“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.
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 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?
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.
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.
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.”
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.