The week’s BogPo gestating: It’s just something people are born with… Psst, wanna know where the Brexit “dividend” is going?… Call or write… Also in the news… A breath of fresh air #1… A Breath of Fresh Air #2… GW: Drainage problems.

Quote of the Week:

“Trump’s caddy came up to me and said, ‘You know that shot you hit on the par 5? It was about 10ft from the hole. Trump threw it in the bunker. I watched him do it.’”

-sportscaster Mike Tirico, quoted in “Commander in Cheat: How Golf Explains Trump” by Rick Reilly. Trump also claims in the official record to have a lower handicap than the great Jack Nicklaus. To have won 18 golf championships (all at his own courses – none proven). And to have been fully “exonerated” by Mueller. What a total dumpster!

 

No way out

As Brexit grinds wearily on, there’s been a rapid rise in the number of “escape rooms” – immersive game-playing environments that you are challenged to escape from. There are believed to be around 1500 in the UK currently. That’s despite the deaths of 5 teenagers in Poland in January, trapped when their locked escape room caught fire.

 

Weighty conclusion

According to the latest findings of astronomers, our Milky Way galaxy has a diameter of 358 million light-years and (including dark matter) weighs around 3,000 trillion trillion trillion tonnes.

Yes, but how many Wales’ is that?

 

It’s just something people are born with

Well, six months has gone by in a flash and the good news is, once again the clock on my car’s dashboard is registering the same time as the rest of the country.

For a while at least, I can stop worrying that as the nights draw in, the world will fall an hour behind me once again.

I don’t know why I’m expected to know how to change the time on the car clock. It’s just something people know how to do, apparently. An intuition they were born with, I guess. A comprehensible twiddly knob like on my wristwatch would help, possibly, and not interfere too much with the aesthetic: note to designers.

Personally, I believe that were it not for Indicative Voting, the Commons would now be eating one another’s faces over the results of a far more important referendum, seeking the Will o’ the People to stop buggering about with the clocks.

The rest of the EU is finally putting a stop to the nonsense next year.

Remain, I say!

 

Psst, wanna know where the Brexit “dividend” is going?

Well, apart from the $4 billion the government has allocated to emergency measures in case (as a result of their own incompetence) there’s no deal, vital supplies of bogroll and so on – ferry companies with no ferries, compensating their non-competitors; tanks in the streets, etc….

No, far from spending more on the NHS, this is what idiotic Brexit Leave voters have done with our taxes:

“The government has bought a $15.9m (£12m) seven-bedroom luxury New York apartment for a senior British civil servant charged with signing fresh trade deals in a post-Brexit world, the Guardian can reveal. The foreign secretary Jeremy Hunt oversaw the purchase of a 5,893 sq ft (574 sq metre) apartment as the official residence for Antony Phillipson, the UK trade commissioner for North America and consul general in New York. The apartment occupies the whole of the 38th floor of 50 United Nations Plaza, a 42-storey luxury tower near the UN headquarters in Manhattan.” (Guardian)

I’ve been thinking of buying a campervan, myself. Easier to get around, you know. Besides, you’d never get me up to the 38th floor, I’d be crawling around on my hands and knees, gibbering, too fearful to go near windows or glass elevators. It’s called acrophobia (vertigo is the symptom, not the condition). Campervans run around happily at ground level.

You can of course make the case that putting our senior trade negotiator in a Bell tent on the Manhattan sidewalk would not be very impressive; and if £12 million is what a fancy New York apartment with a view of lots more fancy apartments costs nowadays, it’s a sound investment. But it’s a terrible optic!

For, meanwhile… “between April 2017 and September 2018 … nearly half a million, at least 480,583 relief food parcels were distributed by the Trussell Trust and independent food banks across the UK during the 18-month period.”

Given that we have record low unemployment, that figure must largely be ascribed to the government’s economically debilitating benefit “reforms”, caps and UC, that are rapidly increasing inequality misery.

Those and ever-rising housing and food costs are also partly responsible for a significant increase in children and pensioners living in absolute poverty, defined as household income “below 60% of the 2010-11 median income, adjusted for inflation.

The latest figures show the number of children living in absolute poverty increased by 200 thousand in 2017-18.” (Guardian) That bears out reports from school heads that they are having to feed and clothe their poorer pupils in rising numbers.

Although, let it be said, I’m a pensioner living on less than 60% of the median income and I don’t feel absolutely poor. I note too that benefits are capped at £26 thousand a year, which is only a little less than twice what I live on.

Not doing very well, are they? D-minus. If the government were a school, we’d be looking at exclusions.

Meanwhile for new mothers who have everything, the latest craze is collecting limited-edition designer nappies (diapers). These desirable items of washable reusable infant hygiene aids I am told can be acquired for anything up to £100. Each.

I was going to upload an image here, as a joke, but it seems that used diapers (nappies) is a… well, you know, a THING…??!!*&@//?

Shit! Muh Googly Search will have been logged!

 

Call or write…

So, do you know what a Ponzi scheme looks like when it’s at home?

Investors put their money into an “investment management” company, which instead of investing it, as expected by the mark, uses it instead to attract more investors and have a fun life. The money from the newer investors is used to payout the interest/dividends and if requested, payback the capital of the original investors.

It’s a pyramid selling scam, only with pyramid selling you might be lucky and get the occasional tub of organic vegan face cream, some Viagra or a pair of fake onyx earrings. And it depends on not too many early investors wanting to take their money out all at once – which if you get another 2007 crash is all of them.

Eventually the weight of old debt o’ertops the new investment revenue, the thing unravels and then collapses into a deep, dark black hole. You almost have to feel sorry for the fraudsters running these schemes, so great are their liabilities and lust for yachts that you cannot imagine them sleeping well.

A bloke called Bernie Madoff is serving about three hundred consecutive life sentences in the States, for running a famous Ponzi scheme that defrauded punters of about a $billion. Not only will he die in jail, his bones will turn to dust before they let him out.

But they’re not so common in Britain.

Which is why you’d maybe feel a bit sorry for the small investors who bought into London Capital & Finance with their life savings, and have lost a total of £235 million. Because, also, the regulator should be in jail for not spotting this one a mile off.

Indeed, no-one seems willing to call it for what it is. Reports still show a lot of headscratching and “Oh dear, what went wrong?” “What lessons can we learn? (None, no-one ever does) kind of coverage.

It was a scam, dimwits! A Ponzi scheme. The only thing that went wrong is they got caught.

Claiming to invest in ISAs, which are a copper-bottomed, low-interest, Government-backed investment vehicle for smaller savers, the first £15 thousand of which is tax-free, LC&F developed a brilliant wheeze whereby the money that came in was loaned out to other companies all over the shop, in chunks of £20 million-ish each.

They weren’t even registered ISA brokers. Tsk.

What the punters weren’t told was that all these companies located in small boxes on agreeable desert islands whose growth they were supporting were owned by the four directors of LC&F. As indeed was Surge, the Brighton-based advertising agency that promoted the scheme with huge porky-pies and trousered £60 million in tax-deductible fees.

Now, I’ve owned a small ad agency myself, and generally speaking you go bust waiting for the clients to pay for all that hard work, long hours, expensive people and creative flair. Which we eventually did. If I’d realized you could charge a client £60 million for a coupon ad in the retirement press and some online flannel, well…. I certainly wouldn’t be living here.

What strikes me as weird, however, is that the administrators sent in to try to recover whatever they can for the small investors are working with two of the directors of LC&F, who are supposedly contrite, and don’t appear to have called the police.

Surely Ponzi schemes are illegal here too? Maybe not.

Hey, would you be interested in earning 8 per cent per annum on your savings and retiring in comfort to a timeshare in one of our exclusive desert island destinations?

Call or write….

 

Also in the news…

Two interesting items in the back-end of the news caught your Uncle Bogler’s eye this morning, mainly because they are a Brexit-free zone and your favorite Uncle will take poison if this appalling charade carries on beyond the 12th April, that important date when he has a hospital appointment for another agonizing Trial Without Catheter (TWOC).

Some people burst into the North Korean embassy in Madrid in February. They roughed up the staff and made off with computers and documents. This was just days before Trump’s disastrous “summit” with Kim Jong-un, a tyrannical and murderous dictator whom the insane President has said he admires and, yes, even loves.

The North Koreans appear to have only just picked up the ball with this one, having remained silent for over a month. Now, they are demanding the Spanish police investigate the affair. (The Spanish police ARE investigating, dummies!) And have claimed the Americans were responsible.

That marks the beginning of the end for the rapprochement Trump so fervently hoped would give him a Trump Tower in Pyongyang and some healthy golf developments on the unspoilt northern shoreline, once the mines have been swept. The North is back to blaming Washington for everything that’s wrong with the Paradise state, and has withdrawn its telephone hotline and pop-up consular office in the South.

But apparently a small faction of high-profile exiles from North Korea, based in Mexico – home of the exiled Trotsky – has already claimed responsibility. Clearly then the North is anxious to divert attention from what they must see as a serious threat to the regime. If the dissidents are that organized outside the country, then they almost certainly have backing in Pyongyang.

Watch that space.

Meanwhile, private computer security investigators have tracked down the hackers who released phone texts exchanged between Amazon CEO, Jeff Bezos and his mistress, Lauren Sanchez.

Messages that included, for God’s sake, embarrassing “dick pix”. (How old is the world’s second richest man after Vladimir Putin, 15? Does he seriously believe he wasn’t set up?)

And it appears the operation was executed in Saudi Arabia.

Who do we know who is connected with Saudi Arabia at the highest level and hates Jeff Bezos? But also loves the National Enquirer and has frequently, it’s alleged, used the supermarket trash-mag to bury news of his own sexual transgressions or to blackmail his enemies – the same National Enquirer that broke the story of the Bezos texts?

Oh, but everyone is pointing to the fact that Bezos owns the Washington Post, that has continued to blame Crown Prince Mohammed bin-Salman for the grisly murder of their contributor, Jamal Khashoggi.

So was this spiteful takedown that ended poor Bozos’ marriage directly ordered from Riyadh, really, or was there “collusion”?

I think they need a Special Counsel to investigate….

 

A breath of fresh air #1

In light of various alarming reports about increases in pollution, which on sunny days can sometimes be seen as a brown haze hanging over the town, even here on the breezy west coast; and of the deleterious effects of CO2 and NOx on the aged brain-meat, I had been thinking for some time that the purchase of an air quality monitor might furnish some justification for my fear that I am becoming mentally stunted beyond my years.

A fine layer of gray dust lies o’er every surface of my front room. Within a day or two of my lackadaisical efforts to polish things, the woodwork, the windowsill, this muh li’l laptop, it is back again. It looks suspiciously like asbestos dust, shed from the mighty brakes of the huge supermarket restocking trucks as they slow late into the deceptive bend in the road on which my little cottage was built in all innocence. Or maybe Johnson’s baby powder.

Twice a day, all traffic grinds to a halt outside, backed up from the roundabouts 400 yards up the road, cars just sitting there, bass-bins a’ thumpin’: dump-wump, woof-thump – grime at maximum volume shaking my window, engines idling; grime from exhausts blackening my frontage; a cloud of invisible madness and death enveloping my front garden: its vibrant Photinia, its pop-up restaurant for the quarrelsome little feathery dinosaurs; its stone bench I don’t dare sit out on to enjoy the afternoon sunshine, that ought to be my refuge and my right.

As well as the traffic pollution, I have also the twin matters of pet “dander” and cooking smells. I have no allergies to speak of, I can put up with pretty well any terrible conditions, being privately educated, but my younger relation occasionally stays and moans about Cats, the little spherical cat, and her overfed dander. As we spent a lot of his childhood rushing him to hospital for urgent ventilation, I’m inclined to give way on the subject of allergies, erring on the side of caution.

The lingering smells of cooking, too, I agree, can be unpleasant; especially as I don’t use exotic spices much, to remind you of an intriguing eastern bazaar. Just rancid chip oil. It combines with the revolting smell of rotting catfood waste from the internal black binbag store and the bathroom waste bin, with its tangy medical contents; and the odor of damp or farty dog, to create a distinct impression for visitors on entry.

My new Climatik device duly arrived with ruthless efficiency yesterday, a day early. It’s ever so user-friendly and effective, if a touch obtrusive, sitting there purring like an Airbus 320 in the context of my 12′ by 12′ front room, where I seem to spend all the time I used to spend in my expensive external studio-cum-office.

And within minutes of pressing the on-button, Dear Reader, I began to notice that I was no longer all bunged-up: snotty and muddlesome. A mountain-fresh clarity was lifting me up, making me want to breathe air fruitfully again. My nose cleared, my pulmonary airway eased, my chest stopped producing the aggravating gobbets of phlegm I’ve been hawking into a tissue for weeks – probably years.

And the fog has started to clear from my brain.

“The hills are alive…”

I seldom recommend a product to anyone, having no social media (or life), but if you’re miserable and stuffed-up and you live in a bustling town, try one of these here Climatik filtration systems. Other brands are available. It’s money well spent.

A Breath of Fresh Air #2

Good environmental news, for a change: Renewables now generate more than a third of the UK’s power output; coal just 5%.

“The UK’s greenhouse gas emissions fell 3% in 2018 as pollution from the energy sector continued to decrease, provisional government figures show. Emissions of the gases that drive climate change have fallen for six years in a row, and are 44% below the 1990 baseline for the UK. Emissions of carbon dioxide, the main greenhouse gas, are at the lowest level since before the start of the 20th century, when Queen Victoria was still on the throne.” (Guardian Green Light)

Aye, and we all know how much she emitted, the fat old thing!

Speaking of which, Mr Trump has made a well-received speech in which he ridiculed renewable energy, telling his adoring dumbfucks that when the wind doesn’t blow, their TVs don’t stay on. That’s why America has to go all-out for fossil fuels.

We know he was joking, right? Right? But they don’t, they love to suck-up his every slimy lie. Trump is biological opiod.

 

GW: Drainage problems

Intensive rainfall over a huge area of South America has caused flooding and landslides over the past few days. Floodlist reports:

“Around 70,000 people are currently affected by floods in several departments of Paraguay. Flooding and landslides in Peru have damaged or destroyed dozens of homes and prompted evacuations. In Ecuador, flooding in Los Ríos Province has prompted authorities to declare a state of emergency, while in Bolivia, over 2,000 hectares of crops and 109 homes have been destroyed by flooding from the overflowing Parapetí River in Santa Cruz department.”

Afghanistan: Flash floods have killed at least 32 people in western Afghanistan, destroyed homes and swept through makeshift shelters that housed displaced families. Flooding caused by heavy rains started spreading on Thursday and left a trail of devastation across seven provinces. Another 12 people were missing and more than 700 houses were destroyed or severely damaged. (Reuter) At least 5 people have died in flash floods in neighboring Iran. In a 24-hour period to 1 April, Khorramabad, capital of Lorestan Province, recorded 106.9 mm of rain. (Floodlist)

Arctic: on March 31, 2019, the Arctic region was 7.7°C or 13.8°F warmer than the 1979-2000 average for the date, compared with a world that on average was just 0.7°C warmer overall. In places the anomaly was +30°C as warm water has been pushing up through the Bering strait. Sea ice extent at 13.42 million km², was a record low for the time of year. The melt season is just beginning. – Arctic News, reporting on a Climate Reanalyzer satellite image that bizarrely shows a large cold spot hanging over Egypt, Sudan and Chad. The Antarctic, too, is colder than normal, by 2.4°C.

Canada: “Is warming twice as fast as the rest of the world, a landmark government report has found, warning that drastic action is the only way to avoid catastrophic outcomes. While global temperatures have increased 0.8C since 1948, Canada has seen an increase of 1.7C – more than double the global average.” More heatwaves, floods, crop losses and forest fires are indicated. (Guardian Green Light)

 

Of historic interest…

No deal
Javid, Barclay, Gove, Grayling, Mordaunt, Leadsom, Truss, Cairns, Fox, Williamson, Lewis, Brokenshire, Cox

Customs union
Rudd, Clark, Lidington, Hammond, Gauke, Mundell, Perry, Nokes, Hinds, Bradley

Undecided
Smith, Hancock, Wright, Hunt

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The Pumpkin – Issue 80: Long Essay – Trump: “I’ve got a little list!” Chor. “He’s got a little list!”… False flags… GW: Cry me an atmospheric river.

 “I support the Great Lakes. Always have. They’re very big, very beautiful, very deep – record deepness, right? Am I right?” – “The wit and bullshit of Donald J Trump” sliming an audience in Michigan.

 

“Take cover.”

Trump: “I’ve got a little list!” Chor. “He’s got a little list!”

The Pumpkin writes:

With the exception of early spec. pieces in Guardian Comment by Robert Reich and Richard Wolffe, and specious attacks on the US media (singling out the impeccably source-checked Rachel Maddow as the poster-child for news fakery) there has been a curious dearth of reporting here in the worrying aftermath of a memo that came out at the weekend (on a Sunday?) from the US Justice Department.

Although only a brief and tentative summary of the mountain of evidence Mueller has amassed, the letter gave room at least for the President himself to proclaim with total self-justification that he has been fully “exonerated” by the inquiry into widespread allegations that his campaign team “colluded” with Russia to game his election, and that he subsequently attempted to obstruct the inquiry by, among many other clumsy ruses, firing the head of the FBI, James Comey, and subsequently his deputy, Andrew McCabe.

Sadly, no such exonerations may be inferred! Only that the evidence did not point conclusively to a conspiracy – not that the suspected collusion did not happen, or that Trump was not keen to hush it up. Quite the contrary. Mr Trump has naturally seized on this narrow legal interpretation as a lifeline to proclaim his innocence – of everything, ever! – to whine about persecution, and to demand that his political enemies and critics in the media should be purged. (He has never fully understood the role of an Opposition party in Congress.)

So what do we think we know?

Well, first of all it would be odd if the report does not include a reference to the overwhelming intelligence that there was illegal Russian interference in the election. If there was not, the whole case would have collapsed and it didn’t and it hasn’t. I have not heard anyone make this point.

The question then shifts to who knew what, and when did it become known – Mr Trump is still denying it ever happened, but that may only be because his ego will not let facts undermine the legitimacy of his election, which was doubtful enough.

Was the interference solicited by Trump or members of his team or merely encouraged or even just sidelined – was there collusion – and was the law correctly followed in dealing with the information? (Obviously not, as it took months to drag it out of everybody.) Do the President’s public efforts to shift blame for what he says did not happen onto the previous administration and his political opponents add up to more than just a befuddled old man muddying the waters, or – taken with his physical actions in firing many of the investigators and worse – do they add up to a blatant campaign of obstruction?

If so, of what? Why obstruct, many have asked, if no crime was committed? And can a President in any case “obstruct” the justice he is ultimately responsible for administering?

The general view is, that as Mrs DeVos seeks to defund programs for blind schoolchildren – no, that’s not an April Fool – to pay for more tax cuts for the billionaire DeVos family; as the Republicans scramble to unpick Trump’s statements about universal healthcare they’re not planning or funding, and about sending Americans back to the moon, the shitty bits will come out in easily swatted dribs and drabs, and as the shy and retiring author slips back into the shadows, interest in Mueller will rapidly wane.

Trump was, of course, recorded in a widely shown TV interview with Lester Holt of NBC way back in 2017, admitting he fired Director Comey to make the “Russia thing” go away; a claim he allegedly repeated the next day at a private Oval Office meeting with Russians: ambassador Kysliak and Foreign Minister Lavrov, at which no witnesses other than a Russian photographer and the interpreters were present – he sent his new Security Advisor, 3-star Gen. H.R. McMaster, out of the room. Afterwards, he forced McMaster to go out and lie to a press conference that he had not, in fact, accidentally tipped the Russians off about a top-secret Israeli undercover operation against IS.

When the Justice Department had previously tried to warn him that his National Security adviser, Gen. Flynn, was a suspected Russian asset, instead of firing Flynn he fired the acting Attorney-General, Sally Yates. (He is now not dismissing the idea of pardoning Flynn, who he says is a decent man calumniated as part of the witch-hunt by trial judge Emmet Sullivan as having “sold his country out”. That’s pardonable – normal even – in Trumpworld.) Crude attempts were then openly made to prevent Yates testifying at the subsequent Congressional inquiry.

Investigations have already shown that there were over 100 instances of communications and meetings between team members and Russian entities during the campaign. But “no collusion”, apparently. Trump has on a number of occasions openly supported Russia’s President Putin’s word over that of his own security chiefs, has lifted sanctions in some cases, refused to impose them in others, and made foreign policy decisions that seem to fall in line with Russia’s global ambitions, against the interests of the US and its allies; notably his derisive and damaging attacks on NATO.

His transgressive behavior and frequent praise of Putin as a man with the power to get things done (including killing his critics) has raised unanswered questions about where his loyalties lie. He has attempted on 25 occasions to use the issuing and revocation of security clearances to control the conversation on Mueller within the security establishment.

Eventually it emerged too that he had lied extensively about having no business connections with Russia. Since 1987, but especially after a visit to the capital in 2013, he had been trying to obtain planning permission (against city building height regulations), seeking partners and finance for a 400-room “Trump Tower, Moscow” – efforts that were continuing, according to the Cohen testimony, even as he took office. It has also not been denied that as part of his efforts, there was an offer to gift Mr Putin off-plan, the $50 million penthouse apartment.

We also know from many sources that developments of his have been extensively financed or purchased by Russian investors, several of whom are suspected by the FBI of having connections to organized crime: racketeering, trafficking and money-laundering; and that he has potentially compromising debts to Russian and other overseas banks. According to his sons, “We do business there all the time. We have no problem getting finance from Russia.”

The case of the hot lady lawyer

On 9 June, 2016 (during the campaign) son Donald Jr, privately engaged with a Kremlin lawyer, Natalya Veselnitskaya, and the now convicted felon Paul Manafort, soon-to-be chair of the campaign committee; together with two former GRU operatives, and Trump’s son-in-law and senior WH advisor, Jared Kushner, at a meeting in Trump Tower, New York; facilitated by a Russian oligarch, property developer Aras Agalarov and his pop-singing son Emin, a “friend” of Trump Jr’s. The go-between was a sleazy British music promoter and ex-tabloid newspaper stringer, Rob Goldstone,.

Trump’s press people and Trump himself persistently lied about the purpose of the meeting (Trump notoriously dictating a press release giving false version of events exonerating his son to his Communications Director, Hope Hicks while aboard Airforce One) until an email from Goldstone was produced, showing the meeting had been called to discuss Russian support in obtaining “dirt” from inside the Clinton campaign; and that Donald Jr had replied, welcoming the prospect. The meeting broke up, apparently when the Americans decided Veselnitskaya wasn’t offering dirty enough “dirt” to satisfy the campaign objectives.

“No collusion”, then.

We still don’t know the full story, but it seems significant that at least three of those who attended the meeting, including Ike Kaveladze (“A Russian American businessman once accused of laundering more than $1.4bn into the US from eastern Europe” Guardian) were said to have had substantial experience (including convictions) of processing Russian and Ukrainian dark money through anonymous offshore accounts registered in tax havens.

Was any pledged to the Trump campaign at that meeting?

Within hours of which, at a public hustings Trump openly – possibly rhetorically – called for Russia’s assistance in hacking servers to find “30 thousand emails” it was claimed Mrs Clinton had deleted from a private account while Secretary of State in the Obama administration, on suspicion they contained breaches of security and evidence, both of culpability in the murder of the US ambassador to Libya, and of an illegal deal to sell uranium to Russia – both charges having already been investigated and dismissed by the FBI. (Hacking is illegal in the US, as is calling for it.)

Where had that information come from?

Members of his campaign team, including the longtime political “fixer” Roger Stone, were subsequently found to have had direct contact with Julian Assange of Wikileaks, a fugitive from justice, that eventually, er, leaked the Clinton emails, that US intelligence services swore had been recovered by GRU hackers. The FBI investigated the emails again, and found no significant breaches of security; a finding Trump refused to accept. However, the reopening of the investigation was prematurely announced by Comey and is thought to have played a significant role in Clinton’s defeat at the polls.

While, following the controversial $95 million sale of a condemned and rotting Florida mansion to Russian businessman Dmitry Rybolovlev, that netted Trump a $45 million profit, the “Fertilizer King” apparently turned up in his private jet, coincidentally parked next to Trump’s personal plane, at a hustings in Cleveland on the night when the candidate unexpectedly altered a party policy statement concerning Russian interference in eastern Ukraine to favour the Kremlin’s position. I imagine this widely reported story would have been of intense interest to Barr, as it may have provided evidence of a “quid pro quo”.

On taking office, Trump subsequently appointed his friend Wilbur Ross to the post of Commerce Secretary. Ross was at the time vice-chair of Bank of Cyprus, named as part of the “global laundromat”, in which Rybolovlev reportedly held a 10% stake and other oligarchs said to be close to Putin were named as co-investors.

A possible red herring, computer security analysts in 2016 reported the accidental discovery of a mysterious stream of traffic, in the form of thousands of apparently unanswered “pings” from a Russian bank, Alfabank, to a dedicated server in Wisconsin whose IP address was confirmed as being registered to the Trump Organization. Owned by a Ukrainian oligarch, Mikhail Fridman, Alfabank was linked to the Kremlin via its co-director, Pyotr Aven – a judo partner of Putin’s. The fascinating detective story is originally found at slate.com: “Was a server registered to the Trump Organization communicating with Russia?” (Oct 2016 cover story)

Other traffic from Alfabank was traced to a company, Spectrum Health, owned by Trump’s billionaire friend, Dick DeVos – husband of the unqualified Betsy, whom Trump controversially appointed as his Education Secretary. The connection was strenuously denied, but almost at the same time Fridman announced that he was moving some of his vast investment portfolio out of the energy sector and into US healthcare companies.

Trump’s lawyers, led by John Dowd, refused to let him be interviewed in person by Mueller, but instead agreed for him to answer a list of questions in writing; a list supplied ahead of time and vetted by the Trump team. Dowd’s outspoken view was that Trump couldn’t be relied on as a witness, either to tell the truth or to stick to a story that wouldn’t incriminate himself. Shortly after, he left the team. But lack of candour hasn’t stopped Trump from having at least two lengthy informal private meetings with Vladimir Putin at G20 summits, with no State Department officials or other witnesses present other than interpreters sworn to secrecy, and apparently no notes taken.

What does that say about his innocence or guilt? Or his mental capacity? And why, if he was so confident he would be exonerated, did he need to gather round him a team of maybe 15 or 20 lawyers – mostly, it was said, second-raters as no leading law firm would touch him with a bargepole!

Needless to add, those “not involved” have at times denied all or most of the above.

Nerves of Steele

Trump has consistently tried to discredit and muddy the waters around the so-called Steele dossier, which he claims is a fake. Most people seem to believe his line that a British agent was paid by the Clinton campaign to make up a lot of stories about Trump’s relationship with Russia and the Kremlin, but that is absolutely not how the dossier came about. It was another lie. Had Trump tried to dispute the actual document, line by line, it would have been an admission of what he had vociferously and frequently denied, that he had indeed done much business with Russia. So he just trashed it.

Christopher Steele, a former MI6 Moscow bureau chief, runs a private consultancy in London offering expertise in the Russian sector. A conservative Washington political research consultancy called Fusion GPS was commissioned originally by an internal Republican party committee to try to find out what “dirt” if any, Putin had on Trump, in order to help them divert any possible revelations that might come out during the campaign. Fusion’s director, Glen Simpson hired Steele.

Steele gleaned information from his old Kremlin insiders, some of whom have since “disappeared” or unfortunately died from unexpected health problems – such as Igor Korobov, the head of the GRU – that attested to many contacts between the Trumps and the Russians – and a possible campaign of interference in the 2016 elections. The story is that he was so alarmed by what he found, he sent the info straight to the FBI, who ignored it. (No-one is arguing the case that the Feds are competent security minders – see 9/11 for details.)

In turn, Simpson passed some of the threat info to the Democratic party’s national committee, who also took no notice, even while the GRU (“Guccifer 2” and “Fancy Bears” were two of their user groups) was ferreting around inside their computers. It just seemed improbable; while, for some reason, Simpson persisted in dealing with a junior IT bod whose superiors didn’t want to believe him until it was too late.

Eventually, so much signals traffic alerted European intelligence agencies to contacts between the Trump campaign and Russia that the FBI opened their investigation by surveilling campaign foreign relations advisor, Carter Page and three others under a duly authorized FISA warrant, that turned up Trumps, as it were – apparently incriminating phone conversations regarding Russia – hence the wider investigations leading to Mueller; since when, more than 80% of the dossier has checked out.

Not, sadly thus far, the bit about Trump and the p-p-prostitutes in the hotel room! (Putin joked, “We have the best prostitutes in the world!” (I imagine they’re no longer around to testify, if they had ever existed.)

It would be extraordinary if all of these well-attested, triple-checked press reports were shown by Mueller to be just “fake news”, as rightwing online commenters are now Trumpeting, merely on the basis of Barr’s reluctance to indict a President. The A-G has now promised a “redacted” version will come out shortly.

Burden of proof

It was always going to be difficult if not impossible to find an obvious quick, short, clearcut and direct link between Trump and Putin in a conspiracy to swing the election. Neither man works that way; Trump would hardly have sent a tweet asking Vladimir for a leg up, and it was not the point anyway.

The wider implication was that Trump’s minions, as Cohen testified to Congress, would be essentially coerced into showing loyalty by his alternating abusive rages and praise, maybe compromised over personal secrets, to seek to interpret his strategic aims and do his unspoken bidding. That was how he worked, mafia boss-style. There were never any “smoking guns”, and if there were they could be made to stop smoking with enough money tipped in the right direction.

Mueller may, for instance, have looked at a $25,000 check paid to a PAC of Florida Attorney-General Pam Bondi, following which she closed an investigation into the notorious Trump University scam, and decided that was another one for the Southern District of New York to ask why the money appeared to have come from a tax-exempt charity, the Trump Foundation.

There was no need for “collusion” when the Russians wanted to disrupt the democratic process and keep Clinton off the international stage. They didn’t need permission. Campaign officials merely needed to go along with it and keep enough contact to know not to get in the way, while Trump would no doubt have found it useful from both an electoral and a business point of view to let Putin do his work without having to ask for help, and communicate in private.

As they say in the military, no names, no pack drill.

The four-page letter from newly-appointed Attorney-General William Barr in fact makes clear that Mueller has unearthed a mountain of evidence, based on over 2,800 subpoenas, 500 seizures of thousands of documents and “tapes”, 37 indictments, 7 convictions to date on multiple counts leading to prison terms, however many Grand Juries, etc., some of which are still sitting. Supporting evidence, which it would have been impossible for Barr to have gone over in detail as well as the 800 – or is it only 300, as a concerted leak from the Justice Department is now saying? – pages (everyone has finally settled on 480) of the actual report to produce an authoritative verdict in under 48 hours.

But in the opinion of Barr, appointed by Trump following the firing of A-G Sessions for “disloyalty” (make what you will of that), if there is no finding of “collusion” in Mueller’s summary, then any subsequent attempts by Trump to pervert the course of justice could not amount to the more serious charge of “obstruction”, as they were purely defensive – a plainly ludicrous position to hold. Just because you robbed a different bank, doesn’t entitle you to shoot the sheriff.

Barr does, however, state clearly that Trump has NOT been exonerated of obstruction – a negative conveniently being ignored in the White House version. He merely states that he and Deputy A-G Rosenstein do not intend to proceed with an indictment: that being up to Congress to decide. There’s a lot of buck-passing going on, understandably as the case involves the august personage of the President of the United States.

Rosenstein too presents an interesting challenge. Owing to A-G Sessions’ recusal from the Mueller inquiry over his own illegal evasions about meeting Russian officials – a recusal that infuriated Trump, as he regards the office of Attorney-General as one that ought to be protecting him from gratuitous investigations – Rosenstein, a man it is said of impeccable probity, effectively became Mueller’s boss.

Summoned to the White House in December, after a meeting with Trump he announced he would be stepping down in March. Everyone assumed he had been fired to enable Trump to put in someone more compliant, who would slow or even kill the Mueller inquiry stone dead. In the meantime, Trump had appointed another “no indictments of presidents” advocate, the bizarre Matthew Whitaker, as temporary A-G. Whitaker could never be confirmed in the post, having been involved as a legal consultant to, and fixer for,  a company that was fined $26 million for investment fraud in his home state of Florida.

Then, just two weeks ago, after Barr’s arrival Rosenstein seems to have changed his mind. One can only assume he had become aware that Mueller was about to conclude, and didn’t want to miss the party. That’s assuming no-one had gotten to him and he’d agreed to co-operate with the “exoneration” narrative to save himself from Trump’s coming purges.After all, who had signed off the letter Trump dictated, justifying firing Comey?

Writing in Vanity Fair, Barbara Levin points out of Barr:

“… the guy literally got the job by sending an unsolicited 19-page memo to the Justice Department last June in which he called the special counsel’s inquiry into potential obstructions of justice “fatally misconceived,” described Mueller’s actions as “grossly irresponsible,” and insisted “Mueller should not be permitted to demand that the president submit to interrogation about alleged obstruction.” Given the choice between charging Trump—who seemingly admitted to obstructing justice on TV—with the crime or not, it’s not totally far-fetched to assume Barr would be inclined to go with the latter.”

Then, still defiant US media are bearing in mind Barr’s prior record as Attorney-General under the George HW Bush administration, when he engineered the case for pardons for six Reagan-era dirty tricks operatives, including Col Oliver North, involved in the illegal, so-called Iran-Contra affair (en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Iran–Contra_affair) These are considered to be telling indications of a deferential attitude toward authority. They are also qualifications for an employee who is capable of dissembling. You can see where Trump was tending to go, and his attraction to hack A-Gs who won’t dare to indict a sitting President has itself been put forward as evidence of obstruction.

It was not Mueller’s job to determine guilt or innocence. It was not in his brief. He was appointed as a Special Counsel, not as a Special Prosecutor. The proper procedure would have been for Barr to send the report to the White House, to law officers, and to Congress for appraisal; to publish the findings, and for it to be determined on the basis of all the evidence whether indictments should follow. That might still have happened. Instead, Trump’s chief enabler in Congress, the Savonarola of the Senate, “Cocaine” Mitch McConnell has moved to block release of the report, openly defying a 420–0 vote in the lower house demanding its immediate production.

Thus, in the absence of the report itself, a highly dangerous political vacuum has developed, that I call “Trump Unleashed”.

Trump Unleashed

“No collusion!” has been one of his constant rallying cries for nearly two years, along with febrile attempts to undermine the legitimacy of the inquiry and those involved. An apparent finding of “no collusion” in this one investigation seems already to be playing into his small hands, undermining public trust in the 16 other court-appointed investigations and a Congressional inquiry currently going on into Trump’s financial dealings.

It has effectively enabled Trump to assert that all such investigations are part of a “Witch-hunt” against him, motivated by his enemies and having no basis in law. Thus reified, despite all the other accusations hanging over him and his well-attested (but clearly entirely innocent) associations with criminals and corrupt officers in many countries, this meme of innocence will undoubtedly encourage “Honest Don” to attempt to consolidate his singular power over the judiciary, the media, the Treasury, the security establishment – the State; ruling independently of Congress in a loose triumvirate with the bristly neocon National Security Adviser, John Bolton, and the entirely Koch Industries-manufactured Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo.

In all of the above, the sharp-witted reader may note that I have not gone into the backstories and admissions of guilt – all involving contacts with Russia and Ukaine – by Trump’s lieutenants: Flynn, whose son Mike Jr cannot escape censure for his efforts to spread the absurd “Pizzagate” conspiracy theory, that Clinton was masterminding a pedophile ring out of the non-existent basement of the Comet PingPong cafe in Washington – a meme for which the British alt-right Islamophobic disruptor Jim Dowson has taken the credit, Dowson being a known recipient of Russian dark-money funding. Flynn, Manafort, Papadopoulos, Gates, Corsi, Page, Stone, Cohen… their connections with Russia are extensive and admitted in open court. Their grubby deeds are enumerated elsewhere.

Mr Trump’s legion of dumbfucks would struggle to muster two rational brain cells between them. They may choose to accept unquestioningly, his protestations that he has been fully exonerated by the Mueller report, but that is not true; it is a belief based on months and months of assiduous attempts by propaganda and barefaced denials to undermine the validity of the investigation, while ignoring the very obvious conclusion that nothing here passes the smell test. You would have to be a very unreasonable person not to conclude from all of the above, and the rest, that there were at least valid grounds for enquiry.

Yet despite his disastrous record in office the latest poll indicates that the vast majority of Republican voters – 79% – ominously acclaim Trump to be “the greatest President in US history” (I seem to remember those were his words?). Other, more sanguine Americans may cling for sanity to the fact that still, despite their best efforts at voter suppression and intimidation, Republicans are only a shrinking one-third minority of the overall franchise!

On the basis of its singular usage in the Barr letter, Trump is of course claiming total exoneration, although all the evidence pointing toward criminality has not yet been fully exhausted. He has repeated forcefully his view that (although it has apparently exonerated him – this is how his strange mind works) the legally constituted Special Counsel inquiry was an unlawful harrassment, a “hoax” that for two years has been stalling his project to Make America Great Again, as it says on his Chinese-made hats. He has accused individual investigators of “treason”; although the investigations were of him, not of the country.

He has demanded yet again that those he holds responsible – they include Hillary Clinton, James Comey and former President Obama – should themselves be criminally investigated, and has made threatening statements with regard to the potential for violence of his support base if his ambitions are further thwarted. One understands from the timing, that if Mueller had not given sufficient leeway to allow Barr to claim that the report exonerated him, an army of “Bikers for Trump” would have siezed the commanding heights.

Don’t be fooled. Despite evidence of some mental decline, an informal diagnosis by many experts of his delusional malignant narcissism and his wayward ignorance of political and economic affairs, this man is not a clown.

He has extremely dangerous autocratic and militaristic tendencies bordering on a modern interpretation of fascism: total contempt for the institutions of state and law, the international postwar settlement; complete disdain (openly bought) for the scientific consensus on climate, an unnatural, not to say fetishistic attachment to the symbolism (if not the actuality) of the US military and a warped understanding of the powers and responsibilities of his office: other than that they must aggregate to him personally, for his private benefit, rather than to the nation; since both interests in his mind are identical.

“L’État, c’est moi”, as Louis X1V reputedly put it.

He has also disturbingly uttered more than ten thousand plain, outright, independently fact-checked falsehoods since assuming office on 20 January, 2017; although his support base refuses to see them as such. Don’t assume he does it because he can’t help it: there is both pattern and purpose to his lies. And he has made many perturbing statements about his wish to control and even shut down, parts of the media with which he disagrees; even to the extent of calling for a rewrite of the First – free speech – Amendment. This is an instinctive dictator.

And now in the backlash – I feel sure the internet will be using the word “Trumplash” before long – US news outlets are already reporting on a memo the White House has sent out to the mainstream TV News channels, giving producers a blacklist of names of frequent guest contributors whom Trump warns menacingly they should think carefully about inviting on their talkshows ever again. They include a number of prominent critics among Democrat politicians, including the chair of the Intelligence Committee, Rep. Adam Schiff, the much-respected Senator Richard Blumenthal – and former CIA director, John Brennan.

Schiff came under concerted and clearly scripted attack by Republican congressmen in a plenary session only yesterday, demanding his resignation. The contrary actions of his predecessor, former House Intel chair, Devin Nunes, were not brought up. Schiff’s spirited defense echoed all of what I have been saying here, and should be viewed as a classic of clear-sighted oratory, of a kind Trump is making disappear: the sheer weight of evidence, he said, justifies concern, and the President’s persistent efforts to dismiss it must surely present evidence of guilt.

Finale: The Kush

For me, however, the even darker doings concerning Saudi Arabia, Prince Mohammed bin-Salman and the bullying of little Qatar until their sovereign wealth fund agreed to bail out Jared Kushner’s disastrous real-estate project at 666, 5th Avenue is a far more serious breach of ethics, Presidential privilege and firmer evidence that the Trump family is abusing the power of the White House and undermining the security establishment to subvert US foreign policy for the financial benefit of the Trump family.

An introduction can be found at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Hw0q2ppoDEM, an item that quotes “MBS” as gloating that he has the President’s senior policy advisor “in his pocket”. The MSNBC piece is over a year old, and a lot of blood has flowed under the bridge since then.

Kushner, for instance, is accused of abusing his security clearance, which we now know was controversial and sanctioned only by order of the President, to provide Riyadh with a top-secret CIA file of names of the Crown Prince’s opponents, many of whom were arrested and tortured – and at least one, Jamal Khashoggi – shockingly murdered.

Does Kushner have Khashoggi’s blood on his hands? Is that why Trump so steadfastly refuses to accept that “MBS” ordered the killing, in case it can be traced to his son-in-law’s helpful betrayal of intelligence secrets?

The problem being, that as Trump has successfully focussed the entire nation for two years on “the Russia Thing”, that has ended (thus far) without firm conclusion, no-one will now dare to open an inquiry into even worse and more treasonous crimes he may have committed in office.

This story, that I have tried to cover before, is affirmed in a new book, “Kushner Inc., – Greed, Ambition, Corruption”, by Vicky Ward, that is even now sitting on my bedside table; while already the standard wording from the White House smoke machine is calling “fiction” on it and thus giving it extra credence and coverage.

Newly empowered by the “no collusion” verdict, which, incidentally, polling suggests has not been bought by the majority of Americans, the contributors’ blacklist may be only the first of many such “little lists” of the President’s perceived enemies marked down for retribution in various ways and to shut down media prurience in case worse emerges.

The Pumpkin’s advice: “Take cover”.

 

False flags

Particularly in view of some strangely enormous lies that are emanating from the White House this week, as Ms Maddow has indicated on her show.

Vice-President, Mike Pence announced in a big speech that US astronauts would be returning to the Moon by 2024. That was news to NASA, whose moon-program budget has just been slashed as part of the cuts to provide more tax relief for the wealthy, and who had no plans for another moon landing in any case before 2028.

Mr Trump made a major announcement that, thanks to him, free healthcare was now going to be fully available to all Americans, paid for by the government. Simultaneously, his budget was being presented to Congress, abolishing the Affordable Healthcare Act (Obamacare) and slashing the budgets for Medicare and Medicaid by a trillion dollars. No alternative has been presented.

And another major announcement, concerning his now total defeat of ISIS. Just ahead of reports that the IS is more active than ever in West Africa and Libya, while tens of thousands of surrendered IS fighters are still available to regroup as no-one knows how to process them.

He then summoned the press to the Oval Office to witness him signing an order that in future, all US oil and gas pipeline projects must use American steel. The only problem being, there is no such order. Never has been. It was a fake document!

After which he set off into the countryside to tell an appreciative “rural rally” that he has introduced universal high-speed broadband to rural areas. Only he hasn’t, and there is no urgent plan to.

Maddow’s take on all this is that the Trump regime now realizes that to attain electoral popularity and with the 2020s coming up fast, it’s only necessary to announce wonderful things. Say anything! Nobody will even notice when they don’t happen. No-one will remember what was promised.

Oooh, cynical, Rachel.

 

GW: Cry me an atmospheric river

New Zealand: “Authorities have declared a state of emergency after record rainfall hit the South Island. Flooding has destroyed a bridge and several roads. At least one person is thought to have died. … The country’s National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research (NIWA) said the rain was brought by an atmospheric river which ‘has an atmospheric footprint’ that extends some 5000+ km, from the Timor Sea to New Zealand. … According to NIWA, Cropp Waterfall recorded 1,086 mm of rain in 48 hours to 27 March, the highest ever 48 hour total for the country”. (Floodlist)

Pakistan: “Days of heavy rain in Balochistan Province caused a landslide on 24 March, 2019, killing at least 6 people. According to local media reports, the landslide struck in Harnai. The victims, thought to include 5 children, were in their home at the time. Around 60 thousand people have been affected by flooding in Pakistan and northern Iran. According to the latest report from the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA), 31 people have been confirmed dead in flooding in Iran since last week.” (Floodlist)

USA: As yet another huge winter storm that has already caused floods in northern California and dumped another foot of snow over the Sierras, sweeps across the flood-saturated prairies of the midwest:

“A … phenomenally strong and prolonged “warm wave” (is) vanquishing monthly temperature records across northwest Alaska. (A temperature of 70F was recorded at Klawock on 25 March, the highest ever so early in the year.) At Utqiaġvik (most northerly habitation), temperatures have hovered between 10°F and 30°F. Similar readings are expected almost every day into next week. … The average high and low for March 25 are –5°F and –18°F. In 99 years of recordkeeping at Utqiaġvik, no March has ever ended up with a mean temperature above zero. In the first 25 days of March 2019, the average has been 1.9°F. Given the forecast, this month is sure to leave the previous warmest March average (-0.7°F) in the dust—and that record was set just last year, in March 2018.” (Wunderground/Earther)

While Michael Snyder (The End of the American Dream) writes of the disruption caused by the winter storms:

“The recent flooding is going to keep thousands of farmers from planting crops on time, and thousands of others are not going to be able to use their fields at all … When you factor in what is going to happen over the next three months, we are talking about an agricultural disaster of unprecedented magnitude in modern American history.” At this moment, some areas in the Upper Midwest still have “more than 20 inches of snow” on the ground… 200 million people are at risk (of further floods downstream)… (Zero Hedge)

Europe: As strong winds again batter the coast of Norway, warnings have been issued for the South Ionian sea, Crete and surroundings with threat of severe storms, capable of producing marginal hail, severe winds and torrential rainfall. Waterspouts are possible too. Similar conditions are forecast for northern Morocco with threat of severe storms, capable of producing large hail, severe winds and torrential rainfall. (Severe-weather.eu) It’s been warm and sunny all day here in Boglington! (28 March)

 

No colusion… Thus it begins… Stormy Weathered… Is it somehow getting colder?… The Idiot in the Box… GW: It never rains but it pours

Recent research has estimated that by 2030, the planet will be generating at least 5bn tonnes of poo each year. (Guardian)

 

Jeremy Corbyn with Labour councillor for Morecambe Lizzi Collinge.

“Oh, we do like to be beside the electoral suicide!”

Corbyn paddles while half the nation protests. (Sean Smith/The Guardian)

 

“Announcing (on a Sunday!) that there was “no collusion”, Barr has thrown the failing Republicans more than a lifeline.”

No colusion

So the verdict of Mr William Barr, newly appointed Attorney-General of the United States, is that the Special Prosecutor’s report he has finally been presented with by the vanishingly polite Bob Mueller, who has possibly foolishly left it up to the Department of Justice to have the final say in his investigation, fully exonerates the President of any suspicion of collusion in Russian attempts to intervene in his controversial 2016 election.

And that, he argues, is why there is no case to answer for the obstruction of justice charge either. Because if you are innocent of the one, whatever you then do in the full glare of publicity to continually and deliberately bugger-up a legally constituted criminal investigation into yourself, you cannot be guilty of the other. An interesting legal precedent: “I didn’t rob that bank in the first place, so shooting the sheriff can’t be a crime.”

And now it will be up to the Democrats in Congress to reverse his verdicts, which may prove difficult given the preponderance of well-funded Republican Trump enablers in the Senate, in desperate pursuit of re-election.

Once again, it seems Trump leads a charmed life. And once again, ordinary people are asking in their bewilderment, how come the holy-cow Constitution could allow one rogue individual to control all the appointments to the justice system and elevate themselves above the law, cementing corruption into the nation’s foundations?

The announcement seems to have met with a curiously muted response in the US and British media, third item down the BBC News running order, and a “wait and let’s see what the report actually says” attitude, rather than pundits reacting hastily to a 4-page summary from a possibly selective source.

But that’s the official reaction. Unofficially, my bet is, it could be months before the full report is released, by which time it will be coal slurry under the bridge. No-one will care anymore. We shall shortly see what Trump Unleashed can do, now his political opponents and critics in the media have been flattened by this unexpected verdict. He certainly wasn’t expecting it, but already he is castigating everyone involved as “evil”, and (like any good dictator) demanding criminal investigations into the investigators.

I would, were it up to me, become hysterical at this juncture and head for the border at the thought that Mr Trump will now consider himself free to wreak even greater havoc on American democracy and continue to betray his country’s former allies around the world with ever greater insouciance in support of Mr Putin’s hegemonic objectives for the Russian Empire, pursuing his own financial ends the meanwhile, but what do I know? Perhaps one ought not to take seriously, his recent threats of armed violence against the American people if things do not go his way. Perhaps.

The evidence of multiple contacts – more than 100 – between officials of the Trump campaign and individual Russians during 2016 was, I thought, pretty damning.

That many lied about those contacts, and some have gone to jail for it, while others who also had meetings with Russians have been granted top-drawer security clearances on the personal intervention of the President, over warnings from the security agencies, is pretty incontrovertible.

That numerous Russian individuals and intelligence-led organizations have been indicted in their absence by Mueller, and Russian spy Maria Butina, who infiltrated the NRA to funnel $30 million in Russian money to the Republican campaign, convicted for seeking to influence US politics during the 2016 presidential election, suggests that he cannot believe there was no Russian interference; only that he cannot ultimately prove that Trump himself was an instigator.

In which case, why did Trump refuse to act on multiple warnings that Russians were interfering with the election, and still refuses to accept the evidence? Why does he continually praise and defer to Putin? And why did he not act immediately when told by the Justice Department that Flynn was most probably a Russian asset; instead, firing the messenger – Deputy Attorney-General Sally Yates?

That there are several ongoing investigations into other, similar cases involving the FBI and Trump henchmen accused of acting for foreign powers including or connected with Russia, and therefore the conclusion has to be that there is as yet no conclusion to the Mueller story, seems a reasonable proposition.

Given these ongoing investigations, what actually has Mueller submitted, and why – why now? And why has Mr Barr stated that Mueller has now stepped out of the picture – is it just because he has delegated the other parts of his investigation to other jurists? Or has he in essence been fired by Barr, who took office only last month on a cross-fingered promise that he would let the investigation run its full course?

The evidence of actual Russian attempts to interfere in the election, ranging from the use of “bots” to spread disinformation and attempts to hack the voting machines, to the direct involvement of Paul Manafort, chairman of the Trump campaign and Ukraine political fixer, in supplying confidential polling data to the Russians via Konstantin Kalimnik, an agent of Putin’s friend Oleg Deripaska, to whom he owed $10 million was, I thought, pretty much settled, given that all seven of the US security services agreed on the evidence.

Yet Mueller has supposedly found no evidence of “collusion” amid the tangle of corruption and intrigue.

Is that just “no evidence” – The Pumpkin referred last week to Cohen’s testimony, that Trump is a past-master at wiping his fingerprints off every shitty con and blackmail he has ever (allegedly) plotted – or “no collusion”, period? And does “no collusion” mean nothing at all happened, or just that Candidate Trump wasn’t giving the orders?

We must wait and see when Barr releases the report in its entirety; although The Pumpkin has frequently explored the thought that it would be perfectly possible for Mr Putin to have acted alone, in ordering the hack of the election to defeat Clinton without any direct link to Trump; while Trump and his dimwitted henchmen shuttling back and forth to Moscow and Kiev and Belgrade merely performed the roles of Useful Idiot.

The Russia connections may very much have had more to do with his business ambitions – his attempts to raise cash to build a 400-room Trump Tower Moscow in contravention of city planning ordinances, complete with a $50 million bribe to Putin; his perceived laundering of dodgy Russian investment funds through his Scottish golf courses and other developments – his diffident attitude to sanctions – and with Jared Kushner’s desperate scrabble behind the sofa cushions of dad-in-law’s contacts to plug the $2 bn black hole of 666, 5th Avenue – his expensive white elephant, to mix one’s metaphors.

But it’s too late now. Trump brays he’s been entirely exonerated, his accusers were “evil”, and that will be enough for a lot of voters who can’t be bothered to read the small print, and who willingly believe his assertions that the investigation was cooked up by his enemies – had no legal standing, which is of course delusional nonsense – and that the Justice Department must now reopen the investigations that have already found Hillary Clinton and her campaign not guilty of wrongdoing. With Barr in charge and the courts packed with Trump judges, he may yet get to “Lock her up!”

Now, the effect of it is bound to be that whatever else Mr Trump is accused of – and it’s a lot – both he and his enablers in Congress will now have not just a megaphone, but a Marshall amplifier (goes up to 11) with which to howl down the “Democratic witch-hunt” at every opportunity, in the run-up to the 2020 elections. It may even bring about the collapse of other cases as witnesses could be too intimidated to testify.

“No collusion” has been Trump’s bitter rallying cry for two years. Announcing that there was no collusion found, which is purely his own interpretation, Mr Barr has thrown the failing Republicans, with their Trump-enabling, Koch-funded industry, more than a lifeline.

He has given Trump’s flagging support base, who were, it seemed (apart from the crazed Evangelicals) beginning to get that he has betrayed them bigly on tax and health and jobs, a new lease of life. Their smelly, semiliterate comments are all over YouTube this morning, of the “see, ya fuckin’ libtards, what did we tell ya? Our President is innocent! Now we’re comin’ for ya!” variety.

And now the Russians are also free to meddle with 2020 as much as they like. Was that what this was about, all along?

By focussing on that one crucial element of the report – and we know that Mueller was also probing deep into Trump’s financial relations with Moscow, which are a whole other story – Barr has essentially made all the many peripheral issues magically go away. “No conclusion” is already being spun into a narrative of victimisation of a wholly innocent and traduced President, Honest Don, besieged by lying political dwarfs from the Deep State. (His own fact-checked lies while in office now amount to more than ten thousand!)

And the irony is, “collusion” is not, as Trump’s friend and lawyer Rudy Giuliani has frequently reiterated, even a crime in law.

So the big questions remain unanswered. If there was “no collusion” – let’s use the proper word, conspiracy – what was all that about? Why was everyone lying? And why has Trump devoted every waking moment when he was not either watching Fox & Friends or cheating at golf at the taxpayer’s expense to making the investigation go away, by fair means and foul?

Why did he become increasingly pressured, sweaty and insane as the investigation was approaching its unexplained shock  conclusion? And why has Mueller, who was so strongly rumored to be preparing indictments against Jared Kushner and Donald Trump Jr, on much the same charges as Manafort, Stone and Flynn, suddenly backed away from those too? Has Manafort’s co-operation proved so totally unreliable? Is Flynn not being as forthcoming as was expected? Has Trump got Mueller’s grandkids chained to a radiator in a basement somewhere?

“Trump Unleashed” is a fearful thought, given the history of his presidency so far. Will his authoritarian, not to say autocratic instincts now be let loose on his perceived enemies in the media and in Congress? Is it the triumph of Putinism?

Many serious charges remain on file, much testimony stands against him in other courtrooms and local offices of the FBI, but there was “no collusion”! So, with that global vindication and the collapse of the Democratic balloon, what remains? Well, many indictable crimes, possibly.

But “no collusion” with Russia!

And in his mind, and that of his dumbfuck supporters, that’s all that matters.

 

Stormy weathered

Has he, for instance, already set about a vengeful demolition job on Michael Avenatti, the former progressive media darling and briefly self-promoting Presidential candidate for 2020, who very publicly represented porn actress Stormy Daniels in her short-lived campaign to call Trump out as a serial adulterer who paid $130 thousand to buy her silence during his election campaign?

For a few months, Avenatti was really getting under Trump’s gossamer skin.

Their efforts foundered when they went a step too far and tried to sue Trump for slander. Advice, don’t sue Trump, just – if you have to – you know – kill him? Because otherwise you are going to lose bigly, down to your suspenders.

And the pair fell out, with Daniels accusing her counsel of unfair dealing. Since when, Avenatti’s number seems to have slipped from the program researchers’ yearbook, and he is in a world of legal trouble himself. NBC reported, Monday 25th:

“Celebrity lawyer Michael Avenatti was arrested Monday in New York City on charges of trying to extort up to $25 million from Nike by threatening to publicize claims that company employees authorized payments to the families of top high school basketball players. Avenatti also was separately charged in a second federal case in Los Angeles with embezzling a client’s money “in order to pay his own expenses and debts” and those of his law firm and coffee company, and of “defrauding a bank in Mississippi,” prosecutors said.”

He’s also being charged in a Nuremburg court for starting World War Two by invading Poland, causing the deaths of 80 million people; of stock frauds bringing about the Great Depression, and of several gruesome murders of young women in 1880s Whitechapel, London. For those offences alone he’s looking at many consecutive life sentences.

Just imagine, if Trump finds himself in the next cell!

Thus it begins

Well, probably not. But what he has already done is to order a memo sent out to “TV Producers” (no names, no pack drill) listing a number of contributors the White House advises should not be allowed on current affairs programs in future because of their antipathy toward the President. They include Democratic Senator Richard Blumenthal, Representative Adam Schiff (chairman of the House Intelligence Committee) and former CIA director John Brennan.

This, it’s feared, is just the start of a purge of Trump’s critics and opponents.

 

Nominative Determinism corner

Head of the anatomical training simulation unit at Imperial College, London, is surgeon, Professor Roger Kneebone.

 

Is it somehow getting colder?

In places, yes, appears to be the briefest summary of a lengthy report reprinted with lots of diagrams I don’t understand on the Arctic News website this week. And will continue to do: for global warming is no longer considered to be a linear process, but one that is becoming increasingly disjunctive – chaotic.

Localized cooling is a transient phenomenon that has, basically, two causes. One we know about: the weakening jetstream has brought two winters of record cold to the northern United States and southern Canada, as the Polar vortex has become divided – while the far north of Canada, northern Siberia and the entire Arctic basin has experienced record warmth.

“As the concentration of greenhouse gases is rising and amplifying feedbacks from land, oceans and ice sheet melting increase, transient temperature reversals (stadials) accentuate temperature polarities between warming land masses and oceanic regions cooled by the flow of cold ice melt water from the ice sheets, leading to extreme weather events. The rise in Arctic temperatures, at a rate twice as fast as that of lower latitudes, weakens the polar boundary and results in undulation of the jet stream, allowing warm air masses to shift north across the boundary, further heating the polar region. The weakened boundary further allows cold air masses to breach the boundary shifting away from the Arctic. Combined with the flow of ice melt water from Greenland, these developments are leading to a cooling of sub-polar oceans and adjacent land.

“The freezing storms in North America … are cheering those who refuse to discriminate between the climate and the weather.”

That warmth, however, is causing rapid ice melt, which in turn is building up the cold spots in the north Atlantic and Pacific oceans, with a possible reduction of about 2C, that can also bring about rapid freezing events; as study of past climates, when CO2 and other greenhouse gases were concentrated in about the same quantities as they increasingly are now, shows. The paleo-climate record indicates that:

“during the last ~450,000 years peak interglacial temperatures were repeatedly succeeded by temporary freeze events, attributed to the flow of cold ice melt water flow into the North Atlantic Ocean (Cortese et al. 2007) …, associated with rapid rises in sea level, as during the last glacial termination … The rise in extreme weather events associated with current global warming to ~0.9°C above 1884 level (NASA, 2018) compares with temperatures and extreme weather events associated with the early Holocene Period (~11.6 –7.0 thousand), a period of major sea level rise of ~60 meters (Smith et al. 2011)”

Warming – freezing – either way, the consensus of thousands of peer-reviewed papers is that the threshold of 1.5C degrees of warming (on average!) we are approaching within a very few years (if we have not passed it already) and the consequent contrasts on the borders of cold and hot regions are going to bring about more massive disruption to the world’s weather, with stronger storms and bigger waves and tipping points being exceeded to allow feedbacks that point to an uninhabitable Earth within a few decades; and not a lot that can now be done about it.

Food security – this is my added observation – is dependent on climate stability and no sudden reversals. The report goes on to conclude among other things that water management will have to improve, to ensure drought-affected regions can be more efficiently supplied from wetter areas. I suggest there is no shortage of fresh water, in fact quite the reverse. It’s just that most of it is wasted.

(The report is by Dr Andrew Glikson, Earth and paleo-climate scientist at the Australian National University. Source: http://arctic-news.blogspot.com/, 23 March)

 

Algorithm Corner

“Do you remember the evenings at the pub when you’d be stuck with other people’s crappy selections on the jukebox?”

The Idiot in the Box

If the BBC iPlayer starts once more counting down to Series 8 Episode 8 of “Father Brown” while I’m waiting for Series 4 Episode 2 of “Call of Duty” to start, I think I shall go mad.

I have seen Series 8 Episode 8 of “Father Brown” twice already and it is as mildly diverting a murder-not-much-mystery show (with no fruity swearing and fewer bent cops) on a wet Sunday afternoon as all the others. I have no especial wish ever to watch any of them again. To that end, I have now three times clicked on the Delete from List button.

But the button is clearly there only as placebo for angry viewers.

The Idiot in the Box has unilaterally decided I’m a fan of any and all detective series, however anodyne, weakly humorous and Sunday afternoonish, and is indiscriminately trying to force-feed me the next one on its list, whatever it is. (Do you remember the days at the pub when you’d be stuck with other people’s crappy selections on the jukebox?)

Yet despite my advancing years and lavish whisky consumption, I am still sentient and perfectly capable of selecting things for myself, provided they are offered in sufficient choice. Which is the problem with the iPlayer menu: there is practically nothing on it that I have not seen before, or that I would ever willingly watch even once, let alone three times.

But you can’t tell them.

Whose daft idea was this?

 

GW: It never rains but it pours

“A recent report released by a coalition of environmental groups found that 33 global banks have provided $1.9 TRILLION in finance to coal, oil and gas companies since the 2015 Paris climate agreement.” (Guardian Green Light)

South-central Asia: “Flooding has affected parts of Afghanistan and Iran over the last week. Iranian Red Crescent Society (IRCS) reports it has provided relief and assistance to around 50,000 people affected by flooding in the northern provinces of Golestan and Mazandaran over the last few days. In Afghanistan at least 13 people have reportedly died in flash flooding in Herat province. Flash floods earlier this month affected 14 provinces of the country, leaving at least 63 people dead.” (Floodlist)

Australia: No longer expected to come ashore, Cat 2 Cyclone Veronica is stalled 60 miles off the NE coast and lashing residents with strong winds, rain and huge waves, threatening flooding. For only the second time in the big island’s known history, another powerful cyclone has simultaneously made landfall on the western side. Residents who have not evacuated are riding out Cat 4 Cyclone Trevor, which crossed the Gulf of Carpentaria in the Northern Territory last weekend, bringing down trees and power lines. Both regions are sparsely populated and no casualties have been reported. (BBC)

USA: The Missouri River in the city of St. Joseph on the Kansas border reached record levels on 22 March. Thousands of residents and workers were placed under evacuation orders in areas along the riverfront. The orders have since been lifted. States of emergency remain in force in Iowa and Nebraska, where at least 3 people have died in extensive river floods and damage is estimated at over $3 billion. Authorities expect flooding from snowmelt and intense rainfall in the Midwest to continue into May. Agricultural production has been severely affected.

South Atlantic: Forming about 600 miles northeast of Rio de Janeiro, Tropical Cyclone Iba is only the ninth ever recorded in the South Atlantic. “Steering currents will take Iba to the southeast, out to sea,” writes Dr Jeff Masters at Wunderground, “and the system is not a threat to any land areas.” Iba is expected to strengthen, but not to reach hurricane status. “While subtropical storms form about once every year in the South Atlantic, Iba is the first named fully tropical cyclone there since 2010. Sea surface temperatures have been running about 1°C (1.8°F) above average in the region where Iba formed.”

Wales: I have 17.1C, a pleasant 63F in my shady front garden this sunny March afternoon, 25th, at 14.39 hours.

The Pumpkin – Issue 79: Mueller iced… If Donald Trump isn’t crazy, then he’s deadly dangerous… Stormy weather… Nunes the Uproarious… You’re grounded!…Oil’s well that ends wells… GW: It might as well be Spring…

 

“Bad gateway.”

 

“The statement that no further charges are anticipated will surely give Trump himself both huge relief, and a massive propaganda coup against his detractors.”

Mueller iced

So it looks like Mueller has delivered his report on suspected collusion between the Trump 2016 election campaign and the Russian government, a year and nine months in the gestating (somehow the memory of elephant parturition comes to mind), to Attorney-General William Barr – a recent Trump appointee who doesn’t believe in prosecuting presidents – for initial vetting and, hopefully, public release.

The statement from Mueller’s office – was it a statement or just a broad wink? – that no more indictments are forthcoming, seems to let Donald Trump Jr (“Dapper Don”) and “The Son-in-Law Also Rises”, Jared Kushner off that one particular hook, of collusion.

Which seems odd, given that both have admittedly lied to officials about their contacts with Russians, while both were present at the notorious June 2016 meeting in Trump Tower with Kremlin lawyer Natalya Veselnitskaya, money-launderer and oligarch-connected political fixer Paul Manafort and two former Russian military intelligence officials, one previously convicted of money-laundering – whose purpose, again, both men lied about. Trump Sr also lied about it, issuing at least two misleading statements about the purpose of the meeting, which he also claimed, improbably, he knew nothing about.

Those are, I believe on the basis of many reliable accounts, what are known as facts, rather than suppositions.

Dapper was made to reveal the contents of the email with which the meeting was set up, to which he enthusiastically replied, welcoming Russian intelligence (“dirt”) about candidate Clinton. In addition, a number of meetings with Russians were not for a very long time listed among Kushner’s stated foreign contacts on his security application form, at which he had no fewer than 40 attempts before the security service was satisfied he had finally come clean. Deliberately failing to provide relevant information on that form is a federal offence punishable by up to five years in jail; instead he was rewarded with a top-level clearance, apparently on the direct order of the President.

Those actions seem to The Pumpkin to be pretty clear, de facto evidence of crimes for which other members of the Trump team have already gone, or are on their way, to prison. Nevertheless, it appears nothing more is to be done. That could indicate innocence, or it could equally be that more proceedable indictments are yet to come from other quarters.

The statement that no further charges are anticipated will surely give Trump himself both huge relief, and a massive propaganda coup against his detractors and his imaginary horde of enemies: the “fake news media”, who may now face retribution – and Nancy Pelosi’s Democrats.

Although perhaps we need to be reminded that he is still an “unindicted co-conspirator” in a charge of fraudulent use of campaign finances against his former lieutenant, Michael Cohen, who has already pleaded guilty, nevertheless it is perfectly possible that poor Mr Trump is in fact innocent of all allegations against him: traduced, and yes, Presidentially harrassed by treacherous elements from within the Deep State seeking to undermine his project to make America great again.

Trump is still facing no fewer than 17 separate criminal investigations, a broad-ranging Congressional inquiry, and battling literally thousands of civil lawsuits in courts up and down the land; the vast majority of which he has been losing, at least at the the lower levels. Nevertheless it is the Special Counsel inquiry alone on which he has pinned his Great Leap for Freedom, tweeting out eleven hundred times over the past two years his hysterical protestations of innocence and his fervent belief that the inquiry is all a hoax and fake and a Clinton-inspired witch-hunt.

It seems almost impossible to believe there is no hint of any attempt on his part to obstruct justice, given the number of justice officials he has tried to malign, discredit and undermine, or who he has actually fired or pressured to leave office. The tally of his victims includes all six of the senior FBI officers who could have given testimony against him in the matter of his reported attempts to badger Director Comey to drop an investigation into the compromised “Russian asset”, his chief security adviser, Gen. Mike T Flynn – who, incidentally, has yet to be sentenced, as he is busy informing against a former business partner also indicted on charges of acting as an undeclared foreign agent

Clearly the investigations are not yet done. But the main one, the Mueller inquiry, has been shut down – for good. Was this not Trump’s intention in firing A-G Sessions and replacing him with Barr, who was instrumental as George HW Bush’s A-G in quashing any inquiries into the Iran-Contra affair under the Reagan administration?

What idiot, in God’s name, wrote down the bit of the Constitution that allows the President the power to appoint the chief justice?

“it was always on the cards that Mueller would be unable to make that final killer connection”

The question surely must also remain, why Trump has responded to the Special Counsel inquiry throughout, in the way he has: frequently attacking it, claiming it had no legitimacy, frequently slandering Mueller and his team, branding them (falsely) as Democrat party hacks, complaining of lack of “loyalty” in the Justice Department; both he and members of his vast array of incompetent White House legal counsel making self-incriminating statements, if he has no awareness of his own guilt? Why does he need all those lawyers? To paraphrase someone or other, “methinks the Donald doth protest too much.”

But it was always on the cards that Mueller would be unable to make that final killer connection between Trump and what was very obviously collusion between his team and the Russians – over 100 reported contacts – many of whom he has also indicted, although their cases will never come to court. It wasn’t in his brief to prosecute Trump, merely to gather the evidence. Evidence that Barr has determined within 48 hours of receiving the 500-page report, goes nowhere.

And if no indictments are to follow, with no moderating influences left either in the White House or in the congressional Republican party, and any opportunity taken to claim his Democratic opponents have demonstrably been involved in a hoax witch-hunt, Dictator Trump now has a heaven-sent opportunity to let rip.

It could be calamitous.

Trump is a past-master, as Cohen stated before a Congressional hearing last month, of getting his way without seeming to give orders; of relying on a systematic grinding down, of compromising those around him until they grovel to interpret his wishes and gain his approval for skulduggery without leaving his fingerprints on any illicit actions or lies designed to benefit him personally.

And he has never been shy to throw his acolytes – for so even four-star generals quickly become – under the proverbial bus, as despite multitudinous investigations over the decades, his opaquely criminal career plows serenely ahead. He is, so far, seemingly Mr Untouchable.

He is also a malignant narcissist and sociopath, filled with malice and thoughts of revenge against anyone disrespecting his authority; revenge which, many US commentators are now waking up to realize, will be enacted, and soon, on the basis of his (again, false) assertion that Mueller has “exonerated” him – which he has not!

Whatever else you may say about him – and it is probably better now he has his tail up to say nothing actionable – he is an extraordinary character in the history of extraordinary characters New York has produced over the years.

F Scott Fitzgerald – even Damon Runyon – might have had trouble creating his like.

 

If Donald Trump isn’t crazy, then he’s deadly dangerous

In an interview last week with Breitbart News – and maybe he said these things only because he knows Breitbart reaches the more intellectual end of his dumbfuck support “base” other media cannot reach – Trump was at his most disturbing.

“So here’s the thing—it’s so terrible what’s happening,” Trump said before discussing his supporters (writes USA Today). “You know, the left plays a tougher game, it’s very funny. I actually think that the people on the right are tougher, but they don’t play it tougher. I can tell you I have the support of the police, the support of the military, the support of the Bikers for Trump – I have the tough people, but they don’t play it tough — until they go to a certain point, and then it would be very bad, very bad. … You wouldn’t like my supporters if they got angry…”

“Bikers for Trump”? The military? Is he threatening the American people?

Okay…. look, only a couple of weeks earlier Trump’s former bagman, protégé and confidant, Michael Cohen – a smalltime fraudster with a bad law degree and the owner of a New York taxicab firm – had remarked while giving sworn testimony to Congress that he didn’t think Trump would cede power easily if he loses the 2020 election, and that there could be violence. A few days later, it was reported that eldest son Donald Trump Jr, a booby with Brylcreem for brains, was being “groomed” by the party to run for the Presidency in 2024.

Was what he said to Breitbart one of his indirect, coded messages, by which Cohen says Trump conducts the shittier end of his business while personally remaining hands-off? Is his impeachment, or his removal under the 25th Amendment (designed to crowbar a crazy President out of the White House), or losing in 2020, is that supposed to be the bad, very bad “certain point” at which his well-armed and violent supporters rise up and start slaughtering Democrats and people of color?

We may not know, as shortly after the media shitstorm broke over that bit of distraction, Trump took down the Twitter link to the interview.

And what is so “terrible what is happening”?

Why, could it be the many and various legitimately constituted inquiries into his suspected criminal conduct and that of his rotten little family?

The “witch-hunt”, that has already burned a dozen of his associates at the stake and seems to be extending forever out into the Trumposphere, with daily news of this or that business associate of his, or of his ex-pal Paul Manafort’s, being jailed or indicted, or subpoena’d (that’s 81 individuals right there), or having their luxury pads turned over by the Feds?

The latest person of interest in the Southern District of New York court’s probe of Trump Organization’s finances is a Deutsche Bank official who was apparently involved in approving some of the $2 billion of loans made to Trump over 20 years, despite jitters on the board as – to their knowledge – Trump was overvaluing his collateral assets by up to 70 per cent to obtain money fraudulently and had no credit with other US banks.

The investment banking arm even lent to him after he had sued the retail banking division for $3 bn for lending him $740 million he couldn’t pay back, claiming their lending policies had caused the 2008 crash!

Citing 21 bank officials they’ve interviewed, a New York Times investigation reveals: “The bank lent to Trump despite of multiple “red flags” waved by other financial institutions as well as its own internal investigations between the late 1990s and 2016” – when Deutsche finally stopped lending to him.

According to the Times, says Fortune magazine, Trump also tried to woo Deutsche bankers with private helicopter rides and promises of free weekend trips to play golf at his Florida resort Mar-a-Lago – an offer he apparently tried to wriggle out of after the deal he had borrowed for went sour!

In an interview with MSNBC, NYT Finance editor David Enrich points to the unusual and probably corrupt relationship between Trump and the bank, which continued lending even after Trump had defaulted on a major junk bond issue in relation to his casinos at a time when Deutsche were themselves in trouble for money-laundering and interest-rate manipulation.

It seems Deutsche may have thought they were benefitting in publicity terms from their support of the glamorous billionaire poster-child for capitalist excess, just like all the other greedy, smalltime crooks and dodgy investors and gullible businessmen he has been conning all his life, or so investigators report, who thought they were buying in to the Good Times.

And so the rumors swirl that Mueller is digging deep into Trump’s relationship with one of the world’s dirtier financial institutions. But as I say, the net is groaning with fish as it stretches ever further outward.

Too-obvious-looking-to-be-a-real-mobster and Republican party treasurer, Elliott Broidy (photo, left) has also been in the crosshairs in the past ten days, as it was revealed the FBI had also seized quantities of documents from him a while ago. Broidy was caught up in the Trump spider’s web when the media reported in 2017 that he might have been the beard who paid $1.6 million to make an allegation go away, that Trump had fathered and then aborted an extramarital child with a model called Shera Bechard (left); checks were written in the name of “David Dennison” – the same pseudonym Trump used on his NDA with Stormy Daniels. Yet the story was heavily put out that it was Broidy’s ugly foetus, and Broidy’s bribe, which no-one really believes.*

A badly Photoshopped image, but you get the picture. (Apologies etc. to NY Post/ WWD/Rex/Shutterstock; Getty)

Remember, this is just one individual we are talking about, in an obscure network of Trump’s unfortunate contacts extending possibly into the hundreds. Given the vast complexity and weight of the allegations over decades about a multinational, multifaceted conspiracy of fraud, financial crime and influence-peddling in which the name Donald Trump appears to sit plumb centre, it stretches credulity that the President is the innocent victim of media harrassment, as he constantly whines.

The website City & State New York reported on Broidy in August last year:

“The investigation into Broidy’s activities comes nearly nine years after he pleaded guilty in New York to a felony charge stemming from his involvement in a pay-to-play kickback scheme involving then-state Comptroller Alan Hevesi. The scheme came out of an effort to get a $250 million investment from the New York State Common Retirement Fund into Markstone Capital Group, a private equity firm Broidy founded in Los Angeles. Broidy paid $1 million in gifts to officials in the comptroller’s office, according to then-state Attorney General (now Mayor) Andrew Cuomo.”

Broidy was also one of the missing links in Trump’s obscure relationship with Saudi Arabia, embarking on a mission with his pal, “businessman” George Nader, incidentally a convicted pedophile, one of several in Trump’s ambit, to raise a billion dollars for Trump’s 2016 campaign. The Intelligencer reported (May 2018):

“He had ingratiated himself with crown princes from Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, who were seeking to alter U.S. foreign policy and punish Qatar, an archrival in the Gulf … To do that, the California businessman had helped spearhead a secret campaign to influence the White House and Congress, flooding Washington with political donations. In return for pushing anti-Qatar policies at the highest levels of America’s government, Broidy and Nader expected (and got! Ed.) huge consulting contracts from Saudi Arabia and the UAE”

Other allegations of affairs, mistresses and bribery have swirled around Broidy – who is, let’s face it, no oil painting. This is the level of person with whom the President has for decades, right up until today, associated. You either have to agree that he has a most unfortunate choice in business associates, or you have to accept, I’m afraid, that the President of the United States is a tawdry thug and mobster who will stop at nothing to retain both his liberty and the power of the highest office in the land; while fleecing the US taxpayer of $billions.

Even, when that “certain moment” arrives, summoning his Bikers from Hell to overthrow the State.

* nymag.com/intelligencer/2018/05/more-evidence-that-broidy-was-covering-for-trump-in-affair.html

(And, boy, is the internet acting up today! YouTube too, I can’t seem to get at any of the material I need for this piece without a major struggle.)

 

 

Nunes the Uproarious

One of the great mysteries is why Trump has so many enablers who are seemingly willing to risk public opprobrium, loss of office and even jail time for him.

Frightened-rabbit-eyes, Congressman Devin Nunes was much in the news in 2017 (BogPo, 22 March) as the Republican chairman of the House Intelligence Committee who was leaking inside information to the White House about his own confidential inquiry into Russian meddling in the election, and attempting frantically – you might say farcically – to block hostile witnesses from testifying against his hero.

Exploring the relationship – a California representative, Nunes had done his best to massage Candidate Trump’s image in the state where he was least popular – The New York Times wrote in April last year:

“Trump appears to have been able to influence Nunes to a remarkable degree. So much so that during Trump’s time in the White House, Nunes has transformed the Intelligence Committee into a beachhead from which to rally his fellow Republicans in support of the president against his perceived enemies — not just the Democratic Party but also the F.B.I., the Department of Justice and the entire intelligence community.” (http://www.nytimes.com/2018/04/24/magazine/how-devin-nunes-turned-the-house-intelligence-committee-inside-out.html)

Nunes thoughtfully punches himself in the face. (Socialmediadaily.com)

Indeed, at one time Trump was considering making Nunes his Intelligence chief, odd considering he apparently has a reputation for studiously ignoring anything the intelligence community reports, but in the end selected Admiral Dan Coats – which he is probably regretting. Even so, Trump was mightily relieved when, ignoring all the evidence presented to his committee by the intelligence services and the FBI, Nunes singlehandedly rushed out his own report denying that there had been any Russian meddling and exonerating the President of “collusion”. He subsequently came up before the Ethics Committee, but it wasn’t a serious investigation.

That this man is a total booby-hatch job is revealed in a story of how, age 22, as an eager “Young Republican” from a wealthy farming family, he whipped up a hysterical campaign to rescue a traditional dairy farm he thought was being closed down, where he had enjoyed being at summer camp; only to find that it was being sold because the owners were buying a bigger and better one down the road. Nevertheless, the fuss he made impressed the local voters, and (despite being under the legal age) he ran for Congress, did well and got in two years later at the second attempt.

Dairy has now resurfaced as the theme of another farcical Nunes initiative. A satirical Twitter meme has apparently been going the rounds, concerning a cow named “Devin Nunes”, the Twitterati daring to make fun of his farmboy image. So thin-skinned has Nunes become since the committee hearing, where he was caught on camera skulking comically on the White House lawn and had to lie that the President was briefing him, rather than the other way around, that he has claimed the jokes are actual news items – “fake news”, and a breach of his First Amendment rights.

He has now announced a $250 million lawsuit against Trump’s favorite web platform for “defamation” and is threatening to go after the entire internet, wherever anyone has said anything about him he complains is unfair and not true. Even jokes. They might include his own mother, who has publicly stated (actually, it’s Twitter trolls pretending) that she doesn’t think he’s fit for office. It’s now all over the web that the Congressman is suing a cow, and the Guardian reports, Devin Nunes’ Cow has 107,000 followers!

This looks suspiciously to The Pumpkin like yet another piece of distraction to divert media attention from Trump-Mueller, in the hope that a few commenters will be scared off.

But it’s a welcome relief from jokes about the President, who is no longer funny.

 

You’re grounded!

The Federal Aviation Administration’s immediate response to the Ethiopia Air disaster was to give Boeing a clean bill of health, at a time when airlines the world over were dropping 737 Max 8 flights like hot coals. Disparaging remarks were published about Ethiopia Air sounding like some backwoods operation, when in fact it’s the biggest and statistically the safest national carrier in the African continent.

Curiously it was Trump who eventually expressed alarm, leading to the grounding of US Max 8s pending investigations into the suspect sensor that puts the plane automatically into a dive if it detects a drop in airspeed. Fatuously, but not without some justification, he grandad-tweeted that technology is getting too complex for normal people – even pilots – to understand it.

Following which, the similarities between Ethiopia and the Lion Air crash in Indonesia last November, that killed 346 people between them, started to come out. Although investigations have yet to be completed, there seems little doubt that Boeing knew about the fault but may have failed to ensure the airlines that have purchased over 300 of the extended 737s were fully aware of the problem and what to do about it. It’s said that the Lion Air crew were still studying the flight manual to try to discover how to override the automatic dive when the plane ploughed into the ground.

More reports then emerged of an unnaturally relaxed relationship between the FAA and Boeing, who have over the years acquired more and more autonomy over their own air safety inspections regime as the FAA’s budget has shrunk. They’re able basically to self-certify the safety of around three quarters of their aero-engineering systems, which seems hardly healthy.

Now we learn from the Huffington Post that:

“Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan is under investigation by the Pentagon’s inspector general over ties to his former employer, the aerospace juggernaut Boeing. The Defense Department said Wednesday it had opened an ethics investigation into complaints that allege Shanahan regularly touted Boeing over other defense contractors, including Lockheed Martin, while serving in an official government capacity.” http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/entry/patrick-shanahan-boeing-ethics-scandal_n_5c92f072e4b01b140d3559a6

There is, The Pumpkin long ago concluded, no end to the corruption, the cosy relationships between politics and big business that a system that places capital before human life and welfare inevitably engenders.

We might as well just give in to it.

 

Oil’s well that ends wells

“In the first significant check on the Trump administration’s “energy-first” agenda, a US judge has temporarily halted hundreds of drilling projects for failing to take climate change into account. Drilling had been stalled on more than 300,000 acres of public land in Wyoming after it was ruled the Trump administration violated environmental laws by failing to consider greenhouse gas emissions.” Environmentalists are hailing a significant advance. (Guardian Green Light)

The company concerned is squealing that it can’t possibly guess how much methane it’s going to spew into the atmosphere if it doesn’t yet know how many wells it’s going to drill. Clearly, they don’t employ anyone with a knowledge of calculus. As for the Trump administration failing to consider greenhouse gas emissions, they’ve just appointed a panel headed by a notorious climate-change denier, Prof William Happer, who owns a private foundation funded by Exxon-Mobil and Koch Industries, to overturn the pretty dire findings of their own 4th National Climate Assessment last year. They don’t accept the principle that the greenhouse effect even exists.

Here in the UK: “The government’s fracking proposals would release the same amount of greenhouse gas emissions as almost 300 million new cars, fatally undermining ministers’ obligation to tackle the escalating climate crisis, according to new research Analysis by the Labour party shows that the amount of carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere if the government’s plans go ahead would be the same as the lifetime emissions of 286 million cars – or 29 new coal-fired power plants.” (Guardian Green Light)

 

GW: It might as well be Spring

Australia: A state of emergency has been declared in the Gulf of Carpentaria as the largest ever evacuation before a cyclone takes place in the Northern Territory. “Cyclone Trevor is expected to make landfall again as a Category 4 on Saturday with authorities warning conditions are already deteriorating fast. Authorities have warned Trevor could bring wind gusts in excess of 200-300km/h (up to 185 mph!) as well as massive rainfalls.” (9Com News)

Meanwhile, on the other side of the country:  “In less than 24 hours, Veronica went from an unnamed tropical low to a Category 4 intense tropical cyclone as it spun off the northwestern coastline of Western Australia. Further strengthening is expected as Veronica turns southward toward the Australia coastline in the coming days.” Depending on an as-yet uncertain forecast, “Areas near and along Veronica’s track will be at risk for life-threatening flooding and damaging winds capable of damaging homes, knocking down trees and causing widespread power cuts and travel disruptions.” (Accuweather)

Mozambique: Rescue efforts are continuing in Africa’s third-poorest country (GDP $12 billion) in the wake of Cyclone Idai as an inland sea 30 miles wide continues to grow from continuous rainfall, swollen rivers and bursting dams. The airstrip at Beira is open again to allow aid flights but tens of thousands of people are still marooned on rooftops and in trees by rising floodwaters and there are only 4 helicopters available, which seem to be taken up with overflying the world’s media. Frantic efforts are being made to evacuate the town of Buza (pop. 200,000) threatened with total inundation. It’s currently still raining but a dry spell is forecast next week that might bring some relief. The regional death toll from what is being described as Africa’s Katrina is still being put at 400, although it is expected to rise to more than a thousand. The Indian navy reports hundreds of bodies floating out to sea. (Wunderground and various sources)

Your Gran speculates that meteorologists will want to look at how this powerful 115 mph, Cat 3 storm developed in just a few days from a tropical depression, with only the 200-mile Mozambique Channel to cross. Cyclones seem to be intensifying more rapidly as the oceans warm and the jetstreams become more fragmented, creating static areas where wind shear may or may not be a factor. Last year’s Hurricane Michael, the third most powerful in US history, just appeared out of the Gulf as if from nowhere, taking forecasters by surprise. But strong wind-shear conditions lasting for months prevented any major Caribbean hurricanes from forming.

Angola: At least 19 people have died and 8 are still missing after a period of heavy rain brought flooding to the provinces of Benguela, Luanda, Huíla and Zaire. (Floodlist)

Indonesia: At least 5 people have died in Yogyakarta City and the surrounding regions after heavy rain over the last few days triggered flash floods and landslides. Over 170 homes have been damaged, along with roads and electricity lines. (Floodlist)

Paraguay: Heavy rain and flooding have affected tens of thousands of people since 15 March. The worst affected areas are in the departments of Presidente Hayes, Concepción and Guairá. Some villages are isolated. More heavy rain is forecast.

USA: “The flooding disaster that continues to unfold over the central United States is likely to continue well into April, putting more communities and farmland at risk. The disaster was set in motion during the second week of March, when a ‘bomb cyclone’ struck the region, dropping heavy rain and triggering massive snowmelt, which led to an excess of runoff into rivers and waterways. The flooding has led to several deaths, the evacuation of an entire town in Missouri and over $1 billion in damage thus far.” (Accuweather) Agricultural outputs are forecast to be severely affected, while the river flooding (the Missouri in Nebraska hit a new record high-watermark) has yet to peak downstream and may continue into the summer months. And “There may be another larger storm that will roll through the central U.S. with rain during the latter half of next week”, says Accuweather.

Canada: Temperatures in the Northern Territories have been as high as 21.6C in the past week, just over 70F. The late March temperature going back to 1900 is normally around 0C, 32F. Ice roads have become impassable for local communities. (Paul Beckwith/Earth Nullschool)

 

Land of our Feathers

The Joint Nature Conservation Committee reports: “The nation is failing to protect threatened species, end the degradation of land, reduce agricultural pollution and increase funding for green schemes. It also says the UK is not ending unsustainable fishing, stopping the arrival of invasive alien species nor raising public awareness of the importance of biodiversity.” (Guardian Green Light)

19 targets were set in 2010 by the global Convention on Biological Diversity. Only 5 are being met. Most attempts at “rewilding” Britain are being vigorously opposed by landowners and the owners of shooting estates, whose gamekeepers continue to flout laws supposedly protecting raptors and prey mammals.

I don’t know if that explains it, but over the past two days, 90% of the greedy, quarrelsome little buggers that normally feast on the pop-up restaurant in my front garden, that I call “Feathers”, have simply vanished.

It must mean something.

 

This week – including: Forgetting the sins of the past… In your face… Fleabag: A metatextual moment to savor… GW: Happy days – the calm before (and after) the storm… Britain: the Fortunate Isles!

Quote of the Week

“During the referendum three long and painful years ago, it was the Leavers’ boast that they would restore parliamentary sovereignty to all the powers and glories they claimed had been lost to Brussels. What they have instead done is to turn Britain’s legislature into a theatre of anarchy that daily demonstrates that it cannot agree on anything. A country once widely admired for the functioning of its democracy and the robustness of its institutions has been turned into a global joke.” – Andrew Rawnsley, writing in The Observer

 

“The crocodile tears of politicians on both sides are certainly not enough to put out the fire.”

Forgetting the sins of the past

Until the early 20th century, New Zealand had an unusually complex relationship with violence. At the same time as white settlers were engaging with hostile native Maori, the Maori themselves were involved in many brutal local wars, particularly in the Chatham Islands, where they massacred and enslaved the Morori population. Some Maori kingdoms joined with the white settlers – the forces of the British Crown – in power grabs against other tribes. Wikipedia lists a depressing series of massacres, large and small, over 250 years. The history is only now being acknowledged:

“A 2013 Waitangi Tribunal report said the action of Crown forces on the East Coast from 1865 to 1869—the East Coast Wars and the start of Te Kooti’s War—resulted in the deaths of proportionately more Māori than in any other district during the New Zealand wars. It condemned the “illegal imprisonment” on the Chatham Islands of a quarter of the East Coast region’s adult male population and said the loss in war of an estimated 43 percent of the male population, many through acts of “lawless brutality”, was a stain on New Zealand’s history and character.”

The terrible massacre of – so far, 10 more are critical – 50 Muslim men, women and even very young children in a well-armed attack on two Christchurch mosques, self-presented on social media by averred white supremacist Brenton Harrison Tarrant, an Australian national who had somehow managed to obtain a Class B gun licence permitting the purchase of rapid-fire military assault rifles AND kept himself off any terror suspect lists, has been described as New Zealand’s “loss of innocence”, referring – we suppose – to the idea that it is and has always been a peaceful, law-abiding paradise where acts of terrorism never happen. The killings have been described by some as “unprecedented” in the islands’ history.*

It’s remarkable, how easily the victors of three centuries of colonial wars and ruthless clearances and brutal occupations and rebellions and reprisal killings and lynchings and mass rapes and deliberate infections with diseases and poisonings of wells and torn-up treaties from misalliances in so many countries around the world, forget the sins of the past.

And how easily the present-day rulers of postcolonial nations accommodate themselves to the popular belief in the supremacy of their races, purely on the basis that their atrocities outperformed those of the peoples they have supplanted in defeat. And how many deluded individuals follow them, in the belief that murder of the Other is being licensed by a higher authority. Tarrant’s manifesto clearly placed him in the camp of the medieval Crusaders, it seemingly having never occurred to him that in relation to the native Australians, after 60 thousand years he’s the immigrant.

As he bathed in the adulation of a selected human-wallpaper phalanx of burly border security goons and the families of some of the token “victims” of forerunners of the million criminal migrants he believes in his craziness are massing on his southern border**, in a carefully choreographed ceremony to veto the legitimate rejection by Congress of his absurd “State of Emergency” declaration, Mr Trump commented in passing on the Christchurch massacre, that he didn’t think white supremacist terrorism was much of a problem anywhere.

His insouciance – with echoes of past comments about “many fine people” among the neo-Nazis of Charlottesville and a willingness to believe terrorism is only a problem when it’s carried on by non-white, non-Christians – found another echo in Tarrant’s online “manifesto”, both men preferring to substitute the pejorative “invasion” for legal migration. The Guardian reported:

“In the US, violence by far-right attackers has surged since Trump took office. There has been a documented rise in anti-Muslim hate groups in the country in the last three years, and the FBI has reported a steady increase in reports of hate crimes.” Let alone, the virulent conspiratorial messaging online.

And it’s true, we can’t simply erase from the narrative, because it might seem sacrilegious not to do so at this time, the many acts of callous violence perpetrated by Muslims – call them Islamist extremists if you will, the problem with opposing all religious extremism and violence being the risk of denigrating the core beliefs and values of the congregation as a whole – in recent years on civilian targets in the West.

The image of Tarrant, or his hero, the Norwegian psychopath Anders Breivik, calmly wading through screaming crowds of innocent worshippers, spraying bullets indiscriminately from high-powered automatic rifles, is indeed as truly horrifying as that of the Islamist gunmen who took over the Bataclan concert hall in Paris and slaughtered over 90 young concertgoers, or the two men who wandered along the beach on a sunny day in Tunisia, firing AK-47s at random at defenceless Western tourists lying out in the sun. There’s an endless supply of disaffected petty criminals to carry out the dirty work of political religionists in the shadows.

If questioned, those men would no doubt point to the thousands of innocent men, women and children who have died in Western military-supported actions in the Muslim world; or to the savage punitive reprisal raids known as “mowing the lawn” conducted with supreme indifference by Israeli forces in Gaza, responding to minimal acts of self-defense by the Palestinians. Others will point to the cathartic moment for the West of the demolition of the World Trade Center in 2001 by Saudi Wahabbi terrorists using hijacked airliners, the ensuing deaths of three thousand people and counting; deaths on the streets of cities.

But what are we going to do, go on playing “You started it!” all the way back to the first crusade and beyond? The best game of all would be, wouldn’t it, “We stopped it!”.

The crocodile tears of politicians offering “prayers and condolences” on both sides are certainly not enough to put out the fire; not while they still have an ounce of ambition.

Ending our infantile obsession with iconographic religious mythology and dead books might be a good place to start.

*(I notice the MSM are now inserting the modifier “modern” in front of “history”.)

**(I apostrophize the word “victims” not out of bias, but because a number of these poor people he ruthlessly exploits in pursuit of his anti-immigrant crusade are apparently the relatives of people who died in traffic accidents where one or another person involved was found to be an undocumented migrant – and not the victims of criminal violence, as Trump likes to insinuate. The truth is that immigrants are responsible for considerably less crime than the legal residents.)

 

Goat for me!

The town of Fair Haven, Vermont, has elected a Nubian goat called Lincoln as its mayor. Lincoln beat off competition from half a dozen animals, including Crystal, a gerbil, and then promptly blotted her copybook by crapping on the floor of the town hall.

Proving she’s a true-blue Republican.

 

“Why do they imagine we want this?”

In your face

A friend told me, the local assembly government is hiring temporary people to deal with the Brexit crisis. Though long retired, I had a track record in creative business communication, planning and management, and could use the money. So in the Dunkirk Spirit, I thought I’d apply.

I’d got a few lines in to compiling a heavily redacted and imaginative CV, using Word, when Microsoft piped up. “I see you’re writing a CV”, said the message. “Would you like any help?”

Jesus Fucking H Christ, Just FUCK, FUCK, FUCKETTY-FUCK RIGHT OUT OF OUR FACES, YOU FUCKING SHITWARE MONSTERS!!!!! WHAT I AM WRITING IS NONE OF YOUR FUCKING BUSINESS.

Did you get that?

Fucking beanbags. Why do they imagine we want this?

 

(Okay, I’ll try and find more photos requiring satirical captions…. patience!)

Fleabag: A metatextual moment to savor

Just when you thought the TV comedy series, Fleabag 2 was proving a little… well, disappointingly unoriginal compared with the much-acclaimed first series, an extraordinary moment pops up and hits you right between the eyes.

It’s a dramatic convention that you break the ‘fourth wall’ – the invisible barrier between the actors and the audience – only for humorous effect. The actor becomes, for a moment at least, the knowing confidant of the viewer: at all other times you maintain the fiction of dramatic distance. The risk of bridging it being that you momentarily betray the unspoken compact between the author and the viewer to suspend disbelief in the narrative.

The character of Fleabag, the mixed-up, sex-obsessed heroine played (and written) by Phoebe Waller-Bridge, frequently turns to camera at telling moments with a knowing look or an aside, establishing complicity with the viewer. It’s the trademark style of the production.

In episode one of the story, Fleabag falls hopelessly for a hot Catholic priest, played by “Moriarty” Andrew Scott. “Will they, won’t they?” appears to be the subplot.After a difficult encounter with Claire, her brittle and repressed, more successful older sister, and having had her advance charmingly rebuffed by an older lesbian woman (Kristen Scott-Thomas, admitting to 58), in episode three, she goes round to find consolation with him.

They’re sitting on a bench in his garden, drinking gin and tonic out of cans, where he confesses that he frequently has religious doubts, but explains that’s the whole point of religion. She brings up the inevitable question about priestly celibacy and he tells her firmly, they’re not going to have sex, he’s been there too many times before and it doesn’t make people happy.

“But I’d really like to be your friend”, he says…. And Fleabag turns to the camera, gives us one of her wide-eyed, knowing looks, and mutters to us cynically: “It’ll last a week”.

The Priest looks at her, startled, and asks, not “What did you say”, but: “Where did you go just then? You went somewhere else!” And she turns into the camera again, with an ambiguous expression, and he repeats, “Yes, there!”

A fictional character in a play has – for the first time that I know of – intuited within the drama that he suddenly suspects there might be a higher, unexpected reality beyond the “wall”, and that another fictional character he is playing against is directly connecting with it, while he isn’t…..

Yet he’s the Catholic priest!

Just that tiny moment of “clang!”, of astonishing originality and brilliance, brings the whole series to life. A stunning piece of writing; extraordinarily fearless metatextual bravado. And brilliantly acted, too.

 

GW: Happy days – the calm before (and after) the storm

Your Granny recently commented that things seem to have gone curiously quiet on the world weather front lately, with few absolute disasters to report. (At the time it didn’t appear that the Mozambique cyclone was likely to be one of the deadliest since Haiyan.) As recorded on the BogPo’s statistics graph, some kind Reader, Spammer etc. seems to have looked up a fetchingly attractive old Post of your Uncle Bogler’s; and, forgetting what the contents were about, I opened it up, to find I’d composed an alarming summary of weather events around the world at that time, that I here reproduce by way of comparison; lest we forget, sort of thing.

So, deep breath, in roughly the week leading up to and shortly after 25 July, 2017, the following happened:

  • 8: Number of tropical cyclones reported active in the Pacific region currently, a 40-year record.
  • Myanmar (Burma): widespread floods, storm surge drowns town: watch from 14’30” as a gilded buddhist temple is washed into the sea: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=smxPAG_yCzU&t=250s. Lack of drinking water affecting villagers.
  • China: Yulin province, widespread flooding in Yulin city washes away buildings, cars; smashes up streets. Four die in Sichuan and Guangxi flash-floods. Buildings collapsing. 20 thousand evacuated.
  • China: Shanghai, highest temperature ever recorded in the city @ 40.9°C (105.6°F), 21 July.
  • South Korea: heat advisories for 95 deg. -plus in south, more forecast; widespread flooding follows torrential rain further north, around Seoul.
  • Assam, India: 5 million still displaced by flooding; death toll reaches 73. Kaziranga National Park underwater, many animals drowned.
  • Gujarat, India: widespread flooding. 113 dead. Millions affected. Many dams overtopped, towns inundated, national highways closed. Shortages of food and drinking water. More rain forecast.
  • Thailand: “Flooding has affected several provinces, damaging 10,000 homes, and crops. Disaster management authorities have issued warnings for further heavy rain for the next 4 days.”
  • Japan: “Authorities in Akita Prefecture, north western Japan, issued evacuation orders on Sunday 23 July due to flooding after a period of heavy rain. Some areas recorded more than 300 mm in 24 hours. Severe damage was recorded in 17 cities.”
  • New Zealand, South Island: widespread flooding. Dunedin cut off by road; states of emergency declared in Christchurch, Canterbury, Otago.
  • USA: record-river-level flooding in Algonquin, Galina, Pearl City Illinois. Powerful storms, more rain forecast. Widespread flooding in New Orleans as tropical storm ‘stalls’ over the city. State of emergency in Wisconsin, power outages, roads broken up in DC. Flash floods, local states of emergency in Kentucky, Missouri. Storm cells moving east have caused extensive flood and wind damage in the midwest. Major flooding in Birmingham Alabama.
  • USA: “Excessive heat warnings were in place on Friday (21st) for Omaha, Kansas City, Des Moines, St. Louis, and neighboring areas, where heat indices will range between 105°F and 115°F. The Philadelphia area was also in an excessive heat warning for heat indices that could reach 103°F.”
  • USA: Wildfires continue to burn in California, Nevada, Utah, but the huge Detwiler fire near Yosemite National Park, Wyoming, is said to be ‘coming under control’ after a week. 75 thousand acres burned. Heatwave abating slowly but still in the 90s – 105F again in Phoenix today, 95F across Florida, Texas.
  • Mexico: Guadalajara city inundated after flash flooding, torrential rain.
  • Nigeria: localised flooding in the capital, Lagos and outlying villages, continuing rain.
  • Ghana: two die in flash flooding in Tamale province.
  • S. France: Firefighters battling 1,400 acres of forest burning in the hills inland from St Tropez. 10 thousand tourists evacuated after spending the night on beaches and in gym halls.
  • Corsica: Fire. 4000 acres burned, homes and villages threatened. High winds (‘Mistrale’) a factor.
  • Portugal: more big wildfires breaking out in central provinces inland from Coimbra. Dry heat and high winds.
  • New heatwave forecast next week for W and S Europe.
  • Freak hailstorms trap cars in northern Italy, a foot of hail piles up in Croatia.
  • Germany: flash flood forces evacuations in northern town of Goslar. Flash flooding in the Harz mountains region. Flash flooding in Romania.
  • President of low-lying Palau, in the Pacific, Tommy Remengesau has complained that his garden is now normally underwater due to sea-level rise of 1 ft since 1989.
  • UK: weather service warns, rains to become heavier, more persistent.

Beat that! (I notice, btw, no mention of Australia. I imagine nothing much was going on down there as it was the middle of winter.)

Now, back to now:

Mozambique: “The devastating cyclone that hit south-eastern Africa may be the worst ever disaster to strike the southern hemisphere, according to the UN.” (Guardian)

“Cyclone Idai, which is carrying heavy rains and winds of up to 177 km/h (106 mph), made landfall at the port city of Beira on Thursday evening. Its 500,000 residents are without electricity and communications have been severed, the National Institute of Disaster Management (INGC) says. The cyclone has now moved west towards Zimbabwe. It follows a week of storms and heavy rains in Mozambique and Malawi that have killed more than 100 people and destroyed thousands of homes.” (BBC Weather)

Update 20 March: “Cyclone Idai has swept through Mozambique, Malawi and Zimbabwe over the past few days, destroying almost everything in its path, causing devastating floods, killing and injuring thousands of people and ruining crops. More than 2.6 million people could be affected across the three countries, and the port city of Beira, which was hit on Friday and is home to 500,000 people, is now an “island in the ocean”, almost completely cut off.” (BBC) Hospitals are not functioning and the transport infrastructure is destroyed, cutting off the port of Beira, through which most of the country’s imports are routed. Thousands of people living in outlying villages are stranded on roofs and in trees as local dams have burst and swollen rivers added to the flood damage.

Update, 18 March: “At least 84 people have died in Mozambique, mostly around Beira, the country’s fourth largest city with a population of about 500,000, the authorities there say.” There are reports of total devastation and the death toll is expected to rise rapidly, possibly to more than 1 thousand. The nearby township of Chimanimani was completely submerged to a depth of 6 metres (20 ft) by tidal flooding. More than 1,500 people have been injured, and there are reports of growing food shortages, with the country’s annual maize crop destroyed.

Cyclone Idai made landfall on Thursday with winds of up to 177 km/h (106 mph), and aid teams only reached Beira on Sunday. Sustained 105 mph wind destroyed homes and ripped roofs from concrete buildings. The death toll in neighboring Malawi has reached 122, and 80 more in Zimbabwe. (BBC News) In recent years, Mozambique has been affected by a severe drought punctuated by massive storms. (BBC report, 2018) Without helicopters or roads the region is fairly inaccessible: Red Cross teams are trying to get in by boat. The so-far limited aid program has been granted $20 million budget but the eventual cost is expected to be much more. (Wunderground)

USA: Catastrophic “flooding in parts of the Midwest has left one man dead, threatens a Nebraska dam and a nuclear power plant as heavy rains mixed with a melting snowpack swell waterways to historic levels.” A farmer died while trying to rescue a trapped motorist. The Ericson dam in north central Nebraska is at risk of failing as the Cedar River continues to rise, according to a report by the National Weather Service.

Also in Nebraska, a utility company was placing sandbags around the threatened Cooper nuclear power plant Thursday as the Missouri River continued to rise. Forecast flood level will require the plant to shutdown at the weekend. (The Weather Channel) Other states suffered damaging tornadoes as Winter Storm Ulmer achieved “bomb cyclone” status, with record low pressure and windspeeds pushing 100 mph.

Indonesia: “At least 50 people have been killed by flash floods in Indonesia’s eastern Papua province. The floods in Sentani, near the provincial capital of Jayapura, were triggered by torrential rain and subsequent landslides on Saturday, and also left 59 people injured.” (Observer)

Australia: “Extremely dangerous” 85 mph Category 3 cyclone Trevor is slowly (4mph) crossing the north of Queensland across the Gulf of Carpentaria and has already brought over 800 mm of rain to the region. Small towns in its path are on evacuation alert. Cooktown, above 200 miles north of Cairns, is forecast to receive up to (17 inches) of rain over the next three days. (Express) Trevor intensified a remarkable 65 mph in just 24 hours and may reach Cat 4 strength as it passes over the Gulf, before making landfall again in a sparsely populated area. (Wunderground)

  • Far northwestern Australia is threatened by intensifying Cat 2 Cyclone Veronica forming off the coast and possibly due to make landfall near Port Headland and Pilbara Monday. It’s feared it could reach Cat 5 before then. (ABC News)

UK: Getting on for the entire month of March’s worth of rain fell on Manchester today, 16th – 500 mm – and the River Irwell has burst its banks in several places. More than 50 flood warnings are out over Yorkshire and the northeast. (Manchester Evening News/BBC). Elsewhere in Europe, an “excessive snowfall” event was expected in the Swiss and Austrian alps over the weekend, with up to a meter forecast. (Severe-weather.eu)

World: The terrible winter storms that have pounded the American midwest all year, bringing record cold, flooding, high winds and snowfall to many states, have failed to prevent February being the fifth warmest globally ever recorded. (Weather Underground)

 

The Fortunate Isles!

“The veteran weatherman Bill Giles is calling on the BBC and other major broadcasters to radically overhaul their forecasts to incorporate information about climate change. The former head of BBC weather presenters has said more needs to be done by broadcasters to highlight climate change to face the “reality more squarely and openly”. (Guardian)

About bloody time!

The BogPo has been moaning for years that the cheery weather guys and gals on the Beeb invariably ignore what is visibly going on over their left shoulder out in the Atlantic, tightly-packed isobars showing processions of vicious low-pressure systems heading straight up north into the Arctic, where ocean surface temperatures are 18C above the 1980-2010 average and the Greenland ice shelf is disappearing, while reassuring us about the typical benign British weather, three days of rain to one of sunshine and a puff of wind, that we’re still fortunately getting while California burns and Mozambique drowns.

Every BBC report of an extreme weather event has a slow-moving man with a red flag parading in front of it, so as not to frighten the horses. “Of course”, the presenter or the guest will say with a straight face, “We can’t say there’s a crisis because of just one event.” No, but when one extreme event piles on another and another – 98% of extreme world weather events never even make it into the news on our Brexit-obsessed little island – year after year becoming more extreme, it takes a bit of searching out to find the information you need not to be lured by these terrified boobies into a state of complacent and wilful disbelief.

Weather forecasting – keep saying to yourself, weather is not climate – is a parochial activity and people just want to know what’s going on outside their own window. Even now, few Americans, I suspect, currently alternately freezing, sweating, drowning, being burned to death, whirled up into the sky or panting for air, would echo the despair of the bankrupt dirt-farmers of the third world, the yak herders of Mongolia or the slowly submerging peoples of the Pacific islands, who tell every passing journalist their climate has changed, long-term and for the worse.

After all, the President doesn’t believe it, why should they?

And we’re easily distracted too, by plastic bags. Plastic bags may kill a few whales and turtles, but they’re not responsible for rapidly heating the planet. Environmental management issues are important; species co-collapse owing to habitat destruction and loss of fertility eventually threatens everything and everyone.

Climate change is a factor in that too. But professional climate change deniers find it all too easy to muddy the waters with other concerns that aren’t relevant to the central issue: the ruthless extraction, sale and combustion of ancient sunlight to generate energy and vast profits for a few shareholders, and what we’re going to do to stop it.

Punctuating happy-clappy weather forecasts with the occasional mention that Britain seems to be 0.1% hotter than a hundred years ago won’t do much to help, sadly; anymore than the big push we all had back in the ’90s, when the office manager announced brightly that we were going to buy only recycled paper from now on, and the photocopier promptly seized up.

Change has to be intrinsic to economic policy on every level and at every turn. No longer must “shareholder value” be used as the excuse to maximise GDP at any cost.

I’m afraid that means the end of consumer capitalism. Humanity’s capital now rests with those who are developing economic solutions to prevent impending socio-economic collapse. Although, as the 69-year-old Bill Giles probably already knows, it’s a forlorn hope.

Insanity corner

Announcing the go-ahead for the UK’s first new privately owned deep coalmine in more than a century, Cumbria County Council acknowledged it might be a controversial decision.

“We felt that the need for coking coal, the number of jobs on offer and the chance to remove contamination outweighed concerns about climate change and local amenity.”

These stupid, ignorant, very probably corrupt shitheads have the brains of donkeys.

NOTHING OUTWEIGHS CLIMATE CHANGE, YOU FUCKING CUMBRIA MORONS, BECAUSE IT IS AN EXISTENTIAL THREAT TO LIFE ON EARTH!!!

Jesus, you backward fucktards. Wake up!

The Pumpkin – Issue 78: Surviving Brexit… Intemperate outburst: an apology… Sympathy vote… GW: spinning a few more records (Mozambique cyclone LATEST)… EV phone home

 

Quote of the Week

“I’m struck, as the British parliament moves towards the endgame on Brexit, with the number of times Australia, Canada, New Zealand and India have been advanced by the Brexiteers in the public debate as magical alternatives to Britain’s current trade and investment relationship with the European Union. This is the nuttiest of the many nutty arguments that have emerged from the Land of Hope and Glory set now masquerading as the authentic standard-bearers of British patriotism. It’s utter bollocks.” – Kevin Rudd, former Prime Minister of Australia, writing in The Guardian.

16 days to go…. and Mr Rudd offers us a much-needed reality check, too late I fear: http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2019/mar/11/commonwealth-save-brexit-britain-utter-delusion-kevin-rudd

 

“Yippee, we won that one!”

Surviving Brexit

Never mind! Britain has signed a post-Brexit trade deal with the Pacific island of Papua New Guinea, as the government rushes to sign as many agreements as possible before 29 March. (from BBC)

Just what we wanted: more tariff-free shrunken heads. As if we haven’t got enough politicians already.

Here be weasels

In a caption to a video, 15 March, BBC News explains that children all over the world are expected to skip school today in a mass protest against political inaction on climate change.

Change that, a BBC journalist writes, is “expected to increase the frequency of extreme weather events – though linking any single event to global warming is complicated.”

Are these cowardly weasels going to go on forever pretending there is some “debate” about this, and include automatic red-flag caveats with every report that might frighten the horses?

Theresa May during the debate on extending the Brexit negotiating period, 14 March 2019

“Oops, no, we lost that one!”

Intemperate outburst: an apology

The maverick biologist, Dr Rupert Sheldrake most famously posited a theory of “morphic resonance”, that suggested an experimental way of showing that there are metaphysical connections between events in the world that can be explained on a quantum level, as if the Universe is capable of learning through experience and transmitting the information at a distance.

I resort to this idea now, when trying to explain an extraordinary and embarrassing – thing – that has happened. Without wishing to seem solipsistic, i.e. that in this rather isolated state in which I dwell among you, I have come to believe, like poor Mr Trump, that I am personally responsible for everything that happens and that the sun revolves around me.

Over the last couple of days I have taken to binge-watching videos of some of the finest moments in the public-speaking career of the late and much-lamented Christopher Hitchens, the leftwing, humanist polemicist famous for demolishing the absurd deistic arguments of all-comers, high and low, from the religious spectrum.

I have, perhaps, overdosed rather on his thrilling rhetoric and fierce mental clarity

Born in the same year, Hitchens and I come from similarly upper-middle-class, English boarding-school-educated backgrounds, which perhaps explains why we share the same animus towards arbitrary authority and undeserving entitlements. But where he was fiercely intellectual, erudite and widely travelled, I am a lazy, ill-read, cowardly and inarticulate old stick-in-the-mud. Where he liked to get out and take on the rabbis and the mullahs and the incense-sniffers head-on, I just crouch here behind the barricade and snipe.

I was doing exactly that, late last night, and regret it. Unfortunately, with three or four large Scotches under my groaning belt, in a mood of intense irritation (I shan’t explain it, but there were reasons) and in some discomfort from my catheter: both directly, being unable to sit for long without pain; and indirectly, having suffered an instance of unwanted and odoriferous leakage (not connected with the alcohol), feeling unpleasantly moist.

Thus, on a Comment thread beneath a YouTube video of Hitchens administering yet another series of “Hitchslaps”, as the cult that has grown around his memory calls his pithier arguments, to the proponents of supra-natural beliefs, I reacted furiously to some stories in the news, the egregious nature of each of which suggested to me that the religious establishment has lately been regaining the upper hand.

I have never been to Argentina, for instance, but it seems the Catholic church, that not long ago apologised through its Pope for the genocide between the sixteenth and nineteenth centuries of almost a billion native Americans, and now having to apologize again for thousands of acts of sacrilegious child-abuse by its celibate priesthood and its centuries-long cover-up by the authorities, continues nonetheless to exert its malign influence over the common people.

Recently, it was reported, religious authorities there had insisted on an 11-year old girl carrying a pregnancy to term, when she was obliged to give birth by Caesarian section to a child forcibly got on her by her own step-grandfather, after they had refused to sanctify the early-term abortion she and her parents had desired.

I hope this strikes you too as obscene. You should therefore consider, as Hitchens does, the horrible thought that in certain parts of the world, child-rape may result in the death penalty – for the child, caught in adultery, not for the older man. That too is a religious edict, directly mandated by God.

In another instance, one of the more exotic places in the world I have actually visited, a long time ago, is Iran. I had a very good Iranian friend at one time, and I continue to grieve for the Iranian people, regarding their theistic fascist regime propped up by the extreme violence of religious courts, secret police and a corrupt “Revolutionary Guard”, as a toad squatting on the face of humanity.

It had nothing to do with Islamophobia – people are free to think as they must – and everything to do with hatred of fascism in whatever form it takes. I had been horrified that morning to learn of the jailing by a religious court of a prominent Iranian human rights lawyer for an outrageous 38 years, with 150 lashes, merely for defending women opposing the diktat of the patriarchal mullahs that they must cover their heads in public; about which the Qu’ran has little or nothing to say, other than requiring female modesty.

These are the same calculating and devious authorities who are keeping a British-Iranian mother, Mrs Nazanin Zighari-Ratcliffe, locked up on a ludicrous forced confession of plotting to overthrow the State; and who have just rejected the latest attempt by the British government to have her conviction overturned through granting her diplomatic status. (Do not imagine Iranian courts permit accused persons to offer a legal defence. Or that Mrs Ratcliffe is the only person in her predicament.) So now their offence is against the British state, not that we intend to do anything about it.

And that same morning, we had learned that the Saudi authorities – I refer to their country as Saudi Barbaria – have dragged into court, with the aim of imprisoning, and/or perhaps brutally flogging, ten token women’s rights activists arrested and tortured despite the specific focus of their protest, the absurd law against women drivers, having recently been overturned by order of the Crown Prince himself.

I hope this strikes you too as utter, misogynistic hypocrisy. These creepy, closed-minded, madrassah-uneducated little men are terrified of women and use extreme, often sexual violence and a twisted version of religious law to keep them in their place.

Anyway, so I posted some fairly pungent remarks about religious abuse, one of which might if taken out of context be regarded as generally anti-Islamic; which was not my specific intention. And awoke seven hours later to the awful news that, at the very moment I had been firing off my ill-considered and intemperate Post, that at any other time would have passed among the general, on the furthest side of the world an appalling atrocity was being perpetrated against peaceful worshippers by a deranged and calculating Australian neo-Nazi, a psychopath in the Anders Breivik mould.

That man is not me. I hope.

Readers of this, my ever-lengthening bogl, must by now be fully aware of my instinctive opposition to violence in all its forms; to authoritarianism, and my detestation of racists. I am a passionate believer in social justice. Through a kind of “morphic resonance” overnight, however, my words coincidentally took or borrowed dreadful shape in the form of an actual bloody massacre of 49 people to whom I wished no harm.

To my mind there is no moral difference between a murderous and bullying regime carrying out daily atrocities in the name of their malign and vindictive God, imposing their wickedness on a cowed population; and the actions of one arrogant and murderous racist who takes upon himself the mantle of avenging angel to punish those who offend him, merely by their appearance. Both are clearly manifestations of that extreme form of psychosis which every normal person, even the non-religious and the atheistic, codifies as “evil”.

So, when I suggested that the Iranian regime was a horrible death cult who should, in that case, fuck off and die, it was not intended as giving licence and encouragement to an actual act of slaughter, which we understand was years in the planning; or as a random assault upon the entire global congregation of Islam.

Rather that, to paraphrase the words of the Christian gospel, in the case of these oppressors, the abominable priestly caste of whatever brand of faith who think they know the mind of their ineffable deity (whom I’m afraid I also insulted) and can therefore act with impunity as a law entirely unto themselves, to oppress others, millstones should be tied around their necks and they should be cast into the sea.

It’s a Biblical metaphor.

I hope that clears it up, to the best extent possible in the circumstances; and I sincerely apologize for any unintended offence.

The Pumpkin

 

Sympathy vote

During his bizarre, 2.5-hour-long homily to the US Conservative PAC conference the week before last, basically these days a bunch of overprivileged, college-educated neo-Nazis in Brooks suits, the Washington Post reports, a visibly sweating Trump (Nixon used to sweat heavily too) succeeded in telling over 100 fact-checked lies during his rambling, disconnected speech, that was all about himself, of course – along with the usual feeble, self-referential jokes and terrifyingly bad impressions of critics and opponents he likes to abuse publicly.

It was another of the impromptu speeches that, er, prompted the US media to wonder long and loudly again about the President’s sanity; or at least, his present state of mind, and whether it was safe to leave him home alone with matches.

His daily average lie count is now 22, up from six a year ago, to a total since being forced into office of over 9,500. It seems unusual that several media outlets should see the need to employ units of fact-checkers to monitor the statements made by the president of the United States at all, but when you elect a pathological liar I suppose it’s too good an opportunity to pass up.

The most extraordinary fact, however, is this. Since his failed summit with Kim Jong-un, the devastating 35-day government shutdown at Christmas and his failure to secure funding for a border wall which 65% of Americans say they think is a terrible idea, his poll ratings have actually been going up.

in November, he lost control of the House of Representatives. The economy is on a slide: on his watch the national debt is approaching $23 trillion, the trade gap is $100 billion wider than when he launched his tariff wars, North Korea is back to testing missiles, his former lieutenants have been testifying copiously to his instinctive criminality, his connections with Russia that he still strenuously denies have been laid bare, his Middle East policy is in chaos, he reportedly works less than 4 hours a day on four days a week and golfs the rest, he continues to promote his own businesses at taxpayers’ expense, sells access to himself, overrules his security service heads on almost every front, continues to waste public money on senseless inquiries into his election result and non-existent voter fraud, opposes the entire scientific establishment of the United States on the climate crisis, refuses to condemn right-wing violence (he’s threatening to invade Venezuela), has had his photo taken with a Floridan chinese brothel-madam who sells her clients access to him at Mar-a-Lago – and his 2020 draft budget proposal blatantly sets out to wrest even more money from the poor, children and the disabled to give to the richest 1%, sucking $1.3 trillion out of Medicaid and $800 billion out of Medicare over 10 years, defunding programs that support the poorest members of his own base, while giving another $25 billion to the bloated military and $8.6 billion to build the border wall he tells his dumbfucks he’s already built. (Oh, that’s a lie, by the way.)

Yet they continue to love and worship him as if he were a cult leader, or a god, whose every word is sanctified. That imagined person he boasted he could “shoot on 5th Avenue and not lose voters” is one of his own supporters, but they don’t mind. They are addicted to his power.

As many legal experts state, he has committed at least eight impeachable offences while in office, and many indictable crimes before. His frenzied efforts to obstruct the Mueller inquiry are unabashed and unabated; as are his undisguised attempts to rollback environmental protections as openly bought favors to his vastly wealthy donors in the Energy sector. He continues to ride on a crazy rollercoaster of White House staff, now on his seventh communications director; to spray out demented tweets savaging his perceived enemies, however trivial their complaints, to abuse the fallen and the dead, and to threaten and bully the media.

No president before has been so obsessed with making crude, disparaging comments, demeaning and abusing and threatening anyone who dares to criticize, in disjointed, whining, self-justifying 4 a.m. tweetstorms full of screaming capitals: NO COLUSION! LIAR COMEY! DEM PLOT! FAKE NEWS CNN! The novelty may have worn off, as no-one but his base seems to care anymore what he says. No president before has so repeatedly praised the actions against his own country of brutal foreign kleptocrats, or torn up so many treaties and abrogated so many common understandings and shared values with America’s allies.

Despite all of that, his arch-enemy, Democrat leader Nancy Pelosi has dismissed calls to impeach him, saying he isn’t worth the bother. It’s a calculated insult, but one that masks an underlying problem: the senior Democratic elders like Pelosi and Schumer are as implicated in the corporatist conspiracy and as far from the zeitgeist of the upcoming generation as the Republicans and cannot find a way out of it.

Now they have a new intake of younger congressmen and women with a more progressive, anti-corporate, anti-corruption, pro-environment agenda, the party may have trouble holding itself together at the polls. There is increasing concern that without an impeachment, whose success is far from guaranteed, Trump could be elected by default for a second, equally or more disastrous term.

Thus 44% of Americans now say they think Trump is doing a good job; of what, is not made clear,

Entertaining them, I suppose.

Watching someone gibbering and sweating in the throes of mental disintegration, someone whose delusions include taking personal credit for the corporate policy of the Apple corporation, then getting the CEO’s name muddled up, calling him “Tim Apple”, and then going to enormous lengths to have his people deny he actually said what the recording clearly shows him saying, another one of those “alternative fact” moments, as if it even matters, is such fun, isn’t it.

This is a man desperately clinging to the remnant shreds of sanity and in dire need of professional help. Impeachment would be a mercy. So severe are his symptoms, he will be the last to recognize it.

 

GW: spinning a few new records

Mozambique LATEST (Fri 2pm 15 Mar):  “Meanwhile, over the Mozambique Channel, Cyclone Idai had built waves up to 7 metres high. As a cyclone moves over water, it drives a storm surge in the face of it. In this case, the surge was about 2 metres. So, before Idai’s approach, the surface of the ocean rose 2 metres with waves rising regularly 7 metres above that – at worst, 9 metres. The weather station at Beira airport is 8 metres above sea level. The tide can rise to a surprising 7 metres as is the case forecast for Friday. Thursday evening’s tide was 5 metres and the storm surge from Idai arrived with it. The waves were driven on top.” (Al Jazeera) Meaning potentially 14 meters (46 feet!) of sea-level rise.

“Communications have been lost from the port of Beira since Thursday evening.”

In its early stages, Idai brought widespread flooding to southern Malawi and the adjacent Mozambique province of Zambezia. At least 80,000 people have been displaced and dozens of people killed. Idai has the potential to drop up to 500mm of rain on its way through central Mozambique. (Al Jazeera)

Further reporting (Thu, 14 March): “The number of people killed in heavy rains and flooding in southern Malawi has risen to 30, while the number of people affected is now approaching 500,000 with an estimated 30,000 of them displaced. Meanwhile the same weather system has also caused flooding in regions of Mozambique, where over 30,000 people have been affected and 7 deaths reported. Heavy rain has also affected areas of KwaZulu-Natal Province in South Africa, in particular around the city of Durban.” (From Floodlist)

USA: “Snow and gusty winds from slow-moving Winter Storm Ulmer continue from the Colorado Rockies to western South Dakota and much of Wyoming. Deteriorating weather with increasing snow and wind, including blizzard conditions, will intensify in parts of the central High Plains into the afternoon”… as the storm undergoes ‘bombogenesis’ – a rapid collapse in atmospheric pressure, to a hurricane-like 968 mb. Warning includes a swath from northeast Colorado, including Denver, to western South Dakota. Up to 2 feet of snow is forecast.

Updates: Over 1,000 drivers are stranded in cars along highways in Colorado and Nebraska as National Guard troops have braved 90 mph blizzards to rescue them. A state of emergency has been declared. One trooper has been killed and a motorist has died. 7 states are under blizzard warnings. (The Weather Channel)

This is now mid-March… and a poll in Kansas finds 96% of the population is getting fed up with winter! Ulmer has created record flooding in Ohio and Nebraska, some rivers many feet over former record levels (14 March). Meanwhile, further south “a line of severe thunderstorms is moving eastward through portions of central Texas this morning (13 Mar.) Damaging wind gusts hit 85 mph, trashing an Amazon depot at Fort Worth, and 5 people were injured by a tornado in Dexter, New Mexico.” Up to 4-in of rain is forecast.

And a new report from William & Mary’s Virginia Institute of Marine Science says the fast-flooding Texas and Louisiana coasts could see up to 2 feet of sea-level rise by 2050 (The Weather Channel). Property value losses owing to the threat of coastal flooding in 17 states from Maine to Mississippi between 2005 and 2017 have been estimated at $16 billion. But it’s okay, folks, President Trump says nothing to see, keep voting.

Bet you’ve never seen this before! Upside-down lightning over Ugljan, Croatia, 11 March. Photo: Jakša Kuzmičić.

Venezuela: As electricity blackouts continue to plague the capital, Caracas, into their second week, there’s a brief mention on the BBC News of 40C daytime temperatures there. Your Granny is unable to find any more details, sorry. Googling Venezuela 40C produces only a reference to postage rates.

Brazil: Heavy rain, severe flash-flooding and landslides affected São Paulo State from Sunday 10 March. At least 12 people have died and 6 have been injured. 1200 rescues were effected. Flood water was reported in several neighbourhoods of the city, blocking major roads and causing severe disruption to public transport. Santo André recorded 182mm rain in 24 hours to 11 March.” (From Floodlist)

World: It’s been a winter of extreme extremes, according to Wunderground. “On March 2, Dover, Tasmania, attained an all-time record high of 40.1°C (104.3°F), the hottest reading ever observed in that (furthest southerly) Australian state during the month of March. Just the next day (4 March in the US) minus 46°F (-43C) was measured at Elk Park, Montana, a new (preliminary) all-time record for cold in that state for March.

While the USA and Japan froze solid, many European countries had spells of record warmth for February. Down south, both New Zealand and Chile experienced their hottest-ever summer months: “Chile heatwave breaks all-time records at 10 cities, with temperatures ranging from 35.1°C (95.2°F) to 40.7°C (105.3°F). 40.7°C at Traiguen is perhaps the most southerly 40°C+ reading ever measured on Earth.” On 15 Feb, however, “42.4°C (108.3°F) at Traiguen. New national monthly record.”

And in Angola, bordering South Africa, 41.0°C (105.8°F) at Espinheira, Angola set an all-time national record on 15 Feb. for any month.

In the US, at the same time as a new February record was being set in the UK, of 21.6C (70.9F) (just four miles from where your old Granny’s new digital max-min thermometer was giving her a shade high of 24.1C, 75.4F), “Los Angeles failed to hit 70°F for the first February since records began in 1878.”

A comprehensive list of this winter’s many impressive new world records can be found at: https://www.wunderground.com/cat6/North-South-Winter-and-Summer-Record-Temperature-Extremes?cm_ven=hp-slot-4

Global greenhouse: “The rise in the levels of carbon dioxide (CO₂) in the atmosphere continues to accelerate. Over the past 31 days, CO₂ levels at Mauna Loa, Hawaii, have been above 410 ppm, while on March 3, some average hourly readings exceeded 415 ppm. The levels recorded in the year up until now weren’t expected to occur until April/May.” Rising levels of methane, especially over Antarctica and the Himalayas, and N20 (nitrous oxide, a GHG 300 times more heat-absorbent than C2) continue to give cause for concern. (Arctic News, 15 March)

 

EV phone home

Guardian Green Light reports: “At least a quarter of local authorities in England and Wales have put a brake on the expansion of charging networks for electric vehicles. More than 100 local councils (60 failed to reply) say they have no plans to increase the number of charging points they offer. Campaigners and politicians fear this could hinder the expansion of the UK’s electric fleet..”

Why is that? Because they can’t afford to do it and keep essential services like schools, libraries and garbage collection going.

Your old Granny is astonished. Why is it up to local authorities to instal charging points? On the Council tax many non-drivers and many more non-owners and can’t-afforders of expensive electric vehicles are obliged to pay?

Why are the lousy, cheating bastards selling environmentally ecocidal carbon-emitting fuel and paying PR men to lie about the consequences of burning it, not being FORCED to pay for electric vehicle (EV) chargers out of their obscene mega-profits, in their highly priced roadside filling station outlets?

They already have over a $trillion in fuel subsidies* and cheap concessions from rotten governments around the world, whose corrupt ministers pocket their share of the proceeds. Someone should tell them, that’s enough.

But it won’t be the Department of Energy. A Spokesmouth replies: “Our Road to Zero strategy sets out our commitment to massively expand electric vehicle infrastructure.”

Yes, at my expense, you cunts. Road to Zero is a great way of branding human extinction, as well as my bank balance.

*Latest figures show that 22 banks globally have between them subsidized the oil, gas and coal industries to the tune of $1.9 TRILLION since the Paris accord was signed

Oh, Jeremy Corbyn… Major surprise: they’re lying to you – again… Boarding fail… GW: Not given to extremes, much… A rise of 18°C or 32.4°F by 2026?… this week’s BogPo starts here.

Quote of the week

“Men … no more dreamt of a seat in the House in order to benefit humanity than a child dreams of a birthday cake that others may eat it … the seat in the House was not their ultimate goal but a means to ulterior aims.” – Sir Lewis Namier (1888 -1960)

 

“The historical outcome of such social stratification has only ever been war.”

Oh, Jeremy Corbyn

A special report produced by The Guardian today has described in graphic detail, the beyond-shocking state of primary and secondary-school education in Britain. Among their not-unexpected findings:

Hundreds of school governors go to Westminster to protest at funding cuts. They are ignored. A thousand head teachers write to the Schools minister, Nick Gibb, to say they are at their wits’ end and cannot cut costs any further without damage and danger to the children and their education. He refuses three times to meet their representatives.

Seven thousand headteachers now have written to millions of parents, asking them to lobby the Education department to get something done about the situation facing their children; who is to blame.

They are trying to tell Gibb: teachers are giving up. Those who leave are not being replaced. Buildings are falling apart. Schools have had to lay off cleaners, maintenance and ancillary staff; one headmistress was found to be doing the cleaning herself, in her “spare time”; other schools are shabby and unprepossessing, with consequent psychological effects on staff and pupils .

Weekly school hours are being shortened to save on electricity bills. Teachers are having to pay for books, pens, paper and other essentials themselves; even buying sanitary towels and tampons, food and uniforms for poorer pupils. Children are turning up to class who are so malnourished and exhausted from lack of proper sleep that they have to be fed before they can start work. Some schools are running food banks for the local community.

Science subjects are being dropped from the curriculum because the faculties can’t afford chemicals and equipment. Teaching assistants are disappearing as a species. Ten-year-old computers are not being replaced – extra time has to be added to classes to allow them to boot-up. Photocopying is rationed. Parents are being continually badgered for money for everything – even to pay teachers.

Buildings are going unheated deeper into winter, teachers and pupils having to wear coats indoors to stay warm. Special-needs remedial classes and support services are being cut for lack of staff; remaining special support staff are “run ragged” with numbers falling so low it is posing a medical risk to the children in their care.

Disruptive pupils are being excluded in record numbers, not surprisingly given the derisory conditions they’re protesting against; the lack of specialist support, and simply dumped in the streets, where violent crime and gangsterism are reaching alarming proportions.

And the government’s totally predictable response?

“A Department for Education spokesperson said that school funding in England is at its highest-ever level.”

The Conservative party richly deserves to be cast into outer darkness for two generations (it will take at least one generation to even begin to repair the damage they’ve caused), until it learns the hard way that no society can function on a diet of endless, doctrinaire economic austerity, complacency and lies. Especially while there is a class of people it supports who feel no effects whatever, insulated as they are from the realities of life for millions in a country whose social fabric is being torn apart.

Propping up banks and bankers may ensure the impression of stability, but only while the body rots from beneath. The fake money the Bank of England prints is not being evenly distributed. British companies since the financial crash eleven years ago have built up a cash pile close to a trillion pounds – money that is not going back into the economy, not being reinvested. Taxes are sheltered offshore.

I have a friend who works by the grace of an outsourcing agency. The agency takes 40% of what employers are prepared to pay for her services. She was recently told by her supervisor, if you take one day off sick you will be considered an unreliable worker and you won’t get any more work from us. Not being a British national, she is terrified to make a complaint. Her father is terminally ill but she doesn’t dare go home to visit him.

We have near-full employment, but on low wages and for many with no job security, no guaranteed hours and reduced access to holiday and sick pay: the result of companies finding it cheaper and more profitable to hire cheap human labor than to invest in modernizing systems for the 21st century. As a result productivity is lagging behind other countries. And there are many who have fallen between the cracks: not working, but not seeking work, they no longer show up in the statistics.

Despite the undelivered and undeliverable promises of our vapid and mendacious Prime Minister, the Brexit many Conservatives want will exacerbate the situation, to bring about a neoliberal, laissez-faire, corporatist economy with a neoconservative political and foreign policy agenda: a two-speed economy with a majority of left-behinds staring numbly at boarded-up high streets, facing lengthy waits for inadequate medical attention, tolerating an increasingly abusive and dysfunctional welfare network as, like the public education system, the health and social services, the whole public infrastructure crumbles under the implacable glare of the security cameras and the intrusive technology of the surveillance state.

The historical outcome of such social stratification, with a large section of the population considered surplus, has only ever been war.

As the American Marxist economist, Prof. Richard Wolff has pointed out, not without a certain logic, an economy that refuses to pay its employees enough to buy its goods cannot rely on consumers to go on propping up the economy forever. Sooner or later it must collapse.

And yet. Despite the astonishing ineptitude of their ministers,  the despicable Conservatives remain ahead in the polls, benefitting from the catastrophic failure of leadership of the Labour opposition under Jeremy Corbyn.

There is absolutely no excuse for anyone to continue supporting this frankly hopeless individual. I’m sure we all tried, at first, but. Having the right policy platform is no bloody use if you can’t get elected to a position where you can implement it.

With the shining exception of three-term Prime Minister Tony Blair, the Labour party since Jim Callaghan in the 1970s has had an unprepossessing record of electing unelectable leaders: sad old white guys or glottally-stopped wierdos who fail utterly to inspire confidence in a British electorate sold nowadays on image rather than substance. Corbyn may be a decent enough man of principle, but he is the wrong man for the job: uninspiring, indecisive, lackadaisical, too old – he is the same age as your Uncle Bogler, who would not now want to be the leader of the Labour party or any other quarrelsome, failing organization.

And, like your Uncle B., he seemingly has no leadership aptitude whatsoever. Since his inadvertent elevation from the backbench, where he seemed happiest as a lone maverick plying his right-on, kneejerk, anti-establishment student-radical politics*, and the firebrand speeches he managed to muster at the time, that energised a younger generation of voters who are melting away now, nothing to see, he seems to have nodded off at the wheel.

In the power of the Unite union leader Len McCluskey, that dreary “eminence grise” from a bygone era of flat caps and smoke-filled rooms above grim Midlands pubs, pulling his strings, Corbyn’s inability to deliver adroit responses to the obvious political subterfuges designed to undermine him; or to grasp the significance of the public controversies that threaten to destroy him, reveal a man out of his depth in a world of microtargeted advertising, of data mining, “dark money” and extra-political disruption.

The old two-and-a-half-party era of theatrical Punch & Judy politics he knows is finished, consigned to the past by huge personalized global communications monopolies and Putinist gangster capitalism.

I don’t think he’s noticed.

Thus, in the eyes of the British voter, after a lifetime of truculent opposition to his own party leadership, a Bolshy in the finest Leveller tradition, who seemingly delights in offering hostages to fortune, buoyed up only by a fanatical militant minority of £3 entryists and seemingly unaware of looming external, existential threats to the world he knows, he remains unelectable.

We urgently need a change.

*This is not a diatribe against the left, by the way; merely we argue that more creative adaptation and positive energy are required to deal with a rapidly evolving world Keir Hardie wouldn’t recognize.

An editor speaks: I seem to have found a good means of persuading more people to read this, muh li’l bogl. It used to be, when I was editing military histories, that the name Adolf Hitler in a title would automatically increase sales by 15%. Now Jeremy Corbyn seems to have the same effect.

Welcome one and all!

 

Major surprise: they’re lying to you – again

And they can’t even be bothered – or aren’t clever enough – to make up new lies.

“A five-year old newspaper headline – claiming (entirely falsely) that all European Union countries would have to adopt the euro after 2020 – was widely shared on Twitter over the weekend. One of those who retweeted the post was the former Work and Pensions Secretary and pro-Brexit Conservative MP Esther McVey.

“In a now-deleted tweet to her 26,000 followers, Ms McVey asked whether the public was aware of this as well as ‘other things’ the EU has ‘planned’ after 2020.” – BBC News

It has obviously been pointed out to this incredibly stupid woman with only 26,000 followers that newspaper reports she appears not to have seen last week concerned a large sum of money, about £400 thousand, donated by anonymous sources, that has been expended in the past few weeks on spreading fake news, lies and disinformation.

This is being done on behalf of a campaign by nameless individuals to obtain public support for the dubious benefits of the extreme No-deal Brexit advocated by the well-heeled, late-middle-aged white men involved in Jacobin-Irish-Mogg’s European Research Group – a cabal of traitorous CUNTS (Conservative and Unionist Neo-Thatcherites) interested in making more money from deregulation by seizing power in the wake of Mrs May’s impending demise.

Even a made-for-TV sofa-babe* like McVey would probably prefer to disassociate herself from that sort of thing. Not that she has done before. The entire Vote Leave campaign is mired in similar reports of skulduggery and foreign disruption. May’s underwhelming government hasn’t got the guts to act on the information, the Electoral Commission is a complete joke, while a lacklustre and underresourced National Crime Agency “investigation” into the referendum-rigging is being dragged out at a chelonian pace.

We are being taken to the cleaners by hugely well-funded US corporate interests and rogue billionaire disruptors, together with their useful idiots in the Cabinet, and we have 18 days left before that cliff edge is reached. When will our politicians wake up and get serious?

*Before entering politics, McVey was a businesswoman and television presenter, and co-presented GMTV with Eamonn Holmes. (Wikipedia)

 

Boarding fail

The death toll in seemingly avoidable plane crashes involving the Boeing 737 Max 8 aircraft rose to almost 350 at the weekend when a four-month-old ‘plane flown by a highly experienced Air Ethiopia pilot nosedived into a field, 37 miles from Addis Ababa, six minutes after takeoff. On its way to an environmental conference in Nairobi, 157 passengers from 30 countries and 8 crew were killed.

The scuttlebut is that this was an identical crash to that of a Lion Air 737 Max 8 in Indonesia last October. It’s reported that a piece of software over-sensitively detecting a drop in airspeed automatically puts the plane into a dive to prevent a stall. Great at 33,000 feet, but not so good from low altitude.

And, according to the reports, Boeing is said to have failed to warn global airlines after the cause of the first crash became known to patch the software or to train their pilots to deal with it. In which case, if they knew of the problem after the first incident, they should surely be facing charges of corporate manslaughter as regards the second.

Instead, The Guardian quotes a Reuters report (11 March): “The US Federal Aviation Administration was expected to issue a Continued Airworthiness Notification to international carriers later Monday regarding the Boeing 737 MAX 8 in light of two fatal crashes since October.”

This is far from the first time the US administration has acted to protect its favorite defense contractor. The Australians and the Chinese have grounded their entire fleet. Pilots in Argentina are refusing to fly. We’ll have to see what Ryanair does – many UK passengers too are becoming distinctly nervous.

(PS Mr Trump wisely cottoned on to world opinion and after a chat with his friends at Boeing, the planes have been grounded in the US too.)

 

Nominative determinism corner

The head of a Brighton-based marketing agency, Surge, that trousered (‘surge trousers’? LOL 🙂Ed.) £60 million in commission for running a basically dishonest online advertising campaign for an unlicensed investment management client that’s now collapsed, conning many people out of their life savings, is a Mr Paul Careless.

The biter bit

Chickens on a free-range farm in Brittany have reportedly ganged up together and killed a fox that got trapped in their henhouse overnight. (Guardian France)

 

GW: Not given to extremes, much

UK: If proof were needed that the UK is the best and safest place for funky billionaires to escape the worst effects of climate chaos, it was surely yesterday.

It’s a little over a year since 5 feet of hail fell on Cordoba in Argentina in 15 minutes, and about 9 months since somewhere I can’t remember in Australia was pelted with hail the size of cricket balls and hundreds of kangaroos on a farm were battered to death. Nor would I recommend settling in California, where the choice is to burn to death or be drowned.

There are far worse places to be than good old Blighty, with our soft westerly breezes and life-giving rain. Here, conditions remain relatively benign, even the following account making news. The Guardian‘s weather person writes:

“In Greater Manchester on Sunday night, a series of hailstorms carpeted roads with ice balls “the size of mint imperials”.

(For the benefit of Mr Kite, a mint imperial is a popular tooth-breaking, tooth-rotting sugary confection resembling a hailstone about 1cm in diameter.)

“Across the north-west of England, people marvelled at the erratic weather as it lurched from one extreme to another. The rainiest place in the region was also the sunniest: 14.2mm of rain fell in Rostherne in Cheshire over 24 hours, but the town also had 3.2 hours of sunshine.”

Here in Boglington too, we marvelled as a lovely sunny day turned within, literally, seconds into a raging tempest, and within minutes had turned back again. My colleagues and I then had an earnest discussion as to whether March proverbially comes in, or goes out, like a lion; transitioning meanwhile as a lamb? (We had to explain the saying to our Polish friend, whom I am looking forward to saving from Home Secretary Sajid Javid’s goons via the underground railway I’m setting up to rescue EU migrants from post-Brexit detention camps.)

As any foreigner kno’, the British don’t go in for extremes, much. If any billionaire would like to acquire a weather-safe bolthole, my li’l house is for sale, still. Just don’t expect parking.

World: Has anyone else noticed, things appear to have calmed down a little on the crazy weather front? With the exception of mint imperials falling from the sky over Manchester, an odd heatwave in February and an endless succession of intense rain-bearing fronts parading across the US midwest, floods in California and heavy snowfall in the northern states, record summer heat, fires and floods affecting much of Australia, floods in the Middle East and medicanes in the Med, there have been few major cyclones reaching vulnerable land-based communities in the past few months, unlike 2016 to 2018; none of those really intense thunderstorms washing away cars by the hundred, and no more aircraft forced to make emergency landings as their nosecones have been smashed by hail.

One reason could simply be the unexplained disappearance of the website, Climate and Extreme Weather News, which your old Gran used to mercilessly pillage for examples. A belated post has appeared, explaining that the author is currently too busy working to spend the time it must obviously take to collate up to 50 minutes of citizen journalism and local news reports from around the world every week, to verify and cross-reference the reports and write up explanatory captions. All we can say is, thanks – and

Please come back soon!

 

A rise of 18°C or 32.4°F by 2026?

“A catastrophe of unimaginable proportions is unfolding” writes “Sam Carana”, the pseudonymous collective of climate scientists behind the Arctic News website (28 Feb. edition). No, not Brexit. “Life is disappearing from Earth and all life could be gone within one decade. Study after study is showing the size of the threat, yet many people seem out to hide what we’re facing.”

With the loss of so much Arctic sea ice year on year, the darker water absorbs more sunlight – just one of the many feedbacks that: “kick in at accelerating speed, including further changes to the Jetstream resulting in even more extreme weather; seafloor methane release, water vapor feedback and emissions from land such as CH₄ (methane), N₂O (nitrous oxide) and NOₓ (nitrogen oxide), due to permafrost melt, storms and forest fires. Temperatures also threaten to rise strongly over the next few years as sulfate cooling falls away while more black carbon and brown carbon gets emitted as more wood gets burned and more forest fires occur.”

As if an extinction-level 10C of warming by 2026 were not enough, “a recent study points at … the disappearance of marine stratus clouds, which could result in a (further) global temperature rise of 8°C (14.4°F)”.

It seems our economic problems may only be starting to get very much worse.