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

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

 

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

 

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

Giving justice the bathtub treatment

As The Pumpkin wrote on 13 Aug last:

More interesting developments in the Trump obstruction of justice inquiry:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

St Theresa’s jungle interlude

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Much difference it will continue to make.

 

Middle East

When might the mudslinging turn to violence?

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

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

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

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

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

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

There seems to be no centre to him.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

GW: We’re singeing in the rain

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(Most of the above: CEWN #134)

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

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

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

 

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

 

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The Pumpkin, Issue 61: Cheeseburger dreams… Why is my brain disintegrating so?…GW: blow me down and frazzle me sideways

Quote of the week:

“Wine is not an investment if you drink it as soon as you buy it.” (Former managers suing Johnny Depp claim he has ‘compulsive spending disorder’. Seems perfectly sound to me.)

 

“Look out chaps, it’s the long arm of the law!” (Photo BBC)

“It’s beginning to look like a one-man production of Macbeth.”

Cheeseburger dreams….

So much of the reporting around the affairs of Trump and his frankly scummy-looking business interests is effectively buried by his daily more atrocious antics and lost from sight.

The Washington Post today (24 Aug) for instance is forced to go to the trouble of dismantling his diversionary attack on South Africa where, he believes, white farmers are being killed for their land as a matter of government policy: another “dog whistle” of encouragement to American racists on a claim entirely bereft of truth or facts, a story based on the alternative truths and facts plugged by Mr Tucker Carlson of Fox News.

This nonsense is eating up some of the newstime that would otherwise be devoted to his imbecilic interview on Fox & Friends in which Trump says he knows stuff because he watches lots of TV, illegal campaign donations in the form of hush money are “not a crime” (because it was his own money!), he barely knew his attorney for ten years, and if he were to be impeached the economy would collapse because it all derives from his thought process (pointing to his head!).

And then in the middle of the night he apparently woke up and tweeted just this: “NO COLLUSION! RIGGED WITCH HUNT!” in all-caps, before falling back into an uneasy slumber. Cheeseburger dreams….

It’s beginning to look like a one-man production of Macbeth.

No-one seems to know what scandal, if any, will eventually bring him down. His support base continues to greet his rambling, dissembling, self-pitying rally speeches with rapturous applause; despite, or more probably because of, their increasingly repetitious nature. “Witch hunt!”… “Crooked Hillary!”… “Fake Nooze!”… “Lock her up!” And now, “Truth isn’t Truth”… They really don’t care what he is or says, so long as he is not what they had before. Only he is, but worse….

Reading through a Post from April 2017, The Pumpkin happened across a commentary we had written about one of the many shady byways of the Trump business empire; citing a report on The Intercept by investigative journalist, Alan Nairn that his then Director of Deregulation, the self-deregulating, asset-stripping billionaire and Wolf of Wall Street, Carl Icahn, was attempting to foment a rebellion to depose the president of Indonesia, Joko Widodo, to prevent him imposing environmental controls on his mining interests, in favour of a business ally of Trump’s; and that to this end he was backing a local militia associated with the Islamic State.

The alarming nature of the assertion seems to have passed everyone by; the rebellion appears not to have got very far, but Trump’s business interest in the region is still ongoing

“Mr. Hary (full name Hary Tanoesoedibjo) attended Mr. Trump’s inauguration last year and stayed at his Trump International Hotel in Washington. He also arranged for two Indonesian power brokers to meet with Mr. Trump in Trump Tower, including the then-Parliament speaker, Setya Novanto, who was sentenced last month to 15 years in prison for his part in embezzling more than $170 million from a national identity card program.

“Mr. Trump has reported receiving between $2 million and $10 million in royalties from the project.” – NYT, 15 May 2018.

You see, it’s not just Russia.

A book out this month by a conservative former Republican party strategist, Rick Wilson, is titled: “Everything Trump touches dies”, which may be true, although the best that can be said for him (so far) is that the Orange Don has never been accused of actually rubbing anyone out, preferring symbolic acts of execution by lethal tweet.

Certainly, every business deal Trump touches via his globally active Trump Organization (props. pro tem., Donald Jr, Eric and Ivanka Trump) does seem to be accidentally peripheral to the most astounding criminality and corruption: deals like the notorious Trump Baku, Azerbaijan hotel project, hastily abandoned; its financing linked by the excellent Adam Davidson, staff writer at The New Yorker magazine, via corrupt local kleptocrat, Zia Mammadov to a proscribed terrorist organization, the Iranian Revolutionary Guard; and a Trump Georgia, Black Sea development involving two local oligarchs accused of lending each other money via a bank they secretly owned together.

He does seem to have bad luck with his business partners.

Trump’s involvement licensing his name to the billionaire Hary Tanoesoedibjo’s project (fingers in many pies and political aspirations) to build a ‘6-star’ leisure resort 50 miles south of Jakarta, complete with two golf courses, formed the basis of a report in the New York Times last May, quoted above; and may have led to a curiously anomalous decision he made to order his Commerce Secretary, the reportedly profoundly corrupt* oligarch and Trump family consigliere, Wilbur Ross, to lift sanctions specifically on a Chinese tech company, WZT, linked with the financing of the project.

For he was caught on the horns of a dilemma, hoist with his own petard, pick any self-destructive metaphor you like, when his cynical and retributive trade war with China began to conflict directly with his business interest, as far as Chinese investment (as part of President Xi’s ambitious “Belt and Road” global development initiative) was concerned.

Had he the education, Trump might well have adopted The Sun King, Louis X1V’s slogan, “L’État, c’est moi” (I am the State). For just as he seems to imagine the government works for him, and the Justice Department ought to, his America First! foreign policy seems inextricably entangled with his personal business ambitions.

As Mother Jones reported in January 2017:

“…when it comes to his own business deals, Trump’s actions don’t exactly align with his hawkish rhetoric. In the past, he has tried repeatedly to land big real estate deals in China with state-run Chinese companies as partners. He’s sought access to China’s famously tricky business markets—even for his reality TV show, The Apprentice.

“Trump still owes potentially hundreds of millions in debt to one massive, state-run Chinese bank, while leasing a floor of Trump Tower office space in Manhattan to another….”

If it is not a conflict of interest for the President of one country, who personally owes half a billion dollars to a State-owned bank in another, to impose arbitrary and punitive trade tariffs on that other country, I can’t really say what might be.

Of course, his famous MAGA hats and many of Ivanka’s “fashion” range items are cheaply made in China, putting America First!; while Mr Xi has been generous in ensuring that recognition of their many trademark applications has been prioritized in his commerce department, a process that normally takes Westerners years to battle through.

It’s a complicated relationship.

Amid the furore that has been caused by his personal lawyer and bagman, Michael Cohen’s guilty plea this week, implicating Trump under oath as a co-conspirator to make illegal payments out of campaign funds to silence two of Trump’s former mistresses; the Manafort trial, and the lawyerly gossip on the TV news panels about indictments and impeachment: who’s spilling their guts to the Mueller investigation, and what they might be saying, these dubious international activities involving possible breaches of the foreign Emoluments clause – essentially, the President’s employment contract forbids him from making undeclared earnings abroad – sanctions-busting, and money-laundering have simply got buried.

Today, however, MSNBC is reporting that while it may prove tricky to indict a sitting president on felony charges, a tidal wave is building from the New York Attorney-General’s office, based largely on the vast amount of evidence on paper and “tapes” seized in the FBI’s raids on Cohen’s properties, against Trump’s tax-exempt charity foundation and its trustees, Don Jr, Eric and Ivanka, for illegal use of funds in a variety of ways you may find already sourced in previous Posts on this website and extensively elsewhere.

As Rachel Maddow observes, if they can’t get at Trump himself, they can certainly get at his businesses, his “charities” and his children….

It now appears that when Trump reimbursed Cohen for the $130 thousand payment to porn star Stormy Daniels, there is paper evidence and a signature to show he ordered the money to come out of his private charity foundation; a “tape” has him telling Cohen to “pay cash”…. thus linking two technically illegal payments he ought not to have made to the benefit of his own election campaign. Observers have also noted that Trump may have lied when he said he had no prior knowledge of the payment, since he so clearly did.

Cohen was subpoena’d again yesterday (22 Aug) to explain the Foundation’s activities to the tax authorities, as he had apparently arranged the repayments by instalments as tax-deductible expenses (!). He was reportedly on the phone to the IRS personally within minutes, asking for a meeting (he’s out on bail pending sentencing on the illegal campaign donations charges).

Trump, as we know, personally coughed up $25 million in advance of the election to buy off a New York district court arraignment on the matter of the bogus Trump University, in compensation payments to litigants who had been cheated of fees of up to $35 thousand apiece in exchange for a meaningless paper “degree” in real-estate management. The Pumpkin anticipates soon learning where that payment may really have come from, given Trump’s famous reluctance to actually pay any bill from his own pocket.

Then, charges in 2016 of misrepresentation in the matter of property sales against Ivanka and her husband, Jared Kushner, were mysteriously made to go away. As a trustee of his Foundation, who presumably therefore authorized the illegal payments, Trump’s favorite daughter may not be so lucky this time.

And that will surely drive the beleaguered President out of his tiny Chinese mind.

http://www.nytimes.com/2018/05/15/world/asia/trump-hotel-china-indonesia.html

theintercept.com/2017/04/18/trumps-indonesian-allies-in-bed-with-isis-backed-militia-seeking-to-oust-elected-president/

*www.marketwatch.com/story/wilbur-ross-alleged-to-have-siphoned-more-than-120-million-from-associates-forbes-report-2018-08-07

 

TYT reports that Trump has tweeted his delight that 90 per cent of Republicans (about 35 per cent of all voters) approve the job he’s doing and “52 per cent overall”. It’s all a bit sad, really, as the poll he’s quoting actually says 52 per cent overall think he’s doing a terrible job. But again he accuses the fake news media of lying about his numbers.

Two truths.

 

Why is my brain disintegrating so?

“Air pollution causes a “huge” reduction in intelligence, according to new research…. It found that high pollution levels led to significant drops in test scores in language and arithmetic, with the average impact equivalent to having lost a year of the person’s education. … The longer people were exposed to dirty air, the bigger the damage to intelligence, with language ability more harmed than mathematical ability and men (especially over 65) more harmed than women.”

– From a report in The Guardian, 28 Aug.

Long ago and far away, I had a job writing a three-minute news bulletin and broadcasting it on the hour, with a slimmed-down set of headlines on the half-hour. Dutifully, I would scour my limited range of sources of stories, national and international, and put out a fresh script every hour, to maintain the listeners’ interest.

The listeners being some 20 thousand workers, mostly from ethnic minority communities, within a group of factories baking biscuits and small cakes for the grocery trade, trapped at their workstations standing seven hours a day next to a loudspeaker shared between two. (The idea had been sold to the directors by a small firm manufacturing loudspeakers.)

The factories operated a three-shift system around the clock. The rest of the station’s 24-hour output consisted of pop, bhangra and soul music, including requests; creative “infomercials”, which the rotating team of ten presenters (and sometimes me) wrote and produced, encouraging safety and hygiene, and the occasional management announcement – although those were few, as a matter of policy the management were to be seen to be as hands-off as possible. So innovative were we, the New Musical Express began publishing our “chart” every week, based on the numbers of requests we received.

My own shift ran from 6 a.m. to 6.15 p.m, Monday to Friday, and from 6 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturdays, with one week’s holiday a year. My commute to work was 12 miles on a 50cc Honda, and the pay was £21 a week. After a year or so I was crazy with lack of sleep, but had become so adept at this extreme endeavor that I was able to concentrate between bulletins on more important things, namely the attempting of cryptic crosswords.

My ambition became to complete the main cryptic crosswords in three serious newspapers: The Times, The Telegraph and The Guardian, by lunchtime. Occasionally I was successful, oftentimes not. But by teatime, after another year had gone by I could usually manage all three.

You need a modicum of intelligence, a good wit, a little deviousness and – helpfully – a classical education to do cryptics. But mainly, you just need to learn a few simple rules that all crossword compilers feel bound to follow; standard verbal tics and tricks that point you towards the method by which to solve each individual clue.

An anagram, for instance, might be signposted by the word “scrambled”, or “confused” in the clue, telling you to look for a combination of letters of the right length. The rest of the clue will define the word you need for the answer. It helps, too, if you have solved another clue whose “lights” (the white squares) intersect, giving you at least one letter to work with.

Now approaching my 70th year I live, as your Uncle Bogler has frequently moaned, in a tiny cottage* of just four rooms, set back within a few feet of a thundering arterial road in the outskirts of a bustling seaside town. As time goes by, the volume of traffic, alternately speeding and static depending on the time of day and the season of the year, both private and commercial, continues to grow beyond intolerable proportions; there being a desperate need for a bypass no-one has the political will or the cash to have built.

During the seven years I have been here, six of them spent in a vain attempt to sell the place to somebody better suited to the urban life, I realize as my health, both physiological and mental, deteriorates that environmental factors have been playing a significant part in my rapid disintegration. Not the least of them, the unpreventable leakage of artificial sunshine from three of the new, daylight halogen units sleep-deprivingly blazing all night outside my bedroom.

Where last year, as an actor of growing repute, I was still hurling myself about the stage with joyful abandon, in the course of the last six months I have gone blind in one eye – twice – with limited success in having the sight surgically restored; while I am now catheterized and strapped to a bag, occasionally pissing down my leg or bleeding alarmingly, as the result both of an oversized prostate having cut off the normal flow of urine, and of there being only one part-time urologist serving the elderly population of the entire county, whose waiting-list stretches to the gates of Eternity.

Last March, I endured my first proper streaming head-cold in as many years as I can remember, with a cough that settled on my chest and persisted into June. All last year I had a condition ironically known as “dry eye”, where one’s eyes are continually weeping; and some inscrutable digestive problem that would wake me regularly at 6.30 a.m. with a sharp gnawing sensation like rats tunneling their way out of my gurgling abdomen, regardless of what time I had eaten the night before, that could only be relieved by adopting the foetal position.

To add to all that has been an increase in aches and pains and localized vague feelings of unwellness, especially in the area of the kidneys, only partly relieved by replacing my mattress last week with a firmer one; and a persistent breathlessness unrelated to any exertion. Clearly, there is pollution: as I observe the sky over our little river valley that often appears bright and sunny, with a little effort beneath the dome of cerulean blue can be discerned a supporting arch of brown.

But it is your Uncle’s mental state that is giving him concern; and thus, the report with which we began this item, has both relevance and reassurance. Paranoid, riddled with anxieties, fearful of travel beyond the home and a small selection of familiar byways, wearing, as I have remarked, a groove in the world; unable to concentrate, fixated on YouTube and the horror in the White House, my mind is disintegrating: not because it is rapidly aging, or as a result of its consumption of alcohol, but obviously because its host is being slowly poisoned by the endless stream of bloody cars, all going nowhere important, and huge 32-tonne, 16-wheeler lorries blocking out the sky, heading for the town’s supermarkets, the dust from their brakes leaving an ash-gray coating over everything; the fronts of the houses black with soot from their filthy exhausts.

As it happens, I have not tried to do a crossword for some years now, and have gone rusty. Last night, turning idly to the inside back-page of my copy of The Oldie magazine on my bedside table, the allure of the “Moron” standard puzzle proved too great and I decided to have a go. I completed it in about ten minutes, despite making a significant error that held me back on the last two clues for a further half-hour.

Abandoning it unfinished, I switched out the light and settled down to sleep; and a minute later, switched the light back on as the solution to the last clue had immediately proposed itself. Encouraged by this success, I turned then to the “Genius” level cryptic puzzle, of the kind that long ago I would have eaten for breakfast.

Dear Readers, Spammers, Likers, etc., I was immediately baffled by the absence of several clues that should have been given in numerical order. The numbers were missing. I managed to get a few easy ones, but nothing would lead to anything else. The setters have been getting cleverer. I have never been a great reader of instructions, so I now turned to the top of the page to see what on earth was going on, and found the following paragraph:

“This year marks the 200th anniversary of the creation of a work by a person whose name is given by three unclued entries. Each of eight clues consists of definitions of two words of different lengths; in each case, one letter is removed from the longer word to create the shorter one, which is the answer to be entered in the grid. Solvers (who they? Ed.) should place the removed letters outside the grid, in the positions they would occupy if the grid were extended, to reveal the first word of the title’s work in English….” And so on.

By this time, my addled brain was swimming. It was as if I were being asked to assemble a chest of drawers from Ikea, without an Allen key and blindfold. I read and re-read the words, but they still made no sense.

I have long given up reading books, especially with small print, as I had become bored with reading and re-reading the same paragraph, over and over again, completely unable to absorb its meaning. Now here was a complex set of instructions, telling me I needed to solve clues without being given the clues, or even the numbers of the clues…. I just could not compass it, things being made worse possibly by the bottle of well-chilled Chardonnay with which I had washed down my frozen battered cod balls-and-chips, followed by a nightcap.

With many groans, I awoke at all the usual times, toddling off to the bathroom by the light of the street lamps, my “night bag” trailing on the floor behind me – for some silly reason nothing percolates while I am lying down, I still have to get up and go, assisted by the force of gravity and a painful contraction or two.

At 6.30 I grit my teeth and assume the foetal position as the rats awake and begin to gnaw. No more clues have answered themselves in the night, nothing stirs in the addled brain as the noise of the early morning traffic, by whose growing volume I can pretty accurately tell the time, begins to assume rush-hour proportions.

I switch on the Today program at three minutes to seven, to catch the weather. And there on the news is the story of the Chinese research, the pollution and the brain-damage, and I turn over and shut my eyes tight, scarce daring to breathe the polluted air, hoping to avoid hearing yet another interview with Iain Cunting-Smith giving his vast and airy opinions of gang warfare on London’s streets, his disastrous welfare reforms or his beloved fucking Brexit, the moron, feeling the hard plastic tube tugging painfully on my bladder as I have forgotten it is there, entangled in my aching legs – hoping for some release.

*I have also recently read that the average new-build home is only two square meters larger in surface area than my “tiny” Victorian laborer’s cottage. I am giddy with a sense of space.

 

Infrared image: Hurricane Lane (below, in red, green and blue). Tiny Big Island, above, centre – in outline.

GW: blow me down and frazzle me sideways

Hurricane Lane: the story so far

Wednesday 22: “The (absolutely enormous) Category 4 storm is barrelling towards Hawaii with savage winds of up to 156mph and is expected to hit the southwestern tip of Big Island at around 7pm BST tomorrow (8am local time), 24 Aug. Emergency services are on high alert and officials have warned of “significant impacts” even if the hurricane does not directly hit Hawaii.” (Express) (Actually, part of the threat posed by Lane is that it’s moving at only 6 mph and will consequently hang around dumping rain for many hours.)

Already, p.m. 23 Aug, heavy rain has caused landslides and a number of roads have been closed. The US navy has evacuated its ships from Pearl Harbor and has them standing by at sea ready for emergency relief efforts. Governor David Ige has complained: “Lane is not a well-behaved storm”. That’s saying something. (UPI) “Overall, we can expect widespread 10” to 20” amounts, as already observed on the eastern Big Island, and we would not be shocked to see a few localized storm totals in the 30” – 50” range.” (Bob Henson, Wunderground)

Ten to 20-in rain fell on Big Island in advance of the hurricane arriving. (Photo: Jessica Hendricks, AP, via Wunderground)

Friday 24: “As if the Lane situation weren’t complex enough, a new disturbance about 300 miles to the east developed enough convection and spin on Thursday to be classified as Invest 95C.” (Wunderground) This growing tropical storm could eventually catch up and merge with the outer bands of Lane, which is rapidly weakening at the centre, to produce even greater rainfall totals over the Hawaiian islands.

Saturday 25: “Hurricane Lane … continued to trigger an array of havoc across the Hawaiian Islands. Torrential rains were spreading northward across Oahu to Maui after Lane’s outer rainbands dropped more than 30” on parts of the Big Island, where flooding was described by the Central Pacific Hurricane Center as “catastrophic”. Meanwhile, “two fast-moving wildfires broke out on Friday in the drier downslope flow along Maui’s west coast, causing at least one injury (covering 300 acres).” (Wunderground).

Thousands of homes have been left without power. Apparently, only surfers were having a good time on the 30-foot storm surge, but upper-level wind shear conditions and the glancing blow on land have ripped Lane to bits and with maximum windspeeds now below 70 mph the monster storm has been downgraded to a very wet remnant TS. A threat of flooding from the Ala Wai canal in downtown Honolulu still remains.

Update, 26 Aug: downgraded to TD. Huge hurricane just fizzles out! “Peak rainfall totals on the eastern Big Island topped 40” at three stations, adding up to amounts that are among the highest ever observed in a tropical cyclone in the 50 U.S. states. – the highest rainfall thus far, as reported by weather.com, was at Mountain View, in the higher elevations of the Big Island, which received 51.53 inches of rain from 22 – 26 Aug (72 hr total). Less damage than expected.” (Wunderground)

Meanwhile, Tropical Depression Invest 95C was last reported (23 Aug) 550Km SE of Honolulu. (Meteoi) Bob Henson at Wunderground writes that the slow-to-start Atlantic hurricane season is entering its normally busiest period with depressions starting to move out of Africa unable as yet to achieve spin due to high winds in the upper atmosphere, but sea temperatures are rising and wind-shear weakening and it is only a matter of time before “Florence” (the first name available) is bound to form as a potentially dangerous Cape Verde hurricane.

Japan: Typhoon Soulik crossed over Honshu island Wednesday 23 Aug on its way to batter Korea. President Moon Jae-in called local governments to get ready for the powerful storm and take all necessary actions to keep people safe. Behind it, Typhoon Cimaron made landfall in the Tokushima Prefecture of Japan and is moving on across the island of Shikoku towards Honshu. (Express, UPI and others.) Associated Press reported one death and one injury from Soulik in South Korea, although a change in direction spared the capital; while hundreds of flights were cancelled across western Japan. Remnants of Lane may follow the same trajectory later next week.

Taiwan: “7 people have died as a result of torrential rain and flooding, 23-26 Aug, including 3 who died in the city of Kaohsiung when scaffolding fell from a building. As many as 116 people were injured and around 6,000 people were evacuated. …numerous locations recorded more than 700 mm of rain in 24 hours and some over 900 mm.” (Floodlist)

Afghanistan: “at least 11 people have died in flash floods in the eastern province of Kunar, along the border with Pakistan. Eight of the victims were from the same family. The flooding also damaged farmland, livestock and crops”. (Floodlist)

USA: Up to 15.3 inches of rain fell on Dane County, near Madison, Wisconsin in one 24-hour period, 20 to 21 Aug. Flash flooding closed roads and damaged properties. (Floodlist)

Sudan: “Heavy rains since mid-July have caused severe flooding. As many as 8,900 families have been displaced. As of 16 August the floods and rain had left at least 23 people dead, over 60 injured and affected more than 70,000 people in 7 different states.” (Floodlist)

Germany: A major forest fire has broken out near the capital. “The blaze, which began on Thursday afternoon (23 Aug), spread quickly overnight to engulf 400 hectares (1,000 acres) of forest between the Brandenburg town of Treuenbrietzen and village of Jüterborg, 39 miles (63km) south-west of the German capital, Berlin.” (Guardian) Firefighters are being hampered by unexploded munitions dating from WW2, while a thick plume of smoke has drifted over Berlin itself and residents are being told to stay indoors.

Wildfires: a look at The Weather Channel map of global wildfires might be concerning, I have no idea. Without commentary it looks like half the world is on fire right now. Brazil, for instance, is just one solid blob of orange location markers. Is this normal for August? You judge:

http://www.wunderground.com/wundermap?zoom=5&lat=37.80307138624724&lon=-90.50826873347978&wxstn=0&wxstnmode=tw&radar=0&radaropa=0.7&satellite=0&satelliteopa=0.8&insertHurricaneNameHere=false&goes16opa=0&severe=0&severeopa=0.9&sst=0&sstopa=0.8&sstanom=0&sstanomopa=0.8&cam=0&fronts=0&hur=0&models=0&modelsmodel=ecmwf&modelsopa=0.8&modelstype=SURPRE&lightning=0&fire=1&fireopa=0.9&rep=0&surge=0&tor=0

Everybody off…

The “Ring of Fire” Pacific rim disturbances are continuing.

Five days after the record M7.1 in Venezuela, “discredited” earthquake predictor (80%-plus success rate, USGS now privately using his methods) “Dutchsinse” reports on the largest-ever deep earthquake to arrive under South America, a M7.1 600Km beneath the Peru/Ecuador border, in the ostenosphere below the S America tectonic plate. He warns of the danger of a shallower M8 next to the same location within 6-10 days.

While reporting this event, Mr Janitch notes a unusually large M5.0 arriving live next to the fracking operations in Colorado, just south of Yellowstone, and a M3.0 in the English channel.

He speculates about a global disturbance event.

Yellowstone: USGS reporting a number of springs drying up or at low water, boiling. The Blessed Mary draws our attention to “drumbeats” and harmonic tremors on the seismographs, continuing ground uplift, disturbing volume of rising magma, outgassing of helium and SO2.

02 Sep., she reports, the Steamboat Geyser, biggest in the park,  has erupted for the 16th time this year. The largest number of times it has erupted in an entire year before was 3 in 2003. Park director, Michael Poland has reassured her, geyser eruptions are perfectly normal

The Other United States of Corporate Greed… Infamy, they’ve all got it in for me!… What will we talk about when he’s gone?… How do we know the Russians interfered with the US election in 2016?…Clickbait Corner: Uncle Bogler Totally DESTROYS Coconut oil… GW: “Hey-ho, the wind and the rain”… Pack a bag.

“So, there’s this one-legged veteran goes into a bar…”

“It’s almost as if we’re deliberately attempting to defy nature. We’re doing the reverse of what we should be doing, with everybody’s silent acquiescence, and nobody’s batting an eyelid.”Mayer Hillman, Social Scientist, 86, interviewed in The Guardian, 20 Aug.

The Other United States of Corporate Greed

An important article on Opendemocracy.org (21 Aug) draws attention to a little-known treaty drawn up 20 years ago, that allows big energy companies to sue governments that introduce measures to ameliorate climate change.

Pia Eberhardt and Cecilia Olivet write: “Companies are claiming dizzying sums in compensation for government actions that have allegedly damaged their investments, either directly through expropriation or indirectly through regulations of virtually any kind.”

Germany’s phasing-out of nuclear power in the wake of the Fukushima disaster, for instance, has cost additional billions in compensation awards to energy companies such as the Swedish giant, Vattenfall. “By the end of 2017, governments had been ordered or agreed to pay more than $51 billion in damages”, write the authors, with another $35 billion in current claims going through the arcane system.

A case in Bulgaria, for instance, effectively fined the government hundreds of millions of dollars for ordering a cut in energy prices to benefit poorer consumers. The closure of two dirty coal mines cost the German government an additional $1.4 billion in compensation.

This monstrous arrangement providing a hidden subsidy to the polluters is known as the Energy Charter Treaty. An opposition website, http://www.energy-charter-dirty-secrets.org, states:

“It currently applies to 48 countries stretching from Western Europe through Central Asia to Japan, plus the EU and the European Atomic Energy Community. It grants corporations in the energy sector enormous power to sue states at international investment tribunals for billions of dollars, for example, if a government decides to stop new oil or gas pipelines or to phase out coal.”

The point about it being, the ECT was negotiated largely in conditions of secrecy and is ruled over by an unaccountable triumvirate of anonymous lawyers hearing cases in private. It is increasingly subject to abuse by investment trusts effectively posing as energy corporations through the registration of “mailbox” companies having as few as four employees. The majority of judgements – 60 per cent – that have been resolved have gone against the States being sued, making the bringing of cases a lucrative sideline for the money-breathers.

And of course, losing States settle these often $1 billion-plus lawsuits out of public funds – at the expense of the taxpayers, whose very existence and that of the natural world that supports them is threatened by the well-protected ecocidal corporate policies of the big energy extractors and their oil-soaked shareholders.

And yet, more governments are queuing to sign up.

So the next time you read George Monbiot or Bill McKibben complaining that governments and politicians are not doing enough to halt climate change, just reflect on the ECT and the incredible power the energy corpses wield over our lives and even over our elected governments.

By the way, The BogPo still cannot fathom how on earth this execrable treaty came into being, who brokered it, what legal force it would have if you simply told the triumvirate to go fuck itself, in secret obviously, and why so many national States would want to sign up to it? What’s in it for them?

Can you fathom it?

Oh, right.

Money, probably.

 

“The Atomic Kitten singer Natasha Hamilton was initially flattered to be named Rear of the Year, but that soon changed. “The title felt a bit tongue in cheek,” she says.” Guardian report, presumably while the last competent subeditor on earth was away on holiday.

 

Infamy, they’ve all got it in for me!

On the day Melania Trump made a speech to schoolkids attacking cyber-bullies, her orange husband was tweeting this:

Trump said he hoped “the worst CIA Director in our country’s history, brings a lawsuit. It will then be very easy to get all of his records, texts, emails and documents to show not only the poor job he did, but how he was involved with the Mueller Rigged Witch Hunt. He won’t sue!”

It is quite astonishing, not only to those of us outside the Washington beltway (and mercifully, outside the USA altogether) who take a fascinated interest in these matters, that the Republican party hierarchy could read the contents of yet another screaming, paranoid, Sunday-morning Trump tweet like that and not conclude that the self-incriminating President is terminally unhinged.*

Not only is his continual, rambling assault (250 tweets and counting) on a legally constituted investigation by the Special Counsel, Robert Mueller, into possible illegal “collusion” between his campaign staffers and the Russian foreign intelligence service, GRU, evidence of a clear and present attempt to obstruct justice.

His dire threat to “get all of his records” to show that former CIA Director, John Brennan is somehow involved with what Trump clearly imagines is a kind of illegitimate freelance assault on his dubious presidency, that he persists without a shred of evidence in blaming on the opposition Democratic party, is an open-and-shut case of extreme abuse of office and little short of blackmail.

And, frankly, in its puerile obsessiveness and wild, swingeing accusations, of insanity…. A craziness literally amplified to Volume 11 today in a Reuter’s interview he gave, in which the madman claimed he could easily take over and run the Mueller investigation himself, only he chooses not to.

(Someone I know was once sectioned under the Mental Health Act for entertaining far more convincing delusions.)

US Presidents do not normally publicly announce that they intend to use their powers to bully, blackmail and intimidate their critics, law officers and potential hostile witnesses into silence. And there is no connection whatever between Brennan and the Mueller investigation. None.

Except that in the bizarre world of Trump, all his critics and detractors – including, it seems, the entire intelligence community – and the ‘fake nooze’ media are plotting against him.

In this case, Trump is clearly terrified that Brennan in his previous incarnation has viewed and continued to have access to incriminating classified foreign intelligence material. Despite his repeated denials of collusion, a new book by veteran NYT journalist, Craig Unger traces more than 50 business connections Trump has had with Russians, many of them organized crime figures. No doubt they will all be known to the security establishment. Hence his many attempts to shut down the inquiry.

Suspending Brennan’s security clearance is just the first step in attempting to muzzle a potential witness, should Mueller find a way to indict a sitting President on felony charges – something that has never been done before, and which may not even be constitutionally possible. Trump’s Republican-packed Supreme Court may have to decide.

Trump is now floundering in uncharted waters. The two previous presidents who attempted to lie and bully their way out of impeachment proceedings, Nixon and Clinton, both made a hash of attacking the investigation as illegitimate. Clinton barely survived impeachment for lying to the House, having been undone by a splash of DNA on a blue dress. Nixon ultimately fell because of abusing his powers to fire, threaten and badger the Special Counsel and intimidate witnesses, when his blunt denials came up against the overwhelming weight of his self-bugged conversations.

The more Trump blusters and bullies, the more powerful enemies he is making and the deeper the pit he is digging for himself and his profoundly corrupt family administration. But as long as supine Senators like McConnell and Ryan, Lindsay Graham (a salutary reminder of his slimy hypocrisy turned up today on MSNBC, in the form of a clip of him denouncing Bill Clinton in the Senate) and the other Republican nematodes turn a blind eye to his worsening mental state and criminal past, you’re stuck with it.

 

What will we talk about when he’s gone?

*What are we to make, for instance, of his latest scrambled oration to his adoring dumbfucks in West Virginia?

Three months ago Trump was denying that he even knew Paul Manafort, who had worked for him only for a very short time, a few days, and had almost nothing to do with his election campaign. Now Manafort, 69, the former chairman for 145 days of the Trump election campaign, who honed his political skills in very well rewarded (but undeclared) positions with Kremlin-backed disruptors in Ukraine, is facing possibly 5-10 years in Leavenworth on tax and bank fraud charges, of which he has just been convicted in a court of law. And Trump is telling his dumbfuck base what a great guy Paul is – because unlike that little rat Cohen, his bagman and protégé for 10 years whom he also hardly knows, he hasn’t spilled the beans to the Mueller investigators.

Why, Donald, what might the Mueller team want beautiful Paul Manafort with his lovely family to talk to them about? Oh, right.

Your “collusion” with the Kremlin, maybe?

How stupid is this man?

Addendum:

Trump’s repeated assertion that he had no connection with Manafort’s activities in Russia and Ukraine is not exactly true, is it. Thus, we cannot entirely go along with frequent assertions in the media that Manafort’s legal difficulties do not relate to the possibility of collusion between the campaign and Moscow, and the Mueller probe. As, indeed, one might ask why Manafort was appointed to the chairmanship of the Trump campaign in the first place? What special skills did he bring to the party?

Eighteen months ago, Politico reported:

http://www.politico.com/magazine/story/2017/03/connections-trump-putin-russia-ties-chart-flynn-page-manafort-sessions-214868

‘Nuff said.

(We might note too that two Republican Congressmen, Collins and Hunter, both early Trump backers, are now independently under indictment – the former for insider trading, the latter for 2016 election fraud. Had the Democrats the spine to organize some kind of manifesto for positive change and find a figurehead to lead the charge (it seems they’re keeping Elizabeth Warren back for 2020), the “Blue wave” would seem a lot higher than it currently does.)

 

How do we know the Russians interfered with the US election in 2016?

One way was a “leak” by NSA employee, Reality Winner (an ironic case of nominative determinism, in view of the outcome of that election.)

Although the story emerged independently days later, Ms Winner was arrested and charged with espionage. Many lies were concocted by prosecutors to try to link her with the Taliban or with federal crimes, building a false and monstrous case against her. Her rights were trampled on and she was physically abused and intimidated into entering a guilty plea. She has now received a savage sentence.

Democracy Now! writes:

“NSA whistleblower Reality Winner was handed the longest sentence ever imposed in federal court for leaking government information to the media Thursday (23 Aug). She is the first person to be sentenced under the Espionage Act since President Trump took office.

“Winner was arrested by FBI agents at her home in Augusta, Georgia, on June 3, 2017, two days before The Intercept published an exposé revealing Russian military intelligence conducted a cyberattack on at least one U.S. voting software company just days before the U.S. presidential election. The exposé was based on a classified NSA report from May 5, 2017, that shows that the agency is convinced the Russian General Staff Main Intelligence Directorate, or GRU, was responsible for interfering in the 2016 presidential election.

Powerful interview with James Risen, The Intercept’s senior national security correspondent and former New York Times reporter: https://democracynow.org

If anyone deserves a presidential pardon, it is surely Ms Winner, for her selfless act in exposing an attack by a hostile power on the US constitution, knowledge that her pathetic and disgusting employers had sat on for many months in fear of being accused of influencing the election; which Director slimy Jim Comey had then gone ahead and done anyway by leaking just days beforehand that he had reopened the investigation into Candidate Clinton’s emails.

But Trump is not going to pardon Winner, is he. He continues fatuously to deny the “reality” of the GRU campaign against his country, as everyone assumes because he was deeply complicit in it. His pardons are reserved only for those who express their loyalty to himself, or whose filthy racist politics and abuses in public office qualify them to belong to his exclusive club.

Ms Winner is now beginning a sentence of five years and one month for her patriotism and public service.

Shame on the in-Justice Department. Shame on the craven and bullying FBI. Shame on the madman, Trump.

Deep shame on America.

 

Clickbait corner

I’ve got a luvverly bunch of killer platelets

“…celebrity endorsements from Gwyneth Paltrow (for it is She… Ed.) and others have helped UK sales of coconut oil surge from about £1m to £16.4m in the past four years…” (Guardian report)

Oil swell that doesn’t end well…

Researchers however have found that “Coconut oil contains more than 80% saturated fat, more than twice the amount found in lard, and 60% more than is found in beef dripping”, and is likely to massively increase lethal LDL cholesterol, leading to a pandemic of heart disease. Epidemiologist, Dr Karen Michels of Harvard University commented: “It’s one of the worst things you can eat … pure poison”.

Do not swallow Gwyneth Paltrow. You have been warned!

 

175 mph Lane bears down on Hawaii. (CBS)

GW: “Hey-ho, the wind and the rain”

Pacific: “Ferocious Hurricane Lane continues to chug across the central Pacific. As of 5 pm EDT Monday, Lane was located about 580 miles southeast of Hilo, heading west at 12 mph. Lane’s top sustained winds had increased to 130 mph, making it a low-end Category 4 storm.” Bob Henson, Wunderground, reporting that weakening high pressure may allow Lane to veer northwards and collide with the Hawaiian islands.

Stop Press, 22 Aug: “…Central Pacific Hurricane Center upgraded Lane to Category 5 storm Tuesday, with top sustained winds near 160 mph and a minimum central pressure of 940 mb. Then:

“Lane intensified steadily through the day with its central pressure dropping from 940 mb at 2 pm EDT to 929 mb by 11 pm EDT. Data from a reconnaissance flight on Tuesday night showed Lane was strengthening even further, with an extrapolated central pressure of 922 mb and an SFMR surface wind estimate of 152 knots (175 mph) reported just before midnight EDT.” (Wunderground)

Top sustained wind of 175 mph implies gusts at the eyewall of 220 mph…. This is a beast and a half. Henson confirms, its northwesterly track should bring it over the Hawaiian islands on Saturday, where another state of emergency has been declared.

Korea: on top of its recent deadly heatwave, Korea is about to be slammed into by Typhoon Soulik, on an unusual west coast trajectory; while Typhoon Cimaron following on behind is about to collide with Japan, where record flooding killed over 200 people at the start of the month. With sustained windspeed of 115 mph, Soulik is a Cat 3, expected to dump perhaps 10-in of rain over the capital, Seoul. Cimaron is forecast to be a Cat 1 storm across central Japan, arriving perhaps just south of Kyoto, on Thursday 24 Aug, local time. (Wunderground)

India: is still getting hammered by monsoon rains. With the death toll over 320 in Kerala, 8 people have been killed in Karnataka since 14 Aug. “More than 800 homes have been destroyed and roads severely damaged, leaving communities isolated.” (Floodlist)

Niger: “19 people have died in flooding and landslides since July this year. As of 13 August, a total of 65,170 people had been affected in all 8 regions of the country. Over 5,000 homes have collapsed in the heavy rain, over 25,000 livestock and 6,535 hectares of crops have been destroyed.” 350 cases of cholera have been confirmed. (From Floodlist report citing local authorities) There’s flooding too in neighboring Nigeria, and in Algeria, where 5 people have died in floods near Tamanrasset.

Italy: 10 hikers drowned and a further 14 were rescued on 20 Aug when a creek running through a deep mountain gorge in the Pollino National Park in Calabria turned into a raging torrent after heavy rainfall upstream. Rescue teams, including divers, mountain rescue and a helicopter searched the area overnight. “Earlier this month 5 canyoners died when flash floods swept through a valley on the French island of Corsica“. (From Floodlist reports)

Portugal, Spain: record-breaking heat is expected to return to the Iberian peninsula at the weekend, with temperatures possibly exceeding 48C, 118F.

UK: “Car McGeddon…” Reports are only now emerging of a localized flood on 28 July that may have damaged up to 1000 cars parked at Belfast airport, after 88.2 mm rain fell in three hours – more than a month’s worth. Insurers have written off several cars to date, describing them as potential deathtraps. (BBC)

A problem we have with the media, in common with poor, frustrated Mr Trump: under Related Articles, without embarrassment the Express reports sequential stories it has recently run, as follows….

  • UK weather: August forecast for HEAVY RAIN ends heatwave
  • UK weather: Heatwave to last until OCTOBER

USA: “California remains in the grip of deadly wildfires which continue to threaten thousands of properties.” At least 10 people have been killed and 2 million acres burned. Some fires have been burning so fiercely they have created their own weather. A huge fire “tornado” in Shasta County (the Carr fire, now 91% under control) killed a firefighter and a digger driver, reaching a temperature hot enough to melt steel.  (From Express report, 20 Aug.)

For latest Calfire info, there’s a good San Francisco Chronicle interactive at projects.sfchronicle.com/2018/fire-tracker/

Canada: “Forests burning across British Columbia are littered with millions of hectares of dead trees that turn into volatile fuel in conditions such as this year’s drought, experts say.” There are currently more than 500 wildfires burning across B.C., which has been in a province-wide state of emergency since last week. Fires are burning through dead wood resulting from a 1999-2012 pine-beetle infestation. Government has ignored successive reports warning about lack of funding for fire prevention. (Reporting: Vancouver Globe and Mail)

World: what we’re missing…

“To calculate the global mean on maps, NASA uses four zonal regions (90-24ºS, 24-0ºS, 0-24ºN, and 24-90ºN) and fills gaps in a region by the mean over the available data in that region. In datasets, however, missing data are typically ignored. This could make a difference of 0.2°C. Ignoring data for the Arctic alone could make a difference of 0.1°C.

Depending on how the above three points are dealt with, the temperature in August 2018 may well be more than 3°C above the mean annual global temperature in 1750. The question is whether August 2018 will be warmer than August 2016, which was 2.3°C warmer than 1980-2015.” – Arctic News.

Remembering that, while 2018 has not thus far been globally the hottest year ever measured, as a year with no warming El Niño current it still sits within the top five and all of those have fallen within the past five years; while many more hottest and most persistent temperature records (day or night) have been broken this year, than coldest. As Arctic News’ ‘Sam Carana’ points out (19 Aug) it’s the extremes that kill, not the global mean, and we ought to be paying more attention to those.

 

La terra trema….

There has been a huge increase in earthquake activity around the globe in the past week, with a corresponding increase in magnitudes. Following “the largest deep earthquake on record”, a M8.2 hundreds of Km beneath the south Pacific, northeast Venezuela was hit yesterday, 21 Aug, by a shallow M7.3, followed just four hours later by a provisional M7 in the Solomon Islands, near Vanuatu; and a M6.3 off the coast of Oregon.

Interestingly, the two recent M6+ earthquakes at Lombok, Indonesia are precisely antipodal to the Venezuela epicentre. Earthquake predictor, “Dutchsinse” warns, buckle up – it may get worse – and have a plan.

Pack a bag

The BogPo has wondered about the “Ring of Fire”, that connected chain of volcanoes and earthquake-prone zones all around the Pacific, that is so active at present. Is it perhaps a geological weakness in the Earth’s crust, a legacy of the ancient planetary collision that hollowed out the vast Pacific ocean basin and sent billions of tonnes of debris spinning into space to form our Moon?

Anyway, much speculation accompanies the latest outbreak of quakes and eruptions, that they might be leading up to a true ‘megaquake’ of M9 or greater. The US west coast seems favorite.

Or it could all just settle down again, no-one can say.

The Pumpkin, Issue 60: Lawful investigation? You’re fired!… Fore!… GW: boil, roast or fry, there’s more’n one way to cook a planet… Doomsday machines.

Yes, The Pumpkin is back after its summer vacation, with more great whatever for you!

51% of Republican voters now believe the media to be “the enemy of the people”. 52% of Republican supporters polled were not concerned that Mr Trump’s criticism would lead to violence against journalists. 23% of Republicans, and about one in eight Americans overall, believe Mr Trump should close down mainstream news outlets like CNN, the Washington Post and the New York Times.

Quinnipiac/Ipsos polling, 16 Aug. (BBC)

Goldsmith: “We cannot, as a party, rightly and robustly criticise the leader of the opposition for his attendance at this (pro-Palestinian) conference while allowing the attendance of a Conservative peer at the same event to pass without comment or complaint. To do so would be to indulge in hypocrisy and double standards.”
BoJo (for it is he): “I couldn’t have put it better myself!”

 

“Fuck the law! I don’t care about the fucking law. I want my fucking money….”

Lawful investigation? You’re fired!…

More interesting developments in the Trump obstruction of justice inquiry:

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

You may recall, there’s been some debate about whether President Trump has been technically and unlawfully attempting to throw a spanner in the works of the FBI and Special Counsel inquiries into possible ‘colusion’, as he spells it, by his campaign team with Russian attempts to influence his election.

Prime suspicion of malfeasance fell on the Orange Slug himself after he fired the FBI’s director, James Comey in May last year. First, he said it was because Comey had shown political bias against Hillary Clinton (no, honestly…) but then in a notorious ABC interview he said it was because of the Russia thing that he wanted to make go away.

And that’s what he also told Russian Ambassador Kislyak in a meeting at the White House, that he was now free of that problem.

In the meantime, his National Security advisor, Gen. Flynn, had been fired after admitting lying to the FBI about his failure to disclose his PR activities on behalf of the Russian government, and was rumored to be about to turn State’s evidence against the Trump campaign.

And Trump then embarked on a painfully obvious bid to try to discredit the Special Counsel investigation under Bob Mueller, and to get that closed down, sparking much speculation that he feared it would get too close to the financial affairs of himself and his son-in-law, Jared Kushner.

His weedy campaign of Sunday tweets has involved trying to brand the inquiry as a Democratic plot, conveniently ignoring that Mueller and most of his team are lifelong Republicans; and pretending that Mueller’s resignation ten years ago from membership of a Trump golf club over a fee dispute amounts to a conflict of interest.

We then had to reconsider the equally notorious meeting with an unofficial Russian delegation at Trump Tower on 9 June, 2016, in the light of new evidence concerning a plainly false version of those events that seems to have been concocted between Trump and his then press advisor, Hope Hicks, aboard Airforce One.

That was a bid to exonerate son Donald Jr and divert attention from the question of what Trump Sr might have known about the meeting beforehand, held ostensibly to commission “dirt” on the Clinton campaign. The presence of Manafort and two “former”Russian intelligence officers also with extensive experience of laundering money through offshore vehicles suggests other possible avenues of inquiry.*

Trump subsequently doubled-down on his attacks on the New York Times and other mainstream media that had reported on it; attempting to force the US Postal Service to increase its charges for Amazon deliveries, lying that they offered a loss-making discount, in a bid to damage Amazon boss Jeff Bezos over adverse reporting in his well-regarded  Washington Post newspaper.

Since then there have been a number of indictments in the Mueller probe against former Trump campaign officials, including against a list now of 26 Russians or Russian companies strongly believed to have been involved in hacking the Democratic National Convention, phishing attacks on voter rolls, arranging illegal campaign contributions and stealing emails from Clinton and her senior campaign people; with or without the knowledge and agreement of the Trump campaign and possibly the candidate himself.

Yet Trump continues to try to pretend that there was no Russian interference, and if there was he personally had nothing to do with it; to suggest otherwise is a “witch hunt”, and does not intend to do anything about it, despite all agencies reporting that the attacks on the US electoral system are continuing.

There has been a clear tendency on the part of Trump’s closest allies in Congress, a nasty little claque of anti-American Republican traitors led by Sen. Devin Nunes, a man who looks and acts as though Trump has his children chained to a radiator in a basement somewhere, to attempt to take down the officers involved in the investigation one-by-one, while also mysteriously refusing to confront the ongoing problem of Russian dirty tricks.

Who are they working for?

Last Friday they claimed another scalp in the shape of Peter Strzok, a senior FBI officer who had foolishly insulted Candidate Trump ages ago in a frivolous series of emails sent to a colleague he was having an extramarital affair with, thus proving that the much later investigation of the Russia thing was all a fake news Democratic witch hunt, or whatever Trump whines it is against him personally.

Strzok just happens to have been the head of the counterintelligence unit at the FBI that investigates and keeps tabs on some 45 Russian agents in America, known in spy parlance as “sleepers”, individuals strongly suspected to have been active in planning and carrying out Putin’s disruptive agenda. He has also strongly hinted to a Congressional committee under oath that he possesses information relevant to the Mueller probe.

Coincidence? Making adverse remarks about a presidential candidate who goes on to win is hardly a sacking offence, nor unique one supposes among officials; many ‘Never Trump’-ers are now inside the tent pissing out, and he had already accepted a disciplinary suspension.

This smacks of Trump’s infantile vindictiveness; but is also more disturbing, in that once again, it serves the Putin agenda to weaken the investigation and the institution of the FBI.

One Russian, Maria Butina has already been arrested, allegedly having infiltrated the National Rifle Association and arranged a $30 million “dark money” pipeline via the NRA to the Republican campaign; but it’s thought that without Strzok at the helm, the Russians will have a clearer field to mess with the November midterms and the 2020 Presidential election.

(A minor adjunct then to suggestions that Trump’s entire foreign policy agenda, particularly towards NATO, is being driven from the Kremlin, so useful is it to the ex-KGB puppetmaster.)

And, as Rachel Maddow points out on her influential MSNBC news show, his scalp virtually concludes a clean sweep against senior FBI officials who were named by the former director under oath as witnesses to a key telephone call from Trump, which Trump denies making, that Comey immediately minuted as having contained a clear and illegal order to drop the investigations into Gen. Flynn.

Five of the six witnesses, plus Strzok, have now been fired or forced to resign after being reassigned to lowlier positions and are presumably no longer in a position to testify against the President’s version of events.

Together with his increasing tendency to exclude even the head of national intelligence, Dan Coats, from the decision-making loop on matters the President himself defines as being of “national security” interest, such as the threats to take back security clearances from former CIA and FBI officials (which he has now carried out in the case of his fiercest critic, ex-CIA head John Brennan) the evidence of Trump’s growing authoritarianism and confidence in his more outrageous actions against his own administration throws an ever-darker shadow.

What is he up to, and at whose bidding?

Alongside Trump’s not entirely successful efforts to pack the District Court benches with supine placemen, many of them completely unqualified, and now a chance to nominate a second ultra-Conservative judge to the Supreme Court; plus a renewed Twitter campaign of bullying insults against Trump punchbag, Attorney-General Sessions, and the entire Justice Department, it appears that the Republican hierarchy is quietly gnawing away at the softer parts of the system.

Their aim is blatantly to undermine any future attempt to indict the President on charges of which he insolently demonstrates more guilt with every cretinous tweet that streams from beneath his tiny thumbs; every inarticulate tirade.

Even his counsel, the increasingly bizarre Rudy Giuliani, now seems to have abandoned any attempt to defend his impossible client, instead adopting the curious posture in media interviews of admitting with a lopsided flash of his atrocious false teeth, yep, he did it, so what?

The depth of corruption in the Trump era was luridly revealed in email evidence during the first trial of his former campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, on (amongst others) bank fraud charges.

The prosecution alleged that – under some pressure to repay money to a Russian oligarch he had defrauded – Manafort had obtained a $10 million loan he couldn’t pay back from an obscure small bank, apparently on the understanding that the CEO would be offered a senior post in the cabinet should Trump win. A further email was introduced, in which Kushner, having been asked to shortlist the manager – seemingly a preening, self-regarding booby – for the possibly lucrative post of Head of the Army, replied “On it!”

Added to the alleged slush-fund operated by Trump’s personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, acting as a gatekeeper for privileged access to the White House while paying-off Trump’s former mistresses; the financial shenanigans while in office of Trump cronies like Carl Icahn and Wilbur Ross, the blatant corruption of Environment agency director Scott Pruitt; as well as Trump’s many egregious breaches of the Emoluments clauses of the constitution, his nepotistic appointments – the revelation that Kushner and Ivanka Trump had made over $80 million between them while supposedly in the employ of the government – and the sense is, this kind of thing is just the tip of the iceberg.

Yet the problems of proving Trump’s documented links with Russian organized crime and his apparent subjection to foreign influence pale by comparison with the intricate question of how to prosecute such crimes when they are committed by the incumbent of the sacred office of President. Americans are complete idiots, aren’t they, when it comes to the grovelling respect they show to their profoundly fallible institutions.

As The Pumpkin has mentioned several times before, it seems likely that a spoiled brat brought up with Mafia figures around the family table, who has specialized all his shitty life in getting away Scot-free with appalling, borderline criminal dealings – where necessary buying off or intimidating claimants – a mob boss in all but name, is not going to go down easily, even to an avenging-angel type like Mueller.

We may have to go on filling the news agenda with Trump, and more Trump, for a long while yet.

STOP ALL THE CLOCKS….

*THE PUMPKIN SCORES a palpable hit! New story in The Guardian, 18 Oct., reports that Trump’s would-be Russian development partner, Aras Agalarov, whose son Dmitri was instrumental in setting up the Trump Tower meeting,  transferred $19.5 million via a low-or-no tax Delaware vehicle set up for the purpose, under conditions of anonymity, to a bank account in the US, triggering FBI interest:

Revealed: Russian billionaire set up US company before Trump Tower meeting. Aras Agalarov, who attended the meeting with Donald Trump Jr in June 2016, formed a shell company (in May) with an accountant who has had clients accused of money laundering and embezzlement … Mueller is looking into such activity and whether any of the money involved could have been used to fund Russian meddling in the US election, which Agalarov denies.” http://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2018/oct/18/russian-billionaire-aras-agalarov-company-trump-tower-meeting

The Pumpkin has been bogling and Commenting for months on the number of money-laundering experts – sorry, “investment management consultants” – at that meeting, on both sides. Why else would Kushner and Manafort have attended? It’s all about the money.

x

Fore!

A clue to Donald Trump’s bluff demeanor is being overlooked by many commentators, if not all.

He plays golf.

More than that, he is addicted to it.

He is probably the worst player in the world for all I know, playing off a handicap of 103, maybe, and it’s said he has been known to cheat! I don’t know how, nudges the ball into a better lie when no-one is looking, drops a new ball when he’s lost the last one in the rough and doesn’t count it as a penalty stroke, or just lies his fat head off about his scores, most probably all the time. (Yes, Reader, I used to do those execrable things too…)

“Climb every mountain…” Trump in dogged pursuit of golfing excellence.

He hasn’t quite got to the stage where, like President Kim Jong-un of North Korea’s father, Kim Jong-il, it is said of him that the first time he ventured onto the golf course, he scored eight holes-in-one. But the day cannot be far off when Lyin’ Sarah is sent out to solemnly inform the press corps that the President has broken par.

So addicted to the Scottish game is President Trump, that he has spent in the region of $80 million dollars of taxpayers’ money on playing golf virtually every three-day weekend since his inauguration day. Naturally he plays at his own resorts and then sends the bill for the food and accommodation and hire of golf carts for his large security detail and personal entourage to the Treasury, netting a helpful profit in the process.

It is somewhat at odds with his boast on the campaign trail that he would be the hardest-working President ever. (In fact he works less than four hours a day, including lunch.) It demonstrates a certain hypocrisy, too, since he so frequently criticised his predecessor for being absent on the golf course. Trump has played many, many days more golf in a few long months than Obama managed in eight years – and for free.

In addition to hacking around a course, he also likes to own them. According to his sons, Trump receives huge sums of money from the Russians to build and manage golf courses all over the world, usually at a loss, and to add those tacky resort hotel facilities with fake Time magazine covers of himself framed on the walls, for which huge membership fees are charged to further line the Presidential pocket. Research shows, a round of golf at Trump Turnberry will set you back £375, compared with about £20 on a public course.

(Not only is he a golf bore, he is completely insane. Now read on…)

According to the indefatigable Wikipedia, there are only nine golf courses in the whole of Russia, so Russian investors probably have other motives than the promotion of a healthy outdoor activity involving a little white ball, a bag of sticks, a slave and 18 infernally difficult holes over a four-hour walk round a field. The clean, fresh air of the golf course can do wonders for the color of your money. Well, not actually yours….

But it’s not the playing of the game, so much, to which I allude.

It’s rather the players, and their casual political attitudes.

There’s currently a debate raging about Trump’s insolent behavior toward all groups of people other than his own, a group which largely consists of himself: especially women and minorities, whom he regularly stoops to insult on a personal level. Such suburban conservative attitudes are familiar, are they not? And in the modern way, come under the blanket accusations of racism, homophobia, Islamophobia and misogyny.

His somewhat basic, unreconstructed political philosophy sparks the kind of outrage one might reserve for the clubman in the blazer, all shiny buttons and loafers, propping up the bar at the 19th hole, well into his fourth double G&T, loudly voicing his lofty and disparaging opinions about foreigners, immigrants, Chinese imports, the PC brigade, environmentalist tree-huggers, queers, benefit layabouts, uppity women and uppity n-words; the absurdity of regulation and the unfairness of rich people having to pay taxes, just like poor people, of whom there are far too many and whose breeding habits should be discouraged.

To such a man, having left “the missus” at home playing bridge with her dried-up friends, when sufficiently in his cups women become pigs, dogs and other animals; servants a lower form of life; employees treacherous leakers; friends and allies ripe for disparagement; enemies fit for ridicule and name-calling – the club committee ripe for cronyism and corruption.

(And of course, when the time comes to pay the bill and be poured into a taxi, he will have left his wallet at home.)

As is the way, more witnesses are coming forward with tales of the horrible things Trump says in private; especially when backstage on the set of his tawdry reality TV show, The Apprentice. To add to the “Omarosa tapes” (look it up), magician Penn, politically engaged Libertarian half of Las Vegas cabaret act “Penn and Teller”, who unwisely took part in one episode, says Trump bandies vile racist and sexist slurs around the studio all the time; describing him as “capricious” and “petty”. (PS 07 Nov, Trump’s former bagman, Michael Cohen, has also admitted to this flaw in Mr Trump’s character.)

Give such a man, such a saloon-bar bore with his trite opinions on show, his uneducated, bombastic and short-sighted solutions to solving the problems with which he sees the world – i.e. himself alone – beset, mainly by Lefties; hand him the terrifying and complex power of the Presidency of the world’s greatest military and economic empire; surround him with fawning acolytes and incompetent, venal satraps, and his dull-minded prejudices, now unquestionable, grow like a cancer until he is all purulent, tumorous matter.

“Quick, more Factor 50!” California burning.

GW: boil, roast or fry, there’s more’n one way to cook a planet

France: 1 missing, 1600 evacuated as rivers overflow in southern departments after 100 mm of rain falls in 1 hour. Meteoalarm, 18 Aug: Corsica threatened with Orange-level “damaging” thunderstorms.

Italy: “About 30” (now 38, 5 missing) including at least one child dead after the Morandi autostrada bridge in Genoa collapses during heavy rain. Police reported a violent cloudburst. “It was just after 11:30 when we saw lightning strike the bridge,” eyewitness Pietro M all’Asa was quoted as saying. “And we saw the bridge going down.” – BBC News.

Portugal: near-record temperatures, major wildfire at Monchique, other fires… and in Spain around Alcantara, where temperatures reached 43C. While in the Austrian Tyrol, and southwards into Serbia, violent flash floods followed intense rainfall around the 6th Aug.

UK: remnant hurricane Ernesto arriving as a minor Tropical Depression.

Canada: parts of Toronto are flooded and two passengers rescued with moments to spare from a rapidly filling elevator as up to 120 mm of rain falls in 1 hour. Over in British Columbia, almost 600 wildfires have reduced air quality over thousands of square miles to a “10”, i.e. the worst possible.

Mr Trump has blamed the Canadian logging industry for US wildfires. Because of cheap imports: “we have fallen trees, and instead of removing those fallen trees, which get to be extremely combustible, instead of removing them, gently removing them, beautifully removing them, we leave them to burn.” he said. (Global News, 18 Aug.)

He is as mad as a box of frogs.

Turkey: 10 August, 1 dead reported in a landslide in the north as flooding causes major infrastructure damage in Ordu province.

(All above from Floodlist, 13 Aug.)

India: “At least 20 people have died in the state of Kerala in south west India after torrential rain triggered floods and landslides from 08 August, 2018.” Update: “Local media reported 5 more fatalities between 14 and 15 August, bringing the death toll to 44 since the recent spate of flooding began a week ago.” Further update: 17 Aug. death toll now exceeding 320. “Heaviest rainfall in 100 years”.

Flash floods and landslides in Kashmir and Jammu kill 4 “after at least 19 people died in the neighbouring state of Himachal Pradesh”.

Between 8 and 12 people were swept away and 45 stranded by a flash flood at a scenic waterfall in Madhya Pradesh, after a sudden surge of water due to heavy rain upstream during the afternoon of 15 August.

(compiled from Floodlist reports)

In neighboring Myanmar: 12 dead, 150 thousand displaced by monsoon flooding; thousands of acres of crops lost. Hanoi, Vietnam – floods. Yulin City in China was hit by a powerful storm on 7 Aug, with widespread flooding amid a Red alert from the authorities. 100 mm rain fell in 3 hours. In the north, 8 people were killed by floods in Baiyin City when their cars were swept away. (CEWN #133)

Korea: North and South still experiencing record 40C (104F) heatwave. Nighttime bringing little relief with temps still over 30C all night. Heavy crop losses reported in North; 30 dead in South.

Australia: Almost 80 fires were burning along the New South Wales coast on Thursday, 15 Aug, having ripped through more than 1,000 hectares in recent days. No lives or homes were in immediate danger. (BBC Weather. It’s the middle of winter!)

Wheat harvest down by 50% as a result of the worst drought for decades across NSW and Queensland. Mini winter heatwave in NW around Perth gives way to rain and snow.

“A new study says the rate of rainfall in Australia during thunderstorms is increasing twice or even three times beyond expectation, and much faster than would be expected from global warming.” – Floodlist, citing Climate News Network

More than 30,000 people were evacuated from municipalities in southern Colombia, after heavy rainfall between 11 and 12 Aug. In Mexico, the city of Chimalhuacan was inundated on 15 Aug. following torrential rain. Island of Grenada: torrential rain, floods.

USA: California records its hottest July month in 124 years of record-keeping. Many areas suffering unbreathable air quality as a result of fires. Sea surface temperatures exceeding 80F (26.4C).

“A locally intense heat wave atop long-term warming has pushed the San Diego area into atmospheric and oceanic territory unseen in human memory. The first ten days of August have seen overnight lows hovering in record territory night after night. Meanwhile, the surface of the Pacific Ocean near San Diego is warmer than anything observed in more than a century of recordkeeping.” – Bob Henson, Wunderground

To add to the huge Carr Fire, the Mendocino Complex Fire has rapidly spread through 285 thousand acres near Los Angeles and is still not controlled. Firefighters arriving from Australia and New Zealand to help.

Meanwhile the eastern US is enjoying yet another band of heavy rainstorms moving up from the south, a cold-weather pattern that has remained virtually unaltered all year and caused extensive flood misery:

“Flash flood watches have been issued for all of eastern Pennsylvania, some southern tier locations of central New York, New Jersey, northern Maryland, eastern West Virginia and far northern Virginia, including Baltimore, Philadelphia, Harrisburg and most New Jersey suburbs of the New York City Tri-State area. … isolated extreme rainfall totals could occur”.

Florida meanwhile has declared a state of emergency over an unprecedent infestation that coastal residents say stinks and causes skin allergies. “Red tide” is a naturally occurring algal bloom caused by Karenia brevis that forms in marine water. The algae make the water toxic for marine wildlife. (The Weather Channel)

President Trump has blamed California’s environmental laws for reducing the amount of water available to fight fires, although firefighters say that’s not the case; Interior Secretary, Ryan Zinke, has blamed environmentalists for opposing the cutting down of trees, although that policy was pushed through by the timber industry.

You get the leaders you wish for.

The Weather Channel’s fire map is showing an uncountable number of wildfires burning all across Brazil and central South America; all contributing to the global carbon overload.

Pacific: 115 mph Typhoon Soulik aiming for southern Japan/Korea. Cat 4 (140mph) hurricane Hector losing strength as it heads northwestwards in mid-Pacific, 350 miles south of Hawaii. Not exected to make landfall. Some possibility of Tropical Storm Lane, now strengthening to 125 mph Cat 3 or 4 hurricane, brushing the Hawaiian islands.

Arctic: global methane levels, averaging 1898 ppb, peaked at 3048 ppb on 6 Aug and much is coming from the Arctic regions. Sea temperature off Svalbard island was 22C, 69F – 16.4C higher than the June-August average between 1981 and 2010. Overall, the Arctic has warmed by 5.7C since 1880. (Arctic News)

World: Wildfires and extreme weather events around the globe just in the past few weeks are estimated to have cost hundreds of billions of dollars in insurance claims. Sweden alone is believed to have suffered $100 billion fire losses; German farmers have taken a $3 billion hit; the possibility of a breakdown in food transportation post-Brexit is overlaying a droughtfall in UK agricultural output as grain prices are already rising; the largest ever recorded in California, the Carr Fire is still ablaze near Redding and the cost to date is estimated at $1.5 billion.

“The month of July was marked by record-breaking heat, deepening droughts, and destructive wildfires in areas all around the globe,” said Michal Lorinc, an analyst within Impact Forecasting’s Catastrophe Insight team. “Nearly every major continent recorded some type of peril impact that will lead to a major cost to agricultural interests,” he added.

(Insurance Journal)

(Additional reports from Climate & Extreme Weather News #132, #133; MrMBB333 blog.)

Hitting the buffers…

After more than a year of heaving up anything from 20 to 70 earthquakes a day, Yellowstone has fallen silent, which is worrying in itself, as that’s when the experts say you need to worry. The Blessed Mary Greeley observes that the Utah university seismometers are showing a lot of fresh magma intrusion and possible signs of outgassing in the Lake area at the heart of the caldera. She’s worried too. As is the USGS warning tourists about rising poisonous gas emissions.

On top of everything else, your old Granny W. speculates, why not?

 

Doomsday machines

A totally terrifying report from OPEC, the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries, forecasts a rise in consumption of 12 million barrels of oil a day from the present 100 million, by 2040. The increase will mostly come from the number of petrol and diesel fuelled cars doubling to 2.4 BILLION; and from increases in airline travel.

One barrel of oil produces a little under 120 kilograms of carbon when burned. So not allowing for other fractional production, plastics and fertilizers, e.g., which will doubtless also increase massively over the same period, that’s going to be 13.4 billion Kg of carbon – 1.34 million tonnes – released to the atmosphere every day, 365 days a year; not including other sources of carbon emissions such as forest fires, agricultural burning, warming soils, etc. and CO2 from decaying methane from melting permafrost, seabed deposits and animal husbandry.

Oh, and we haven’t mention coal, which OPEC predicts will also be burned in “record amounts” as India and China continue to industrialize.

The load is way more than the ‘carbon budget’ for the next 21 years, that would allow the concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere to remain stable, assuming we haven’t found a way to extract really significant quantities by then, and a means to neutralize or sequester the gas. 2 to 4 degrees of warming is already built-in to the existing model, that will cause irrevocable changes in our already fragile geopolitical landscape, largely through threats to all avenues of food production.

As Arctic News’ Sam Carana points out, there is no carbon budget; we’re already overdrawn at that bank.

The report of the report makes no mention of OPEC even beginning to understand the dire consequences of their profligacy.