And a Pumpkin – Issue 67 comin’ up slowly, he one walking gumboot: Warren Peace… Trump’s Khashoggi Register

“The US Government’s $523 billion in interest payments to service its debt in 2018 – the highest ever – was more than the entire economic output of Belgium this year.” – Huffington Post.

“The deficit jumped 17 percent (or by $113 billion) to $779 billion at the end of Trump’s first fiscal year, according to final figures released Monday by the Treasury Department.” (TYT) So much for Trump’s economic competence, then. (It’s mainly down to his tax cuts and so will be a lot worse when they’ve had a full year to bed in.)

 

“How can you say my friend Bin is guilty even before I’ve agreed he’s innocent?”

“Lock her up!”

“Nothing Trump ever says or does is ever said or done without some nasty little game plan in mind…”

Warren Peace

The Senator from Massachusetts, Elizabeth Warren is the next most plausible Democratic presidential candidate qualified to become the First Woman. A Harvard Law professor, she has a reputation for steely questioning of political and administrative miscreants in committee, for being on top of her brief, for her obvious passion for justice and her absolute probity.

There is of course always a possibility, based on precedent, that such a butter-wouldn’t-melt person might be a total humbug, only time can tell.

At some time in the distant past, she ticked the box on an application form claiming to be of native Indian descent, as her mom had told her they were. According to Snopes’ fact-checking website, it was just the once. They quote the president of Harvard Law School as saying they don’t hand out well-remunerated professorships on the basis of candidates’ ethnic backgrounds. But political opponents – notably the President – have accused her of dishonestly benefiting from lying about her ethnicity.

Well, she could hardly claim to be black. She has also spoken on behalf of First Nation causes on the basis of her kinship. Neither is a crime.

Warren, seen in 3-D?

Trump, who speaks only for his own cause, spent several years blatantly lying that he had evidence that President Obama was born in Kenya, and therefore disqualified from holding office, evidence he never somehow managed to produce, before turning his poisonous attentions a while ago to accuse Sen. Warren of lying about her origins, derisorily christening her “Pocahontas”.

Clearly Trump has issues with his own origin story: a draft-dodging, undocumented German grandfather who fled to Canada and opened a brothel; a property developing, rack-renting, tax-dodging racist father deeply embedded within the New York mafia.

One time, Trump offered to pay a million dollars to the charity of her choice if Warren could prove her claim to Indian ancestry.

Much to the annoyance of the Cherokee nation, Senator Warren has now taken a DNA test proving that her background is indeed, at several generations removed, nevertheless partly Native American. So not entirely a lie, then. And who hasn’t tickled up their CV once in a while? Trump won’t have, he doesn’t have a CV. Not until Mueller is finished writing it.

Asked in a TV interview if he would now pay up, Trump, only a second-generation American, married to a Slovenian trophy wife of dubious provenance, a man who may well be one of the most dishonest incubuses to walk the earth while claiming unverifiable human origin, vehemently protested that he had never, ever said such a thing.

A thing that he is seen on tape, at a rally in front of several thousand of his pet dumbfucks, loudly boasting about.

Needless to say, no apology has been forthcoming.

Instead, in true Trump style, graceless and shitty as ever, the great liar, phony and cheat has doubled-down on the good Senator, getting his insults in early, repeating his view that she is a liar, a phoney and a cheat, saying he will only pay up if he could redo the test himself. (He doesn’t believe in DNA, any more than he understands why the planet is melting.)

And given that Stormy Daniels has just failed in her bid to get a court to allow her to sue the President for widely pubicized defamation, it appears he can now say whatever he damn well likes about anyone he doesn’t like. Another step down the road to autocratic rule by illiterate tweet.

“You will not beat him with honesty, decency or facts.”

Don’t be fooled. Nothing Trump ever says or does is ever said or done without some devious little gameplan in mind, that he hopes will produce results somewhere down the line. He may be an ignorant, bloviating oaf, but he’s a shrewd and calculating ignorant, bloviating oaf, well practised at dirty infighting.

Unfortunately, by commissioning that test, Warren has played into his hands.

Senator Warren is a woman, and Trump is a bullying misogynist who is going to try his best to make her cry, the way he destroyed Hillary Clinton with that “Crooked Hillary” tag, enlisting his dumbfucks in two-minute “Lock her up!” hate sessions based on no more than poor mad Alex Jones’ conspiracy theories, that she’s a pedophile-enabler, who murdered the US Ambassador to Benghazi and sold America’s vital uranium assets to the Russians.

Trump doesn’t play by anyone’s rules whom you would comfortably know. You will not beat him with honesty, decency or facts. Thuggery is his trade. Whatever he may have learned at Wharton college, which wouldn’t have been much, he learned a lot more from his dad’s mafia lawyer, Roy Cohn.

He knows Warren is probably the Democrats’ best hope of beating him in 2020, so he’s going to try to defeat her now, two years before she has a chance to defeat him. He knows, she’s far too polite and straightlaced to attack him back in the same way, going in hard with a knee to the groin, although God knows, she’d have enough ammunition. Anyone would. Let’s face it, the Orange Pussygrabber’s the one under investigation for treason – she’s not.

And he knows that what she has going for her, that he doesn’t, is people’s respect: she’s direct, honest, well-briefed and cleverer than he is.

But if she runs in the primaries, goes head-to-head in the debates, she knows already, from today, exactly how it’s going to play:

“Pocahontas”. Nyah-nah! Your mom lied… You’re a phony!

He will never let up on that sneering racial insult until she capitulates.

Or until someone puts him in jail.

And frankly, with the courts now packed with lifetime Trump appointees who owe the boss a favor in return, all the way up to the highest court in the land, corrupted beyond saving, your Pumpkin just don’t see that happening.

It’s the classic Mafia playbook takeover of your country: “Dictating for Dummies…”.

I have frequently commented: what collective insanity possessed the authors of your Holy Constitution to give a free pass to a criminal President with a majority in both houses to abuse such powers as to be able so easily to rig the governmental, fiscal and juridical systems of your country; even subverting US foreign policy, in cahoots with an inimical foreign power, in his own electoral and financial interests, supported by a disaffected, gun-toting minority, with absolutely no comebacks?

As soon as this criminal, lying motherfucker is gone from office, which he will be one day, assuming we’re all still alive to wave him good riddance or to follow his gun-carriage down to Arlington with crocodile tears, you might possibly give some very serious thought to that question.

“Yep, he was the president who put the ‘fun’ in ‘funeral’… hashtag sadface!”

x

“Two-faced liars with a shameful human rights record that makes Japan’s insistence on the cultural importance of exterminating whales sound convincing….”

Trump’s Khashoggi Register

Trump’s attempts to get Prince Mohammad bin-Salman off the hook over the murder in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul of regime critic, Jamal Khashoggi get more and more desperate, and more bizarre by the minute.

His sympathetic message is that, like his poor friend Judge Kavanaugh, poor Bin is being judged guilty by everyone in the world before he can be allowed to prove his innocence.

Of course, there’s an economic imperative behind Trump’s apparently uncritical, blind acceptance of assurances, both from King Salman, who has Alzheimer’s, and Crown Prince bin-Salman, who hasn’t, that there is no Khashoggi blood on their hands, or it may have been a rogue hit squad from somewhere else, China probably – or it was all an unfortunate accident that ended with them chopping him up small for free cabin luggage.

Trump’s pathetic dissimulation is designed to protect Saudi investments he profits from, and his famous $110 billion arms deal (not true. Actual contracts total $500 million, the rest is all “letters of intent” – Snopes) Oh, and all those jobs at Boeing and Raytheon.

Has anyone ever thought to ask the people who work in the armaments factories that make the aircraft and the guided bombs that kill children in Yemen and around the world if they care what the awful things they make are doing? People with families and children themselves?

These are skilled engineers, programmers, systems analysts, designers, finishers, metallurgists, explosives experts, project managers. They could be making things all over the developing world that would benefit humanity, maybe tackle the real problems facing the world – not this grotesque shit. Have they so easily convinced themselves their efforts 9 to 5 are making it a safer place?

We are constantly told by politicians, oh, we mustn’t be beastly to the Saudis, or whoever, they’ll take their contracts elsewhere. Think of all those jobs we will lose! Think of the votes!

You are, quite frankly, repulsive.

Where? Where else will they go? Because if there was anywhere better, they would already have gone there. They come to us because we make the best stuff at the best prices, but we still imagine we have to offer them huge bribes they can stuff up their jalabas in return for their patronage.

And if they could sell their oil elsewhere, they would. They’ve got money, let them manufacture their own weapons of death.

Of course they bloody won’t. They don’t have the skills. They don’t have the resources, the materials. They never have. Saudis couldn’t put together an Ikea chair. Eight decades of pumping all that free wealth out of the desert has left them lazy and effete.

Saudi Arabia, not Iran, is the principal exporter of Wahabbist terrorism to the world. Cosseting them is not making the world a safer place. 16 of the 19 9/11 hijackers were Saudis (the planner, al-Awlaki, was an Egyptian). Osama bin-Laden was from a large and wealthy Saudi family that is still in the building business – like Trump, supposedly. Bush invaded the wrong country.

The politicians are lying to us, oh, look, it’s all Iran! The Saudis are not our friends, they are two-faced liars with a shameful human rights record that makes Japan’s insistence on the cultural importance of exterminating whales sound convincing.

The wealthier ones fly to London to drink, gamble, launder money through the overheating property market and visit posh Knightsbridge brothels, and we should tell them that if they don’t try to behave like human beings, they can all go home and fuck themselves: economically, we will have nothing more to do with them.

Oil dependancy, job dependancy, money dependancy…. Those are our WEAKNESSES!

Why are we so weak?

We have nothing culturally in common with them. They still hang witches! There are alternatives to dealing with these unreconstructed desert-dwellers, these duplicitous sheikhs, who despise us and laugh at us because we are so weak; and who want to get revenge for our own duplicity towards the tribes during the First World War.

But look, their strategy is dictated by one thing: they are running out of oil!

Their shares have already taken a big knock as a result of this Khashoggi business. What a shame it’s being taken more seriously in Washington and Whitehall than the deaths by starvation and bombing and disease of millions of Yemeni women and children, thanks to the war crimes being prosecuted there by this bin-Salman character, who is in charge of the civilian terror strategy. But it’s something.

If we had the will to do it, we could bankrupt them in the morning. They know that, they’re not going to do anything.

 

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Tomorrow’s BogPo, early: Get us out of here… “Oh, Gerrard Winstanley…” Spring Fare… And the rot goes on… GW: It’s getting wetter all the time.

Quote of Last Week:

“If the MPS are delaying an investigation into a likely crime because of political interference then ‘scandal’ does not begin to cover it.”

– Jolyon Maugham QC, on learning that, five months since the likely perpetrators were indicted by the Electoral Commission, Scotland Yard has decided not to pursue an investigation into the evidence of fraudulent acts committed by EU Leave campaigners, blaming “political sensitivities”.

 

“All right Phil, where have you been hiding the Camembert?” (Apologies to Stefan Rousseau/AFP/Getty)

 

“If we ‘Remoaners’ have a sense of injustice, it’s because we have been deprived of an essential freedom…”

Get us out of here

One of the country’s top linguists, 27-year-old language teacher Alex Rawlings, fluent in 15 languages, has featured in the press after tweeting out to his personal universe the news that he is emigrating to Spain to get away from the horrors of a post-Brexit Britain.

“This whole country is on the brink of the worst disaster since the second world war, and everyone is just sipping coffee, going about their daily business as if nothing is happening”, he told The Observer. “I don’t want to live an environment where I have to apologise for believing in European unity.” The story explains:

“Rawlings, who is half Greek and retains a Greek passport, will move to Barcelona on 1 November to pursue “creative passion projects”.

At that point I began to cry.

For it seems that anyone with any slender claim to another country’s passport has become a first-class passenger, able to get off and tour the ancient ruins, while those of us who, like me, are so English we miss out on the opportunity to escape, are trapped in steerage on HM Prison Ship Britannia, moored somewhere off the coast of the civilized world in a rotting hulk filled with opportunistic and disputatious madmen – and that’s just the officer class, fighting one another for the last lifejacket.

For us, there is no way out. If we ‘Remoaners’ have a sense of injustice, it’s because we have been deprived of an essential freedom through the intemperate actions of a dimly illuminated mob, persuaded in its sullen and mutinous ignorance to torch the building around us; their retrograde sense of British entitlement heightened by the propaganda of a nasty, neo-Thatcherite cabal seeking to profit from chaos. Formerly secret, their motivations are now openly worn on their flushed and greedy faces.

Power! The power to be sharks in a goldfish bowl.

Among them, the failed applicant for the Tory leadership and useless ex-Environment minister, the formerly obscure housewife Andrea Leadsom, a small-minded woman of the shires for whom the word ‘conservative’ should be written in all-caps, stands out. An extreme Brexophile, she has called for the abolition of all regulation safeguarding the rights, health and safety of the British workforce and consumers; all financial regulation and food subsidies too.

Brexit plotters: sharks in a goldfish bowl (Guardian)

Was that lunacy really what the fish porters of Sunderland were voting for? The sheer, unbridled hurricane-force of naked capitalism, bearing down on them and their children and – if the Environment permits the extension of the race for enough years, which is by no means on the cards – their grandchildren: economic chattels, debt-peons trapped in the maelstrom of the markets, waking poorer every day, subject to the will of giant corporations in a retail culture of delivery “yesterday”?

I ‘ve racked my brains to think of a way out of the horrible future that these rabid, post-truth  politicians with their all-digesting ambition propose for us. Sadly, though my late grandparentage includes one (renounced) Greek-born citizen and one dual British-American of Irish ancestry, neither offers me sufficient relevant DNA to apply for alternative nationality. (And who now would want to become an American?)

In any case, it would be hypocritical: I don’t believe in nations, and I’m mildly revolted by nationalists, as it seems to me they are essentially co-dependants in a corrupted system of bordered parentalism, tribalists unable to think or act for themselves without the protection and permission of a self-defining state and a national creation myth.

I tried seven years ago to get myself out of a Britain I could see one day splintering into factions separating both from Europe and its own senses; but my Committee of Discarnate Entities had other ideas; and it seems they had good intent, because if my house sale – the only one offered – had gone through in 2012, I should now be living on a worth-less pension in the burnt-out ruins of a Portuguese village consumed by wildfire, broiled in 48-degree summer heat and battered by powerful storms; half-blind, half-mad and pissing into a bag.

It might sadly have been preferable to continuing to exist on an impoverished island sinking rapidly in the West, governed by closed-minded native isolationists paradoxically pinning their hopes on faraway countries’ inclinations to owe us a living.

Nor do I speak Portuguese.

 

Contemporary Pillowtalks

“…until I realized that, not 1968, but 1648 is exactly where British politics has returned to in the Year of Our Lord, 2018.”

“Oh, Gerrard Winstanley…”

I’ve not yet succeeded in “getting” Jeremy Corbyn.

He’s always struck me as being a bit of a cantankerous old sod. An obstinate, puritanical stick-in-the-mud, who spent the greater part of his long political career in near-obscurity on the back benches, delighting in his perversity, forever rebelling against his own party whips and demonstrating right-on international solidarity, flirting with some really quite inadvisable representatives of liberation movements not averse to using violence for political ends.

Making me Head Boy for just my last term, my old junior school headmaster, Jeff Cornes, admitted that he was only offering me the position out of respect for my academic record – I had been “top” of the top form for a year by then. “But”, he cautioned, “You should be aware that you have no leadership qualities whatsoever.”

Reader, it’s true. But like Corbyn, I’ve never been a follower either. “I just go where I’m pointed!” I will explain to anyone looking to me for a lead; and then step aside and snipe cruelly from the sidelines as they blunder on.

Since his unexpected election as party leader faute-de-mieux, and Prime-Minister-in-Waiting, a “stalking horse” elected by accident, Corbyn (who is the same age as me, older by five months) seems to me to have displayed a similar lack of interest in actually leading anything; preferring to bask in the extraordinary personality cult that has grown up around him.

When it comes to policy, his party seems hopelessly divided around his lack of direction, especially on Europe, where he is at odds with most of the rest, imagining the EU as a corporatist superstate rather than, as I see it, a bulwark against US hegemony.

The faction of Jeremy fanatics known as Momentum has displayed a Stalinist enthusiasm for purging the party of its less radical elements, careless of the polling figures that still put Labour several points behind what is, by universal acknowledgment, the worst, the feeblest, the most incompetent, most corporate-leaning, the most damaging and most fractious Tory government since at least the Second World War.

Until this morning, when the word “Leveller” popped into my head, and I started reading up on this and other disruptive anarcho-syndicalist factions that emerged from the Roundhead tendency during the interim period between the two acts of the English Civil War; and realized that, not 1968, but 1648 is exactly where British politics has returned to in the Year of Our Lord, 2018.

Take, for instance, the Diggers. No, not a reference to our Australian cousins, such as Rupert Murdoch – known to Private Eye readers as “The Dirty Digger”; although the Digger movement embraced precisely the ragbag of suppressed nativist sentiments exploited by his papers.

If you are looking for a C17th origin for the obnoxiously stubborn and self-destructive Leave campaign, the unbending “Brexiteer” mentality, where would you find a better analogy than in the section of Wikipedia reserved for this communitarian working-class faction, dedicated to the common ownership of national resources?

“An undercurrent of political thought which has run through English society for many generations and resurfaced from time to time (for example, in the Peasants’ Revolt in 1381) was present in some of the political factions of the 17th century, including those who formed the Diggers. It involved the common belief that England had become subjugated by the “Norman Yoke”. This legend offered an explanation that at one time a Golden Era had existed in England before the Norman Conquest in 1066. From the Conquest on, the Diggers argued, the “common people of England” had been robbed of their birthrights and exploited by a foreign ruling-class.”

Ding, dong…. (Leslie Philips, ‘Carry On, Teacher’)

Led by a man called Gerrard Winstanley, the Diggers were a more rural offshoot still of the Levellers, an informal movement led by Col John Lilburne, who were arguing for extending the franchise to all but a few male voters (no women, of course.) Their signature protest at a time of rising food prices was to react against enclosures by planting crops on newly privatized land where there had formerly been common rights; hence the sobriquet. (I thought immediately of the allotment-tending Corbyn when I read: “The Council of State received a letter in April 1649 reporting that several individuals had begun to plant vegetables in common land…”!)

A combination of thuggish intimidation by private landowners, bent judges – themselves extensive landowners – and endless lawsuits finally did for the Diggers. There was a revival in America in the 1960s, with the liberal, egalitarian, non-property-owning society proposed by the San Francisco Diggers; a quasi-political hippie faction who perhaps had more in common with the C17th “Ranters”, a small, sexually liberationist, proto-anarchist movement; again, an offshoot of the liberalizing, pro-democracy Levellers, whose ambition was to restore (as they saw it) a popular sovereignty and a sturdy independence that had been misappropriated by a ruling elite.

These currents of thought seem to me to have resurfaced in a modern populist movement that has coalesced, somewhat incoherently, around ideas of common ownership, self-validation (identity politics), anti-elitism and the idea of England as a prosperous, independent nation free from foreign influence: the Jacob Rees-Mogg thesis leavened with Socialism. (Opposites attract; similarities divide…)

Perhaps it also explains the curious dichotomy we seem to be wrestling with, between excessive permissiveness on the one hand, and excessive prudishness on the other. While the internet grants unlimited access to pornographic imagery, and removals of oppressive laws have offered apparent licence to express our desires freely, nevertheless the popular press goes on tittering, and we have at the same time adopted a Puritanical tendency to punish sexual individualism harshly, to make examples of those (mostly men) who transgress a somewhat fluid code of “appropriate” moral behavior.

There are parallels with an era in which Britain – principally England – was so bitterly divided between those who cropped their hair short and those who grew it long, the dispossessed and the elites, that 600 thousand citizens were slaughtered during eight years of brutal internecine conflict; not over land or treasure, but over abstract ideas of nationhood and sovereignty.

And here we are again.

  • Editor’s note: I have removed an item here for space, that others have Commented on below, in case you were wondering what has happened.

Spring fare

The odds against a No-deal Brexit lengthened considerably today, when Buckingham Palace announced that Meghan, Duchess of Sussex, is expecting a baby “in the Spring”.

Already the poor little sod is being hailed as a new dawn for a triumphant new post-Brexit Britain. Oh, Brave New World! (Assuming they don’t induce her on 29th March….)

Well done, Harry. Hundreds of pages of hysterical press coverage should take the British public’s mind off having to queue at heavily guarded military outposts to receive our weekly food ration and essential medical treatment.

“If he puts a silly caption about a three-legged race on this, I’ll send him to the Bloody Tower…”

x

“In failing to challenge their toxic arguments … BBC News renders itself totally unfit for purpose.”

And the rot goes on

“I think the climate may be changing but it could change back again. It might not be a hoax…. I’ve seen a lot of reports, some bad, some good. I don’t know that it’s man-made. I don’t want to spend trillions and trillions of dollars and lose millions and millions of jobs.”

Thus Trump, expatiating in his usual inventive fashion on the most troubling issue of our age (roughly as heard on BBC R4 Today this morning, extracted from yet another discontinuous and self-pitying ABC 60 Minutes interview.)

Interviewer: “…but what about the scientists who say it’s worse than ever?”

Trump: “You’d have to show me the scientists….”

And you ELECTED this childlike imbecile to be your president?

He is surely unique in believing that whatever he knows least about, is what he knows more about than anyone. As usual, Shakespeare got it first:

“Why, then, ’tis none to you, for there is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so. (Hamlet, Act 2, Sc. 2)

Seriously, there will be people who believe this nonsensical drivel because he IS the president and so he should be the most informed politician on the planet, when I will give you £100 if you can prove he’s read a single word of the IPCC report or seen any evidence to contradict it. (Then I’ll deny I ever offered you the bet, hahaha! Losers!)

Is it responsible journalism to put those lies on the air without anyone sensible being invited to challenge them?

Has no paid individual within the media wondered logically what Trump imagines he would be spending trillions of dollars ON, if not on creating millions of jobs in the alternative energy and environmental clean-up businesses? I don’t suppose they have, I’ve seen nothing to suggest that they have, so why anyone else would in the current climate, I don’t know. They just seem to absorb his guff like sponges. Maybe just me?

And while we’re at it, the CEO of Cuadrilla was on Today this morning to defend the resumption of fracking in Lancashire, and told a tremendous fib, that natural gas produces less CO2 than coal, and nobody challenged him either. The Union of Concerned Scientists writes that, while on some measures gas emits 50 to 60 per cent less CO2 when burned than coal (depending on the relative efficiency of the systems):

“The drilling and extraction of natural gas from wells and its transportation in pipelines results in the leakage of methane, primary component of natural gas that is 34 times stronger than CO2 at trapping heat over a 100-year period and 86 times stronger over 20 years. … Whether natural gas has lower life cycle greenhouse gas emissions than coal and oil depends on the assumed leakage rate, the global warming potential of methane over different time frames, the energy conversion efficiency, and other factors. …

“Some areas where drilling occurs have experienced increases in concentrations of hazardous air pollutants. Exposure to elevated levels … can lead to adverse health outcomes, including respiratory symptoms, cardiovascular disease, and cancer.” (Edited from web page entry)

Nor was he challenged to defend the safety of the process for groundwater, both in terms of toxicity and overextraction of aquifers, while in the Colorado and Kansas fracking zones the number of measurable M3 or greater earthquakes increased with fracking from two to 850 a year. He would not be drawn on what magnitude of quake he thought his operations should be safely limited to causing! (Currently drilling has to stop if an Eq. of more than M0.5 is registered.The government is considering removing limits altogether.)

Green MP, Caroline Lucas, was however allowed to mention that the establishment of large-scale fracking zones in the restricted area that is the UK will make it impossible to meet our current emissions reduction targets, supposedly set by law.

Yet the ostrich argument persists: we know it’s dangerous to go on burning gas, admitted the Cuadrilla man, more or less; contributing to an extinction-level crisis within a decade (he didn’t exactly say that!). But what else are British housewives supposed to cook on?

(Smoking is killing you, but since you have terminal lung cancer you might as well carry on buying our brand of cigarettes….)

And that’s the principle too behind the US Government’s opportunistic admission last month that yes, the planet is warming catastrophically but it’s too late/costly to do anything about it now (after decades of lying that there was no problem) so we just have to go on burning oil and coal and gorging on red meat so dinosaur industries can create badly paid jobs that no-one will live to retire from, and hope someone comes up with a technological fix before we go extinct.

(Incidentally, I recommend Stacey Dooley’s intense report on the devastating environmental impacts of the fashion industry as a necessary corrective to shopping addiction. Available on BBC iPlayer and at all good branches of Primark.)

These people have been driven insane by the profit motive, prepared to bet their children’s lives on some fantastical and far-off, unaffordable “unicorn” technology being discovered in time to save them.

In failing to challenge their toxic aguments and in continuing to present the most anodyne editorial view of this rapidly advancing crisis, BBC News renders itself totally unfit for purpose.

 

Way to go?

I used to have a mild interest in collecting stories of the strangest or most absurd ways in which people die, like the chap in Australia who was killed on the golf course when a high-flying bird of prey dropped a mullet on his head; a mullet being both a kind of fish, and an unfashionable hairstyle.

Few I think can compete with the tragic death of former police officer Elizabeth Isherwood, 60, a care worker, who died after locking herself in a cupboard at her timeshare in North Wales, which she had sold on and was preparing to leave the next day.

Her death was the result of a bizarre series of events.

Apparently, she got up in the night to go to the bathroom, with nothing on, and blundered into the airing cupboard by mistake. The door closed behind her, locking her in, and the handle broke off in her hand.

Unable to call for help in the deserted building, she quick-wittedly wrenched off a piece of pipe and used it to hack a hole through the wall, big enough to wriggle through.

However, she seems to have failed to understand in her confusion that what she thought was the last layer she could not get through was just a picture in a frame, hanging on the other side of the wall.

The pipe she had broken was live, so all the time she was being sprayed with cold water which, acting as a rapid coolant on a body that had overheated with the exertion, caused her temperature to fall rapidly, and hypothermia set in, causing her to lose consciousness.

The poor woman wasn’t found until a week later, as nobody had noticed she was missing.

Verdict: misadventure. (Guardian report, 17 Oct.)

“Help! I don’t normally do this…”

GW: It’s getting wetter all the time

France: At least 13 people have died during heavy storms ahead of remnant hurricane Leslie, that cut off many roads and caused rivers to burst their banks in parts of south-western France, officials have said. The Aude department was particularly badly hit; the Aude river seeing its highest level in 100 years. 7 inches of rain fell on Carcassonne overnight; 2 metres (6ft) of floodwater was recorded in the streets of Conques; at Trèbes, floodwater was as high as seven metres (23ft), local authorities say. (from The Guardian/BBC News, 15 Oct.)

Caribbean: Is another Gulf hurricane brewing? “Invest 94L was on its way to developing a well-formed surface circulation near the northeast coast of Honduras, and the system had a moderately large area of heavy thunderstorms to the southeast of the developing center. These thunderstorms were growing in organization and areal coverage. Its forward speed of 10 – 15 mph should bring the center inland over Belize by Tuesday afternoon, … bringing 2 – 4” of rain with isolated amounts of up to 8″ to Belize and northern portions of Nicaragua, Honduras, and Guatemala. These rains will be capable of causing dangerous flash flooding and mudslides. The next name is Oscar.” (Wunderground)

Shades of Puerto Rico: Farron Cousins, of the “Ring of Fire” videocast is reporting, more than a week after Hurricane Michael devastated the region, the 3rd most powerful hurricane ever recorded on mainland USA, that many survivors in the Florida panhandle have still received no help from FEMA, gutted by budget cuts ordered by the Trump administration. The death toll stands at 18, with over 30 unaccounted for at Mexico Beach.

Mexico: Off the Pacific coast, “…the 20th named storm of its ultra-busy 2018 hurricane season (saw) the development of Tropical Storm Tara on Monday morning. Tara was centered about 95 miles south of Manzanillo, Mexico at 11 am EDT Monday, with top winds of 45 mph, and was bringing heavy rain to the nearby coast.” Again, up to 8″ is possible. Dr Jeff Masters writes:

“The 2018 hurricane season in the East Pacific (east of the date line) has now had 20 named storms, 11 hurricanes, and 9 intense hurricanes. An average season has 15 named storms, 8 hurricanes, and 3 intense hurricanes, so we are well past those benchmarks with several more weeks of hurricane season remaining.”

Uganda: At least 41 people are confirmed dead after a massive landslide and flooding in the district of Bududa, Eastern Region on 11 Oct. Heavy rain caused the River Tsuume to burst its banks, which in turn caused a landslide in Bukalasi. Some of the affected areas are still not accessible and it is possible the death toll could increase. Local media said that 100s more are feared dead.” (from Floodlist)

Portugal: ex-hurricane Leslie finally made landfall as a post-tropical storm, three weeks after appearing in mid-Atlantic. 170 km/h gusts and heavy rain brought down trees and power lines, injuring 37. (CEWN #141)

Europe: the jetstream is maybe going to produce a pattern-flip next week, with an area of intense cold forming over northeastern Europe, where it’s been unusually warm; and a heatwave over northwestern Europe up into the British Isles. More torrential rainstorms with “major flooding” and threat of waterspouts are forecast for southern Spain and Morocco/Tunisia, starting Thursday 18 Oct.

Australia: Red warnings were issued as severe thunderstorms broke over the Brisbane, Queensland region. Two concurrent supercells joined forces, with damaging cyclonic winds, torrential rain and heavy hail. (CEWN #141)

Sumatra: 27 die in flash floods and landslides around Pasaman on the Indonesian island, 11-12 Oct. In the north of the island, 11 children were killed when their school was swept away by floodwaters. (CEWN #141)

Evolution latest

To date, humans have been responsible for the extinction of over 300 mammal species, according to new research at Aarhus University in Denmark, that in combined total took 2.5 billion years to evolve.

It would be 5.7 million years before 300 new species evolve to take their place.

And Yellowstone… yes, the largest geyser in the park, the normally almost inert Steamboat, went off on Sunday for the 23rd time this year. Rocks ejected over hundreds of feet, “the size of bowling balls”. Ground temperature still rising, more shallow earthquakes, many not being reported, continuing erratic ground uplift….

The Blessed Mary Greeley reports, the breaks in the data transmissions from the monitoring equipment also got so bad at the weekend, the USGS (United States Geological Survey) is claiming they were knocked out by lightning. No conspiracy theorist believes that, as it hasn’t happened before, the monitors are scattered over the whole park – and besides, they have capacitors ‘n’ stuff to soak up the lightning, so.

Actually when you consider they recently tried very hard to put earthquake forecaster Dutchsinse (Michael Janitch, of St Louis) off the air, and he reports ‘quakes from other monitoring services which they don’t, there may be something in the theory that they just don’t want anyone to know when it happens.

Endpiece

Staring at the sun

I know people would think me mad if I tried to discuss my current obsession, that there’s something wrong with the sky. Luckily, I have no-one to talk to all week, so it doesn’t matter.

Now, below is a photograph of some clouds, that I pulled the car over and took just this afternoon. Have you ever seen clouds looking like this? The dark ones, I mean? They look like a bucket of eels, or a pod of leaping dolphins, or something more sinister maybe. I have never before seen clouds do this:

 

The Pumpkin – Issue 66: Calumny makes the world go around… Khashing in his chips… Roll up, rolls down… Have your cake and stuff it… GW: Wandering around in circles

 

“Not global warming, not mother nature, it is the prophesy that near the end disasters will increase before the return of Christ and there is more to come and will intensify.”

–  ‘Sinner-Saved-From-Grace’, posting on Weather Underground in response to a lengthy and scholarly disquisition from Dr Jeff Masters on the physics behind the formation of powerful hurricanes.

See, how simple it all is when you put the apple back on the tree?

As we know, the greatest threat to the USA is its pandemic of frogbox-crazy Bible ‘truthers’. The ones who believe Trump has been sent by God to restore Christian morality in America! The ones who own the Republican Congress.

So then I put my hand up her skirt…

 

“…one wonders what Trump would do if Iran offered to pay his $340 million debt to Deutsche Bank?”

Calumny makes the world go around

The US ambassadress to the United Nations, “Dark Lady” Nikki Haley announced her resignation on 09 Oct., the sixty-somethingth senior Trump administration official to quit or be fired in less than two years.

No clear reason has been given, although Trump has lied that she told him several months ago, which is presumably why he doesn’t have a replacement lined up. Some betting is on Ivanka Trump to succeed her – he told reporters, she’d be “dynamite” in the job.

Less destructive than plutonium, I suppose.

The unexpected announcement triggered a storm of media speculation, with the strong theme running through it that she may be preparing a bid for the White House in 2020. Mrs Haley has denied it, saying she fully supports the increasingly confused and disputacious President for a second term. Frankly, the likelihood of the Republicans adopting a candidate to run against Trump in the primaries is preposterous. They’re so mired in his shit, not even the blood of Christ could wash the stink off.

Others have suggested she’s got too many foreign policy differences with the White House, or she’s being investigated over taking freebie flights and grossly understating their value on her emoluments confessionals; or she’s increasingly feeling irrelevant to US policymaking, in which she had more of a say when the largely hands-off Rex Tillerson was Secretary of State. Or she’s pissed off because Pompeo got the State Department and she felt she was better qualified. No-one knows. Maybe she even wrote that NYT op-ed blasting Trump as a vicious and incompetent infant?

The preposterous triumvirate of the bloviating fraudster, Trump; his overbearing Secretary of State, the well-named Mike Pompeo and “Mr Pastry meets Dangermouse”, John Bolton, he of the volcanic Irish temperament and frosty upper lip, is pulling out of more and more international treaty agreements and institutions they perceive as cheekily imposing limits on unbridled American global hegemony. That’s also said to be pissing Nikki off.

“During meetings at the United Nations last week, Trump, Pompeo and Bolton railed against Iran and berated various other member states and U.N. bodies for not bending to American interests.” (writes Open Democracy) “…at a White House briefing, national security adviser Bolton announced that the administration was reviewing all agreements that could subject the United States to future rulings by the (UN International Court of Justice in The Hague).” While today’s (11 Oct) Washington Post raises concerns linking yesterday’s death-defying plunge on the markets with Bolton’s increasingly hawkish rhetoric against… China.

Because if the Chinese economy goes belly-up, as Trump seems to want, that’s it for the rest, making 2008 look like you went a dollar over your overdraft and the manager called you in.

So it’s fine for other countries, including America’s fast retrenching “allies”, to have to put up with bullying, teenage insults, sanctions, barked orders, huge fines penalizing only taxpayers, gross injustices and the high & mighty jurisdiction of commercially motivated, publicity-seeking, common-or-garden US District Court judges over our own institutions and legislatures, to be told who we can trade with and on what terms; but the American Empire will not accept what these three like to smear as “politically motivated interference” with its often underhand and dirty machinations in return.

The constant harping, especially by this degenerate and cavalier President, on the idea that critics of his dangerous caprices are invariably sponsored in the background by the Deep State and other malevolent forces of what are in fact perfectly legitimate opposition parties and media commentators in a polyvalent democracy, is a precise encapsulation of the Trumpian doctrine of autocracy.

Everything that upsets Childe Donald and flouts his wishes or threatens his interests is the fault of his many political and media critics,  wearisomely portrayed time and again out of the “Fascist Dictating For Dummies…” playbook as the forces of evil plotting violent overthrow of the nation state – which is to say, him.

He is perhaps not cunning or ruthless or, indeed, young enough; not sufficiently well informed or focussed on the goal, since he has no clue about the workings of government and displays the intelligence and attention-span of a fruit fly with ADHD, to ever actually become the dictator he obviously so longs to be.

Give him a week, Trump will forget what a great guy Brett Kavanaugh was. The first balanced and rational decision the Supreme Court comes out with, Trump will decide that his inside man is weak and a traitor, tweeting out the old terms of abuse in the sleepless hours.

But can one say the same of the evil Bolton, for instance? Or the “college vampire”, the ambitious, nativist psychopath, Stephen Miller, a dead-eyed Trump policy “advisor” and speechwriter still young enough to destroy the world?

This is a form of transactional global dictatorship that makes it easier to understand, for instance, the motivation behind Putin’s assault on democratic institutions.

It may become necessary for Western nations too, to adopt a similar program of nonviolent resistance to an increasingly authoritarian United States; as Trump’s foreign policy is mostly about demanding Danegeld – a protection racket; a shakedown. If you don’t want to be hit with sanctions and trade tariffs, or threatened with annihilation, you better remember poor bankrupt Jared Kushner, the son-in-law, could do with another $500 million.

A head of steam is already building around relations with Iran, which were on a reasonable footing until Trump announced he was unilaterally abrogating a vital nuclear non-proliferation treaty it had taken the West twenty years to negotiate, because, he said, it was a “terrible deal”; although it is doubtful if he has read it. It hasn’t yet been published in comic strip form.

There is no mystery why he did that: a simple soul, Trump has been easily bamboozled by the hardline prime minister of Israel, Netanyahu, who has been agitating for some time for regime change in Tehran; ever since, in fact, the scruffy little oik in the waiter’s jacket, President Ahmadinejad, aiming to cement his power internally, called for Israel to be pushed into the sea.

Of course he wasn’t serious; it’s not a policy objective. He knew perfectly well, Israel has an even bigger brother armed with more than 70 thousand nuclear warheads. It was standard Islamist rhetoric to please the Ayatollahs.

But Israel has always adopted a robustly paranoid view of its neighbours, and has been anxious to finagle the USA with Levantine cunning into crushing Iran before Iran could obtain its own nuclear arsenal and do a lot of damage commercially to the burgeoning Israeli offshore gas industry with its own vast reserves.

One wonders idly, what Trump would do if Iran offered to pay his $340 million debt to Deutsche Bank?

No-one seriously thinks reimposing economic sanctions leading to the collapse of the Iranian economy will result in anything other than even more hardline clerics taking over, now with the support of the people. But that’s all to the good, providing as it would, greater stimulus to the Americans to start another war in which many civilians can be killed without too much comeback from the libtards.

It wouldn’t be the first time. People forget, if they ever knew about, the sneaky invasion of Iran in 1980 by one Saddam Hussein, egged-on by the Americans, and the two million casualties that resulted before the Ayatollahs pushed him back out in a savage war of attrition. They forget, if they ever knew about, the hundreds of schoolchildren used as human minesweepers, ordered to march fearlessly through the fields to their deaths, singing patriotic songs, clearing the way for the troops to advance.

You’re going to fight that, in 50 degree heat, with your overweight, drug-addled GIs? Remember when you couldn’t even manage to defeat a few peasants in flip-flop sandals? Oh, why was that? Is it because you can’t defeat an ideology with bombs?

With hard-assed, gung-ho armchair warriors like the lunatic Bolton inside the White House, the real military sidelined, and with total ferment in Washington politics, anything could happen in the next half-hour.

And probably will.

x

Khashing in his chips

Here’s one for you conspiracy theorists to get your milk teeth into.

Jamal Khashoggi, the Washington Post contributor who the Turks have got on tape being tortured and murdered and cut up with a chainsaw by a hit-squad consisting of a doctor and 14 military intel goons inside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, likely on the orders of the autocratic Saudi heir with terrifying eyes, Prince Mohammad bin-Salam, was the younger cousin of the late Adnan Khashoggi, a billionaire arms dealer and spectacular bon viveur, who died “peacefully” in London last year, aged 81, of complications from Parkinson’s disease.

It’s not strictly accurate to describe Jamal as “a journalist”. While in exile in the US, on a residential visa, he wrote guest articles in the WaPo mildly critical of bin-Salman, whose much touted liberal reforms have been less than a layer of skin deep compared with his crackdown on businessmen, journalists, social activists and political opponents.

He was also a diplomat and businessman, with extensive contacts among the vast horde of House of Saud princelings who jockey for power in the brutal desert kingdom, where civil rights and the system of jurisprudence have barely improved since the time of Abraham.

It’s more likely he was killed for something more serious; a plot, possibly, some act of corruption, a bad business deal or a tribal feud.

The family seems ill-fated: Adnan’s sister was the mother of Dodi Al-Fayed, the son of the Egyptian businessman and former owner of Harrod’s store for the very rich, in London. Dodi was killed in a car crash in Paris in 1996, along with his soon-to-be-ex-lover, Diana, “Princess of Wales, Countess of Chester, Duchess of Cornwall, Duchess of Rothesay, Countess of Carrick, Baroness of Renfrew, Lady of the Isles, Princess of Scotland...”. You certainly got your money’s worth with our Di. Almost as many interesting theories surround that tragic event as emerged after the Kennedy assassination.

In his prime, Adnan was worth around $40 billion, supposedly, and scraped a living as an agent facilitating the sale of American arms – particularly Lockheed-Martin aircraft – to Saudi Arabia, earning fat commissions. He acted as the go-between for Oliver North in the notorious Iran-Contra affair, when lovely old Ronald Reagan secretly promised to sell arms to Iran if they kept the seige by radical students of the US Embassy in Tehran going long enough to discredit his Democrat opponent, incumbent President Jimmy Carter.

Perhaps his most famous deal was the one known as al-Yamamah, where he was allegedly paid $65 million by the Thatcher government, using her son Mark as the go-between (he has strenuously denied it), not to hand the $20 billion warplanes contract to the French Dassault company, but to favor British Aerospace. The subsequent bribery investigation by the UK Serious Fraud unt was quashed by Tony Blair, who had a thing about not upsetting murderous Arab dictators.

Arms sales to Saudi Arabia are indeed the reason Donald Trump admits he is refusing to say bad things about the pragmatic bin-Salam, who was suddenly promoted over his cousin to become heir to the throne of the demented King Salmaan just a fortnight after Trump visited Riyadh in 2017, at the urging no doubt of “Friend of Israel” Jared Kushner, and continues to prosecute a genocidal war in Yemen with the help of US weapons and special forces.

Trump lies that US sales orders to SA are worth $110 billion, and so cannot be sacrificed for just one man, but that isn’t exactly true. Wikipedia has: ‘On June 5, it was reported that the arms deal consists of ‘a bunch of letters of interest or intent, but not contracts.’ On June 13, 2017, the United States Senate narrowly rejected an effort to block part of the deal and approved the sale of $500 million worth of American weapons.”

So it was half-a-percent true!

Trump’s business connections with Saudi Arabia go way back to the 1990s, when his Taj Mahal casino was going bust and he owed $900 million.

The astonishing story of how the Trumps, father and daughter, bankrupted the casino for a second time in 2009 after Trump’s friend, whom he would later appoint to a cabinet post, Carl Icahn had blown $100 million trying to rescue the business is told on http://uk.businessinsider.com/how-trump-bankrupted-the-taj-mahal-2017-5.

Trump had conned the judge at the first bankruptcy hearing into awarding him the business over Icahn, on a rescue plan that included licensing his valuable name to the casino, and then loaded the company with massive debts in the form of lucrative payments to himself and Ivanka for selling their own-branded products via “third-parties”.

Icahn would subsequently leave the Trump administration in 2018 after an illegal insider trade netted him $23 million. But he had the last laugh: “The Trump Taj Mahal eventually ended up in Icahn’s hands after the 2015 bankruptcy process, and the Trumps lost their 10% stake.”

(This is the Great Businessman the dumbfucks believe in so fervently, they’ve made a film hailing him as the new Messiah who’s going to restore morality to America. You could not make this up!)

In 1987, Adnan Khashoggi too was in a bit of financial bother – believe it or not – and had to sell his superyacht, the Nebila – at 87 meters, the biggest one in the world at that time – to the Sultan of Brunei, then the richest man in the world and a close friend of UK heir to the throne, Prince Charles, who was, of course, notoriously, married to…. Princess Diana. Adnan got nothing for it, the Sultan merely covered his debts.

The Sultan then flipped the yacht to…. one Donald J Trump, for $29 million, and Trump later sold it on to a Saudi business contact, Prince al-Waleed bin Talal, for $19 million.

A better deal was to follow. Rechristening the Nebila the Trump Princess, the Golden Wonder (despite his enormous debts) commissioned an even bigger yacht, at 125 meters to be named Trump Princess 11. Then, once work had started, he cancelled the order, forcing the builder into administration, and bought the yard cheaply. Which two months later he sold at a profit.

Never do business with Donald Trump, is my advice.

http://uk.businessinsider.com/history-of-donald-trumps-yachts-2016-11?r=US&IR=T

So when Trump told an impromptu press gathering in the Oval Office yesterday that he didn’t know about Khashoggi, he wasn’t being exactly honest. Why, he was practically a shipmate of the seafaring family. Ship ahoy!

An obituary in the New York Times (I’ve linked the Sydney Morning Herald‘s version) paints Adnan Khashoggi as just the kind of guy Trump would love to have been, if he had ever made any real money: brash, vulgar, insecure (a good Muslim, born in Mecca, he organized a continuous stream of prostitutes for himself and his guests) and astonishingly expensive. http://www.smh.com.au/national/adnan-khashoggi-saudi-arms-dealer-sold-superyacht-to-trump-20170607-gwm6pm.html

And if you think James Bond is fantasy, Adnan even employed as a bodyguard, a Korean martial arts master called Mr Kill.

So, reeling from all that – and there’s more, so much more – you might by now be thinking, perhaps Jamal Khashoggi wasn’t murdered just for writing a couple of brusque op-eds.

It seems unlikely.

 

Postscriptum: Oh God, I just stupidly wondered if the Blair business led anywhere in this stopry, and Googled “Khashoggi; Murdoch”…. Don’t, whatever you do, go there, or two large men in sunglasses with a fondness for cocaine and George Herbert Walker Bush, 41st President of the United States, will turn up on your doorstep, I warn you!

 

Roll up, rolls down

By my calculation, from US cable TV reports, Republican states have successfully “voter suppressed” – disenfranchised – well over a million black and Latino voters, basically on technicalities, with three weeks to go until the midterm elections. They haven’t necessarily told them, so thousands will turn up at the polls only to discover they’re not eligible to vote.

Individual cases show the extent of Republican gerrymandering.

In Georgia, AP reports, sitting Republican candidate, State Secretary Brian Kemp has refused to relinquish control of the voter registration office, as required by law, that is holding up 53 thousand applications for new registrations, over 70% of them from black applicants. They’re now time-expired.

While in Waller County, Texas, the field director for the Democrats, Jacob Aaronowitz, was arrested and his phone confiscated after police quizzed him on his party affiliation when he turned up at the courthouse to deliver a letter requesting that judges uphold the voting rights of black students at a local university, following a long history of intimidation by the Republican administration.

The reason being, it’s thought probable that ethnic minority, immigrant and younger voters tend to vote Democrat.

Often, it seems like Orson Wells’ Southern racialism suspense fim, ‘A Touch of Evil’, has come to life

Georgia on my mind

Further mindboggling evidence of election-rigging in Georgia has emerged from a number of articles about the curious behavior of State officials led by the Secretary of State, Brian Kemp.

Before the 2016 election, State police raided a number of properties in Brooks County, where a high proportion of black people live, and charged 11 with the crime of carrying absentee ballots to the mailbox, on behalf of disabled relatives. Together, they faced a possible 1,100 years in jail. By a strange coincidence, they were all active campaigners for the Democrats. None of the cases resulted in a conviction, after the Attorney General admitted, there was no such crime.

As if blatant intimidation of whole Democrat districts by the State police were not enough, Kemp appears to have been the holdout state governor in the whole of the US, who refused to accept multiple warnings from the FBI and independent cyber security agencies, that his state’s voting machines were wide open to Russian interference and needed beefing-up. 100 per cent of Georgia’s voter data was accessible on-line, including Social Security numbers, and was being hacked at that moment.

Kemp hit back with the now-familiar line that it was all a Democrat scare story; there were no Russians.

Following the election, investigators established that a known GRU agent, Washington diplomat Dmitri Kovalev had visited a small number of states to gain information about their voting machine, Georgia among them. Huge anomalies were found: in one county, two and a half times the number of votes were cast than there were registered voters. When the FBI requested access to investigate the database, they found it had been wiped clean.

Georgia declared for Trump by a 5-point majority that was totally unexpected in the light of polling. Kemp is running again in the midterms. He is being taken to court (again) for suppressing tens of thousands of legitimate voters, but it looks like there won’t be a verdict before the elections. (Reporting: Rachel Maddow, MSNBC)

The Republicans are blatantly stealing the election, while Trump makes valiant attempts to delegitimize any opposition to his increasingly bizarre and autocratic rule, describing ordinary Democrats – practically half the electorate – as dangerous Socialists, an “angry mob” planning to overthrow the government and take away people’s guns. (It’s called an election, Donald!)

Let’s hope those “3 to 5 million illegals” of his turn out again and vote.

 

Have your cake and stuff it

Living in a small provincial town, I can’t say I’d ever taken note of the existence of a chain of rather scrumptious-looking cake shops-cum-cafes called, winsomely, Patisserie Valerie, before now. We certainly haven’t got one here, which seems a shame as the overpriced, pre-sliced, dried-out cakes and muffins you get in coffee shops are pretty dreary and unimaginative. Carrot cake, anyone? Salted caramel flavor?

Sadly for Britain’s cake fiends, the chain of 206 cafes – some with different names – appears to have gone bust after a period in which its finance director was allegedly fudging the figures to keep investors happy, following their listing on the AIM market for small companies, so that no-one noticed, for instance, that they owed the tax people a million quid.

The bullet-point timeline on the BBC website tells an all-too familiar story:

  • The first Patisserie Valerie café was opened on Frith Street in London’s Soho district in 1926.
  • In 1987 the Scalzo family bought the Old Compton Street store and ran the business.
  • In 2006, Luke Johnson’s Risk Capital Partners bought a majority stake when it had eight stores.
  • And in 2018, it’s in receivership.

(This article has been truncated following the announcement of the arrest of Finance Director Chris Marsh following the discovery of a £20 million “hole” in the accounts. It was to have gone on to observe that all too often, business owners fall into the trap – perhaps they have no other option, or are steered by accountants – of selling-out to investment trusts that have little interest in, or knowledge of how to run, their businesses, and no loyalty to the remaining stakeholders, but are only interested in extracting value. In this case I may be being unfair.)

 

The biter bit

Owing to a slump in ratings for his grotesque and repetitive, rambling and abusive speeches, and the reactions of his followers justifying the term ‘base’, Fox News has announced a decision not to air all of Trump’s weekly Nuremberg rallies in full; and some not at all.

Trump is reportedly so furious, he has called for an inquiry.

x

GW: Wandering around in circles

Call me stupid, but I’m totally baffled by the completely different pictures being created by different weather services.

Take Hurricane Leslie. This weird beast has been wandering around in the mid-Atlantic for three weeks, set fair for a record fourth week, and no-one seemed to know where it was headed. A few days ago it looked to be tracking northeastward away from the Canary Islands towards the Azores, thence to Portugal and onward possibly to the British Isles.

A huge cyclonic storm then appeared off the coast of Ireland, with a central pressure of just 952 mb, that was expected by an official website called Severe-weather.eu to drop 30 mb in an act of ‘bombogenesis’ that would bring 35-foot waves and 110 mph winds with much rain to the Emerald Isle and on into northern Britain by Friday night.

Was this Leslie, or was it not? Because as a post-Tropical Storm in the region of the British Isles, it had been christened Callum.  At one time, Severe-weather.eu was calling it both Callum and Leslie.

However, the Wunderground website, part of the US Weather Channel company, has a map showing that Leslie was on 10 October still in the region of the Canary Islands, still as a Cat 1 hurricane, weakening gradually to a Tropical Storm and turning south by Friday, back into the lonely Atlantic, and not expected to make landfall anywhere.

Both the Irish Met Office and BBC Weather service seem to have a more leisurely view of the ‘weather bomb’ that is frighteningly visible on satellite imagery off the coast of Ireland, portraying it as just a normal Atlantic front, with a forecast of ‘stormy weather’, rain and wind gusts of 65 mph in the north. (This has altered slightly with the issue of an Amber flood and wind warning for Wales, Friday.)

Meanwhile there’s a heatwave in the Arctic, torrential rainfall persisting in the eastern Mediterranean, a new Tropical Storm coming out of the Cape Verde islands, the strongest hurricane, Michael, ever recorded in the Florida panhandle, bookmatched Tropical Cyclones in the Arabian Sea and the Indian Ocean (one headed to Oman, the other to the Ganges delta) and Hurricane Garcia in the east Pacific, expected to head inland over Baja California in the wake of last week’s Hurricane Rosa.

Oh, and: “Heatwaves and bushfires are predicted in southern Australia thanks to a 70% chance of El Niño weather conditions, the Bureau of Meteorology has warned. Although cyclones may ease up in the north by the end of the year, the outlook for drought-hit areas is not good, according to the bureau. New South Wales is declared 100 per cent droughted.” – Guardian

But don’t worry, chaps, it’s all quite normal.

Carry on burning.

Weather Report

India and Bangladesh: being ignored by Western media in the excitement over Hurricane Michael, are two intense storms – one in the Arabian Sea, Typhoon Luban – the other, Tropical Cylone Titli, just south of the Ganges Delta, an especially sensitive low-lying area with a very large population lacking any resilience to tidal surges. Both are packing sustained winds over 85 mph. There’s no word as yet on the key developments to watch for, the storm surges. (Wunderground)

“Rain from the storm started to reach the eastern coasts of India on Wednesday, and will become increasingly heavy ahead of landfall on Thursday. Conditions in general will worsen through Thursday as the potent tropical cyclone unleashes torrential rainfall and increasing winds on far northeast Andhra Pradesh and Odisha. The strongest winds will likely be confined to the coasts of northeastern Andhra Pradesh and southern Odisha. Ahead of landfall, Titli is expected to strengthen to a very severe tropical cyclone, bringing sustained winds of at least 120 km/h (75 mph). This is equivalent to a Category 2 hurricane.” (1, actually. Ed.)

Already however Times of India reports 300,000 residents of Odisha state are being evacuated as windspeeds have increased to 125 km/h with gusts over 165 km/h. Given the population living in poor quality housing along the shoreline, this could be a much more serious event even than Michael.

Update: CEWN #140 has 8 dead from Titli, remarkable, given its severity. Luban’s track has veered leftwards and the bulk of the storm is expected over Yemen, Friday.

Sri Lanka: Rain stopped play for a day in the cricket Test Match against the England tourists, frightfully inconvenient. What the BBC didn’t report: “At least 9 people have died and around 5,000 displaced after a period of heavy rain and storms which have caused flooding, landslides and wind damage. Around 1,700 homes and buildings have been severely damaged, with around 35 totally destroyed.” (Floodlist)

Oman: Luban’s track is still a little uncertain, it may affect Yemen, but more likely Oman, with 5 to 8 inches of rain: “By Friday evening, Dhofar and Al Wusta governorates are expected to be affected by heavy rain, and high winds, with sea waves reaching maximum heights of 6 to 8 metres.”

Italy: Major flash-flooding reported from Sardinia as weather system bearing intense rainfall moves westwards through the Med. (Floodlist) The Local reports, the island had an entire year’s worth of rainfall in 4 hours. 1 dead.

UK: Heavy rain from Storm Callum has caused floods across much of the southwest of England and south Wales, and is now moving up into Cmbria. The west of Ireland took a battering as the storm moved more slowly than expected up the coast.

 

Weather talk

I was just on an old Post and came across a reference to Japan, and Typhoon Talim, a Cat 4 that struck with devastating effect a little over a year ago. Many people had to be evacuated. Looking back over this year and the powerful typhoons that have battered Japan, with millions displaced, it occurred to me to write to Mr Abe to suggest that the entire population might be permanently rehoused in evacuation centres, above the tideline, to save the trouble of having to move them in and out.

Seriously, these natural disasters keep happening in Japan. It must be having an effect on the economy, but no-one ever mentions it. Just as no-one ever wonders if several years of drought interrupted by typhoons and floods aren’t in any way responsible for Mr Kim’s overtures to his southern Korean neighbour. We hear little these days of the activities of al-Shabaab Islamic militias in Northern Nigeria. Could that be because vast tracts have been underwater for months, making movement difficult?

An alley between the Gulf coastal states – Texas, Louisiana, Alabama – through the midwest up to the Great Lakes, eastward to the Atlantic coast and up into Maine has been successively battered by severe storms all year, at the rate of about two a month; extreme hail and tornadoes punctuated by extreme heat fluctuating across the continent. Record winter snowfall gave way after months to record flooding, some “1-in-1000-years” floods occurring for the second time in two years. Are we to assume this and hurricanes like Maria and Michael have had no effect at all on the US economy?

For a nation whose number one topic of conversation famously used to be the weather, here in Britain we’ve become remarkably reticent about it lately. No-one looks up anymore, only down at their cellphones; where we are told nothing that might frighten us.

The IPCCress File

For the independent scientists’ reaction to the big report on climate change, go to: Arctic-news.blogspot.com. It won’t come as any surprise to BogPo readers that it includes a cogent 12-point demolition of the IPCC’s heavily downplayed conclusions. Most seriously, they accuse the committee of ignoring NASA’s data: “Records show that, in February 2016, it was on average 1.67ºC warmer than in 1900, while the higher latitudes North had anomalies up to 10.8ºC.”

 

Yellowstone News: Water and ground temperatures still rising, trees dying, earthquakes going unrecorded by USGS, the Steamboat geyser went off last Monday for the 22nd time this year (normally 1 or 2 in a whole year) equalling the previous record full year ever. Although the good news is the eruptions are getting less frequent, now every 6 days.

My chair… Widodo no Joko… GW: Rainin’ in muh heart… The Trump Prophesy.

Quote of the Week

If by passing one law we could have prevented the Holocaust, don’t you think we might have done it? Instead of having to pass laws now against those who deny it ever happened? So, why is it that we don’t have a law against climate-change deniers before the entire race is consigned to oblivion, instead of waiting to punish the wind?

– “Granny Weatherwax” (see far below for latest extreme weather updates)

 

Editor’s note: Can I just quickly explain to new readers that while we aim for a Thursday date for the BogPo and a weekend issue of the occasional Pumpkin, focussing more on US politics, we often publish early but, this being a dynamic medium in an ever-changing newsscape, the Posts go on being developed and re-edited for several days, often with images added, before and after their normal publication date. Mistakes may be corrected weeks hence… Some patience is required to deal with this stuff!

Muchas gracias, amigos. Carry on! (Keep calm…)

 

My chair

So, I have a condition that makes sitting painful, and for comfort and because the designer chair I work from has a bowed, concave base that is meant to enfold you but in practise just compresses your buttocks, I have arranged the following arrangement; namely, a sort of sandwich affair consisting of:

  • The chair base, being unashamedly faux-leather on bent ply, thinly padded with foam rubber;
  • A cushion with polyester fiber filling, to fill the hollow in the bent ply;
  • A kitchen chopping-board made from 5mm solid polyethylene, on top.

So my modern German chair, cleverly made from just two interlocking sections, shells of bent ply, more comfortable to look at than to sit in, is now both firm and yielding, and the board also makes a flatter surface whose position can be instantly adjusted to allow me to hang the painful posterior part over the back, relieving the pressure of my substantial bodyweight.  (No, it’s not hemorrhoids, or however you spell it.)

Now.

I’m one of those people who is incredibly observant, but hasn’t generally a clue what they’re looking at. I’ve been reading a book about Trump, screwing over Small Government in America; unheralded rural departments in which dedicated, real-life individuals have hit on brilliant solutions to problems, always in Eureka! moments, which might be very American but it doesn’t seem statistically likely they all did.

You know how people are, someone comes to interview them, wanting a story.

Eureka! moments, anyway, are prompted by making instant connections between observations and materials to produce something new and inventive. You see how round that straight, fallen tree trunk looks, and bingo! (sorry, Eureka!), you’ve discovered the roller.

Then someone shows you how they made a saw out of sharp pieces of flint arranged in a row, like teeth, and Shazam!, it can cut the end off your roller, and Presto!, you’ve got the wheel. A stick between two wheels becomes an axle, a platform across two axles becomes a Ford Mondeo, and so on.

So I’m looking at this makeshift arrangement of hard and yielding surfaces I’m about to sit down on, I’ve just come back from the bathroom, made a pot of coffee, thought about doing last night’s washing-up, and I put my hand down to adjust the position of the kitchen chopping board, and…

It’s hot!

It’s been about twelve minutes since I last sat on it, yet it has lost none of my body heat; indeed, it is warmer than me. The cushion beneath, too, is still warm. The room heating is not on. The cat is not curled up on it. The ad hoc solution has absorbed more kinetic energy than my body temperature has imparted to it, and is giving it up only slowly in the form of waste heat.

And I think, my God! Have I stumbled across some secret principle of materials physics that will allow me to make my fortune, even if I can’t sit down comfortably? Have I stumbled across a developable invention they could use in space, in hospital, on public transport, for people suffering with cold bottoms, something marketable like that?

And the answer comes back from my inner Tourette: I don’t bleedin’ know, do I, mate? I know fuck-all about anything. About taking ideas to market, I know even less.

Anyway, if you have to sit on a chair with a soft cushion and a breadboard to stop your catheter cutting into your prostate, it’s probably too late.

 

Widodo No Joko

I’ve just rather grudgingly and with considerable harrumph, fired off a token tenner to PayPal in response to the Indonesia tsunami appeal.

Given that the appeal by the joint charities emergency committee spoke of fifty quid feeding a family for a month (in my “family” of me, Hunzi the dog and Katz the cat it lasts about two days, such is the price of our “cheap” food), I guess my generous donation isn’t going to go far.

I’ve seen the photos, the coverage, from which it was rather obvious to me, an old bloke in a chair untroubled by geophysical forces, from the beginning that this was going to be more than just yer average M7.5 (probably nearer 8) quake, of which we’ve had more than our usual share globally this year, thanks to the Grand Solar Minimum, or something – I haven’t quite grasped the science yet.

But it’s not the lateness of the appeal coming on top of the slowness of the relief effort that has grumped my ire.

Indonesia is a wealthy nation, that can easily afford to fix this disaster without my help. The ever-helpful Wikifolk write:

“The country has abundant natural resources like oil and natural gas, tin, copper and gold. Agriculture mainly produces rice, palm oil (Boo! Ed.), tea, coffee, cacao, medicinal plants, spices and rubber. Indonesia’s major trading partners are China, the United States, Japan, Singapore and India. … Indonesia’s economy is the world’s 16th largest by nominal GDP and the 7th largest by GDP at PPP” (Purchasing Power Parity – see British food prices for pensioners, above).

Maybe their trading partners include the EU? My other pair of shoes claim they were made in Indonesia. And of course, after Brexit, the sky’s the limit. But they seem pretty well set up, and could certainly do better at rescuing their own people, were it not for certain historical anomalies.

Occupied mainly by the Dutch and then the Japanese, Indonesia has an unfortunate post-colonial, postwar history of pervasive corruption, sectarian conflict, brutal suppression of secessionist movements, religious intolerance and environmental mismanagement (including the shoe industry) on a horrific scale.

If they were not so busy building six-star Trump-branded leisure centers with two golf courses, that only the military and business elites can benefit from, and maintaining a large army whose sole function appears to be engaging in the genocide of their own minorities, they might possibly afford to employ their own disaster relief agency, given the frequency and scale of the disasters that inevitably result from their location along the geologically unstable so-called “Ring of Fire” – a legacy of the origin story of the Pacific ocean, scooped out in a cosmic collision.

Admittedly it can’t be easy, governing a republic consisting of so many thousands of islands and many mini-nation states.

But it’s so easy for the so-called emerging nations to blame their current mismanagement on past colonial tropes. “Oh, the fact that I’ve stuffed so much cash creamed from logging concessions into my Swiss bank account and had to spend so much on beautiful weapons to defend me against my own people (and those brutes next door!) is all the fault of the (tick which rapacious European nation) who ravished us until I liberated y’all thirty-five years ago and therefore deserve to be made disgustingly rich forever”, is not really good enough.

That this shemozzle is largely the furtive creation of the American Empire and its corporate clients doesn’t help improve or excuse their image, in my estimation.

My £10 is not really going to feed and clothe and rehouse anyone. I know that, but I know that sending it will boost my dharma a notch. It’s propping up a regime which, admittedly better than the horrors of the Suharto years, “Mr Ten Percent” as he was known, is nevertheless still privately benefiting from illegal logging, the burning of forest for palm oil plantations (remember two years ago, the pall of choking smog that hung for weeks over millions of square miles of the SW Pacific?), the extinction of our cousins, the engaging Orang-utan, and the illegal wildlife trade.

So here’s ten quid from a British pensioner, Mr Joko. I hope it helps.

And thanks for the shoes.

Postscriptum: 08 Oct, Widodo has ordered all non-Indonesian NGOs to pull their people out, saying he can take care of it. Hundreds of bodies are said to remain buried in the mud and rubble.x

x

Michael upgraded to a Cat 4, 150 miles off the Florida coast, 10 Oct. (NOAA)

GW: Rainin’ in muh heart

USA: With 175 mph central winds, Category 4 Hurricane Michael intensified unusually rapidly over 30-degree waters and, moving rapidly, crossed the coast between Pensacola and Apalachicola today, Wednesday 11 Oct, as the strongest hurricane ever recorded in the Florida panhandle/Big Bend area, carrying up to 12-in rain and pushing a 4-metre storm surge ashore. It was the third strongest hurricane ever to make landfall in the USA. 20 million people are in its path. Evacuation warnings issued to 370 thousand, many are ignoring them. (basically Wunderground/BBC News)

And don’t look now, but as Michael heads northeastward still as a Cat 2 over Georgia and the Carolinas, bringing down trees and causing extensive flooding, after weakening to a TS it will become a “powerful post-tropical storm” again out over the Atlantic, on a trajectory that, with the Coreolis effect, could bring it to northern Europe in about a week.

Update: Thursday’s dawn reveals the seaside town of Mexico Beach, pop. 1,200, at the epicenre of the storm, gone. Razed to the ground, and not even rubble left, all washed away. That’s what a 155 mph Cat 4 can do to your community. News is awaited of the 200 souls who declined to evacuate. 11 are known to have died, including 4 in Virginia, but the death toll is expected to rise substantially, according to FEMA, as rescuers reach outlying communities. (New York Times)

It never rains in Arizona, so watch as idiots in Phoenix try to drive in three feet of water and have to be rescued. Tropical Storm, formerly Hurricane Rosa carved her way across Baja California northeastwards, to be replaced shortly by on-off Hurricane Garcia, on the same NW track.

In a neat reversal, a sloppy jetstream has brought freezing conditions to the northwestern US, while it’s unseasonally warm in the east. In Canada, Calgary shivered in a heavy snowstorm said to be “unprecedented” for early October. Nearly half a meter fell, four times the average for the whole of October. Concerns later turned to possible flooding as it all melted again.

Pacific: Cat 5 Typhoon Kong-Rey weakened over cooler waters before slamming into S Korea, killing 2. The remnant storm was heading for Japan. Cat 5 Typhoon Walaka was done to death by wind shear a few hundred miles from Hawaii, without making landfall. (Wunderground)

Mexico: Vila de Alvarez in Colime province experienced torrential rain and flash-flooding. In the rest of central America at least 12 people have died in floods and landslides brought on as Topical Storm Michael gears up for its assault on the US mainland, while on the western side, former Hurricane Garcia has been making its presence known.

Europe: Southern Italy and Sicily saw some very bad weather with flash flooding last week, thanks to another Medicane that formed over the Tyrrhenian Sea, moving eastwards. The continent is experiencing something of a late heatwave. The BBC has actually reported a flooding event: a devastating flash flood killed 5 people (10 missing) on the island of Majorca, Spain, Tuesday – among them a British couple drowned in a taxi. 7 inches of rain fell in 2 hours, according to one report, cutting off the town of Sant Llorenc des Cardassar in the east. (Mirror).

Jam today… a multi-car pileup on Majorca after 7 in rain falls in 2 hours. (Mirror)

For the UK: “Very deep cyclone Callum is expected to travel just west of Ireland and Scotland and result in extremely severe winds, locally in excess of 110 mph. Major waves are expected along the coasts.” (Severe-weather.eu) This thing (Should we call it an Atlanticane?) is packing potentially 5 or more inches of rain and 35-foot waves. In the meantime, we have a mini-heatwave, with temps in the low 20s C, 70-ish F or even higher in the south.

Note: while BBC weather is downplaying the event as a bit of stormy weather, Severe-weather.com has: “Several vorticity maxima will be embedded in the broad circulation where one intense core develops an explosive cyclone SW of British Isles. Its central pressure will likely deepen for more than 30 mbar in less than 24 hours, which means we are likely looking at a so-called ‘bombogenesis’ – a cyclone that rapidly deepens in very short period of time.”

Australia: overall, it was the driest September on record, and the second driest of any month in the last 116 years. Some rain has brought a little relief to New South Wales, in its 7th year of severe drought. Record rainfall fell on Sydney.

An Australian government minister has commented that they’re not going to give up their commitment to coal-fired power stations just because of “some report”, by which the ignorant digger dismisses the IPCC conspectus he hasn’t read, that has otherwise gained worldwide attention for the final urgency of its warnings about CO2 emissions.

If by passing one law we could have prevented the Holocaust, don’t you think we might have done it? Instead of having to pass laws against those who deny it ever happened? So, why is it that we don’t have a law against climate-change deniers before the entire race is consigned to oblivion, instead of waiting to punish the wind?

Iran: 9 dead in northern floods. Much infrastructure, housing damage. 1,400 rescued.

Up in the Arctic, while cold air spills out over Canada and the northwestern US, a plume of warm air has replaced it, entering the region through the Bering Strait as far as the pole. Temperature anomalies over 1980-2010 average are as high as 20C in places, including central Greenland. The heatwave is affecting the whole of Scandinavia and northwestern Russia too, while an arctic plume has settled over Siberia.

In some ways delaying the formation of the winter icepack is good, because it means not so much heat is getting trapped under the ice, possibly destabilizing methane hydrates on the seabed.

The latest edition of Arctic News reports, current CO2 and methane emissions are totally inconsistent with 1.5 to 2 degrees and in line with projections of runaway 10C warming by 2030.

(All the uncrediteds above: Climate and Extreme Weather News #139, 01-08 October)

 

The Trump Prophesy

Honest to whatever, I’m not making this up.

The Guardian reports, US cinemas are screening a movie about a fireman with PTSD, to whom God appeared, prophesying the new Messiah – Donald Trump. “Between graphic nightmares featuring demonic monsters and hellish flames, Taylor received a message from God in April 2011, while he was surfing television channels.”

Apparently, according to the makers, the senile pussy-grabbing, money-grubbing (and laundering), wife-and-business-cheating, six-times bankrupt, tax-evading, serial-lying, bullying, blackmailing, delusionary sociopathic narcissist and former teenage model agency owner with incestuous longings for his own daughter, Trump has been sent by God to restore America’s moral values!

“He may not be perfect, nobody is”, opined one female member of the entirely conservative Christian audience. Trump’s appeal to women voters is one of the 7 wonders of the ancient world. Maybe it’s his little button-mushroom that makes them feel maternal.

According to the man, Taylor, various miracles will come to pass: Trump will serve a second term. A Red Tide will sweep away the Democrats. Abortion will be outlawed. “Barack Obama will be charged with treason and Trump will authorise the arrest of thousands of corrupt officials, many of whom are part of a massive satanic paedophile ring. Trump will also force the release of cures for cancer and Alzheimer’s that are currently being withheld by the pharmaceutical industry.”

About 1,200 cinemas across the US were screening The Trump Prophecy on Tuesday and Thursday this week, largely to empty seats.

We all know, there’s a huge swathe of middle America that has gone batshit crazy, living in a parallel universe. If the world ends tomorrow, it’ll be because of them. But that’s what they want, to meet their invisible friend in the sky.

So why don’t the massive lunatics just do a Jim Jones and swallow poison? Why do our children and grandchildren have to die too, just to satisfy their selfish and delusionary cravings?

God help the rest of us.

The Pumpkin – Issue 65: Did we really think it was going to be so easy?… Bar, bar, black sheep… Own gooaaaalll!… I was President of the United States (no, not that one!)… Daddy, I can’t breathe… GW: Meteorological meltdown

Quote of a while ago

“Allowing the fossil fuel industry to dictate our relationship to the environment is a form of collective insanity.” – Chris Hedges, US public intellectual, 2013

 

“Don’t be in such bad mood, comrade! Take silly box off head! We see highest cathedral spire in Europe, maybe throw scumbag off, what’s not to like?” Expelled GRU agents from Amsterdam arrive at Heathrow….

 

“History seems to have found a way of repeating itself in the sense that we have a “leader of the free world” who is profoundly uninterested in what you or I have to say on the subject of freedom…”

Did we really think it was going to be so easy?

We no longer recall what was the first appalling thing Trump did after he became president. A rash of articles and podcasts soon appeared, confidently predicting his imminent impeachment.

Possibly it was his transgressive inauguration speech: bitter and vengeful, no thanks to anyone, projecting a bleak view of a broken America, burning and crime ridden, a home to immigrant murderers and rapists, an economic basket-case humbled on the world stage – pictures which few in Washington recognized; promising nothing but the tough approach to everything, the ominous slogan Make America Great Again! holding out hopes of advancement for the white man, but nothing but more years of misery and abuse for the rest. The first US President to make a policy plank out of an ambition to jail his political opponents for imaginary crimes.

Twenty-two months – 600 weird and disruptive days – later, he’s still there, worse than ever.

Did we really think that you and we could bravely call ourselves The Resistance and, wielding the weapons of reason and logic, learning and tolerance, through our sheer niceness, disarm with mere words the lowering forces of the new brutocracy?

That our wit and sarcasm and aphorism-rich dinner-party conversations and books and essays and late night satire shows and blog posts by the million would soon remove the threat of a cunning and degenerate, criminal monster, a feral clown bent on absolute power, the naked horror of the unbridled neoliberal world he represents?

I’m sorry to keep harking back to Germany in 1932; but I can find no closer parallel in history, other perhaps than Don Siegel’s 1952 anti-Communist motion picture, “Invasion of the Bodysnatchers”; a Sci-Fi allegory of the panic then sweeping the USA, that “They” were coming – They being The Pod People!

At first nobody believes it; but gradually, as the pods duplicate themselves as everyone’s next-door neighbor, and co-opt the townsfolk into handing out more pods, the whole town is taken over, nobody heeds the warnings, nobody cares anymore; until, finally, just when you think he’s managed to escape to a better world of domestic appliances and cars with fins, Matthew, the still-battling hero is revealed in the final shot to have become one of Them… The only hope is eternal vigilance!

There’s an excellent plot summary on Wikipedia. Attempting to warn the citizenry:

“Matthew and Elizabeth are chased across San Francisco. They hide out in a Health Department building, and witness pods being distributed to people gathered in the square outside. They are eventually trapped by Jack and Kibner, who tell them that the alien species simply wants to survive and it is beneficial for humans.”

Is this starting to remind you of anything?

Do you still have a Health Department to hide in? Probably not.

Possibly the last two holdouts in the Republican Senate, Jeff Flake and Susan Collins, “Matthew and Elizabeth”, opted at the last minute to vote for the last judge on earth any sane administrator would want to put in the Supreme Court, approving Kavanaugh only because it hadn’t been decisively shown by an incomplete investigation everyone agrees was derisory, that he is the bad person they previously imagined him to be; while the sidelined naysayers who actually knew the man are still trying to warn everyone that he is?

Yes, Jeff and Susan joined the Pod People.

As I keep a’boglin’, I’ve just been reading a most excellent book, The Fifth Risk, by Michael Lewis (although it rambles off-topic at times and I found the ending rushed and inconclusive. Sorry.) Of the six – well, five-and-a-half, I gave up on the execrable “Fire and Fury” by Michael Wolff – books I have so far read about the Trump administration, this one is the most chilling.

Cleverly, Lewis sets up the argument that the average US voter fears and loathes their own government more than the Devil, and is profoundly mistrustful even of the efforts of the dedicated and highly qualified men and women working for poor wages in the great agencies of State to try to make life better for them. This is the constituency to which the Orange Candidate appealed.

But Trump’s careless gutting of the budgets and personnel of these useful institutions he doesn’t understand and despises, merely to please the worst instincts of those untutored deplorables who hate Big Government but do not realize that it’s made up of lots of useful Small Government, is counterproductive and will damage your health.

Here, for instance, is Kathy Sullivan, feted as the first woman astronaut to walk in space, a hugely qualified scientist with degrees in both oceanography and astrophysics, who out of a sense of public duty becomes a senior government official – Assistant Director of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the NOAA.

Kathy is both puzzled and saddened in 2011 when 158 people are killed unnecessarily in the town of Joplin, Mi., and hundreds more injured, having perversely ignored an urgent tornado warning from her department because they don’t believe in the government weather service.

Yet it was the NOAA – part of the Commerce Department – that pioneered the science behind tornado warnings, and set up the National Hurricane Center, another useful institution under threat, that also puzzles over why so many Americans would rather drown than listen to government safety advice.

Worse was to come, however, when the Trump maladministration took over, driven by the “small government = more money for us” doctrine of the Republican party, that Steve Bannon advised Trump to take to nihilistic extremes.

A corrupt financier and “friend” of the Trump family, Wilbur Ross was put in charge at Commerce. He turned up on his own, without any staffers appointed to manage the huge and multifaceted department, having no idea what the functions of the department were, and unprepared to listen. Lewis writes: “Dozens of civil servants sat all day waiting to deliver briefings that would, in the end, never be heard.”

(This is precisely why in Britain we don’t make Civil Service appointments renewable on the basis of which party is in government. It’s a ridiculous waste of talent, energy and experience to have to start again every time you have an election. How they vote is up to them. Ridiculous Americans.)

The elderly satrap, Ross (80) was unimpressed to hear that an important part of Commerce was doing atmospheric and ocean science. He had no interest whatever in science, and said so, good and loud. He had until that point been the co-vice chair of Bank of Cyprus, a notorious money-laundering vehicle dominated by Putin oligarchs. He was interested only in gains, however gotten.

It was not until the following October that anyone was appointed to run the NOAA. In the end, the pick turned out to be the CEO of AccuWeather – the private company with a paywall, that gets its weather data free from the NOAA; yet which had lobbied hard in 2005 for a law denying the National Weather Service the right to broadcast free weather forecasts; and made substantial contributions to party funds.

Barry Myers’ primary interest, one assumes, is to shut down government scientific weather forecasting that competes with his commercial service. This hidden privatization, says Lewis, is the philosophy running now through government: if there’s a commercial competitor that could be making more money, departments are being defunded, gutted or closed.

As with Trump, it eventually came out that Ross, though wealthy, is not a billionaire, as he claimed. He’d lied to Forbes Magazine, that keeps track of the personal net worth of wealthy individuals, that he had $3.7 billion in the bank when, in fact, his wealth was at best $700 million. A miserable man, there were stories of him pocketing sweeteners from restaurant tables rather than having his cook buy them in a store.

It’s also been alleged that he recently pilfered $120 million by systematically cheating a business partner. The case was settled out of court, so we can’t know for sure. Stung, Forbes wrote:

“If even half of the accusations are legitimate, the current United States secretary of commerce could rank among the biggest grifters in American history.”

Not, perhaps, as big as one Donald John Trump, who has been outed in the New York Times this past week for tax frauds totalling over $500 million; dating back even to infancy when, at the age of 3, his father Fred had “employed” him in the family firm on a salary of $200,000 a year, to avoid taxes.

People like the Pulitzer prizewinning financial journalist and inveterate Trumphound, David Cay Johnson, have been bobbing up and down for years like the character in the movie, played by Kevin McCarthy, shouting about this stuff: “They’re coming!” (His body is later found around the corner…)

And no-one listened to him. They thought he was mad – until approximately half the country’s 120 million active voters had put into the White House, a Pod Person who has spent almost two years now sucking out their souls and recasting them in his own disaffected, mean and greedy likeness.

Who, guided by über-Podperson, Adolf Hitler’s best-selling self-help manual, “Fascist Dictating for Dummies”, is someone who poisons everyone he comes in contact with, subverting their moral universe and bending them to his selfish and endlessly demanding will: a blackmailer, a gaslighter, a taker, a briber – a psychopath, with the mind of a wilful four-year-old.

HR disaster

One of the so-called “adults in the room”, General HR McMaster, was a highly regarded, highly decorated 3-star general, said to be possessed of advanced intellectual capacities, extensive scholarship and great sagacity. Equipped with a curious, high-domed cranium, he surely has room in it for at least three normal human brains.

Yet, appointed as National Security Advisor to steady the ship in the wake of the departure of the suspected Russian agent and all-round weasel, General Flynn, he soon found himself profoundly morally compromised in the service of a cunning and degenerate criminal, a practised deceiver; himself suspected of fidelity to a foreign power.

“There is nothing that the president takes more seriously than the security of the American people. The story that came out tonight as reported is false. The president and the foreign minister reviewed a range of common threats to our two countries, including threats to civil aviation. At no time, at no time, were intelligence sources or methods discussed. And the president did not disclose any military operations that were not already publicly known. Two other senior officials who were present, including the Secretary of the State, remember the meeting the same way and have said so. Their on-the-record accounts should outweigh anonymous sources. I was in the room. It didn’t happen.”

“It” was the widely reported meeting in the Oval Office between the Russian Foreign Minister, Sergei Lavrov; the Russian Ambassador and reputed FSB spymaster, Sergei Kislyak, and Donald Trump, recently installed President of the United States of America; the three of them alone, save for a “photographer” from the Russian state news outlet, Tass. Trump had requested McMaster and his Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson, leave the room. So yes, they were present – until they weren’t.

The Washington Post later reported, they had confirmed sources that at that meeting in May, 2017, Trump had boasted to the Russians about a top-secret Israeli intelligence operation he knew about, to infiltrate the ISIS high command, that had resulted in a worldwide ban on passengers taking laptops openly on aircraft, after a specific warning about a bomb plot.

So furious were the Israelis at this gross betrayal, reported the Post, that for a time they ceased sharing intelligence with the CIA. Who in turn, stopped sharing intelligence with Trump.

To calm the furore – people still made a fuss about Trump’s cavalier approach in those faroff days – Gen. McMaster had been sent out to face reporters on the White House lawn, and what he said to them was a lie; a statement concocted by the spinmeisters, Conway, Hicks and Spicer, to protect the loose-mouthed Trump; a fatuous, bombastic oaf who could never resist showing off his self-assumed superiority in all matters, and could not be trusted with State secrets.

Once you have told your first lie in Trumpworld, it gets easier, and you enjoy the love. Soon, however, you will find yourself employed without choice to gnaw the heads off little puppies….

A year later, the profoundly compromised McMaster was fired by Trump, and resigned from the army without promotion; a national disgrace, who had nevertheless dared to stand up in some measure to Trump’s infantile caprice, and may have bought us a little time. The more compliant John Bolton – an inflammatory Iran hawk with no military background, to avoid the Vietnam draft (like W Bush) he’d joined the National Guard – was brought in at Security to ramp up the sense that all would now be chaos, orchestrated like a Boulez symphony by the increasingly bullish (but no more intelligent or well-intentioned) president.

The economy was booming!

Trump by the beginning of 2018 was consolidating his reputation as a highly unpresidential and unpredictable, autocratic thug, given to making vicious ad hominem Twitter attacks in the middle of the night on his perceived enemies, his day-to-day policy-making dictated by whatever the little faces were yammering at him on the screens everywhere tuned to the Fox News channel; still with no apparent interest in the levers of government or the advice of advisors, contemptuous of international allies and treaties; whose mental state was giving serious concern.

Yet the economy was booming, thanks to rising interest rates that were driving the markets to dizzying new heights; and a resurgent dollar, that he would surely, eventually come to regret, along with his tariff wars. No-one imagined he was responsible, the boom had begun under Obama. Thanks to his insane tax cuts for the wealthy (and himself, if he paid any) the national debt had climbed to over $22.5 trillion, social programs were being defunded, but at least the economy hadn’t collapsed. Yet.

Led by the amoral southern plutocrat, “Mitch” McConnell, the Republican party was beginning to realize, they too were profoundly compromised by their association with this senescent, bullying old sex-pest; a serial liar, financial criminal and business fraud with highly dangerous connections; a degenerate, narcissistic sociopath without empathy, compassion or decent instincts toward anyone; a self-invented Mafia boss it would be dangerous to cross. Who wants to be murdered by Tweet?

Yet, lured by the fanatical support of his “base” in the Red states heartland of America, and by his appeal to the evangelical Christian right, whose high-minded hypocrisies they all espoused, the Republican-controlled Congress chose the path of least resistance and most moral hazard, and are now so deeply enmired in Trump’s gluey web of deceit and corruption that they can’t see a way out; but must go all the way with him into the deepest shit any American can remember.

You can maybe now understand why, earlier, I raised my graying head above the sandbags and mentioned the shade of Adolf Hitler. There are of course no similarities to justify a direct comparison, we have in many senses moved on and – though there are, what, faint reflections, echoes? – ours is a very different world, in which consumer-capitalist techno-economics has largely replaced militarism as a tool of power projection. Also, Hitler was 38 when he came to power: Trump is 72 and has less time to kill.

Nevertheless, in 1930s Germany many perfectly wise and responsible men and women living in an unstable social compact next to a disaffected working-class did allow themselves to be co-opted into a state of complicity – silence at best – with what they must have realized was a truly evil world vision projected by a nasty clique of moral degenerates; yet which excitingly allowed them to express a darker side of themselves that had been long suppressed by social norms and conventions. Many took to wearing cool uniforms and summarily executing inconvenient or noncompliant people and those they persuaded themselves were not fully human. Until the Red Army arrived in Berlin, there were no comebacks on that.

History seems to have found a way of repeating itself in the sense that we have a “leader of the free world” who is profoundly uninterested in what you or I have to say on the subject of freedom, tolerance, intellectual endeavor – justice, but who seeks to draw us in to his demonic powerplay; to share in  the thrilling wickedness of the scheme he proposes, to tear up the existing order, the useless constitution, whatever it says, to expel the “Other”; with, at the end of it all, the promise of “People like us” – white and in debt – ending up on top of the heap. And to make him rich in the process, what’s not to like?

With Senate approval of the appointment of another conservative judge who will license whatever mischief Mr Trump may get up to: then, now or in future, we move a step closer to a New American dictatorship; a thrilling scenario in which anything might be possible, where all your enemies, the people you hate, the clever ones with the money, the schooling and the entitlement, the ones keeping you down, the black and the brown ones, the Jews and the Muslims can all be made to go away – with no need to ask where.

I predict that the appointment of Judge Kavanaugh will be taken as a further sign the new world order is open for business. Monkey business.

With all our cleverness, our educated ability to see through the lies, to mock and gibe and question the authority of the President – as Stephen Miller, Trump’s pet college vampire once percipiently warned us never to do – to apply all our elitist techniques of rational thought and articulacy to make the monster go back under the bed – did we really think it would be so easy?

To turn back the cyclical tide of history with our words?

Our ever-so elegant, inadequate, powerless words?

God help us.

x

Bar, bar, black sheep

The hearing to elevate the controversial Judge Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court, an appointment for life, is approaching its end with a Congressional Judiciary Committee review behind closed doors of the really thorough FBI report on his dodgy moral background, that the Feds’ve had all of three working days to investigate and write up.

The two or three un-proof-checked paragraphs of testimoy bh a limited group of non-witnesses will be spun into a full exoneration, nothin’ to see here folks, the big clunkin’ rubber stamp will be wielded, Trump will make a great victory speech to the dumbfucks, and the US Supreme Court will become even more of a disgrace than it already is.

By the time you read this, there seems little doubt the nomination will have been waved through, thanks to the appalling Senator McConnell, a rich old polecat who will say and do anything to make the Republican Party richer. “Fine young man, perfect judge material” to gerrymander the court’s decisions in favor of wealthy appellants and swivel-eyed pro-lifers for the next 30 years. Dozens of potential witnesses, victims all clearly lying, paid by the Democrats, Soros…. hashtag disgraceful.

Forty witnesses all queuing to talk to the FBI about the thuggish and emotionally damaged fratboy, Kavanaugh were resolutely ignored in the whitewashing of this redfaced individual, screaming his innocence to a sympathetic audience of Republicans, mostly men, who are now so besmirched with the shit spewing from the White House that they can never be washed clean, not even by the blood of Christ.

And then the psychopath, Trump, will humblebrag and whine and boast to his pet dumbfucks in some barren hangar in Nowheresville, Arkansas that, yet again, he has achieved a momentous triumph of policymaking to make America great again – remembering, as we no doubt shall, that the only reason he pushed this sanctimonious, drunken, overemotional wreck forward in the first place and spent the next two weeks personally calumniating anyone who criticized his lousy choice, including sexual assault victims – hateful women – was because Kavanaugh had assured him the President couldn’t be prosecuted for federal crimes while in office; and Trump has started his 2020 run for re-election already.

We are reminded now, however, that this is not the first wholly inappropriate appointment Trump has tried to foist on a judiciary already groaning with conservative white men.

Commenting on the trend, Michael Wolff writing in The Guardian last December examined the notorious case of Matthew Peterson, a hapless Trump nominee for a District Court judgeship in Washington, who couldn’t answer a single legal question put to him at his Senate hearing and admitted that he had never tried a case before in any court, anywhere. Wolff went on:

“The ABA (American Bar Association) unanimously rated another of Trump’s nominees as ‘not qualified’ because he was a 36-year-old blogger with a strong ideological bent and no trial experience: Brett Talley. He was the fourth Trump nominee the ABA found to be devoid of judicial merit. Talley is married to a White House lawyer, by some strange coincidence.

“On the other hand, Talley did blog about his total support – ‘financially, politically and intellectually’ – for the National Rifle Association, just one month after the massacre of elementary schoolchildren at Sandy Hook school in Newtown, Connecticut.” So much for judicial impartiality.

“Last month (November, 2017) the Republican-led Senate judiciary committee confirmed him to a lifetime job as a judge in Alabama.” (His nomination was later withdrawn.)

In the words of Michelle Obama: “What is the matter with you people?”

Judge Kavanaugh’s appointment is clearly too much, even for the ABA, representing thousands of lawyers, who have given him the thumbs-down principally on the basis that he’s not considered sufficiently competent AS A JUDGE…. In addition, he has refused to allow scrutiny of his previous record in court. Why is that?

But it’s no longer a legal matter: his appointment is now purely a partisan political fight to the death; no shred of decency or modesty will motivate this horrible man to recuse himself altogether, so as not to bring the Supreme Court of the United States into further disrepute.

“…many months into the Trump administration, thousands of officially required positions have still not been filled.”

We recall, perhaps, that it was a principal policy plank of one unmentionable German chancellor in 1933 to pack the judicial benches with party supporters, before starting on the show trials and brutal executions of his opponents. A similar policy fuelled his Soviet near-neighbour’s justice system for many years. Unfortunately, human society is adequately furnished with individuals awaiting only official sanction to pull the lever on their fellow men and women and watch them swinging.

But Trump was merely continuing with his nihilistic Bannonite policy of, it seems – we must conclude, mustn’t we, and not be tempted to assume, that he is just a total ignoramus, or a paid agent of the Kremlin – of undermining and ultimately bringing low, all the revered traditional institutions of governance in the USA.

In other words, the stuff going on in the background, while no-one is looking.

As previously mentioned, a new book, The Fifth Risk, by Michael Lewis (Allen-Lane/Penguin Books) cleverly sets up the numerous vital functions and formerly principled management of the great federal agencies as serious-sounding Aunt Sallies, creating value and delivering forward motion, before laconically – and without resorting to in-house gossip or the usual expletives and pejorative insults – pointing out that, many months into the Trump administration, thousands of officially required positions have still not been filled; or are occupied by Trump loyalists and chancers with no special knowledge or experience of the job whatever, who have set about defunding key environmental, medical and social programs to profit private corporations.

So, while packing the courts with unqualified placemen who will do the President’s bidding and keep him out of jail, where in most people’s view he belongs*, Trump is using the same ploy to insert his version of the Brownshirts at all levels and in all areas of responsibility for national government, to quietly and surreptitiously push through some of the most repressive, socially damaging and retrograde policies ever attempted, far away from Congressional scrutiny.

Only the latest of these, former conservative prosecutor Caren Harp – a graduate of a “Christian law school”, was put in to run the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, and has quietly set about dismantling all its Obama-era attempts to put rehabilitation and education at the forefront of its policy statements. The Guardian writes:

“Under the agency’s old vision statement, the office expressed a desire for America to be ‘a nation where our children are healthy, educated, and free from violence’.

“After Donald Trump entered the White House in January 2017, the phrase was changed – without any public notice or consultation – to ‘a nation where our children are free from crime and violence’.

“Other changes to the agency’s websites included removing guidance … to stop putting children into solitary confinement, avoid placing girls behind bars and address the disproportionate impact of courts and prisons on black and other minority kids.”

This new policy is surely at odds with Mr Trump’s professed views on gang violence, since it is clear that harsh reformatory regimes breed and do not deter crime. The defunding of youth projects in the inner cities, too, can only increase the propensity of young people to join drug gangs, being the only remaining source of income for families seeing savage cuts in social supports, such as food stamps.

On the other hand, the private companies that profit from contracts to run the prison catering, the work programs (inmates sewing McDonalds’ uniforms on 20c an hour), the laundries, the education, such as it is – the transportation and maintenance, will be straight in there, making their fortunes out of detaining as many inmates for as long, and as often, as they can. Rehabilitation is nowhere on the list

The Pumpkin therefore asks the questions again: Is all this being done for doctrinaire political reasons, implying at least that there is some philosophy, however maleficent, behind it? Is it just the hatred of the marginalized underclass which Trump sweats from every permatanned pore at his weekly Nuremberg-style rallies?

Or is it a deliberate attempt to start a class war in America; a real, shooting war to, as it were, restore the Confederacy, or at least to violently rehabilitate its white supremacist, rural Christian aims and values, tearing the country and its fragile social compacts; its paper constitution, apart?

Is that what Trump’s Russian creditors have said they want him to do?

*Oh yes, he does!

x

Own gooaaaalll!

Despite a hearty school upbringing, The Pumpkin knows little of the art of football; principally because he has never known the heartache and the joy of supporting a particular club, that he might associate with his ancestral community.

Frankly, he sees, but does not fully get, the point. Dragged by his well-connected father to a tedious west London fixture in the rain at the age of 9, that ended in a low-scoring draw, he was further traumatised by being introduced after the match to a famous footballer who had just stepped out of the team bath. Traumatized, in the ensuing 60 years he has attended out of paternal obligation, only one, equally tedious fixture ever since.

At least he kept his children away from the dressing rooms.

Nevertheless he is not unaware of the general demeanor of the sport in the UK: the recent years in which leading clubs have been purloined from their underperforming local boards, answerable only to the fans, by big global business; often by foreign billionaires with dubious sources of income, cashing in on hugely lucrative TV deals while their whiter-than-white money spins in the tumble-dryer.

The Pumpkin recalls, he once occupied an apartment in West London above an elderly couple, the husband of which had been a professional footballer in the pre- and post-war years, interrupted by service in the army.

Tommy Law had played for Chelsea and, as an international, for Scotland. He was paid £5 for turning up to a match, £3.10s if not required to play. He had one or other of his legs broken six times by hard-man defenders, eventually forcing his retirement. The £1,100 raised at his benefit match was his pension.

Portugal and Juventus star, Christiano Ronaldo is paid €30 million a year, and still can’t avoid accusations of tax cheating and sexual assault. But, by God, he produced one of the greatest goals in history at the last World Cup… sorry, where was I?, oh yes.

Manchester United.

For some reason, the most famous football club in the world. Any 9-year-old kid kicking a ball around on a dirt patch in a favela in Rio or Lagos knows at least two English words. And yet, it seems, the iconic club is in deep shit. Its vastly overpaid players under their temperamental manager Mourinho have barely mustered a goal so far this season. A profound air of gloom hangs over Old Trafford ground. Why?

Because it is owned by Americans, possibly.

“The six Glazer siblings who collectively own 97% of United’s voting shares were paid approximately $23m (£18m) in dividends, the third year dividends have been paid. The total paid to them and the other financial investors was £22m, following £23m in 2016-17 and £20m the previous year, a total of £65m out of the club. The salary packages paid to directors and senior executives, which includes the six Glazers, was £13m, following £12m in 2016-17 and £11m the year before. A year ago, the Glazers’ holding company, Red Football, sold 4.3m shares in Cayman Islands-registered United, for $17 per share. That is a further $73m (£56m) made by the Glazers from their heavily leveraged acquisition of a football institution.” – David Conn, The Guardian.

What the fuck has any of this devious business shit got to do with football?

It’s not even the money. United is a huge global franchise awash with money, it can afford to pay the Glazers $100 million a year for doing what appears to be fuck-all. The point is not the money: it’s that they are in it ONLY for the money. The game, the tradition, the history of the community means nothing to them.

Why is there a single ripped-off, traduced and disappointed United fan who still supports this incredible profit-making exercise for a foreign entity that is only in it for the money, a corpse with a capitalist face, that cannot manage to produce either success on the pitch, or entertainment for the fans?

Just go! Walk out! Don’t turn up! Don’t buy the overpriced season tickets, the merchandise, the hype. Find a park, get a ball and start again. Support another local club – I know, City, but. The Glazers don’t give a fuck about you, mate. They would if you weren’t there, even for a month.

There’s not a single homegrown player in the United squad, just a bunch of spectacularly overrewarded haircuts imported from all over the world, spending nine tenths of their time on the bench, listlessly buying Italian sports cars; while the superstar manager known as “The Special One”, who has barely managed this season to persuade his players that the aim is to kick the ball into the net at the other end, moans that he’s not allowed to spend £millions more buying up more no-hopers he won’t “get on with”; because interpersonal relationships are apparently everything, and earning the money by winning matches isn’t.

Everyone can see, the whole fucking shemozzle is completely corrupt, blown wholly out of proportion and so far removed from the working class community roots that spawned “The Beautiful Game” (some of us poshos find Rugby Union aesthetically more pleasing and a damned sight more exciting) that it barely still deserves to be called football.

It’s just a game of Monopoly played on a Subbuteo table.

 

I was President of the United States (no, not that one!)

Look, I see nothing wrong with Trump appointing Lorna Marks, his wife’s fave handbag designer, as US ambassador to South Africa. It’s a job, somebody has to do it.

And at least Pretoria gets an ambassador. Many more important and strategic capitals around the world are still awaiting the Orange One’s pleasure.

That Marks was born and lived in South Africa at all, even for a short time, seems a vast improvement on the relevant connections between other ambassadors and their host nations.

Of course, she’s not very black and may need some coaching to appreciate the complexities of life in a vibrant multicultural environment, a “Rainbow nation” nonetheless afflicted with extremes of poverty, wealth, crime, racism and corruption, and in the grip of a narrow clique of old reactionaries. (No, not the USA!)

Being a fashion designer is no more an indication of incompetence than any other trade experience, and if you can get away with charging $400 thousand for one bag, you’re no slouch when it comes to persuading women, at least, that it’s a great idea to respect your brand – which, as Ambassador, would be brand Trump.

Sure she’d be absolutely fine.

I wonder if we ought to draw the line, however, at misrepresentation; although the diplomatic community, especially, is rife with fantasists.

Marks has repeatedly described her friendship with the late Diana, Princess of Wales, although there is no evidence of it. She has also claimed to have played tennis at Wimbledon. As indeed might have any member of the All England Club and their guests on the 350 days when the famous WTA tournament is not in progress.

Not THE Royal Ballet, as it turns out; the Royal Ballet’s local affiliate in her home town of East London, “in the Buffalo City Metropolitan Municipality of the Eastern Cape province.”

By the same token, I can claim to be a performing member who has had various leading roles with the National Theatre of Wales.

Local affiliate, naturally.

More of a community theatre sort of thing, really. But quite good.

While, many years ago, it says on my CV, I was a BBC newsreader.

Local radio, only for eight months, but it was still London.

Not East London, mind.

Fairly central, in fact.

x

Daddy, I can’t breathe

A heartbreaking story emerged this past week, from the inquest into a bright, attractive young girl who was done to death in 2016 by the food industry.

15-year-old Natasha Ednan-Laperouse died in hospital after a traumatic flight to Nice, aboard which she had suffered an extreme reaction to a Prêt-á-Manger baguette she had eaten in Heathrow Departures, that contained sesame seeds that were not declared on the label.

The details are fairly harrowing, as her father fought to save her and the cabin crew ran around like headless chickens.

It later emerged that six other nonfatal cases of extreme allergic reactions to Prêt baguettes had previously been reported. That fact alone, and the lack of a warning notice, could cost the company dearly; as we all hope it does.

Being as I am, the thought did cross your Uncle B.’s mind that it must have been the moment the parents were dreading, and hoped would never come. Because from the age of 8 Natasha seems to have been allergic to pretty much everything added to food. As she grew up and became more independent, the likelihood was that, sooner or later, something would get her.

The idea that the fast-food industry could ever achieve total purity is a fantasy; the rule should be, if something you eat might kill you, eat at home.

My girlfriend had a condition called coeliac disease, which involves severe reaction to wheat gluten. She was always being laid low by some careless inaction or other in the catering trade. I recall one incident when she ate some French biscuits we thought were safe, that included ‘farine de Blé’, translated in the dictionary as cornflour. It subsequently turned out that Blé can mean pretty much any grain, including wheat.

Prêt, it seems, benefits from a rule that says food prepared centrally and distributed to outlets must display full information on the packaging, but food such as sandwiches prepared locally in its small shops needn’t. The loophole being, that ‘prepared’ doesn’t necessarily mean all the ingredients are locally sourced – like the baguette with the tempting filling.

“Responding to (the health inspector’s) evidence, Dr Sean Cummings, the acting senior coroner for west London, said: ‘It seems on the face of it a bit strange that a local sandwich shop can benefit from that regulation … but that an organisation that sold … 218m items (a year) could also benefit from that regulation … A cynic might think it was almost a device to get round regulation relating to information on food allergens.’” – Guardian

Happily, I’m not allergic to anything I’ve eaten so far in my life, but a sort of nagging, possibly cynical  doubt persists.

Given the huge increase in compensation awards there has been over the past twenty years, why do food manufacturers run the risk of killing their customers, when a few simple precautions might prevent tragedies occurring?

I’ve just tucked in to a plate of Chilli con Carne, prepared for reheating by The Authentic Curry Company, of Aberdare (just add rice). It’s actually quite good; although obviously not as good as the version I make, when I can be arsed to cook for myself.

And at the end of a comprehensive list of really quite natural and normal, healthy ingredients, we find the following:

ALLERGY ADVICE: Produced in a factory or made with ingredients from suppliers that use Nuts, Gluten, Crustaceans, Fish, Eggs, Peanuts, Soya, Milk, Celery, Mustard, Sesame Seeds, Sulphur Dioxide & Molluscs.

Now, that list would kill just about anyone. Any Orthodox Jewish consumer would be instantly struck dead. The Authentic Curry Company of Aberdare might as well lace their perfectly healthy and natural minced Welsh beef, onion and beans product with novichok.

What is wrong with you? Why in God’s name risk using a supplier that can’t guarantee their production lines are so clean, your consumers can safely eat off of them? Why would you ever want to use a supplier who clearly doesn’t gve a fuck if your consumers live or die?

Who would ever suspect your microwavable (3-minutes) ersatz Tex-Mex-style evening meal for 2 (big enough, indeed, for one), would be such a minefield of common allergens?

Are you sure you’ve left nothing out? Penicillin, maybe? Emulsion paint? Nigel Farage’s toenail clippings?

Or is it you? Are YOU also the factory processor who adds nuts, egg and oyster shells will-ye, nill-ye to your Chilli con Carne, in the course of an evening’s shift?

Because my girlfriend could have a reaction to just one slice of gluten-free cake coming into contact with a cake-slice that had previously been used on another cake containing wheat flour. I witnessed it. I saw it happen – the rash, the swollen and painful joints, the bleeding. Great, for a professional musician. In severe cases it takes only homeopathic concentrations of gluten to have an effect.

The food industry really has to get its act together.

Then, you can say that about pretty well anyone these days.

Meanwhile, Mr and Mrs Ednan-Laperouse have had to bury their pretty, vivacious and endlessly helpful daughter, age 15, her only crime being to have an immune system too sensitive to survive in the modern world of adulterated processed foods and inadequate supervision.

 

Sorry it’s so long.

GW:

Hurricane watch: “A tropical storm warning was in effect for Pinar del Rio and Isle of Youth, Cuba, and a tropical storm watch is in effect for the east coast of Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula from Tulum to Cabo Catoche. The National Hurricane Center now predicts that PTC 14 will approach the northern U.S. Gulf Coast at close to hurricane strength on Wednesday. The next name in the Atlantic storm list is Michael.”

Wunderground tracking data has Michael proceeding up through Alabama and Florida into the east coast states in the coming days. Something I’m sure they will welcome after ten months of storms. It’s already been part of a larger system causing havoc in central America, that:

“…will continue to bring heavy rains to portions of the Pacific coasts of El Salvador, Nicaragua, Guatemala, and Honduras through Monday, (with) dangerous flash flooding and mudslides. Over 2700 people were in shelters in Costa Rica due to flooding, and over 1000 in Nicaragua”.

In the eastern Pacific, 1000 miles west of the Mexican coast, “Hurricane Sergio is proving resilient as a major hurricane. As of 11 am EDT Saturday, Sergio’s top sustained winds were 125 mph, keeping it in the Category 3 range. Global models agree that Sergio will carry out a sharp U-turn from Sunday into Monday, then accelerate toward an expected landfall on the west coast of Baja California around Thursday”, and on into Arizona in the wake of last week’s Hurricane Rosa. (Wunderground)

Meanwhile another hurricane is forming in the Arabian sea. Tropical cyclone Invest 99A could strengthen and arrive later in the week, either in Yemen, or in Oman, in the wake of July’s Hurricane Mekenu, which killed over 30 people. Hurricanes are not uncommon occurrences in the region, but seldom at this time of year: “On average, storms strike Oman once every three years, and usually before June or after October” (Wikipedia).

Post-tropical storm Leslie is still stuck in mid-Atlantic, with no agreement as to where it might go next: east, certainly, but to the Canary Islands, or further north to the Azores? Place your bets. Update: Wunderground map has it strengthening now (Monday 8 Oct) and tracking as a Cat 1 hurricane towards northern Portugal and Galicia in the footsteps of last year’s Hurricane Isobel. It’s certainly pushing hot air up as far as my town, where it’s getting on for 17C.)

(From Wunderground)

 

Update Friday 12th Oct: An interesting possibility has arisen. Severe-weather.eu sugests, Leslie has not done the anticipated U-turn into the open ocean, but is instead about to become the first hurricane in recorded history to hit Madeira. It may then move north, to clobber Portugal in the southern corner, the Algarve – still as an actual hurricane. Meanwhile remnant hurricane Michael, originally expected to whizz over to the Bitish Isles, is forecast on a new track as a post-tropical storm, bending southwards of the British Isles towards the Bay of Biscay, and may even arrive in northern Portugal the day after Leslie…. Making Portugal, one suspects, one of the few countries ever to have been hit by two different storms in the space of two days, that have both previously been graded as hurricanes.

Comment:

Meteorological meltdown

It was reported separately in the news today (Monday, 8th Oct) that US Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, was visiting Seoul after “successful” talks with officials in Pyongyang. Meanwhile in nearby Incheon, the IPCC was launching its latest report on climate change, the last for a while, prior to the next round of talks in Poland.

Neither report mentioned anywhere that the Korean peninsula has been trashed in the past two days by former Cat 5 Typhoon Kong-Rey, now downgraded to TS but still packing strong winds and heavy rain, causing at least two deaths, widespread damage and cancelled flights. Kong-Rey was one of two top-level (160 mph sustained winds) Cat 5 typhoons in the Pacific simultaneously last week; a highly unusual concurrence.

Does this omission not seem bizarre to you? That the BBC’s point-man on Environment, Roger Harrabin, should deliver a 30-seconds voicepiece about climate change from a live hurricane zone without once even ironically mentioning the extreme weather event occurring outside the hotel bar?

The IPCC conclusions are both alarming but also comforting, in that they still offer the world’s governments twenty years in which to reduce emissions (at a time when many countries are complacently proposing to increase them) into the mid-century, before we have to start worrying next about “2 degrees”; with a (frankly unachievable) target of zero by 2050. And again, sea-level rise and “1-in-10 years heatwaves” are presented as the main consequences of failure. (We have had three heatwave years running here in Europe, and certainly six since 70,000 people died in 2003. 2018 was the hottest summer ever in California too.)

This is insanity. Two reasons:

1 the “pre-industrial” baseline, from whence temperatures are said to have risen by “1 degree”, appears to have no definition, but was said on the BBC to be “the past 100 years”. By 1918, the industrial era had already been in train for over 150 years. Taking 1750 as the baseline, roughly when Watt and Newcomen were building steam engines heated by coal, based on tree-ring and ice-core data the global mean temperature has already increased by 1.8 per cent, according to the world-renowned climate scientists posting under the collective pseudonym “Sam Carana”, on Arctic-news.blogspot.com.

2 “Sam Carana” further point out, the IPCC data is based on a flawed methodology, measuring global temperature at sea-level over both land and sea. Measured on the more standard 2-meter land contour, where most of us live, you get a higher number – 2.3 degrees. In addition, the global mean temperature is not the number we most need to fear: it obviously includes both the lowest and the highest temperatures measured everywhere, summer and winter, by day and night. But it’s not the mean that kills you! The average hottest temperature, i.e. the average of temperatures recorded at midday, in summer, may have already risen by as much as 4 degrees. That, too, is the increase in the average annual temperature in the Arctic region, where anomalies of up to 35 degrees were being observed last winter.

There are still Posts on Arctic News offering us 10.2 degrees of warming by 2026; an obvious rapid extinction-level event unprecedented in the history of life on earth.

Nor does the IPCC report – yet again – take much cognizance of the perhaps 60 different “feedback loops”, mechanisms for more abrupt warming that are already being triggered, or are on the verge. Arctic methane is obviously one, with the recent discovery that the permafrost layer, rapidly thawing, and a source of methane in itself, may be capping huge reserves underground, to add to the 100 Gt in the ocean. News that 1.5 degrees would allow us to save some coral reefs might comfort spear-fishers, but the fish will be long gone by 2050.

And in a peculiar statement, the arch-prophet of global warming, James Hanson, is quoted as saying:

“1.5C gives young people and the next generation a fighting chance of getting back to the Holocene or close to it. That is probably necessary if we want to keep shorelines where they are and preserve our coastal cities.”

“Probably”? But our shorelines are already being inundated! Miami, San Francisco, the Carolinas… Dakar, the Maldive Islands, Fiji… many, many places are already experiencing sea-level rise due mainly to water expanding as it warms, bringing flooding misery to urban areas at high tide. Desalination is weakening the Gulf Stream. Warmer water is being pushed into the Arctic ocean. The circumpolar jetstream wind is becoming chaotic. The icefields are melting at an alarming rate, and will go on melting even if we bring industrial civilization to a grinding halt by 2050, as unless we can rapidly remove the carbon from the atmosphere and find somewhere to put it, that 1.75 degrees is already baked-in!

Probably.

Except for another of those little feedbacks, the loss of the global dimming effect produced by pollution from all our industrial output would lead to runaway warming, starting within days.

We should be preparing, not for a long battle with the energy producers and citizens outraged by limits on their consumption, but for social and economic, meteorological chaos. Perhaps we already are, as States appear to be adopting more and more repressive models of governance.

But, as with the reporting from South Korea this morning, no-one is even noticing that it’s raining outside.

 

Pattern Thinking…. Low energy… Jazz hands? Vote with your feet!… GW: A whole lotta shakin’ goin’ on…. The Long Essay: The Trouble with Skripals.

Quote of the week:

“Based on historical data and tsunami modeling, this earthquake is not capable of generating a tsunami affecting the Indian Ocean region,” said the Meteorological, Climatological and Geophysical Agency of Indonesia in a statement released prior to the tsunami’s arrival.” (The Weather Channel)

Scientists are reportedly puzzling over how such a large tsunami was generated from what has been measured as a small sub-ocean land shear. (More follows)

The wave reached a height of 20 feet. Scientists are puzzled as to how it got so big.

x

“It’s always the same story, always the same slow, stupid unpacking by predictable stages of the same media narrative.”

Pattern thinking

Whenever a natural disaster occurs, it never ‘occurs’ to anyone in the first few hours and days that it’s as serious as it’s going to turn out to have been, by the time hundreds or thousands of people have died unnecessarily through international inertia.

It’s been three days since a magnitude 7.5 (probably greater) earthquake struck off the coast of Sulawesi in Indonesia, at a relatively shallow depth of 6.5 km.

Did this not trigger alarm bells on Day One at International Rescue? Okay, it was a weekend. Do Save the Children, MSF, the Red Cross not work at weekends, is that it?

“Many people were reported trapped in the rubble of buildings that collapsed in Friday’s 7.5-magnitude earthquake, agency spokesman Sutopo Purwo Nugroho told a news conference. The quake triggered tsunami waves as high as 6m (20ft), he added. Vice-President Jusuf Kalla said the final death toll could be thousands.”

The city of Palu, from where within hours shaky cameraphone footage of the tsunami was beamed around the world, sits at the head of a long tidal inlet. At the mouth of the shallow inlet is a smaller city called Donggala, from where nothing has been heard since the quake struck on Friday.

What did the international rescue organizations imagine might have happened to Donggala, several miles nearer to the epicentre?

Once again we have seen the damn same media story unfolding with the usual inevitability of an editorial tick-sheet: big earthquake, tick. M6 aftershocks, tick. Tsunami, tick. 80… 300 dead… Oh, wait, did the tsunami warning people put out a false all clear before it hit? Double tick…. 800 dead… officials say maybe several thousand dead? Oh, they’re just trying to get more aid they can syphon off into Swiss bank accounts. Rescuers digging through rubble with their bare hands, tick; survivor pulled miraculously from the ruins, tick; still no indication that this is a major incident.

By Monday, no doubt, as the corpses start to rot under the rubble, on the beaches, under the mud, the world’s media will be on top of their game. It’s always the same story, always the same slow, stupid unpacking by predictable stages of the same narratative. By Wednesday, as the death toll inevitably mounts, the story will shift to the slowness of the relief effort; the looting; the lack of heavy earthmoving equipment, food, water and medical supplies. (And oh, look, it has!)

Followed after a week by an international emergencies appeal to send money indirectly to the Indonesian government, kerching, thank you very much. They can afford this, they’re not Haiti..

It’s always the exact same story.

But surely an editor knows? I knew right away, so why didn’t you know, that this one was going to run into the thousands?

And surely, any responsible government in one of the most earthquake-prone, tsunami-aware parts of the world bloody well ought, ought they not, to prepare for this exact eventuality, with equipment and emergency supply dumps and trained responders to hand, just inland from every strategic coastal town?

Because, as is always reported, the bloody roads are always impassable, the bridges always down, the airport unusable; and the areas are always “remote”, away from any city where reporters can find a hotel standing and a bar open; areas where the victims are left to fend for themselves while international media interest drains away.

But there was a twist: it seems someone had stolen the physical apparatus (or parts thereof) of the tsunami warning system, the sirens, in Palu.

Does anyone understand, it’s not the height of the tsunami wave, it’s the length of the wave that is so destructive? Gosh, 6, 10, 20 feet high! No, it’s the mile or two miles from crest to crest that generates the power. We saw that with the Japanese tsunami, only 8 feet high, nothing could stand in its way, 15 thousand dead. Japan!

The 2004 Boxing Day tsunami, Indonesia again, and felt as far away as New Zealand, Japan, California, a quarter of a million. But it was days before the media comprehended the seriousness of those incidents; and the fact that many foreign tourists had died made it news.

The next time the USGS reports a M7.5 at only 6 km depth, on a known faultline just off the coast of a heavily populated developing country, do we think the world’s media might react in less than three days? At least make a phone call to see how serious it is? Employ at least one person on the editorial staff who isn’t a media studies graduate-through-the-medium-of-feminist-slavery?*

No, we don’t think it will. It can’t, it’s not made that way. It’ll be the sameold sameold. Oh look, another earthquake in a faroff land of which we wot not. Let’s wait and see.

Pattern thinking.

(There have been several earthquakes around the world in excess of M7.5 in the past three months. None was as destructive as the Sulawesi quake; but combined with extreme weather events there has to be an effect on geo-economics, the story that no-one is covering.)

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*I’m currently reading about the astonishing ineptitude of the incoming Trump administration following his election in November, 2016.

“…we are all at very much greater risk of a major nuclear accident”

Low energy

Despite Obama’s meticulous preparations for the handover, which Trump’s people studiously ignored, no-one, not even Rick Perry, the Energy Secretary whom Trump had previously dismissed as a moron, apparently knew that the Department of Energy – which Trump wanted shut down – employed hundreds of physicists and risk-analysts responsible for maintaining the security both of America’s domestic nuclear power program and its military arsenal, at home and overseas.

Thus, no-one turned up to replace the staffers who were contractually obliged to resign their positions under the change of administration, until by dribs and drabs a load of inexperienced young Trumptards wandered in and started throwing their weight around. To date, almost none have been appointed with any experience or understanding of global nuclear security and energy issues; they have undergone almost no briefing or training.

Hence Trump’s lunatic unilateral decision to abrogate the Iran nuclear non-proliferation deal in the face of international condemnation, as he didn’t have a clue what it was about, but it sounded terrible. Bibi Netanyahu didn’t like it, Bibi’s a smart guy, and it had the black man’s fingerprints on it.

Hence too, Trump’s precipitate order pulling 100% funding from the DoE’s backstop investment programs driving US innovation, that had encouraged numerous breathrough technologies over the years where the market had been too risk-averse to invest.

Because Trump, the fatuous oaf, neither understands nor cares anything about science and innovation, but retains a singular fondness for the uncompetitive dinosaur industries of his youth, hiding behind tariff walls, where he imagines a few more votes may lurk among the left-behinds, the opioid-addicted viewers of daytime TV.

See: The Fifth Risk, by Michael Lewis (Penguin Books).

(Shades of Norman F Dixon’s devastating book, On the Psychology of Military Incompetence? Ed.)

Consequently we’re all at very much greater risk of a major nuclear accident or terrorist attack using radioactive materials; since no-one competent to recognize a Geiger counter is in charge. The nuclear business is fraught with difficulties; Lewis points out that there have been brilliant and inspirational leaders in the DoE who have come up with inspired solutions at critical times. That doesn’t look like happening under Perry.

So if the government of Joko Widodo in Jakarta had no idea earthquakes could strike at any time, and has nothing in place for when they do, preferring instead to build golf courses and buy US arms for his repressive military, it’s not really surprising.

We are increasingly ruled by self-regarding, lazy, irresponsible, unqualified, light-fingered, doctrinaire, strutting clowns with a taste for money, power and genocide.

As climate-related disasters pile up with ever-increasing effects, world governments are really going to have to get a grip or come clean: they are no longer in the business of caring for their people.

We’re on our own.

Gizza job!

Indeed, nothing about Donald Trump is really shocking any longer. He just makes you feel nauseous to look at, to listen to. To please the nihilistic dumbfuck MAGA cult, he has plumbed the depths of the human spirit and come up covered in liquid shit. How they love to lick it up.

So it would not be a surprise to learn that, two months after taking office, he finally put in charge of the Department of Agriculture; a vast, sprawling organization employing 100 thousand people responsible for everything from fighting forest fires to feeding poor rural schoolkids (something Trump has vowed to put a stop to), as well as all the food production, farm subsidies and veterinary welfare in America, the following experts and others equally qualified by their loyalty to him, in jobs paying typically $80 thousand a year:

  • A long-haul truck driver
  • A clerk at AT&T
  • A gas-company meter reader
  • A country-club cabana attendant
  • A Republican National Committee intern
  • The owner of a scented candle company.

One Trump appointee got a job with the USDA after listing only “a pleasant demeanor” on their CV.

Not surprising, really, as his head of Personnel, Johnny DeStefano, who has survived longer almost than anyone in Trump’s dysfunctional day-care creche, got the job as a reward for running a small computer bureau that helped the Republicans gerrymander electoral districts. He’s now reduced to holding job fairs to try to persuade anyone who graduated high school to come on board and work at the White House.

I fear you have to conclude, this demented old sack of rotting cheeseburger is just taking the American people for a very unprincipled ride.

Then, he always has: a 40-page exposé in the New York Times shows conclusively from thousands of Trump family and Trump business documents that, very far from being a successful business tycoon this lying bastard has been living on Daddy Trump’s money all his rotten life, has never made a penny out of his own hard work, is not and never has been a “billionaire” and is very likely guilty of serious tax fraud totalling $millions.

Just a shitty little con man – spoilt brat, superannuated playboy – with a flair for hogging headlines.

I suppose that’s why the President of the United States of America feels entitled to belittle and insult anyone he decides to pick on, in shameful and disgusting displays of bullying and bragadoccio.

Because he’s nothing, less than the dirt underneath your fingernails.

Credit for the above quote goes to: The Fifth Risk, by Michael Lewis (Allen Lane/Penguin Books, hardback price on Amazon about £14. Order now!)

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xJazz hands? Vote with your feet

“Reps at the University of Manchester have voted to replace noisy appreciation with the British Sign Language (BSL) equivalent – a wave of both hands. Union officer Sara Khan said traditional clapping can cause issues for students with autism, sensory issues or deafness. Ms Khan, the union’s liberation and access officer, who proposed the motion at a recent meeting said clapping can ‘discourage’ some from attending democratic events.

“So-called ‘jazz hands’, she said, encouraged an ‘environment of respect’.” – (BBC report)

Shome culchural mishappropriashun here, poshibly?

But where’s the respect for African Americans? For them, so-called “jazz hands” as displayed while doing the Bunny Hop would surely be the most grotesque cultural misappropriation, an insult akin to blacked-up minstrelcy.

And aren’t speakers going to think it’s a bit weird? They make their lapidary closing remarks, step back from the podium looking both relieved and deeply satisfied with themselves, waiting for the polite ripple of approbation that is undoubtedly due them for their valuable insights into Graeco-Roman poetry, only to be greeted in total silence by an audience making derisory flapping motions as if to say, thanks for that mate, now fuck off….

Ms Khan needs to rethink her entire strategy.

How about Zen clapping, with just one hand?

Oh, no… sorry, angry Buddhists alert.

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GW: A whole lotta shakin’ goin’ on

Hurricane Update: As Typhoon Trami batters southern Japan with winds up to 134 mph, the eighth typhoon to hit the islands this year, with 3.7 million people advised to evacuate their homes on the main Honshu Island, another typhoon is forming in the Pacific.

The Express reports: “At least 53 people were injured by Trami as it barrelled through Okinawa and Kagoshima prefectures yesterday, according to state broadcaster NHK. More than 300,000 people there are still without power.” (Latest: 4 dead).

Now, in the wake of Mangkhut, the one before Trami, Cat 5 hurricane Kong-Rey is threatening the Philippines, Taiwan and the Chinese coast.

“Forecasters said it was still too early to confirm a route for the new storm, but they expected it to increase in strength to turn into a supertyphoon. Next Thursday, October 4, Kong-rey might approach the waters east of Taiwan and south of Okinawa, and weaken before turning north toward Japan, according to the Liberty Times report. How much it might affect Japan or Taiwan was still too early to determine, weather experts said.

“Kong-rey is the name of a Khmer princess and of a mountain in Cambodia.” (Taiwan News) So now you know.

 

 

In the eastern Pacific, on the heels of ex-Cat 4 Hurricane Rosa, now dumping inches of rain over the Arizona desert, “there’s a new tropical storm after Sergio formed on Saturday about 345 miles SSW of Acapulco, Mexico. Tropical Storm Sergio’s path is west, northwest at 13 miles per hour – a track taking it into conditions favorable for strengthening. The National Hurricane Center said Tropical Storm Sergio will likely become Hurricane Sergio by Monday.

“The good news is that Sergio currently poses no threat to land and no coastal warnings or watches are in effect.” (Newsweek)

Tropical storm/hurricane Leslie hasn’t yet developed a definite track, but: “the storm is forecast to reach hurricane strength as it loops around the same patch of ocean far away from land. Eventually, Leslie will move away into the North or East Atlantic. Leslie’s large circulation will generate dangerous surf and rip currents on the U.S. East Coast and the north-facing sides of the Caribbean islands.” There’s just a possibility it will end up heading towards northern Europe.

USA: Invest 98L – ‘zombie Florence’, is still causing problems across the East Coast.

“Preliminary estimates as of 19 September suggested that 3.4m poultry birds and 5,500 hogs died after Hurricane Florence made landfall, exceeding the number killed in the state with Hurricane Matthew in 2016. Rain and floodwaters caused by Florence also caused outdoor hog manure pits, known as lagoons, to overflow, threatening the spread of antibiotic-resistant bacteria.” (Independent)

Down in Texas, 22 Sept. there were casualties, at least 1 killed, and dozens of rescues in 4x normal ‘record’ rainstorms bringing flooding for the Dallas area. More rain was forecast. The quaintly named town of Soddy-Daisy, Tennessee was taken out by a flash flood on the 28th, after a storm that affected Mississippi and Alabama too, 1 dead. Up to 10-in of rain was recorded over a 72-hour period. (CEWN #138.)

Canada: Wanna know what it’s like when a powerful F3 tornado hits your city? Or your car? Hull, Quebec is trashed in one of (so far) 6 confirmed tornadoes on one day last week. (CEWN #138.)

Mexico: 7 dead, 8 missing in Michocoan province, 23 Sept. Watch an idiot driving into a raging black torrent and others rescued on a disintegrating rooftop…. Still distant, on the 28th Hurricane Rosa brings flash floods to Cabo San Lucas, on the tip of the Baja pensinsula. It’s your Granny’s distinct impression, to echo the wise man in the White House, these storms are getting wetter, waterwise. (CEWN #138)

Venezuela: flash flood after torrential rain hits the city of Vargas. It’s one way to get rid of the garbage. In a landslide near the city, 2 young girls die in a collapsing house. (CEWN #138)

Hawaii: 700 miles SSW of Honolulu, Tropical Storm (now hurricane) Walaka is not expected to directly impact the islands but has brought extreme heat and humidity, moving toward the west near 15 mph. This motion is expected to continue through tomorrow, followed by a turn toward the northwest Sunday night and Monday and a turn toward the north early Tuesday. Maximum sustained winds are near 40 mph with higher gusts. Steady strengthening is expected for the next two to three days. (Khon 2 TV)

Tunisia: Wanna know what a terrifying flash flood looks like? See the Medicane hit Nebeul. They probably don’t expect many of these in North Africa, as the drainage can’t cope: 30 cm of rain fell on Beni Khalled in 24 hours. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5ZFAoY7P3OE. 4 dead. (CEWN #138)

Greece, Turkey: Medicane Zorbas brings high winds, flash floods (29/30 Sept.)

India: Himachal Pradesh, in the north, flash floods and landslides, watch as a swollen river eats its bank away and a tour bus falls into the water and is swept downstream. Around 25 dead to date. Chamba recorded 13 cm rain in 24 hours….

Yellowstone: Steamboat geyser eruption #21 recorded.

 

The Long Essay:

The Trouble with Skripals

In view of the attention being given to the success of the Bellingcat investigative website – okay, let’s get it out of the way, partly funded by George Soros – in identifying one of the assailants, our Uncle Bogler is still confused by elements of the Skripal case, and seeks enlightenment; not least on the question of why Sergei – of whose condition and location we have heard nothing more – and his daughter were not killed by the nerve agent supposedly used?

(He further notes that, two days after I accidentally uploaded this controversial piece, a review has come out of a new book by BBC correspondent Mark Urban, about Sergei Skripal. You may find some answers there.)

Created during the Cold War, I’ve been told that military weapons-grade novichok acts both as an aerosol and on contact with the skin, and either way was designed to kill quickly and efficiently. Yet it didn’t work on four out of five individuals exposed to it!

Dawn Sturgess, the uninvolved woman who did die, inhaled the novichok directly in the spray from a perfume bottle. Yet she took several days to die. Novichok is said to act almost instantaneously in the lungs, but seems not to in practise. Her friend Charlie Rowley, who apparently found the discarded bottle and gave it to her as a present, had little direct contact with the contents and so survived. But even he was able to testify that the ‘perfume’ was odourless, so he must have inhaled some.

The mystery is, why did Sergei Skripal not die from his substantial skin contact with the nerve agent? And why did it take four hours to have an effect on him and on Yulia?

Was the two-part nerve agent incorrectly assembled? Or was it dated stock that had lost its potency? Or was it administered later than the police version is saying? And why if the GRU or whoever wanted Skripal dead, did they not simply kill him? Why go to the fuss, bother and mess of using an apparently ineffective chemical warfare agent from the 1980s?

As a trained operative himself, it seems odd that Sergei did not realize what was happening at an earlier stage during their visit to the town centre. Four hours seems an improbably long time to be driving, parking, visiting a pub and having lunch in a restaurant without noticing that you have been attacked with a nerve agent designed to disable troops on the battlefield; in other words, pretty well immediately.

And the perfume bottle, by Nina Ricci. Rowley said it was still in its original packaging, which, given the resources of the Russian intelligence agency it could have been. If it had been used to spray Skripal’s front door, however, how and why would the GRU team have repackaged it so convincingly?

And why was it thrown away, apparently at the place where the Skripals were found? How would the GRU team have known they would end up there, coincidence? – or was a meeting set up in advance?

Where indeed was it thrown away? How did it remain “thrown away” for three months without being swept up in the usual local authority garbage disposal operations? By what bizarre coincidence was the same park involved as the location for both poisonings?

Are we to conclude therefore that there was more than one bottle? And that others may be out there? Or that the bottles were not brought into the country as duty-frees by the two GRU goons, but by someone else, or even made up here beforehand, and deposited in dead-drops, to be collected as needed? Does Aeroflot even sell Nina Ricci?

And why, the question has been asked elsewhere, why would a pair of assassins risk entering the country together on a Russian airliner, directly from Moscow, on Russian passports, and have to go through the process of organizing tourist visas with Immigration, when they could so easily have been given false EU national identities and just waltzed in through the Green channel?

Why were the consecutive numbers in their passports not picked up? (Whatever else Jacob Rees-Mogg might tell you, we have not “lost control of our borders” – except apparently when it comes to Russian hit squads.)

Who was the “third man” thought to have carried out a reconnaissance in advance of their arrival? (Maybe their travel agent!) Where is the CCTV footage of him?

Apart from buying scratchcards in the corner store, what was Skripal doing, living quite openly in a nice house in Salisbury, a pleasant country town (city. Ed.) that just happens to be at the heart of the UK defense industry and close both to the biological warfare establishment at Porton Down and to southern naval command?

As a known double-agent who had been part of a complex spy exchange involving six Russian agents (including the sultry Anna Chapman) busted by the FBI in the USA, treated as heroes on their return, and therefore a potential target, why was Skripal not apparently given a safe house, but essentially staked out like a goat in plain view; even being given a bright red BMW car you couldn’t miss from space?

Was not the provision of CCTV cameras covering the house front and rear the most basic of precautions that should have been taken? And wasn’t? (Other conspiracy theorists have concluded there were cameras, but someone must have disabled them. So if there was no Russian involvement, why do that?)

It seems a feature of this case, that despite Britain being one of the most densely surveilled countries in the world, so much of what took place seems to have been out of view of any cameras. Thousands of hours of CCTV had to be reviewed before the limited range of street views we’ve been shown of the two clowns (at least one with the rank of Colonel) could produce some ID.

Did MI6 seriously not consider Skripal’s life would forever be in danger from the long reach of Putin’s revenge, that he has taken out on so many other ‘traitors’ to the Motherland – and on oligarchs who have fallen out of favor? Or did they not care? (Or did they not need to care, as the doctrine appears to be that the spies are no longer in business so don’t bother creating an international incident by sending hit squads to eliminate them? That, at least, is the Russian view.)

Given that Skripal’s brother and mother had both recently died, the brother in possibly suspicious circumstances, would that not have alerted the security service? Or were they too busy safeguarding us against Muslims to keep their eye on the Russian ball? At the end of the day, it’s Russians versus Russians, they’re not here to kill British citizens or make our streets less safe. We only make a fuss when they foul up somehow.

Is it possible that there could have been any connection with matters troubling the security establishment in the United States, for instance the so-called Steele dossier, supplied by the former MI6 Moscow bureau chief to the FusionGP political research agency – also, incidentally, funded by George Soros – and thence, to the FBI?

Crumbs of both unverified and unverifiable intelligence compiled from reports about Candidate Trump from Steele’s high-level contacts in Russia, who subsequently seem to have been purged by Putin’s security people – thus verifying the reports? Was Skripal connected with that purge? Might that explain the timing of the attack, given that Putin could have ordered it at any time?

(It has been suggested the attack was ordered as part of Putin’s re-election campaign strategy, to stir up international animus against Russia, boosting his image as the strong defender of Russian values and importance on the world stage….

I don’t buy that, since at least 14 other Russian exiles had already died in Britain alone in recent years, most under suspicious circumstances. Why would one more have been so significant? No, I see these targeted assassinations as part of the “Gerasimov” hybrid warfare being conducted against us, showing Russia’s ability to operate globally to create uncertainty, divide the West, discredit our intelligence services and reduce the influence of NATO.)

Britain’s most important-ever Russian defector, the former KGB mole Oleg Gordievski is supposedly being held in an anonymous-looking suburban safe house “somewhere in the Midlands”, with a new identity and under armed guard 24 hours a day. Why was Skripal not being similarly protected?

Or maybe he was? Who exactly is Detective Sergeant Nick Bailey, the third person affected in the Skripal attack, of whom since his discharge from hospital we have heard nothing more – a silence reminiscent of that of Trevor Rees-Jones, the police bodyguard who survived the Paris tunnel crash in which Princess Diana and Dodi al-Fayed died, who has remained invisible ever since, apparently suffering from amnesia?

Described as a heroic “first responder”… No! If police were called to two semiconscious people found behaving oddly on a park bench by passers-by (including a doctor) who said they thought they were high on drugs, the ‘first responders’ would have been uniformed patrol or even Community Policing officers, not a plain-clothes Detective Sergeant!

(Why would the media describe as ‘heroic’, an officer who had merely responded to a non-violent incident – if, as must have been the case, it was not known at the time of first response that an assassination was being attempted, and a military-grade nerve agent was the weapon? What would be ‘heroic’ about that?)

Who then did come into contact with the physical persons of Skripal and Yulia, when attending to them and rescuing them from the park bench? It could not possibly have been known at first-response stage – could it? – that a deadly military-grade toxin had caused their symptoms. Why were those unprotected first responders unaffected?

And how was it so quickly determined that samples taken from the Skripals – samples of what? The agent would surely not have been obvious – needed to be sent to Porton Down, eight miles away, and how did Porton Down scientists manage to identify the substance so quickly? Was anything known in advance?

So where did Sgt Bailey come into contact with enough of the nerve agent to land him in hospital? Obviously not in the park, because other responders were not affected.

How would Sgt Bailey have known to go to Skripal’s house if he had not identified Skripal first and subsequently obtained details of his address?

Or did he already know Skripal and where he was being kept? Was he in fact already at the address, perhaps as the duty surveillance officer? (You cannot tell me there was no surveillance on the house! I refuse to believe MI6 would simply abandon their man to go wandering around wherever he felt like it. Had there been a breakdown in the security arrangements?)

Why, even knowing the address, would Sgt Bailey have gone straight to the house after the discovery of the victims? What was he hoping to find? Was he despatched, or did he go on his own initiative? If the former, why was he not accompanied by scene-of-crime officers? If it was already known that a nerve agent was involved, why would he go alone and unprotected?

After several months of intensive enquiries, it was announced that the novichok had been sprayed on the front doorknob of Skripal’s house, unobserved. A curious choice of method, but who knows the assassin’s mind. The story subsequently went out that the Russians had been practising the technique. Really? You need to practise spraying stuff on a door? It’s hardly an innovative idea.

The question then is, why did it take so long to establish where the nerve agent had been applied, with all the comings-and-goings, to’ings and fro’ings via the front door that must have been involved, and the evidence staring investigators in the face? To my mind, the doorknob theory doesn’t add up; it’s too plausible – too limited.

Was Sgt Bailey actually contaminated by the doorknob in the same way as Skripal? It seems extraordinarily careless, given that he should have touched nothing without wearing protective gloves, if he thought a crime had been committed, to avoid blurring any fingerprints or DNA evidence. So what did he hope to find at the house?

Then, why would a middle-ranking detective have been put on the case, when it would (or should) have been known from that first ID of the pair that Skripal was an MI6 asset? Or hadn’t the spooks from Vauxhall Bridge told the local plod about him? As a classified operation, the investigation would surely have involved more senior officers right from the start; not the local firm.

Indeed, there are three living witnesses to say exactly what happened, who were directly harmed in the attack and could provide a detailed account; yet the enquiries have been going on for months and police are still responding with alacrity to false alarms, cordoning off premises and whole areas of the town, destroying vehicles and furniture and are still clearly trying to establish an evidence trail…

What else is involved with this case, that we’re not being told about?

The nerve agent was on the outside boss of the door…. This presupposes Skripal and his daughter must have been inside the house when the poison was applied as Sergei would have had to grasp the outside doorknob as they were leaving to go into town, to close the door. But how did the Terrible Twins know who would handle the doorknob first?

Yulia would not have needed to come into contact with the nerve agent via the door, which her father presumably closed. How then did she come to be seriously contaminated? From what source? Would the assassins not have taken into account, the possibility that she might have been the last one out?

Why didn’t the assassins just ring the doorbell and shoot Skripal in the face, instead of taking the risky decision to coat the doorknob, and maybe risk killing an Amazon delivery driver instead? It was early March – bad weather – what if Skripal had been wearing gloves for outdoors?

But of course, it’s harder to get a gun into Britain than to smuggle in a duty-free perfume bottle. And in any case, Putin likes to play cat-and-mouse with his victims. Shooting traitors isn’t his style – too easy.

But we return to the main question:  why did the novichok not work as specified in the military manual?

And how did the GRU agents manage not to poison themselves? (My brain has asked the same question even more pertinently about Dmitri Lugovoi and the other man involved in the Polonium poisoning of Alexander Litvinenko. They left a radioactive snail-trail all over London, a radioactive isotope is much harder to control even than a bottle of nerve agent. How did they manage to avoid self-contamination?)

The first version of how the Skripals were poisoned centered on the aircon in the red BMW and the idea that novichok was blown into the car as a powder. That sounds unlikely as Sergei, a trained killer himself, an ex-military veteran of the KGB school in Moscow, would have spotted it immediately and called for aid.

Indeed, did he have no means of making an immediate emergency call once symptoms became apparent? A number on speed dial? Or was he overcome too quickly – in which case, the attack must have happened either in the park or shortly before they arrived there. Again, had a meeting been pre-arranged with the would-be assassins? The carelessness of his MI6 handlers must surely form the basis of a formal enquiry.

But why did the investigation team initially think that the car was the source? Because Skripal had handled the steering-wheel, presumably – and nearer the time of his succumbing to the nerve agent. But the difference between a trace liquid and a powder would surely have been obvious to any trained investigator?

The next action was to completely seal off the house, which was done so efficiently and for such an extraordinarily long period of time without anyone going back in, that Sergei’s cat died of dehydration inside, no-one having thought to remove it for questioning… Also, two guinea-pigs starved to death.

Guinea-pigs??? Was he keeping them for food? Or company? No serious late-middle-aged man hardened by service in the spying business keeps guinea-pigs as pets, unless for some scientific purpose. Children keep guinea-pigs; laboratories keep guinea-pigs. Why did Skripal have guinea-pigs? Was it to warn him of an expected chemical attack, or could he have been preparing something himself?

I expect many of these questions will already have answers we are not party to, and the rest we shall probably never know about. It’s like an itchy scab you know you should leave alone.

None of it makes sense. But I am not an investigative journalist, or a police detective: just an old man in a chair.

The Pumpkin – Issue 64: Trump’s ultimate stay out of jail card… Nobody normal… Breaking the Family China… Hurricane watch – GW: Pick me up and whirl me around!… Buzzfeed News.

“He had already opined that a sitting President cannot be indicted for federal crimes.”

Trump’s ultimate stay out of jail card

The news that broke from Washington on Friday evening was neither news, nor really breaking, which implies something unexpected had happened.

The Congressional committee vetting the Presidential nomination for the vacant seat on the Supreme Court had voted, as everyone expected, to send the name of Judge Brett Kavanaugh forward to the Senate for ratification.

The Republican-controlled Senate.

Mr Kavanaugh, as everyone now knows, had been accused by multiple women of various sexual assaults, including participating in gang-rapes of drugged sophomores while at Yale, supposedly one of America’s finest Ivy League institutions.

By dint of allowing only one complainant to make her case before the committee, a Dr Blasey Ford, the bullyboys of the Congress avoided the need for further embarrassing hearings. Given the proximity of mid-term elections, it was all to be done on one day.

Kavanaugh himself described the proceedings as “a national disgrace” and (Trump’s line) a Democrat plot – there being nothing like a judge’s summing up to nobble a jury, especially in a case against himself.

Kavanaugh is also reputedly an alcoholic. When asked in the hearing if he had ever passed out through drink, an obvious disqualifier, he shot back insolently at his (female) Democrat questioner: “No, have you?”

Indeed, much of his emotionally overwrought evidence to the committee, some of which is already being dissected in the media as false, and his reliance on his churchgoing family as an alibi – (he claimed his little daughter had asked him to “pray for the woman, daddy”, at which point the entire female population of the planet collectively threw up) – suggested he was not really suitable to be hearing cases in the highest court in the land, but has an immature personality, an overly religiose affiliation and an overentitled, Ivy League view of the world.

Oh, and he’s probably a bit of a liar, no.

Surely, with these mounting accusations hanging over him, any honorable candidate would at least have offered to recuse himself, rather than bring the court into disrepute, with the possibility of multiple inquiries and suspicions continuing into the far future? The court, I suppose, that already contains Judge Clarence Thomas, who has labored under accusations of sexual impropriety for years.

Why would anyone in future respect the verdicts of such a flawed institution?

Not unlike his nominator, Mr Trump, who stands accused by no fewer than 19 women of sexual contact (he says it’s four), and who has almost certainly committed further criminal offences in using campaign funds to buy off “kiss-and-tell” stories from other women, yet has accused the four women who have come forward so far to testify against Judge Kavanaugh as being liars in the pay of Clinton’s Democrats.

Oh, please Donald, put a sock in it.

Sadly, the other judges on the bench don’t get a say in whether or not this plausibly slimy individual gets to bring the reputation of the court waltzing into the realms of la-la land.

In view of the lack of “corroborating” witnesses, who hadn’t been invited, and under severe pressure from the President, the committee was able to shrug off the perfectly believable accusation, arguing that while Dr Ford was probably being truthful, she could not prove it was the 17-year-old Kavanaugh who had attempted to rape her at a school dance; although she had testified under oath that she was “100 per cent” sure.

Mr Trump has been incredibly fortunate. Few Presidents get to nominate two partisan conservative judges in their first 600 days in office. There was, to be sure, something fishy about the resignation of Judge Anthony Kennedy, since Supreme Court judges are appointed for life, and he is still very much alive.

But for Trump, who knew nothing much else about him, notwithstanding his frequent protestations that the judge is “a wonderful man”, there was something special about Kavanaugh.

He had already opined that a sitting President cannot be indicted for federal crimes.

Trump’s lifelong modus operandi has been to commit quasi-criminal acts and then to divert attention from them by blame-shifting onto others, or by arguing that even if he had done something bad, others had done worse; or failing that, simply by muddying the waters. If he can, he will engineer things so that he cannot be easily prosecuted – as with his serial dismissals of FBI agents and his threats to withdraw security clearances from individuals who could testify against him.

His final getout has always, of course, been to buy off his accusers.

He is unintelligent, it’s true, and poorly informed, but he has low cunning in spades. From the moment of his dubious election Trump set off around the country, starring in rabble-rousing rallies at least once a week, pandering to the worst instincts of his supporters.

Through his rambling speeches, he carefully set up a number of “straw men”: his long-gone opponent, “Crooked” Hillary Clinton – no evidence of crimes has been laid at her door, but the crowd still likes to chant the old slogan from the campaign trail, “Lock her up”. The Democratic party, forever plotting against him. The lying press, the “enemy of the people” (except for outlets he likes, Fox News, the Cartoon Channel, and so on.) The bumbling Intelligence services, always getting everything wrong.

And even the law enforcement community: the FBI, and the Justice Department. They’ve all been a big letdown, are traitors, and maybe there are conflicts of interest, who knows?

So that whenever he needs something, he can blame any setbacks on the phantom conspiracy against him, the Deep State. And, by extension, claim that women who come forward with credible allegations of sexual assault are merely plotting with the Democrats or Hillary Clinton, or the “fake news” media, to destroy Donald Trump: the revered object of his dumbfucks’ disillusionment with the American Dream he pretends to embody.

It’s classic Mein Kampf tactics, but not everyone has read that whiny little prison book, and thinks instead there must be something in what their President says.

His endorsement of Judge Kavanaugh has, as he has made abundantly clear, nothing whatever to do with the man’s record as a judge – indeed, it’s not really clear: Kavanaugh has refused to allow his ten thousand pages of court records to be taken into consideration.

If you went for a top job and insisted on redacting your CV with no explanation, how far would you get?

It is instead entirely consistent with Trump’s frenetic campaign to discredit any and everyone involved in the multiple investigations of treason, obstruction of justice, egregious breaches of Foreign Emoluments law, conspiring with a foreign power to fix an election and lesser, mainly financial, crimes against him, his family, and his campaign team

Desperate to make them go away, by his frankly inappropriate partisan interventions the President has succeeded in polarizing public opinion around the issue of this really rather inappropriate judge character, and his refusal to back down, despite the risk of dragging the already tarnished image of the Supreme Court of the world’s leading nation into the gutter, purely out of personal pride.

Worse, in the view of The Pumpkin, is that the storm surrounding the allegations of abusive and inappropriate sexual conduct in his college days, allegations that are truthfully hard to stand up, is possibly obscuring many other reasons why this sanctimonious, overprivileged little redfaced shit ought not to take his place on the bench.

There must be a question mark over his professional credentials, his career record. But nobody seems to be interested in his legal qualifications while the sex thing, that was frankly years ago, is still swirling around.

In the 2017 case of Garza v. Hargan, Kavanaugh – an evangelical Christian – was the standout judge ruling against the right of a 17-year-old immigrant, anonymised as Jane Doe, to consult a doctor about an abortion, despite abortion being legal in Texas to 20 weeks; and despite a prior circuit court ruling that she should have the abortion.

The girl had been forcibly taken into protective custody and was being held against her will by anti-abortionists who were preventing her from receiving medical attention unless she agreed to carry the baby to term.

Kavanaugh’s position was that they should wait while a prospective adoptive mother was found, and he deliberately set the next hearing for a date in the 19th week of her pregnancy. (MSNBC reports.) His Christian and pro-life supporters have described the decision as “compassionate”. (Politico)

The Pumpkin would venture to suggest a different adjective.

Barbaric.

Kavanaugh, who is only 53, may now join Trump’s previous nomination, Judge Neil Gorsuch, on the bench for life. Gorsuch, who has been the career-long protege of the multibillionaire oil-to-entertainments mogul Phil Anschutz, is notorious for having never once ruled in favor of an individual appellate against a corporation.

“The case took seven years and went before seven judges but in the end, Detroit native Alphonse Maddin celebrated victory against the delivery firm that had fired him for seeking warmth after his truck broke down on a dangerously cold winter night. Of the seven judges, six sided with Maddin but one found in favor of the company and wrote a scathing dissent.”

Mr Justice Gofuck.

That version of the story ignores that a) it was 30C below freezing when Maddin was running out of diesel after his rig broke down in the snow, so he detached the trailer and set off in the cab to find some gas; and b) he’d been told to wait for a rescue truck, but it couldn’t get through, so he acted on initiative. Had his engine cut out, he would have frozen to death within half an hour.

And yet the anal retentive Gorsuch, cosseted all his life by another man’s money, who has likely never done a day’s labor other than jerking his own prick, could not bring himself to rule with judicial wisdom and commonsense in favor of the working man and against an unfair contract of employment. Why not? Working men built the goddam country.

The Supreme Court is truly compromised if – when – Kavanaugh is confirmed. It already contains Judge Clarence Thomas, accused of sexual impropriety against a female clerk. In his case, too, a woman’s reputation was regarded as not worth putting ahead of that of an important man – especially a black one.

Justice? You’re kidding. It’s about power. Corporate power. Male power.

But at least Trump can sleep easier, knowing that if he is indicted for crimes of money-laundering, sanctions-busting and racketeering, as soon as the case reaches the Supreme Court he’s home free.

What Special Counsel, Bob Mueller will make of it is anybody’s guess.

http://www.politico.com/story/2018/07/06/trump-supreme-court-pick-kavanaugh-immigrant-abortion-teen-700856

PS in a dramatic development, a woman protestor cornered the occasionally moderate Rep. Sen. Geoff Flake in the elevator and persuaded him to vote against the confirmation unless there was a further investigation of the allegations (and other matters) against Kavanaugh. Backed into a corner, knowing that 60% of the women in America would otherwise vote Democrat in November, Trump ordered the FBI to look into it. Sen. McConnell then imposed a rigid 7-day deadline on the investigation, virtually guaranteeing nothing much will come of it.

Watch, space.

x

“Christie called up Trump’s campaign manager, Corey Lewandowski, to ask why this critical job (to attend a legally required White House briefing for senior staff of all parties involved in planning the Presidential race) had not been handed to someone who actually knew something about government.

“‘We don’t have anyone,’ said Lewandowski.”

xNobody normal

An entertaining Long Read feature in The Guardian (27 Sept.) by Michael Lewis, extracted from his, the latest of many Donald demolition books and one I shall certainly have to add to my collection next week, takes us on the bumpy, scary flight through the critical two-month transition between Trump’s unexpected election in November, 2016 and his assuming the role of worst President in world history, ever.

Anyone who still doubts the truth of that assertion after all that’s been written about him and wants to give him the benefit of their kindhearted doubt, should understand: it’s not that malicious and misinformed liberal media hacks conspiring with sour-grapes Hillary and the Democrats have claimed without evidence that Trump was totally not expecting to win the election, not competent to run the country and knew less than nothing about what was supposed to happen if he did win – and wouldn’t listen to anyone who tried to tell him, and still doesn’t.

No. It is that Trump really was totally not expecting to win the election, actually is less competent to run the country than practically anyone you could think of, he really did know less than nothing about what was supposed to happen if he won – and he absolutely wouldn’t listen to anyone who tried to tell him, and still doesn’t.

And if you feel like scoffing and hooting, don’t be silly, nobody that unprepared would run for President, he’s a successful business tycoon handling major projects, there must have been people in the Republican party who knew how to run a campaign, they would never have adopted as a candidate, a 70-year-old, subliterate, fourth-grade spoilt brat, a superannuated, pussy-grabbing playboy who can barely tie his shoelaces, a lazy “fuckin’ moron” who would fail to impress most sentient humans he employed, a Great Negotiator who would wander out of summit meetings forgetting who he was talking to, and a man has told over 5 thousand recorded lies in 600 days, well, I’m afraid you’re too good for this world.

This book will add tonnes to the groaning weight of evidence that the ignorant, arrogant, thin-skinned and unreconstructed narcissist, Trump was and remains wholly unfit to remain in the White House; where in recent weeks, aided and abetted only by the scheming college vampire and lifelong racist, Stephen Miller – one of the very few slithy toves left from the alt-right swamp of the original Bannon “kill everything” squad – he has set about comprehensively severing America from its global moorings and sailing it rudderless into the unknown.

No wonder he’s such a fan of Brexit.

And the main reason he is unfit, judging by the narrative of Lewis’ book, is that he failed utterly to pull around himself the security of a team of competent men and women who might not have had to submit to his grotesque and insecure demands for constant grovelling adulation; his biting sarcasm and bullying, his screaming tantrums and refusal to listen to any advice but that of the little halfwitted Fox News anchors yarping incessantly on his TV screens – or occasionally that of the incompetent bunglers, religious maniacs, sexual and financial deviants, wife-beaters and snakes-in-the-grass he did manage to appoint.

Which was apparently almost anyone who could write in with an actual CV, or to whom the party owed a favor.

You could walk into almost any department of the US government and hear people asking the same question: where were these people who were meant to be running the place?

Formerly a State prosecutor, Christie, the heavyweight Governor of New Jersey, in 2005 had put Jared Kushner’s father away for five years after a trial on tax charges, from which the minor detail emerged that Charlie had engaged in a little witness-tampering, blackmailing his brother-in-law, a prosecution witness in the case, by compromising him with a prostitute in a motel room and, when he wouldn’t co-operate, sending the tape to his own sister.

It kind of set the tone for what was to follow.

Whatever the justice of the sentence, Kushner Jr had to swallow green bile when Christie, a long-term “friend” of the Donald, stepped in to lend his considerable avoirdupois to rescuing the campaign from electoral oblivion; especially when the Access Hollywood “pussy grabbing” tape emerged. His presence caused a certain amount of tension in a White House denuded of expertise, know-how and useful contacts, already stricken with panic. He didn’t really fit in.

Christie had to contend not only with opposition from the family, but with Trump’s legendary eccentricities; one of which is a lifelong belief that, whosever it actually belongs to, the money is his. Lewis tells the amazing story of how, summoned to the private Trump floors in New York’s gilded tower – Trump hadn’t apparently yet realized that as President he would be obliged to work and live in a cramped little four-storey slum in stuffy Washington DC, that he would never be allowed to develop, or affix his name over the pofrtico – Steve Bannon stepped from the gold-paneled elevator to find the boss red-faced and screaming in fury at Christie.

“Oi wants me fuckin’ minney!” The Pumpkin’s management style leaves a little to be desired.

Obama’s preparations to hand over the government had been superb … What could go wrong?

The rule is that, to ensure a smooth handover of power, the top 500 jobs in government need to be filled by the incoming team before the day of the inauguration. While the Government covers expenses – offices, cars, phones – the candidate has to pay the staff out of donor funds. Trump didn’t know that. He didn’t seem to be aware even of the need for staff: he had always run a lean business.

He had not, of course, put one cent of his own money into the campaign, despite the lies he repeatedly told the adoring dumbfucks at his Nuremberg rallies. Nor did his HR department actually know 500 people, or indeed any with the experience to assume those positions, other than the ones working for Obama, who were now streaming out of the building.

Notwithstanding, his fundraisers had raised a budget of several million dollars for the purpose of staffing the administration. Yet President-elect, Orange Chump seems to have mistaken the funds for his own personal bank account. Lewis writes:

“Bannon stepped off the elevator to find Christie seated on a sofa, being hollered at. Trump was apoplectic, yelling: You’re stealing my money! You’re stealing my fucking money! What the fuck is this? Seeing Bannon, Trump turned on him and screamed: Why are you letting him steal my fucking money? Bannon and Christie together set out to explain to Trump, federal law. … To which Trump replied: Fuck the law. I don’t give a fuck about the law. I want my fucking money.”

And that, dear Trumpologist, absoltely puts it in the proverbial nutshell: “I don’t give a fuck about the law, I want my fucking money”.

It is the perfect distillation of the entire gameplan of the permatanned bankrupt criminal entity millions of opiate-deadened Americans, gun-toting bigots and religious crazies chose to become the Leader of the Free World: a man unfree, trapped between the law and his desperate need for money; a man deeply in hock to the Russian mob.

People don’t understand that a bungled transition becomes a bungled presidency.”

You see, he is insane. Not just a bit rough around the edges, understandably lacking detailed knowledge of the demands of the job, the law, government, the constitution – in a typically feeble report this morning, the BBC’s John Sopoor referred to Trump as a “politician”, but he isn’t and never has been and never will be that.

Polticking is not his way of doing things; which is basically, to break people’s arms and legs if he doesn’t get whatever he wanted, that he just lost interest in. He’s only ever played at being a wealthy business buffoon who inherited and lost money and didn’t pay much attention in school, a bullshit billionaire (he once let slip to daughter Ivanka that he was $8 billion in debt – see the interview at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hCer9g-fh8o).

A tragically flawed character? No, more clinically non compos mentis. Psychologically profoundly damaged. Incapable of rational cognition; lacking boundaries, self-awareness or moral scruple; a sociopath driven entirely by his basal ganglia – the “reptilian brain”.

Nobody normal behaves like that, a child stamping its foot forever, from whom you’ve just taken a loaded revolver in case someone gets shot, and he wants it back; and he will never forget you did that.

Do they?

The Fifth Risk by Michael Lewis is published by Penguin Books on 02 October. Order now! I have….

http://www.theguardian.com/news/2018/sep/27/this-guy-doesnt-know-anything-the-inside-story-of-trumps-shambolic-transition-team

 

Smashing the Family China

Possibly the oddest war in history may be about to break out.

Relations between far-distant China and Sweden (“Sweden! Who knew, Sweden!” – © D Trump) have descended into a series of unflattering tit-for-tat exchanges.

The two nations are yelling at one another over a strange incident in which a family of Chinese tourists, we are led to believe, turned up a day early at the Stockholm hotel they’d booked, and being refused a room, insisted on camping overnight in the lobby.

After failing to persuade them to go away and come back the next day, staff called the police, who escorted the Chinese outside. The visitors then began kicking-off and screaming in the street at the top of their lungs, protesting they were being kidnapped.

The son later made a complaint that the police had roughed them up, and the embassy intervened with a fullblown diplomatic rebuke to the Swedish government, which had enough problems at the time as it was during an election period in which the Western media were agog to see if the world’s most liberal nation was about to turn fascist.

A deluge of anti-Chinese memes from the public, and a poorly judged ten-minute satirical slot on mainstream Swedish TV alluding to the eating of dogs and other unsavory Oriental habits, have further served to rack-up the tension.

The Washington Post comments:

“Some observers suspect ulterior motives. Analysts see a link between the Chinese government’s vehement reaction and the fact that Sweden has been pushing for the release of Gui Minhai, a China-born publisher with Swedish citizenship who has been detained since January after publishing unflattering books about Chinese leaders.”

It certainly looks like a put-up job, involving a cast of what poor mad Alex Jones of Infowars would undoubtedly term ‘crisis actors’. The Chinese are ludicrously sensitive, given their size and growing economic power, their four thousand years of culture, to any hint of criticism. Indeed, internet memes have been taken down, of Supreme Leader Xi being compared with the chubby, lovable Pooh Bear Disney character, to whom he bears an obvious resemblance. If he can’t take a little affectionate ribbing, what hope is there for continuing reform?

More seriously, the rate of imprisonment or worse of critics labelled as dissidents: human rights lawyers, artists and journalists, even political opponents branded without much evidence as corrupt, certainly not as corrupt as their accusers, has been increasing rapidly.

Concerns are being raised over the fate of China’s leading international movie star, Fan Binbing, who has not been seen in public for several weeks; while news of her birthday, normally celebrated by millions of fans on internet sites such as Weibo, has been suppressed.

The Cleveland Courier reported:

“She was booked to star with Penelope Cruz in the Hollywood film “355” and has a role in the upcoming Bruce Willis-Adrien Brody feature ‘Air Strike’. Yet for nearly three months, Fan hasn’t been seen or heard from in public in any verifiable way. One of China’s wealthiest entertainers, Fan pulled down tens of millions of dollars for her roles, along with handsome sums in appearance fees and product endorsements. Some of those contracts may have landed her in hot water with the authorities.”

While The Guardian story points to what appears to be some private jealousy on the part of powerful State officials at her growing influence and wealth – and possible involvement in “a public scandal over actors underreporting their earnings”, which she had previously denied.

“An article in the official Securities Daily in August said she had been ‘placed under control and will accept legal judgement’. The story was quickly removed, and any mentions of it were scrubbed from Chinese social media along with Fan’s name.”

It’s pretty disturbing when someone so prominent can simply be made to disappear. (We’ll assume she hasn’t just been kidnapped by Kim Jong-un to make a picture in Pyongyang (that has happened before!)).

It illustrates that China is not really the great new consumer society opening up to the world, as the PR image portrays it. In reality, it remains the nasty, small-minded, thuggish dictatorship it always was, riddled with corruption, illegality and human rights abuses at the highest levels.

And they eat dogs.

 

Hurricane watch

GW: Pick me up and whirl me around!

The hurricane/typhoon/cyclone (all the same thing) season is well under way. Weather-watchers in Australia are bogling at the emergence of Tropical Storm Liua, expected to become a Cat 2 cyclone bringing heavy rain to the Solomon Islands, as it is “exceptionally rare” for a southwest Pacific cyclone to develop as early as September, the season not normally beginning in the southern hemisphere until November. In fact it hasn’t happened for 70 years. The forecast track has it possibly affecting north island, New Zealand later next week. (Various regional news outlets)

‘Enormous’ Typhoon Trami seen from the International Space Station, 26 Sept.

Typhoon Trami is no longer at the moment a ‘supertyphoon’ as windspeeds have dropped from 160 to about 105 mph owing to a replacement of the eyewall, a 30 mph dry wind shear and the churning up of colder water from depth. However, it’s enormous – still 400 miles from Okinawa, it’s already causing heavy rainfall as far north as Japan’s southerly main island of Hokkaido, where it’s expected to arrive possibly as a strengthened Cat 2 or even 3 on Sunday with potential for 20 inches or more of rain. (Wunderground/CNN)

Post-tropical Storm Leslie is puzzling everyone as it is stuck, going round in circles over the Gulf Stream in mid-Atlantic, picking up energy but no rotational organization. Wunderground’s Dr Jeff Masters is still expecting it to do something more interesting, windspeeds strengthening at least temporarily to at least Cat 2 hurricane force. The forecast tracks are a blur but suggest some southwestward movement toward Bermuda. “We may be dealing with Leslie for a long while to come”, writes Jeff.

Nearing the Lesser Antilles, off-on Tropical Storm Kirk has reorganized. “Kirk’s structure improved on Wednesday morning, with a growing convective core and improving outflow at upper levels. Kirk is traveling over warm waters (sea surface temperatures around 29°C or 84°F) that extend to some depth, and wind shear is less than 10 knots, so Kirk might intensify a bit more and approach (or perhaps reach) hurricane strength by Wednesday night or Thursday. Kirk has only a brief window of time for intensification, though, as it will soon encounter the wall of wind shear that’s kept the Caribbean free of tropical cyclones in recent weeks.” (Wunderground)

Update Friday: Tropical storm warnings were flying on Thursday afternoon for the Lesser Antilles islands of Barbados, St. Lucia, Dominica, Martinique, and Guadeloupe as Tropical Storm Kirk cruised west-northwest at 14 mph through the island chain. With top winds of just 50 mph at 2 pm EDT Thursday, Kirk was primarily a heavy rain threat, with up to 10” of rain expected across much of the region. Kirk’s center will pass over or very near the island of Martinique by late afternoon Tuesday.  (Wunderground)

Update Saturday: TS Kirk dumps between 6 and 10 inches of rain on Barbados in under 15 hours

After reaching Cat 4, Hurricane Rosa has made its northwestwards turn outward of the Mexico coast and is progressing at 14 mph towards Baja California. “Life-threatening surf” conditions are predicted. Wunderground’s view is it will weaken over the coast before heading inland, dropping 2-3 in. of rain over the Arizona desert, pushing yet another storm front up through the midwestern “corn belt” into Minnesota and Michigan, where they must be getting fed up with this. Amateur weather watcher, MrMBB333 points out, it is quite an unusual track for an eastern Pacific hurricane to take.

Update Friday: Rosa is rapidly strengthening about 550 miles southwest of the southern tip of Mexico’s Baja Paninsula. With top sustained winds of 105 mph Rosa is feeding on very warm waters and a moist surrounding atmosphere amid light wind shear less than 10 knots. These conditions favor Rosa becoming the seventh major hurricane of the season. (Wunderground) Massive flooding already affecting Cabo San Lucas, southern Baja.

Invest 98-L meanwhile – “zombie Florence” – fell apart over North Carolina, limiting rainfall to just another inch or so. The remnants are heading back out to sea. (ABC News/Wunderground)

Infared satellite image showing Zorbas’ distinct hurricane “eye” as it heads toward Crete, Saturday 29th.

And in Europe, Medicane Zorbas… Greek authorities have issued a Red alert for Kefalonia and the SE. “An intense cyclone is confirmed – severe wind and life-threatening flash floods are expected in some areas.” (Severe-weather.eu). Satellite imagery shows sustained winds of 85 mph gusting to over 100 mph around a formal “hurricane” eye. Such an organized cyclone is very rare in Europe but consistent with the general misbehavior of cyclones in 2018.

Medicane Zorbas arriving off Kytheria island.

Friday update: Gale force winds have already battered Greece this week, forcing authorities to shut down ferries and schools and causing flight delays. The strong winds toppled trees on to power lines in the northern suburbs of Athens, with the fire department saying it received more than 350 calls to remove debris. Schools remain shut. On the western island of Kefalonia, schools were evacuated near a wildfire that was being fanned by the strong winds. The last medicane in Greece, dubbed Cyclone Numa, killed 21 people. (from Metro report)

Update Saturday: the wildfire in Kefalonia is burning “out of control”, fanned by severe storm force winds. (Keep Talking Greece news)

More “messy sky” syndrome. The skyscape here changes with bewildering rapidity, yet there’s little wind.

Canada: 21 Sept. 6 confirmed tornadoes, one at F3 (out of 5), touched down in the Ottawa area causing severe damage and lengthy power outages. The federal agency says the unexpected tornadoes — 3 in eastern Ontario and 3 in western Quebec – reached gusts of up to 265 kilometres per hour as they destroyed houses, buildings and power lines. Several people were injured. Ottawa U. climatologist, Paul Beckwith says the shifting jetstream is changing the normal distribution of tornadoes in Canada and the USA.

Are they spying on us? Blobby clouds materiallze, grow fat and then dissipate again, vanishing back into the ether. Is there more water vapor in the atmosphere these days, thanks to warming?

UK: Is a giant, 1200-mile wide, 85mph storm out in the Atlantic going to arrive over these isles next week? Are we being told?

Here in Boglington-on-Sea we have wall-to-wall clear blue sky and unseasonally warm early Autumn conditions; although a gossamer-thin layer of very high altus cloud can just be made out via polarizing lenses, filtering the sunlight a little. Nevertheless, we say nyah-nah! to the naysayers. (I can’t decide whether to buy a home weather station or a pollution monitor, financially it’s a toss-up. But it’s The Pumpkin’s birthday next week, so we’ll have to decide. Generally nowadays he has to buy his own presents.)

Friday update: blue sky again today – but those weird little blobs (imagine a 9-year-old kid’s drawing of clouds) and messy sky syndrome returned yesterday afternoon, and again yesterday morning, and again on Saturday (lower, right) when the sky went from clear blue, to a few shining blobs, to looming masses of blobs, to completely clear again in under an hour. Some jet trails did not appear to be attached to any aircraft we could see or hear. Take it from me, there’s some higher intelligence operating here, of wot we wit not.

In case anyone believes the Express is a reliable source of weather information, today’s headline screams of “SNOW Forecast!” as an “Arctic blast” hits Scotland. Further in to the story it turns out the Met office says a cold, windy, rainy front is expected over the weekend. Turns out, it’s only the bookmakers who are taking bets on “a flake or two”. I.o.w., more Express bullshitty clickbait.

Pictured, right: we’ve had more than two months of these mysterious ‘blobby clouds’ like a child’s drawing, often appearing low in the sky on sunny days in ones and twos, growing and clustering together, often in serried rows or forming “trains”, before vanishing just as mysteriously leaving a clear blue sky.

Or is it always like this, and your Uncle Bogler, the man with the cameraphone, is going mad?

 

 

 

Article in progress, about the elections in Brazil and the threat posed by the front runner to the rainforest

The ends of the earth (provisional title – do we really want to run this here? Ed.)

“Deforestation rates have been trending mostly upward since 2012 and will surely escalate if a raft of proposed laws and regulatory changes to weaken environmental protections are enacted. Brazil lost 2,682 square miles of Amazonian forests in 2017. That is almost nine times the size of New York City and 78 percent above the government’s own target for meeting its obligations under the Paris accord.” (NYT Opinion piece: The Amazon on the Brink?)

“To his credit, (President)Temer pledged in Paris to cut his country’s carbon dioxide emissions 37 percent below 2005 levels by 2025. His actions since then tell a different story. Last year, the Environment Ministry’s budget was cut nearly in half, as part of a national austerity plan amid Brazil’s punishing recession. … (Elections, 07 Oct): “The current front-runner, Jair Bolsonaro, is a climate-change skeptic who has been called “the tropical Trump.” He has threatened to take Brazil out of the Paris climate accord.” (NYT)

Around 45 forest defenders and environmentalists are being murdered every year by corrupt logging interests, soya and palm oil planters; recently there appears to have been a genocide of a native tribe getting in the way of mining rights.

Is there any hope for the Amazon, one of our principal oxygenators and carbon “sinks” – any more than for endangered rhino, the African elephant or the leopard, perennial victims of the insane trade in bogus “harmonious” Chinese medicines?

(Maybe the story doesn’t need more elaboration? We get the picture. Ed.)

(New York Times report http://www.nytimes.com/2018/09/26/opinion/amazon-climate-change-deforestation.html?rref=collection%2Fsectioncollection%2Fopinion&action=click&contentCollection=opinion&region=stream&module=stream_unit&version=latest&contentPlacement=5&pgtype=sectionfront&wpmm=1&wpisrc=nl_todayworld)

 

Buzzfeed News

A Bee-feature in the Guardian (28 Sept.) gives some hope for a saner world.

With one in every 200 people keeping bees, Slovenia may be the world’s most bee-friendly country.

The first country in Europe to ban neonicotinoids, its citizens are encouraged to plant bee-friendly flowers and shrubs. In the capital, Ljubljana, one of the cleanest cities in Europe, the Bee Path project “encourages citizens to plant nectar-bearing flowers, hands out seeds, organises tours of bee-related locations, and supports the faculty of architecture to design new forms of city beehive.

“Grass is cut later to prolong the blooming of flowers. The use of glyphosate herbicide for fighting weeds is prohibited in public areas. An educational bee house was erected in the botanical gardens to research the lives of urban bees. School beekeeping clubs are booming. There is even a bee-based kindergarten.” A special “rapid response” team is on call to go out and transport rogue swarms back to their hives.

As a result of these and other measures, bee populations in Slovenia remain healthy and no cases of colony collapse disorder have been reported recently.

Are you reading about it, Mr Gove? Hello, mayors Khan, Burnham and others? How about your cities? (The useless teenage masturbators who run Sheffield council, where secretive contractors are cutting down all the inconvenient trees and people have been imprisoned for protesting, might like to know that in Ljubljana alone, “There are 65,000 registered trees, and authorities now only plant nectar-bearing trees.”

The Pumpkin admits, he has hosted almost no bees in his little garden in West Wales this year, despite encouraging the rampant growth of flowering Sedum and not trimming his laurel hedge. And very few individual bees, although still quite a wide range of species, has he seen on his walks either.

Frankly, given that there is no arable farming here, usually to blame for bee loss, he has no explanation other than climate change disrupting the seasonal breeding cycles of plants and their pollinators.

Could try harder, Britain.