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”.
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.
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.
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.