Open letter to the BBC… Don’t impeach him, section him… Game of fucking Thrones…Huawei doing?… Oh, stuff that Gibson! #2… GW:  The rain it raineth, North Africa shivereth.

STOP PRESS: 02 May, Rep. Jerrold Nadler, chair of the House Judiciary Committee, has accused Trump of attempting to override the powers of Congress, naming him as a dictator, and is threatening to have Attorney-General Barr arrested for contempt. “If we don’t stand up to this now, we risk being unable to stand up to any President in the future”, he warned, describing Congress as a separate but coequal branch of government to the White House.

 

29 April, 2019

To: Sir David Clementi, Chairman of the Board of Governors

Cc Ms Fran Unsworth, Head of News

Dear Chairman and Ms Unsworth

In your 7 a.m. main bulletin on Radio 4 this morning you carried an item about the resignation (for the second time, it is getting to be a habit) of Mr Rod Rosenstein, the Deputy Attorney-General of the United States.

In that item, your North America correspondent made the astonishing claim that the Mueller report had found there was no collusion or conspiracy on the part of Mr Trump with “Russia”, whatever that means, to interfere with the 2016 election.

That assertion is entirely disingenuous, as well your correspondent knows, being based only on a widely discredited summary opinion published in advance of the full report by the new Attorney-General, Mr William “Bill” Barr, who had been in office less than a month and who has admitted that he and Deputy Rosenstein HAD NOT READ the full report before reaching his conclusions in less than 48 hours. Mr Barr is now under threat of impeachment for contempt of Congress.

Barr was appointed by Donald Trump, his candidacy railroaded through the Senate, having fortuitously published a controversial 19-page “legal opinion” that a sitting President cannot be indicted for federal crimes while in office and that the Mueller investigation was a travesty; and came to the job (for the second time) with a dishonorable record of having exonerated the six convicted conspirators in the murky so-called Iran-Contra Affair, on the order of President Bush senior.

Your reporter explained that Mr Rosenstein had had differences with Mr Trump. The substantive difference, as recorded in the Mueller report, was that absent the recused Attorney-General, Mr Sessions, Trump obstructed justice by ordering Rosenstein to concoct a letter retrospectively giving him grounds for firing the Director of the FBI, James Comey, where no such grounds existed.

In that and many other respects, the Mueller report (available from Amazon, price £8.81) does not exonerate Mr Trump. Nor has Mr Rosenstein as Mueller’s supervisor been obliged to resign because it did, which was your reporter’s imputation.

Published in two parts, the first reveals that there was indeed very clear evidence of communication between officials in the Trump campaign and foreign elements including Russian intelligence operatives and persons close to the Kremlin, but that for reasons of withholding or destruction of further crucial evidence, and for lack of conclusive proof (apart from verbal testimony) that communications took place on the direct order or with the full knowledge of Mr Trump, it was insufficient to pass the high bar required to indict a sitting President.

The report however holds out the prospect of indictments should the President leave office before the expiry of the 5-year statute of limitations.

The second part of the report examines in great detail, ten separate counts of obstruction of justice – a federal felony – with regard to the Russia investigations, and found in each case that there was clear and sufficient evidence for the Justice Department to proceed with the investigation of the President; arguing that the Special Counsel’s office did not have powers to indict Trump on those counts.

In other words, Trump has not been exonerated, as he himself seems to believe and continues to protest. Far from it. While on the counts of obstruction, Barr has argued, he is not willing to prosecute – as if there was no indictable conspiracy the investigation was invalid and therefore there could have been no illegal obstruction of it. He is refusing all further requests from Congress to go back and justify this absurd opinion.

Under the local editorship of Mr Sopel, your news coverage of the Donald Trump presidency has been generally flabby, supine and uncritical; accepting almost routinely, the lies (also identified by Mueller) of the White House press spokespeople and Republican party apologists. None of the above has been reported here, to the best of my knowledge, leaving the British public almost entirely in the dark as to the true nature of the Trump presidency and the outcome of the inquiry.

Thus it is on the basis of healthy prejudice and suspicion alone that the vast majority of people will be demonstrating against his State visit in June, when we should be legally opposing the admission to this country of an indictable criminal. (I comment on this further in a footnote.) The American border force certainly wouldn’t let you or me in with this rap sheet.

Mr Mueller’s somewhat circumlocuitous conclusion was that there were NO evidential grounds for NOT prosecuting the President, whom he directly accuses of abuse of office – one of the “high crimes and misdemeanors” for which the Constitution provides the remedy of impeachment. The Washington Post has also seen a copy of a letter Robert Mueller sent to Barr last month, bitterly criticizing his false conclusions. Lying to the House Judiciary Commttee, Barr stated that he had not been aware of any discontent on the part of Mr Mueller.

I wish you wouldn’t lie to us too, Ms Unsworth.

In passing, I should also like to comment on interviews on the Today programme conducted by presenter Justin Webb and others, demanding (with the usual high-minded hypocrisy of its presenters) some declaration of contrition from organisers of the climate protests in London and elsewhere for the inconvenience caused to the public, before they were to be allowed to put their case.

Inconvenience! If you have grandchildren, you should say goodbye to them now.

There was no acknowledgement that I heard from Mr Webb or anyone, of the frankly disgraceful role the Today programme and BBC News in general have played over many years in helping to obfuscate and deny the gravity of the situation by inviting unqualified paid liars to “balance” the truth of what the scientific community has been trying to tell us for the past fifty years.

It is you who should be expressing contrition, as had your predecessors not adopted this scientifically illiterate, dishonest and disinterested editorial position for so long, there might be no necessity now for disruptive protest.

Only now can one detect a shift towards more open reporting of this globally most pressing issue; although you are still not giving the full picture. There are many scientists who believe the IPCC’s conclusions, on which all of your reporting (and even that of Sir David Attenborough) seem to be based, were seriously watered-down, and that we have already passed the irrelevant “1.5 degrees” target set by the now defunct Paris accord, depending on how you measure it; but we never hear from them.

Together with your preponderant use of ERG and other extreme pro-Brexit contributors, the ubiquitous Farage, and so on, an egregious lack of “balance” in your Brexit coverage that has not gone unnoticed, and because of which we have you to thank in part for the total debacle of the referendum result and its nationally humiliating aftermath, the BBC can no longer be considered a trusted source, certainly as far as this dedicated listener (70 this year) and sometime former News employee is concerned.

My belief is that your growing unhealthy and unnatural bias towards the far-right, or at least your craven obeisance to its spokespersons, is somehow rooted in Lord Hall’s fear of the Corporation being broken up by these people, should they come to power, and the parts sold off to private media companies. It is obviously an undesirable prospect but I wish you would find a more robust way of addressing the problem, than by continually misinforming and otherwise thoroughly confusing your listeners on key issues, through what Messrs Birt and Jay once called the “bias against understanding” which you might call “balance”.

Sincerely, etc.

Footnote:

As you are not reporting, Ms Unsworth, Mr Trump officially remains an “unindicted co-conspirator” in the matter of bribes paid illegally as election expenses to silence inconvenient women with whom he had extramarital affairs.

He is also being investigated by the prosecutors of the Southern District of New York in relation to numerous allegations of fraud, money-laundering and embezzlement. His so-called “inaugural fund” has a $45 million black hole, that is also being investigated. He has openly admitted doing favors for contributors to it. In addition there is a big question mark over why one part of Deutsche Bank continued lending him, in total over 20 years, $2 billion while other parts of the bank had him red-flagged as a serious credit risk and serial defaulter?

There is suspicion of illegal foreign donations to his re-election funds, one being linked to a massive $4.5bn fraud trial involving the former prime minister of Malaysia and a billionaire fugitive from justice whose interests in the USA are represented by lawyers and others linked to Trump, a story you haven’t reported; and of continuing Russian interference he refuses to investigate, insisting instead that there should be aggressive counter-investigations into justice department officials and political opponents. He has refused point blank to co-operate with Congressional subpoenas – itself further grounds for obstruction charges, and is suing to prevent the disclosure of his financial records and dealings with Deutsche Bank and Capital One.

Oh, I wonder why?

Failure to investigate those stories fully amounts in my view to a dereliction of duty on the part of your comfortably embedded Washington layabouts.

His placeman, Treasury Secretary Mnuchin is openly hindering efforts by the IRS and the Congressional Oversight Committee to look into his tax affairs, which they are legally charged to do. Plugging his book, the BBC had the former Attorney-General of the SDNY as a guest on Today recently.  Preet Bharara was removed by Trump in one of his very first efforts to hinder or prevent inquiries into his businesses, the fake “Trump University”, by abusing his powers to manipulate juridical appointments, but you failed to ask him about that!

Questions have been raised too over the administration’s dealings with Saudi Arabia, especially over the economic blockade of Qatar led by the Saudis that ended with the investment arm of the Qataris’ sovereign wealth fund agreeing to bail out the loss-making property development at 666 5th Avenue, owned by Mr Trump’s special advisor and middle east envoy, his son-in-law Jared Kushner, to the tune of half a billion dollars; the secret sale of nuclear secrets and supply of nuclear materièl to Riyadh without Congressional oversight; the President;’s refusal to condemn the murder of Jamal Khashoggi and the vetoing of a Congressional resolution to cease supporting the criminal war in Yemen.

Indeed, many of the self-styled achievements of his presidency seem designed purely to shelter Mr Trump from the multitude of inquiries and potential prosecutions he is facing, creating an impenetrable thicket of misinformation, misdirection and unprosecutable malfeasance through the alleged illegal shredding of documents and erasure of phone records; the manipulation and bullying of the media; the silencing by intimidation of potential witnesses; the corrupt favoritism towards political appointees and sympathetic jurists; the torrent of evident untruths (over 10,100 recorded to date), and the crude attempts to remove or weaken the constitutional checks and balances on his office by decree, backed by threats of violence from his supporters.

All of it enabled by a small coterie of corrupt Senators; a hollowed-out Executive branch, now led by belligerent avowed neo-conservatives continuing to pursue Cheney’s American Project for the 21st Century, and the shameful silence of the rest of the cowed Republicans in Congress.

This is not the behavior of an honest man; nor even of a tolerably dishonest politician: it shows the worst instincts of a dictator. Nor is your reporting of it (not since John Sweeney’s brave Panorama investigation of Trump’s connections to international crime syndicates) what one had come to expect from the formerly high standards of the BBC.

Do stop grovelling to these gangster-capitalists, whose shady backers have been doing their damnedest to undermine our wavering democracy too.

 

“This is scumbag politics of an altogether different dimension from anything seen since the 1920s.”

Don’t impeach him, section him

There is clearly no bottom to the reeking sewer President Trump’s diseased mind swims in.

At a scandalized, jeering and booing rally of his illiterate dumbfucks in Wisconsin last week, with a beatific smile on his face he accused the Democratic state governor of vetoing legislation that would protect full-term babies from being aborted post-partum in hospitals – something he knows perfectly well is already illegal and never happens.

He described in his slimiest voice, how the little babies would be born alive and the nurses would wrap them in swaddling clothes and care for them while the mothers discussed with the doctors how they were going to “execute” them (yes, he really said that!)…. You can watch it, if you have the stomach, on http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W2qit9nAOTo&t=99s

It was a further deliberate extension of his almost-as awful and completely untrue smear that President Obama initiated the brutal policy of separating babies and young children from their migrant mothers on the Mexican border, putting them in cages and shipping them to God-knows where, and that it was a policy supported by the Democrats.

This is filthy scumbag politics of an altogether different dimension from anything we have seen since the 1920s. (also see Post #775, today and into next week)

This disgusting, psychotic individual is so sick in the head, he should not be allowed anywhere near the levers of power. The count of the lies he has told while in office has now soared over the 10 thousand mark. Clearly demented, in view of his bizarre behavior and chaotic speech patterns, he needs to be sectioned under the Mental Health Act, whatever is their equivalent, and removed to a secure psychiatric unit for his own protection and that of the planet.

 

Dissimulation Row

Spotting a small reduction in oil prices, Trump tweeted out to his fanbase that he had personally brought the price down by putting in a telephone call to OPEC. OPEC promptly denied receiving any such call, so Trump then tweeted out that he had in fact spoken to Saudi Arabia and told them to increase output.

Saudi Arabia has also denied receiving any such call.

 

Game of fucking Thrones.

Game of Thrones, Game of Thrones,  Game of Thrones,  Game of Thrones,  Game of Thrones,  Game of Thrones … Game of fucking Thrones.

Just how has this meretricious, made-for-TV sword-and-sex bit of nonsense managed to insert itself into every news webpage out there, with some – shame on you, Guardian – running endless commentary on every episode and plot-twitch, while normally sane and culturally high-minded liberal-lefty pundits rarely concerned with what’s on TV specials continually drop the names of the characters, likening them to the current crop of politicians and z-list celebrities, into their political and lifestyle columns, presumably to ingratiate themselves with the millennial market?

I for one am sick of hearing about it. It isn’t news! It isn’t real!

Neither your Uncle Bogler nor his colleague, The Pumpkin – nor, for that matter, your Old Granny Weatherwax – has seen the show, lacking as we do the necessary mental equipment to understand where it is to be found on our catchup media if it isn’t on the BBC’s iPlayer. Thus all references to it are meaningless. (We have been exposed to trailer clips.)

Nevertheless we suspect we should not enjoy it overmuch. Dr Who is about as far as we go in the interdimensional adventure line, we have already been forced to sit through all seven weeks of Lord of The Rings, thank you children, and we have not been brought up in the culture of computer game-playing from where we suspect GOT derives its tiresome and fanciful Dark Age tropes.

Whoever makes it is clearly rich enough to have bought up the entire media establishment, which as we know is desperate for money, cashing in on the general ennuie that nowadays greets every mention of sodding Brexit to fill the spaces between the public’s ears.

The real world is ghastly enough, thank you.

Please go away.

 

Huawei doing?

Readers may yawn and tell me again you’re not interested in American politics.

The reason I go on reporting this stuff is because the British media won’t. And imperious American demands that Britain submit to its rules and regulations are growing daily more strident.

To add to their insistence that we accept their abysmal food standards and reckless abuse of increasingly ineffectual antibiotics (you’ll even find them polluting imported US fruit!) and banned agri-poisons in exchange for a trade agreement that is unlikely to be played as a game of two halves on a flat pitch, there is now a threat to stop co-operating with our intelligence services if the government allows Chinese technology into the 5G mix.

While they’re claiming it will allow Chinese surveillance to flourish, the Yanks seem more relaxed about their own surveillance techniques, the built-in backdoor keys to encrypted communications, whose existence was revealed in the Snowdon document leaks. And, of course, Trump’s protectionist policies are playing in. If we don’t buy from Huawei, who else are we going to buy from? Oh, right, Cisco.

The FBI and the CIA and the NSA are not going to stop relying on our GCHQ global communications intercepts, it’s a bluff. They wouldn’t dare risk another interdepartmental cock-up like 9/11, not now IS’s Abubakar al-Baghdadi has apparently surfaced in the wake of Sri Lanka with a threat to continue the war on more fronts than before.

(Btw, there’s no reason I can see to assume the video is genuine. Analysts are fairly sure it is, although al-Baghdadi was thought to have been killed in a drone strike two years ago and it seems unlikely or deliberate, if he survived, that US intel has been unaware of where he’s been holed up since.)

But this 5G business (whatever 5G is – I feel sure my fridge has no desire to talk to my curtains) seems to be yet another instance of brash and arrogant American exceptionalist bullying that bodes ill for our post-Brexit relationship.

Hopefully it doesn’t come to one.

 

Guitar bore alert

Oh, stuff that Gibson! #2

Gibson are back! trumpets the email that greets me this morning from Peach Guitars, who have been force-fed with a page of email ad-stuff by the soi-disant music business.

Gibson’s reputation as America’s leading guitar brand has suffered dreadfully in recent years through the YouTube videos of guitar bores scornfully addressing their dreadfully patchy quality issues and demoralizing management style.

It’s a page that would, if clicked on, rapidly convert into more pages of web stuff, glossy photos, specs, videos. But I don’t succumb to its blandishments.

“New leadership, new specs, new price points!” Is the headline. Well, Gibsons have long revised their price points every year to dizzyingly unrealistic heights, so we’ll gloss over that. Price points is hardly a positive marketing USP in a world of guitar brands competing to be the most ludicrously expensive. What benefits new leadership will bring, only time will tell. It hasn’t brought many in the past.

As for new specs, well, the collection of images reveals, I’m afraid, just the same two basic designs they’ve been churning out since the 1950s, the Les Paul single cutaway solid, a chunk of twang made of some unearthly heavy substance, and the familiar twin-crescent horns of the SG range. No semihollow jazzboxes are included as yet in the religious revival, but they screwed those up last time, so.

The words “traditional”, “tribute”, “standard” and “classic” feature strongly in the wording of the email, indicating that if any new specs have been introduced, they will not be allowed to get in the way of this venerable company’s familiar patronizing drone.

How one is expected to get excited about this is anybody’s guess.

I turn with a yawn to other things.

 

Crazy Optimism Corner

The Four Seasons care home chain has gone into administration, after two of its backers pulled out.

“Group medical director Dr Claire Royston commented: ‘It marks the latest stage in the group’s restructuring process.'” (BBC News)

I wish I’d thought of calling it that when my business went bust. It seemed more like a human tragedy at the time.

 

GW:  The rain it raineth, North Africa shivereth

Mozambique: Remnant cyclone Kenneth continues to hang around over the north of the country, dumping around 3 inches of rain a day on already flooded parts of the country and on Tanzania to its north. 42 people are known to have died and 20 thousand are in emergency shelters. Thousands of hectares of food crops have been lost, while flooding on three major rivers has yet to peak.

Indonesia: Excessive monsoon rains have caused casualties and flooding over a wide area. Heavy rain from 26 April caused major flooding and landslides in Bengkulu Province on the southwest coast of Sumatra Island. 29 people have died, 13 are missing and 2 seriously injured. Reports indicate heavy livestock losses and widespread property and infrastructure damage. Deadly landslides also occurred in Lampung Province where 6 people were killed on 27 April. Parts of West Kalimantan have also seen heavy rain over the last few days, increasing the likelihood of flooding and landslides. Ketapang recorded 160 mm of rain in 24 hours to 28 April. At least 2 people have died in floods up to 2.5m deep around the capital, Jakarta. (Floodlist)

Canada: Calgary, Alberta experienced a very late Spring blizzard, being blanketed with up to 7 inches of snow over the weekend, and temperatures plunging to -6C. Something of a surprise, for, as Global News reported a little over a month ago, Calgarians were celebrating the return of warm weather and being warned of the flooding danger from rapid snowmelt.

USA: Golfball-sized hailstones interrupted traffic near Wink, Texas yesterday as The Weather Channel forecast: “Severe thunderstorms will flare up in parts of the Plains states through midweek with hail, high winds, tornadoes and flooding rainfall. Showers and thunderstorms will persist in parts of the Plains through Tuesday morning and strong winds and an isolated brief tornado cannot be ruled out.” Flood warnings have been issued across a wide swathe of territory up into Missouri as daily rainfall totals of 3 inches or more on already saturated ground are anticipated. Meanwhile, peak flooding on rivers flowing south from the record spring snowmelt is expected later in the week and on into May.

India: Out in the Bay of Bengal, Tropical Cyclone Fani has the potential to cause trouble in eastern India and perhaps Bangladesh toward the end of this week, reports The Weather Channel. “As of Monday, Fani was a tropical storm with sustained winds of 65 mph. Fani was located about 480 miles southeast of Chennai, India, moving northwest at about 9 mph. An eye was already becoming evident in microwave imagery on Monday morning. Conditions will be nearly ideal for Fani to strengthen over the next couple of days, and a period of rapid intensification is very possible.” There are naturally fears that a deadly storm surge could funnel up into the Ganges delta.

Update: 30 April, coastal Odisha, Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu provinces are on high alert as Cyclone Fani intensifies, with central windspeeds of over 200 k/h. 800 thousand people have been evacuated from coastal towns (NDTV).

Europe: Severe-weather.eu reports: “A very extreme and rare early May Arctic cold outbreak is shaping up for a large part of Europe this weekend. A potentially dangerous pattern establishes a strong meridional flow of very cold Arctic air far south across western and central Europe towards the deep south Mediterranean and North Africa. Temperatures from May 3rd to 7th will be much lower than normal for this time of the year with a high risk for severe damaging morning frosts across many parts of east, central, western Europe and Balkan peninsula through Sunday to Wednesday.” The potential for large-scale losses of commodities like grapes, citrus fruits and olives seems inevitable, GW adds.

The greenhouse: Arctic News reports, current daily CO2 levels approaching 415 ppm far exceed anything measurable since the previous peak of 285 ppm, 300 thousand years ago. Methane at ground level has increased since 1750 from 720 ppb to around 1870 ppb today (more at altitude) and nitrous oxide is 122% higher than in 1750 (2017 figure), with huge releases currently in Antarctica. As well as being a heat-absorber, N2O is also an ozone-killer.

Yellowstone: The Blessed Mary Greeley reports, USGS scientist Jacob Lowenstein let slip at a convention last week, they’re expecting the Big One. Meantime more earthquake swarms have been detected (but many not reported) in the caldera at reducing depths, ground temperature is still rising, along with the ground itself, and more magma is coming into the upper layers of the chamber, circulating like a lava lamp. A M6 quake should be enough to set it off, says Lowenstein. The area was hit by a M7 in 1973 – ten times more powerful than a M6. The last supereruption was 630 thousand years ago but there have been many smaller incidents since.

 

Killed by irony – an occasional series

The BogPo has a small fascination for people who die in the most ironic of circumstances.

Close to home, then, is a report of the death of one of my local councillors, Mr Paul James, ironically killed in a road accident while out training for the sponsored cycle ride he was organizing, to raise money to thank the local hospital staff for saving his life after a heart attack last year.

 

Credulous medieval cretins corner

Health workers and police have been murdered and mobs have set clinics on fire in Pakistan, after a man posted a video claiming a polio vaccination campaign was making chuldren ill. He is seen in the video ordering schoolchildren to lie down and pretend to be dead.

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Dude, why are only 59 million people reading my stuff?… Miss you, Mr Mercer… AI-up, robots!… GW: Kickin’ up a storm… Fracking hell.

Quote of the week

“Americans think of themselves first, second, third, fourth, fifth – and if there’s any time left over they think about Americans” – Brazil’s ex-President, Lula da Silva, interviewed in prison, questions Bolsonaro’s deeply unpatriotic love of America.

 

Phenomenal BogPo Prophesies Corner:

A new poll (28 April, 2019) has shown that a three-quarters majority of the British voting public, half whom voted on 23 June 2016 to Leave the EU, now agree that the referendum was a stupid idea in the first place. But here is what your Uncle Bogler wrote in a Post (“Calling in the receivers”) on 24 FEBRUARY, 2016:

“On the morning after he loses and the receivers take over the business, Mr Cameron will announce the closing-down sale of GB plc – henceforth Britain will be available only on-line.

“Within minutes, all the people who couldn’t previously be bothered just because Europe was always there will start flocking to the Channel Tunnel and Heathrow airport, demanding in broken French to be let out before the iron gates clang shut for the last time and all the remaining unsold stock is shipped out to depotland. Sales of garlic, berets, bicycles, Johnny Halliday records and funny sausage will soar.

“I predict, once we leave the EU we will all become much more European.”

And the fatuous Mr Trump boasts of how he cleverly predicted a Leave vote – on 22 June, 2016. Bollocks to him, frankly.

 

Dude, why are only 59 million people reading my stuff?

If anyone has not yet grasped the scale of Trump’s jawdropping narcissism, the following report from CNN, sourced in part to the Washington Post, and also commented upon on YouTube by the wonderful Mike Malloy, will give you some idea. I have provided a mixed account:

“President Donald Trump met with (i.e. he summoned to the White House) Twitter chief executive Jack Dorsey on Tuesday, hours after Trump erroneously accused the social media company of “discriminatory” behavior toward conservative users (i.e. himself). The meeting included (in fact it almost exclusively concerned. Ed.) a discussion (more of a tirade, probably) about the disappointing size of Trump’s (59 million) Twitter following (which, he claims, is being deliberately suppressed for political reasons). (He also complained that President Obama has over 100 million Twitter followers, nearly twice as many as he does and all clearly fake.)

Dorsey had to explain to the Tangerine Wunderkind that if accounts are being blocked or taken down, it is invariably because they are abusive and hateful or threatening and don’t meet the guidelines.

“After the meeting, Trump tweeted a photo and wrote, “Lots of subjects discussed regarding their platform, and the world of social media in general.”

The fatuous chump has also revived his insane excuse for being elected president, that Britain’s GCHQ was spying on him on the orders of President Obama, on behalf of Hillary Clinton. Nevertheless, he is forcing himself on us with a State visit; HM Queen offering an irresistibly glitzy photo-op to exuberate his post-Mueller dumbfucks.

Give us a break, Donald.

 

“How vain and incurious does anyone have to be, to accept when someone offers to pay them £350 an hour, just for the use of their name?”

“Miss you, Mr Mercer” – with any luck

From BBC News, 24 April:

“A company that marketed a failed bond scheme that lost savers £236m has been funding an MP’s private salary. Johnny Mercer receives £85,000 from Crucial Academy, a company ultimately funded by Surge Financial Limited … (which) took 25% commission for marketing bonds (issued) by London Capital & Finance (LC&F), which is now in administration. Mr Mercer – who is facing calls from investors to quit as an MP – said he had done nothing wrong.” (Mr Mercer denies that Crucial Academy receives funding from LC&F.)

Is everyone totally blindsided by, say, Brexit, Trump, Greta Thunberg or the difficulty of getting through central London over the supergluey bodies of climate protesters?

Your Boglmeister, I have previously pointed out that London Capital & Finance may well turn out to be the most glaring example of a Ponzi scheme since Bernie Madoff started his several lifetimes feasting on all porridge and no molasses. Sadly, no such fate may befall the directors of LC&F, but we shall see.

With unbelievably crude deviousness, a number of companies appear to have been set up behind the brass plate of Surge Financial Limited, apparently by this Mr Paul Careless, a perfect case of nominative determinism, at the forefront of which was LC&F, which advertised – using a Brighton-based agency called Surge, also owned by Mr Careless, on a quite desirable budget of £60 million, which would buy a few Porsches – unregulated investments returning an improbable 8%, mainly to gullible old pension holders whose stored-up pots of dosh were freed from restrictions by the previous Tory Chancellor, George “Eight jobs” Osborne, prior to his departure in 2016.

The funnel-mouth of London & Capital was then, one gathers from reports, used to suck in investors’ cash to finance all of the directors’ subsidiary companies, money seemingly not Carefully invested in other stocks or mutuals offering competitive terms. It looks like precisely the sort of rapacious operation financial pundits were warning would set up shop in the wake of Osborne’s free-market policy, to separate gullible oldies from their dreams of high-spec campervans and round-the-world cruises.

The breezily named Johnny Mercer MP, a litigiously engaging dimwit (he is suing the BBC for this) not to be confused with the actually rather clever late American songwriter of that ilk, already receives a salary close to £80 thousand a year from the taxpayer, plus £130 thousand Parliamentary expenses, so he must have been in dire need of the extra £85 thousand a year he gets from Surge – sorry, “Crucial Academy”, another company also owned by Careless and chums, that is, he claims, entirely financially independent of LC&F – that does wondrous good works, training Army veterans to survive in the world of employment.

Signed last year to add some small weight to the proceedings, Mercer is either another greedy political chancer or otherwise too naive a useful idiot to be an MP. I suspect it is the latter, judging by his yelping protestations of innocence – which can be understood, given that four directors closer to the center of operations have been questioned by the Serious Fraud Office. It certainly looks like he has been used as a patsy, to front-up what to others might seem a bit of a con.

A related business doing charitable stuff for Our Heroes is possibly the most obvious PR front for internal money-washing it would be possible to imagine – not that Mr Mercer, an ex-Army officer himself, would have noticed, as his role as a non-executive director occupies him for just 20 hours a month, and for what?

How vain and incurious does anyone not much in the public eye have to be, to accept when someone offers to pay them £350 an hour, just for the use of their name and face?

Crucial is only one of several subsidiary companies through which £236 million of investors’ pension funds and life savings seems to have “surged” like hot soapy water through champagne glasses in a dishwasher, and ultimately “Vanish”-ed down the plughole. (You’re fired. Metaphor abuse. Ed.)

What is so peculiar about this whole affair, however, is how the media – such as the BBC, whose reporting has illuminated this Post, and well done at least for bringing the story to light – and even Private Eye’s “Slicker” column is still portraying LC&F as some kind of genuine investment opportunity that has hit a patch of bad luck.

Of course it was a bloody Ponzi scheme! What else?

Wake up, BBC dimwits.

 

AI-up, robots!

In 1976, I sold my one and only ever published work of deliberate fiction, a short story for which I was paid a handsome £100.

You might be too young to remember the world in them days, like what I do, but there was no social media, no iPhones or Androids, no Google or eMail or Sky TV showing 40 channels of adult entertainment.

Not even the ubiquitous, clunky IBM desktop PCs that predated the thinline laptop computer and the incomprehensible phablet by more than three decades were yet much heard or known about outside academic circles.

In 1976, people didn’t go around annoyingly saying “like” or “cool” every other word, Game of Thrones hadn’t been mentioned in a plug even once. We’d been a member of the European Economic Community for less than three years, so our British Leyland cars still rusted to bits within months, no-one holidayed abroad in case of foreign food, and Britain’s bananas were still bent.

Nor was there yet Thatcher; except as the mean-spirited education minister who stopped the children’s free milk ration. (That’s the way to get to be leader of the Tory party.)

My story resulted from a sort of commission from the editor of Computer Age magazine, into whom I had accidentally run outside the dungeon headquarters of the London Broadcasting Company in Gough Square, just behind Fleet Street.

I was a journalist of sorts, working freelance, and Meyer Solomon had been a guest on a show from which he was recovering on the same bench, incidentally, where I also met Anthony Burgess. We got chatting, and I offered him five thousand words fresh hewn from my IBM “golfball” typewriter, without any idea at that stage of what they would be about, and he took my arm off, as they say.

“Hello, Mr Chips” emerged shortly thereafter, from my fertile brain.

The story concerned Kevin, a schoolboy with issues you would nowadays identify as autistic spectrum disorders – issues like ADHD and Asperger’s, that had no catchy names in those days. So incapable of benefiting from the standard socialized education model was Kevin, that he had to be excluded from school, and a special experimental computer program created to teach him.

Kevin becomes deeply upset and troubled, and runs away when it’s proposed that his beloved teaching computer should be replaced by an advanced model. However, returned to his home he is intrigued to find that his new Mark 11 teacher is a fully functioning android programmed with what we now know as Artificial Intelligence, AI, called Mr Chips (see what I did there?*).

And then – spoiler alert – in the final denouement, Kevin’s older sister, who has been eyeing him speculatively for a while, runs off and elopes with Mr Chips.

Which is where the story gets spooky, because 43 years then go by, I’ve spent the hundred quid, and a well-remunerated famous writer who is not me, sadly, Ian McEwan, publishes this week a shortform novel (his are never overlong), “Machines Like Me”, in which – as the Private Eye books reviewer tells me, I haven’t read it – “A couple acquire a synthetic human and a love triangle duly develops”.

On top of my advanced, Nostradamus-like prognostications concerning not only our modern understanding of spectrum disorders like ADHD, and developments in educational computing and dedicated robotics, but also uncannily prefiguring cases like that of the precocious 15-year-old “M.S.” (we’re probably still not allowed to mention her by name), a nubile student and her 30-year-old art teacher paramour, poor Jeremy Forrest, who might just be coming out of jail about now after serving half of a monstrously unjust sentence for kidnapping a minor (infatuated, she persuaded the nitwit to take her to France, where nobody batted an eyelid), the problem of exclusions from schools is also a hot topic today; although I hadn’t foreseen the kind of Tory cuts that would have made it impossible to supply Kevin with a broken abacus, let alone an android.

How cool was that?

I ought, I suppose, to be proud of my astonishing capacity to peer into the future in so many regards. However, even I was beaten to the presumptive threat of AI by Isaac Asimov (IA!), who cottoned on in the late 1950s to the notion that one day, computers would grow so sophisticated as to replace us; and indeed, predicted that a supercomputer would eventually replace God as the machine creator of a new universe, out of all the stored data of the old (thus prefiguring Google by 50 years).

Now, that was one hell of a story!

*For younger readers, “Goodbye, Mr. Chips” is a 1939 British romantic drama starring Oscar-winning Robert Donat, based on a 1934 novella by James Hilton. The story concerns Chipping, a much-loved schoolteacher who recalls his career and personal life over the decades. It was voted by BFI members the 72nd best film of all time.

 

GW: Kickin’ up a storm

Mozambique: is being battered for a record second time in a month by a Cat 4 cyclone, Kenneth, with maximum sustained winds of 140 mph and a 4m storm surge. Latest, 28 April: Pemba, regional capital of Cabo Delgado state, has experienced more than 2m (6.5ft) of rain and flooding. The situation in the  towns of Macomia and Quissanga was critical, and there are also worries for the cut-off island of Ibo. Waves up to 4m high are also expected, and aid agencies fear rains will worsen over the next four days. 700 thousand people are said to be directly at risk.

Late on Wednesday, the head of the UN Office for Disaster Risk Reduction said she feared the region faced “another humanitarian catastrophe” following Cyclone Idai, which killed up to 1000 last month and left 2m in need of aid. There is no previous record of hurricane-force systems ever hitting the region so far north before, BBC Weather reports – let alone twice at Cat 2 or more in one season. Having already killed 3 people in the Comoros islands, the slow-moving storm is expected to bring 0.8m of rain to some areas of the country. (BBC News)

Uganda: “A storm that brought hail, strong winds and heavy rain to parts of eastern Uganda on 23 April has left at least 18 people dead and displaced around 900, according to local media. The storm hit during the early hours causing flooding in Buyende and Kamuli districts. As many as 140 people were injured, and houses and livestock severely damaged.” (Floodlist)

British Isles: are being battered currently by Storm Hannah, with 85 mph wind gusts, power cuts, big waves, heavy rain and fallen trees causing travel disruption. Yellow flood warnings out across the west of the UK. It’s quite late in the Atlantic storm season and some trees here have been stripped of their soft spring growth, their blossom, with fallen branches everywhere. (BBC)

Italy: Severe weather, including stormy seas and strong winds, affected parts of Italy from around 22 to 24 April. Heavy rain increased river levels in parts of Tuscany and Liguria. As of 24 April, at least 1 person had died and rescue workers were searching for 2 women swept away by the flooding Letimbro River in Santuario. Earlier, media reported that 1 person died in high waves along the coast of Porto Corallo on the island of Sardinia. (Floodlist) A low pressure ridge is bringing torrential rainfall, heavy hail and strong winds from the Balkans northeast as far as Russia. (Severe-weather.eu)

USA: Yet more “Severe thunderstorms hit northern and central Texas from 23 April, bringing strong winds, hail, heavy rain and flash floods. A warehouse near Bryan was destroyed. Dallas Love Field recorded 91 mm (3.6 in.) of rain in 24 hours. 3 people died when a vehicle was swept off a road by flood water in Erath County early on 24 April.” 1 person survived by clinging to a tree. More severe storms are forecast for the weekend. (Floodlist) After a warmer than average week, snow is returning to portions of the northern Midwestern states, with heavy rain and more flooding expected across the Great Plains. (The Weather Channel)

Canada: Around 8 thousand people have been forced to leave their homes in communiies near Montreal as flooding caused dikes to collapse. Communities in Quebec are on evacuation alert and the army has been called out as flooding emergencies are declared locally. Rising river levels are threatening the collapse of a large dam, Bell Falls, near Ottawa. Peak flow may not be for another two weeks and record levels are expected, thanks to the spring melt of an unusually large snowpack – while further major rainfall events are forecast. (Paul Beckwith) Prof Beckwith also reports on new research showing higher ocean temperatures are leading to stronger winds and rougher seas, bigger waves – so far by about 8% since 1950.

 

Fracking hell

The commissioner will be a contact point for residents, to listen to their concerns, refer them to relevant and factual research and help improve communication with regulators and industry. – YouGov website

Former Labour MP, Natascha Engel was appointed as Britain’s “fracking tsar” six months ago, by the business secretary, Greg Clarke. Today, she has stepped down, complaining that over-regulation is stifling the nascent industry, making her job impossible; and that the government has allowed itself to be bullied by a “tiny minority” of noisy environmental NGOs that have profited at the nation’s expense.

It’s a clear case of what used to be known in diplomatic corps circles as “going native”, the total abandonment of any pretence at independence being considered quite a grave crime in the old colonial days.

Ms Engel’s resignation letter is quoted in today’s Observer. It will astonish anyone even vaguely familiar with the arguments against fracking – “hydraulic fracturing”, to give the practice its proper name:

“A perfectly viable and exciting new industry that could help meet our carbon reduction targets, make us energy secure and provide jobs in parts of the country that really need them is in danger of withering on the vine – not for any technical or safety reasons, but because of a political decision.

“The UK could be on the cusp of an energy revolution the like of which we have not seen since the discovery of North Sea oil and gas.”

Having worked in the PR and promotions business for a few unexciting years, your Old Granny can vouch for the assiduous attention to her clients’ vanity found in Ms Engel’s copywriting efforts; assuming she wrote the letter herself. The fracking tsarina goes on to make further points in favour of this incredibly brutal and polluting method of extracting methane from shale deposits, for instance:

“Engel complained that a traffic light system that halts fracking when a tremor with a magnitude of M0.5 is recorded ‘amounts to a de facto ban'” – claiming that no other country, for instance the United States, sets such a low bar.

Would that a similar rule had been imposed in Colorado, then, where the number of recorded earth tremors in what was not previously known as a particularly active area has gone from three a year to over 800 since Mr Harold Hamm the Fracking King (net worth $14.1 billion) started operations 30 years ago; while their magnitude, their destructive power has steadily increased from below M1.5 to M5 and upwards.

Google supplies the following helpful note: “Beneath Britain the Earth’s crust is crisscrossed with ancient cracks, or fault lines, which are constantly under stress. … Tremors are not uncommon in Britain. Each year, the British Geological Survey (BGS) records between 200 to 300 separate events.” Indeed, a M4.2 was recorded in the Channel last year, and a Big One is not entirely unanticipated at some stage. The crude splitting of shale deposits under enormous pressure has already produced a number of significant earth tremors, which Ms Engel dismisses as “no more than the rumbling of a tube train” (I paraphrase).

Engel too is blithe to the evidence of rising methane emissions directly from fracking operations, methane being a greenhouse gas up to 100 times more infra-red absorbent than CO2, to which it slowly decays – and to the scientific fact that when you boil your breakfast egg, burning natural gas gives off CO2 and water vapour: both greenhouse gases.

She appears to be willing to ignore research conducted by her former party that sugggests fracking operations of the size envisaged in Britain would eventually produce an additional CO2 burden equivalent to another 289 million cars, instead suggesting that extracting and burning more fossil fuel will somehow enable us to meet our emissions targets sooner – a trope frequently employed by climate change deniers being that the CO2 produced from natural gas – methane – is somehow cleaner and better for us than that emitted from burning oil and coal.

Evidence also from the USA of grossly polluted and overextracted groundwater basins damaging agriculture and residential communities, of pipeline leaks and of methane gas seeping under pressure into domestic plumbing systems seems somewhat at odds with Engel’s wild claims for fracking’s positive impacts on local communities – evidence that is as yet nowhere to be found in the UK as fracking has had only limited success to date, operations being frequently halted as the M0.5 tremor limit has so frequently been exceeded.

Nor is her rosy vision of local communities welcoming the investment remotely in accordance with the facts.

What on earth is this silly woman up to? Has she not noticed that environmental protest is the flavour of the month?

Here again is the old “job creation” argument: fracking is good for jobs. (We already have record low unemployment, but carry on…)

The plain fact is, your Granny observes, that these capital-intensive engineering projects tend to rely on imported, specialized labour forces until they are up and running, whereafter they operate semi-autonomously on a routine service and maintenance basis, until they are abandoned and ultimately, one hopes, decommissioned. They do not create significant numbers of permanent jobs for local people in the deprived rural areas Engel refers to, from where the younger, employable pool of labour have mostly emigrated to the cities in any case.

By extension, her belief in the job creation possibilities of fracking produces a”£7 billion a year” economic advantage to the Treasury, money we could be spending on hospitals… er, ring any bells? The prospect seems doubtful, however, as much of the revenue will certainly be eaten up in tax rebates and loopholes, concessions enabling Cuadrilla to maximise its profitability through the early years. The £7 bn she claims we are losing could equally well be invested in non-polluting renewables, that will also produce a return for the Chancellor to spend on pothole repairs.

Your Granny notices too, several more inconsistencies in her lengthy missive. Engel boasts that Britain has the best regulated fracking industry in the world. Except that, she complains, regulation is preventing the industry from progressing and so she would like to see less! The process, she claims, is “materially no different” from other methods of hydrocarbon extraction. Then she goes on to try to explain why it is in fact very different, an entirely “new industry”, and much better for us… Make up your mind, deary.

It would be churlish, and probably libellous, to suggest that this woman’s future career prospects might be materially enhanced by her willingness to say these things that no self-respecting, right-minded ex-Labour MP ought to be saying, as they are at best highly controversial and on a bad day, according to independent experts, blatant industry propaganda. From what she writes, she appears to be arguing in favour of doing the maximum possible damage, both to the environment and to the fissiparous geology of the British Isles, merely for the short-term gain of a business whose interests she was supposed to be balancing against those of local communities; not that she was supposed to be blatantly promoting them.

That she has gone is a hopeful sign. That her departure might have some negative impact in a week when her old party boss, Mr Corbyn is hoping Parliament will declare a national climate emergency, is possibly not.

(Original reporting, Observer and various news media, 28 April)

Britain welcomes criminals of all kinds… You do have to be crazy to work here… Oligarchs at sea… GW: “A catastrophe of unimaginable proportions is unfolding” This week’s BogPo, for instance…

Thought of the day

“We are Buddhists, and we now meditate daily on loving kindness for our President. When we do, we recite the phrase, ‘May President Trump find the wisdom to resign.'”Susan L. Rhodes and Charles R. Schwenk, writing on OpenDemocracy.org

 

Quote of the century so far

“The conclusion that Congress may apply the obstruction laws to the President’s corrupt exercise of the powers of office accords with our constitutional system of checks and balances and the principle that no person is above the law.” – Robert S Mueller, Special Counsel

 

Britain welcomes criminals of all kinds

The innocent Mr Trump is an unusual kind of criminal, isn’t he.

Most old lags have boundaries, moral and legal. They know the law as well as any barrister. That they repeatedly break the law is a choice they make, many of them because of the straitened social circumstances in which they got into trouble in the first place; because of the ease with which money can be made from crime, and because of an inadequate and underfunded criminal justice system based mainly on the punitive instincts of the public at large, egged on by the tabloid press, that traps them thereafter in a pattern of criminal behavior.

There’s a calculus of risk.

Rather than consciously break the law, Mr Trump, however, seemingly does not believe the law applies to him in any sense. He has made a life choice simply to ignore the existence of law; or rather, as in everything else, to regard his relationship with the law as a transaction, a set of circumstances that can be turned to his pecuniary advantage. And he seems to lead a charmed life: despite the voluminous evidence of his dishonesty and cheating, his criminal connections, we seem to have no answer to it.

It’s mostly a social thing with him too. If you start out at the age of three as a pretend-employee of your daddy’s company, on a very real tax-deductible salary of a quarter of a million dollars a year, there is very little that will impress upon you thereafter, the vital importance to the survival of humanity of mutual co-operation and occasional acts of altruism; or the benefits of thrift. And what is there to anchor you in the truth? Shifting facts become negotiable; denial is without consequence.

Subsequently as you grow up receiving $100s of millions in phony bailout loans from your dad, more tax avoidance stiffing the IRS for half a billion dollars in the process, the less you care about the origins of the wealth that flows like electricity through your projects and the more the culture of money-laundering becomes habitual.

Because tax avoidance strategies for the rich are, essentially, a legal form of money-laundering, whereby a taxable sum of money is passed through any of a series of special tax-free or low-tax vehicles, loopholes in the financial continuum designed to further enrich the rich, to emerge clean and whole, without loss, on the other side.

Why stop there, when at any one time over four quadrillion dollars obtained from who-cares-where is floating around the planet in free-fall, just waiting to be diverted into another superyacht complete with optional missile battery, or a mission to Mars? Compared with many involved in this financial merry-go-round, Mr Trump is small beer. Small beer, but with a planet-sized thirst.

Many witnesses and suspects interviewed by Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s team of bloodhounds investigating the story of Russian interference in the 2016 election have testified under oath, on pain of imprisonment for lying, that during and after the election Mr Trump routinely commanded them to carry out actions on his behalf, that were – to them – clearly illegal. Ordering an illegal act is, legally speaking, the crime of conspiracy.

The legality of Trump’s behavior changed, however, with the appointment of the Special Counsel. From that point on, every command the newly elected President gave that was directed at hampering, discrediting or otherwise removing the threat to his position that might have been created by an investigation designed to expose the true extent of foreign interference on his behalf would constitute a de facto obstruction of justice; a prisonable offence.

But what if the original offence he is said to have called for was never actually carried out?

American jurisprudence has been arguing for months around the question: if knowingly working with the Russians and their tool, Julian Assange’s Wikileaks, to influence American voters was not actually illegal – which for the most part it might not have been – then would the President’s attempts to make the investigations go away be obstructing anything at all?

While others wondered, why the intensive efforts to shut down the investigations if there was nothing to hide? Why did Trump staffers do nothing to reject the help they were illegally offered, and report the Russian overtures to the FBI? And why did the President declaim despairingly that his presidency was over, “I’m fucked”, on hearing that a Special Counsel had been appointed, if he was not aware of his wrongdoing?

(The answer being, that the President has a number of personal issues on the mental disorder spectrum that make it virtually impossible for him to concentrate long enough or sufficiently distance himself from his own solipsistic worldview to grasp the basic tenets of constitutional law, and has a decades-long history of making investigations into his suspicious financial activities go away, by one means or another. His obstructionism is purely instinctive.)

In most cases, it turns out, Trump’s people simply ignored his illegal commmands and carried on the already pretty filthy, but mostly lawful process of campaigning to get their man over the line, supported by billionaire disruptors seeking to destroy the whole annoying business of interfering government and messy democracy; while in the background, the Russian state’s foreign intelligence arm, the GRU continued and continues to spew out personalized disinformation using voter data stolen from Facebook and other accounts, to undermine the will of the West.

And those acts of disobedience were what is currently, some say precariously, saving him from indictment. Although in the normal course of events what he did was criminal, nevertheless in the special circumstances of an election the law breaks down. While there was most definitely obstruction, there was no hard proof of prior conspiracy. While there was most definitely collusion, that is not a known crime. While there is a mountain of evidence of connections between the campaign and the Russians, the conversations were seemingly not sufficiently effectual to suggest conspiracy to commit treason, which is.

(The Pumpkin has bogld indefatigably over the past year or so, that Mueller was likely to find evidence of collusion, but no conspiracy; that while the interference was gratefully received and in regard to some aspects of election law and data protection may have been illegal, there was no requirement for command and co-ordination from the Trump end to make the Putin-inspired plan work. Of course, Mueller would have little or no knowledge of the content of the closed-door meetings between Trump, Putin and Putin’s top officials without asking the President himself to explain, which he decided not to do out of fear that the blabbermouth Trump would convict himself, or find himself compulsively lying.)

Purely for those reasons, having concluded that Mr Trump was indeed responsible for obstructing justice in no fewer than ten compound ways, each meriting its own chapter of Volume 2, and that the Russian effort did in fact happen, Mr Mueller’s 448-page report finally abandons the attempt to prove that Mr Trump (or his tragically dim offspring, Donald Jr) had sufficient knowledge of the origins and consequences of his actions as to have committed offences indictable by him, and submits the evidence instead to the whims and tortuous political processes of a Congress still hagridden with powerful Trump enablers in the Senate to see if they can do better.

Poor Bob Mueller was too honest and upright for his own good; and ultimately, that of the free world. I’m afraid fire needs to be fought with fire.

In what would certainly not be his last – and most successful – effort to obstruct, or at least divert the course of justice, Mr Trump had the States’ Attorney-General removed from office and planted his own man in the Justice Department. William Barr has a notorious history of defending crimes committed at the behest of past Presidents against Special Counsel investigations. Nor does he think Presidents can or should be indicted for crimes, and has written an extensive legal opinion on the matter, which made him a shoo-in.

Barr’s strategy in this instance has been to pre-issue misleading headline announcements claiming the Mueller report has totally exonerated the President, in advance of the actual publication of a heavily redacted account that, even so, still paints a picture of a profoundly corrupt and dysfunctional Administration directed by, yes, a criminal mind; and of many abuses of Executive authority: what are known as “high crimes and misdemeanors”.

The assumption being that, as Americans would rather not have another criminal in the White House after Nixon, they will be extra-willing to believe Trump’s protestations of innocence based on a couple of favorable headline findings, and not bother reading the small print, while interest gradually wanes and war in Iran, or whatever, commands tomorrow’s headlines. (Secretary Pompeo, a well-lunched creature resembling a Vogon functionary made entirely of Koch brothers’ money, is already attempting to link Shi’a Iran with Sunni al-Qaeda, the same improbable alliance that let Bush kick-off the second Iraq war.)

(PS a carrier group is now heading for the Gulf of Arabia to counter what Pompeo claims is an Iranian threat. See: “Gulf of Tonkin incident” for precedent. 07 May)

The chair of the House Oversight Committee, Congressman Elijah Cummings, has issued a subpoena for the full report to be made available; and, for his pains, Mr Trump is attempting to sue him in court, to destroy him financially. Trump is also warning any of his current or former people against testifying to the committee hearing on the Mueller report; while his lawyers are fighting a desperate delaying action against the Congress’ perfectly established powers to subpoena evidence and witness testimony. Those are not the actions of an innocent man. Meanwhile, Trump will surely now be redirecting Barr’s efforts toward making the many other criminal investigations being conducted into him, for instance by the Southern District Court of New York, to go away too.

The words “hole” and “digging” seem apposite.

That this astonishing saga is being played out in plain sight, where anyone with eyes (and that’s about two-thirds of American voters but not 90 per cent of Republicans) can see that here is a profoundly disturbed, corrupt and amoral individual, tragically in the middling-stages of age-related mental disintegration, who has nevertheless succeeded largely in imposing his own brand of autocratic gangster-capitalism on their Constitution and has essentially kidnapped the Justice Department for his own purposes, seemingly without restraint, is bad enough.

But that Mr Trump has invited himself to make a State visit to Britain as a guest of Her Majesty the Queen, hopefully to ride smirking in triumph in a gilded carriage along the Mall as the crowds bay their disgust, and to hijack the D-Day 75th anniversary parade in Portsmouth (assuming it’s not raining), and is proposing to arrive six weeks from now, whether we want him or not, is the most breathtaking denouement imaginable; wonderful optics for his shrinking base of dumbfucks, the ultimate vindication of his terrible presidency.

(We imagine, too, that as we haven’t had any good public dust-ups since the Tottenham riots in 2011, and another long, hot summer is in prospect, with the encouragement of the gilets-jaunes across the channel it’s also the most potentially disruptive event possible.)

This pompous, overbearing, undereducated, frequently failed realtor from the arse-end of New York, oafish social-climbing made-for-TV President, nepotistic tinpot dictator and kleptocrat, friend to mafiosi, criminal oligarchs and brutal dictators* the world over, a succubus with no regard whatsoever for the rule of law or the consequences of his actions for anyone other than himself (“racist”, “conman”, “serial adulterer”, “trafficker of underage models” and “accused rapist” go without comment), joins a sorry line of shits, psychos and general self-promoters that for the squalid purposes of trade the poor 93-year-old Queen Elizabeth has had to feed and water and put on public display over the years; monsters like the reputedly cannibalistic kleptocrat, Mobutu of Zaire; the genocidal “Mr 10 per cent” Suharto of Indonesia and the appalling, motheaten Ceausescus, the vampires of Romania.

The one consolation being, they all met some kind of fate in the end.

 

*It seems he’s found a new one to admire, in the vengeful figure of Libyan warlord, Gen. Khalifa Hifter, who is leading a military offensive against the internationally recognized Libyan government in Tripoli. According to today’s Washington Post, Mr Trump has apparently rung up to congratulate him on his advance. “In their conversation, the president praised Hifter for fighting ‘terrorism’ and protecting Libyan oil assets.”

The incoherent Middle Eastern dimension to Trump’s corruption is surely ripe for a second Special Counsel investigation. Gen. Hifter – I can’t help thinking Trump has confused him with the Austrian-born German chancellor with a similar name – since Hifter’s brutal but efficient military campaign at the head of his own private army is being funded by the United Arab Emirates and Crown Prince bin-Salman, the dictator-in-waiting of Saudi Arabia; another murdering, torturing, dissent-crushing strongman whom Trump refuses to criticize in any way.

 

Criminal #2

I’ve just had the following email from the Reprieve NGO:

“We are writing today with some incredibly sad news: Saudi Arabia executed 37 people in one day – including three arrested as teenagers and tortured into “confessions”. Five of those executed, including the three teenagers, were Reprieve cases. This is yet another horrific disregard of human rights by the Saudi regime. Conducting this mass execution without notice just days after Easter, it appears that Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman thought that this could pass without international condemnation.”
Three more teenagers are scheduled among others still to be beheaded by Crown Prince Murderer, for the crime of being picked up off the street by police brutally putting down a peaceful demonstration by Islamists. This is the overpromoted, psychotic camel-fucker Trump loves and cares for, and his money, so deeply.
Reprieve has called on Theresa May to protest these actions: as if. This is the same Theresa May who warmly received “MBS”, as More Blood and Sand likes to be known, at Chequers, her agreeable country residence, in March last year.
As long as these unreconstructed stone-age barbarians continue to pump the black gold they serendipitously inherited for free from beneath the desert sands and continue to use it to buy arms from the West, arms they are using illegally to prosecute a war against women and children in Yemen, while continuing to oppress and torture and maim and murder their own people in the name of their fissiparous religion, while they continue to fund Wahhabist terrorism the world over, no-one will lift a finger against them.
What a fucking horrible world your loving God sees fit to order.

You do have to be crazy to work here

Controversial Washington state representative for Spokane Valley, Matthew Shea has been caught plotting online with right wing extremists to carry out surveillance on, and violently attack, liberal activists in his constituency. A Republican, under the internet username “Verum Bellorum” (“True Warrior”, apparently), Shea was also found to be planning “psyops” against these activists, according to conversations that he was having with three known extremists via an app called Signal.

This is not the first time that Shea has invoked lethal violence: in his political manifesto, he calls for the deaths of all men who fail to follow true Biblical teaching, although he claims this was just a bit of banter with a few likeminded friends (TYT/Ring of Fire, citing Guardian America, 20 April/Rolling Stone).

Although he might seem to meet the legal definition of terrorist, Mr Shea has yet to be arrested and questioned, let alone charged with any crime. It goes without saying that he is a regular on Alex Jones’ Infowars and other crazy rightwing conspiracy sites; an anti-abortion, anti-vaccination, anti-law enforcement, extreme gun-rights activist; and that he has frequently called for a civil war – a final battle – against unbelievers, including communists and Muslims, but also Washington liberals.

Apparently the darling of Spokane Valley residents, he is currently serving his sixth term in Congress, when by rights he ought to serving his time in a federal penitentiary, for incitement.

 

Oligarchs at sea

A friend tells me over a simple lunch about the time he went on a cruise. Somewhere in the Bahamas they steamed past an enormous private yacht not much smaller than themselves. As he watched, a helicopter took off from the deck – and a large motor launch emerged from an opening in the side, just like in a James Bond movie. He asked the purser about it. “Oh”, said the seadog,”that’s one of (Roman) Abramovich’s. He’s not on board, of course, he has four others like it, all painted gray so as not to attract attention.”

My friend remarks that, were one to win, say, one of those €100 million-plus jackpots on the Euromillions lottery, against odds of billions to one, one might be able to afford a partway decent yacht, just. But would you then be able to pay for the crew, the mooring and maintenance charges, the fuel – the expensive art collection, the food and the champagne? It reminded me of the visitors to the rotting C18th “stately home” where I was the Estate Manager for several years, who would gaze around wistfully and fantasise aloud about winning the lottery and buying the place. I would sneer at them loftily: “Yes, but you would need to win ten lotteries if you want to keep it standing!”

 

GW: A catastrophe of unimaginable proportions is unfolding.

“Sam Carana” – a pseudonymous collective of climate scientists writing on the Arctic News blogspot site – has just posted this:

“March 2019 temperature is in line with an earlier analysis that 2019 could be 1.85°C warmer than preindustrial and that a rapid temperature rise could take place soon… .

“A catastrophe of unimaginable proportions is unfolding. Life is disappearing from Earth and all life could be gone within a decade. At 5°C of warming, most life on Earth will have disappeared. When looking at near-term human extinction, 3°C will likely suffice. Study after study is showing the size of the threat, yet many people seem out to hide what we’re facing.

“The long-term … trend (graph shown on website) points at 2025 as the year when 3°C rise from preindustrial could be crossed, while the red trend that focuses on short-term events shows how a 3°C rise from preindustrial could be reached as early as in 2020.”

That is, next year.

And if that’s not enough to cheer you up, here’s Paul Beckwith, blogger, Prof. of geography and oceanography at the university of Ottawa:

“Nitrous oxide emissions from our rapidly warming north are up to 12-times higher than we previously thought, since thawing Arctic permafrost is a huge source. The problem is: 1) the top 3 meters of permafrost contains 73 billion tons of nitrogen; 2) as it thaws microbial action releases bucket loads of N2O; and 3) N2O is a very powerful greenhouse gas, with a Global Warming Potential about 300 times that of CO2 (lifetime in atmosphere of 114 years).” (YouTube presentation, citing Wilkerson et al.) As seas warm, we’re also detecting a rise in hydrogen sulphide gas emissions (fart gas) – yet another greenhouse gas.

Middle East: “…extreme weather has caused bizarre ‘ice floods’ to sweep across deserts in Saudi Arabia, Iran, and the United Arab Emirates. The freezing plunge in temperatures has perplexed meteorologists in a region that is typically basking in scorching sunshine at this time of year.  Last week, several parts of Tunisia were hit by snow and torrential rainfall, causing fatalities.” (Express) In other parts of the region, massive dust storms were thrown up by strong downdrafts.

South Africa: “Heavy rain has caused flooding in parts of KwaZulu-Natal and Eastern Cape Provinces. Oribi Gorge in southern KwaZulu-Natal recorded 234mm of rain in 24 hours to early 23 April. Schools and roads have been closed after widespread flooding in the coastal city of Durban. At least 5 people have died and dozens of others have been injured after buildings collapsed during flooding and mudslides in different parts of the city. There are reports of informal settlements in Chatsworth being washed away.” More heavy rain is forecast. In Malawi, at least 3 people have died and 9 are injured after heavy rainstorms triggered landslides in the country’s northern region on 20 April. 5 people are still missing. (Floodlist)

Iran: More than 10 million people have been hit by flooding in Iran. Thousands are homeless after the deluge, and there are fears of more heavy rain. (Al Jazeera) “25 out of 31 of Iran’s provinces have been affected. Officials say 76 people have been killed so far, with some 150,000 homes partially or completely destroyed. Bridges across the country and miles upon miles of road have been left unusable. Authorities say the estimated bill to repair the damage stands at least $2.5 billion.” (NBC)

USA: Houston, Tx. is on flood watch again as yet another band of severe thunderstorms moves slowly northwards across the state. Travel disruption and evacuations are expected with damaging wind, big hail and possibility of tornadoes. (Accuweather). The powerful storms that ripped through parts of the United States last week killed at least 5 people in Mississippi, Florida and Alabama, officials said. (CNN)

Colombia: At least 17 people were killed in a big landslide on Easter Sunday after days of heavy rain (The Weather Channel)

Meanwhile, in Argentina: Storm over Chaco Province. “2 people were electrocuted when power cables fell into flood water in the city of Las Breñas. Among the worst hit areas was Corzuela, where 300mm of rain reportedly fell in just a few hours during the storm. The village of Mesón de Fierro, around 50km south of Corzuela, recorded 380mm. Around 1,800 people have evacuated their homes.” (edited from Floodlist)

Spain: “The central eastern coastal province of Alicante was hit by severe weather between 18 and 22 April,  including winds of 100km/h, waves of more than 2.5 metres and torrential rain. Flash flooding affected several areas of the Valencia region. Images on social media showed flooded streets and some cars completely submerged. The Red Cross said at least 23 people were rescued from the floodwater and around 90 had to stay in a provisional shelter. Xàbia recorded 248.4 mm of rain in 24 hours on 21 April.

UK: Here in the UK to follow the record-breaking warm end of February we’ve had a record-breaking, sunny Easter holiday with the temperature at Heathrow exceeding 25C, 75F. In my shady front garden although it’s clouded over it was still 21C at 7 pm today, Monday 22 April, while the “Max” reading for the weekend is showing 28.5C. Nothing to see there, then, as it’s all crashing back to normal tomorrow. Incidentally, I just drove 200 miles to and back from a jazz weekend in the countryside and all there is by way of squashed bugs on the windshield are a few midges.

 

Affluence corner

One unexpected consequence of the affluent lifestyle: an alarmingly swaying skyscraper in Manila, Philippines emptied its rooftop swimming pool from a great height into the street below, drenching fleeing pedestrians during one of the two M6+ earthquakes that rocked the main island of Luzon on Easter Monday. Video: weather.com/news/weather

According to the local association of funeral directors, it is now more expensive to be dead in Hong Kong than it is to be alive. A niche for a funeral urn in one of the more affluent cemeteries can set you back HK$1.3 million, while burial plots are no longer obtainable owing to lack of undeveloped land. (Guardian)

The Pumpkin – Issue 82: STOP PRESS: Trump wins Augusta Masters golf!…Please don’t make me vomit, Ms McDaniel… Lock ’em up – again… The Great Mystery… GW: Rain, rain, go away, come again some other day. Essay: To hell with the Illuminati, it’s the Bannonites.

Quote of the Week

“Brexit does seem to me a national tragedy… the great lie of the Brexiters, their magic dust, was to persuade 37% of the electorate that the EU, not the UK, was in charge of immigration, and they succeeded.” – Novelist, Ian McEwen.

 

 

STOP PRESS: Trump wins Augusta Masters golf!

The President’s record score of 29 at the virtual Augusta course on the new video golf simulator in the White House, Sunday puts him one stroke ahead of Tiger Woods over the back 9 holes for the Masters’, according to WH spokesmouth, Lyin’ Sarah Sanders.

“Had he been in Georgia, the President clearly would of finished 14 strokes under par”, said Sanders, “overall beating Woods’ 2-under par 70 for the 4th round and 275 for the championship by one stroke. Besides, they shoulda never let a black man on the course.

“The President’s name will go on the Roll of Honor as winning his 19th and most prestigeous professional title yet.”

A tailor has been despatched to Augusta to let out the winner’s green jacket.

 

Please don’t make me vomit, Ms McDaniel

Ronna McDaniel, chair of the Republican National Committee and a Romney by birth, described the congresswoman as “anti-American”.

 

(The following two articles have been moved from this week’s BogPo for reasons of space and tendentiousness.)

Lock ’em up – again

In the shining citadel across the water, a newly fired-up Trump, “exonerated” of the Russia thing (Senate leader McConnell still refuses to allow the Mueller report to go before Congress, so we only have the word of Trump appointee, the increasingly uncomfortable-looking Attorney-General William Barr) has embarked on another round of bloodletting, firing in quick succession his Homeland Security director, one of her deputies and the head of the Secret Service; several other Homeland Security people are also believed to be on the way out.

Advised on the matter by the darkly-brooding racist, Stephen Miller, 33 – a self-styled Svengali figure, Bannon protégé and miraculously one of the few survivors of the original administration – Trump says he does not regard the officials as being tough enough on immigration, which is now his single-issue cause for the 2020 election. Mr Miller will henceforth be in charge of the ethnic cleansing strategy.

There’s growing concern that more than 20 cabinet and senior admin posts including Trump’s Chief of Staff and Defense Secretary, are now occupied by, essentially, ‘temps’ – acting officers under no Congressional oversight, reporting directly to Trump, who holds their places in his gift. Whole government departments including State have been hollowed out, concentrating enormous power in the hands of the President, his closest henchmen and his family (even their positions are not assured).

Did I just find myself writing that? “The President and his family”? What, is this Khazakhstan?

Outgoing DoHS Director, Kirstjen Nielsen – a deeply unpopular figure in the country owing to her department’s policy of concentrating migrant children as young as 18 months in cages, a policy she may soon be asked back to Congress to explain why she lied to them about it – has been quoted as saying, Trump is “increasingly unhinged”.

After his visit with Nielsen to El Paso late last week, Border security officials had to order their staff NOT to follow Trump’s direct instructions to them to turn away anyone applying for legal asylum, and to resume separating children from their families, as both are against the law.

He has since denied instructing them to do any such things, which is plainly another lie. As was his statement to the press that the policy of separating migrant children from their families was instituted under the Obama administration and he was the one who stopped it. Another two whoppers there, it is still continuing. (And people are still prepared to vote for this grotesque, lying old monster to take another turn in the White House? They’re as sick as he is.)

Nielsen confirmed, the President had on a number of occasions called her in the night to order her illegally to defy the courts on immigration policy and even international law.

But then, as we recall, in January, 2017 the newly elected Trump told his friend Chris Christie with regard to a transition budget he thought should be his personally and not the State’s, “I don’t give a fuck about the law, I want my fucking money!” And has since set about bending and stacking and badtweeting the court system he finds such an embarrassment to his financial ambitions – until he needs it to sue somebody.

A malignant, tinpot dictator; and a genuinely mad one too.

It’s really not looking good for any of us, is it.

 

Factoid Corner:

More than 30 million Americans cannot read, write or do basic math to 3rd-grade level. The USA rates 125th out of 187 countries on educational attainment.

 

The Great Mystery

…is, of course, that Mr Trump is not behind bars.

Look, how does he get away from the fact that it is clearly against the law to order another person to commit a crime? That is the definition of conspiracy – criminality by association.

Here is an outgoing senior administrator, nevertheless a subordinate, telling everyone that her boss, the President of the United States, ordered her, more than once, to break the law; which she appears to have done.

But the defense is, well, how come Nielsen is only saying that, now she’s been fired? (Although we’re telling everyone she resigned….) (Stephen Colbert had a neat gag – “She’s resigning to spend more time breaking up her family”!)

And just weeks ago the convicted felon, Michael Cohen gave testimony to Congress under oath that the President of the United States, his former employer for 10 years in a private capacity, had ordered him to break the law on “maybe, at least” 500 occasions.

The defense was: “He’s a convicted felon, what do you expect?” Although they know perfectly well he can’t get any further mitigation by testifying, now he’s been sentenced.) And the likelihood is, evidence of those multiple occasions, both written and taped, would have been seized by the FBI in raids on premises connected with Cohen. Evidence!

We know from court testimony that Trump misdirected Cohen and probably Broidy too, to misuse over $2 million of campaign funds to pay off inconvenient mistresses; one of whom may not have put him in good with the Pro-Lifers in his base. Why does he remain an “unindicted co-conspirator” in that regard, why has he not been charged?

We believe too that those funds included illegal foreign donations, that are now being linked possibly to a huge criminal case in Malaysia. No satisfactory account has been produced, of moneys apparently left unspent from his supersized inauguration fund, that were still being received long after the inauguration. Nothing more is heard of the special fund Cohen says he ran to sell access to the Oval Office, again with foreign money.

And there were the artificially inflated assets he is said to have declared, to fraudulently obtain $2 billion in loans from Deutsche Bank; and the junk bonds he defaulted on, to build the failed Taj Mahal casino in Atlantic City; and the personal legal expenses he covered with money from his tax-exempt charity Foundation….

All water under the bridge, move on!

The list goes on and on and on, dating back far beyond any statute of limitations; and yet nothing is ever done about him; although tax journalist, David Cay Johnson says he was quietly fined twice for tax fraud back in the 1990s. His placeman, Treasury Secretary Mnuchin is technically in charge of the Internal Revenue Service, thus Congress is unable to have sight of his tax returns, while the subpoenas of the lower House apparently have no force in law to make him produce them. Is he possibly hiding something?

What was the Constitution for? The Founding Fathers could have used the time more productively beating their slaves.

Now we have the farce of Mueller. I imagine his damned 400-page report is on a thumb drive in a bank vault for his protection, but taxpayers were sold a $24 million bill of goods on the irreproachable integrity of the granite-jawed ex-Marine who now refuses to speak out in defense of his own unpublished investigation as it is slowly and comprehensively being excised – its unwanted “facts” – Evidence! – trashed and buried by the Justice Department and Trump’s corrupt enablers in the Senate.

What in God’s name is there in the US Constitution that prevents anyone in authority from simply arresting this criminal person and bringing charges of conspiracy to cause others – his accountants, e.g., – to commit Federal crimes? They even managed to get Al Capone in the end, and when it came to financial crime he – well, he found it easier to sell bootleg liquor and organize the odd massacre, but they couldn’t prove that.

The evidence against Trump is overwhelming, yet the bar is set so high the relevant authorities seem mesmerised and in fear of looking foolish. It seems that it is always evidence “of the wrong kind” – non-proceedable. No smoking guns, just smoke. If this were anybody else, he would be behind bars now. Instead, crouched behind a barricade of lawyers and more lawyers, he is consolidating absolute power into his own tiny hands.

Why – how – does he get away with it, time and again?

I have speculated before that he must enjoy special protection. Ultimately, every case against him has to be made go away lest it reveals some uncomfortable truth that is never spoken about.

Is – or was – he possibly ever a mafia informant?

No, ridiculous. He’s just living proof of how a bullshitter can succeed in a country that lives and dies by bullshit.

 

Factoid Corner

Over 1200 cases of Ebola have been reported in Congo (DRC), with over 750 deaths and mounting. Authorities and NGOs are struggling to contain a major outbreak.

25% of Congolese surveyed still say they don’t believe Ebola exists.

 

GW: Rain, rain, go away, come again some other day

Colombia: “…since the start of the rainy season, 1 April,  the National Crisis Room has recorded 57 severe weather events, including damage caused by torrential rain and thunderstorms, as well as 24 landslides and 19 floods. 10 people are known to have died.” (Floodlist)

China: “Heavy rain from late on 11 April caused severe flooding in the southern Chinese city of Shenzhen (and other areas of Guangdong Province). China’s National Meteorological Center reported that 118.8mm of rain fell in Wuchuan in 24 hours to 12 April.” Xinhua news agency says that at least 7 people have died and 4 are still missing. (Floodlist)

USA: “Powerful storms swept across the southern US on Sunday, after unleashing suspected tornadoes and flooding that killed at least 8 people, including three children, injured dozens and flattened much of a Texas town. Close to 100 homes were destroyed. Nearly 90,000 customers were without power in Texas, Mississippi, Louisiana, Arkansas and Georgia as of midday Sunday.” More storms were forecast moving through during the week. (Guardian/Weather Channel)

Previously: “Winter Storm Wesley continued to wreak havoc on Minnesota and the Dakotas Friday morning (12 April), closing schools and government offices, knocking out power to tens of thousands. 3 people are believed to have died. Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz declared a state of emergency Thursday night in 64 counties and three tribal nations to deal with the heavy snow and flooding that continues in the state. He also authorized the state’s National Guard to provide emergency aid.” (The Weather Channel)

In an extraordinary time-lapse sequence, the shoreline of Lake Superior is seen freezing over in a matter of hours as a result of being “spray-frozen” by a strong easterly wind.

Up to 14% of the labor force in midwestern states are reported to have relocated to other parts of the country, especially the cities, since vast tracts of land became flooded over the winter and there’s seemingly no end to the chain of storms bringing late winter snow and heavy rain across the region. It’s not known if these internal “climate refugees” intend to resettle permanently, but the effect on agricultural output is likely to be significant. (Floodlist, citing LinkedIn and other sources)

Ghana: 7 people have died as the capital, Accra, floods again following three hours of torrential rain. Inadequate drainage is being blamed for the flooding, the second such incident this month.

United Arab Emirates: Emergency services rescued more than 700 people from flash flooding in a northern district on 13 April. Hundreds of cars were washed away.  “Wadi Shiha in the mountains of Ras Al Khaimah received record high rainfall of 247.4 mm.” (Floodlist)

Nicaragua: not a single leatherback turtle made it to the annual egg-laying on the beach at Chacocente this year. Part of the problem is, warming oceans are contributing to a growing imbalance in the sex of the turtles, with many more females hatching than males. The other part of the problem is poaching: Nicaraguan men apparently think eating turtle eggs makes them sexier. Like the planet needs more dismal cretins.

UK: A taste of things to come, the Glasgow Herald reports, around 450 thousand sheep and newborn lambs in Scotland may have died in the “Beast from the East” cold weather anomaly in March of 2018, resulting in compensation payments of over £100 million. Many more sheep and cattle were then slaughtered due to lack of forage available during the subsequent six-weeks drought and record temperatures, as the grass failed to grow.

“An independent report for the World Wildlife Fund in Scotland found farmers had lost £161 million in 2018. That amounted to six per cent of total farm output.” Vegetable prices, too, increased dramatically over the year. “Farm-gate wholesale prices, said the WWF report, were up 80% for carrots, 41% for onions and 61% for lettuce between March and July of last year.” The picture was no better in England.

The Easter weekend is expected in many places to be around 9C above the average high for the time of year.

  • Insurers Aon report, global flooding events in March alone have led to $8 billion in insured losses.

 

Plagiarism Corner

To hell with the Illuminati, it’s the Bannonites

I am now going to break the solemn oath of journalists the world over and reproduce here part of an article published on Open Democracy, 14 April at a length that would normally be considered excessive for the purposes of review and illustration.

Why? Because it mentions a number of malefactors I have previously written about in other Posts, who are linked (in my mind at least) with a millionaire British ultranationalist “disruptor” called Jim Dowson, who never seems to feature anywhere in the investigations into who funded the unofficial Leave.EU campaign, although he boasted about it, and I want to show you that I am not some paranoid Remainer fantasist!

It also introduces a new “disruptor” in the person of Benjamin Harnwell. Both men are virulent alt-right Christians: anti-LGBTQ, anti-Islam, anti-abortion, anti-EU, who – by far cleverer journalists than me – it’s claimed are funded by dark money sources linked to the Kremlin, via the Russian Orthodox Church.

You should refer to the full article in Democracy Now, but I suspect you have an urgent appointment, so the following extract will have to do.

To give it full accreditation, and my apologies (I have sent OD a little more guilt money and helpfully corrected a number of typos), it is an article entitled:

How Pope Francis became a hate figure for the far right

by: Leigh Baldwin, Marcus Leroux, Claudia Torrisi and Stefano Vergine

“Steve Bannon apparently doesn’t choose small targets”, said John Carr, a former policy chief at the US Conference of Catholic Bishops. “He helped make Trump President and now he wants to undermine the leadership (of) Pope Francis”.

(I have written before about Bannon’s relationship with the extremist US Cardinal Burke – a fancy dresser who, according to the article, is behind a kind of ‘birther’ movement supporting the retired Pope Benedict against the current incumbent* – and how their associate Joseph E Schmitz, a self-proclaimed “Knight of Malta” driven by fear and loathing of Islam, penetrated both the Pentagon and later the White House.)

The DHI institute in Italy, of which Bannon is a patron, was founded by a British former Conservative party member called Benjamin Harnwell who converted to Catholicism in 2004 and was chief of staff for a British MEP, Nirj Deva, in Brussels until late 2010.

(Dowson had been a Presbyterian minister.)

Harnwell was introduced to Bannon by another American and former Breitbart contributor Austin Ruse, who runs a Catholic conservative lobby group called C-Fam that has been described as an anti-LGBT ‘hate group’ by the Southern Poverty Law Center.

C-Fam has disputed this description, calling it a “false moniker (that) has been wielded by those who oppose the natural family and marriage”. (With the natural family defined as a man, woman and their children and marriage as between opposite-sex couples only).

Also on DHI’s board of trustees, “Austin is one of these people who has taken the pro-life cause and connected to a much larger agenda of conservative politics and power”, said Carr.

The Institute’s chairman, meanwhile, is Luca Volonte, an Italian politician and anti-abortion campaigner who is currently on trial in Milan facing corruption charges.

Leaked accounts from Volonte’s charitable trust, seen by SourceMaterial, show the influx of more than a million euros from companies that were identified as part of a “laundromat” used to pump illicit cash into Europe from Azerbaijan and Russia.

Bank statements for his Novae Terrae foundation from 2014 to 2017 show that among the first beneficiaries of this influx of funds was Harnwell, who received €12,000 in 2014.

Others included Edward Pentin, a DHI communications consultant who received €1,000 that year. He told SourceMaterial this payment was for help arranging a DHI conference in 2014.

Along with a business associate of Konstantin Malofeev, a Russian oligarch close to Vladimir Putin, both Ruse and Volonte are directors of the International Organization for the Family (IOF) that runs the World Congress of Families (WCF) network of ultra-conservatives.

(I have written before about Malofeev, a minor oligarch who channels money for the Orthodox Church and is a disciple of Aleksandr Dugin, said at times to be Putin’s spiritual advisor and a latter-day Rasputin.)

Others in DHI’s colourful cast include a “priest to the stars”; a chairman of the hard-right Bow Group think-tank whose flight to a WCF event in Moscow was paid by a Putin-linked oligarch; and a one-time lobbyist for Bosnian-Serb leader Radovan Karadzic.

Source: http://www.opendemocracy.net/en/5050/how-pope-francis-became-hate-figure-far-right/?utm_source=Daily+Newsletter&utm_campaign=1fa6ba4e22-DAILY_NEWSLETTER_MAILCHIMP&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_717bc5d86d-1fa6ba4e22-408090269

* See also LA Times: Is Pope Francis being upstaged by his opinionated predecessor? (14 April) http://www.latimes.com/opinion/enterthefray/la-ol-francis-benedict-20190412-story.html

Leigh Baldwin and Marcus Leroux are investigative journalists with Source Material. Claudia Torrisi is a reporter for openDemocracy’s gender and sexuality section, 50.50 and its Tracking the Backlash special investigation. Stefano Vergine is an Italian freelance journalist who co-authored a book on Italy’s Lega party.

Assange: a conundrum emerges… Meanwhile in Moscow… In Sod we Trust… GW: And Bolsonaro to you too.

Quote of the Week:

“I blame the charlatans who peddled the falsehoods that [Brexit] would be easy. I wouldn’t trust them to run my bath, let alone the country.” – Former Commons speaker, Lady Boothroyd.

 

“Armed with a laptop, Assange represented a threat to Trump’s claim that Mueller exonerated him.”

Assange: a conundrum emerges

So, after seven years skulking in the basement of the Ecuadorian embassy in London, Assange, the Great White Worm, has finally been dragged from his lair, looking – it must be said – more like a defrocked Santa Claus; the hospitality of his adopted country ultimately exhausted.

I have never liked anything I have ever seen or read about the man. Like “Tommy Robinson”, Assange, a self-promoting narcissist who was originally wanted in Sweden on suspicion of sexual assault, has made an art form out of turning the legitimate interest of the authorities into a political cause of whining self-martyrdom to please his elderly teenage fanbase.

No-one forced him to go into self-imposed exile, and he’d probably have got off the rape charge, which looked pretty flimsy from here as the woman had twice that night already given consent, or maybe served six months at most in an agreeable Swedish facility.

He has gained many followers who like to flirt with anarchy, but he is not a saint. He is not an avatar for our times, a beacon of free speech in a world dark with surveillance and repression. He is a simple fugitive from justice, who has collaborated with nasty people who wish to impose their own, probably worse forms of repression on us.

People are saying that from being bailed on a Swedish warrant under virtual house arrest with an ankle-tag, to the years of holding court to populist politicians while exiled in the embassy, charged with breaching his bail conditions, he has suffered enough. Suffered enough self-induced misery, which he alleviated by spying on his hosts, trysts with Pamela Anderson and plotting with a hostile state.

To pretend, as his witless American supporters do, that the British authorities were keeping him trapped there to ensure his silence is just absurd. His voluntary self-exile gave him as big a platform as he could have wanted; although, since the arrival of a new rightwing President in Ecuador, his internet access has been restricted.

While some of the things his group of hackers, WikiLeaks, has done have been valuable in exposing serious abuses of State surveillance and US military power, celebrating the exciting naughtiness of publishing highly classified files, it has been the whistleblowers who have suffered harsh reprisals, exile and imprisonment, not Robin Hood Assange and his Merry Men.

It’s not a game.

Let’s remind ourselves, in addition to the alleged offences, which he denies, he (allegedly) colluded with Russian military security in the hacking and release of tens of thousands of confidential files stolen from the Democratic National Committee, with the effect of helping Trump and the Republicans to game the 2016 election. Many Russians have been indicted in absentio for it.

Did he think he was buying a ticket to freedom by helping Trump? Well, that didn’t work out too well: the big fat liar, Trump, who is said to have mentioned WikiLeaks approvingly on more than 140 occasions during his election campaign, even declaring his “love” for them, is now denying he had ever heard of them, anyway not much.

And that leads us to the most intriguing aspect of the story. The timing.

It’s Trump’s personally appointed Attorney-General, Barr, the legal sock-puppet for hire,  doing his worst to stall and redact and cover-up the damning evidence that is almost certainly in the Mueller report of the GRU’s activities on behalf of Candidate Trump, who will preside over Assange’s extradition. The only point at issue has been, to what extent was Trump criminally aware of those activities?

And is he terrified that WikiLeaks could have gotten hold of a copy of Mueller, or might be able to obtain one, to add to the weight of evidence against Trump – evidence that is so far not quite conclusive enough to bring charges? With a bowdlerized version of the report due for release any minute, might that explain the timing of the arrest?

The US extradition request lists only a charge of conspiring to hack the US Army files leaked by Bradley, now Chelsea, Manning – who is back in gaol for refusing to testify against Assange to a Grand Jury, silly girl. You owe him nothing. Assange’s alleged criminality extended only to advising her on creating a password for caching the files – his role in publishing them is probably protected by the First Amendment.

And it’s her re-imprisonment last month that may have led to Assange’s arrest, via pressure applied on Ecuador by the State Department, and Britain’s role as desperate wannabe trading partner after Brexit..

Is that minor conspiracy to whistleblow in a public-interest matter really sufficient grounds to go to all these lengths to grab him? And why now, after all this time? Is it really just that the Ecuadorian embassy staff were fed up with his cat crapping everywhere?

Yet Trump is on public record – video – as boasting of how much he loves Wikileaks for exposing the Podesta/DNC emails that he says – the FBI disagrees – prove his opponent was a criminal security risk. Thus he sets up a potentially self-incriminating defense case that is at odds with the alleged breach of national security and the minor offence of aiding and abetting.

Armed with a laptop, Assange at large represents a threat to Trump’s claim that Mueller has exonerated him.

Assange could possibly turn evidence connecting to Trump against Roger Stone, George Papadopoulos and other members of the Trump election campaign team – Nigel Farage too – who are believed to have directly “colluded” with him in London, and thence with the GRU team in St Petersburg in their efforts to produce “dirt” on Clinton.

If Barr tries to suppress or redact passages of Mueller that directly refer to Stone’s meetings in London with Assange, Assange can stand up in open court and give that testimony himself, much to the embarrassment of the Trump camp.

There is no conflict of interest, however. Trump is perfectly capable of holding to whichever of two contrary positions will benefit him more. Right now, incarcerating Assange in a federal penitentiary for 5 years (assuming the Americans don’t cheat and file more charges once he is in custody) or even holding him incommunicado in a military facility is probably the better option to get himself re-elected. Evidence can be suppressed on security grounds, hearings held behind closed doors.

Assange has no guaranteed stay-out-of-gaol card.

Ironically, it was the Kremlin-sponsored RT TV – its Ruptly news subsidiary – that seems to have had several days’ advance warning of the raid on the embassy, and which was the only agency present on the doorstep to get the scoop when burly policemen dragged a curiously elderly looking and white-bearded Assange out, blinking and protesting loudly in the unaccustomed London sunlight.

Russians. You sometimes wonder how that happens.

 

Meanwhile in Moscow… Last month a flurry of speculation surrounded a Kremlin-imposed temporary switchoff in Russia of the entire internet, said to have been a trial run of technology introduced to ringfence the country’s vital communications in the event of a concerted cyber attack.

Just now, the Duma has voted by a Putin-sized majority to permanently introduce the “Chinese ringfence” as it’s been dubbed, from 1 November – entirely concidentally, the next date by which Theresa May or her successor has to have wrapped up Britain’s departure from the EU, or hopefully opted back in; not that we’ll ever recover face after this fiasco.

While the Kremlin is arguing that it’s a much needed defensive measure – clearly, they don’t like it up ’em, to quote Corporal Jones – opposition politicians and critics are pointing out that it’s potentially the ultimate form of censorship. Not just shutting down Facebook, but switching off the whole darn’ thing.

Now, wouldn’t that be blissykins?

 

In Sod we Trust

The sheer incompetence of this Tory maladministration is what ought to doom them to decades in the political wilderness.

If it doesn’t, then perhaps the inability of ministers to put any of their egregious clusterfucks right with a sincere apology and an appropriate action certainly has to.

Having ruined the lives of thousands of legal migrant workers from the Caribbean and their families, many of them here since the 1940s, by misunderstanding their immigration status and issuing deportation letters or worse, effectively cutting them off from vital services, interning people and even having to bring them back from wherever they’d wrongly been deported to, the not-fit-for-purpose Home Office has had to agree to pay a minimum £200 million in compensation.

As if that were not enough, in the process of organizing who gets what, the email addresses and details of 500 claimants have somehow accidentally been released into the public domain. The Guardian writes:

“In a written ministerial statement, (Immigration Minister Caroline) Nokes said: “Regrettably, in promoting the scheme via email to interested parties, an administrative error was made, which has meant data protection requirements have not been met, for which the Home Office apologises unreservedly.”

So on top of the £200 million compensation – it will probably be more than twice that as the scheme is being extended to long-settled migrants from other parts of the world, including the EU, whose lives have also been messed up over the same paperwork, or lack of it – more “administrative error” – the Home Office is going to have to stump up a large fine to the Data Protection Registrar.

Money, as Mrs May tartly observed, does not grow on trees.

No, it comes out of our pockets.

As did the £33 million the Department for Transport is having to fork out in compensation to P&O Ferries for omitting to tell them they were asking relevant companies to tender for an increased supply of ferry services to and from France in the event of a No-Deal Brexit.

And the £14 million they have had to pay to get out of their contract with the famous ferry company they hired, the one with no ferries.

And the rest of the £4 billion contingency planning funds needed because of the Exit Brexit department’s futile two-year-long foot-dragging exercise, that could have gone to the NHS, or to Social Services, or to the Police, or to Education, or to mitigating local authority cuts… and the £39 billion St. Theresa’s martyrdom “Deal” has left us exposed to, in outstanding debts to the EU – in addition to whatever it has cost us to stay in the EU all this time while our dearly bought power and influence in Europe have drained away…

And the additional £1.5 billion in the Northern Ireland funding budget, that went to buy the votes of just 10 boneheaded, bowler-hatted Ulster Unionist MPs to try to shore up the disaster of Mrs May’s and Lynton Crosby’s 2017 hung election. MPs – the DUP – who have since been consistently refusing to vote for the government on Mrs May’s Brexit deal.

All public money, wasted.

Another 200,000 children fell below the absolute poverty line last year. Twice that number are expected to join them this year. Homelessness is increasing. Schools are having to fund clothing and food banks for their pupils and beg parents for money to buy books, paper and pens – and even teachers.

The NHS is short 45 thousand GPs and the medical establishment has warned that the service can never catch up the numbers now, at the current rate of training and overseas recruitment – it’s too late. And thanks to the abolition of bursaries for undergraduate trainees, another “austerity” measure, over 100 thousand more nurses are needed, a figure the Health Secretary disputes.

And now, after spending £1.5 billion on panic No Deal measures, including the recruitment of thousands of additional, temporary contract Civil Servants to put the country on a war footing, the Government has backed off and fired them all again.

What the hell is going on?

This is the Tory party that, come election time, will be telling us again all about their invincible reputation for fiscal responsibility and how the Opposition Labour Party bankrupted the country.

Twelve years ago. (And they didn’t. Bankers bankrupted the country. Please remember that!) Through sheer ineptitude, care-lessness, as their support base dwindles the arrogant Tories have cost the country a fortune.

And we’ve had enough. We’re mad as hell. Polly Toynbee writes:

“Once, the pied pipers of Brexit played tunes of hope and optimism with fantasies of buccaneering freedom, but none of that is left; not in Westminster or anywhere else. The fairy dust blew away, and now all that’s left is the dark, backward-looking nativism that underpinned it.”

A nativism that is finding expression in Nigel Farage’s new “Brexit”, the party of All the Deplorables.

 

Factoid corner

Mark Zuckerberg, founder and CEO of Facebook, is paid $1 a year.

 

GW: And Bolsonaro to you too

Brazil: “At least 10 people have been killed by flash floods and landslides in Rio de Janeiro after a storm brought strong winds and massive amounts of rain. The city declared a state of crisis late on Monday, 08 April. Flash flooding turned some streets into raging rivers, downed trees and swept away cars. Roadblocks remain in various parts of the city, due to flooding and falling trees. Traffic and public transport have been severely affected. Thousands were left without electricity after power lines were damaged.” (Floodlist) And at least 3 more people have drowned in floods that hit the northeast of the country.

Ghana: “Heavy rain over the last few days has caused flooding and destruction in parts of Ghana, including the capital Accra” – where 5 deaths were confirmed after flash flooding late on Sunday 07 April. Heavy pre-monsoonal rain also affected other areas of the country, floods displacing hundreds and destroying homes. (From Floodlist) This, while the UN is again warning of increasingly severe drought conditions affecting food supplies in the northeast and Horn of Africa regions.

USA: Look, something is definitely wrong. Yet another winter storm is dumping a foot of snow over the northern midwestern states. “Blizzard warnings have been issued for parts of six states as Winter Storm Wesley takes aim at those regions with heavy snow and high winds, contributing to dangerous travel conditions and shutting down highways. Wesley could flirt with all-time April low-pressure records in parts of the Plains”, according to The Weather Channel. Severe thunderstorms are also predicted ahead of the snowline. “Thundersnow was reported early Wednesday in parts of South Dakota.” How many is that this winter? It seems never-ending. Almost a new ice-age….

Iran: “The north-east province of Golestan received 70% of its average annual rainfall within one day, but the worst effects have since been felt in the south-west where further rain is due to arrive.” Tens of thousands of residents of the southwestern city of Ahvaz were ordered to evacuate as floodwater lapped the suburbs. “Dams are presently at 95% capacity, renewing fears of flooding. Snowmelt from the mountain regions has also contributed to rapidly rising water levels.” (Guardian World Weatherwatch/Middle East Eye).

India: Sweltering heat has gripped parts of India in the past week, with temperatures regularly exceeding 40C (104F) in the north-west and central states, though the heat has also shifted northward in recent days. High temperatures combined with moisture and instability owing to the nearby “western disturbance” also triggered thunderstorms and dust storms across Jammu and Kashmir (Guardian World Weatherwatch).

Meanwhile on the hurricanes/cyclones/typhoons front, nada. Niente. Nothing. It’s all gone deathly quiet out there. And a lovely sunny day here in Boglington, bit of a cool sea breeze but I’ve got 18.4C in the front garden.

Oh, and it’s been snowing in Spain.

Yellowstone: Quakes still swarming at the Lake, M5.0 Eq. recorded at Hebgen Lake on the edge of the park, biggest in years (USGS downgraded to M4.4). Quakes crossed the plate, showed up again on the East coast. Spectograms showing magma movement and gas release “not working” again. Steamboat geyser erupts for the 12th time this year (record 32 set in 2018). (Greeley/Ferruaio blogs.)

The Pumpkin – Issue 81: If it moves, chop it off… The Great White Whale conspiracy… Facts, dear boy… Whaddo I know?… GW: We all live in a Yellow Submarine… There goes the sun… When is a burger?

Saddest Quote of the week

Found beneath an Oleta Adams video:

When I lonely I really want to be hugged.

 

It’s estimated that Americans may have inadvertently spent $40 billion in 2018 on online shopping, while drunk.

(The Pumpkin’s ever-expanding jazz CD collection and ever-shrinking savings can attest, it’s not just Americans…)

 

“And was your dad born in Germany too?”

 

If it moves, chop it off

To the annoyance of many Western celebrities, the diminutive Sultan of Brunei, a Mr Bolkiah, who, without wishing to seem racist, resembles a worried-looking marmoset with a very large bank balance, has implemented Sharia in his tiny statelet on the island of Borneo (pop. 440,000) and is proposing to stone gay people to death and cut off the hands of shoplifters, as he needs the votes of the Muslim majority.

Meanwhile, according to the Guardian, his brother Jef:

“…embezzled $15m (£11.5m) from the state during his tenure as finance minister in the 1990s. He was revealed to own 600 properties, 2,000 cars, a private Boeing 747 and several works by Renoir, Manet and Degas. Jefri’s flamboyant lifestyle, which came to light in a series of court cases, involved a harem of foreign mistresses, the purchase of erotic sculptures of himself with his fiancee, and a luxury yacht he called Tits.”

All perfectly halal, according to the Qu’ran. Meanwhile the senior brother, Sultan Bolkiah has hastened to assure the human rights brigade around the world that these sentences are very unlikely to be imposed as sodomy in Sharia requires two upstanding independent witnesses for a conviction.

 

Oh, what a tangled web we weave, when once we practise to deceive.” – WS

The Great White Whale conspiracy

“The U.S. Justice Department is investigating whether $100,000 donated to a Trump-related political fundraising committee originated from a fugitive Malaysian businessman alleged to be at the center of a global financial scandal, according to people familiar with the matter.” – The Wall Street Journal, 13 March, 2019.

So, what’s the Orange Booby got himself into now, with his terrible judgement – or is it just rotten luck at frequently making business connections who often seem to be… a trifle gamey, let’s say?

Well, the “businessman” is a pudgy Chinese-Malay financier, Low Taek Jho, or Jho Low as he is known, aka the “Billion Dollar Whale”, who has vowed not to give himself up to any jurisdiction where his guilt has already been presumed. That’s about six so far. He’s thought to be in hiding in Hong Kong, or maybe as a guest of the Chinese government on the mainland; and rumored to have had plastic surgery to lessen the risk that Interpol will find him. His share of the loot has been put at $10 million, but that’s a likely huge underestimation.

“Low—who became infamous for ripping up Manhattan clubs with $160,000 bar tabs and plied Lindsay Lohan with champagne on her 23rd birthday—was indicted last year in the U.S. on three counts of conspiring to violate foreign anti-bribery laws and launder money. He also faces charges in Malaysia for his alleged role in a scheme to steal billions of dollars …” – The Daily Beast 12 March, 2019.

“Billions of dollars from a state fund (1MDB) meant to help the Malaysian people went missing, disappearing into the shadows of the global financial system. According to US and Malaysian prosecutors, the money lined the pockets of a few powerful individuals and was used to buy luxury real estate, a private jet, Van Gogh and Monet artworks – and to finance a Hollywood blockbuster. … Authorities in at least six countries (are) probing a vast web of financial transactions stretching from Swiss banks to island tax havens to the heart of South East Asia. Goldman Sachs, one of Wall Street’s most powerful banks, is facing criminal charges in Malaysia – which it says it intends to vigorously defend.” – BBC News special report, 2 April, 2019.

And, oh, look, here’s Trump’s old friend and retired Republican Party charity chugger, Elliott Broidy popping up again:

“The US Justice Department is investigating whether longtime Republican fundraiser Elliott Broidy sought to sell his influence with the Trump administration by offering to deliver US government actions for foreign officials in exchange for tens of millions of dollars, according to three people familiar with the probe.

The FBI is: “investigating claims that Broidy sought US$75 million from Malaysian businessman Jho Low if the Justice Department ended its investigation of 1Malaysia Development Bhd (1MDB), the country’s state investment fund.” The Straits Times, 18 August, 2018.

And, again from The Daily Beast, September 2018:

The team of lawyers and consultants working for Low (in the US) included (New Jersey Governor and former Trump campaign organizer, Chris) Christie, lobbyist Ed Rogers, Trump’s longtime lawyer Marc Kasowitz, Trump Organization lawyer Bobby Burchfield, and vice chairman of the Trump campaign’s joint fund with the Republican Party, Elliott Broidy.”

So, in short, what do we get from this? Well, nothing in life is certain, not even in Trumpworld “death and taxes”, but a brief summary of the allegations goes:

In the summer of 2018, as the Mueller Russia probe continues to draw the crowd in its agonizing buildup to ‘nothing to see, folks’, Malaysian playboy, Jho Low is on the run, wanted by authorities for his part allegedly in shaking down a sovereign wealth fund from which $4.5 billion has gone missing.

A fund created by Prime Minister Abdul Razak, ousted in 2018 by the 92-year-old former PM Mahathir Mohammed amid allegations of corruption, and who was subsequently arrested on charges of embezzlement. (His case comes up in court today, 3 April, 2019.)

“Californian businessman” Broidy, who is so close to Trump he took the rap for paying $1.8 million to Shera Bechard, a Playboy model whose baby Trump allegedly had aborted, apparently in turn tried to shake down J-Low for $75 million on a promise to get his friends, the Trump administration to make the FBI’s investigation go away.

Represented by numerous lawyers and influencers directly connected to Trump, J-Low is thought to have subsequently paid/laundered £100,000 illegally as a foreign entity through a named US intermediary into a SuperPAC set up to fund Trump’s bid for re-election in 2020.

You couldn’t make this up, and there’s more.

Before we go on, most Important: “An attorney for Broidy said in a (brusque) statement: ‘Elliott Broidy has never agreed to work for, been retained by nor been compensated by any foreign government for any interaction with the United States Government, ever. Any implication to the contrary is a lie’.”

I think they mean “imputation”,  but that’s American lawyers for you. Ever! Depending on who you lie to, lying is no more an offence in law than collusion. And just watch that qualified word, “government”. Not “fugitive Great White Whale”.

Meanwhile, according to the Straits Times report, the Justice Department has subpoena’d records related to Broidy’s financial dealings from another Trump ally and Republican fundraiser, Steve Wynn, billionaire owner of Las Vegas casinos. Mr Wynn has reportedly had to step down from his executive role facing allegations of sexual misconduct and reports of attempts by his company executives to bury them, as Reuters and the WSJ have just reported today (02 April).

His lawyers insisted: “Steve Wynn is completely cooperating with the investigation and he certainly has no reason to believe that anyone acted improperly in anything he knew about or was involved in.”

The way this is going, I should not be surprised if Madam Zhang, the Chinese woman who bluffed her way past lax security into Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort, clutching a Chinese passport, announcing she was there for a non-existent event and brandishing a bag containing four Chinese cellphones , a laptop and a USB stick loaded with undisclosed “malware”, wasn’t linked in some way to the local Chinese grubby massage parlor lady, Madam Yang, who has been photographed with and sells access to Trump at his club, and all of them involved in a Chinese government or Huawei technology spy plot.

For, read on….

Oh, no, look, don’t. I’m going to leave you with a link to the Straits Times story at the end of this piece, because Shakespeare was spot-on as usual when he wrote: “Oh, what a tangled web we weave, when once we practise to deceive.” My brain just won’t stretch to all of this. But, reading between the lines, improbably:

You’ll thrill to the allegations, all obviously vigorously denied, that Broidy also solicited $millions from the Chinese government in exchange for a promise to persuade the Emirati of Qatar to help them extract an exiled billionaire dissident, Guo Wengui from the USA. Guo was apparently spilling the beans over corruption allegations against high-ranking officials in the purportedly squeaky-clean Xi regime. Googling his name turns up three interesting facts: 1, he also calls himself Miles Kwok; 2, he has taken Emirati nationality, and 3, he is a good friend of one Steven K Bannon.

That Broidy subsequently tried to sue Qatar for “hacking his email accounts” after he invented the story, fake news retweeted by Trump, that Qatar was a global funder of terrorism – an accusation that went away only after Qatari investors “loaned” $500 million to Charlie, ex-con father of Trump’s near-bankrupt son-in-law and chief White House policy advisor, Jared Kushner, under helpful pressure from his friend Crown Prince bin-Salman of Saudi Arabia, to whom (to oil the wheels, it’s inferred – source: MSNBC) Kushner had used the clearance Trump granted him – against the advice of security advisors – to slip a top-secret CIA list of names of Saudi dissidents and political opponents who ended up being imprisoned and tortured in the Ritz-Carlton hotel in Riyadh (MSNBC reports), a list possibly including the murdered Washington Post contributor, Jamal Khashoggi…. (That last bit is my own “implication”, but it would explain Mr Trump’s adamantine refusal to point the finger at MBS if it also implicated, a) his son-in-law, and b) his practise of handing out security clearances like candy, wouldn’t it.)

Oh, and (spoiler alert), that Broidy’s wife’s law firm has also provided “advice” to Jho Low.

So somehow, yes, woven through the whole murky tale like a rogue orange thread can dimly be perceived here and there, the bulky figure of President Donald J Trump – who claims to the amusement of the golfing world to have won 18 golf titles, some of which do not even exist.

Welcoming the former Malaysian Prime Minister whose name has been for two years at the centre of the 1MDB scandal, arrested last year and suspected of embezzlement in the sovereign fund he himself created, on 12 September, 2017 the President’s little thumbs had tweeted:

“It was a great honor to welcome Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak of Malaysia and his distinguished delegation to the @WhiteHouse today”.

And praised Najib for “his country’s financial investments in U.S. companies”. (LA Times)

Presumably, the “distinguished delegation” would have been guests at the Trump International Hotel at the old Post Office building in Washington, where foreign diplomats and lobbyists pay up to $170 thousand per room, per night, to hover in the President’s lucrative anteroom; and from which, so far as anyone knows, Trump has not recused himself as the beneficial owner.

So much of this convoluted story contains elements that will be entirely familiar to everyone who has followed what anyone knows of the Mueller investigation, and the extensive, excellent reporting by investigative journalists over the years of the workings of the Trump empire and its global network of pretty fruity business connections. And yet it is a story no-one is piecing together, although it is far more indicative of corruption than Russiagate.

There is of course no suggestion that Mr Trump is personally implicated in the 1MDB scandal, or in the murder of Jamal Khashoggi; although he is suspected of having had some possible knowledge of the Saudi hack of embarrassing sexts from the phone records of his arch-nemesis, Jeff Bezos, owner of the Washington Post – text messages and photos that somehow ended up in Trump’s friend David Pecker’s supermarket gossip-rag, the National Enquirer. And the Post has been most critical of MBS and his role in the Khashoggi murder in recent months.

No, the point of this piece is merely to suggest that perhaps sufficient due diligence is lacking in certain places where US political campaign finance and foreign policy are involved; and that the President and officers of Trump Organization do seem remarkably unlucky in their choice of associates.

When, oh God, will it ever stop?

http://www.straitstimes.com/world/united-states/trump-fundraiser-under-probe-for-allegedly-seeking-us75m-from-jho-low-over-1mdb

We all love a winner

The story I love most about Trump cheating at golf is when he managed to win a tournament he wasn’t even playing in.

The tournament was taking place at his Bedminster club in New Jersey. Seeing the strength of the field, he shot off to play a round at a different club in the next county, and later called in to his club captain to ask what the winning score had been. Told it was 73, Trump immediately claimed to have just shot 72 on the other course, which made him the winner, and ordered the poor guy to replace the name of the winner on the board with his own. Later his caddy confirmed, he’d actually shot 84.

This is the President of the United States of America. Time will surely make him out to be one of the most fascinating psychological studies of any political figure in history.

PS – The Pumpkin’s confident assertion that the famous “oranges” slip-up, when Trump took three goes last week at struggling to pronounce the word “origins” before giving up, after imagining (not for the first time) that his father was born in a “lovely” part of Germany (Fred was born in The Bronx in 1905) is indicative of Alzheimer’s, may not prove correct. “Mini-stroke” seems to be at least worth considering.

 

Facts, dear boy

An interesting piece on the Politico website today examines the evidence for Trump’s vainglorious claim to be a winner, not just on the golf course, and finds that Washington Post researchers have tracked down well over 60 court cases he has lost in the past two years; mainly on points of law instituted to prevent dictatorial actions on the part of the Executive – America, of course, being the Land of the Free.

Where Presidential edicts are concerned, specifically, they say previous incumbents have had a 70 per cent success rate at defending their policies in the lower courts. Trump’s has fallen to just 6 per cent. Among hideous things he has so far been prevented from doing, are extending drilling rights into the Arctic marine reserve, and forcing people to work for their Medicare.

Of course, we remember the early failures of his nitwitted immigration policy, the discriminatory so-called Muslim ban, that had to go all the way to the more pliable Supreme Court before even a limited version could be implemented.

And it’s all apparently down to the incompetence of the many Trumptards he has casually put into administrative offices for which they have not the slightest interest, knowledge, experience or qualification.

“In case after case, judges have rebuked Trump officials for failing to follow the most basic rules of governance for shifting policy, including providing legitimate explanations supported by facts and, where required, public input. … Two-thirds of the cases accuse the Trump administration of violating the Administrative Procedures Act (APA), a nearly 73-year-old law that forms the primary bulwark against arbitrary rule.”

Interviewed by Politico, one researcher tellingly observed what others have suggested is a key point about the Trump method of administration:

“…they were more interested in making announcements of deregulatory change than in the change itself, so the risk of a judge blocking their actions didn’t concern them all that much.”

In other words, Trumpism is all about style over substance. Facts and Acts don’t come into it. But the betting is, he has a large enough base of dumbfucks who BELIEVE him when he says he has succeeded against the odds in carrying out these wonderful promises, making America great again, that they will vote for him in 2020 regardless of however little he has actually managed to achieve.

White House aides, however, are pointing to signs that he is too old and tired and disillusioned to really want to run again, and is just going through the motions. It will depend, I suppose, on the outcomes of more cases against him, some of which could see him locked up for life should he leave the relative security of the Presidency.

(He is also going around chuckling that he has already lined up another Conservative replacement for the one remaining liberal voice on the Supreme Court, the ailing, 85-year-old legend, Ruth Bader Ginsberg – whom he expects to die any day now. Prompting the question, in the cradle of Democracy why in the hell is the President constitutionally allowed to pack US courts with his own supporters? What idiot thought that one up?)

 

Whaddo I know?

Do you ever have one of those moments where you question everything you think you know? It can be disconcerting.

I was working with a group of actors the other evening, when the subject of “Morocco leather” came up. It was mentioned in the script. One of the younger members of the cast wanted to know what it was?

I immediately launched into one of my knowledgable, elderly wise man-splanations. It was, I asserted confidently, that fake leather fabric you find covering Edwardian (early 20th-century brown) furniture, desktops and so on, usually green or maroon and often with gold tooling.

Before I could finish, however, the questioner had whipped out her cellphone, referenced Google and searched online – it took her all of five seconds – and interrupted me with the news that it was actually goatskin, and came with typographical emboldenings:

“Morocco leather (also known as Levant, the French Maroquin, or German Saffian from Safi, a Moroccan town famous for leather) is a soft, pliable form of leather widely used for gloves and the uppers of ladies’ shoes and men’s low cut shoes, but traditionally associated with bookbindings, wallets, linings for fine … ”

I shan’t bother reading on beyond the headline. “Fine” what? I don’t really care what. I am crushed, and never wish to see or hear of another item made from Morocco leather, lest it remind me of my human failings. Except, of course, that it occurs in one of my lines in the play, so I shall have to be reminded of it about thirty times more, nightly.

Needless to say, since that night I have been discomfited; uncertain, twitchy and neurotic. I feel keenly that I have lost my own compass, and my standing within the group as their oracle and sage; the One who Knows Everything, the All-Seeing Eye – the best bloke for the pub quiz team

I’m now just a daffy old man whose opinion and knowledge are not to be trusted on any subject; even one concerning the past, of which I have considerable – possibly too much – experience.

How many other total misapprehensions have I been laboring under for almost 70 years?

Apart, that is, from a belief in a world of certainties?

 

GW: We should all live in a Yellow Submarine

Iran: The death toll from major floods and landslides over the past 15 days has risen to 62. The southern province of Fars had been hardest hit with 21 dead. 14 people had died in the western province of Lorestan and 8 in the northern province of Golestan. With many unaccounted for the count could still rise. Over 140 rivers have burst their banks, sweeping away roads and bridges. Most of the country has been affected by flooding since March. The north-east was swamped on 19 March before the west and south-west of the country were inundated on 25 March, killing 45 people. (Guardian)

Syria: Flooding has also affected thousands across parts of Iraq and Syria over the last 10 days. Over 6,500 families were affected as flooding hit refugee camps in Northern Syria between 29 to 31 March, 2019. Tents were swept away, and personal belongings were destroyed by the torrential rainfall. 2 people are reported dead. The Union of Medical Care and Relief Organizations said: “The flooding this season has been terrible and combined with the overcrowding in the camps, is making a bad situation much worse. (Many people have lost everything.) …We call on the international community to provide immediate humanitarian aid, assistance and necessities to those affected.” (Floodlist)

USA: More severe weather has been moving up on the jetstream from the Gulf through the southern states, bringing thunderstorms and “baseball-sized” hail. Temperatures in the southwest are already warming up: Phoenix Az. is posting in the high 90sF, 36C.

Southern Europe: As a slow-moving deep low bringing snow back to the British Isles, in some quantity in the north, drifts gradually southwards, “torrential rainfall (up to 250 mm) and excessive snowfall are expected in parts of the Alps and Apennines in SE France, north Italy, western Slovenia and NW Croatia on Wednesday and Thursday. Significant flooding is possible locally”. (Severe-weather.EU) Update Mon 8 April: Heavy rain fell in parts of Greece over the weekend 05 to 07 April, 2019, causing some flash flooding, in particular on the islands of Rhodes and Crete. Around 20 rescues were effected. This is the third wave of flash flooding to affect Crete since mid-February. (Floodlist)

An eerie image of the jetstream resembling the tormented face in Munch’s The Scream, posted on Arctic News. From Earth Nullschool.

 

There goes the sun…

A lengthy article in Forbes, the business magazine most quoted for its lists of the wealthiest people you’d hope never to meet, makes for depressing reading on the subject of solar energy.

Unless we can manufacture cheap, steady-state, virtually indestructible solar panels, experts say, we are building up a huge problem for the future with large quantities of waste materials having nowhere to go, other than to dumps in poorer countries, and toxic residues from disposing of old or broken panels.

Even while panels are still working, researchers have found heavy metals like cadmium are leaching into the ground; while panels that get smashed, for instance by tornadoes, require the broken glass to be swept up along with all the soil and stones, that make the manufacture of glass cullet impractical.

The cost of recycling ought to be born by the manufacturers and suppliers, but the added cost often means they go bust, leaving the public to pick up the bill – which is precisiely the problem in the sunniest countries, that tend to be the poorest, but where there are the most panels to safely dispose of – and the weakest regulation.

Chinese companies have adopted a somewhat cynical solution of selling older, used panels on cheaply to Africa and the Middle East, as they’re not required to operate at peak efficiency.

The replacement life of a solar panel in one of those huge arrays is unexpectedly short – maybe only months. And at today’s raw materials prices and with the difficulty of recovering the more valuable contents, it’s not really economical to recycle them.

Oh dear, what to do?

I’ve got a good idea for Forbes. There’s lots of black stuff in the ground we could set fire to instead.

Easier. Cheaper. More… wealthsome.

 

Postscript corner

Bugger burgers

Burger: “a flat round cake of minced beef that is fried or grilled and typically served in a bread roll; a hamburger.
a similarly shaped food item made of a specified ingredient.” (Google)
Burger: 1. Meat or other food pressed into a round, flat shape and fried: 2. short form of hamburger. Learn more. (Cambridge Dictionary)
Gentle Spammers, Likers etc., I think I’ve just become a Leave voter. The dastardly EUs of Brussels are proposing that “burgers” not made with meat must henceforth be known as “discs”, so as not to confuse people, who are of course incredibly thick.
The dead hand of the meat trade lobby is being perceived behind the edict. But it is abundantly clear from the many definitions on the market, that the inclusion of ground meat is not essential to define the term “burger”. Nor will you ever see a “burger” grazing in a field. The burger is not the meat, it is the presentation of the entire dish.
If the EU wises to clear matters up, perhaps they could start with the confusion caused by people calling burgers made with ground beef “hamburgers”.
Or, as President Trump spells it, “hamberders”. He has Alzheimer’s and so is to be excused for reverting to baby language. He is likely to become dreadfully angry and confused, though, when his valet brings him his bedtime “cheese disc” in future.
Hamburgers are not made from ham, but may have originated in Hamburg, a rough port city where anything goes and the sailors are too drunk to tell the difference.
It seems eminently clear that these faux politicians have little understanding of etymology, let alone of how ridiculous they make themselves. The “burger” does not refer to the filling, but to the overall design: sesame bun, wilting lettuce leaf, blob of pepper sauce, slice of Kraft plastic cheese an’ all.
But then why would you expect MEPs on £110k a year plus vast eating-out expenses to know what a friggin’ “burger” is? They can afford not to have to eat shitburgers, “shit discs”, whatever, like the rest of us do.
It’s just that Boris Johnson’s mythical EU ban on bendy bananas comes to mind. That, and Mr Trump lying to a crowd about the Democrats’ Green New Deal taking away their burgers (along with their guns and SUVs). That, and the recent discovery that rightwing Australian PR guru, Lynton Crosby has been channeling £millions in untraceable notes into a social media campaign for the ERG to tell porky-pies about Brexit ‘No Deal’ being as good for people as breathing carbon dioxide, nicotine or Strontium 90.
Should we call Fake Nooze on the whole sorry story? It sounds like it. Or was it an April Fool?
We should be told.