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.
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.
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.
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.
* 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.