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