It’s a Pumpkin! Issue 113: Panic stations… About the author… Honey, did the markets move for you?… GW: come into the kitchen and dry yourself off… The weather, a brief rumination…Plagiarism corner.

QotW

“The 2015 Infrastructure Act introduced a legal duty to “maximise the economic recovery” of petroleum in the UK. If drilling companies fail to maximise their extraction of fossil fuel from an oilfield, they will be forced to surrender their licence to operate. In other words, while the government observes a legal minimum (the CCC’s target) for reducing greenhouse gases, it observes a legal maximum for increasing them.” – from a piece by Geoge Monbiot, 29 Jan., arguing against the absurdities of environmental quotas.

Approached for comment, Granny Weatherwax awakens with a start from her afternoon nap, the copy of Take a Break! falls from her lap, and she adds: “Does anyone seriously imagine record levels of carbon dioxide are not impairing the cognitive functions of those in whom we place our trust?”

 

Panic stations

If the authorities let the plane leave the runway (what happened to the good old days when the Captain, played by Sir John Mills, would cheerfully have stuck two British fingers up at the faffing local police, set his cap and decisively pushed the throttle forward, eh?), Britons returning from coronavirus-hit Wuhan will be placed in quarantine for 14 days.

“Officials are considering taking passengers to a military base once they arrive home, the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) said.” (Guardian)

If I were you, mateys, I’d stay in China, you’ll be safer there.

Less chance of a suicide verdict.

Going viral….

Poor Aussies! You’ve got to feel sorry for them.

After a couple of nightmare months assailed by brutal heat, howling gales, huge dust storms you normally only see on Mars, floods, raging wildfires, rains of ash, poisoned rivers – choked in smoke and battered by hailstones, Open favorite Ashleigh Barty knocked out in the Semis – comes the Wuhan Fish ‘Flu virus, and the ultimate irony for possibly hundreds of being told that if they try to flee back from China now they will be exiled for days in quarantine on Christmas Island, 1,600 miles off the coast.

Still, they’ll be company for the one refugee family still stuck there after years while their case drags through the courts.

Meanwhile, a Chinese tourist who reported feeling unwell aboard the bloody ginormous cruise ship, Costa Crociere led to 6 thousand passengers being detained off the Italian coast at Civitavecchia while all of them were checked for the virus.

The Chinese passenger checked out negative.

A teenager severely disabled with cerebral palsy has died after his entire family were taken away and put into quarantine. The village authority in Hubei province gave him food at first but were too busy to go back for 6 days.

66% of screening tests at stations, ports and airports are failing to detect people incubating the virus, according to the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine.

161 people with suspected Wuhan virus have been tested in the UK, all turned out negative. A case has shown positive in Italy.

Let it rip: I must ask this. Should we not let this disease out into the global population and concentrate on curing patients, rather than trying with increasing futility to contain the virus in one terrified Chinese province? At between 2% and 3% the death rate is acceptably low, barely more than background; symptoms for the vast majority are no less manageable than any other ‘flu or cold virus, and once it spreads far enough the population will develop natural immunity, making any mutation less, rather than more lethal in the future?

(Ed. Note: it’s reckoned that over a million people die every week around the world, from all the usual causes.)

Update: 30 Jan., 7,700 cases. 170 dead – 162 in Wuhan.

Update update: 31 Jan., 01.00 hrs, 9,300 cases, 98 outside China. 212 dead.

Further update: 31 Jan. morning news, first 2 cases confirmed in Britain. Location secret. (Newcastle)

Updatiest: 01 Feb., 01.00 hrs: 11,000 cases, 258 dead. US bars entry to arrivals from China, despite having 15 million ‘flu cases of its own.

 

A BBC News website info page on the coronavirus as based on analysis of 99 cases shows:

“Most of the 99 patients were middle-aged, with an average age of 56 – and 67 of them were men.”

Yes ladies, man-flu! And you never believed us.

 

“About the Author

“Edward Russo is committed to preserving and protecting the environment. He acted as an environmental consultant for Donald J. Trump and the Trump Organization for fifteen years.

“Edward is on the board of directors for Reef Relief (reefrelief.org) and the Florida Keys Community College Foundation (FKCC.org). He is president of the Florida Keys Environmental Coalition (FKEC.org). Edward serves on the Monroe County Climate Change Advisory Committee (monroecounty-fl.gov).

“Edward is the former president of the Township Council of Chester Township, New Jersey, and a member of Chester’s Environmental Commission and Board of Health. He founded the organization Help Avoid a Landfill Tragedy (HALT) in Morris County, New Jersey. He served as the chairman of the planning board for Bedminster Township, New Jersey, and acted as cochairman of the town’s environmental commission.”

– Amazon books intro.

Edward drinks his milk at night. Edward loves his mom, and sometimes his sister too. Clever Edward has written an e-book. It’s about his green friend, the Orange President.

It’s titled ‘Donald Trump; an environmental hero’, and it basically argues that landscaping golf courses is, like, tidying up all that messy countryside. It’s even got a two-and-a-half star review on Amazon.

I don’t suppose ‘You have to be kidding, or crazy, or maybe you have a tremendous gift for irony’ counts as a review?

Abrogating America’s commitment to the now redundant Paris Accord while revoking, to date, 95 federal ordinances providing statutory controls on air and water quality, consumer and wildlife protections, greenhouse gas emissions, waste disposal and product standards on grounds that they cost the extractive and manufacturing industries (and any other entities that have paid their million bucks entry fee to his Inaugural Fund) too much money to comply with doesn’t seem to this reviewer like the actions of an “environmental hero”.

Rather, it looks like a frenzied assault on an unwelcoming America by a Marvel Comics villain. Donald Trump clearly resents and despises the country; hoping his legacy will be a shithole, awash with toxic waste and the corpses of benefit scroungers, brown folks, insolent TV satirists, baby grizzlies, women, Democrats and other immigrants, Greta Thunberg, and anyone who can’t afford to move to Mars.

Gizmodo reported, 9 Jan.:

“On Thursday, Trump announced revisions to one of the most consequential environmental laws in U.S. history known as the National Environmental Policy Act. The changes would essentially gut parts of the act, making it so regulators can’t consider the climate impacts of oil, gas, and other harmful projects and ensuring some projects are exempt from environmental review altogether.”

The one “landfill tragedy” this author won’t regret is when they bury fucking Trump, preferably in a biodegradable bin-bag, next to Edward the Environmental Adviser (clue: it’s got the word ‘mental’ in it….).

His rotting corpse, stuffed with cheeseburgers, embalmed in Diet Coke, will go on emitting methane for centuries.

Sadly, we won’t be here for that.

And Sleepy Joe, the Seniors’ delight

Lest we imagined the Democratic hopefuls have anything more enlightened to say on the subject, Gizmodo also reports:

“Over 55 scientists have signed an open letter rebuking Democratic presidential candidate and former Vice President Joe Biden’s claim that the climate plan rival contender Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders supports, the Green New Deal, isn’t supported by anyone in the scientific field.”

Climate change may be about to undo all Trump’s environmentally sound plans to keep migrants out of the USA. A 30-ft high section of his border “wall” in California running between Calexico and Mexicali (r u sure about those names? They sound like brands of canned beans. Ed.) was blown over in exceptionally high winds, 30 Jan.

 

Honey, did the markets move for you?

“…When volume goes from 1,000 every 10 minutes and jumps to as high as almost 17,000 in 10 minutes, something is going on.”

That Something, according to Andrew Harnik, business reporter for The Hive, Vanity Fair magazine’s newsletter, was in a few minutes to net traders on the Chicago stock exchange a cool $190 million in profits.

Barely 90 minutes before the Pentagon announced that the Iranian military leader, Qassem Soleimani had been taken out in a drone strike on his convoy as it left the airport at Baghdad, the volume of trades in what are known as ‘March 2020 E-mini futures contracts’ suddenly ramped up like a startled gerbil, as if traders had been expecting a development and couldn’t wait to sell.

If I knew the first thing about the esoterica of markets I would comment wisely on this. But I don’t think a fumbling attempt to explain how you can make money when stocks fall off a cliff, or what an E-mini futures contract is, really matters.

Just think: a) bored men with money to burn, and b) two flies on a window pane.

What I gather from the article is that for many months the dedicated Mr Harnik among other financial journalists has been following the twists and turns of trading patterns in the market and their links to policy announcements emanating from this White House. Despite many hot-faced denials from many quarters, he seems pretty convinced that Something has been going on.

We have learned, for instance, that over the Christmas holiday Mr Trump was wandering the halls of Xanadu – Mar-a-Lago, of course – chuckling maniacally and braying to all and sundry, heedless of their total lack of security clearances, that he was going to do something really beastly to Iran when he got back to the office.

Trump is a security nightmare. He still refuses to have his personal iPhones swept for bugs, uses open communication channels and declared three years ago that he was the president so he could tell the Russians whatever secrets he liked; a statement that resulted in at least one highly placed CIA agent having to be clandestinely extracted from that estimable country; while the Mossad, Israel’s terrifyingly persuasive intelligence service, had to abandon an operation against the Islamic State and refused for months to speak to the CIA.

Nevertheless, he is currently protesting loudly that his canned former national security advisor, John Bolton’s forthcoming memoir, ominously titled “The Room Where It Happened”, contains Top Secret information and must not be published. As it’s not due out until next month, from my experience as a production editor it seems unlikely that anyone outside Simon & Schuster has actually read it, but the talk is of the bit where Bolton, in a sweet act of revenge, confirms that Trump actually told him “several times” that he was witholding the $391 million in aid to Ukraine precisely to push his fellow TV B-lister into announcing an investigation into the Bidens.

Be that as it may, the financial sleuths noticed that stocks in the big defense contractors like Raytheon, General Dynamics and Boeing had also spiked on January 2nd, hours before all hell broke loose over the Iran-Iraq border and we nearly ended up in World War Three (actually that’s been going on for years. we’re about up to WW9 by now. Oh, Trump says six. Okay, you’re the boss.).

Harnik quotes several fellow hacks and financial PROs of his acquaintance around the world suggesting archly that a few people might qualify for jail time over the affair, should the Securities and Exchange Commission ever be sufficiently uncorrupted to look into it. Insider trading is illegal, after all, and two Republican congressmen were recently convicted of it; while Trump’s spawn, Moron Jr, the Little Nazi and Ivanka are reportedly under investigation for market manipulation on their own account.

As you may kno’, The Pumpkin is full of conspiracy theories. A good bet has been that Trump insiders have been able to count for some time on the easily manipulated child-man to make the right noises in public about policy shifts, that will move markets in favorable directions for players to cash in. It’s just too sweet an opportunity to pass up, once you realize that owning your own president means the world will throw money at you whenever he, er, tweets.

How are Huawei shares doing, I wonder? Can anything now be believed?

 

GW: come into the kitchen and dry yourself off

Chile: government declares a state of emergency after days of heavy rain in Atacama – you know, the one place on earth Wikipedia tells you it never rains. 16mm in one day is slightly more than the average annual total. 1 person is thought to have died in floods and mudslides, although several missing have been located safe. (Floodlist)

Malaysia: over 200 people were evacuated to temporary flood relief centers after 0.8m deep floods hit Johor and parts of the peninsula, Jan 29. !n Indonesia, 6 people are dead, 3 missing and 22 injured after flooding broke bridges in North Sumatra. “Sibolga City, around 50km south of Barus, recorded 315mm (1 ft) of rain in 24 hours to 29 January. (Floodlist) More heavy rain is forecast.

East Africa: “Flooding in western Kenya has displaced hundreds of people and paralysed transport in Turkana after a period of heavy rain that began around 26 January, 2020. Homes and crops have been damaged and a bridge over the Oyombe river destroyed.” … 200km away, “Flood waters from the overflowing Talek river have left tourist areas of the Maasai Mara National Reserve isolated.” (Floodlist)

Europe: Severe-weather.eu continues its polar vortex theme – models are showing development of two huge blobs of weather, one exceptionally warm, the other exceptionally cold, dancing around one another over the next week, bringing starkly contrasting conditions to northern and central-southern Europe as far down as the Med. The cold stuff may extend as far as North Africa while the hot air wheels up across Greenland into the high Arctic. The vortex is located right over the British Isles.

Tunnel approaching….

Antarctica: the huge Thwaites glacier has been in the news recently as it’s been discovered it’s sitting on a pool of warm water and being rapidly hollowed-out from the underside. Fully melted, on its own it would result in 3.5 meters of global sea-level rise.

Turkey: Over 90 per cent of 11m saplings triumphally planted in a government tree-planting program personally endorsed by President Erdogan to re-green the countryside and meet carbon reduction targets have probably died from lack of water and being inexpertly planted at the wrong time of year, according to the agriculture and forestry workers’ union, who weren’t consulted, obviously.

Africa: According to the UN, more than 500,000 people – a quarter of Lesotho’s population – face severe hunger due to droughts that caused a 60% fall in cereal production last year, compared with 2018.

(All from Guardian)

 

The weather, a brief rumination

“…the matter-of-factness of being rescued in canoes.”

Past BogPo Posts wot people have been brunching on overnight are listed on the Dashboard stats section here in rainy Boglington. Sometimes I don’t recognise the titles and pop back in time just to remind myself of what idiocies I was maundering on about with much fruity swearing, back in the old days. My, but I was a much better writer then.

Anyway, this morning, one called There Must be a Reason cropped up, dating from about this time, February last year. Riffling through Granny Weatherwax’s meticulously researched backpage column listing extreme weather events from around the world, most of them in wearisomely familiar places – did they really have 5 feet of snow in Washington state that week? Like, wow! – it occurred to me that there’s a missing dimension to our reporting.

Everyday life.

Week after week there have been reports on the various weather sites of major flooding in this or that country; of record snowfalls and heatwaves in a warming world. The same names crop up all the time: Peru seems to be in a permanent underwater state, parts of the Indonesian archipelago, east Africa – as is the American midwest, where there was a peculiar anomaly that week, a 90 degrees heatwave in one state, feet of snow in just the next.

According to the reports we turn up regularly on sites like Accuweather in the US, severe-weather.eu – part of the Copernicus satellite program – or the UN-sponsored Floodlist site, people are dying in droves. We go to lengths to list the numbers, evacuees too, hectares of crops lost, but you never get any sense of how the others, the ones who haven’t died, are coping – if they even notice any difference to their normal routine!

You rarely encounter any coverage in any other section of the media from people actually living in those areas where rainfall and its frozen counterparts, snow and hail, seem to be increasing disastrously. No-one Commenting in news threads from their Mom’s sofa seems to have noticed anything amiss outside the window, other than whatever doings of the left or the right they happen to be railing about.

Foreign correspondents don’t seem to take any interest in the weather in war zones, either. Life appears to go on as normal. When hundreds of thousands of people are marching in protest at something or other, being gunned down for their pains by the police – in Iran, for instance, where parts of the country this winter have been extensively flooded, again, and across the border into southern Iraq, in the flooded deserts of Yemen and Saudi Barbaria, even in dusty old Israel; when, yet again, Spain is battered by horrendous storms or roasting and on fire, the oddness of the weather in the background has held no special interest for editors.

Are these events even real?

Seldom if ever do we read news features on how ordinary people in low-lying Houston, Texas are coping with their three severe flooding episodes a year – only when Hurricane Harvey dumped a spectacular 5 feet of water on them in 72 hours did we take any notice of their everyday lives, the matter-of-factness of being rescued in canoes.

Is there, in fact, any real sense of disruption, any real awareness of the looming crisis we are told by Extinction Rebellion and others – not to mention The BogPo’s own alarmist GW column – that we are facing now? Are people really suffering, or are they just going about their daily lives with a shrug and a hey-de-ho, as the cars wash by, spinning in the tide?

Gazing out of the window here in Boglington-on-Sea, the rain spaffing down outside, I wondered if anyone, somewhere on the other side of the world, might be bogling about us, here, as I am about them; and wondering in turn what I’m on about?

Because my impression is, it’s hardly stopped raining here since the beginning of October. As measured in the little pots and tubs carelessly left out in the garden, there’ve been many days when we’ve been getting far more rain than the few paltry millimeters we report have been causing devastating “floods and landslides” in some faroff country. My largest bucket, empty after last summer, has held more than a foot of water and has been overflowing for weeks.

Yet it’s all perfectly normal. Tedious, inconvenient, but normal. it’s just rain. We’ll live. This is Britain! And besides, it mostly seems to rain at night.

Is there really a global crisis? We hear terrible things from SE Australia this winter – or summer as it is there. Last year, and the year before that, it sounds terrifying: reports of 49 degrees heat, floods and raging fires and violent storms; of approaching species extinctions and economic collapse.

My friend, Harry’s granddaughter emigrated to Melbourne just last year to take up a spectacularly well-paid job – one of several she’d been offered. I asked him with some trepidation the other day how she was coping with the apocalyptic fires and smoke, the hail and duststorms and the funnel-web spider plague we’ve all been hearing about.

Oh, he said, she’s loving it out there.

 

Plagiarism corner

John Crace, The Guardian, 30 Jan.:

“…one journalist did ask whether the two men would consider swapping Prince Andrew for Anne Sacoolas.”

Uncle Bogler, The BogPo, edited 27 Jan.:

“Prince Andrew has provided “zero” cooperation with the Jeffrey Epstein sex trafficking inquiry, US prosecutors said on Monday, despite earlier promises to help investigations in any way possible. Could we perhaps arrange a swap with Anne Sacoolas, the American service wife wanted for further questioning over the death in the UK of teenage motorcyclist, Harry Dunn, by careless driving? She too is being extremely unco-operative.”

 

Made in China… Royal Exchange… Jury duty… Return of the Exiles… Hoops-a-daisy… GW: water, water everywhere.

QotW

“We haven’t disclosed information in a timely manner and also did not use effective information to improve our work.”

– Filmed wearing an antiviral mask, presumably to show the citizenry how it’s correctly done rather than by reason of self-preservation, Zhou Xianwang, mayor of Wuhan, epicentre of the “fish ‘flu” coronavirus outbreak, was speaking to Chinese state TV. No doubt it will be taken at the trial as his confession.

But it’s your Uncle Bogler who should be feeling guilty….

 

Made in China

Reasoning that university towns in the UK such as Boglington-on-Sea are a hotbed of Chinese intellectual activity, with the Chinese authorities still owning up to only 50 cases early last week, nevertheless having a suspicious and paranoid nature, thinking there might be a run on them shortly, he rowed rapidly right up the Amazon and ordered a ‘flu mask.

Later, though, he read of a shortage of masks in China, where 50 million people are effectively quarantined in their teeming metropolises while elderly patients, mostly with pre-existing conditions – Chinese cities have some of the worst air quality in the world, and everyone smokes – drop off the perch like frozen iguanas.

Duly this morning his mask arrived, prominently labeled “Made in China”.

Oh.

Nevertheless, at the age of 70, with lungs ruined by the childhood years of smoking and, currently, having spent eight years living beside a thundering main road, sucking in asbestos dust and 2.5 micron particles and nitrogen oxide gas from the huge diesel trucks as they brake into the bend, he feels perfectly justified in robbing a Chinese person of the chance at an extended life.

Said Bogler: “I ain’t never ‘ad fish ‘flu before, and I doesn’t intend to start now. There’s more of them Chinese than what there is of me.”

He has also invested in gallons of antiseptic hand-gel, and trudged round to the GP for a ‘flu shot this morning, only to be asked: “Are you over 65?”

Thinking that must be a qualification, I proudly announced, because I don’t look it, that I am in fact over 70, hoping for the usual amazed reaction. “Well we’re very sorry”, said the cocky receptionist, after double-checking with an invisible “my GP”, “but you can’t have one. We’ve run out of the Over 65s vaccine and we won’t be getting any more. You should have come in last September.”

Turns out there are different shots for each of the 7 ages of Man. Who knew?

Not bothering to mention that the major ‘flu epidemics had broken out only in late December, as it would have come as news obviously to a doctor’s receptionist, I surmised that the age-related cutoff must have something to do with how many, and which viruses you would have been historically exposed to.

“I see”, I replied, waspishly. “So the Tories want to get rid of all the pensioners?” The receptionist was obviously pleased at the remark, as he didn’t reply, but his secret smile told me all I wanted to know about euthanasia. “Never mind,” said I, “I’ve had a good life. Enjoy yours.”

And trudged off home.

Actually, it’s my ex-wife I’m more worried about. A sinophile, she works for a cultural exchange quango with loads of Chinese students in schools and universities around the region and tells me, half of them have recently escaped from Wuhan where, they’ve been telling her, the situation is a lot worse than is being reported.

It might not help either that 3 million people had already left the stricken city for their New Year trek to visit family before Mayor Zhou ordered a lockdown last week.

QotW #2

Le Keqiang, China’s prime minister, visited Wuhan at the weekend, telling local media:

“I’m here to cheer you up!”

He could, I suppose, have cheerfully mentioned the current outbreak of Ebola in Congo, where, as of WHO figures from 19 Jan., out of a total caseload of 3,416 known and probable patients, 2,238 have died, a 68% mortality rate compared with the unknown, as yet unmutated Wuhan virus’ toll of 81 – just 3% of those infected.

Worse, you could catch measles. Over 6 thousand cases in Congo have died, many children, in what’s being described as the world’s worst measles outbreak – entirely the responsibility of lunatic American conspiracy theorists and local witch doctors lying about vaccines. No-one seems unduly exercised, either, about the 2019-20 winter ‘flu season in the USA, where probably thanks to the early onset of wintry conditions there have been 15 MILLION cases, leading to 6,600 deaths.

World markets have been spiralizing since news of the China syndrome has been emerging. The powerhouse economy had only last week announced that its surging GDP growth had dropped catastrophically to “only” 6%.

Not good for business.

 

Speed bumps

Authorities in Wuhan have been proudly releasing video footage of their brand-new hospital for coronavirus patients, under construction. One building is said to be open for business already… three days after they started it last week. A schedule of just 6 days has been allocated for the entire 1,000-bed project, starting from scratch.

Well, not quite scratch – the site had already been cleared, purposed for a new leisure center; and eagle-eyed Twitterers have been pointing out that the official photo of the first new building unveiled on the site seems to have been published before, as another building somewhere else.

Nevertheless, even if construction were to go a day over schedule, it’s still a 1,000-bed hospital, built in a week; as was one in Beijing at the height of the SARS virus epidemic. Drone video shows a site crawling impressively with men and machines, all resembling busy ants.

By contrast, the usual British apathy and dithering when it comes to “abroad” are well to the fore. Around 300 Britons, many long-time residents, are trapped in Hubei province, where the advice from the Foreign and Commonwealth office is to stay put – or leave. One or the other. Oh, and to phone an acupuncturist  if you think you might have the disease.

Home secretary, Priti Patel, said on Sunday the government was “looking at all the options”. Other countries have been arranging evacuation flights for their nationals. Get them the fuck away. That seems to be the option.

The UK’s hot new “high-speed” railway, running 110 miles over flat terrain from London to Birmingham and then someday possibly northward on to Manchester and Leeds, where it’s a bit more of a strategic necessity, was begun in 2009, when the cost estimate was £35 billion. It’s now £106 billion.

Ten years. And still not an inch of track has been laid.

“Forty new hospitals”? In your lifetime, Baris.

 

Harry while stocks last

i have a friend called Harry. I just emailed him about an hour ago. Hi Harry, I wrote. Already, I have an ad at the top of my Google mail inbox, for a company calling itself “Harry’s Razors’.

With idiots like these, masquerading as algorithms, what do we have to fear from the future?

 

Royal Exchange

Prince Andrew has provided “zero” cooperation with the Jeffrey Epstein sex trafficking inquiry, US prosecutors said on Monday, despite earlier promises to help investigations in any way possible.

Could we perhaps arrange a swap with Anne Sacoolas, the American service wife wanted for further questioning over the death in the UK of teenage motorcyclist, Harry Dunn, by dangerous driving? She too is being extremely unco-operative, for an ex-CIA agent.

(Reporting: Guardian)

 

Jury duty

Republican senators involved in the impeachment trial of one Donald John Trump were startled yesterday, 26 Jan., to receive a message threatening them – possibly metaphorically – that if they did not vote to acquit him, they would find their ‘heads will be on a pike’.

The senators, who as members of the jury have sworn an oath of impartiality, were not in any case expected to break ranks with the White House, whose legal team are just in the process of mounting their defense, basically consisting of the argument that “he did it, so what?”, while claiming at the same time that he didn’t do it, whatever it was. The transcript of the 25 July phone call to President Zelinskiy was indeed “perfect”, as Trump has said – frequently.

In other words, he didn’t commit a crime, nor did he abuse his power to cover up the crime he didn’t commit. Except that 17 credible witnesses have already testified in earlier hearings that he did – as the madman himself has already confirmed, and boasted at Davos that the reason he won’t be found guilty is because of the success of the White House at witholding the evidence that he did it, in face of many legal Congressional subpoenas to release the proof.

Of course, there is no “transcript” of the call available for anyone to judge, only a redacted summary. The full and unbowdlerized original is still locked in a Top Secret intelligence file, from where only history will prise it loose. But we know, because Colonel Vindman overheard the call and has testified to what the transcript should actually have said. You know, the Purple Heart-decorated marine whose courage, loyalty and reputation have been so viciously traduced by filthy, inept senatorial co-conspirators involved up to their hairweaves in Mr Trump’s criminal enterprise to obstruct justice at all costs, that he is under police guard.

The astonishing thing being that Trump’s crimes, and those of his lawyer, Giuliani, their corrupt conspiracy to coerce the Ukrainian government into helping him fix the 2020 election, are out in the open for all to see; along with their denials. Gaslighting is the modern way: you didn’t see what you saw, you need help. Yet it’s the corruption formerly endemic in Ukraine that has apparently set Trump on the path to virtue. He illegally witheld the aid to fight the bad corruption, see?

If it had been the case that it was a policy matter, why did he not explain at the time, seek Congressional approval? Why did he continue to lie until his lawyers thought up the excuse? And why has he continued his obvious efforts with Giuliani to manufacture alibi evidence after the accusations were made?

We recall, don’t we, the early exhortations from Miller and others, Conway, Fuckabee Sanders, that we should not believe anything we are told, unless it is Trump himself telling us – because the president is the fount of truth and his enormous power is all the law you need.

It’s all, basically, down the rabbit-hole.

ABC News was unable to confirm who had sent the threat to the jurors (it sounds like a Stephen Miller special) or what medium was used to convey it. But I think we can add this to the list of Trump’s crimes. Intimidating jurors, witness tampering, witness intimidation, lying to Congress and withholding evidence are normally considered to be serious offences. It’s no excuse to say, oh, well, he’s the president, it’s just his way, he’s inexperienced, he’ll learn.

This is a 73-year-old man who has been committing crimes and despicable moral outrages, bullying and gaslighting and lying and bribing and blackmailing; buying his way out of and back into trouble for so long, he can’t remember how to do it any other way. Ever since he robbed his first cookie jar, he’s been a Little Caesar, spoiled rotten by disinterested parents who loathed him for the lying, self-justifying, junkfood-guzzling  playground bully he still is, and just paid him off.

He’s never going to change. Indeed, the power-shower of the flawed democracy he affects to despise has made him ten times worse.

Welcome to your new fascist state, guys. If it stops raining long enough you can grow bananas.

 

Hoops-a-daisy

The BBC has apologized for running a clip of basketball star, LeBron James, on its 10 o’clock News show, 26 Jan. It was the even bigger basketball star, Kobe Bryant they were hoping to commemorate, following his death at 41 and that of his 13-year-old daughter Gianna in a helicopter crash in southern California.

Perhaps they thought no-one would notice. Hey, all these freakishly tall guys casually spinning balls on their index fingers and dropping them from a great height into nets look pretty much the same. And basketball? Who cares about girly old basketball when Our Lads are out there, winning a Test series?

It’s far from the first time BBC News has got the wrong black guy. Nelson who? You’d think they would by now have appointed a special black-guys editor just to make sure this never happens, or at least employed face recognition technology, like the Metropolitan police, although apparently they have trouble too.

Critics perhaps ought to be more aware, though, that the more money you cut from the BBC’s public funding, the more social costs you impose on them. Like on top of taking World Service radio back from the Foreign Office, having now to pay for the law that says drooling, grasping Over 75s get a free annual license, just as the Over 75s are threatening to become the largest demographic in Britain, the worse their service is going to get.

Word is that key BBC news shows and current affairs segments are already under threat from Vanishing Johnson’s plan to decriminalize non-payment of the license (it’s about £3, $5 a week). Even, it’s said, the flagship Today program. (If I thought that would be replaced with anything better, I’d say ‘bring it on’…) Threatening the loss of the Corporation’s most popular and influential programs might just be a bluff to defang the bloodied teeth of far-right Tory vengeance, but if politicians are refusing to appear in case anyone asks them a question, there seems little point in carrying on broadcasting

Certainly though, more staff cuts and cost-saving recruitment policies with lower training and experience standards are self-defeating and can only result in more execrable mistakes. It’s a vicious cycle that’s going to destroy the Corporation.

Just as Carrie has been lobbying on the inside track to save the badgers, someone needs to whisper in the Golden Wonder’s ear that Murdoch is no longer all he’s cracked up to be. Voters value the widest range of services from our national broadcaster, as long as it remains viable – and credible. Interviewing your political opponents is a tradition, not a heresy.

To quote Joni Mitchell: “You don’t know what you’ve got ’til it’s gone.”

 

Return of the exiles

“…The unveiling of Trump’s plan (his “Deal of the Century!)  presents a dead end for Abbas …. The archipelago of Palestinian enclaves proposed by Trump — subordinate to Israeli security concerns and more akin to the “bantustans” of apartheid-era South Africa — is emphatically not that. … Netanyahu’s government plans to vote on annexation of some 30 percent of the West Bank as early as this weekend.” – The Washington Post

The full majesty of the UK arm of the Israeli government-sponsored “outrage” machine has wheeled itself out to condemn BBC journalist Orla Guerin for introducing an element of balance, normally the Holy Grail of BBC reporting, into a piece on Holocaust Memorial Day.

Levelling the tiresome old smear of “antisemitism” that generally accompanies any attempt to reference the immiserating treatment of Israel’s illegitimately dispossessed Palestinian minority, slinging stinking mud in the face of whatever remains of the world’s horror at what went before, the prominent liberal Jewish members of the British establishment have exploded into collective outrage at Guerin’s closing remark:

“The state of Israel is now a regional power. For decades, it has occupied Palestinian territories. But some here will always see their nation through the prism of persecution and survival.”

What, they don’t occupy Palestinian territories? Some people there don’t see themselves as favored survivors? It seems like a pretty mild wrap-up to me; maybe the ‘but’ word is a little tendentious, but hey. Reporters are human.

It might be remembered that Guerin is Irish, which would give her a certain historical perspective on high-minded, moralistic colonialism; on persecution and survival. She has her own tragedies: her equally courageous journalist sister was murdered by powerful drug lords linked to the IRA. She has bravely reported for many years from places in the world where soft-handed metropolitans like Michael Grade and ‘former director of television, Danny Cohen’ would crumple, gibbering and pissing themselves in terror.

Her colleague, Fergal Keane, a brilliant, brave and empathetic communicator whom nobody would accuse of being a soft-handed metropolitan, the BBC’s Africa editor, although he too has seen service all over the world, has just thrown up his hands in despair: no more war, he needs space to recover from the horrors of stories like the Rwanda genocide. Guerin hasn’t, yet; she’s been out in the Middle East and other killing fields for years, telling it like it is. Who would blame her if she hung up her flak jacket after this thankless, thoughtless assault on her professional reputation?

Do the Grades and the Cohens murmuring politely among themselves at their fucking agreeable Knightsbridge cocktail parties think she’s just a tool of the far-right?

Shame on them.

Commenting on the incidence of PTSD among war correspondents, another brave man, Middle East editor, Jeremy Bowen retold on Today this morning how he watched a colleague burn to death when soldiers deliberately fired a rocket into a car he himself had got out of only moments earlier, and then shot at him with a heavy machine-gun when he tried to go back to help. Yes, Mr Grade, Mr Cohen, Israeli soldiers. They can murder innocent people too. They daily commit war crimes along the laughably named Peace Wall, while in the rear, the PR machine churns out the nauseating excuses.

And before anyone accuses me of antisemitism, a) I don’t care, you can think what you like, and b) I’m not going to stop arguing that truth should always come before denial. If it’s a bad thing to deny the reality of the Holocaust, which Guerin most definitely did not do, then it’s an equally bad thing to deny the reality of the history of Israel’s oppression of the indigenous people of the country they took through forcible colonization and – yes, by terrorism and ethnic cleansing – in and after 1947.

Two wrongs never make a right.

The moral high ground the pioneers dug on the kibbutz with their sweat was surrendered decades ago, except in the imaginations of the well-heeled diaspora, egged on by paid apologists like the now-Ambassador, Regev (not his real name). Let’s remind ourselves how in 2017, Mr Regev disgracefully no-platformed a Holocaust survivor who dared to invoke the lingering specter of Nazism, by uttering threats against Manchester University. Let us remind ourselves of the weaselly backsliding of former Director-General, Thompson – now ruining the once-reputable New York Times – and his cowardice in pushing his deputy out to explain his decision, when in 2011 Regev bullied the BBC to censor a charity appeal on behalf of the survivors of a brutal Israeli reprisal on Gaza city – Operation Cast Lead speaks to its bluntness and toxicity.

Let us remind ourselves of the abuse the former chief rabbi, Lord Sachs heaped on our premier political cartoonist, Scarfe, for depicting the corrupt Netanyahu perched atop a pile of Palestinian corpses, claiming this was an echo of the notorious ‘blood libel’ – when what it was, was a pretty fair comment, not on what Jews were persecuted for in the fifteenth century, ludicrously for eating Christian babies, but for what the Israeli government is doing now to its dispossessed people.

The outcome of this continual, misplaced conflation of opposition to the worse policies of the Israeli regime with the historical persecutions of the Jewish people is the creation of a lofty, moralistic bully-pulpit that cannot be doing anything to ameliorate the actual antisemitism non-Israeli Jews are increasingly fearful of. The more the Deputies attack politicians and the media over misperceived slights, the worse it gets in the real world.

Let us remind ourselves then, of the words of the founder, David Ben-Gurion, declaring the establishment of the state of Israel in May, 1948, to the United Nations:

“THE STATE OF ISRAEL will be open for Jewish immigration and for the Ingathering of the Exiles; it will foster the development of the country for the benefit of all its inhabitants; it will be based on freedom, justice and peace as envisaged by the prophets of Israel; it will ensure complete equality of social and political rights to all its inhabitants irrespective of religion, race or sex; it will guarantee freedom of religion, conscience, language, education and culture; it will safeguard the Holy Places of all religions; and it will be faithful to the principles of the Charter of the United Nations….”

Should I repeat that for you, Mr Grade, Mr Cohen? How does that stack up against your feeble metropolitan handwashing; the “Deal of the Century”?

I don’t hear the Founder throwing revolting slurs about like a drunken football fan, accusing of ‘antisemitism’ those who from time to time try to point out that the government of Israel is occasionally bang out of order, and how it appears to have fallen into the clutches of an unholy alliance of corrupt criminal oligarchs and sanctimonious religious lunatics, encouraged by the “Jews for Jesus” American Right and their new Messiah from Queen’s. Oh, it’s fine to criticize other regimes in strongly worded language, as we do frequently. But the fundamental Jewishness of the Israeli state, the lingering monstrousness of the Shoah guarantees what, their immunity forever? Their permanent elevation over the rest of suffering Humanity?

I don’t hear him advocating walling the natives up and visiting condign punishment on them, smiting them with amytol and phosphorus from the air, whenever they annoyingly object, with acts of pretty futile violence, to their own Holy Places – supposedly protected by the principles of the Charter of the United Nations, their olive groves, their mosques – East Jerusalem – being culturally diminished, bulldozed, obliterated and replaced with miles of ugly condominiums reserved for Settlers. When they annoyingly demand their rights under the constitution, being remorselessly taken away by arbitrary decrees and religious courts’ vaporings backed by overwhelming force of arms and an embattled US president chasing the Evangelical vote.

I don’t hear him proposing that a new culture of muscular Zionism should be encouraged to override and deny the essential humanity of the Jewish people, who have to suffer all over again because of it, squandering any respect and goodwill built up in the early years. I don’t hear him recommending that tens of thousands of men, women and children whose only crime was to be born in a place their mutual God of Abraham allegedly said was reserved for Jews Only after two thousand years should themselves be forced into exile across the borders, to rot for three generations in squalid camps – and not thereby to acquire the same moral rights as the “returning exiles” of Roman-period Judaism.

(I have never heard a Palestinian interviewed, who told us blatantly that “God” had promised them the land they were born in. I heard that three times this morning from Israeli settlers in Jerusalem praising the criminal, Trump – a man made, to date, of 16 thousand lies.)

Yes, I’m fairly well aware of the history, thank you.

Don’t need reminding.

http://www.ushmm.org/m/pdfs/20000831-resistance-bklt.pdf

Postscriptum: A few hours after this was written, BBC World Service news was reporting on more reprisal raids on Gaza, bombing from the air in retaliation for kids sending up fire balloons. It didn’t make the mainstream news. Two more days have passed, and just as a) the Knesset is voting on impeaching Netanyahu for corruption and b) Trump’s lawyers are winding up for the big vote to acquit in his own impachment trial, Donald John Trump reveals his historic peace plan for the Middle East, you know, the one Kushner was supposed to be masterminding, which basically involves taking away whatever hope for self-determination and whatever territory the Palestinians have left.

Sure it’s just coincidence. Mix-up in the diary. Could happen to anyone.

Global weather

Cyclone forming over the North Pacific, 29 Jan.

GW: water, water everywhere

Brazil: “At least 30 (now 47 – 28 Jan.) people have died during severe rainstorms in Minas Gerais state, the country’s emergency services have said. Many of the victims were buried in landslides or washed away in floods after intense rain on Friday and Saturday. More than 2,500 people were evacuated” after 7 inches of rain fell in one 24 hour period. (BBC)

Indonesia: “Thousands of houses have been inundated after flooding in Bandung Regency, West Java.” Floodwaters up to 1.7 meters deep forced hundreds to evacuate, with almost 4 thousand homes, schools and official buildings and roads flooded out. (Floodlist). Al Jazeera reports that 31 people have died, with at least 15 missing after a week of heavy rains. The bureau of risk management has warned that flooding in lowland and rice-growing areas also posed a risk of “food insecurity and malnutrition”. Over 100 thousand people have been displaced.

Australia: and they’re off again… an out-of-control bushfire burning in the mountainous Namadgi National Park, south of Canberra, has almost quadrupled in size in a single day, threatening the small village of Tharwa, and prompting warnings to residents of the city’s southernmost suburbs. The fire was about 8,106 hectares in size by Day 2, reports Guardian Australia, and was started by a military helicopter using hot landing lights to see through smoke from other fires. Exceptionally heavy rainfall is flooding parts of Queensland as a tropical storm firehoses water out of the Gulf of Carpentaria in the north. (Floodlist)

In Madagascar, as many as 31 people have now died as a result of the recent severe weather, with 15 people reported missing. Almost 93,000 people have now been affected as over 10 thousand properties were flooded out. (Floodlist)  Tropical Storm Diane is impacting the island state of Mauritius with severe winds, heavy rain and flash floods. (Severe-weather.eu). Implications across the channel for nearby Mozambique, trashed last year by Cyclone Idai, are not yet known. 3 people have died and 300 are homeless after floods in Tanzania (Floodlist).

A huge extra-tropical cyclone is growing and undergoing explosive cyclogenesis (a drop of 23 mb in 12 hours!) in the North Pacific and expected to deliver hurricane-force winds to the coast of Alaska, 29 Jan., with a large storm surge and blizzard conditions. Another huge extra-tropical storm showing ‘impressive’ and even ‘textbook’ organization in the North Atlantic is rapidly intensifying, directly on course for Iceland, bringing a broad, severe wind field with high seas towards the northern British Isles, Scandinavia and northern Europe. (Severe-weather.eu) By the 26th the cyclone was said to be covering the entire North Atlantic region with pressures as low as 955 mb.

USA: “Wave after wave” of storm cells will continue to move inland across the Pacific northwest of the United States in the coming days, says Accuweather. “Relentless” rain falling on heavy snowpack and warmer temperatures will increase the risk of flooding on already saturated ground. An unseasonal tornado sucked out windows in Manzanita, Oregon – only the fifth to touch down in the state in January since 1876.

British Isles: Severe-weather.eu is reporting on signs that heating of the stratosphere could allow the polar vortex to slip down across northern Europe bringing a period of intense cold in early February; while much warmer air moves northwards across Greenland.

Russia: Temperatures in the Yakutia region fell to as low as -57.2 °C on the night of 25 Jan., still far from the -67.8°C recorded in Verkhoyansk in 1892.

Water from burst pipes froze over this Soviet-era apartment block in Irkutsk, giving it a spectral appearance.

Tunnel approaching….

“Falling iguanas, killer spiders and unprecedented locust swarms — all fueled by weather extremes. Not to mention an epic blizzard in Canada, a deadly, days-long storm in Europe and a rare January tornado in the Pacific Northwest. You’d be forgiven for thinking these are signs of the apocalypse. As far as we can tell, it was just the week in weather — a very wild one”Accuweather

Many of the falling iguanas in Florida sadly will have ended up on barbecues and in cooking pots as recipe suggestions have filled the cookery columns during the recent cold spell. It’s illegal to sell iguana meat but whole ones – humanely killed, of course, while in their semi-frozen hibernative state – fetch $80 a kilo in neighboring states. Iguanas are generally regarded in Florida as invasive pests and are known as ‘tree-chicken’.

Australians have been warned to be on the lookout for killer spiders. As if 49-degree heatwaves, a 7-year drought, raging forest fires, roiling dust storms, ash rain, poisoned rivers, choking smoke, flash floods, batterings from golfball-sized hail, near-extinctions of whole species of wildlife and visits from an impotent Prime Minister in denial in just the last month aren’t enough, experts say conditions are just right for a massive outburst of funnel-web spiders, whose bite can kill.

Global weatherMeanwhile; “Unusually heavy rain is being cited as a factor in one of the worst outbreaks of desert locusts in decades across parts of East Africa and posing what officials say is an ‘unprecedented’ threat to crops.” 7 decades, in fact. One especially large swarm in northeastern Kenya measured 60km long by 40km wide, containng “hundreds of billions” of the hungry critters. Even a ‘small swarm’ can consume enough plant material in a day to feed 35 thousand people. (Photo from tweet)

That’s presumably to go with the other Biblical plague emerging from China, where the new coronavirus has claimed over 1,400 patients at the time of writing, 25 Jan., causing 42 deaths (including a 61-year-old doctor treating patients, although she seems to have died from a stress-related heart attack). 50 million Chinese are unable to leave their cities for the annual New Year migration.

Update: 27 Jan., 2,700 confirmed cases (30 outside China), 81 deaths. Epidemiologists at Imperial College, London however calculate that probably 100 thousand people will have been infected by now.

Update update: 28 Jan., cases now “4.5 thousand. Deaths 106”.

Latest update: 29 Jan., cases now “over 6 thousand”. Deaths 132″. British Airways suspends all flights to mainland China.

Too darn hot: Customs officials in Vladivostock had to order a Toyota Prius to be returned to Japan, 22 Jan., as it was too radioactive to be allowed into the country. Since three of the reactors at the Fukushima nuclear power station melted down following the earthquake and tsunami of 2011, Russian authorities have prevented 875 items from coming into the country (Siberian Times). Russia has one of the worst records in the world for home-grown radiation releases.

La terra trema: a huge, magnitude M7.7 quake with M5.9 aftershocks was recorded at only 10km depth off the coast of Cuba, 27 Jan. Amazingly, little damage was reported, no-one was harmed and an early tsunami warnig was rescinded soon after.

A total waste: Psst, wanna know how much stuff we get through? A report launched at Davos by the the Circle Economy thinktank calculates the average human consumes 13 tonnes of raw materials every year, amounting to over 100 billion tonnes of finished products, food and energy services worldwide – completely unsustainable. 32 per cent of everything we consume ends up as waste, less than 9 per cent of it gets recycled. (Guardian Green Light)

And I just bought new hairclippers only moments ago. Well, the old ones have got a bit blunt…..

 

The Pumpkin – Issue 112: The greatest locked-room mystery… The madness of King Donald… After the ball… GW: Lawd, didn’ it rain!

QotW

“Our government is helping propel us towards a catastrophe on a scale humankind has never encountered before: the collapse of our life-support systems. It does so in support of certain ideologies – consumerism, neoliberalism, capitalism – and on behalf of powerful industries. This, apparently, meets the definition of moderation.” – George Monbiot, Commenting in The Guardian, 22 Jan. on the inclusion of Extinction Rebellion and Greenpeace on a police list, approved by the Home Secretary, of dangerous extremists.

Meanwhile, in Davos the world’s movers and shakers have been indulging in dangerous extremism as the top five items on the agenda, scorned in a surprisingly well-written speech from Donald John Trump, concerned just that very catastrophe and what the billionaires should be doing about it. A bit more self-interest might not go amiss.

 

“Success in the coming days will guarantee their immortality in the annals of legal jurisprudence.”

The greatest locked-room mystery

The impeachment ‘trial’ of one Donald John (Don Juan?) Trump begins in the Senate today, 21 January, 2020.

It’s unlikely to last long, just six days having been finally conceded to hear and refute a mass of evidence that has already been thoroughly examined twice in the lower House and resulted in a vote to impeach the criminal president. So compelling was the testimony, so conclusive the documentation, that only the most partisan of mindsets could imagine voting not to continue on, to expel the monster from the White House.

Unfortunately, that is precisely what the Republican majority is intending. They love their monster. They smell his power. They smell what they imagine to be his money. They love the smell of rotting democracy in the morning.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi had hung on to the articles of impeachment until last week, insisting she would only deliver them for trial when her Senate counterpart, Kentucky Fried Senator Mitch McConnell explained the rules of the proceedings, which were up to him to invent. Would he allow witnesses to testify? The crux of the matter being that the ousted former national security advisor, John Bolton, had indicated his readiness to do so; and was already on record saying he thought the President’s actions on Ukraine amounted to ‘a drug deal’ in which he wanted no part.

Fatally, just as even more damning evidence was emerging, Pelosi cracked under the pressure of optimistic expectation and allowed the charges to go forward. Two more weeks wouldn’t have hurt, but there was, arguably, a problem in that three of her Presidential hopefuls would be tied up in the Senate, ahead of the Iowa caucus and the New Hampshire primary. So she blinked.

The profoundly corrupt McConnell, who benefits politically – so it’s reported – from the hundreds of millions of dollars in government contracts placed in his home state by his wife, the Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao, and who has earned the nickname ‘Moscow Mitch’ for his bullish refusal to allow debate on measures to counter the anticipated Russian interference in the 2020 elections, for whatever reason – possibly his other relationship with the influential Putin ‘silovik’ oligarch, Oleg Deripaska – had already gone public to say he was not interested in hearing witnesses, reading evidence or giving the case a fair trial: he and his Republican colleagues would vote to throw it out in as short a time as possible. Now, he’s proposing, outrageously, to hold hearings in the middle of the night.

In the meantime, Trump announced his ‘legal team’ for the hearing.

Imagine if you will, a Hollywood summer blockbuster featuring seven Marvel Comics supervillains teaming up to banish truth, honesty, decency, civility and the rule of law from Planet Earth.

Their slogan: ‘Abuse of power is not impeachable’.

Power is law.

That’s right! Their defense of Donald John Trump is to rest on an argument that he is obviously guilty of:

  • extorting political favors from a foreign government; which is two crimes in statute law, extortion/bribery and soliciting foreign influence in a US election
  • withholding an approved aid package to a qualifying foreign government without a mandate from Congress, which is another crime in statute law (incidentally, people are still looking for $35 million missing from the package he finally released)
  • abusing the power of his office (a High Crime and Misdeameanor well within the accepted meaning of the Constitution) to cover up the other crimes by wilfully committing three more statutory crimes:
  • obstruction of justice: ordering subordinates to defy lawful subpoenas, withholding of evidence and witness intimidation.

So, okay, hands-up, he did those things. However, the supervillains’ argument goes, as President of the United States he is covered on all bases by his own Executive Privilege and can do, frankly, whatever he bleedin’ well likes, without these pathetic Democrats with their popular votes ‘n’ all colluding on a partisan basis in what is obviously an attempt to fix the November elections, which honest Republicans would never do.

And there is no doubt whatsoever that he will be acquitted, and will then go about whining like a three-year-old that despite having been impeached – an irrevocable verdict – he is totally exonerated; that those who impeached him have no legitimacy and must be arrested; that he has defeated a Deep State conspiracy by Barack Obama in league with Hillary Clinton, Bob Mueller and George Soros to deligitimize his monumentally historic presidency, bring down his booming economy and flood the place with Mexican rapists, thus saving the Nation from Communism; and that millions of dumbfucks will believe it.

Surely, no-one but the real Messiah could get away with so much, so often?

“He’s not the Messiah, he’s a very naughty boy.” (RIP, Terry Jones)

The Pumpkin observes that his legal team itself consists almost entirely of felons who ought themselves, on the face of it, and if the allegations against them were ever to be tried in court, to be locked up.

Endlessly replaying clips of what some of them said in the past, notably during the impeachment of President Clinton, showing that they are hypocrites dishonestly performing 180-degree reverse-ferrets on their previously unshakeable moralistic beliefs about constitutional matters, the liberal media is forgetting one thing; they’re lawyers.

Pam Bondi is the former Florida Attorney General and petite blonde who, a few years ago, accepted into her re-election PAC fund (Political Action Committee) a check for $25 thousand from Donald John Trump, and immediately thereafter shut down an investigation by her office into the ‘Trump University’ scam, in which he defrauded hundreds of desperate people hoping to become accredited Real Estate agents on the basis of his questionable reputation as the great dealmaker who built and sold New York. Bondi has denied any connection, as she probably now realizes how cheap she came at the price.

The check had been drawn on Trump’s charity foundation, such bodies being forbidden by law from political engagement, and he was ordered in 2018 to repay $25 million to his victims. In 2019, he was banned from owning a charity foundation and ordered to donate another $2 million to charity; his co-trustees, his three older children were ordered to undergo formal training in company law.

Jay Sekulow is the high-minded Christian gentleman, actually Jewish, with a patrician manner who, according to a Guardian report from June 2017, swindled thousands of persuadably religious folk on low incomes out of over $60 million in 20 dollar charitable donations wrung from them in the name of Jesus by a team of rapacious call-centre operatives, money that somehow ended up refinancing Sekulow’s decidedly secular, financially troubled family’s businesses and paying for his private jet. Or, as he puts it; “We are dependent on God and the resources He provides through the gifts of people who share our vision.” Parasites, in a word.

The call-centre, known by its initials as CASE, is part-owned by Sekulow, like Trump a former bankrupt; also, a patron and advocate for the weird organization known as ‘Jews for Jesus’.

Rudy Giuliani. Oh, God, where to start? Where to stop? Oh, sorry, he’s not on the team anymore, Trump doesn’t know him. Carry on….

Kenneth Starr, according to Buzzflash, “was an Independent Counsel who spent tens of millions of dollars investigating the Clintons, ostensibly over Whitewater, but when they were cleared of wrongdoing with that land deal (they actually lost $40,000 on the transaction), Starr pursued Bill Clinton into entrapment over a sexual peccadillo. Along the way he used unchecked prosecutorial power and brute intimidation.” Tactics which allegedly included the unlawful imprisonment of the key witness, Monica Lewinsky, locked for days in a hotel room without a lawyer in an effort to force her to confess that she had given the president a blowjob in the Oval Office, thus exposing his impeachable perfidy.

Starr went on as a defense attorney to broker the 2007 deal that allowed Trump’s friend Jeffrey Epstein leeway to go on abusing girls as young as eleven. (buzzflash.com/articles/donald-trump-once-called-kenneth-starr-a-lunatic-just-the-guy-for-his-reality-tv-defense)

Another Epstein defender, law perfesser Alan Dershowitz is an indescribably filthy-looking old roué who has admitted to attending sex sessions at his client’s $77 million townhouse on the impossibly fashionable Lower East Side of Manhattan; a ‘gift’ from Les Wexner, billionaire founder and CEO of the company that bought the Victoria’s Secret underwear brand, that relies on Size Zero models for its teen appeal.  Dershowitz famously swore that all he did was accept massages from ‘some 50-year-old Russian woman’ – now, presumably, a Ukrainian citizen – and that he chastely ‘kept his underpants on’. A more disturbing image it would be hard to envisage, so we won’t try.

Dershowitz, who famously got the wife-beater O.J. ‘Juice’ Simpson off a charge of battering Nicole to death by dramatically producing a bloodied glove in court that, surprise, didn’t fit, votes Democrat and recently suggested on the BBC that there were grounds for doubting the Epstein suicide verdict. In which case, The Pumpkin idly wonders, who might have been rich, powerful and compromised enough to order the millionaire pedo pimp killed, while the CCTV was temporarily down? Surely not his other client?

He it is who has ventured the highly contestable legal opinion the Republicans will back, that what Trump has done isn’t covered in the Constitution in so many words and therefore isn’t impeachable conduct. If he can pull it off, it will be the greatest denouement to a locked-room mystery the world has ever seen.

White House counsel, Pat Cipolloni is the Mr Clean of the Trump team – except, of course, he has sold his soul to the Devil and will one day be dragged down to Hell with him. No-one who jumps into the Klargester with this criminal president is going to emerge smelling of anything other than cheeseberder-flavored shit; especially if he holds to the William Barr view (he used to work for him) that the President’s powers are legally unlimited. Much to the chagrin, one imagines, of his TEN children (he’s a devout Catholic). Cipolloni is said by former colleagues faintly appalled at his willingness to serve The Master to be very smart and a nice guy for a conservative, and a possible contender one day for a Supreme Court seat.

Why the hell he chooses to defend The Beast is a question for future historians, if there are any. Trump seems comfortable around Italians. Despite his cleverness, Cippoloni’s opening remarks at the hearing have been comprehensively demolished by Intelligence Committee chair, Adam Schiff. Not that it will do the Forces of Light any good.

In all, records Buzzflash, Trump’s dream team have made over 350 panel appearances on Fox News in the past year, which is presumably why they’ve been chosen, for their audience appeal and grandstanding ability to prove that water flows uphill. And because Trump saw them on TV.

Success in the coming days will guarantee their immortality in the annals of legal jurisprudence.

 

The madness of King Donald

On the eve of delivery to the Senate of articles of impeachment, Trump told a rally of his pet dumbfucks in Toledo, Ohio that he had topped a poll to see who was the greater president in history, Abraham Lincoln or Donald John Trump?

No evidence of such a poll can be found in our world, but: “So who do you like better? Trump or Abraham Lincoln? I said ‘Abraham Lincoln’.” (Would he really have said ‘Trump’? Really?) “And they did a poll on this. I think I remember the numbers. All I know is, we won, against Abraham – Honest Abe! We won. 53 to 47, can you believe that? I went back to the First Lady, I said ‘First Lady (presumably he can’t remember her name, only the numbers. Ed.) I just beat Abraham Lincoln in a poll!'”

He went on to complain yet again that he had made a deal and “saved a country” but he had “just heard” the Nobel Peace Prize committee had awarded the prize to the leader of that country instead of him (he was referring to Ethiopia and the prize was awarded to the Prime Minister last October, for signing a peace accord with Eritrea after 40 years of hostilities, which Trump wasn’t involved with); while he also took credit for cancer death rates in America having fallen by a record annual 2.2% during the year 2016/17, when he wasn’t in office; and for the nation’s wonderful airline safety record – not a good idea considering what’s happened at Boeing.

In fact, wasn’t one of those an Ethiopian Airlines plane?

Paying tribute to Dr Martin Luther King on MLK Day, Trump began his generous commemorative tweet: “It was exactly three years ago today, January 20, 2017, that I was sworn into office. So it is also appropriate that today is MLK Jr. Day….”. and proceeded to trumpet his own economic achievements on behalf of the African-American community. “Great!”

A new book claims Trump early on in his nightmare presidency took a briefing from Defense Secretary Mattis, Secretary Tillerson and other Top Brass at which they showed him pictures and colorful maps to try to explain the importance of America’s alliances and its role overseas. Arriving at A for Afghanistan, he rounded on the generals, including the highly bemedalled chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and letting loose an abusive tirade yelled at them that they were all ‘a bunch of dopes and babies’ he ‘wouldn’t go to war with’.

More projection, I fear, from the nation’s Number One draft dodger.

In Davos this week, Trump told a press conference he wouldn’t be convicted in the Senate because the White House has been really successful in holding back all the evidence, and praised Rudy Giuliani. The “greatest mayor in the history of New York”, said Trump, Rudy “knows corruption better than anybody.” ‘Nuff said.

In a further revelation, the book’s authors relate the story of how Trump, asked to take part in an HBO documentary, was required to read out a passage from the Constitution. After stumbling through several takes where he had to ask what some of the more archaic words meant, he started yelling at his staff that it was like trying to read a foreign language, he was being put off by all the people in the room and it was all their fault for making him agree to do the scene in the first place.

Very droll, ‘Donnie Read can’t read’! And an excerpt in the Guardian today describes at length his unpleasant bullying of Homeland Secretary, Kirjsten Nielsen – she was too short, at only 5’4″ – in his mad obsession with preventing all immigration at the Mexican border. (At one stage he ordered her to create a human wall of marshalls, national guardsmen and vigilantes standing shoulder to shoulder along the entire 1,800 miles of unfenced territory. He is, of course, barking mad.)

But wouldn’t it be great if all these well-paid Pulitzer prizewinning journalists could get over their patronizing sneering at the stories of how crazy dumb he is, how vindictive and self-obsessed, how megalomaniacal, which we already know, and put their supposed investigative powers to work exposing his actual criminal wrongdoings?

I’m personally just about done with the below-stairs gossip.

(Okay, just one more… in an interview yesterday, Trump credited Edison – who ‘we have to protect’ – with inventing the lightbulb… and the wheel!)

Dumbfucks United

Trump-supporting gun rights activists have proposed to kill a Virginia Democrat State legislator and start the civil war on Monday, 20 Jan., after rightwing social media networks assumed, as any total moron with advanced opioid-induced paranoia, a fat ass and a tiny penis would, that a bill he had introduced to reverse previous Republican legislation banning teachers and other groups (but not the cops) from taking strike action was a threat to take away their AR-15s.

Governor Ralph Northam has declared a state of emergency. (From Guardian) In the event, 25 thousand marched, protesting the death of 2nd Amendment gun rights – which give you the right to own a muzzle-loading musket if you’re a member of a formal militia, but hey, automatic assault weapon, sniper rifle, Abrams tank, why not? There’s a lot of bad guys out there.

 

23 Jan. The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists announced its symbolic “doomsday clock” has moved forward to 100 seconds to midnight, the closest to catastrophe that the scientists have judged the world to be at any point since its creation in 1947, at the outset of the cold war.

 

After the ball

A civil suit has been filed by the Washington DC Attorney General, alleging gross overcharging by the Trumps for the use of their own ballroom and side rooms at the Trump International hotel to host official events over a four-day period during the inauguration of Donald John Trump as president in January, 2017.

The inaugural committee, a registered nonprofit, allegedly paid $175 thousand a day for use of the facility, the profits going straight back to the Trump family, who have denied any wrongdoing. Their initial defense was that they had no involvement in planning the event. Their lawyers have now however justified the enormous bill on grounds that it was a perfectly normal fee for any hotel to charge for such a historically important occasion.

So either it was normal, or it was abnormal. Which is it, lawyers?

The committee raised over $107 million to cover the cost of the inauguration, twice what the previous Obama administration raised for a much larger event. The courts are still trying to find around half the money, which remains unaccounted for; although the Trumps said at the time they had given it to a friend of Melania Trump’s to “look after”. Strangely, wealthy people and needy corporations are still being invited to contribute to it.

Maybe for next time….

(Reporting: ProPublica)

 

GW: Lawd, didn’ it rain!

(Can we squeeze any more in? Ed.)

Spain: 10 people have died and others are missing after Storm Gloria continued to batter southeastern Spain and the Balearic islands with devastating winds, heavy rain, snowfall and huge waves up to 13.5 metres (44 ft) high. The storm left 220,000 people in the Tarragona region without electricity on Tuesday, 21 Jan. (Guardian) The storm surge penetrated 3km inland up the river Ebro, flooding 30 sq km of the fertile delta and its economically important rice paddies, before moving on to SW France. (Floodlist/BBC. See also, below.)

Brazil: “Heavy rain from 17 to 18 Jan. triggered flooding and landslides in the state of Espirito Santo. Almost 250mm of rain fell in 24 hours in the town of Alfredo Chaves, more than it would normally see during the whole of January. The rain triggered flooding up to 2 metres deep in some areas. Raging flood waters caused severe damaged to buildings, infrastructure and vehicles. The state’s fire service confirmed 6 deaths, with more feared missing.”

Guatemala: widespread flooding is reported after days of heavy rain. 1600 families have been evacuated. 200 families were evacuated from flooding in Famailla, northern Argentina, over 15 and 16 Jan., where 132mm of rain fell in 24 hours. Hardly worth mentioning, several regions of Peru have yet again been deluged for days, with resulting floods and landslides wrecking communities. A record 152mm fell on Tarapoto.

Indonesia: “at least 7 people have died and 3 are missing after flash floods caused a bridge to collapse in Bengkulu Province. The disaster was reportedly triggered by three days of heavy rainfall.” Families were evacuated in central Java when torrential rain caused rivers to overflow and 1 metre of floodwater to pour through vlllages. Flooding and landslides were reported in western Sumatra.

Fiji: it’s been reported that 2 people died, swept away when Cat 1 Cyclone Tino passed by the island last Friday, 17 Jan., bringing strong winds and flash floods. “Flights, power and water supply were disrupted.” Tino unexpectedly intensified to a Cat 3 over warm waters before colliding with Tonga at the weekend.

Mozambique: “at least 28 people have died and more than 58,800 have been affected by heavy rains and flooding. More than 10,200 houses have been damaged or destroyed, including 2,589 completely destroyed, and at least 47 schools have been affected. Thousands of hectares of crops have been damaged or destroyed, less than two months before the March harvest. The Chipembe Dam in Cabo Delgado is now at 100 per cent capacity” (Floodlist) This is all in the area of Beira, the city badly affected last year by Cyclone Idai, which killed 1300 people. Neighboring Zambia is also affected.

These heavy East African rains are thought by GW to be connected with one of three extra-tropical ‘waves’ organizing as cyclonic storms currently in the SW Indian Ocean, Invest 95S, as reported by the Copernicus Severe-weather.eu site, 22 Jan.

Zimbabwe: “flooding struck after a storm brought heavy rain 17 to 19 Jan. Flood waters were reportedly up to 1.5 metres deep in some areas” after 140mm fell in just a few hours. “Houses, property and livestock have been damaged or destroyed and roads blocked”. Power outages were also reported after a powerplant flooded out. Heavy rain is continuing to cause problems in Madagascar, where several people died earlier in the month. The current death toll is 13, with 18 still missing. Around 8 thousand homes have been flooded.

(Above 11 country reports: Floodlist)

USA: yet another epic storm system is expected over the central midwest this week. The Weather Channel reports: “Multiple disturbances in a southward plunge of the jet stream will track into the West through Tuesday. When that energy arrives in the nation’s midsection, it will trigger the development of a low-pressure system, which will move through the central and eastern states in the second half of this week.”

The National Weather Service has issued a warning for frozen iguanas falling out of trees in Florida as temperatures plunge unseasonably overnight. (Guardian)

North Pacific: Severe-weather.eu reports, a twinned pair of conjoined cyclones has formed in the north-central Pacific. The more easterly half of the system is due to slam into the western coast of Canada with strong winds and a high swell on the morning of 21 Jan. A similar twinning was observed in the north Atlantic on Christmas Day, and last summer in the Indian Ocean a pair of contra-rotating storms formed on either side of the equator, but twinning is not all that common.

Update: in the wake of the twin cyclones a new ‘monster’ extra-tropical system is undergoing exposive bombogenesis and threatens the Aleutian islands of Alaska with hurricane-force winds.

North Atlantic: “After a quiet week, a new cyclone is developing just east of Newfoundland and deepening. Satellite imagery indicates it is developing an organized system. Cyclone will track across the North Atlantic on Friday, deepening well below 950 mbar and expand in size – dominating much of the region this weekend. A broad wind field will also develop high swell towards western Europe.” (Severe-weather.eu)

Canada: the record, more than three-quarters of a meter of snow that fell overnight on Gander airport in Newfoundland as a result of a cyclone undergoing bombogenesis in the western North Atlantic before the weekend produced, in a 60 mph gale, drifts ‘several meters’ deep. And now there’s a heatwave over most of the country, with temperatures 10-15 °C above long-term average.

Meanwhile, on roughly the same northerly latitude, over western Norway temperatures climbed to 16.9 Celsius yesterday. Three weeks ago, the same weather station at Sunddalsora set a new January record of 19C. The average July temperature in Norway is 18C. (Severe-weather.eu. Iceland too is experiencing a major temperature anomaly, 22 Jan. Skjaldþingsstaðir, in the far northwest of the island, reported a daytime value of plus 13 °C.

Iberian peninsula: (latest, see above) “excessive rainfall, dangerous winds and major waves will bring threats towards the coast of east-southeastern Spain until Thursday”, predicts Severe-weather.eu., with possibly major flooding as a deep cyclonic system develops over land. Heavy deposits of snow are also forecast over higher ground, as the peninsula becomes a battleground between a cold front off one of several cyclones affecting the north Atlantic and the high pressure that’s hung over much of Europe for many days. That’s moved northwards, and a near-record 1050.5 mb was logged over south Wales, UK today, 20 Jan. (The UK record is held at 1053.6 mbar in Aberdeen (Scotland) on Jan 31st, 1902.)

Tunnel approaching….

Fish ‘flu: The ‘mystery’ virus as it’s been labelled, that’s been rapidly identified as a coronavirus of the same family that causes the common cold and akin to other respiratory viruses like SARS and MERS, has been confirmed as one that is able to be transmitted from Hunan to human. Sorry about the bad pun. A case has been identified in Australia, the patient has already been sent home to recover. A fourth patient in China has died. The WHO is debating whether it needs to declare a global emergency yet.

Update, 22 Jan. 6 p.m.: the WHO has decided to wait and see. Meanwhile the number of patients in Hubei province has risen to over 570, with 17 reported deaths and 60 ‘critical’ cases. Chinese authorities are struggling to limit travel on the eve of the New Year rush. In Wuhan itself – a city bigger than London – all public transport out of the city has been suspended and 11 million citizens have been told to stay home. Supermarkets have been ransacked of food supplies. Animal markets are closed, and thousands of contacts are being monitored. There are fears that the huge pool of potential cases could give rise to more deadly mutations. Thailand has four new cases. The first case has been reported in the USA, a 30-year-old man in Washington DC who had returned from Wuhan.

Update updated, 23 Jan.: 4 possible cases under review in Scotland and Northern Ireland. 24 Jan: make that 14 – all clear. One more in Chicago, 2 confirmed in France. China total 830 cases, 26 dead, 10 cities on lockdown. British universities have warned students travelling home  for Chinese new year they may face quarantine on their return.

Postscriptum: various news outlets are describing the coronavirus as ‘deadly’, which is pretty irresponsible. Morbidity is less than 3 per cent, mostly among older patents with pre-existing respiratory conditions – which if it trends on a big enough global scale could add up. However, it’s worth remembering that there have been 13 MILLION confirmed cases of winter ‘flu in the USA alone this year, with 6,600 resultant deaths.

Sea soars: The heat in the world’s oceans reached a new record level in 2019, showing “irrefutable and accelerating” heating of the planet. Oceans absorb more than 90% of the heat trapped by the greenhouse gases emitted by fossil fuel burning. The past ten years are the top ten warmest years for sea temperature recorded – adding heat year-on-year equivalent to every person on the planet running 100 microwave ovens all day and all night. The rate (of acceleration) from 1987 to 2019 is four and a half times faster than that from 1955 to 1986. (Reporting: Guardian Green Light, 20 Jan.)

Frigid air: a paper published in the journal Nature Communications says concentrations of the ozone-eating greenhouse gas HFC-23 – used in fridges, inhalers and air conditioners – have been increasing at a record rate. India and China, two of the main sources, reported in 2017 that they had almost completely eliminated emissions under the 1987 Montreal Protocol, that took action to halt the dangerous depletion of the ozone layer. A tonne of HFC-23 emissions is equivalent to the release of more than 12,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide. The source of the increasing emissions is not known. (Reporting: Guardian Green Light)

Conservatism Today (#bluecheckbook)… Today, I’m not an appy bunny… Optimist prime… All aglow again… GW: Life gets teejus, don’t it?

QotW

“I tried to get taller, but I couldn’t grow any taller, and so I tried to get younger, but I couldn’t get younger. But I could grow a mustache, so I did that”. – Harry Harris, US ambassador to South Korea. Former naval officer, Harris has come under attack because as a Japanese-American by birth he reminds older Koreans of the brutal occupation of the country by Japanese who sported mustaches. Koreans prefer to be clean-shaven. Another triumph for the Trumpian international order.

 

Conservatism Today (#bluecheckbook)

The Guardian reports, 15 Jan.: “Five thousand people died before they could be reimbursed for a government error that left chronically ill and disabled benefit claimants thousands of pounds out of pocket. … Approximately 70,000 claimants were originally estimated to have been underpaid about £340m between 2011 and 2014” – as a result of benefits office staff not being required to check that people were getting the full benefits they qualified for.

Presiding over this fiasco at the time? No, not the Yorkshire Ripper. Not even Rheinhardt Heydrich, the Butcher of Prague, whose depradations now look comparatively modest. Take a bow, arch-CUNT (Conservative and Unionist, Neo-Thatcherite) ‘sir’ Iain Duncan Smith, newly ennobled nose-picker and snot-eater par excellence; glib apologist and smooth operator for the self-enriching ERG Leave tendency.

We should perhaps add to the toll of his victims, those disabled and chronically sick individuals who were dying off at the rate of 500 a month on his watch, having been denied benefits designed to support them into work on grounds that they had been assessed by incompetent outsourced contractors as being perfectly healthy and fit for work; many dying while waiting months for their appeals to be heard.

Meanwhile, a coroner’s report into the death of 57-year-old Erroll Graham in 2018 found that his disability benefit had been stopped after he missed two appointments. “When he was found, starved to death and weighing just four stone, his Nottingham flat had no gas or electricity supply. There was no food in the property apart from two tins of fish that were four years out of date.”

A spokesmouth for the Department of Work and Pensions said it had referred Graham’s case to a panel to see what if any lessons could be learned. Presumably, the lessons they didn’t learn from the death by multiple causes including starvation in 2017 of Stephen Smith, from Liverpool, when they “followed policy”. “Smith, who could barely walk, was deemed fit for work after a capability assessment in 2017, an appointment he was taken from his hospital bed to keep, which meant his employment support allowance (ESA) payments were stopped.” (Guardian)

The architect of this grotesque charade, what ‘Sir’ Duncan Cunt has done to deserve his knighthood, other than rid the country of a lot of useless disadvantaged old scroungers, no-one can really say. It sounds more like an indictable crime against humanity. He was for a time Leader of the party, in a bland and undistinguished sort of way – did he lose an election? I can’t honestly remember, but that’s about all.

In other Conservative Party news, party megadonors, the billionaire Done brothers (£375k last year) Fred and Pete have been found to own a number of companies that have been awarded way north of £5 million-worth of Government and NHS contracts broadly in the field of mental health and employee counselling. It looks like a serious conflict of interest, which an NHS spokesmouth explained as being due to its farming-out of due diligence to a third party that didn’t appear to have checked on what else prospective contractors got up to in their spare time.

What’s this? The Done who? A 1970s country rock band, maybe?

The name Fred might give the game away. ‘Betfred’ is a widely advertised, £750+ million turnover, high-street and online/appy betting operation, sponsor of many a sport shirt, that was recently taken to task by the Regulator for substituting more instant-access online games for the fixed-odds, no-limit, in-shop betting terminals – in more innocent times we used to call them fruit machines – that were sucking the life out of poor communities, wrecking families, destroying lives, and which have now been severely capped. Perhaps less severely than they might have been without the £375 grand, who knows.

Fingers are also being pointed at how the firm ‘forgot’ to tell its own employees they’d been underpaid their statutory holiday pay, in what some suggest was a deliberate act of penny-pinching meanness.

Among services the Done ghouls, resembling a pair of cadaverous old money-grubbers out of a Victorian vampire novel, are supplying on contract via a company satirically named Health Assured, the Guardian reports, is counselling to the betting addicts the greasy chute they operate so profitably creates. In addition, another company called Angel Advance – they must have such laughs around the dinner table thinking up these names before repairing to their coffins for the day – sells advice, for a fee, on managing debt.

You could look at it in one of two ways.

Well, no, one actually. Because if the Dones were paying for them, then when all’s said and, er, done these services might count as a philanthropic gesture, sort of.

But they’re not. We are.

 

Today, I’m not an appy bunny

Once or twice a year I send a few pounds to help support Adblock-Plus, a program, or ‘app’ as they call them now, that reduces the annoyance factor of being multiply advertized to by commercial parties in whose products I have not the slightest interest, who insist on interrupting serious editorial content with GIF-like messages that wobble and waggle in my face, like the waggling, wobbling tits-and-ass merchants of the Babestation platform.

I realize the operators of websites need to make a living, I do too, although despite devoting years of my life to it, I can’t really monetize an entertaining and informative bogl – one that frequently beats the professional news sites to the real meat and import of stories, and the connections between – with an average of only 7 readers a day. I know, I should take to Twitter, whatever.

But I’m genuinely not interested in receiving ads and don’t see why I should be forced to. I get enough unwanted commercial content as it is on Google mail.

The news and weather platforms I visit now frequently demand that I turn the Adblock off, when I really only need to check a fact or steal a quote, and have no intention of wading through the other 99.9 per cent of their adrich content. And they should know that, as I have no intention of buying the stuff, they’re conning the advertisers into paying good money for my eyeballs, that aren’t looking with persuadable intent at their ads. The clients should be pleased that my disinclination to buy their products could actually save them wasting time and money obliging me to ignore their irrelevant messages.

Today, however, despite having the Adblock app switched On, every site I’ve visited has been pumping ads at me like they’re going out of fashion – which I wish they would. They seem to have found a way past the block, or the block seems no longer to be working, and, try as I might, I can’t turn them off. It’s an assault on my privacy – a form of blackmail.

What’s so cynical is, they very often offer you a way to pay them not to show you ads in the first place.

Failing the bulk erasure of all the ads on a page, Adblock-Plus enables you to turn off offending ads one by one, using quite a complicated routine that asks technical questions I can’t answer. But if the site has somehow found a way to bypass the app, and there are ten ads on a page, there’s nothing I can do but just try to ignore them, and fume

Chief among the miscreants today is The Guardian, whose persistent importunate demands for money are already attached at length to every article, and who – there seems to have been a shakeup managerially in the past week and some respected contributors appear to have gone – have taken to including as a regular feature, an item of what we used to call ‘advertorial’: an extended, paid-for product puff that is not labelled as such, in the actual News section.

Given that the Scott Trust, owner and publisher of The Guardian and the Sunday Observer, is sitting on a huge pile of cash, over a billion pounds, it’s frankly disgusting and a betrayal of their values that they are doing this. The sheer hypocrisy of an organization that constantly harps on about its environmental responsibility and eco-sustaining political stance, while continuing to promote long-haul holidays, fashion trends, celebrity culture and consumer bling in their Lifestyle section, is bewildering. There has to be a point where you can no longer justify holding both positions, surely?

If the onslaught continues, is there any point in keeping Adblock-Plus on my system? This valuable resource is possibly the last bastion of freedom we poor, battered consumers have been relying on to maintain sanity, as the real world disintegrates around us under the pressure of unsustainable economic growth. I read now that a developer has created a multi-functional, active contact lens with a built-in computer you can stick in your eye and use voiceware to have your eyeball talk with your phone, and get a heads-up data display direct to your retina, even with your eyes shut. Night-vision is also an option, for nocturnal warriors on terror, presumably.

For fuck’s sake!

These sites probably already monetize me as a content-user, selling my data to various third-party agencies. Every item selection, every keystroke, every Google lookup and pensive hover of the mouse is monitored for signs of exploitable behavioral characteristics commercial interests can buy into. Being forced to view their ads, my eyelids glued open by blackmail, is merely adding insult to injury.

Just bloody go away.

 

Optimist prime

I’m cute, please buy me! The ‘Chiquita’.

And while we’re about it, Reverb is a web platform for musicians, on which I have latterly posted in the Classified section an opportunity to buy my collectable little handbuilt Fibonacci archtop guitar, ’03 of 03′, going cheep. I’m short of money. (Just put Fibonacci in their search bar.)

That connection seems to have encouraged them to send me a Googlemail ad at least five times a week inviting me to buy a Gibson Super 400, of which there is apparently only one such fancily inlaid version in the world. There seems to be no way to tell them that, even if I sold my house and went to starve in a tent, after paying off the mortgage there is no chance whatever that I could afford the £120 thousand the owner is asking for it.

Please, just stop, okay? You’re taking up headspace. But I have to say, the past few years do seem to have created a race to find the world’s most expensive guitars.

 

All aglow again

4.40 pm sunset… in the eastern sky!

What’s strange about this sunset, Followers, Likers and Spammers of this, muh li’l bogl (that needs only 9 more Posts to reach 850 by the 26th of February, marking the 8th anniversary of its miraculous conception)?

No, sorry, that’s wrong! It’s the sky in the East.

Over in the West where suns generally set, it went down behind the hill about 20 minutes before I took this photo on my crappy Samsung Galaxy A3, which doesn’t really show how bright the clouds were, and there’s only a golden glow to mark its passing.

On the opposite side of the sky, however, where I’ve previously photographed interesting sunrises over the river that looked very similar, the clouds were turning livid red. Is the world in a hurry to get to tomorrow, I wondered? I stepped out in front of a passing local schoolteacher lady on her bicycle. “Tell me I’m not going mad…” I began.

“Lovely sunset”, she replied.

“Yes,” I said. “But the sun just went down over there….” And pointed in the opposite direction. “That is West. This is East.”

As the deep red fiery glow began to infect the sky between, until all the clouds were glowing embers, we agreed to be amazed.

 

“Is the southeastern quadrant of the island continent destined to become the first supposedly settled region of the planet to be made uninhabitable by climate change in the modern era?”

GW: Life gets teejus, don’t it?

Australia:

16 Jan. Heavy rain has come to the rescue of firefighters in parts of the southeast worst affected by fires, although authorities in New South Wales and Victoria fear more dry weather on the way could reignite still smoldering embers, while the severe thunderstorms are creating problems of their own, lightning starting several new blazes (CNN). Nine News reported parts of Melbourne hit by a month’s worth of rain in a few hours, though not (to date) East Gippsland, where some of the worst fires in the state are raging, producing a pall of smoke over the city, where playing conditions for the Australian Open tennis are still causing controversy.

17 Jan. The heavy rain, in some places 3 months’ worth fell overnight, has caused localized flooding. There are reports of hundreds of thousands of fish killed when ash from the fires turns to toxic sludge and gets washed into rivers. An eyewitness was quoted as saying: “The stench (along the McLeay river) was overwhelming – it stank that much it made you heave.” The river has become anoxic along a 100 km stretch and could take decades to recover, if ever. (Reporting: Guardian Australia)

20 Jan. Vast dust storms propelled by winds rising to 100 k/h have been sweeping across New South Wales from the interior over the weekend, followed within hours by a battering of the city of Canberra by golfball-sized hailstones. Many animals, especially birds, were killed and injured as people ran for cover. CNN reports: “The hailstorm is now headed east toward the coastal cities of Sydney, Wollongong, and Newcastle, according to the Australia Bureau of Meteorology. The bureau warned that the cities could see ‘damaging winds (possibly destructive), large hailstones (possibly giant) and heavy rainfall.’ More storms are forecast early in the week.

Coming on top of record long drought, forest and bush fires, damaging thunderstorms and the run-off pollution and death of rivers, all within the past three months, as a huge hotspot continues to linger offshore in the Tasman Sea, the question must surely be, is the southeastern quadrant of the island continent destined to become the first supposedly settled region of the planet to be made uninhabitable by climate change in the modern era?

North Atlantic: In the wake of Storm Brendan last Monday, “another quite rapidly deepening cyclone has formed just west of the UK today, 16 Jan., moving towards the Faroe Islands and the Shetlands. Its central pressure is currently around 975 mbar and deepening, expected to deliver severe dangerous winds into the far NW tip of Scotland.” Meanwhile, yet another powerful cyclone brewing over north America is expected to undergo ‘bombogenesis’ – a rapid drop in pressure – in mid-ocean, the fourth in two weeks. Severe-weather.eu reports: “Hurricane-force winds will develop while the system will be moving along far eastern Canada into the open waters of the northwest Atlantic ocean.” The forecast track is to the north of the British isles, with Iceland once again bearing the brunt.

Canada: widely reported, St John’s, the capital of Newfoundland, was digging itself out this morning, 19 Jan., after an 80mph blizzard deposited 750 mm of snow over the city, bring normal life to a halt. Thousands were left without power and a search is underway for a missing man. The governor has called for military assistance. (NB: St John’s is on roughly the same latitude as Boglington-on-Sea, where the sun is shining mercilessly out of a cloudless sky and we’ve just had the coldest night since last winter, dropping to a terrifying minus 3C.)

Europe: a huge temperature difference occurred over Finland at the weekend, 18 to 20 Jan. The extreme north of Lapland reported -36 °C while the capital Helsinki in far south Finland reported +5 °C – that is 41 °C difference! (Extreme-weather.eu)

Maximum pressure: remains of a sunset over Boglington, 19 Jan., that lasted almost 1 hour.

As high pressure continues to sit over southern Europe, several cities have been enduring dangerous air pollution. BBC reports, “Sarajevo is among the cities to record some of the worst levels in recent days, along with the capital cities of neighboring Serbia, Kosovo and North Macedonia. …Temporary bans on diesel vehicles have been ordered in Italian cities, including the capital, Rome. In Bosnia-Herzegovina, protesters have taken to the streets in gas masks demanding action. Environmentalists have described the situation as a smog emergency.” (NB Said high pressure system will move northward over the UK in coming days.)

20 Jan. pressure has been building over northern Europe, an exceptionally high 1050 mb being recorded over the UK following last week’s powerful Storm Brendan which brought flooding, building damage and transport disruption to many parts.

Fiji: Intensifying tropical depression Invest 93P is expected to reach cyclone force overnight, 15 Jan. as it heads for Fiji, where it will come close to the main town of Labasa as a Cat 1 storm named Tino. Its next port of call is likely to be Tonga, where it should arrive as a high-end Cat 2 over the weekend. Heavy wind, rain and surf warnings are out everywhere. (RNZ) It’s the second major storm to affect Fiji in less than a month.

Thousands of people in Tonga have been evacuated from their homes as Tino hit at Cat 3, with potentially destructive winds, 18 Jan. The cyclone is weakening as it moves southwards, but still big enough to send 3-meter waves all the way to northern coasts of New Zealand.

Bolivia: at least 6 people have died in floods, building collapses and lightning strikes in a week of powerful storms and record rainfall. Many rivers have broken their banks and a state of emergency has been declared in the capital, La Paz. (from Floodlist)

Zambia: “More flooding has been reported, this time in Southern Province where crops have been destroyed in areas already facing food shortages after severe drought. … the Meteorological Department reported 109mm of rain fell in Gwembe on 15 Jan.” (Floodlist) Heavy rainfall in northern Mozambique continues to cause havoc in the province of Cabo Delgado. 1 person died and five are missing after a bridge was washed out.

Tunnel approaching….

Puerto Rico: NASA reports, satellite observations have shown the entire SE corner of Puerto Rico sinking by 5.5 inches since hundreds of earthquakes up to M6.8 shook the island through New Year (Mary Greeley). There was another big M6.8 quake followed by a M5.2 aftershock on 7 Jan. in which 1 person was killed. The island sits on the boundary of the North American plate atop three major faults and is highly prone to quakes, but this is the worst for many years. Around 500 homes have been damaged, powerlines and phone communications downed, while thousands of people are staying put in public shelters. A Federal state of emergency has been declared, with losses estimated so far at $110 million. (Time/AP)

Puerto Rico is yet to recover fully from the shellacking it took from Hurricanes Irma and Maria in 2017, when around 3 thousand people died while president Trump was demanding the island first repay money he claimed it owed to Goldman Sachs if it wanted to receive federal aid, and criticizing islanders for being too lazy to help themselves.

Fish ‘flu: British epidemiologists have claimed the numbers of cases of the new SARS-like coronavirus traced to a fish market in Wuhan, China, could be as high as 2 thousand. To date 50 cases have been confirmed, with the deaths of 2 elderly patients. Cases have been reported in Japan and Thailand and US immigration officials are screening arrivals from China as the Chinese New Year travel rush approaches. The USA is already dealing with a larger than usual outbreak of winter ‘flu, possibly brought about by the early cold weather across much of the country.

Update: another 139 cases have been reported in China over the weekend of 18-20 Jan., including some in the capital, Beijing. A third patient has died. A case has turned up in South Korea. Temperature checks at airports and stations are said to be pointless as by the time a patient develops a temperature they will already have been spreading the virus.

Treefall: 28 of the largest ‘Monarch’ Sequoia gigantea trees have so far been confirmed dead in the Yosemite National Park as drought and an infestation of bark beetles whose populations are moving northward as the climate heats have overturned the long-held theory that such trees, which grow to a height of 300 feet and can live for 3,000 years, were immune. Altogether, millions of trees have died in the park, probably owing to climate-related factors, although changes in forest management have led to hotter, less survivable fires. (Guardian Green Light)

Slipsliding away: 20 residents of the small seaside community of Skipsea in East Yorkshire have been warned that their homes could fall into the sea within the year. Stronger storms and rising sea level combined last year to erode the coast at a fast-accelerating rate of a meter a month. It’s the fastest eroding coastline in northern Europe.

USA again: meteorologists at Severe-weather.eu – a Copernicus service – are all in a whirl this morning, 18 Jan., over a) a ‘textbook’ series of satellite images showing a huge cyclone forming with hurricane-force winds over the north Atlantic, heading straight for Iceland, being only one of b) FOUR huge cyclones simultaneously visible right across north America from the Pacific coast in the west to the central north Atlantic in the east.

It should be noted possibly that this seemingly unending chain of big storms we have seen emerging from the eastern seaboard for many months runs on up into the high Arctic, bringing warmer air and sea conditions and big waves to break up whatever thin winter ice may be forming. Mean surface temperature in the region is 2.5C above pre-industrial, twice the global average change. Paradoxically, while this leads to more open water, reducing the ability of the ocean to reflect sunlight (there being little sunlight at this time of year) it also allows heat to escape from the surface, reducing the risk of methane eruptions from deeper on the seabed.

Global dimming: the Taal volcano that has been erupting in the Philippines, displacing 125 thousand people, could create some extra global dimming as the initial ash plume at 9.5 miles was high enough to reach the stratosphere, where it would be spread around the globe. Dimming from industrial pollutants reflecting sunlight in the upper atmosphere is believed to be suppressing global heating by about 1 deg. C. A very interesting piece is available at Accuweather: http://www.accuweather.com/en/severe-weather/was-the-taal-eruption-large-enough-to-influence-the-climate/663984

The Pumpkin – Issue 111: Look out behind you!… Going by default… The madness of King Donald… So long, suckers… Reader appeal… Formula won… GW: Skyfall…

QotW:

“The problem with a revolt against imaginary oppression is that you end up with imaginary freedom.” Fintan O’Toole, he of the Irish Times, on Johnson’s fizzled-out campaign to get people to pay half a million pounds to have the Big Ben bongs working for just one night to celebrate leaving the EU on 31 January.

Look out behind you!

Speaker Nancy Pelosi may have jumped the gun in bowing to pressure to release the articles of impeachment to the Senate today, 15 Jan., for trial next week, knowing that “Moscow Mitch” McConnell is not going to allow any witness testimony, as more damning evidence against Trump continues to pour out from the courts.

A tranche of documents released by the New York court trying the case of money laundering and illegal foreign Trump campaign donations allegedly made using a fugitive Ukrainian oligarch’s money by the Russian-born associates of Rudy Giuliani, Lev Parnas and Igor Frumin, shows a series of text messages between Parnas and an unknown associate* who appeared to be tracking the movements of the former US ambassador to Ukraine, Marie Yovanovych, on the day before she got a 1 a.m. call from an unknown person at the State Department warning her to flee the country immediately as her life was in danger.

(Yes, of course the possibility of a set-up has crossed the omniscient mind of The Pumpkin.)

Trump has denied knowing or ever having met Parnas, with whom he has been photographed and videoed on at least nine occasions. But we know that the smear campaign to remove Yovanovych, who was seen as a possible block to attempts to portray Ukraine and not Russia in a dystopian reversal of reality as a rogue state that had interfered with the 2016 election on the side of Hillary Clinton, started with exchanges between Giuliani and Pompeo on the very day of Trump’s inauguration in 2017.

(Trump has not yet successfully explained why Ukraine, which did not anyway have the capacity to do it, would in that case have hacked the Democrats’ servers and not the Republicans’, especially as he was eventually elected and Clinton wasn’t. Don’t expect any of this to make sense.)

And Parnas, out on bail, but clearly nervous given the number of potential witnesses against the president who seem to have been found dead in odd circumstances, has been doing the rounds of the cable news channels making sure as many people as possible are aware that he has shovelfuls of dirt to throw at Trump, whom he accused on Rachel Maddow among others, bluntly, of lying when he says he knew nothing about what he, Parnas, and Giuliani were doing in Ukraine to get rid of the ambassador and smear the Bidens: as a nobody, he argues, he only had leverage over local officials and crime bosses because of his Trump accreditation.

None of this material would have been available during November and December’s congressional hearings into Trump’s attempts to extort political favors from Ukraine last July, which largely focused on the evidence relating to the full content of the 25 July phone call with president Zelezniy, the ‘quid pro quo’, ‘we’d like a favor, though’ stuff, that has remained buried in a Top Secret intelligence server in the basement of the White House while a fluffy version was put out.

How Pelosi expects to get any helpful new evidence or testimony introduced at this late stage we can’t think, unless she and Schiff are  considering a new round of hearings on additional impeachment charges, of which there could be… well, hundreds.

 

*Going by default

Reveling in the limelight, although he is almost certainly jail-bound, Parnas has also introduced the American public to a new character in the Carry On Trumping farce: the previously unknown Republican congressional candidate for somewhere in Connecticut, Robert Hyde.

Some overweight sleazeball he met occasionally, propping up the bar in what he calls the ‘cesspit’, Trump International Hotel in Washington, where apparently any lobbyist or politician on the make who wants to bend the ear of the President can just check in at $500 a night and hang around, hoping for a dinner invitation in one of the private rooms, Parnas says Hyde – who has also been informally photographed alongside Trump, Giuliani, Parnas, Pence, etc. – is the guy on the other end of the texts.

You know, the sequence of texts apparently sent to Parnas from Kyiv, detailing the closely observed movements of Ambassador Yovanovych the day before she was warned to get out of town quick, that were released by Adam Schiff after being extracted from Parnas by the New York court and forwarded to the House Intelligence committee overseeing the impeachment.

Parnas has also described a direct conversation he had with Trump, who swears he’s never even heard of him, in which he told Trump the ambassador had disrespected him, and Trump ordered him in a rage to get rid of her by any means.

Republican stooges echoed by Trump have glibly accused Parnas of lying to get a shorter sentence, ignorant of the fact that going on MSNBC or CNN doesn’t get your sentence reduced, that only happens as a complex negotiation involving lawyers, the FBI and the court.

But then, accusing solid witnesses of lying seems to be the first and only defense these pathetic Trump shills can put up, given the increasing weight of evidence that the president who has verifiably lied in public more than 15 thousand times in three years and been reliably accused by investigators of at least a dozen instances of obstruction of justice, a federal crime and Trump’s default position in all matters, is as guilty as hell.

One-man shitshow

And did Trump gleefully boast about his Iran plans over the holiday with his $200 thousand-a-year members at Mar-a-Lago, as The Daily Beast reported, before he ever consulted the Pentagon, his Defense Secretary or his country’s allies in Iraq?

An egregious breach of security, bordering on the kind of treason he accuses whistleblowers like Chelsea Manning and Edward Snowden of, as none of his golfing and business buddies so far as anyone knows has any formal government position or clearance?

Vanity Fair records that: (Democratic) “…senators wrote that the president’s Florida resort guests may have obtained “confidential market-moving information and had the opportunity to trade defense industry stocks or commodities or make other trades based on this information.”

Should someone perhaps investigate his holdings in washing-machines, too?

“The senators noted that defense stocks rose precipitously between the announcement of the attack and the close of trade on January 3.” Unusual trading patterns were observed beforehand.

Can there really be anybody out there who still doesn’t understand that this administration is a one-man walking shitshow of corruption, sleaze and insider-dealing?

About 50 million, apparently.

Wake up, you credulous boobies. We get that you wanted a change, but this is definitely not it.

 

The madness of King Donald

An oblique reference no doubt to his progressive energy policy, and to the greatest presidency maybe the world will or has ever known, Trump proudly reminded a screaming, gurning rally of his pet dumbfucks in Wisconsin that he had personally “brought back the old lightbulbs” (he has previously complained that the low-wattage kind make him look orange!).

In a major policy announcement, he continued:

“I’m also approving new dishwashers that give you more water, so that you can actually wash and rinse your dishes without having to do it ten times, or five, six, seven, eight, nine, ten….” (enumeration of wasteful rinses accompanied with frenetic jabbing of one tiny index finger).

More waste. It’s a real vote-grabber.

The Great Dishwasher (who will never have contemplated a dish in 73 years) then went on to complain that every time he says something that maybe is only a little bit not true, the press calls him out for lying. He had, he said, been a victim all his life.

So unfair!

So long, suckers

I’ve been bingeing a very funny show on the iPlayer about three 400-year-old vampires in a house-share on low-class Staten Island, What We Do in the Shadows.

The joke is, not all vampires live on blood. A fourth sharer, Colin Robinson is an energy vampire, who thrives on the life he sucks out of a room by being paralysingly boring. In one episode, he meets at work Evie, a name he rapidly realises stands for emotional vampire, who kills people by compulsively sharing all the awful things she pretends have happened to her and her family.

Just like He Who Must be Approved?

 

Reader appeal

An independent bookshop in Petersfield, Hampshire has been inundated with orders from around the world, just a day after posting a despairing tweet lamenting “possibly” the first day in their long history when they sold not one book.

The store specializing in antiquarian and secondhand books and maps has been owned by the Westwood family for 100 years.

(Actually, I feel a bit guilty as another book arrived by mail order from the Amazon this afternoon, of which more anon.)

Family member and shop manager, Robert Sansom’s sad tweet was picked up and retweeted by sci fi author Neil Gaiman to his enormous fanbase, who rallied round. The store took more than £1,000 overnight, compensating for a day when Sansom admits, people might have been put off going out by the hurricane-force winds and the deluge of Storm Brendan. (Reporting: Guardian) No shit, Sherlock.

Neil, mate, hashtag whatever, if you’re reading this, I’ll have been bogling this stuff for eight years next month and haven’t ever had a penny donated from anyone sympathetic to my lack of funding. Nor have I descended into the moshpit of Twitter, Instagram or even Facebook, which probably explains why I’m not inundated with donations. My Followers are mostly either religious maniacs or hippies hoping to sell me more dream-catchers. Yesterday I got a ping from a lady posting cat photos. Not very cute ones, either.

If you’re out there, Gaiman fans, this dead caps Shift key is driving me insane, something has disabled the volume control, my ad blocker won’t block and I can’t afford a new machine. Only £800 and I can keep up the good work for as long as I have breath. Wouldn’t you all like that?

I have, to my surgeon’s credit, managed to start reading books again, although the print looks rather strange, letters all different shapes and sizes, the lines wonky. I managed a short chapter last night of Rachel Maddow’s new one, Blowout, about the corrosive effect of Putin’s Big Oil and Gas strategy on the Trump mob.

i read it with annoyance, I confess, as I’ve only just acquired at vast expense and after some delay, a digital magnifier device for the nearly blind, that puts any printed text up big on your TV screen. It’s very clever, with voice activation and a 32x zoom and 15 selectable background colors – it even plays your favorite music. I was a bit annoyed, to be honest, that my sight seems to be recovering, to the point where I can probably soon live without “5.0 Inch Portable Digital Magnifier” altogether.

For, the one thing it doesn’t do is enable you to read cursively, as the larger you make the print, obviously, duh, the less it can display. Also, you mustn’t try it with shaky hands, or expect to be able to maintain focus on the curving print as it falls into the ‘gutter’ between pages. It lacks a proper stand to hold it firmly at the right height above the page.

So I cast it aside and focussed manually – optically? – on the task, squinting, with adequate results.

Yes, okay, I should have thought of that maybe before parting with my last £150 only a week before I regained enough vision to read 11 pt bookprint – although not quite yet the tiny 8 pt type employed in the accompanying instruction manual, wherein might lie the possibilities of transcending some poorly translated misapprehensions that might one day be correctable when my scathing technological helpmeet and son next visits.

More effort required, Chinese design drones. A website would be helpful, but you don’t put a corporate brand, the maker’s name or any contact details in the booklet or on the box.

None that I can see.

 

Formula won

After several years of waiting for something to happen to a tank of marine sludge, a team of scientists in Japan has succeeded in artificially breeding a primitive cellular lifeform that may show how the original single-celled bacteria and archaea lacking mitochondria might have merged to create the more versatile eukaryotic cells that eventually evolved after another billion years into complex living structures.

They fed their test samples on powdered baby milk.

 

GW: Skyfall

Saudi Barbaria: “A powerful storm tracked from southern Europe and the Mediterranean into the Middle East last week, pulling cold air into the region and resulting in snowfall,” writes Accuweather, reporting that up to 2 inches of snow had blanketed the desert at the weekend. “This same storm system then tracked farther east caused deadly flooding and heavy snow with avalanches from Iran into Pakistan and Afghanistan.”

Canada: Meghan, duchess of Sussex’s chilly exit from the British Royal Family has met with an even frostier reception in Canada, where thanks to a weakening polar vortex temperatures in the midwest have plunged to abnormal lows even for January. CTV News reports: “Residents in some areas of Saskatchewan, Alberta and British Columbia are facing bone-chillingly cold temperatures Tuesday as the thermometer dips well below -30 C with wind chill making it feel closer to -40 to -50 C, prompting extreme cold warnings for many cities.”

Very cold air moving south meeting warmer air – in some places in the USA it’s been 80 deg. F – is likely to cause heavy snow and whiteout conditions in Ohio midweek. (Severe-weather.eu)

Mississippi goddam: Further to the southwest it’s been raining again in record quantities. Floodlist reports: “The Oktibbeha County Lake Dam in eastern Mississippi is in ‘imminent danger’ of failing”, threatening over 100 homes and over 17 thousand acres potentially of farmland. Many rivers are full. Moving up from the Gulf, more storms are forecast midweek. 11 people died in last week’s catastrophic thunderstorms in the south.

Indonesia: The city of Samarinda in East Kilimantan has been flooded for the second time in 6 months, after days of heavy rain. Around 6 thousand people have been displaced. There were flash floods too in South Sulawesi on 12 Jan., where 1 person died; and in North Sulawesi, where 2 people died at the beginning of the month. (From Floodlist)

Oman: 56mm of rain was recorded in the capital, Muscat, 14 to 15 Jan. People were rescued from stranded cars and flooded homes around the city. No deaths were reported, dozens were treated for injuries. Neighboring United Arab Emirates saw heavy rain and flooding from 09 Jan. One person died on 11 Jan, and 3 are reported dead from widespread floods in Iran. (From Floodlist) (You never hear about this background stuff in political and business coverage, do you? GW.)

Peru: 2 more people have drowned in floods as rivers broke their banks in several areas of the country, forcing evacuations, blocking roads and damaging crops. (From Floodlist)

Fiji: a new early-season western Pacific cyclone is developing fast. As yet disorganized, Invest 93P is deeply intensifying near Vanuatu and expected to head off in the direction of Fiji in the coming days. It’s reported the cloud-height is so vast, the top is sitting in the stratosphere at a temperature of minus 90C! Tropical Cyclone Farai caused severe damage to the islands on Boxing Day. (Severe-weather.eu)

World: BBC weather channel reports: “The 10 years to the end of 2019 have been confirmed as the warmest decade on record by three global agencies. According to Nasa, Noaa and the UK Met Office, last year was the second warmest in a record dating back to 1850 (the hottest remains 2016, the last full-on El Niño year). The past five years were the hottest in the 170-year series, with each one more than 1C warmer than pre-industrial. The Met Office says that 2020 is likely to continue this warming trend.”

Tunnel approaching….

Philippines: the huge Taal volcano eruption 100 km from the capital, Manila, has lessened since lava was seen emanating from the crater on Monday, 13 Jan. but the experts are still mindful of a cataclysmic explosion as the area continues to be shaken by earth tremors and huge cracks appear in the ground. Thousands remain in rescue centers, with some 50 thousand people now evacuated from the zone, that has become a dead landscape of gray ash that has also fallen on towns and cities, interrupting normal life, although the wind is now blowing away from main population centers. Many livestock animals have died, while visiting president Duterte has chosen the occasion to lambast the regional authorities for not doing more to stamp out illegal drugs, possibly by killing more users.

Fish ‘flu: the first case of the new pneumonic coronavirus that appeared in China’s Wuhan province two months ago, where a patient among 41 known cases died last week, has been reported in Japan. The patient, who was later discharged, is believed to have visited Wuhan, where the virus has been strongly connected with a local fish market. With the annual mass migration looming of workers on the Chinese New Year holiday raising fears of spreading the contagion, the US and Thailand are among countries that are helpfully warning their tourists to steer clear of crowds and markets where animal products may be on sale – which is pretty much all of them.

 

 

The Pumpkin – Issue 110: A good day to bury bad news… The madness of King Donald… The Game is On… GW: Wind in the billows.

QotW

“In Iran people vote but all candidates have to be approved by the Supreme Leader, so the people always end up with idiots.
In the west – the free world – we have democracies that allow a choice of candidates without the same undemocratic constraints, and the people freely vote in idiots.
At least the Iranian people have an excuse.”

Comment on a Steve Bell cartoon from ‘BabylonianSheDevil03’.

 

Put three words together: Ukraine, Iran, Giuliani – and the conspiracy theories write themselves….

A good day to bury bad news

“Ukraine International Airlines flight PS752 to Kyiv went down just minutes after taking off from Tehran’s airport at 06:12 local time (02:42 GMT). The majority of passengers were from Iran and Canada.” (BBC News, 8 Jan.)

Let’s say for the sake of argument that a 3-years-young Boeing 737, apparently serviceable and not the same model that drives itself into the ground to the jeers of the men who built it, was deliberately brought down over Iran, with the deaths of 176 passengers and crew.

It’s really a very simple idea and not necessarily a vacuous conspiracy theory: it’s unlikely to be mere coincidence when two countries are so prominently involved at such a time of high tension in global politics, with one main element in common: the political ambition of President Donald J Trump.

In addition to an astonishing miscalculation bringing the US into direct conflict and potential war with Iran, Trump has been notoriously involved in skulduggery in Ukraine, attempting extortion of a foreign power that led to his impeachment last month by the House of Representatives and a pending trial in the Senate.

It is absolutely beyond doubt that he did try to force the new president of Ukraine, Zelenskiy, to reopen a failed corruption investigation into his main political rival, Vice-President Biden and his son, by threatening to withold a package of financial and military assistance already voted through by Congress, that had been suspended on his order.

Trump himself admitted it on camera, before later walking back what he’d said; his chief of staff, Mulvaney initially denied it but then admitted it; the ambassador to the EU, Sondland lied to the House but then changed his testimony; some 15 more witnesses to Trump’s phone calls, impeccable career diplomats, intel officers, military liaison and civil servants, all agreed under oath that he did it, and how; a trail of emails between the Pentagon and the Office of Management Budgeting expressed alarm at the illegality of what Trump had done.

As is his wont, in best gangster fashion Trump has subsequently tried to obstruct the course of justice by ordering witnesses to defy legal subpoenas, and by concealing written evidence that has now emerged thanks to FOI requests from an independent ethics watchdog. He has engaged in blatant witness intimidation by ‘outing’ the whistleblower who first drew the attention of the Inspector General of the Intelligence Services to Trump’s illegal actions, despite knowing that death threats had been made by his supporters against the individual concerned.

He then tried to manufacture an alibi by claiming the contents of his ‘perfect’ phone call had included words to the effect that he had specifically asked for NO favors. That was true – but only of a subsequent call he made in September, AFTER the contents of the original call in July asking for a favor, a ‘quid pro quo’, had already been relayed to the Justice Department and buried on a top secret server. Again, it was a clear obstruction of justice.

Worse later emerged, that Trump had first tried to get Zelenskiy’s predecessor, Poroshenko, to create dirt on the Bidens, but had been thwarted when the president unexpectedly lost the election, and so hurriedly had to recalibrate and try again with the new guy; hence the clumsiness of his blackmail attempt.

In a sub-plot, Trump has also been desperately trying to engineer a version of his own election in which Ukraine, not Russia, had hacked the Democrat party’s server – apparently as a favor to Mr Putin – through obtaining false statements from the new president, and from discredited Ukrainian officials. He is persisting with this idiotic campaign, that’s already been widely discredited, because he knows there may be one or two extra votes in it – and Putin would approve.

It’s all Russian matryushka dolls, one plot nested inside another, but all with the same goal: to get himself re-elected, and thus avoid being indicted on charges of misuse of election funds, that are subject to a statute of limitations. He is still an ‘unindicted co-conspirator’ in the case against his lawyer, Michael Cohen, of payments made from election funds to silence inconvenient women.

Then, possibly to divert attention from his impeachment, to please his more militant and gullible dumbfucks; or perhaps to stiffen the resolve of the majority Republicans in the Senate, who have already said that, whatever it says about impartiality in their oaths of office and regardless of the evidence, they will acquit him of the impeachment charges when it comes to trial; or to bury some other bad news, possibly that emerging from inquiries into his corrupt relationships with Deutsche Bank officials to fraudulently obtain $2 billion in loans secured by a Russian state-owned bank, or maybe all three, on 3 January he gave in to pressure to assassinate the Iranians’ Number Two leader, Gen. Qassim Suleimani in a drone strike on Iraqi soil.

His action, carried out seemingly without any prior motive*, military advice or backup strategy other than to utter more dire threats of annihilation should the Iranians violently object, and without informing NATO allies, although it seems he had blabbed to a number of his golfing pals over Christmas at Mar-a-Lago, and probably to his buddy, Sean Hannity, brought the USA to the brink of open war with Iran – the outcome that individuals within the administration had been angling for for three years.

In the ensuing few days Trump, Vice-President Pence and Secretary Pompeo have all been lying their heads off about why the General had to die when he did. He’d been a bad guy, a terrorist responsible for killing ‘thousands’ of Americans. He was in Iraq to plot more dastardly attacks on Americans and this was self-defense. He’d been involved in plotting the 9/11 attack!

Meanwhile, the media were having a field day with the story that the Pentagon had sent several options over to Mar-a-Lago at the request of the president, who was looking for an Iran ‘spectacular’ to kick off election year. Killing Suleimani was the craziest of them and no-one had thought he would be dumb enough to pick it. Be careful what you wish for! (Or stop normalizing this demented old gangster?)

Suleimani was not a good guy, it’s true. The founder and head of the elite al-Quds division of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard, he’d made it his mission to strengthen Iran’s position in the Middle East through co-ordinated actions by proxy Shi’a militia groups, including Hezbollah. He had however needed to remove the threat to Iran’s ambitions posed by the expansion of the mainly Sunni Islamic State, and so found himself on the American side, at least for the time being, and played a significant part in its military defeat. America is seldom grateful to its allies.

It’s strongly rumored that he had flown to Baghdad, where he met up at the airport with Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, the co-ordinator of Iranian-backed militia operations in Iraq, along with their PR advisor, to bring to the table a possible plan for ending the conflict in Yemen. The Saudis were to be represented at the talks. The Pentagon may have been tipped off by Israeli intelligence and determined to nip in the bud, a peace process that would allow Iran to increase its influence in the region.

But a story gaining traction suggests Suleimani was lured to his death in Baghdad by the US pretending to promote the talks. The Iraqi prime minster, it’s reported, issued the invitation following a phone call from Trump.

Retribution came swiftly in the form of a pre-agreed, soft missile attack on a couple of airfields used by US forces, who were given several hours to evacuate. A few buildings were taken out, which at least demonstrated the accuracy of Iranian rocket fire. There were no casualties, although president Rouhani claimed for the benefit of public satisfaction that 80 Americans had died, and president Trump expressed himself satisfied. “All is well!” he declared.

And the next morning, by the most extraordinary coincidence, Ukraine International Airlines flight PS752 to Kyiv went down in flames just minutes after taking off from Tehran’s airport. Eyewitnesses talked of an explosion at 4,000 feet, although the Iranians, struggling to keep any investigations and information under their control, declared that the pilot had tried to turn back to the airport but was somehow overwhelmed by a mechanical failure.

The Americans had suspended their own civilian flights in Iranian airspace the previous day. Did they anticipate something? But who would have carried out an act of sabotage, and why?

There’s a long list of air crashes caused by sabotage, either deliberate as with Lockerbie or, as with Malaysian flight MH17, shot down apparently accidentally by a drunken militiaman showing off with a Russian-made SA-15 BUK missile over Ukraine in July 2014, as a result of being in the wrong place at the wrong time.

It could have been the latter: an accident, involving a trigger-happy operative or some malfunction at an air defense installation. If it was deliberate, again, why? There could have been little time for a pre-planned operation. Does the passenger manifest offer any clues, possibly to the deliberate assassination of someone or some group on the list? Certainly not the 30 children who died; and so far, not the random groups described, of tourists and technicians.

Here’s a little theory. We’ve noticed that the Revolutionary Guard, which functions as a state-within-a-state and controls the judiciary almost as tightly as Trump controls his, has lately displayed a habit of grabbing and locking up people with joint Iranian citizenship as political bargaining chips; a case in point being Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, the Iranian-British mother serving five years on clearly trumped-up spying charges. But there are others.

The majority of the passengers on flight PS752 were Iranian joint nationals, especially more than 60 Canadians en route back to their adopted country. Iran does not recognize joint nationaity. Is some super-patriotic group within Iran determined to punish these ‘traitors’ to the purity and security of the Iranian nation?

It sounds far-fetched, until we learned today that Trump’s latest ‘fixer’, former New York mayor and crimebuster, a man with terrible teeth who has busied himself lately with Ukrainian relations involving corrupt oligarchs, known organized crime figures and discredited former officials, Rudy Giuliani has been working as a lobbyist for just such an organization in Iran…. identified on MSNBC’s Chris Hayes (citing Bloomberg and the Daily Beast) as a fringe dissident group, the MEK.

Described as a Marxist ‘cult’, unlikely bedfellows, this group of extreme nationalists based in exile in Albania has been working against the regime in Tehran and pays large sums of money to US politicians, among them Iran ‘hawk’, former National Security Advisor, John Bolton, as well as Giuliani, to agitate for regime change. Identifying them as ‘my people’, Giuliani claimed they had been angered by Suleimani’s operations against them, claiming he was responsible for killing several of their followers in Iran.

So toxic is the MEK considered to be, says Hayes, that even Secretary Pompeo has ordered State Department officials to avoid contact with them. That was yesterday, by the way. The day 176 people including 30 children died in a disaster involving a Ukrainian airliner leaving Tehran airport bound for Kyiv. The day after the US ordered its airlines to avoid Iranian airspace.

The connection is not made, quite, yet, but something of the sort must surely be suspected. Put three words together: Ukraine, Iran, Giuliani – and the conspiracy theories write themselves.

*Asked in an interview in 2015 about the Quds force, Trump had no idea who they were and assumed the interviewer was talking about the Kurds. That seemed a little odd in view of who had provided the money to finance a Trump hotel development in Azerbaijan in 2012.

Postscriptum: US military satellite data is this morning confirming the accidental ground-to-air SA-15 missile launch theory proposed here, an hour before yesterday’s 5 pm BBC news. Two missiles were detected. The question is, were the systems on automatic in case of a US attack or were human operatives in a hyperactive state of alert? Near an airport? Ukraine? A tragic coincidence, that the Iranians are stupidly denying.

Postscriptum: In a further de-escalation, Iranian authorities have agreed, 11 Jan., that the plane was indeed shot down by a missile battery on high alert, and people will be punished. The interesting word is ‘unintentionally’, since the version put out by their civil aviation authority argues that the plane had lost radio contact with the control tower and was turning back to the airport unexpectedly. In which case it would have been seen as hostile, making the shooting down quite intentional, surely.

The Pumpkin still marvels at the coincidence that it was a Ukrainian aircraft. What are the chances?

 

The madness of King Donald

Trump has told a rally of his dumbfuck supporters that he should have been awarded last year’s Nobel peace prize for saving Ethiopia from a war.

No one knows what he is talking about.

Ethiopia’s young new premier, Abuy Ahmed, was awarded the prize in October for his efforts at restoring peace in the country, releasing political prisoners, introducing liberalizing reforms and generally tidying up the mess his predecessors left. In July he signed a peace treaty with neighboring Eritrea after decades of hostilities – a deal brokered by the United Arab Emirates, for which Trump now says he deserves the credit.

Or, he added ruefully, he should have got it for persuading his friend Kim Jong-un to abandon his nuclear program – which he hasn’t done either.

 

Last year, the US spent $13 million on each of the 40 men held in Guantánamo – totalling over half a billion dollars. The majority have never been charged with a crime.Reprieve petition.

 

The Game is On

Most days, having an interest in US politics I get a briefing in my inbox from The Washington Post. I may have mentioned it before. I can’t afford to subscribe ninety bucks a year to the full content of the paper itself, but the briefing is often enough to set me off on one of these Posts.

Today’s main story concerns the failed state known as Libya, a benighted, oil-rich country that fell apart in the wake of our ill-judged Western intervention in 2011 to destroy the murderous regime of the megalomaniac, Gaddaffi. The WaPo suggests that the apparently irresolvable sectarian warfare going on there now, sucking in proxy militias and mercenary bands and detachments from former colonial powers from all over the globe, could be a model for an apocalyptic 21st century world of endless struggles over resource depletion and increasing warlordism.

The editorial strongly jolted my memory of having years ago attempted to write a story called The Game Without Rules, a dystopian tale about a world in which the rival powers have agreed to set aside an arena, an entire country, where perpetual warfare could be conducted without limit or consequence. A few years later, as the civil war raged I imagined that might be Syria, but now I suppose Libya will do. Iran, Iraq, Yemen, Sudan, Somalia, Lebanon – they will all join together eventually.

But this piece is not about geopolitics, it is another consideration of how extraordinary coincidence can be.

Every morning I check the stats on this, muh WordPress bogl, to see who has been reading what. And this morning there appeared at the bottom of the list, for the first time, an apparently random Post someone had been brunching on overnight, just another one of the approaching 850 Posts we’ve applauded up to now, that I did not recall Posting as it was quite a long time ago and a lot of blather has since passed under the bridge.

It was from 25 May, 2016, a piece called Have We Reached the Tipping Point?, in which I wrote about the experiments of the American ethologist, John B Calhoun, who determined back in the 1960s that overpopulation was the prime cause of social breakdown in his artificial rodent colonies. I referred to a UN report that in 2011 we had crossed the symbolic population number of seven billion, and were now at 7.4 billion. I suggested we might have added one too many ‘rats’ to the labyrinth.

And, to illustrate a rather sombre view of where society was going, from the rise of populist movements to the growing nastiness on our streets and in our media, I wrote in that very Post about having once tried to write a story called The Game Without Rules – a story I could not find a way to finish – that began with the arrival in London of two girls from Liverpool, unknowingly crossing a population tipping-point that sparked violent riots leading to revolution and social disintegration!

themindbogls.wordpress.com/2016/05/25/the-tipping-point/

Excerpt: (remember folks, this was a month before the referendum….)

“The ‘Brexit’ campaign to force Britain out of the European Union is a perfect example. It is in all respects a rightwing coup attempt, mounted by a loose coalition of ultra-conservative politicians who feel their class have been out of power for too long, who have sensed that the unpopular austerity that has followed the financial crisis of 2007/8 has given them an opportunity to focus public fear and suspicion of ‘incomers’ on the old centrist consensus, now seemingly discredited and broken.”

You heard it here first!

A boy guides an outrigger canoe in the lake around Taal volcano

Business as usual. Indonesia’s Mt Ta’al violently erupts, 13 thousand evacuated. Well, 12,999…. Actually, it’s a bit of a metaphor for the rest of us. (Photo: Ted Aljibe/AFP)

GW: Wind in the billows

Australia: first of the tropical season, Cyclone Blake brought some rain relief to the coastal fire zone of Western Australia, 7 Jan., bumping ashore twice near Broome and stranding fire-trapped evacuee motorists on a highway. A second cyclone, Invest 92S is now brewing to the northeast and may hit as a Category 1 storm near Darwin tomorrow, 10 Jan. before moving out to sea and intensifying again, possibly to Cat 3. People have been warned to seek shelter. (Severe-weather.eu )

A cooler week to be followed by more thunderstorms has brought some respite for the firefighters and beleaguered householders in Victoria and New South Wales.

Iceland: 48 hours after the last enormous, high-intensity North Atlantic cyclone underwent rapid depressurization (‘bombogenesis’) over Iceland, another one has formed. Severe-weather.eu reports, pressure is dropping fast and could settle in the 930 mb range, the kind of low you get in the middle of a major hurricane. Tuesday’s storm resulted in heavy rain and waves up to 50 feet high battering the Faroe islands.

Perfect storm: Severe-weather.eu exceeded its excitement quota on 10 Jan., describing a sequence of satellite images of the very powerful cyclone deepening to hurricane strength just to the SW of Iceland (complete with eye – and hashtag) as ‘weather porn’. The central pressure dropped an astonishing 41 mb in just 12 hours.

British Isles: Strong gales of up to 80mph are set to sweep across parts of the UK on Monday. The Met Office has warned coastal routes and communities could be particularly affected by Storm Brendan as large waves batter seafronts. Yellow weather warnings are in place for Northern Ireland, much of the western half of the UK and the north-east of Scotland from 12pm on Monday to midnight. (Guardian) The warnings in Ireland are Orange, with “significant risk of coastal flooding due to a combination of strong winds, high spring tides and storm surge.” (RTE)

Russia: On New Year’s Day, around 60 single-storey houses along the shore of the Sea of Okhosk in eastern Siberia were completely submerged beneath a huge wave that came ashore west of Magadan. Windows were stove in and the water froze rapidly over the properties, leaving many villagers homeless and begging for help on Instagram. No cause has been attributed.

Middle East: Days of heavy rain from 09 January 2020 caused severe flooding in southern Iran and parts of United Arab Emirates. At least 2 people lost their lives and hundreds were displaced. (Floodlist)

Angola: another 4 people have died in floods in the northeast of the country after heavy rain, which is continuing to fall. 2 were killed when a building collapsed. 41 people have died as a result of heavy rain and floods in the country since August 2019. (Floodlist)

Bangladesh: while we were reporting on the abnormal cold wave that spread across northern India over New Year, temperatures falling as ‘low’ as 7C in New Delhi, on 29 December Japan Times reported: “At least 50 people have died in Bangladesh as cold weather continues to sweep across the country. The country’s lowest temperature this year — 4.5 deg. C (40.1° Fahrenheit) — was recorded early Sunday in Tetulia, a border town in the north. Hospitals have been crowded with people suffering from cold-related illnesses such as influenza, dehydration and pneumonia.”

USA: an unusual weather pattern (how many more times will we hear that, I wonder?) has brought an extraordinary range of damaging storm conditions across a huge swathe of the south and up through midwestern states towards the northeast, with temperatures varying wildly from 20 to 60 Fahrenheit within 100 miles. On the northern side, up to 2 ft of snow is forecast across the Canadian border, freezing rainstorms disrupting traffic, rare thundersnow events; while to the south there are warnings of thunderstorms bringing heavy rain with flooding, tornadoes and power outages. (Accuweather) 9 people have died so far, most in traffic accidents.

No surprise, 2019 was the second wettest year in US weather history, after 1973. However, taken as a two-year span, 2018-2020 was the wettest period recorded since 1895. 8 of the ten wettest 12-month spans on record for the U.S. fell within 2018 and 2019. (Wunderground, citing NOAA) While 2019 was only the 34th warmest year in the history of US weather records, possibly owing to the endless rain, average annual temperatures in the 2010s have been 2 deg. F higher than in the decade 1910-20. Alaska posted its hottest year on record with, for the first time, an average above 0C, 32F.

Arctic: researchers have determined that thawing of the permafrozen tundra regions, with concominant release of much CO2 and methane, is historically dependent, not directly on warmer atmospheric conditions, but on the presence or absence of sea ice. This somewhat illogical conclusion hangs on one factor: increased rainfall turning to heavier snow earlier in the autumn, trapping residual warmth underneath.

Tunnel approaching…

Fish ‘flu: The first patient infected with the new coronavirus in China has died. He was a 61-year-old man with existing health conditions. 7 people are still critical, but there have been no new cases for a week. The virus, which causes pneumonia and other severe symptoms, has been identified as a close relative of SARS. Its appearance has been connected with a fish market in Wuhan. (BBC)

Tie cheer: a chink of light appeared at the end last week with the heartwarming story of Sir Darius Brown (his real name), a 13-year-old African-American who has a little business making colorful bow ties for dogs. It started when he learned how hard rescue shelters were finding it to rehome strays and had the idea of making them look cuter. So far his bow ties have helped find homes for 200 dogs. (BBC)

The Pumpkin – issue 109: The steady trickle of body bags… I know what you’re going to say… And deliver us from the 21st century… GW: Baby light my fire…

 

The steady trickle of body bags

I was disturbed, when I’m normally complicit in our mutual liberal-lefty echo-bubble, by last Friday’s edition of the Rachel Maddow hour on MSNBC. Rachel is a cool-headed analyst not normally given to hyperbole, but her rundown of all the terrible things that are going to happen to America as a result of the assassination of Iran’s General Suleimani played straight into the hands of Trump and his gang.

Autocrats – dictators and tyrants of whatever stripe – thrive on popular fear, and Trump set the tone right from his inaugural address three years ago, ramping up fears of immigrant crime and imminent social disintegration in a broken nation, that only he could put a stop to.

Americans are the most fearful people on the planet, as he well knew. Everything terrifies them, from supposedly foreign ideological constructs like the British National Health Service, to their own government.

But for some unfathomable reason, the majority of voters seem to have no fear of real things that are being done to them:

  • being stripped of their already limited opportunities for subsidized healthcare: 27 million Americans had no health insurance in 2019
  • seeing billionaires receive huge tax concessions when their own taxes are in some cases increasing and their modest wages remain stagnant
  • being supplied with polluted water and carcinogenic or climate-changing chemical emissions to benefit private corporations and corrupt public officials
  • watching the president play golf three days a week at a cost of, now, $120 million to the public purse while he and his family benefit to the tune of millions of dollars from clear abuses of his office
  • the deaths of 60 thousand Americans a year from opioid abuse promoted by rapacious pharmaceutical companies; 33 thousand more from gun-related crime and accidents
  • the egregious corruption of executives of institutions like the National Rifle Association and the department for agriculture, with its well-funded refusal to ban teratogenic chemical poisons
  • mass shootings in schools, churches and synagogues, mostly by white supremacists
  • the opening up of protected monument lands and popular hunting grounds to extractive industries in whose pockets their politicians sit stuffing their faces
  • the refusal to acknowledge scientific facts regarding dangerous shifts in weather patterns caused by climate breakdown, for the benefit of political funders in the extractive industries
  • the packing of courts with judges whose only qualification is loyalty to the president and his henchmen, the subversion of the Justice Department and attacks on law enforcement agencies
  • appalling patriarchal laws limiting women’s rights and criminalizing even natural abortion
  • the emergence into daylight of the influence of organized crime hand-in-glove with extreme fundamentalist Christianity going right to the top in national life
  • the rolling back of environmental protections and planning laws; the poisoning of their water supplies
  • the introduction of dangerous instability, bullying, extortion and brinkmanship in international relations
  • the lack of an effective opposition in Congress.

None of these public abuses and more seems to create anything like the terror in Americans as does the absurd implausibility of the suggestion that Iran might somehow invade or fire nuclear missiles which they don’t yet have at the United States in retribution for the extrajudicial killing of one of their leaders.

Certainly, if hijacked airliners were to crash into Trump Tower now, we all know who would be getting the blame, regardless of any and all evidence to the contrary.

Mr Trump’s – and by extension, America’s – rambunctious imperialist bullying only works with such smaller, less lethally armed and invasively inclined nations as are incapable of inflicting any real and lasting damage to the homeland.

Beware, however, the ability of ideologically motivated peasants in flip-flops to conduct asymmetrical warfare for years in their own lands.

The steady trickle of body bags.

 

Speaking of which, have you seen what that drone did to Suleimani’s car? He wasn’t alone – wasn’t driving. There were others in there, including the senior commander of Iraq’s Shi’a militias, a PR man and the driver.

I see the funerals taking place, the coffins – but I’m not convinced anyone knows who, what or how much is really inside them.

And, yes, okay, he was a bad guy. Was the poor bloody driver a bad guy too?

 

A tale of two shitties

Amid speculation on US TV about the decision to whack Suleimani, two stories may be true.

One, that Trump was going around for days telling everyone, including his higher-echelon ($200k a year) private members at Mar-a-Lago, with a conspiratorial smirk, that something really big was about to blow over Iran and they should keep an eye on Fox News.

So much for a rapid response to a threat of imminent attack. But it seems to have allowed his golfing buddies to get their lucrative bets down on the stock market.

The other, that the option of whacking Suleimani was just one on a list of a dozen ideas the Pentagon had sent over at his request. Apparently it was on the list only because they thought it was the last thing he would be dumb enough to do. Pompeo and Pence persuaded him otherwise.

The only press that has come out in full favor of Trump’s action has been Murdoch’s Wall Street Journal.

I wonder why. What could their readers possibly have to gain?

And a third shitty:

“A 2009 study conducted by researchers at Harvard Medical School found 45,000 Americans die every year as a direct result of not having any health insurance coverage. In 2018, 27.8 million Americans went without any health insurance for the entire year.”

The Guardian America story reports workers being fired purely over a medical diagnosis – Walmart imposes a strict limit on the number of days you can take off work – voluntarily giving up treatment and dying because their savings have run out.

Welcome to Trumpland, Brexit idiots.

 

I know what you’re going to say

Ha ha! After three days living with Alexa, I just called: “Alexa, please play…” and as I hesitated for one brief moment, she jumped in: “Here’s a station you might like – vocal jazz.”

It wasn’t exactly what I was going to say, Norah Jones is good if a bit C&W oriented, but a valiant first attempt at mind-reading. Also, it was a song about rain. It’s teeming down outside.

And rain is an anagram of…. Iran!

How spooky is that? 😉

 

And deliver us from the 21st century

I’m just now listening to some of my old vinyl records on my new £99 transcription turntable. You know, with the five-star reviews.

It took only about 40 minutes of working with the inexplicably small and useless diagrams I can barely see through my elderly vision impairments, using a torch, to figure out how to build the flimsy plastic Sony turntable from scratch, using matchsticks, an old cocoa tin and a skinny rubber band.

Surely to God they can sell these things in one readymade piece? Without nasty, crunchy little push-buttons? Maybe with a bit of hydraulic damping of the tone-arm? A spare stylus? And would a little LED light to show it’s operating really have broken the bank?

But I didn’t spot until I had already hanged myself in the garage, the little switch right at the back that frees the output phono plugs to talk to the phono plug inputs on my active speakers. I’d feared for a while there, I might have had to go back online to buy a separate amplifier and wait in another day for Hermes to deliver it.

As you can gather, rather like my old vinyl records I’m a bit scratchy today.

It’s partly because I’m being relentlessly pursued by a cheery email from Amazon, apologizing that they hadn’t been able to deliver my turntable because I was out when the courier called, only don’t bother replying to this email because it won’t be read. So I can’t tell them it’s already here.

The last time this happened,  they sent me another whatever it was in the post the following day. If I end up with two turntables, I thought, I shall take it as a sign to become a DJ, whatever, as I can’t see to drive to the recycling center.

I’d already determined in fact that the turntable hadn’t been delivered, because after I risked taking Hunzi out for 15 minutes to uncross his legs at lunchtime I checked the tracking information just in case, and it told me that the driver had called at 1.30 pm, a time when I know we were in, only apparently we were out and he hadn’t delivered it.

I could check the non-delivery note or go to their website and do ‘x’ or ‘y’ if I wanted more information. I would be allowed two more chances to be in when he called again.

I’d already determined that there was no non-delivery note, and going to the website I was unable to find an address for ‘x’ or a link to ‘y’ anywhere visible. So I gave up, trusting that they might just try again the following day, and began composing one of the worst one-star rancorous Trustpilot reviews that my spleen could manage.

At precisely 2.00 pm there was a knock at the door; whereon opening it, a courier presented me with a Sony-branded box containing a flimsy plastic £99 transcription turntable. ‘Did you try delivering that earlier?’ I enquired. ‘No, mate’, was the reply. ‘It’s only just arrived at the depot.’ He declared himself mystified, accepted my scrawled signature and left.

As I said at the start, I’m listening to a slightly collectible vinyl album recording of Mark Murphy’s Brazil Song on my new, flimsy plastic £99 transcription turntable. You know, the one they haven’t yet delivered. That took 40 minutes to put together and get working from the terrible tiny instructions after I found the tiny switch at the back.

But I now have a new record – as being someone who cannot be relied on to be at home when the courier doesn’t call, who needs to be pursued with more instructions that don’t make sense.

Anyway, it works, and the sound quality is not too bad, surprisingly.

Clever old me.

Except that, a few days after I’d ordered the thing, an Alexa Echo spy-in-your-home unexpectedly arrived, a Christmas present-cum-disability aid from my ex-family. ‘Alexa, play album, Brazil Song’, Mark Murphy….

Anybody want some old vinyl albums? Transcription turntable, almost new? Ready assembled?

(Aren’t vinyl albums annoying? You get only 20 minutes a side before you have to turn them over. No bonus tracks. No time for a snooze.)

 

GW: Baby light my fire

Israel: “At least 4 people have lost their lives after flooding swamped parts of the country following heavy rains on 04 and 05 Jan., 2020. 2 people drowned in an elevator. Dozens of rescues were carried out. 74mm of rain fell on Tel Aviv in 2 hours, around 20% of its annual rainfall.” (Floodlist)

Australia: may be grateful for a change for a tropical cyclone, Cat 1 Cyclone Blake is the first of the season for Western Australia and will bring heavy rain and strong winds to the Kimberley region, having made landfall near Broome, 5 Jan before moving briefly back out to sea and reintensifying to Cat 2. (Severe-weather.eu)

Angola: 1 person died in flash flooding after a continuous 12-hour downpour in Luanda province. Several hundred are homeless. (Floodlist)

Turkey: Floodlist reports, 8 Jan., “Severe weather including strong winds, rain and snow has affected wide areas of Turkey over the last few days.” 2 people died after heavy rain triggered landslides and flooding in the southern province of Mersin, where 165mm of rain reportedly fell in 24 hours.

Israel: “A second severe storm in 4 days brought more heavy rain and flash flooding to parts of northern Israel. 1 person died in floodwaters as he tried to rescue passengers trapped in their car. Emergency services rescued people from flooded homes and trapped vehicles.” (Floodlist)

USA: Accuweather is reporting on the potential for yet more storms coming out of the Gulf into  southern states later in the week. In Texas, Oklahoma and Louisiana, “millions of Americans are under threat for severe thunderstorms, including the potential for tornadoes.”

In South America once again, parts of both Peru and Colombia are under quite severe flood threat as rivers overflow after heavy rain, with many hundreds displaced.

UK: Thanks to the winter of 2010 when your Old Granny froze her skinny ass off in an unheated building undergoing refurbishment, despite a record number of heat records being set last year the Met Office has declared that the decade 2009/19 was only the second warmest in the temperature record, the honours going by a whisker to 1999 to 2009.

Observed over a gap of 100 years, during the period 1910 to 1920 as many cold records were set in the UK as heat records were set last year; the exact reverse was true too, with only one hot year record broken in the 1910s as opposed to 8 in the 2010s. The 10 warmest years – 2019 wasn’t even one of them, apparently – have all occurred since 2002.

Faroe Islands: 7/8 Jan., and it’s a rough old night in the North Sea. A very large, twin-core cyclone with hurricane-style low pressure – 940 mb and deepening – is centered over Iceland, bringing winds gusting over 140 mph and 50-foot waves to the Faroe Islands and the northern isles of Scotland.

Arctic: measured over Iceland in the past few days, the polar vortex high up in the stratosphere has recorded its coldest temperature in five decades of measurements, 600 km/h winds cooling the top at about 25 km altitude to minus 96 Celsius. Not sure what it means, but the clouds over Finland sure look pretty:

View image on Twitter

Photo: Thomas Kast. Story: Severe-weather.eu

Tunnel approaching….

China: “Health authorities in Wuhan first reported 27 cases of an unidentified pneumonia-like illness at the end of December, a figure that jumped to 59 as of Sunday. The patients, seven of whom are in critical condition, have been quarantined. There have been no reported deaths. Symptoms of the mysterious virus include fevers, problems breathing and invasive lesions to both lungs.” (Guardian)

Yellowstone: Newsweek reports, “In its monthly update of activity, the Yellowstone Volcano Observatory (YVO) confirmed there were 48 eruptions last year (2019). That’s 16 more than the previous record set in 2018, when there were 32 eruptions at Steamboat.” Up to then, the average activity at the world’s tallest geyser had been 2 to 3 eruptions a year, although 1964 set the previous record, with 29. At one time, 50 years passed without any activity at all.

Bushfires: An old Comment thread I found from October 2018 under a Guardian story on the great Australian drought has numerous contributions from ordinary citizens expressing profound concerns for a devastating season of wildfires that year. ‘Kickthismobout’, for instance, contributed:

“Between 1900 and 1970 there were 13 Major bush fires, which is 1.85 per decade.

  • 1970 – 1980 – 4 Major bush fires
  • 1980 – 1990 – 3 Major bush fires
  • 1990 – 2000 – 7 Major bush fires
  • 2000 – 2010 – 16 Major bush fires
  • 2010 – 2016 – 25 Major bush fires (15 Major bush fires in total, averaged out over projected decade, could be more).”

So let’s not pretend Canberra was not warned.

The 2019/20 season is about halfway through and already more than 800 fires – many merging together along fronts measured in hundreds of Km, to make calculating the numbers of ‘Major’ fires pretty well impossible – have burned uncontrollably through 6.3m ha – 15.5m acres – across four states, much of it forest rather than scrub. Around 2,400 properties so far, and 28 lives have been lost.

Tens of thousands of internally displaced refugees, mass evacuations, clogged roads and beaches, the military called out – toxic air quality in five cities…. It’s already the worst fire season in the country’s entire white history.

Presciently, ‘Kickthismobout’ asked: “What kind of disaster will it take to wake our bloody leaders up?”

Well, now we know. No kind of disaster at all. After days of inaction and gladhanding, reviled PM, Scott Morrison has eventually pledged Aus $2bn for ‘reconstruction’, and has gone on Facebook (along with the other fake news merchants) to advertize what a great job he’s doing.

Many other ‘bloody leaders’ have continued to deny that climate change even exists, let alone has any responsibility for the seemingly endless, lethal drought and are refusing calls to limit the burning and export of coal.

Whenever devastating wildfires are mentioned, with their huge contribution to the CO2 burden, almost nobody seems to have noticed that 16m Ha, 35 million acres of Siberia’s vast boreal forests also burned through between April and August 2019.

Perhaps it’s because not many people live there.

And it’s an interesting question, isn’t it. Are we causing these wildfires, or are they merely a perennial problem in nature?

Well, some are obviously the result of arson, or of carelessness while camping, or of accidents to man-made power lines and overheating compost heaps. But many more are set off by lightning, a natural phenomenon. And aren’t wildfires contributing to the CO2 burden, and therefore a principal natural cause of a warmer world – not us?

But if droughts in parts of the world are getting longer and deeper and average temperatures are increasing, leading to greater extremes, then there’s a pretty good connection with changing overall climatic conditions that are the predicted result of adding 37 billion tonnes of CO2 annually into an increasingly carbon-rich atmosphere.

And it is an unfortunate fact that the more CO2 is added to the atmosphere the warmer it gets, leading to further increases in the emissions of CO2 and 39 other warming gases.

The added CO2 emissions from wildfires are therefore part of a vicious circle, that begins with us.