically unquestionable reprisals in the face of continued resistance. As he has oft been quoted as saying: “It doesn’t matter what the goyim say, but what the Jews do.”

Thus he inadvertently laid the ground for what is by all accounts now a totalitarian State, which walls up its uncompliant “Arab” citizens in unsustainable ghettos and visits them with condign punishment through the use of advanced and illegal weaponry (which they do not themselves possess) at the slightest sign of resistance, heedless of mass civilian casualties which, like the playground bully (“Why are you hurting yourself, eh? Oh Sir, he started it!), it blames back on the Palestinians’ elected representatives; and brands external critics “anti-semites” when they raise the obvious parallels with policies pursued in Nazi Germany, certainly between 1935 and 1941 when the “Final Solution” began; and obdurately refuses to accept any moral authority other than that of its Biblical avatars, who – it must be said – lived in less complex times, but in their robust slaughter and rape of the Amalechites and the Canaanites were perhaps not as desiring of peace as painted by the First Prime Minister.

Thus, anti-semitism is never something that is provoked, a reaction against the behavior of Jews themselves; it must always pre-exist in the flawed nature of the goyim.

Let me just remind you of one small story among many bigger ones that is ongoing today. I warn you, it is utterly shameful. Saying that, I may have crossed a line.

After an Israeli soldier shot her cousin point-blank in the face with a rubber bullet, he remains on life support, a 16 year-old Palestinian girl, Ahed Tamimi, flew angrily at a group of soldiers and slapped one of them on the face. (Pro-Israel media say “punched”. Just another example of ratcheting up the prejudicial emotional rhetoric.)

This brutal attack against a defenseless armed soldier was seen in various quarters as immensely disrespectful of the military. Israeli soldiers raided the Tamimi home at 3 a.m., arresting Ahed and confiscating the family’s phones, computers and laptops. Ahed has been denied bail and could face years in prison.

Doubling-down on their sense of overweening authoritarian power, soldiers arrested Ahed’s mother Nariman later that day when she inquired about her daughter, and she too remains in custody. (That’s the practise of ‘Sippenhaft’, targeting innocent family members to intimidate resisters – something else they appear to have learned from the SS. Sorry.)

A military trial began on 12 February, is still without a verdict, while the press, human rights supporters and Palestinian diplomats have been barred from the courtroom. (Reporting by lots of people but specific words are from media bias monitoring website, Fair.)

I’ll leave it to you to decide if this rotten behavior characteristic of the filthiest totalitarian regimes is a Jewish thing, or simply an Israeli thing. Or maybe something they learned from real totalitarian regimes, like, you know.

For David Ben Gurion, despite all his weaselly promises of conciliation, citizenship and offers of friendship, provided nobody questioned his people’s right to do whatever the hell they liked, if necessary with maximum violence and inattention to human rights, there could be no difference.

It was all the same to him.

And that, I’m sorry to say, is where blind idealism gets you.

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The dictionary of missing words… The last refuge… Stormy nights… Is Russia really the source of all our ills?… Equal pay should include Air Miles… GW: Ooh, granny, it’s a wild world

The dictionary of missing words

I’ve often been accused by less curious acquaintances of knowing everything, like blind Tiresias, including possibly all the English words, but it really isn’t true.

What, for instance, do you call the thing on your glasses, the hinged and hooked stick-part that goes round your ear, that’s just snapped off?

The vital component that has absolutely no other purpose in life, that once it is no longer attached either to the lenses part or to your ear becomes about the most useless artifact imaginable?

I’m faintly hearing ‘earpiece’ (possibly herpes? I’m getting a bit deaf too), but it doesn’t seem right. An earpiece is surely more to do with audio devices, headphones and so on. That blob of pink plastic stuffed in the sport presenter’s ear with the curly cable behind. The floppy little buds I can’t seem to keep in my too-narrow ear-channels, connected by an infuriating string of self-entangling liquorice to some miniaturized communication device.

Those.

It’s critical, because I’ve got a conversation going in my head with the optician’s, hoping to convince them that, whatever it is, it did, literally, just snap off in normal operation and was not subjected to any untoward treatment or force. It’s not that the hinge has parted, the little screw fallen out, as can often happen if you don’t maintain your glasses regularly. It just snapped when I opened them up. Honestly.

It was the culmination of another strange event affecting my glasses yesterday. I’d hung them as usual on the front of my sweater and walked to the supermarket in the Spring sunshine, I no longer drive, and found I still couldn’t see the tiny print on the labels of things on the shelves, and it was because the lenses had gone dark.

Now, I’ve had them for a couple of years and that’s never happened before. Indeed, I vaguely recall a conversation in which I had said I didn’t need react-to-lite lenses because they were for computer work and wouldn’t be worn outdoors. So here was a second surprise my glasses had delivered in just a day.

I observe instead with my one good-looking eye (although it’s difficult to see what’s going on with the glasses without the glasses on) that one side of the metal hinge itself has broken, probably because it’s been cast a bit too thin for fashion purposes. This is serious. A new hinge, a… hooked-stick part or even a whole new frame will have to be ordered, meaning I shall be both £150 out of pocket – I have never believed in insurance – and unable to see the screen or read for much longer.

You see, I shall have to go back to the optician’s for a new prescription anyway when the eye finally heals, hopefully in another month or so, as it won’t have the same optical characteristics as it had before the retina came away, and the other eye will probably have readjusted. So now isn’t a good time to replace the glasses, even though they have been of limited use as things stand, and are now obviously no use at all.

Although the bubble of gas the surgeon put in my short right eye to hold the retina in place when it popped off a second time is beginning to dissipate after a month, it is still an annoying, wobbly ball of triboluminescence that jiggers and glows and refracts lights and images prettily with every movement of my silly old head, with every pulsive systole (or is it diastole? I never remember) of my groaning vascular system.

Some smeary, sepia ‘crinklevision’ has returned around it, I have startlingly sharp focus at about 9 inches and can once again tell a wooded hillside from a coffee table, but the bubble’s gradual disappearance brings into view another thing to worry about, an area of gray carpet fluff in the middle of my field of vision, that won’t get out of the way, behind which nothing is visible at all.

Combined with ‘age-related’, two words I surely can’t now forget will be ‘macular’ and ‘degeneration’.

We shall see.

Anyway, so there’s another word that isn’t coming easily, that might be ‘earpiece’, or not.

Generally when I lose a word, almost every other word nowadays, I do at least have a memory of there having been a word at one time, and there’s an intended meaning from which to start hunting around for it. I can thus Google approximations of the word, the meaning I’d hoped the word would convey, call up a list of synonyms, or even Search on whole sentences to give context to the elusive phonemes, with much use of ellipsis, hoping the random response will contain the exact word I am alluding to; striving, even, for; that has slid beyond my grasp into the woolly chasm beneath my lexicographical mind.

(I am throwing words down on the page with the something-or-other of a drowning man. They will be here when I need them again. If only I remember where I left them….)

The miraculous engine will always deliver a page of selected websites, with whatever you call the incomplete paragraph of excerpted text that goes underneath the title, that you can never find again in the actual website, the teaser, the clickbait, the… oh well, there’s another word gone.

But anyway, the randomly selected bit of text you hoped might contain the word, or which at least might reveal the opening of a tunnel into which a train of thought might be detected approaching, that could take you to the station where the word will be standing anxiously on the platform, anticipating your delayed arrival owing, as it were, to leaves on the line, or the wrong kind of snow.

Amid the blasts of steam there will be flowers, a welcoming hug, a suitcase eagerly grabbed from your hand, tears of joy. Who knows, even a comfortable saloon-car ride to a warm fireside and a tumbler of fine malt whisky (before it is locked away prudently for the rest of the weekend, and the blended brought out)?

In fact, I’m thinking of compiling a dictionary of missing words. Old friends I know I used to know but are no longer there.

Like, sight.

It would come in handy.

 

The last refuge

Mr Boris dePfeffel Johnson, that overrated escapee from a Petri dish, has in his infinite cretinism once again dragged Britain braying and boasting into the mud.

And still the lamebrained Prime Minister – I won’t say lame duck, ducks can swim – May dare not reprimand or sack him, for fear of a certain Jingoist tendency among the tabloid headline-mumbling old dumbfucks of Little England.

The Second World War ended 73 years ago, with Europe divided firmly between the USA and Soviet Russia, the remains of the global British empire liberated by Coca Cola diplomats, Benny Goodman and the CIA.

Yet the fatuous oaf, Johnson continually seeks to remind the public of how ‘we’ the British won it, rendering all other species inferior.

It’s a lie. A myth. A meme. Bollocks. Bullshit. Total, ahistorical crap. Not true. Fake news.

Propaganda.

Mr Johnson, by some unforeseen calamity the bumbling and inept Foreign Secretary of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, is lavishly displayed on the front of the Daily Express, a former newspaper, today, quoted as warning that our enemy, Russia will seek to make propaganda from its hosting in July of the football World Cup.

In doing so, he likens the tournament to “Hitler’s” 1936 Berlin Olympics.

Regardless of the possibility that propaganda is what the Olympics are all about – he should know, he was Mayor of London in 2012 when the Olympics were held there – regardless of the many inferior nations taking part, whose participation he thus diminishes; regardless of the fact that the Games are the intellectual property of the International Olympic Committee and do not belong to any individual, this disgusting slur on the Russian people should not be allowed to pass without mentioning that Russia sacrificed 27 MILLION dead, defeating Hitler in the Great Patriotic War.

The albino slug, Johnson has sacrificed nothing in his lifetime but his principles.

If as Dr Johnson observed, patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel, Boris defuckingPfeffel Johnson is surely by his frequently disgraceful and infantile utterances that scoundrel.

Get him out. NOW.

 

Donald Jr’s wife has already flounced out, leaving him with just the endangered animal parts and a tin of Dapper Dan…

Stormy nights

Donald Trump is in a world of trouble, to quote a metaphor frequently deployed by Cenk Uygur, principal host and owner of The Young Turks, a lively and not wholly unreliable online current affairs debate channel – although these tragic Americans have such difficulty pronouncing foreign names and little idea what or where anything is, or what has gone before, outside their own, as it were, very large but strangely narrow backyard.

For the idea is starting to take hold in the leftish media that he will not be brought down by his endless lying, his Russian escapades, his financial links with money-laundering oligarchs, the US and Russian mob figures in his uneasy dreams, his egregious breaches of security and of the various emoluments clauses, his takedowns of the constitution and the courts, his love of Nazis and childish infatuations with brutal dictators, his chronic nepotism, his economic incompetence, the unending abuse of public money or the astonishing turnover of staff in his “toxic” White House.

Mueller may run into the sand, as he has made the mistake of going too broad-brush and his time is dangerously running out. Cunning and ruthless as he is, he may have underestimated Trump’s lifelong ability to wheedle and bully his way out of anything, as psychopaths are wont to do.

Nor is Trump’s mental state: his obvious paranoia, his pathological narcissism and advancing senility any longer grounds for invoking the 25th amendment. His compulsive, overreactive trolling has become just how 21st-century politicians communicate with their “base”. Not even the rumored video with the f***ing great dildo up his bottom (© Mark C Smith, 2018. Don’t ask me, I only work here) will move the terrified and corrupt Republican Congress to euthanase this rotten presidency.

What will hopefully destroy this cowardly, vindictive playground bully and his vile, corrupt, nepotistic administration is Stormy Daniels, the “porn star” whose rep is growing daily as the incarnation of Superwoman, as she refuses to back down in the face of overweening physical and financial intimidation; while her Daniel Craig, James Bond lookalike attorney is running rings round the spavined, winded legal doofuses Trump hires because nobody else would.

Of course, no-one cares that he cheated on his wife a year into their marriage, while their son was only months old. He’s cheated on all his wives. Other presidents were also sexually incontinent, it goes with the myth of the alpha male. And I’d give you Marilyn Monroe over Stormy Daniels anyday, especially for unprotected sex. (Is the rumor there is a kid true? Is it? Oh, please!).

No, there are other angles to the story that may make his presidency untenable.

First comes the so-called marriage, to Melania Trump, who is now realizing that her private pain at his serial philandering has become very public, and with some pretty squalid details on display to complete her humiliation. With those gimlet Tartar eyes and flashing, razorlike cheekbones, I’d expect her to slip a cocktail stick between the fourth and fifth ribs any day now.

Largely unexplored is his history in the skin game, the allegations of underage models trafficked in, undocumented, by the Trump Agency from eastern Europe and the pedophilic nibbling at the fringes by his seedy, Studio 21 set. As a former Trump model, Melania will have signed a prenup and, for all we know, a NDA – non-disclosure agreement. But, if Daniels wins and her NDA is busted wide open, there’s a queue of wronged women to follow suit – with Melania at the head of it.

That’s why the Trump legal team is desperately trying to move the case to a court of arbitration, where hearings are held in secret, rather than let it go to a jury trial. Although the cat is already so far out of the bag, it’s over the horizon.

Donald Jr’s wife has already flounced out, leaving him with just the endangered animal parts and a tin of Dapper Dan, as it has emerged that he managed somehow to pull an attractive contestant from Orange Dad’s Celebrity Apprentice TV show for total non-celebrities, while Vanessa was expecting their demonic third or fourth child. Trump Sr says he’s sorry he couldn’t have done more to help save their marriage. I was married twice and so couldn’t possibly comment.

to be continued…

 

Is Russia really the source of all our ills?

God knows, I have nothing whatever to do with Russia or its intelligence apparatus.

But the following story makes it terrifyingly clear, Cambridge Analytica and its US parent, SCL Elections (the clue is in the name) – originally a military intelligence operation and with links to the Machiavellian Erik “Blackwater” Prince, brother of the clueless Education secretary, Betsy DeVos – are more than capable of deflecting blame for their own clandestine efforts at influencing elections onto any “enemy nation” they choose to smear.

And that, as the BogPo has occasionally suggested, Israel – not “The Jews”, Israel – plays a major and disproportionate part in attempting to order world affairs, sometimes hand-in-glove with private interests.

The current media furore as they catch up with a few savvy journalists over Facebook’s role in taking “Crooked Hillary” down ignores that the methods they used to harvest and sell data on millions of users and their ‘friends’, that others are now hotly accused of twisting to political ends while Zuckerberg turned a blind eye, were originally developed by the security state:

…weaponising information to harm an opponent was standard methodology … honed and developed in the company’s defence and military work – the fifth dimension of warfare, defined by the US military as “information operations”. (Guardian)

http://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2018/mar/21/cambridge-analyticas-ruthless-bid-to-sway-the-vote-in-nigeria

Citing the 2015 Nigerian election that ended in tribal violence, and attempts by wealthy international disruptors to swing the vote in favor of the profoundly corrupt president Goodluck Jonathan, young Cambridge employees “terrified” by scary outsiders, tough-guy ex-military agents – mercenaries – they found themselves working with in Lagos on the campaign (along with bag-carriers from the now utterly discredited and bankrupt Bell, Pottinger PR company), who claimed to be from Mossad, spoke of how the company used Nigeria as a template for interfering in the US election in 2016.

(Indeed, black voters in the US were supposedly won over by Facebook videos featuring fake pro-Trump actors who were clearly of Nigerian origin.)

So who did try to swing the election? Was it private US consultancies funded by the Mercers and the Kochs? Or was it, conveniently, “The Russians”? Or both? The Cambridge Analytica revelations suggest we’ve been making a bit too much of Russia’s antipathy to the West. Questions must also arise over the foundation, funding, purposes and management of Wikileaks, who appear to be thoroughly complicit in these ‘dark politics’ internet operations.

Trump is almost certainly right. There very probably was no collusion with Russia to fix the election. Whatever Russia did could perfectly well have been an independent black op without Trump’s personal input. There may however have been collusion with Russia to lift the sanctions: that’s another matter. The fixing of the election was an internal, domestic operation. Why wouldn’t it have been? Much easier, and a local motive.

Trump was a useful idiot, put in the White House by Bob Mercer, Bannon and rogue elements, probably, in the Pentagon, I imagine to extend the concept of perpetual war beyond the borders of Syria: the ultimate showdown between the forces of Christianity and Islam.

Far-fetched? I think we need to fetch from as far as we need to for explanations in the land of the barking-mad: ultra-wealthy, albinist individuals actually researching immortality, buying up swaths of remotest New Zealand and planning to escape to Mars, nutjobs for whom owning the world is not enough. There’s nothing to be gained from conventional thinking about all this.

The name Koch has not yet surfaced in this story, although the letters form part of the word ‘novichok’, but the amount of money the brothers fed into the 2016 Republican campaign suggests they were not planning to lose. They reportedly plan on spending another $0.9 billion to keep the Republicans in power this year, provided candidates stay on the simple, three-part message: “No environmental controls. No free trade. Tax cuts for us.”

Disclaimer

“SCL Elections did not take possession of or use any personal information from such individuals for any purposes. SCL Elections does not use ‘hacked’ or ‘stolen’ data.”

Postscriptum

An interesting article in today’s Guardian gives us a history of the novichok chemical weapons program through the story of its first victim, Andrei Zheleznyakov, a chemist working in a secret Russian lab who was exposed to A-232 by accident. Secrecy meant he was not given the antidote – atropine – until the doctors had signed non-disclosure agreements. He took more than a year to die.

Three key points to emerge are that, being a binary agent whose components are in commercial use – imagine combining the baking soda in your kitchen with some gram flour and discovering you have a more deadly substance than sarin – neither part would be illegal in international law.

Secondly, the USA also has these exact same deadly nerve agents to hand, as does Britain.

Thirdly, the Russians can happily deny there was ever a program called “novichok” because at the time it was called “foliant”.

Personally, I feel like throwing up. Why do we have to live in a world alongside evil men who can even contemplate making and using this horrible shit? Why do we allow these monsters and their political apologists to come to power? They need to be degraded, along with all their diabolical works.

 

Equal pay should include Air Miles

In case you’re worried about equal pay at the BBC, try thinking less “salary” or “pension” and more… well, travel expenses?

Take the amazing Professor Mary Beard, for instance. A lady who cares as little about her personal appearance as I have to, yet who surely earns more in frequent flyer Air Miles in a month than I have in 68 years.

A leading expert on Greek and Roman history, she’s been hired on a freelance contact to present some of the curiously disappointing Civilizations series, supposedly worthy successor to Sir Kenneth Clarke’s 1960s tour de force overview of how we arrived at Ant & Dec’s Big Night Out.

I’m not sure why she’s also an expert on religious art, but here’s her impressive itinerary:

“She goes to the temple of Angkor Wat, the Tintoretto Crucifixion in Venice, the Buddhist caves of Ajanta and the Blue Mosque in Istanbul, as she seeks to break down the conventions that centre some religions around images, while others are seen as hostile to artistic representation. She shows how all faiths (and their artists) face the same fundamental problems of treading a careful line between glorifying gods in images and blaspheming by daring to represent the divine. She ends at the Parthenon in Athens.”

Does her agent also work in her spare time as a travel agent, we must ask ourselves? All this stuff… surely, it’s in the British Museum?

PS – the “hostility to artistic representation” of most Islamic sects is actually an alternative to Western modes of seeing. The mesmerizing geometric patterns in Islamic religious art are an attempt to represent the mathematical principles that underlie the universe.

There is also non-religious Islamic art.

Just so you know.

 

GW: Ooh, granny, it’s a wild world

USA: California – 30 thousand people evacuated ahead of the latest Pineapple Express. Up to 10 inches of rain forecast for the Santa Barbara area and hillsides denuded of tree cover by last year’s fires threatening more landslips. Powerful storms sweep the south. Cars damaged by hail in Caldwell, Texas. Giant hail falls from the sky over Cullman, Alabama – Weatherman says “never seen a storm like it”, a car lot is trashed. Huge tornado forms over Russellville, Alabama. Homes trashed in Jacksonville, Al.

Storm Toby, fourth major Nor’easter in a little over six weeks, brings more feet of snow and strong winds misery to the east coast states.

Europe: mini-Beast brings more cold and snow across the continent, with disruption from Scandinavia and the British Isles down into Italy. Over in Spain, however, heavy rain causes flash-flooding in the south, boding poorly for the salad crop. 1 dead, 1 missing in Andalucia. Jetstream still lost somewhere over North Africa.

Australia: Sydney’s late autumn heatwave continues. 500 people were rescued from Sydney’s Bondi Beach as the mercury hit 41C, 106F. 70 homes were destroyed in a wildfire at Tethra, NSW. Elsewhere in the state, 1000 people were having to be rescued from floodwaters as the Lower Murray river rose following heavy rain.

Indonesia: Bandung, a powerful flash flood tears through Cicaheum, washing away cars.

Madagascar: a brief visit by Cyclone Eliakim kills 17 people in flash floods.

Brazil: No sign of a letup in the heavy rainstorms that have brought widespread flooding to many parts of the country over the past month. Lots round São Paolo, again. 3 dead, several missing. Valparaiso de Goias, genuinely heartbreaking, apocalyptic scenes.

Uruguay: Extensive flooding around the capital, Montevideo.

Dominican Republic: floods. Puerto Plata airport recorded 272.8 mm of rainfall in 24 hours (10.7 in), beating the previous record by 120 mm.

MrMBB333/ CEWN #104 citing The Weather Channel, Euronews et al/Floodlist

Where does it go from today? A ruminative speculation based on nothing and no-one… Pots, kettles (but no blacks)… Business welcomes transition deal… GW: just drifting on by.

Big hands! Putin wins fourth term in Kremlin shock! Will soon overtake Merkel as world’s longest-serving dictator.

 

We need to ask John le Carré what it was all about, but I doubt if even he knows.

It smells to me less like a conspiracy of the entire West led by wicked witch Theresa May to make life difficult for Putin by embarrassing the Russians, as they’ve been moaning it was in Moscow, and more like a hastily concocted cover story for some other skulduggery that went horribly wrong.

A sleepy English county town is the stage for an attack by evil Russians.

Certainly we’re not getting the truth about the apparent assassination attempt in Salisbury two weeks ago on former KGB/GRU Col Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia, are we. Why would we? It’s a spy story!

The problem being that, unlike the Litvinenko case where two FSB goons were rapidly identified, in this case there is still no human suspect: there are victims,  we have motives aplenty, there is a smoking gun, but there is still no credible theory as to who exactly might have pulled the trigger. Er…

We may never really know. Just remember, however, this horrible stuff was designed by them to be used on us….

Nothing adds up!

 

Chapter 1: Wiltshire Circus

What was ex-KGB Col Skripal doing, living apparently in comfort, quite openly, in a quiet cathedral city at the heart of one of the most militarily sensitive areas of the UK – Porton Down, the MoD tank ranges, Qinetic defence industries’ HQ, RAF Lyneham, Portsmouth naval yards – Stonehenge (greatest mystery of all… was it a stone-age ICBM launcher?)

Who put him there, with his flashy BMW, and why? Was he really a free agent, entirely at liberty after being spy-swapped for some of his fellow countrymen in 2010? Surely he’d still have been on George Smiley’s string? Or “Karla” Putin’s?

The police have enough to do, micromanaging society, but how aware are they of foreign exiles living in our midst, whose history makes them potential security risks in the event of attempts on their lives, who are simply plonked down in the midst of our peaceful rustic communities by shady quasi-governmental agencies (Quaggas)? What protections can and do they afford them?

Why was Skripal chosen to be in the prisoner exchange? The single spies he was being swapped for hadn’t egregiously betrayed their own country, as he had. Did he really deserve a comfortable, middle-class retirement in an agreeably leafy, sleepy, half-timbered British country town, in Putin’s shifty eyes? Without a quid pro quo?

Why were his family allowed to constantly come and go between the UK and Russia while apparently being bumped off one by one? Why did they continue to do that? How was his son allowed to be flown back from St Petersburg and buried here after his sudden death from liver disease (endemic in Russia), if Skripal’s treachery was still so raw in the Kremlin that, eight years after his release, they would come looking for him, armed with the unnecessary complication of an obsolete compound neurotoxin – “just add water – and an egg”, as the Betty Crocker Cake Mix ads used to say?

As some Russian media spokesmouth observed, he could more easily have just been made to disappear.

What was in the timing?

Why has Putin been playing nice to the traitor, an exchanged double-agent, supposedly – for so many years before acting against him, if simple revenge were all this is about? He could have had him whacked anywhere, anyhow, at any time.

Does the former KGB Colonel Vladimir Vladimirovitch Putin like to keep a pool of exiled traitors, live lobsters in a restaurant, to be eliminated publicly one by one as and when politically required to send a signal? Or was Col Skripal, the neighborly and jovial consumer of Lottery scratch cards, back in the GRU fold after all?

Suspected of being a triple-agent, might not the relevant Whitehall travel agency have wanted to make it look like the Russians had caught up with him, using a bag of old Soviet stuff from the stores at Porton Down as the most easily traceable weapon? Might that not at least be a better theory than a huge political conspiracy to draw attention from… what? the rest of the usual shit? Brexit? Stormy Daniels? Surely the Daily Mail is perfectly capable of that?

What was so important about the timing, was it as everyone says a Kremlin black-op to create international animus against Russia in order to stir the patriotic fervor of lethargic voters in today’s presidential election, whose result was always a foregone conclusion? Certainly, the sneers and pathetically transparent inventions of the Russian State-controlled media and tame politicians amplifying the outrage would suggest so.

But could that in turn be covering for something else?

Smirk and mirrors? Smersh and grab? (enough spy puns. Ed.)

 

Chapter 2: another toxic German car?

How was the red BMW car the apparent focus of the contamination, when they had parked it for several hours and gone to lunch before they were found?

If the car was the focus, how did their house become so contaminated while they were not at home but were out in the car, that entering it could injure the only other person to have been seriously affected, Det Sgt Nick Bailey?

And if as is thought the agent was in powder form, why would anyone enveloped in a cloud of the stuff blowing from the car’s heater not notice it? Skripal was trained in black ops, he would surely know. And why did the toxin then take so long to act? The BBC’s ‘explainer’ about Novichok claims the version that’s suspected is virtually instantaneous. It doesn’t let you go to lunch, followed by a stroll in the park.

If the investigators think the focus was the car, but the house was sufficiently contaminated as to injure Sgt Bailey, then the Skripals must have been heavily contaminated before driving into the city and would almost certainly then a) not have been capable of enjoying lunch at Zizzi’s restaurant and a drink at a pub, and b) would surely have transferred considerably more nerve agent to the environment and the innocent shoppers and diners around them than they appear to have done.

The timelines we’ve been getting in the media seem all wrong.

 

Chapter 3: Alarm call

Det Sgt Bailey was described as a ‘first responder’, yet he is said to have become contaminated at the house, not at the scene where the Skripals were found.

If someone had called 999 on the basis of two unknown persons found unconscious on a park bench, two uniformed officers would normally have been dispatched; not a detective. How would the despatcher know to send a mid-ranking detective, that it was more serious than a couple of drunks? Why would Det Sgt Bailey have been called a ‘first responder’, when he was apparently not at the scene, but had gone to the house? Why are all the photos of Sgt Bailey in the media showing him in dress uniform? Detective sergeants don’t go around in uniform.

How would Bailey know to go to the house, even know where it was, if he or other ‘first responders’ had not first responded by searching the victims’ pockets for ID (unless he already knew who they were and where they lived?) They were unconscious! But he was not apparently at the scene where the Skripals were found, so could not have discovered their ID, unless someone had called him. And even then, why would he go straight to the house – unless he was already there?

How did he know to go to the house, and – given the victims were right there on a park bench and he was the ‘first responder’, why? Who sent him to the house? What was he supposed to find there? Why would someone call him, especially, to go there?

Nor, surely, would Sgt Bailey have gone to the house on his own as part of a follow-up police enquiry. If a chemical attack was suspected before he went, there would have been a whole team wearing full hazmat protection and carrying guns. Not just one detective. Sgt Bailey appears to have had no protection. He could not have known the house was contaminated. If he knew the house was relevant to the enquiry it must have been on suspicion the house was contaminated. Why would he go there alone and unprotected?

Was he perhaps part of a security detail protecting Col Skripal, who already knew the family and where they lived? Why would that need to be kept a secret? Were the Skripals under surveillance? After all, Yulia had arrived from Moscow with a mysterious package only the day before. It’s inconceivable her arrival would not have been picked up at the airport.

But why then would Sgt Bailey have gone directly to the house after they were found? Someone, surely must have sent him. Why, what was it supposed to achieve? What was he even doing there, unless the police knew the house was immediately relevant to their enquiries? And why did they subsequently seal it off so tightly for ten days, apparently without anyone else going in, that the Skripals’ cats and guinea-pigs (??? wtf) died of dehydration?

What was behind the widespread media release of a days’ old CCTV image of former KGB Colonel Skripal innocently buying scratch cards at a corner store? What did that add to the story, apart from an element of incongruity?

Nothing makes sense.

 

Chapter 4: Medical mystery tour

Why were no other first responders, paramedics eg, contaminated through primary contact with the victims in the park, before the use of a nerve agent was suspected and protective measures taken? How was it first established that they were the victims of an attack by neurotoxin? Some substance must have been visible.

No-one who came into contact with the Skripals on that park bench is reported to have been hospitalized, even though it would not have been realized at first that a nerve agent was responsible and so no-one responding to their plight would have had any protection to begin with. Yet the only people affected – until the police identified 131 others who had been in the pub and the restaurant, none of whom has been hospitalized – were the primary victims, and the mysterious Det Sgt Nick Bailey*. What was his role in this?

When was it first realized that a deadly neurotoxin was involved, and who by? Knowledge of Col Skripal’s background might have given responders a clue, but who would have had that, before he could be identified? At what stage was the warning given to take extreme hazard precautions, and why were those who attended the scene before that warning went out not themselves badly affected by the toxin?

According to the BBC: “A doctor, who was shopping with her husband in the city centre on Sunday, said Ms Skripal was “slumped in her seat, completely unconscious” and had lost control of her bodily functions.” Did this “doctor” not attempt to offer immediate medical assistance? Why then is she not also in hospital?

Is the Novichok toxin designed to biodegrade so quickly after use that those who come into contact with it later will not be seriously harmed? Judging by the evidence trail still being uncovered, that doesn’t seem likely. If so, how to account for the effect on the Skripals and Sgt Bailey so many hours between the car being parked or the house contaminated and the victims being found? Were the Russian designers in the 1980s clever enough to give the toxicity of their poison a half-life?

* It now appears there was a second, unnamed police officer who was contaminated at the house. Why has he or she remained anonymous while Bailey was immediately named and hailed in the media as a ‘hero’? Was he or she another of the Skripals’ close protection detail?

 

Chapter 5: Half-life

One possible “signal” being sent by whoever was behind the attack might be a reminder that we seem to be entering a new Cold War, since Novichok was developed back in the 1980s and is supposedly by international convention no longer in military use. Less fashionably “retro” means of assassinating States’ enemies are now available, such as the VX agent used to kill Kim Jong-Nam, inconvenient half-brother of the North Korean tyrant.

Given the Novichok program involved around 100 different substances and was terminated decades ago and all old Soviet-era chemical weapons stocks verified (technically, at least) as destroyed, how did ‘Porton Down’ identify the substance so quickly and with such assurance, unless the chemical signature is held on an active database, presuming therefore that the Russians are suspected not to have destroyed their stocks?

(How is it the Russians imagine their heated denial of this weapon’s existence can possibly be believed, given the Soviet chemical weapons program was destroyed under international supervision and all items therefore presumably identified first? It’s absurd!)

…or unless the independent existence of the particular batch of toxin used was known about beforehand? A Guardian story suggests, for instance, that someone who had worked on the development program was involved in an attempt by organized criminals in the 1990s to make a batch of A232, some of which may have been used to assassinate a Russian banker and his secretary.

If that were the case, and the Russians were said to have complied with the conventions on chemical weapons, was Britain also reproducing these weapons or holding stocks in contravention of the conventions, or do the conventions allow multiple countries to retain samples for analytical purposes, for use in the production of antidotes (or illegal successor weapons)?

Was there something in Skripal’s KGB history linking him with the Novichok program, to make it an appropriate murder weapon? Did he for instance pass the formulae on to the British?

In which case, could the substance used indeed have come from Porton Down, as the Russians are now alleging, just eight miles from the scene of the crime? How? Who would have had access to it, and why that particular sample?

Was it needed in a hurry, that toxic substance directly traceable to a 30-years-old Soviet weapons program?

Two guinea-pigs? Cats, yes, very Ernst Stavro Blofeld… but who under the age of 13 still keeps guinea-pigs as pets?

And why?

 

Chapter 6: Assembly line

The nerve agent we are told was a highly active two-part compound for assembly immediately prior to use that would have had to be handled by someone extremely well trained and protected.

I don’t know what the original delivery system was supposed to be, an artillery shell possibly, but the idea of some Kremlin goon mixing it manually in the bedroom washbasin and then placing it somewhere the Skripals just might come into contact with it, without wearing a hazmat suit and respirator throughout the operation, is surely absurd.

Unless there’s a dead Russian agent slumped in a genteel B&B somewhere in rural southern England? (I’m still wondering how Dmitry Lugovoi managed to smuggle in enough radioactive polonium to kill Litvinenko and leave a glowing slime trail all over London for several days, yet not kill himself in the process?)

Could the Skripals have been making it themselves, for use in some other context, and fouled up? Would that explain why only they and Sgt Bailey were affected? Would it explain what was in the package Yulia Skripal had brought in from Moscow days earlier? Not a booby-trap, but the Novichok precursors ready for them to make up the final weapon? So who was the target? One week later, The Guardian reported:

“The family of the murdered Russian businessman Nikolai Glushkov have said they are devastated at his death and are helping counter-terrorism detectives with the investigation. The 68-year-old was found dead at his home in New Malden, south-west London, on 12 March (exactly a week after the supposed attack on the Skripals) and a postmortem showed he …”

Yes, the former finance director of Aeroflot who embezzled millions of dollars and served time for it had been strangled manually and then strung up to make it look like suicide – the method probably used to kill his billionaire business associate, Boris Berezovsky, at his home in Sunningdale in 2013.

Well,

Given the effectiveness of the polonium method (or VX, sarin, manual strangulation, or just a bullet) at causing a lingering public death, why revert instead to this old neurotoxin, that has not as far as we know been used anywhere else for a similar purpose, unless it was all there was to hand, in which case how so, or unless it was of some special significance in the coded world of Anglo-Russian espionage?

Were the Skripals on a mission to pay Sergei’s final debt to the GRU?

 

Chapter 7: Three-ring Circus

The Russians have offered no explanation on demand to the UK government, incurring the anger of politicians and a pretty fruitless exchange of diplomatic punishments and reprisals.

Mr Boris Johnson has put his foot in it yet again, stating that he had been categorically assured by “the guy” at Porton Down that the Novichok had been traced back to Russia. Shortly afterwards the Director of our loveliest weapons establishment went public with a statement saying they had not established where the stuff came from, it wasn’t their business to do that sort of thing.

The Russians had a field-day with that at the UN.

It appears then that Johnson was trying to hide the fact that British intelligence in Russia had passed the information through to MI6. Never a good thing to admit, since the Iraqi “Weapons of Mass Destruction” debacle, that we have agents abroad who could find their own feet.

Equally the UK government has refused to provide the evidence to the Russians they are accusing of a serious breach of international law. Why not? (The BBC is speculating we might have evidence, but just can’t admit it without being kind to Jeremy Corbyn, who has suggested everyone should look at it first. Politicians, eh?)

And why could we not wait the statutory ten days before hastening to conclusions and accusations, as mandated in the conventions? It has been said, the counter-terrorism forces’ investigations may go on for months, yet we rushed to judgement within hours, almost as if the story were pre-prepared.

Why? What was the timing about, why was it so critical – apart, that is, from having to get a story out fast enough to prevent a possible public health crisis and a panic once it had all gone wrong?

 

 

Chapter 8: Send in more clowns

At the time Skripal was apparently turned as a double agent by the British, was Christopher Steele not the MI6 bureau chief in Moscow, or some such?

Steele was the private security consultant responsible for digging up, on behalf it seems in turn both of the Republicans AND the Democrats via an obscure research outfit in Washington called Fusion GPS, what possible ‘dirt’ if any the Russians might have had on Donald Trump prior to his election. Information that could have been used in the US for good or ill – in the event, both.

In 2016, perturbed by what he was finding (his version goes) Steele sent the CIA and the FBI the controversial, so-called ‘pee-pee’ dossier – an uncollated set of 35 pages of previously unverified information supposedly gleaned from his Russian contacts that has substantially since been verified (to howls of “fake news” from the Trump camp) and is now a key part of the Mueller investigation into possible election fraud and financial crimes by the Trump team: an investigation Mr Trump seems almost recklessly keen to have shut down, for whatever reason.

My pet conspiracy theory is that Trump is desperate that it should not come out that he was compromised years ago, not by the Russians but by US intelligence, and was informing on his criminal Russian contacts.

Prudently, but perhaps also melodramatically, when the existence of the dossier became public knowledge in the USA, leaked to BuzzFeed, Steele “disappeared” with his family for several weeks before re-emerging, having seemingly been debriefed by the FBI. Clearly, there was some threat to their lives. But where from? And who spirited the Steeles away to a safe house? If it was his former friends in the security service, why would they do that?

Was Skripal one of Steele’s contacts? Could the attack on him be a warning to any others who might give information related to the Trump “conspiracy” and the part played in it by Mr Putin or possibly other, even more sinister criminal elements in the Kremlin?

I refer you to a curious interview by Emily Maitlis on the BBC’s Newsnight last Friday with longstanding Putin critic and fabulously wealthy exiled oligarch, Mikhail Khodorkovsky, whose view is that Putin has become the prisoner, the sock-puppet, of a gang of evil actors, mafioski he initially surrounded himself with but who have essentially been running things in Russia for the past few years.

I then refer you to a John Sweeney BBC Panorama documentary from 2016, and many other reports alluding to Mr Trump’s alleged financial connections with the Russian mafia, whose terrifying capo, Simeon Mogilevitch is said to have invested heavily but alas, disappointingly in his Atlantic City casino operations and other Trump properties; but must ask you not to jump to any conclusions.

For, here we find on a website called USNews.com, from January 2018: “Fusion GPS founder Glenn Simpson testified (to the increasimgly fractious and disorderly Senate Intelligence Committee) that the real-estate mogul built relationships with Russian gangsters, who were themselves tied to the Russian government.” (http://www.usnews.com/news/national-news/articles/2018-01-18/trump-had-ties-to-russian-mob-figures-fusion-gps-founder-testifies)

And over the weekend, it has emerged that the Cambridge, UK-based data analytics firm backed by Bannon’s former mentor Bob Mercer, allegedly involved in clandestine election-rigging ops using, effectively, hacked Facebook data – including the Trump campaign, Brexit and others – and connected with Wikileaks, purveyors of the Clinton emails – was also tied to Kremlin-backed oil giant, Lukoil in an apparently global attempt to “change the culture”.

At the very least, these revelations represent a rampng-up of the new Cold War rhetoric and a reason for these tit-for-tat sanctions, targeted assassinations (by no means confined to the UK), and punitive measures, to hijack the news agenda.

I finally rest my case on an interview on RT with veteran lefty investigator, John Pilger, who believes Theresa May has concocted the whole thing to make herself look competent and paint the poor Russians into a corner, or some such Pilgeresque paranoid drivel.

Is it all a case of a self-driving conspiracy, with no human agency at the wheel?

Mr Putin is later today being re-elected for another 6-year term as President. Once that formality has been completed we shall no doubt see where the Skripal saga takes us next.

x

The thick plottens…

“The information commissioner is seeking an urgent court warrant to enter the London headquarters of the elections consultancy Cambridge Analytica after the firm was caught in an undercover sting boasting about entrapping politicians, using honey traps and running fake news campaigns. Cyber-security consultants … who had been engaged by Facebook to do (an) audit, were at CA’s office in London on Monday evening when the ICO asked them to leave so the authorities could pursue their own investigation.” – Guardian

The ICO has been flagging up heavily in the media for the past 24 hours that she will be ‘seeking’ a warrant to invade Cambridge Analytica’s data files. If you were investigating breaches of the Data Protection Act and possible electoral finance offences, would you give a computer firm two days’ clear notice in which to scrub their files like a coalminer’s doorstep, if you didn’t for some reason want them to come out looking whiter than white?

What in God’s holy name is going on?

x

When not in Rome

Within hours of the incident unfolding in Salisbury, on the basis of secret intelligence, no doubt, British politicians including the bumptious oaf, Boris Johnson, and the new Defence Secretary, Gavin Williamson, an unindividuated teenager who keeps a pet tarantula in a vivarium in his office, were already pointing the finger at Vladimir Putin for ordering yet another targeted and messy assassination attempt on British soil.

Meanwhile in Nottingham, police have no idea weeks after the event if (in an incident caught on camera) an Egyptian engineering student, Mariam Moustafa, was the target of a racially aggravated assault, or what the motive was, after being chased off a bus and severely beaten while being racially abused by a gang of white girls.

They are keeping an open mind, apparently.

Mariam died in hospital three weeks later. The Health Board is “investigating” whether her death might possibly have been connected with the assault. The post mortem examination was “inconclusive”, the coroner has brought in an open verdict.

The BBC reports, her family is here (they live in Rome, where Mariam was born) looking for answers.

Good luck with that.

 

 

Pots, kettles (but no blacks)

Attorney General Jeff Sessions said the “extensive and fair investigation” had concluded that Mr McCabe “made an unauthorised disclosure to the news media and lacked candour – including under oath – on multiple occasions” – BBC News

“Detestable lahs you are tellin’.”

Mr Sessions, who has previously admitted lying under oath about his communications over sanctions with the Russian ambassador, is obviously unaware that McCabe’s job description as acting director of the FBI made him specifically the person who authorized statements to the press on behalf of the agency.

Any disclosures he himself made or (as in this case) requested a spokesman to make on the agency’s behalf, would therefore have been authorized by him, no?

In the meantime Mr Trump has spewed out another in his weekly series of paranoid Sunday breakfast tweets today, accusing everyone of being traitors to America, unfair to him, of being in the pay of Crooked Hillary Clinton and the DNP, and libelling people he hates, McCabe, Comey, Special Counsel Bob Mueller, calling them out as liars and fakers of evidence. “NO COLLUSION!”, he screamed.

He gets more like Nixon by the hour.

His despairing lawyers are entirely unable to stop him doing it, but he is clearly unaware that as a result of his attempts to halt the Mueller investigation without actually firing Bob Mueller, a prima facie case for obstruction of justice is piling up behind him tweet by tweet like a vast heap of shit ready to topple and bury him forever. Not to mention the tiny question, what’s he trying so desperately to hide?

My treasured Follower, Mark Smith may have one possible answer, his Comment is on the previous Post.

I couldn’t, possibly.

(I have a theory that Mark C Smith is a collective pseudonym for GCHQ, I can’t be certain. All I know is, my Views for this and Pumpkin 48 have reached almost virulent numbers today. Starting from quite a low base, you understand.)

 

Bidness groups warmly welcome transition deal

The CBI has welcomed the deal in Brussels as “A victory for common sense”, insisting that it brings a welcome degree of certainty to British businesses. According to The Guardian:.

“…the transition deal is conditional upon there being a withdrawal agreement. As David Davis, the Brexit secretary, admitted recently, there is a possibility that the withdrawal agreement talks could collapse without a deal at the last moment. In those circumstances, there would be no transition…”

So, good, we’re all certain about that, then.

Davis and Barnier announce breakthrough agreement on Brexit transition.

 

x

GW: just drifting on by

Canada: Alberta blanketed with 30 cm snow after two storms collide. Houses buried to the eaves under 20ft drifts.

USA: Storms land on both coasts. Heavy snow blankets Massachusetts in the east, Oregon in the west. An ‘energetic Arctic jetstream’ is threatening another Nor’easter this week, catching Alabama in the middle with ‘tornadic supercells’ with a high chance of damaging hailstorms. And another ‘Pineapple Express’ atmospheric river is set to bring big rain, possibly triggering more landslips on wildfire-damaged hillsides, to southern California.

Italy: Lit-up by exploding electricity substations, a huge tornado rips through Caserta, near Naples, on the night of 13 March.

Romania: Extensive flooding from rain and snowmelt. Croatia: heavy rain and snowmelt trigger mudslides, carrying away houses.

Ireland: Under several yellow warnings for extensive flooding following intense rainfall, 14 March.

Britain: greets curtain-call of the Beast from the East March 17/18 with two days of freezing weather and snowfalls disrupting schools, traffic and flights.

Australia: Cat 2 Cyclone Marcus kicks off the season, nibbling at northern coastal areas around Darwin and Kimberley with 130 Km/h windspeeds, uprooting large trees and damaging cars and buildings. Meanwhile… Sydney swelters in early autumn 40C, 104F heatwave, a lightning storm puts a power station out of action at Terang and rural properties are lost to an “out-of-control” wildfire burning around Brega in Victoria state.

(The NOAA 5-day forecast track for Marcus seems to be showing a slight possibility that having now headed out into the Southern Ocean, it could swing back toward land somewhere north of Perth, Western Australia state.)

Thailand: ‘freak’ storm with cyclonic wind, hail causes floods, damage. Indonesia: Java flooding.

Africa: floods in Kenya, Uganda and Lesotho, where 5 people died in an intense hailstorm. Madagascar, yet another cyclone, Eliakim brings strong winds and flooding.

World: Despite the Beast and the Nor’easters, February managed 6th warmest on record globally, thanks to persistent heat anomalies in the Arctic and across Africa, Australia/New Zealand and central Asia. It’s been a wild winter in the northern hemisphere, but as March progresses there seems to be some flattening-out of the global extremes and some cooling-off in the Arctic that is extending the icefields again, although larger temperature anomalies are appearing in the Antarctic now.

The good news for Europe at least is that the polar jetstream that wandered all the way down to North Africa for months, bringing very cold conditions, may be slowly making its way back north again. Of course, that would bring heat up from Africa, presaging another extremely hot European summer, with more wildfires and probable crop losses.

Climate & Extreme Weather News #103, pt 2, citing Euronews/ Wunderground

The Pumpkin – Issue 48. The old 1-2… Enjoy your retirement, Mr Secretary… Handbags drawn in the DMZ… What should we do about Russia?… Attack on Boglington: Russia suspected… But seriously….

The old 1-2

“When the full extent of your venality, moral turpitude, and political corruption becomes known, you will take your rightful place as a disgraced demagogue in the dustbin of history. You may scapegoat Andy McCabe, but you will not destroy America…America will triumph over you.” – John Brennan (former head of the CIA) tweet to Donald Trump on his firing the deputy director of the FBI.

“Reluctantly I have concluded that President Trump is a serious threat to US national security. He is refusing to protect vital US interests from active Russian attacks. It is apparent that he is for some unknown reason under the sway of Mr Putin.” – Tweet from retired 4-star Army General Barry McCaffrey.

“No broccoli!”

“They’re clearing the decks for war. Operation Desert Stormy has begun….”

Enjoy your retirement, Mr Secretary

So, farewell then, foxy Texy-Rexy Tillexxon, silvery-haired Secretary of State for the USA.

Despite your air of distinction you were fired over ‘chemical’ differences with the President (he doesn’t have any chemicals, he’s pure physics… That’s the difference.)

He complains about your body language: while he sat in meetings with his arms defiantly folded like a three-year-old refusing broccoli, bottom lip pouting against a roomful of hateful courtiers queuing to advise him about stuff he already knows more about than anyone ever, sucking up their grovelling effusions of sycophancy and lust for power, he says you slouched and looked sour when you didn’t agree with him, which was most of the time.

You never told him bedtime stories over cheeseburgers about the Greatest President a Grateful World has Ever Lavishly Heaped Praise On for His Many Mighty MAGA Triumphs.

You never told him he could be President for Life.

Why you stayed so long is a mystery as he was continually sidelining you. And The Don always hated you because you were a real bidnessman, unlike the negative-billionaire reality show clown invented by NBC.

You in turn called him a “fuckin’ moron” and opposed his vain attempts to make foreign policy on the hoof, such as promising a completely unprepared and unstructured meeting with the cuddly North Korean tyrant, hailed as a ‘reset’ of all the failures of previous Democratic administrations (actually, it was W Bush advised by wolfish neocons who screwed up a Clinton-era agreement to halt N Korea’s nuclear program while Kim’s dad discussed a rapprochement with the South. Who knew he was Il?).

Of course, the Kim summit won’t happen. It was all to divert salacious media attention away from the big bribe his lawyer gave a porno actress not to say they’d had an affair while Melania was still having little Barron wetnursed by illegally trafficked Rhinemaidens, especially the bit as he fucked her (in the normal way, obviously, Ms Daniels recalls nothing outstanding) about her reminding him of his daughter, Ivanka.

Trump doesn’t do serious, the show has to go on despite his terrible ratings, his love of family and his obvious mental incapacity. Add to which, incest fantasies?And as he’s now suing Ms Daniels for $20 million while it increasingly appears the money his lawyer gave her came out of campaign funds, it’s likely to run and run, the big sap.

Not helpful. And we have not forgotten how earlier, Mr Trump had undermined his chief diplomat, having his pet missing-link, Gorka state publicly that Tillerson had “nothing to say” on the subject of negotiations with… North Korea.

Nevertheless, you lasted a little more than a year in the job, Rex, longer than most, during which your department was hollowed-out, losing all its key staff and failing to appoint senior diplomats to posts including the rather essential ambassadorships to Japan and South Korea.

You weren’t popular with your junior staff, especially when the order went out that they were never to address you directly or look you in the eye. What, are you God? We should be told.

But how much of it was your fault? Mr Trump doesn’t do diplomacy, only great deals (“pay me or I’ll sue…”)

Thirteen months is a long time in the Trump White House, where more than fifty staff the Gilded One personally appointed, all of whom did a great job, obviously, because he only hires the best, had already quit or been fired by March 2018. Another record he can trump about.

Even that didn’t give you a hint you were only there because of your $9 trillion Russia deal to drill the hell out of the melting Arctic, that you did while you were making $100 thousand a day at Exxon, happy days, with Trump’s only remaining friend, Mr Putin.

A bigly successful deal the Great Dealmaker would no doubt have killed his own mother to have been able to do, if he weren’t so poor on detail. If only she hadn’t despised him so.

And when the Congress refused to lift the blocking sanctions, as Trump had so clearly promised Veselnitskaya they would do if her boss Mr Putin helped him with the little matter of getting his fat furry orange ass elected, Rosneft pulled the plug on the deal, leaving you standing in your stripy silk underpants with nowhere to pee but on the Aubusson rug.

Last night you perfectly correctly sympathized with the UK government over the unbelievably messy and dangerous chemical warfare attack by the GRU on an emigré Russian double-agent living openly in Salisbury, an ancient and sleepy county capital at the heart of the British defence industry, incidentally poisoning a policeman and 131 others, and made it clear the US blamed the enigmatically smiling Mr Putin.

Who else would it have been?

That was the last straw for his friend, special agent Trump, who despite being frequently waterboarded by the White House press corps has steadfastly refused for nine days to condemn Russia on a wait-and-see if anyone else confesses basis.

So that’s the last we’ll hear about it from our Special Relation. (Lord knows what Trump thinks is a Special Relationship. Should we ask Ms Daniels before he hammers the final nail in the coffin of our steel industry?)

Mr Secretary, The Pumpkin is hoping you have secretly compiled a shedload of dirt on this dirty orange sack of composting cheeseburger and will take huge pleasure in dumping it over him.

But no, you’ll just head on home to the ranch with your $240 million pension fund, to dandle your grandkids on your knee while you explain to them why, thanks to you, they will never dandle any of their own.

Meanwhile, paraphrasing dear Oscar, to lose your Secretary of State might seem like a misfortune; to lose your Chief Economic Adviser and another Communications Director within seven days, after all three of them had reluctantly come to the conclusion you’d be better off in psychiatric nursing care, looks like a real coup d’êtat for the dumbfuck tendency.

As if to make the point:

Steve Goldstein, a top State Department official under Tillerson, told reporters that his boss learned of his firing through social media and was “unaware of the reason” he was forced out.

Goldstein was terminated by the White House soon thereafter. (Washington Post)

No-one is safe from the Wrath of Don. Not even the last out of six Under-Secretaries of State still standing. Yep, there’s no-one left in those positions either; the triumph of Bannonism.

For now we can look forward to a State Department run by Mike ‘waterboarding is too good for ’em’ Pompeo, an insane advocate for invading Iran and noted Trump bumguzzler, ably assisted at the CIA by a psychotic Rosa Klebb, a terrifying middle-aged librarian in a twinset who looks like everyone’s favorite central-casting Auntie Jane, but who ran a black torture site in Thailand for illegally renditioned Muslim prisoners, filmed it for her own amusement and had the tapes burned afterwards as evidence in a Congressional investigation.

Well, it was International Women’s Week.

You’re well out of it, you’ll soon come to realize. They’re clearing the decks for war. Operation Desert Stormy has begun….

Enjoy your retirement, Mr Secretary.

 

Postscriptum: Handbags drawn in the DMZ

It has been belatedly brought to The Pumpkin’s attention that after Trump fired Tillerson by tweet, but before Tillerson has worked his notice, Best Daughter Ivanka was sent out to South Korea to attend a meeting with the Foreign Minister in place of the Secretary of State, to discuss the proposed nuclear talks with the North.

Ignoring the obvious fact that this silly girl is in it way over her head, she has no status as an official government employee. As a close relative of the President, under the nepotism law it would be entirely illegal for her to represent the State Department in this way (I know, Bobby Kennedy. Two wrongs… but he was an official government employee. She isn’t.)

It’s also a breach of the Logan Act for a private citizen to attempt to influence government policy through negotiations with a foreign power.

What does occupy the turbulent space under the cotton-candy, between the President’s waxy old ears?

We might remember also that both Ivanka and her husband Jared Kushner are almost certainly under FBI  investigation for breaches of the emoluments clause – she continues to profit from her business interests, including in S Korea, which she promotes from the White House and on ‘diplomatic’ tours under the auspices of the President, when she also promotes his business interests – influence-peddling, and money-laundering. Both of them were not long ago under threat of prosecution for fraudulent misrepresentation in the matter of property sales, although the charges were dropped with no reason given.

Not only that, but recent reports have concluded that neither she nor Jared Kushner has the appropriate level of security clearance required to operate at the senior levels on which Trump Senior has invited them to represent the US Government. Is he a total ignoramus, or just taking the piss?

Korean Foreign Minister Kang paid a reciprocal visit to Washington last week, hoping (but prematurely unable) to meet with new Secretary Pompeo, following which the S Korean foreign ministry tweeted that she and Ivanka had had “a nice reunion” over lunch.

 

What should we do about Russia?

Russia suffered an unimaginable 27 MILLION casualties in the Great Patriotic War against Hitler.

That’s a hell of a sacrifice we must surely honor. More so, maybe, even than the Holocaust of the 6 million European Jews, as it contributed so mightily to the ultimate defeat of the Third Reich.

But it was not a war against Nazism in Europe. It was a defensive, scorched-earth kind of war to save their vast and frozen country.

And, I suppose, our gratitude should reflect the obvious fact that, if Hitler had not turned eastwards in 1941, imagining that the Luftwaffe would never prevail to a sufficient extent to protect his invasion barges collecting in the Channel, England – maybe the British Isles – would have been subjugated to the Nazi yolk, as were the Channel Islands and much of Europe.

But as Marshal Zhukov massed his tanks in 1944 and pushed the Germans back to Berlin, finally overrunning the Hitlerbunker where Adolf and Eva’s corpses lay smouldering in the garden and raising the red flag (twice – once for the cameras) over the ruins of the Reichstag, The Pumpkin wonders if he ever acknowledged his debt to the British merchant seamen, whose convoys had kept his country supplied with food and arms in the dark days after Operation Barbarossa launched in 1941?

I am haunted by the memory of one particular, tiny group of astonishing heroes, to whom these thieving, cowardly gangsters in the Kremlin offer no respect when they sneer at our highly advanced investigators looking at their salty fingerprints all over this crude, politically motivated murder mission to poison people in one of our more agreeable cities.

To try to deflect the war of attrition, as Admiral Dönitz’s U-boats began to inflict unsustainable losses on the North Atlantic supply line and thousands of gasping, terrified, brave, oil-soaked, non-combatant seamen, Britons and Canadians perished, burning alive or drowning in the freezing gray waters as their ships slipped below the waves, a thousand-mile skittle-alley northeast of Orkney, in desperation merchant ships were hurriedly fitted with catapults to fire off just one solitary Hurricane fighter aircraft, armed with two small bombs, to attack the submarine wolf-packs.

British pilots who volunteered to fly those missions knew it was suicide: there was no way back. The ships had no landing decks. Sitting here, I cannot conceive of so much heroism on behalf of an alien people they would never know, I cry bitter tears of gray Atlantic salt even while trying to type these words.

If your mission was successful you might possibly ditch in the heaving waters close to an allied ship and survive long enough – four minutes you were allowed in that cruel sea – to be picked up barely alive. Few were.

The alternative was to try to make it to Russia: Murmansk, Archangel, 500 miles with the added risk if you managed to make landfall without running out of fuel that you might be shot by some mud-spattered Soviet collectivist mistaking you for the invading Germans.

Still, I’m sure it takes a kind of courage to perch like a house-elf behind an outsized desk in an enormous room with gilded moldings, two chocolate soldiers at your door (Sugarplum and Fairy?), issuing deniable orders to stockily built comrades to go and commit mayhem on other people’s territory, knowing your friends’ superyachts are going to be impounded as a result.

Never again, you lying little shits.

 

Putin’s Puppet

In the body of international law relating to chemical and biological warfare, for whatever it’s worth, it is laid down that one nation accusing another of a violation must give the presumed transgressor ten days in which to produce evidence of innocence before taking retaliatory measures.

So when after roundly condemning the outrage Mr Corbyn, the leader of the Labour party, responded with a speech to the Prime Minister’s unequivocal assertion that Russia had launched an all-out attack on a park bench in Salisbury using a banned 1980s ‘just add water’ nerve agent they no longer make, although it has been admitted that it could take the police months to prove or disprove the details which politicians have imagined in a matter of hours, he asked if she intends to comply with Foreign Minister Lavrov’s perfectly legitimate demand for evidence?

And is instantly branded a traitor and a puppet of President Putin.

The British gutterslime press in full cry, again.

Someone who is evidently not a puppet of President Putin is President Donald Trump.

After ten days during which he refused point-blank to condemn the outrage in Salisbury other than in general terms, refused to point the finger at the Kremlin, ten days during which he fired his Secretary of State by tweet only minutes after Fox News reported on a rash statement Tillerson had made, blaming Putin for the attack on the double-agent and his daughter, Mr Trump has changed his tune.

Fuckabee has been sent forth to inform the waiting press corps of her master’s displeasure with the Kremlin.

“Gee, Vlad, I gotta say something, we’re losing elections here…”

“Okayski, comrade, just this once. I’m winning mine…”

 

Radiation nation

According to BBC News just a moment ago, the death of TV darts show compere Jim Bowen, 80, is trending three places higher than that of Professor Sir Stephen Hawking.

 

Attack on Boglington: Russia suspected

From: The Boglington Post, 14 March, 2018. (Sponsored by Boglers Windowcleaner’s, your friendly local windowcleaner’s).

Police (Constable Cadwaladr) were combing pubs and clubs around Boglington-on-Sea this morning, after the recumbent form of a man known to neighbors only as Special Agent Boglovitch was found in his garden room, groaning and sneezing, clutching a box of soggy tissues and typing rubbish.

“There seems to have been some sort of a biological attack from the Soviet era”, explained Constable Cadwaladr kindly. “Mr Boglovitch has not been found to be in this condition for many years since relocating to Boglington at cost to the ratepayer, but now as anyone can see, he has gone viral.

“Look at his eyes, man, they’re positively streaming!

“Persons sighting any Russians should not attempt to answer their jovial, heavy-handed request for directions to the station, but instead call 999, go home and take a hot shower with your clothes on”, he warned. “Nobody once they find themselves here ever gets out of Boglington alive.”

Neighbors spoke of Mr Boglovitch as a quiet man with a funny accent, who occasionally could be heard through the wall, screaming abuse at tiresome Today show presenter, John Humphrys.

“He moved here about six years ago”, said Mrs Annie Nannie, 36 and counting. “We didn’t think he’d fit in at first, and he hasn’t. Keeps himself to himself, know what I mean? He’s got this magical cat, see, and a dog with stary orange eyes…”.

Following an urgent council meeting, the Mayor, Mrs Mairi Mayer, 61, issued an ultimatum to the Kremlin. “Come on now, own up, who was it?” she tweeted furiously. “Who have given Mr Boglovitch his dreadful cold, risking the life and limb of every resident?

“Unless we hear by four o’clock when the council office closes”, she continued, “this borough will be at war with Germany! Make no mistake, we shall keep the whole class in until I find out who dunnit.”

President Putin was unavailable for comment.

 

But seriously…

Pompous Parliamentary blowhards pining for the days of Empire and The Great Game ought to be reminded, no good ever came of trying to invade Russia. Nuclear war really is not such a good idea, either.

Calm down, dears.

For a properly thoughtful and balanced review of the situation, here’s Simon Jenkins in The Guardian, 16 May:

GW: and the rain, it raineth..

Uganda: flood. l dead.
Romania – Hundreds Evacuated as Rivers Overflow. “14 March, 2018, 7 people were rescued after they were left isolated by flooding in areas around Șercaia and Mândra in Braşov county.”
Brazil: one 20-minute rainstorm turns the streets of Belo Horizonte into a raging torrent as hundreds of cars are swept away. Towns all across this vast country have experienced torrential rains and flooding in recent weeks.
USA: Shades of the film The Day After Tomorrow, weather historian Christopher C Burt records that the past two months have seen wild swings in temperatures:

A dramatic example comes from Saranac Lake, in the Adirondack Mountains of upstate New York, where the temperature rose to 55°F (after being at -32°F on January 1) on the afternoon of January 12, only to plummet back to -30°F on the morning of January 14—a drop of some 85° in just 36 hours. On February 20 in Oklahoma City, OK, a cold front sent the temperature down by an amazing 21.4° in just four minutes (from 64.4°F at 6:48 am to 43.0°F at 6:52 am) .

History however shows that such wild mood swings are not that uncommon in the USA.

CEWN #103 pt 1/ Floodlist/ Wunderground

 

 

Walkies-talkie… School Shooting News… Russia hour… Would you like to meet my hero?… Bidness on the Cheep… uSwitch if you have to… GW: and the Beast Goes On.

Foxy

Foxier

Walkies-talkie

“The scientists found dogs were more likely to want to spend time with the speaker who had used both “dog-directed” speech and dog-related content. … This suggests that adult dogs need to hear dog-relevant words spoken in a high-pitched emotional voice in order to find it relevant.”

…there are no plans to carry out the same tests with cats.” – BBC News

Just as well. They’d think we were idiots, getting all squeaky and emotional over cat-related content.

They already do.

 

School Shooting News

Trump crony, billionaire Dick’s wife, Betsy DeVos, the fully unqualified, Bible-Truther Education Secretary of the USA (Imoji: wry smileyface throwing up), went to Florida the other day to case the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, scene of a massacre, for a photo op.

Ms Carly Novell, the editor of the school’s newspaper Eagle Eye, said she was allowed to photograph DeVos, but not to accompany her on the campus tour.

DeVos spoke briefly with reporters after what she said was “a very sobering and very inspiring visit” and contradicted the students’ account of the meeting:

“There were a number of student newspaper reporters who walked around with me (she fibbed) and they are obviously very interested in seeing what adults are going to do about this whole situation,” she said. (BBC News)

P/Matronizing cow. Did your English teacher never chide you about the over-use of ‘very’ when amplifying your adjectives unnecessarily for effect?

ADULTS??? Fuck you!

Meanwhile, after the teenage survivors finally persuaded the Florida assembly to introduce a modest law restricting the ownership of military-grade assault weapons only to alt-right psychopaths over 21, the National Rifle Association announced that it is suing the representatives for damages. Can you get a sicker species than Americans?

Yes!

Kleimenov: a talking facelift made from Leonid Brezhnev’s old hair and a soggy ginger biscuit (BBC)

Russia hour

Botox-faced frat-boy and Putin bumguzzler, w/anchor Kirill Kleimenov had some words of comfort on the Russian government-controlled Channel One’s flagship Vremya news program, for ‘retired’ double-agent Sergei Skripal, who with his entirely innocent daughter Yulia was sprayed with nerve agent and found paralysed in a Salisbury, UK park at the weekend, both now on life-support:

“The profession of a traitor is one of the most dangerous in the world,” Kleimenov opined, (with complete journalistic objectivity. Ed.) – adding that few who had chosen it had lived to a ripe old age. … warning anyone planning to defect: “Don’t choose Britain as a place to live.” – edited from BBC News

I’m assuming that sentiment also goes for the other spies Skripal was exchanged for?

And would anyone not assume from his choice of kind words, that Kleimenov was merely confirming what all his colleagues were embarrassedly trying to deny, that this was indeed a Russian hit, aimed less at Skripal and more at the voters? And that, given the directorship of Channel One is Kremlin-appointed, on the assumption his script was cleared with official Komplianz, the message probably came from further on high?

Britain prepares an ICBM in retaliation.

Wittily, Kleimenov referred to another 13 incidents of Russians who have died in suspicious circumstances in Britain in the past few years: “Maybe it’s the climate, but in recent years there have been too many strange incidents with grave outcomes there.” Ho ho, our terrible English climateski…. Have you ever been to Moscow, comrade? If it’s not fucking freezing it’s a sweatbox. And if the Big Blini don’t like you, you’re dead regardless. (Killer pun there, too. “Grave” outcomes!)

No words were naturally forthcoming to memorialize the nine or so Russian citizens based in America, involved with or having knowledge of the cyberattacks on the US election, including the UN ambassador, who mysteriously suffered heart failure and fell from roofs shortly after Mr Trump was trampolined into office last year. Even true patriots take their lives in their hands when you work for this lot.

One of the Polonium killers, two blundering FSB goons who left a radioactive slime trail across London in 2006 before poisoning another traitor, Putin’s old KGB mate Alexander Litvinenko, also managed to think up a wry comment of his own. Dmitry Lugovoi, now an MP, remarked: “The English suffer from phobias.” Yes, we’re a bit phobic about dimwitted mafia hitmen sneering at our national aversion to murder and causing mayhem on our streets and in our tearooms, actually. Especially from kulaks whose asses our North Atlantic convoys saved in 1941.

So comforting, these moral certainties.

On the other hand, it seems odd. Why choose exile in Salisbury, of all places, agreeably ancient county capital of Wiltshire, home to major defense industry contractors Qinetic, the Ministry of Defence tank ranges, close to the notorious Porton Down biological warfare establishment and RAF Lyneham (from where our troops embark for Afghanistan) and within an hour’s drive of our key naval establishments on the south coast?

You’d think he’d have been keener to vanish in Soho. Unless of course he knows something about Trump’s collusion? What, was he a connection to Christopher Steele?

I don’t suppose we shall be told.

 

Would you like to meet my hero?

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SVfcfej5JYI

 

Doing Bidness on the Cheep

“Fast-food chain KFC has returned to its old supplier after suffering chicken shortages that forced it to close hundreds of outlets. Last month, the chain experienced widespread distribution problems after it decided to switch its logistics contract from Bidvest to DHL.” – BBC News

If you have to ask what’s in it, you’re probably a paramedic.

What is the matter with British management? What did the bread-encrusted baboons at KFC Central think would happen if they fired a specialist food distribution company they’d worked with for years and instead hired a bloated global conglomerate of self-employed Amazon parcel couriers owned by the German post office to keep their outlets supplied with crummy chunks of raw animal torture-porn, just because they were cheaper?

The move damn nearly destroyed their business, with an outburst of social media opprobrium and thousands of ironic memes online, fights breaking out and street protests requiring probably a couple of million poundsworth of reputation management PR to get them back on course. Who knew KFC, with their repulsive ‘buckets’ of fried chicken aimed at grossly obese, piss-stained sofa-dwelling slobs with tattoo’d necks and calf-length shorts, were such a national institution?

But apparently The People cared. (Then they voted… and you know, DHL could just be their salvation, having developed systems for managing customs controls.)

This crazy nonsense of ‘best value tendering’ must stop soon. It’s destroying businesses, jobs – lives.

We’ve just had the Carillion disaster, where a hairy-assed housebuilding firm gets huge government contracts to run cut-price prisons, military housing and hospital services into the ground so the directors can stuff their sagging back pockets with wads of taxpayer cash, gaily spewing out profit warnings until the business hits the wall. Wikipedia notes:

The liquidation announcement had an immediate impact on 30,000 subcontractors and suppliers, Carillion employees and pensioners, plus shareholders, lenders, joint venture partners and customers in the UK, Canada and other countries.

But what the hell, the directors got paid.

This kind of shit killed my little business in the 1990s, when companies with no sector experience or creative expertise started throwing in spoilers to separate us from our clients, adding no value whatever and driving our margins down to the point where we couldn’t pay the staff.

There is really something to be said for contracting people who know and care about what they’re doing.

For loyalty.

 

uSwitch if you have to

Yet again we had a contract. I would pay them £70 a month, in advance, for my minuscule usage of electricity and gas. We would review the amount again after six months. Five days later, their computer emailed me, demanding £130 a month: “to avoid surprises”.

How they work out your bill.

It was probably the seventh time in two years OVO had tried it on, and I finally hit the ceiling. I am paranoid about my use of energy, living much of my life in the cold and dark, wearing two sweaters in bed and going about by the light of a small hand-torch. My piece of ‘real estate’ comprises two rooms downstairs, 12′ x 12′ sitting-room and only slightly more spacious kitchen/diner, and two up: bedroom, bathroom and 7′ x 9′ boxroom, where my son was kept folded until he moved out.

In the small back yard is this, muh Li’l House on the Prairie, as I call my exotic shed. I spend 80 per cent of my life out here, using the actual house only to cook and sleep and you-know-what. Although I mostly pee in the yard, I get so little warning.

Subsisting thus, I could not possibly be using so much energy, but no-one seemed willing to address the question I kept asking them: if I spend only £22 a month on gas, including 27p a day ‘standing charge’, when gas heats all my water and cooks my meals, how would anyone imagine I can also be using £94-worth of electricity just to sit here alone, by the light of a single LED lamp, writing this stuff on a laptop I keep pouring wine over?

Attempting furiously to switch to another supplier, saving £176 a year (how do they know?), I set up the new account using a number they gave me. The next day they emailed to say my existing supplier had objected, so we could not proceed. I would have to phone my existing supplier and then when the problem had been resolved, call them back.

There were some arrears, it turned out. Actually an improbable amount I had overlooked, fondly imagining that ‘balance’ meant plus, not minus. I cleared the outstanding debt immediately and obtained permission to switch. The next day I went back to my new supplier and, in person over the phone with a charming Irish lady called Maggie, spent half an hour setting up a new account with a new number – the first number now being inoperative.

And the following day got an email saying there was still an objection and they couldn’t switch my account.

So I phoned my old supplier again – they were beginning to sound quite sympathetic – and there genuinely was no objection. At least not from my old supplier.

The objection, it turned out, now came from my new supplier.

They were telling me I couldn’t have two account numbers, so they had cancelled both and I was to phone again and set up my account for the third time, with all the same information, the same tariff and contract, the same bank details, that I had verbally already signed – and be given a new number.

A typical IT manager in the Independent Energy Sector.

So sorry, but no.

The UK Energy Supply sector is broken. Competing with the overcharging “Big 6” companies, there is a plethora of tiny indie operators selling “green” energy and other attractive-sounding deals. But just wait until you try to sign up with one. You will never have another moment’s peace of mind. Nothing is as advertised, nothing real.

Their systems have been designed and are operated on the cheap by a heap of groaning IT baboons, who have consumed far too much fermented fruit for their own good. Or ours.

To quote the children’s story character, Catweazle the Incompetent Wizard:

“Nothing works.”

Postscriptum: A day or two after this Post appeared we read in The Guardian that a record number of consumers have been switching supplier this winter, largely owing to exorbitant bills.

How they manage it I don’t know, but it seems they’re choosing the smaller suppliers. Caveat emptor, is all I can say.

 

Russia’s “Cold Snap”: Sakhalin Island (Denis Sergeev/Siberian Times)

GW: and the beast goes on…

Australia: “Several rivers have burst their banks in North Queensland after 4 days of heavy rain. Disaster areas declared. Many areas have recorded 500 to 700 mm of rain during that time. This is the fourth serious flood event in the state in the last 2 weeks.”

New Zealand: flooding at Hawkes Bay. Vanuatu battered by Tropical Cyclone Hola, bringing torrential rain.

Albania: “Heavy rain and melting snow have caused flooding and landslides over the last few days. Shkodër County in the north west of the country is the worst affected area where the Drin and Bojana rivers have overflowed. Local authorities there said that 2,285 hectares of land were under water.”

Thailand: powerful cyclonic storm strikes Sakon Nakhon. Flooding in Bangkok. Extensive flooding in Indonesia, Bangka Belitung & Cirebon.

Brazil: Many central areas continue to experience unusually heavy rain, thunderstorms and flash-flooding in cities.

Argentina: huge storm trashes Villa Gesell on the northern coast with 140 kmh winds.

USA: Storm Quinn – the third Nor’easter this year and the second in a week – dumps three feet of snow and knocks out power on the east coast. State-wide states of emergency declared in New Jersey, Pennsylvania. Philadelphia battered. North of the border, Canada however seems to be basking in a warm spell. As again are California and the southwest…

USA: March 10, temperature in Austin, Texas hits 34C, 94F. 2 die as hailstones the size of baseballs batter Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas. Wunderground reports that, OVERALL, from September to March the USA has had a drier and warmer winter season than average. Although they have to admit, there has been record snowfall. And record flooding. With another freezing spell and another storm forecast for the East this week (Accuweather).

Portugal, Spain, France: Storm Felix brings wind, torrential rain, damage and flash-flooding to a wide area.

Kazakhstan: Heavy rainfall above river ice-jams causes extensive spring thaw floods. Many evacuated.

Africa, India, China: heatwave with temperatures “more like May/June than March” continues across a broad swathe of the globe. Temps in S. Sudan hit 48C, 118F. Floods in drought-stricken Malawi. 16 killed when lightning strikes a church in Rwanda.

Arctic: “The situation is desperate”. In February, 260 mph moisture-laden high-altitude winds split the polar vortex into 4 parts. The jetstream was looping and broken. Feb 25 the temperature at the North Pole was 1.1C, 34.1F  a 30C anomaly. The mercury hit 6C, 42.8F in northern Greenland; 8.9C, 47.9F in Hudson Bay. That’s before the sun has even risen above the horizon.

Sea ice extent was at record low for the time of the year and is due to start receding toward the summer about now: driven by gales and big waves, 5-metres thick sea ice between northern Greenland and Svalbard had given way to open water by Feb 27. Peak sea surface temperature near Svalbard rose from 12.4C, 55.4F on Feb 23 to 15.6C, 60F by March 2 – a 26F/16C anomaly above the 1981-2011 average. The rise was accompanied by a measurable methane release. March 1, CH4 levels as high as 3087 ppm were recorded, getting on for twice the global concentration averaged in 2015 (NOAA).

Floodlist/ Climate & Extreme Weather News #101/ Wunderground/ thehumptydumptytribe/ Arctic News, 3 Mar/ CEWN #102

 

Life, the Best Medicine…

I found a note shoved through the door this morning, the postman hadn’t been able to deliver a parcel.

I know. It was my new doorbell…

 

 

The Pumpkin #47: A Portrait of Success… A fascist coup in motion… Go the Kush… Trade Wars… The way we prefer it… And finally: GW

“Ladies and gentlemen, this is the captain speaking. Does anyone know where the fuck we’re going?” (Photo@TheBogPo)

As of 1 March, in the first 13 months of his Presidency a total of more than 50 staff members appointed by the Trump administration have left their jobs in the White House and/or the Pentagon. (MSNBC report)

A Portrait of Success

Hi again. Yes, it is I.

As you know, The Pumpkin has a hopefully temporary vision problem. Some karma there, no doubt. Am I turning a blind eye to some other problem in my life? You bet. I didn’t need to go half-blind to know that.

I can’t spend long on-screen, so I may need to lean on other people’s efforts to shore up my case that Donald Trump doesn’t need nuclear weapons to destroy everything around him, he just needs to remain the lovable,  pig-ignorant oaf he is.

As the last staffer departs the White House, appropriately named Hope, I’ve stolen the following Comment post from someone on the MSNBC website calling themselves Edit Halk, made in response to a video of Trump arguing insanely for an import tariff wall for steel and aluminum to protect the US’s inefficient and underinvested dinosaur industries, flanked by heavy-set party donors who look like their dads were probably leading lights in the Cosa Nostra.

“Edit Halk” writes:

“List of regulations Trump has cut:

  • Canceled a phaseout of the use of private prisons.
  • Erased net neutrality rules established by the FCC under Obama.
  • Repealed a rule mandating that Internet service providers seek permission before selling personal information.
  • Canceled a rule mandating that financial advisers act in the best interests of their clients.
  • Blocked the Clean Power Plan –
  • Ended a rule that barred employers from taking some or all of the tips given to service employees.
  • Ended a rule that allowed consumers to file class-action suits against financial companies.
  • Blocked implementation of a rule that would have made it easier for farmers to sue big agricultural companies.(I could see big business profiting from this one easy)
  • Repeal of a bill that mandated that employers maintain records of workplace injuries.
  • Killed a rule mandating that government contractors disclose past violations of labor law.
  • Overhauled and scaled down the Department of Justice and the State Department.
  • Rescinded a rule mandating that rising sea levels be considered when building public infrastructure in flood-prone areas.
  • Rejected a proposed ban on the pesticide chlorpyrifos. (Damages unborn children’s brains. Ed.).
  • Postponed an EPA rule that would have had chemical plants better evaluate and inform the public about possible safety issues.
  • Rescinded a limit on the number of sea animals that can be trapped or killed in fishing nets.
  • Repealed the Waters of the United States rule. This rule expanded the definition of water bodies that were protected by the Environmental Protection Agency.
  • Reversed a policy instituted by the Obama administration to expand punishments for campus sexual assaults.

“Obviously there are a lot more bull$hit things that Trump does (such as reversing an Obama law limiting the engineering of microbiological agents, or including a clause in the Budget bill removing Congressional oversight of CIA funding – Ed.) , and this is only a short list, but you get the idea.”

No wonder Little Donny believes himself to be the most successful President in history! If you set out to lay waste to every advance civilization has made in 200 years, and no-one has the power to stop you, the job’s a cinch.

And somewhere in the dim and distant past of The Pumpkin, we recall, we listed over 30 rollbacks of environmental protections this lunatic signed into law in his first days in office without reading them, including attempts to ban climate research.

Why doesn’t he just arm businesses with poison gas and let his buddies just kill us all?

Oh, he is.

 

A President who can blatantly claim “trade wars are good” while brushing aside the alarm of even his own appointed economic advisers is not a man who should be in charge of the economy.

A fascist coup in motion

A piece by Alan Burdick in the New Yorker today (03 March) headed: “Donald Trump’s Know-Nothing Science Budget” points to Trump’s profound ignorance and suspicion of learning, that has developed into a frenzied assault on the scientific community and on Federal agencies relying on research, including killing key earth-observation satellite programs and environmental monitoring services, even into the post-midterms future:

“Trump’s newly proposed federal budget for 2019 continues the assault on knowledge and reason. Funding for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the U.S. Geological Survey, and the E.P.A. would each be cut by eighteen per cent or more, compared with the final 2017 budget.”

http://www.newyorker.com/news/daily-comment/donald-trumps-know-nothing-science-budget?mbid=nl_Daily 030318&CNDID=49581041&spMailingID=13044707&spUserID=MTkwODY5NzgyMTM0S0&spJobID=1360228381&spReportId=MTM2MDIyODM4MQS2

This, possibly more than his latest threat to raise a tariff wall against German car imports, clearly aimed at the liberal elite, is what ought to terrify us most about this unstable President, whose tenure promises to bring about a new Dark Age. The assault on knowledge is precisely calculated to match the political attacks on democratic institutions and the promotion of atavistic tribal instincts among the gun-owning population in the heartland.

Regardless of the President’s total lack of historical awareness and tendency to act instinctually (as with his trade tariffs, which he seems to have made up on the spot in response to a question during a press conference at a time when aides described him as being in a foul mood) rather than from any predetermined political philosophy, the Trump administration IS a fascist coup in motion.

It is not necessary for him to don dress uniform, muster an army of brownshirts, stage vainglorious parades, invade neighbors, smash windows, burn down the Capitol building; to arrogate special powers to himself and pander to all the other familiar tropes of 1930s National Socialism, for his administration to display profoundly fascist tendencies.

Call it neofascism if you must: it is enough merely to subvert the knowledge-base to the benefit of the party’s private backers, while increasing the powers of the security State to crush opponents. That’s all fascism is, and does.

You cannot dismiss as liberal fantasy, the fascistic nature of Trump’s unfolding legislative and budgetary programs. His every instinct is autocratic: he has no interest in collegiate government; in the minutiae of diplomacy and administration. Anything can be achieved by brute force. His multifarious attempts at measures, when taken together, fully meet the definition of fascism as autocratic rule supported by an alliance of corporate-funded State, Church and Military, achieved through:

  • government by edict.
  • rampant cronyism,
  • attacks on prevailing cultural norms,
  • ignoring inconvenient parts of the constitution,
  • glib lies passing for official communication,
  • falsification, exaggeration or downplaying of official statistics,
  • threats against the free press targeting individual journalists,
  • abuse of process and packing of the judiciary,
  • disinterest in independent advice and contempt of colleagues,
  • flirting with extreme points of view and the possibilities of nihilism,
  • re-engineering and gerrymandering of the electorate,
  • encouragement of informal local militias and police violence,
  • personal attacks on critics and opponents,
  • persistent claims to “victim” status,
  • appeals to imaginary past glories,
  • erection of isolationist barriers to free trade,
  • abrogation of international agreements,
  • claims that you have ‘the only answer’ to the nation’s problems,
  • personalization of the office of President,
  • tub-thumping militarism,
  • exploiting fear and suspicion of foreigners to encourage…
  • the dehumanization and deportation of minorities.

What else would you call it? A textbook manifesto? Oh, it’s “only Trump’s inexperience of politics that makes him think this is how a President is supposed to run the country, he’ll soon learn”? Do me a favor!

“Judge him not by what he says but by what he does”, they said, So, what’s he been doing? Oh, right. Okay. So now it’s legal again to import his son Eric’s hunting trophies. Constructive use of powers there.

Only the last of the triumvirate remains, for now, outside the ambit of the Oval Office. Thus far, the Military has been seen as a counterbalance to Trump’s subversive foreign policy; although it seems fully and happily compliant with the operational free hand he has licensed to it abroad, and the huge boost he has ordered to its funding and arsenal of planet-destroying weaponry.

The seemingly comic chaos of a White House that has turned-over more than fifty staff, many of them utter incompetents, professional lobbyists and family friends placed in key roles, in the first thirteen months of the administration is set to take a much darker turn.

There will surely come a point where a brooding and vengeful Trump is no longer seen as a figure of fun and speculation as to his mental condition, but will start to demand respect not only from his cowed minions, but from the country at large – and “tomorrow, the world”. There will be an increasing resort to violence. The ad hominem Twitter attacks against the press will lead to a death, then more deaths. Disturbingly, despite a catalog of disasters and a bizarre flip-flop on gun control, his historically low approval ratings last week began to show signs of improving.

Where this groundswell of sympathy or approbation is coming from it may be too early to say: it is possible, however, that his new belligerence on trade has convinced many that he is serious about putting America first, whatever longterm damage the reviled “experts” predict it may do to the world’s economy and his own. A President who can blatantly claim “trade wars are good” while brushing aside the alarm of even his own appointed economics advisers is not a man who should be in charge of the economy.

But despite the months of controversial and tendentious nonsense, the desperate self-defensive bleats spewing from his overheated Twitter account; despite the months of plodding federal bureau investigations into his well-documented financial criminality; despite the revelations about Russian interference, despite the barbs and scorn of the late-night TV shows and the professional concerns of the psychiatric community, there he remains, apparently unmoved and unmovable; his unique view of the role of the President as chief disruptor and autocrat daily turning into a new and frightening normality.

It’s not looking good, is it.

 

Go, the Kush

If you’re following the other saga of the Kushners, you’ll know that plastic boy’s lost his maximum security clearance and so can’t do the job he was singularly unqualified to do in the first place.

The latest trail of damage revealed by the New York Times is that his bankrupt companies are being heavily invested in by the CEOs of businesses that have had numerous meetings and privileged access to the Trumpenführer himself at the WH.

Nothing to see there, move on.

 

Trade Wars

Who in the world does actually buy a Harley-Davidson motorcycle these days? Given the 20-grand-plus cost of an iconic machine that finds hills a bit of a challenge?

Every bank holiday, dozens of thick-waisted, leather-clad elderly men with gray ponytails and droopy Zapata mustaches arrive in convoy in our remote seaside town to congregate collegially on the seafront, their leaking single-cylinder engines pounding in concert, teardrop fuel tanks and monkeybars gleaming with nostalgia for the late 1960s.

These are presumably the same old retired teachers, accountants and bank clerks who still buy Levi’s jeans, once fashionable rough work apparel that fails to comply at any point with the human form.

I forget what else Jean-Claude Juncker was threatening to raise tariffs on in retaliation against Trump’s impromptu 25% tax on steel imports, a self-destructive move to protect the inefficient US steel industry which has brought fresh jitters to world markets and will only push up the price of a Harley-Davidson for the American buyer.

It was a pretty short and desperate list of American export goods, anyway*.

What do we actually buy from America, apart from nuclear weapons and Amazon Prime subscriptions? Wouldn’t it be worth taxing those? What do they actually make, apart from oil and Coke? They no longer supply us with proper-sized avocados and Dole raisins, or decent r&b music.

Even if Juncker recognized the existence of sugary Californian Zinfandel wine, he wouldn’t dare admit it.

The only thing I’ve consciously bought in recent years that had a Made in USA label was a pair of shoes I ordered online, because no UK shoe shops now stock half-sizes. Out on a wet day, a month later the soles separated gloopily from the uppers and refused to stay stuck back together again, even with Araldite – so I struck a blow for free trade and binned them.

  • Yes, the third thing was ‘Kentucky Bourbon’. Revolting sweet Irish whiskey. And now peanut butter. Whatever next?

 

A bad Scituation: Massachusetts coastline at Scituate, 4 March (Image: Ralph Karl Swenson/Wunderground)

The way we prefer it. GW writes:

This not-unprecedented, but in recent years quite rare event, a 2,500-mile wide and deep Arctic ‘plume’ stretching from northern Norway to the Mediterranean and far across Russia, which the BBC has with time-honoured insularity referred to as “the UK’s cold snap”, in bringing late-winter weather to these islands serves to remind us to “Expect the Spanish Inquisition”, in more ways than one.

We were lucky to escape a similar weather phenomenon in 2016, that affected other parts of the hemisphere. For whatever reason, the jetstreams are not behaving themselves. They have become loopy and broken, allowing more unusual and extreme weather events around the globe. Such as the bizarre sight of large hailstones smashing through car windscreens after a sudden 20C plunge in temperature in Saudi Arabia.

Powerful storms are pushing warm air and water up into northern latitudes, reducing the ice cover and creating unprecedented temperature anomalies north of the Arctic circle. Blue-water and methane feedbacks and the sooty deposits from forest fires threaten even worse to come.

Globally, in 2017/18 there has been an inexorable increase, both in droughts and in rainfall amounts; weird ice storms, record levels of flooding, bizarre temperature gradients and shifts. There is already a detectable effect on food production everywhere, and hence on prices and availability. Only a few agronomists, a few insurers are trying to draw attention to the $trillions cost of our new chaotic climate. President Trump would seemingly rather ignore it.

As is its wont, the media is capable of concentrating on only one issue at a time, and often fails to connect the boldest of dots. As we sit here shivering, ears glued to our wireless sets for news of fresh disasters, it still seems that the only threat facing the British economy is Brexit: along with the Irish land-border question, which will almost certainly end in a last-minute fudge of an agreement with Brussels, avoiding the necessity to reassemble the Black and Tans.

Not one commentator so far as I can see – which at the moment is not very far, owing to retinal surgery, the disintegration of the NHS being yet another pressing matter – has thought to ask, what if the threats multiply?

So, here we are in March, 2019.

In just a matter of days we will walk away from our 46-year-long commitment to our European allies, into a Turneresque sunset. The markets are jittery, the pound sinking, interest rates rising, the Bank of England furiously printing money to hedge against economic collapse. Destroyed by the currents from the Amazon, retailers overinvested in real estate have been going bust all year; thousands more shopworkers are on the dole. US hedge funds are having a field day gobbling up our pensions; US banks have moved from the City to Dublin and Frankfurt. The Treasury is obliged to consider the fiscal implications of new tariffs and falling receipts. There’s customs chaos at the borders, a river of lorries stretching all the way to Sevenoaks.

But then… another unseasonal finger from the polar vortex descends, another “1-in-500 years” flooding event washes out the Spanish salad vegetable market, a trail of superstorms smashes through the Caribbean. Transport is brought to a halt, food begins disappearing from the supermarket shelves. 2018’s crops in Europe have again been heat-blasted – thanks to a new heatwave named Son of Lucifer, wheat, oil and grape production in Italy and Spain has fallen another 60 per cent, wiping-out farmers – for a second year. Prices rise inexorably.

War breaks out between the Gulf states, Iran and Turkey, with the peripheral involvement of the Russians. Both US and European foreign policy are in disarray following 2018 elections that have seen more extreme nationalist elements advance in Europe and the Republicans hold on to their slender Congressional majorities with an emboldened Trump clinging to office as the leaderless Democrats implode and the real impotence of the Mueller investigation is exposed.

A limited nuclear exchange between the US and North Korea, together with incursions in the South China Sea, brings China into conflict with the USA.

Oil prices soar like drones in the Spring sky.

As we obsess day after day over the pointless hypothetical questions, the economic implications of a hard or a soft – a chewy, or a floppy – Brexit, May’s inevitable defenestration by the neo-Thatcherites, the possibility of a Corbyn government to add to the chaos enveloping Westminster, no-one here seems to be thinking strategically in terms of the global economic threat multipliers.

Here in Britain, it is so often as if the outside world does not exist, until it pushes its chilly fingers over the Channel to remind us we are not immune to world events. Once again, we have to gird up our loins to sort the beggars out.

It’s just the way we prefer it.

 

And finally… GW

Boston, Ma. engulfed by 14ft sea surge as Storm Riley trashes the NE coast, 7 dead… 7ft of snow dumped overnight in California’s Sierra Nevada… 60 dead in Europe’s Beast… small child killed by massive hailstorm at La Quiaca, Argentina… “The Rain in Spain” brings flooding – and to Java, the Solomons, Argentina, Brazil, Rwanda, Angola, Malawi, Indonesia, Australia… More idiots driving into 3ft of water and floating away. Large parts of central India – Maharashtra, Kerala, Gujarat – experiencing heatwave, with temperatures of 38 to 40C degrees being 6-10C above normal for the start of March… Hottest summer on record for New Zealand… Cat 3 cyclone Dumazile heading away from Madagascar… tornados in Spain, Portugal… record lows again for both Antarctic and Arctic sea-ice extents.

Here we go round again, another year, and Climate & Extreme Weather News #98, #99 (and they couldn’t wait!) #100 are out on YouTube, over an hour of all the latest extreme flood, fire, heat and beastly cold events – anomalies – from all around the world, as caught on camera by you, the people.

Catch up at www.youtube.com/watch?v=1Num1pNMXlQ.