Johnson’s Victorian values… Making a difference… Johnson: There’s more than one? God help us…. Seen paper… How many lives is your job worth?… GW: Every cloud has a shiny lining… This week’s BogPo assumes proportions.

World of Stupid:

“…Obama had somebody that kept the rates very low. I had somebody that raised the rates very rapidly. Too much. He made a mistake. That’s been proven. And yet my economy is phenomenal.”

– er… Donald Trump, of course, denying that he has several times talked about firing Jerome Powell, the head of the Federal Reserve bank, for mistakenly presiding over Trump’s phenomenal economy.

Missile batteries in Iran

Amazon displays its new Primed, next-minute delivery service.

 

“Is this Nick Cotton character from the BBC’s East Enders soap, the morally bankrupt, sexually incontinent, lying reprobate – an obvious security risk, incidentally – about to become our next Prime Minister? This fucking country should hang its head in shame.”

Johnson’s Victorian values

Police initially denied the story, but then admitted to journalists, they were called to the scene of a violent domestic “altercation” by alarmed neighbours in the early hours of 21 June but left after no complaint was made and assurances were given of the woman’s safety.

“The neighbours said they recorded the altercation from inside their flat out of concern for (his much younger girlfriend, Carrie) Symonds. On the recording, heard by the Guardian, Johnson can be heard refusing to leave the flat and telling Symonds to “get off my fucking laptop” before there is a loud crashing noise.

“Symonds is heard saying Johnson had ruined a sofa with red wine: “You just don’t care for anything because you’re spoilt. You have no care for money or anything.” The neighbour said: “There was a smashing sound of what sounded like plates. There were a couple of very loud screams that I’m certain were Carrie and she was shouting to ‘get out’ a lot. She was saying ‘get (off me…) get out of my flat’ and he was saying no.* And then there was silence….”

(*A criminal offence.)

Johnson, 54, who earns over a quarter of a million pounds a year from writing a crapulous weekly column in The Telegraph, did the dirty once too often on Marina, his long-suffering barrister wife and mother of at least four of his kids, after a turbulent marriage, rendering himself temporarily homeless, and moved in on Carrie Symonds, 31, a vivacious Tory party spin doctor. In recent weeks, reported The Guardian, the “couple” have been sharing a flat in a converted Victorian house in Camberwell. “It has been reported that they intend to move into Downing Street together if he is elected leader.”

I’ll bet. Will he have paid his numerous unpaid parking tickets by then?

I have been unable to find a single report this morning that does not refer to Ms Symonds’ flat, where Johnson has been sofa-surfing since being booted out by his wife, as “Boris Johnson’s home”. If that were true, refusing to desist from a violent assault and leaving when requested would probably not amount to the criminal offence Johnson would have committed if Ms Symonds had decided – or felt free – to press charges.

But it is not true. It is, legally, her home. She has a right to evict him. This was not “a row”, I know what rows are like, my parents indulged in enough of them when I was very young, plates and all. It was not an “altercation”, a “barney”, a “bundle” or a “tiff”. “Get off me… get out, get out of my flat” is not a fucking tiff, not at 2 a.m.

And to this hour, not one of The Guardian‘s formidable battery of feminist columnistas has seen fit – or been allowed – to comment.* Thus are drunken and feckless domestic abusers enabled.

The Guardian‘s Marina Hyde commented wryly – before the news that the superficially charming, overentitled, slightly disgraced ex-Foreign Minister is a domestic abuser came out – that no-one actually knows how many children our next Prime Minister has sired.

Why will no-one call this out for what it is?

Is this Nick Cotton character from the BBC’s East Enders soap, the morally bankrupt, sexually incontinent, lying reprobate – an obvious security risk, incidentally – about to become our next Prime Minister? This fucking country should hang its head in shame.

But there will be those who go on defending him. Oh, they will say, he’s just being Boris.

Yes, quite.

Tory men, eh? The incident follows another in which bulging-eyed, puce-faced patrician MP, Mark Field, also 54, was filmed grabbing a young woman by the neck, slamming her into a pillar and then hustling her out of the dining hall at the Mansion House, after she had taken part in a peaceful protest organised by Greenpeace to alert the country’s hogswilling financial elite to the climate crisis.

Gammon and go… Mark Field MP takes charge.

His excuse? He feared she might be armed! No suggestion he was awash with Treasury claret. Quite rightly, he has been suspended from his minor Foreign Office ministerial job while police investigate. Nothing whatever will come of it, of course. These squirearchical public-school bullies are the masters of the universe whom empire-fantasizing Leave dimwits and Tory wives crave to put in authority.

They are the ugly, abusive, patronizing, autocratic, self-serving elites – the gammon-faced men of power – who rule the country as they rule the home and the little woman, and are planning to profit from dragging us out of the EU without a deal, breaking up our remaining public institutions to enable themselves and their pals to derive “value” from them; just as they will benefit from deregulation and the ultimate rape of the environment.

But not just in this country.

“When they reached the dressing rooms, she said Trump shoved her against the wall, pulled down her tights and “forcing his fingers around my private area, thrusts his penis halfway — or completely, I’m not certain — inside me.” New York magazine confirmed that Carroll told two friends about the incident after it happened.”

Journalist and Elle advice columnist E Jean Carroll recounts an incident more than two decades ago in which Donald Trump, then a failing playboy real-estate executive living on Daddy’s money, allegedly assaulted her in a dressing room of the Bergdorf Goodman department store. The White House’s predictable reaction? “She’s making it up to discredit the president. Why did she not report it at the time? And look, she’s got a book out!”

A familiar theme taken up by dozens of useless little Trump-enabling scrotes and other illiterate, piss-stained-sofa-dwelling mouth-breathers in comments on the magazine’s website.

Do you know what Trump does to women who report his attempted rapes, little trolls? Of course you don’t. Carroll is one of around 20 women who have confirmed what Trump once boasted, that he just grabs any woman he wants, whenever he wants, and starts in on them because he’s famous and they love it.

You see, he has ADMITTED on tape that he does this. There have been actual witnesses to his behind-the-scenes behavior on his tacky TV show, at his rigged “beauty” contests. His verified lie count while in office is even now as I write passing 10,800, but still, no, it’s the women who are lying, always.

And all of them coming forward to report the assaults have been threatened by his thuggish fixers with multi-million-dollar life- and career-wrecking lawsuits and worse, beatings, death threats, threats to their families – meeting a barrage of vile abuse from his worshipful dumbfucks. Just look what he did to Dr Blasey Ford, to get his pet dog Kavanaugh into the Supreme Court.

Enough with the lies. His atrocious presidency has to end, now. He is not a figure of fun, but of slimy menace. He is not innocent of the dozens of crimes he is accused of committing, not any of them. He even boasts like a 1920s Chicago mobster about his inviolability: one of the Untouchables; the law in his pocket.

He needs to join his pal Manafort in Ryker’s Island. Get him on a charge of wearing absurdly long ties. Anything.

*Sunday brings a matronly rebuke and some concern from Polly Toynbee. “A loose cannon” is not, in my view, a domestic abuser, or a threat to the security of the nation – as domestic abusers fired from the Trump regime are regarded, hence the firings. But she’s right in saying, the Brexit fanatics on the right of the disintegrating Tory party don’t care what pile of human dog-crap they elect as long as he restores the British empire and the Voice of the Thatcher is once again heard in the land.

 

“The government went to federal court this week to argue that it shouldn’t be required to give detained migrant children toothbrushes, soap, towels, showers or even half a night’s sleep inside Border Patrol detention facilities.” – US judges, appalled by descriptions of children made to sleep in cages on concrete floors, under only an aluminum sheet, rejected the argument. (TYT)

 

Making a difference

20 June: The Bank of England has warned that economic growth in Britain could grind to a halt during the second quarter amid mounting risks to the economy from a no-deal Brexit. Sounding the alarm as its nine-member monetary policy committee (MPC) voted unanimously to leave interest rates on hold at 0.75%, the central bank said the lack of resolution was weighing on growth.

11 June: Deputy governor, Ben Broadbent, … backed comments made by the Bank’s chief economist, Andy Haldane … (that) the time was nearing for a rate rise to nip inflation pressure in the bud, while (another MPC member) Saunders said Brexit uncertainty was not a reason to delay rate rises. (Guardian)

Does anyone in authority know what the fuck they are talking about any longer? Or must we assume that the difference between 11 and 20 June, is called Boris Watermelon Piccaninny, etc. Johnson?

 

Johnson: There’s more than one? God help us.

(This item will be moved shortly to the next issue of The Pumpkin. Thank you.)

“Oklahoma’s attorney general, Mike Hunter, is suing Johnson & Johnson for billions of dollars for its alleged part in driving addiction and overdoses in his state in the first full trial of a drug maker over the opioid epidemic.

“…the company has struggled to explain marketing strategies its accusers say dangerously misrepresented the risk of opioid addiction to doctors, manipulated medical research, and helped drive an epidemic that has claimed 400,000 lives over the past two decades.” (Observer, 23 June)

Spammers, Likers etc. of this, muh bogl will recall that we have been somewhat critical recently of remarks made by the US ambassador to the Court of St James in London, Mr Robert Wood “Woody” Johnson.*

Mr Johnson, a billionaire scion of the New Jersey-based Johnson & Johnson baby-powder dynasty, there’s always money to be made in bare bottoms, is on record as saying he expects the UK to accept inferior US regulatory standards, such as any still exist after two and a half years of Trump’s well-funded rollbacks, should we need to do an emergency trade deal in the wake of a not very workable Brexit.

In addition to its alleged role in the lethal epidemic of addiction to powerful painkillers, Johnson & Johnson also faces some 12 THOUSAND individual lawsuits throughout the USA, alleging that their famous baby powder has caused childhood cancers owing to talc ( a crushed volcanic rock) being a suspected carcinogen; and to the product’s being possibly cut with asbestos dust. J&J has already been ordered to pay out billions of dollars in compensation.

The company, which has denied all the accusations, claiming it has only a very small market share in Oklahoma (and therefore caused not very many deaths? Ed.), has been accused by doctors and expert witnesses of instituting a campaign of false-front “research” organizations and hiring PR agencies to gloss over the addictive properties and side-effects of opioid painkillers – Johnson owns several poppy-cultivating farms in Australia – of tampering with or selectively understating research results and using high-pressure sales tactics on GPs, providing them with false safety assurances to increase prescribing.

It should be mentioned here perhaps that Johnson& Johnson is not the only huge US Pharma corporation engaged in this filthy business. Other, similar entities are available, coming soon to a pharmacy near you.

Another report last week described how desperate Americans are travelling in convoy across the Canadian border to buy vital medication such as insulin for diabetics at prices up to ten times lower than those charged in the USA, despite Trump’s evil lies, endlessly repeated to his Nuremburg-style dumbfuck rallies, that he has already brought pharma prices down and will shortly be introducing a beautiful healthcare plan for all to replace the terrible Obamacare – something he falsely promised to do on his first day in office, what seems like a century ago.

Welcome to the NHS three years from now, Brexit dolts.

http://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2019/jun/22/johnson-and-johnson-opioids-crisis-lawsuit-latest-trial

*The words “woody” and “Johnson” are American slang for, respectively, an erection and a penis. Nevertheless they are genuinely this bloke’s names.

 

Seen paper

“The rules governing exam security are detailed and rigorous. Papers are kept in sealed packets and delivered by courier to exam centres where they have to be signed for, with the date and time of receipt recorded. They then have to be immediately locked in a secure room solely assigned to exams, ideally without windows and on an upper floor.”

So says the Observer today, reporting on how police are looking into the leak online of a page of this year’s GCSE Religious Studies paper; following last week’s story about the leak of Edexcel’s A-Level Statistics math paper.

Ha ha ha! As I bogled just the other day, I work from time to time in a university. We frequently find the wrong exam papers among those we hand out – not in any way sealed or locked in windowless upstairs rooms. Papers not due for distribution until the next day, even the next week.

I’m obviously missing a potential revenue stream.

 

How many lives is your job worth?

How many people would you be willing to kill, if it meant you had a job? Given, that is, that it might not be the only job you can get or know how to do, but it’s the only one you’ve got?

Five? 10? 50? 298? What’s the price of your job, measured in human lives?

It seems these tradeoffs are increasingly a part of the realpolitik of our global economy.

You might say, well, my family has to eat. True, but so do the families of the people you would happily rather see die, than you get on your bike and look for another job. Never mind, you don’t actually have to care about them, they’re strangers. Quite a few were foreigners. Anyway, they’re already dead. And you’re not.

There’s the 93-year-old Prime Minister of Malaysia. He’s almost dead, but sadly not quite. A pretty rackety old character, always was, he’s just got his old job back because his predecessor is up on charges related to the embezzlement of a $4.5 billion dollar sovereign wealth fund. These politicians, eh? What are they like.

And when confronted after two years with the painstakingly investigated evidence of Russian collusion in the shooting down of one of your country’s commercial passenger aircraft with a Russian ground-to-air missile fired by a loose combatant in a local insurgency on the ground, Mr Racketeer – sorry, Makateer – given the rock-solid evidence, what is your response?

Stuff and nonsense! There’s no evidence our plane was shot down by a reckless Ukrainian idiot using a Russian missile, it’s just made up. Typical of the UN to blame Russia for everything.

298 corpses, including many children and some Newcastle United fans, groan and turn over in their eternal sleep.

Meanwhile, it’s being suggested that Mr Racket… sorry, Makateer, might be anxious about a trade deal. You see, his country has invested lots in cutting down all its pristine forests to plant more palms for their oil, but the UN doesn’t like that on environmental grounds and wants to ban at least some of the trade, so you did a deal with Russia, didn’t you.

So much death and devastation. Humans, trees – which in turn means more dead humans. But it keeps the money rolling in. And what’s your cut of that, Mr Rac… sorry, Makateer, you decrepit old fuck?

But why stop there?

“Donald Trump has dismissed a United Nations request for the FBI to investigate the murder of the dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi, suggesting it would jeopardise American weapons sales to Saudi Arabia.”

Well, let’s discount my colleague, The Pumpkin’s theory that Trump is defending Mohammed bin-Salman because it was his son-in-law, Jared Kushner, who leaked top-security CIA files on dissidents to his Saudi pal in exchange for his co-operation in shaking down the Qatari government to bail out a failed property deal. It’s just too… well, out there.

Let’s take him at face value.

Somehow, Trump has got it into whatever organic matter still sits like a blob of melted icecream in a tragically small puddle at the bottom of that pouting orange cranium that he has done $400 million worth of arms deals with Saudi Barbaria, that will be at risk if he dares to criticize the Crown Prince, who has presided over a devastating war against neighbouring Yemen.

Of course it won’t, but that’s what he says he thinks.

The true figure is actually $14 billion, and that’s not contracts, it’s just letters of intent. But as long as American jobs possibly might depend on doing bidness with one of the most foul, corrupt and repressive families on the planet, and it’s coming up election year, let the slaughter begin.

And here we are in Britain, also depending for the sake of the entire nation on selling training jets (who are they kidding? Ed.) and first-aid kits or whatever to the Barbarians, who have shown that despite all these beautiful, shiny weapons we sell them, they’re not actually all that good at defeating a few rebel tribesmen trying to overthrow a corrupt regime, and find it easier to target civilian women and children, schools and hospitals instead.

Trade deals are more vital than ever, now the government is so completely committed to destroying tens of thousands of jobs by leaving the most successful trading alliance since – I don’t know, the Hanseatic League? and doing dozens of ad hoc deals under less favorable WTO rules with rapacious countries who can see us coming a mile away.

So no, say many mutton-faced Tories, many gammon-faces, many bloviating blowhards from the hang-em, flog-em shires, many throttlers and abusers of women, no, we’re not going to take the slightest notice of this pansy High Court ruling that we’re breaking many laws by flogging this stuff to our murderous little oil-rich pals in the desert kingdom we created, our pet sponsors of terrorism.

Not as long as they keep spending.

A hundred thousand Yemenis, 298 Dutch, Australian, British, Malaysian airline passengers, who gives a fuck? They’re expendable. I’ve got my cosy job making things that can kill even more people than that, fuck ’em.

Pink mist.

 

GW: Every cloud has a shiny lining

USA: And on and on it goes…  Gusty winds downed trees and power lines in parts of Georgia and South Carolina overnight into early Saturday (22 June). Heavy rainfall of up to 4-in. prompted mandatory evacuation of some residences in Peabody, Kansas. Severe storms and locally heavy rain will be a threat on multiple days this week, including flooding in areas where the ground is already saturated from recent heavy rain. (Weather Channel) The Mississippi river is likely to return to its 40-foot major flood stage, alerts for the Missouri and Arkansas rivers remain in place. A woman was found dead amid flooding in eastern Oklahoma , Sunday. A flash flood emergency was declared in southwestern Missouri.

There’s been fresh snowfall in the Rockies, with up to 10 inches forecast. (Accuweather)

India: Pre-monsoon thunderstorms have killed 14 people in Rajasthan, when a tent collapsed at a fair. Temperatures over the weekend remaind in the 40sC, 104F, and after a slightly cooler few days are expected to rise again later in the week. The belated arrival of a weaker than usual monsoon in the south has brought some relief to Chennai, the city that has run out of water.

Hungary: Thunderstorms caused wind damage and flash floods from 19 June, with several people rescued and city streets inundated. National Meteorological Service reported record rainfall in some areas. 117.8 mm of rain fell in 24 hours in Fonyód on the shore of Lake Balaton in western Hungary. More severe storms are forecast as the North African heat plume begins to build across central Europe.

Switzerland: “Flash flooding caused major damage in Val-de-Ruz district of Neuchâtel Canton on 22 June. The villages of Villiers and Dombresson were the worst hit, with some areas under flood water 1 metre deep. Photos of the floods showed cars dragged along roads that had been ripped up by flood water. Roads have been closed and some homes evacuated.” (Floodlist)

France: And as the North African heat plume edges northwards, “Health minister, Agnès Buzyn, warned local authorities, hospitals and retirement homes to be on high alert, noting that last summer’s heatwave resulted in 1,500 more deaths than normal in July and August. The mayor of Paris, Anne Hidalgo, activated a level-three (out of 4) heatwave action plan on Sunday.” (France24) Expectations have been rowed back a little since last week’s alarming forecasts of 45C-plus reminiscent of 2003, when 15 thousand people died, but the high 30s – low 40s are still possible in places by Thursday.

Paris’ action plan is not without humor. Among the recommendations for staying cool at 35C: “Find a seat in a library or a museum with good air conditioning. Bring a book and stay as long as you can until they kick you out. … Go to your local supermarket and spend a couple of hours near the freezers deciding what frozen peas are best.”

Noctilucent cloud over Denmark, June 2017. Almost bright enough to read by. (Photo: Ruslan Merzlyakov / RMS Photography.)

Sky: Evenings around an hour after sunset and mornings before sunrise, look out for shiny lights in the sky. No, not the aurora…. Aparently we’re in for a rare summer of “noctilucent” clouds that form at very high altitude, typically 70 kilometers, where they catch the sunlight from the day side of the planet and glow intriguingly. Some witnesses say they’re bright enough to read by. Severe-weather.eu reports, the clouds are being seen over a wider area of the northern hemisphere and cover more of the sky than ever previously recorded. Don’t ask me why, it’s dull and raining outside.

(Actually I have a theory and it’s to do with stratospheric warming holding more water vapor. I say “to do with”, that’s as far as I’ve got, sorry.)

Tunnel approaching…

Yellowstone: Steamboat geyser, biggest in the park, erupted on cue, 21 June, for the 23rd time this year, on course for another record. Frequency has shortened to three days. Normally 2 or 3 times a year. Otherwise more quakes, ground uplift, hamonic tremors – rising water temperature – gas escapes have killed a number of squirrels. (Mary Greeley)

 

 

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The Pumpkin – Issue 89: Swamping the drains… Sorry seems to be the hardest word… The code of Omerta… Lock them out!… GW: Boom bang-a-boom!… What’s gone wrong with the weather, then?

Swamping the drains

I’ve just been enjoying the 18 June roundup of press stories compiled and adroitly cross-referenced by the indefatigable Rachel “Madcow” Maddow of MSNBC, concerning Trump’s noted ability to pick “the very best people”.

It seems that after two years of disastrous picks for Secretary of the Army, starting with the crooked bank manager who lent Paul Manafort $16 billion he hasn’t paid back, who is now himself up on a felony corruption indictment, and having insulted his way through a platoon of Defense Secretaries, Trump has had to let Acting Defense Secretary Shanahan go, over “lurid” allegations of domestic violence (he told the Washington Post there was “no justification” for defending his son beating his mother unconscious with a baseball bat, and not in a fun way), and has now promoted Pick No. 4 for Secretary of the Army after only weeks in the job, across to being his new Acting Defense Secretary.

The gentleman in question, Mr Mark Esper, who will be responsible for running the bigliest defense establishment the world has ever known, with a budget the size of an emerging nation and a mission that looks like it’s any day about to become a shooting war over Iran, is the former principal lobbyist – a PR consultant – for one of the world’s largest advanced weapons systems manufacturers and a key US defense contractor, Raytheon.

In which President Trump was reported in 2017 to hold stock.* No conflicts of interest there, then. Let’s hope his family life is a little less turbulent than his predecessor’s.

This sorry trail of recruitment blunders Trump always denies has infected the White House since his election is only one among many that have characterized the administrative chaos everyone else observes. Starting with National Security Advisor Mike Flynn, an extraordinary number of senior officials have been appointed, only to be obliged to resign or be fired, often after offences related to domestic violence have emerged from their past. Trump, too has been accused – but never convicted – of violence, including rape – against previous wives.

It looks like no-one is ever vetted for a post in this administration, which appears to offer a wife-beaters’ charter to candidates for office, although I’m sure that’s just inadvertent. Who doesn’t go after the little woman with a baseball bat from time to time? Their security clearances are just railroaded through over the objections of those whose job it is to make sure criminals and lunatics are kept out, while repellent enabler McConnell squeezes the nominations like perfectly formed turds through the bowels of the Senate.

Drain that swamp!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3LdIBdqTJ84

*I’ve just read the full Wikipedia account of the night over chocolate cake at Mar-a-Lago with Premier Xi, when Trump ordered allied forces into action to bomb the al-Shayrat airbase after deciding Syria had dropped chemical weapons on Douma, a suburb of Damascus, killing civilians. It’s a terrifyingly detailed account listing previously unreported instances of aggression by Russian units against British Royal Navy submarines – a majorly complex sea-and-air action also involving the French. Amid the general mockery of Trump wasting 103 cruise missiles (many made by Raytheon) at $900 thousand a pop on rocketing an abandoned airbase, not one of the mainstream media as I recall reported how close we came to an actual war with Russia that night.

 

Sorry seems to be the hardest word

Trump today launched his official bid to gain a second term as president, although while not on the golf course he hasn’t stopped campaigning for a minute since 2015 (60 Nuremburg-style rallies and counting) and is still bitching about how “Crooked Hillary” rigged the election he won. At a presser on the White House lawn he was asked by April Ryan, the veteran White House correspondent, if he would now apologize for his notorious campaign to secure the death penalty for the Central Park 5. An opportunity to heal division, bring unity?

Not a bit of it.

The case involved five young black and Hispanic men who confessed to the rape of a jogger in Central Park in 1990, on a night in which some 30 criminal assaults took place in the vicinity. The woman was beaten and left in a coma. To boost his credibility as a prominent citizen of New York, Trump took out full-page press ads demanding their execution. Four defendants served 6-7 years each; one, tried and sentenced as an adult, served 13 years in adult prison.

In 2001, however, DNA evidence and a confession proved beyond doubt that the five had not committed the offence for which they were tried and found guilty, also on appeal; and they were eventually released. “Matias Reyes, a convicted murderer and serial rapist who was serving life in prison, confessed to officials that he had raped the female jogger. His DNA matched the two samples found on and near the rape victim, and there was other confirmatory evidence. He said he committed the rape alone.” (Wikipedia)

The original confessions had been obtained without witnesses – four of the five were minors and should legally have had a responsible adult or legal counsel present – and all five claimed they had been beaten by police.

Trump has never apologized or admitted any error over the miscarriage, and today was no exception. In an unpleasant echo of his take on the Charlottesville neo-Nazi rally, that there were “good people on both sides”, he pompously turned away from Ryan, a black woman, to explain to no-one in particular that there were “views on both sides” and that the prosecution (who formally withdrew the case against the men) were still convinced of their guilt. He then shut down a follow-up question.

This is the appalling, self-justifying, incompetent old sack of rotting shitburgers who desperately wants, and may very probably somehow engineer, another four years in the White House. (Even if he loses, he says, he might not go!) His poll ratings are currently disastrous, so much so that last week he fired the White House pollsters for telling him that. Following which he told ABC TV interviewer, George Stephanopoulos, that he would welcome more Russian help; an admission of treasonous intent publicly available on video that he has since denied making.

A good war should set him right.

 

Lock them out!

President Trump’s first policy announcement on launching his campaign has been to order ICE, the immigration police, to begin deporting all undocumented migrants from the US next week – literally, that is, millions of people – as he says Mexico is doing such a “very good job” of keeping unwanted migrants out.

Shome contradiction, shurely? Why, only two weeks ago he was threatening Mexico with tariffs if they didn’t do more to seal off the border with Guatemala. Now they’re very fine people. What does go on under that terrifying wisp of golden keratin?

He really is a shameless, bigoted old fraud. Gammon personified. A real gammonburger. His policies are aimed purely at pleasing his minority voter base and have nothing whatever to do with his key platform of national revival; quite the opposite, his divisive economic and social policies are having disastrous effects and only his rambling, bombastic, delusional speeches to aircraft hangars full of screaming, hate-filled lunatic dumbfucks are keeping his atrocious presidency alive.

 

The code of Omerta

“Trump faces at least 15 criminal or civil inquiries by nine federal, local or state agencies into his business, his charity, his campaign, his inaugural committee and his personal finances.” (Politico). MSNBC reports, the FBI is also drilling into his transaction history with Deutsche Bank on behalf of the House Finance and Oversight committees, following bank whistleblower Tammy McFadden’s claim that managers shut her down when she flagged possible instances of fraud and money laundering involving both Trump and Kushner accounts.

Might explain why the latest former White House staffer, Trump’s – ahem – rather attractive press counsel Hope Hicks, accompanied by a Trump lawyer, clammed up totally under questioning by the House Intelligence commitee, even on questions she’d answered for the Mueller inquiry. The committee is considering having to hold her in contempt, along with Mueller himself, former WH counsel Don McGahn and Attorney-General Barr, all of whom are refusing for whatever reason to co-operate with inquiries into Trump’s criminal conduct.

The Shite House meanwhile is claiming that anyone summoned by congressional committees who is or has ever been connected with the president is covered by a non-existent “special Presidential immunity” Trump’s lawyers have invented, that prevents them from testifying.

How does he get away with it? It amounts to a massive obstruction of justice, a cover-up of what looks more and more like a wide-ranging criminal conspiracy. But it seems that unless the doubtful Democratic duo of Pelosi and Schumer move to start impeachment proceedings – which in any case he is likely to ignore – there’s no-one who can prosecute the case as all the judicial power rests with the prime suspect himself, a president who claims that by virtue of having been elected he must be above the law.

Welcome to your new dictatorship.

 

He’s got a little list #2: Count your fingers

A UN special rapporteur has delivered “an excoriating” indictment of Crown Prince Mohammed bin-Salman in respect of the murder of Saudi dissident, Jamal al-Khashoggi; demanding that the prince – who has denied responsibility – be criminally investigated by the International Court.

“It is the conclusion of the special rapporteur that Mr Khashoggi has been the victim of a deliberate, premeditated execution, an extrajudicial killing for which the state of Saudi Arabia is responsible under international human rights law,”, quotes The Guardian.

An aspect of the story that is unlikely to have been considered, and for which no indictment is anticipated, concerns Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner; often described, in the peculiar phrase commonly adopted by journalists instead of the more accurate “confederate”, or “co-conspirator”, as “a friend” of the equally callow and carefree Prince bin-Salman.

Mr Kushner is, as we know, despite his lack of experience in any field that doesn’t involve throwing poverty-stricken tenants out on the street, wearing a bewildering assortment of hats as a “senior advisor” to the strangely tinted president.

One of them is as his Middle East peace envoy. For instance, he is about to be involved in a conference in freedom-loving Bahrain, to obtain support from “the international business community” for more private investment in the shrinking Palestinian sectors of Israel, from which Trump has withdrawn federal aid; and on which (at the urging of his billionaire friend and political funder, decrepit casino magnate Sheldon Adelson) he has piled numerous insults, such as the highly controversial recognition of Jerusalem as the country’s capital.

It’s been a bit of a mystery as to why Trump rushed so soon and so ardently to exonerate “MBS”, as the ruthless Crown Prince is disarmingly known, of any responsibility for Khashoggi’s murder, even before the full horrible details of his dismemberment in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul had emerged; and to continue to argue in the face of much intelligence community reporting that the jury is still out, “it may have been him, it may not”, right to the present day.

Trump has long had a peripheral involvement in the story. Back in the 1990s he bought (and then had to sell at a loss) a modest-sized superyacht from Khashoggi’s billionaire arms-dealer cousin Adnan, an international playboy who was involved in a major 1980s bribery scandal known as the al-Yamamah deal, in which the Thatcher government appears to have bunged him $60 million to swing a fighter jet contract for British Aerospace over a decision to go with the French Dassault.

Yet in his classic defense of ignorance, Trump denied knowing any Khashoggis.

Jamal sought sanctuary in the United States in 2017, having found himself on the wrong side of the Saudi royal family – a unique governmental entity consisting of hundreds of unpleasant and interrelated desert princelings all jockeying for power. There, he wrote a monthly column for the Washington Post, critical of the bin-Salman faction; earning for himself the accusation that he was an agent of the hated political Islamists, the relatively non-violent Muslim Brotherhood.

MBS, who is responsible for prosecuting the failing war to prop up the corrupt Saleh regime in Yemen against rebellious northern tribals, in which 100 thousand civilian victims are believed to have died pointlessly so far, came to power and prominence just a couple of weeks after Trump had made his first foray into international diplomacy, not something he had ever been noted for, with a state visit to Riyadh that culminated in an esoteric-looking ceremony where the gathered leaders all weirdly placed their hands together on a mysterious glowing ball, or “Illuminatus” as some call it.

Your friendly Pumpkin has previously suggested a purely coincidental link between the deposing of MBS’s cousin, the former Crown Prince Muhammad bin-Nayef, and Trump’s visit. The business seemed in some ill-fated way to be based on the plot of Syriana, a 2005 George Clooney movie in which a US-compliant despot is installed in an oil-rich state by its senile king over the incumbent modernizing Crown Prince, who ends up being vaporized with his whole family in a drone strike by a rogue CIA unit secretly masterminded by Christopher Plummer.

One of MBS’s first actions in his new position of acting head of state – bin-Nayef’s father, King Salman bin-Abdulaziz al-Saud, has Alzheimer’s – was to have 200 of his princely family and prominent members of the Saudi business community arrested on vague charges of corruption and locked in the Ritz-Carlton hotel in Riyadh, until they agreed to pay him huge sums in ransom. Some were tortured, and one died.

Shortly after that, began the strange campaign by Saudi Arabia (Barbaria, as we call it) and MBS’s friend MBZ, the crown prince of the United Arab Emirates, to blockade the tiny, but spectacularly oil-rich gulf state of Qatar, interdicting its food supplies and oil exports and threatening war unless the emir agreed to shutdown the well-regarded Al Jazeera global news operation and make other helpful concessions on their bucket list.

Back home, Trump gave his full-throated support to the Saudis, accusing Qatar publicly of sponsoring international terrorism (ha! Ed.) and being in league with Iran. Which was odd, considering a) he had met with the emir of Qatar, Mohammed bin-Thani (MBT) during his brief tour of the Middle East and said what a great ally he was and how much money he was going to spend buying “beautiful” American weapons, and b) the biggest US airbase and forward command in the entire Middle East is located at al-Udeid, in Qatar. Although some have suggested Trump may not have realized it was there, being the Commander-in-Chief who doesn’t take briefings from anyone other than Sean Hannity.

A few weeks later, however, MBS and MBZ quietly lifted the blockade, and Trump once again began praising Qatar as a good friend of the USA. What had changed? Certainly not Al Jazeera, which is still very much operational.

Well, the only thing anyone could think of, especially after it came out that Kushner’s father Charlie had been to Qatar some months previously on a cash-raising mission for his business and been turned away, concerned the welcome news that a Canadian investment company, Brookfield, had agreed to buy out the 999-year lease on a loss-making Kushner Companies-owned office-cum-retail property, 666 Fifth Avenue.

Jared had been nominally left in charge of Kushner Companies while his father, Charlie, was serving time for fraud and witness tampering, and in 2007 – just before the banks imploded – had paid way over the odds for a New York tower block, in his puppyish excitement to impress his dad, only to fall foul of the 2008 global crash. The hideous “signature” building, which is in urgent need of expensive refurbishment, was half-empty and hemorrhaging money. Now, looming up in 2019 a loan instalment of $1.8 billion was due, and KushCo didn’t have the liquidity to meet it.

Major crisis!

So Kushner, seeing that American banks won’t touch either the Kushners or the Trumps, known serial defaulters, with the proverbial footage of pole, arranged a very large loan with the giant Chinese insurance company Anbang that seemed to include a hefty cash emolument for himself. And on that basis, after the Chinese got cold feet over the possible allegation of bribing an influence-peddlar, his “friend” MBT, bin-Thani of Qatar, who had agreed a further half-billion investment, hastily withdraw the offer. This apparently enraged Jared, with consequences that are fairly not unclear.

Happily, Brookfield agreed, for no apparent reason, they would pay the entire future rental of the building up-front, and carry out the full refurb. With one bound, the Kushners were free. But who was this previously not much known Canadian company with a cash-splashing habit? Well, as Bloomberg reported, it turns out it’s a funnel operation for investing into global opportunities, a hefty proportion of the embarrassment of oil riches owned by the sovereign wealth fund of… Qatar.

Tiny, oil-rich Qatar, in essence, or so the implication of the story would seem to run, had been strongarmed into bailing out the piddling little Kushner family’s struggling real estate firm in a shakedown operation run under the auspices of the Trump administration – US foreign policy – by the Orthodox Jewish “Peace envoy” Jared’s Middle Eastern Arab “friends”, MBS and MBZ; risking a regional conflagration.

Result!

And then began the faint background accusations that it could have been Kushner who, purely as a favor, might have possibly helpfully supplied his “friend”, the newly installed MBS, with the list of names and locations and whatever dark crimes those 200 wealthy princes and businessmen he “arrested” in The Princes in the Hotel affair, may have been suspected of having committed: all the muck US intelligence could rake up on their known movements, contacts, holdings, investments, current assets and possibly hostile affiliations.

This was a top-secret CIA file, so the story goes, that Jared was only able to access because his father-in-law had overridden the strong warning of the official security analysts that his son-in-law – in view of his many dubious connections and unpaid debts to foreign banks – did not deserve a high-level security clearance; let alone a White House Sunday garden pass.

And even more faintly in the background, can just be heard the faint, squeaky whisperings of a nuance of a hint of a susurrus of a suggestion from some quarters that among the names exposed on that CIA target list, together possibly with some reference to his suspected dealings with the Muslim Brotherhood, may have been that of Jamal Khashoggi.

But we should draw a veil now over the proceedings for, as your Pumpkin concurs, it is highly unlikely and, indeed, wrong to believe that the name Kushner would ever appear anywhere in the 100 pages of the UN’s “excoriating” report, as being in any way complicit with a brutal execution his father-in-law has doubted really happened.

The Pumpkin would rather keep his fingers attached to his hands, if you don’t mind.

 

“A YouGov poll this week found that (by two-thirds to one-third) Tory party members would rather Brexit took place even if it meant significant damage to the economy, even if it meant Scotland leaving the United Kingdom, and even if it meant the loss of Northern Ireland, too. A large majority of Tories even think Brexit is more important than the survival of their party. Half of them would be happy for Nigel Farage to be their new leader.” (Guardian)

Eastbourne hasn’t been this exciting since Debussy wrote La Mer here! (BBC Weatherwatchers)

GW: Boom bang-a-boom!

Turkey: “At least 3 people have died in the north east of Turkey after heavy rain caused flash floods and landslides in Arakli district in Trabzon Province on 18 June. A further 7 people are still missing and 3 others were injured.” Rescuers “are carrying out search and rescue operations with helicopter support. Around 70 people were evacuated from the area.” (Floodlist)

Poland: A heavy downpour caused severe flooding around Lublin on 19 June, 2019, leaving communities cut off. Local authorities said 100 homes suffered damage, along with several roads. Electricity and drinking water supplies have been interrupted. Dozens of fire service and military personnel are working in the area. (Floodlist)

Philippines: over 45,000 people have been displaced by flooding on Mindanao Island. (Floodlist)

Uruguay: Many areas have seen over 30 cm of rain in the past week and over 5,000 people have been displaced by floods. 3000 of those “are in the city of Durazno, where the overflowing Yi River has caused severe flooding. Flooding has blocked vital roads in at least 12 locations across affected areas. Neighbouring parts of Argentina have also seen heavy rain over the last few days.” (Floodlist)

Europe: “Models are in good agreement for the development of an intense heatwave across a large part of west-central Europe, starting on Monday next week and likely extending until the weekend. Both global models GFS and ECMWF are hinting at peak afternoon temperatures around 36-41°C in France next week – up to 20C above average – and even 32C in southern England.” French meteorologists are not ruling out 45C, 4C over the previous highest-ever (The Weather Channel). More thunderstorms bringing heavy rain, high winds and large hail are the forecast for the Balkans up into eastern Europe until then. (Severe-weather.eu)

USA: Accuweather is predicting a high chance of more tornadoes in northeastern states Friday (21 June) as the seemingly unending chain of storms continues across the country. 100 deg. F-plus temperatures (103 yesterday, 20 June) this week are in fact slightly lower than normal for Phoenix, Az. Last week’s unseasonal 100F-plus heatwave in California has eased off the throttle, with temps back in the high 80s.

Bhutan, etc.: The melting of Himalayan glaciers has doubled since the turn of the century, with more than a quarter of all ice lost over the last four decades, scientists have revealed. The accelerating losses indicate a “devastating” future for the region, upon which a billion people depend for regular water. Temperature data from the region also show an average rise of 1C from 2000-16 compared with 1975-2000. (Guardian)

Tunnel approaching….

Kaboom: “The Pentagon believes using nuclear weapons could ‘create conditions for decisive results and the restoration of strategic stability’, according to a new nuclear doctrine adopted by the US joint chiefs of staff last week. The document, entitled Nuclear Operations, was published on 11 June, and was the first such doctrine paper for 14 years. Arms control experts say it marks a shift in US military thinking towards the idea of fighting and winning a nuclear war.” Guardian. The paper was taken down after the Pentagon realized people reading it might be scared.

No sweat: “Wetbulb” temperature is a calculation based on both temperature and humidity. At 35C and 100% humidity the limit of survivability in the open is 6 hours. Higher temperatures require less humidity to kill, largely through the inability of the body to cool itself by sweating, leading to cell breakdown and organ failure. In other words, you cook. Parts of northern India and Pakistan have seen temperature over 50C, 123F. Paul Beckwith reports, “Present extremely hot temperatures combined with high humidities exceed the 35 C (95F) wetbulb temperature threshold. It doesn’t matter how healthy, fit, and strong you are; the physics is fatal. Luckily, the worst conditions seen on the Pakistan-India border (mostly in Pakistan) are for a few hours, and not the full day, but death rates in this region must be huge.”

 

“It’s hard to believe we’re looking down the barrel of a loaded climate gun when it’s so consistently damned embarrassingly weirdly normal outside.”

What’s gone wrong with the weather, then?

Okay, well, look, here we are, three weeks into the official Atlantic Hurricane season, and the only storm there’s been was Andrea, back on 20 May, that only made 1006 mb and a 40mph sustained windspeed, which we get pretty much every 2-3 weeks here on the west coast of Britain – and it didn’t make landfall either.

Other than that, nothing.

Outside as I write, 21 June, it’s sunny and 21C, 70F. Not that the official Met Office weather station 4 miles up the road will admit to that, hidden away as their thermometer is in a dark box where it’s probably 4C cooler. But nor is my digital thermometer in full sunlight either, it’s been swallowed up by a forever-expanding Photinia bush that’s grown just this year to rival the size of the house and has sparrows nesting inside it.

Okay, it’s been mild – a “green winter”. We had a long dry spell in March, and a long wet spell just the last three weeks. Inbetween, 80mph Storm Hannah ripped the opening buds off the westerly-facing trees and burned the leaves brown with salt spray. They’re happily recovering, and apart from that it’s a bucolic spring, with birds and bees and verdant, vibrant countryside – just about everything you could wish for.

So as far as anything goes we’ve had nothing but normal since the end of February, when there was that big heat anomaly over one weekend and record temps. It’s hard to believe we’re looking down the barrel of a loaded climate gun when it’s so consistently damned embarrassingly weirdly normal outside.

Luckily, we have Dr Andrew Glikson writing in Arctic News today to set us straight.

“The term ‘climate change’ is no longer appropriate since, what is happening in the atmosphere-ocean system, accelerating over the last 70 years or so, is an abrupt calamity on a geological dimension, threatening nature and human civilization. Ignoring what the science says, the powers that be are presiding over the sixth mass extinction of species, including humans.

“As conveyed by leading scientists: “Climate change is now reaching the end-game…”

Glikson goes on to elaborate that the current 560 ppm-plus carbon equivalent, which takes into account the carbon content of all the other greenhouse gases we’re struggling to breathe along with the CO2, is as high as it’s been since the Oligocene (33.9 to 23 million years ago). The current rate of increase is as alarming as it’s been since the extinction of the dinosaurs, 66 million years ago; while the warming oceans are reaching the limit of their ability to absorb more CO2, that we’re pumping out in record amounts again.

“The current rise of total GHG to about 560 ppm CO₂-equivalent implies that, for a climate sensitivity of 3 degrees Celsius per doubling of atmospheric CO₂, global warming has potentially reached 3°C. This level is almost 3 times the 2018 global land-ocean temperature of 0.8°C above pre-industrial levels as reported by NASA.” (And twice the so-called Paris target, of 1.5C by 2030.)

Oh dear. Well, that’s told us. Anyway, the UK is virtuously on course this year for almost 50% of its electricity to be generated from renewables.

I guess we deserve our normal weather. We’ve earned it.

(Dr Glikson is an Earth and Paleo-climate Scientist, Visiting Fellow at the Australian National University, Research School of Earth Science, the School of Archaeology and Anthropology, and the Planetary Science Institute, and a member of the ANU Climate Change Institute.)

You can sing for your water… And you can sing for your money… Nature Notes… My legacy… GW: Wet, wet, wettest… Thursday’s BogPo bubbling up

Khyber Puss

Former minister and adviser to Pakistan’s prime minister, Mr Shaukat Yousafzai was giving a briefing to reporters in Peshawar when a member of his social media team inadvertently switched on the cat filter. The event was streamed live on Facebook.

“It was several minutes before organisers realised that the minister had acquired pointy ears.” (Guardian)

Absolute Idiocy (AI)

Prof Adrian Cheok, who advocates sex with robots and makes ferocious ad hominem Twitter attacks on fellow academics for querying his ethics, has been made a member of the Order of Australia in the Queen’s birthday honours for “significant service to international education”.

Prof Cheok is also campaigning for a new college to be set up to teach “Trumpism”. (Guardian Australia)

 

GW special:

You can sing for your water

Every year by this time, members of a world-music choir I used to sing with have been rehearsing earnestly for weeks before heading off somewhere – usually to one of our capital cities – to perform at a mini-festival called “Sing for Water”, in aid of charities helping to bring fresh drinking water to remote communities in Africa and other places unreached as yet by civic amenities.

It’s all jolly worthwhile, although I never went along, as I no longer travel – at least, I have become psychologically unable to travel to any place I haven’t been before and feel secure in knowing I can find my way both there and back. Plumbed-in – intubated – catheterized as my bladder is to a leaky reservoir strapped to my leg, I no longer feel comfortable in cities or among friends.

Also I’m somewhat hampered by having as my constant companions in pensionhood, two dependent, fur-bearing, quadrupedal mammalian associates who aren’t always welcome everywhere as they should be, creating logistical problems.

Nor any drop to drink. While outside my window, again… (Google images)

We often read, don’t we, that the world is running out of fresh drinking water. It’s an odd complaint, in my singularly unfashionable view. There are places where the climate produces long, deep droughts, I acknowledge, that are getting longer and deeper. Glaciers that used to feed streams are vanishing. And over-extraction from underground aquifers is a real problem in areas of intensive water use, such as mining, certain manufacturing processes and in fruit-exporting communities.

But, standing next to our local river, a broad, shallow affair spring-fed by many tributaries from the hills upstream, I am often struck by the thought that millions upon millions of gallons of water – fresh and drinkable up to the point opposite, where the town sewage works discharges its load of e-coli – are just pouring day and night into the oceans, totally wasted.

As we read, too, of global heating, and the fearful feedback loops it may produce, runaway emissions cycles feeding on themselves, I gaze heavenward and see only huge, solid-looking castles and towers and mountains and general lumps of dark-grey cumulus cloud (it’s been like this for the past three weeks, raining on and off with only rare glimpses of the sun), and am reminded that a warming atmosphere holds more water vapor, and a warming ocean transpires more water vapor; that water vapor causes more heating, and that reports of floods around the world indeed speak of heavier rainfall than of yore.

Rain is fresh, drinkable water.

Global heating for now at least is producing more, not less, drinkable water; a vast natural desalination plant. A free resource, like Shakespeare’s Mercy, it droppeth as the gentle rain from Heaven upon the place beneath. Very often now, that appears to be formerly hot desert regions like Arizona, Namibia, north Africa, Yemen, Iran – even Saudi Barbaria has had its share of flooding this year.

Where we feebly watch it gurgling down the drain; bearing away Hunzi’s tennis balls to the beach; or we crouch by helplessly in evacuation shelters while our neighbors drown, diseases breed, food crops perish and water snakes swim about venomously. For of course, occasional floods are of little use in relieving drought.

There’s something wrong with the human spirit, I feel, when it cannot and will not resolve the problem of people suffering from want of the stuff in one part of the world, while the rest of us wander around in another, moaning about a supersufficiency falling unforgivingly from the sky at inconvenient times and flowing down to the salty sea.

Even the Romans had a solution to move water to where it was needed. But water-aid charities and their boreholes are just a drop in the bucket, while many cities around the globe are approaching Point Zero – evermore severe rationing, followed by dry faucets, riots and death.

I envisage instead, trains of huge drogues, towed sausage-like across the ocean by tugs, and networks of pipelines no-one could possibly object to, connecting carefully designed reservoirs. An end to muddy boreholes, bilharzia and the drudgery of the standpipe.

That would only be if the brutal, self-aggrandizing, pockmarked little kleptocrats of the drought-stricken “shithole” regions were to stop stuffing their Swiss bank accounts with US oil money and cease buying more weapons with which to oppress their people.

Stupidly when, if only they would provide safe drinking water, so easy and cheap to do, the people would surely love them to bits.

 

And you can sing for your money…

“Hello P….”, reads the email that just popped into my tray.

“As part of our regular review of savings rates and the market, we’ve made the decision to reduce the interest rates on our variable savings accounts by 0.15%….”

Oh, goody.

0.15% is fuck-all of basically fuck-all to begin with, on my balance the earnings are already literally pennies a year, a rate of glacial progress no longer seen in nature, but what the hell, we’re a bank, it’s what we do.

Screw borrowers, ripoff savers. Make decisions, toddle off to lunch.

I can honestly put hand to heart and swear, I have never, ever received an email from a bank informing me brightly that they’ve “made a decision” to increase the interest rate on a savings account.

Just never happens.

But apparently, says the email, there are other accounts available with better rates (only probably longer extraction times) and I’m free to move my money into one of those if I like, and why wouldn’t I, so what’s the point? Why don’t they either just move it for me, or just, er, not reduce the rate on the one I’m in in the first place?

Yes, well, we’re a bank…

 

Nature Notes...

The aforesaid weeks of June monsoon, coming on top of a promising sunny start to May, early spring budburst (much of it frazzled by Storm Hannah in March but now happily recovering from auxiliary buds), a mild winter and just slightly above normal temperatures by day and night, have combined to create yet another astonishing outburst of greenery in the valley, new growth reaching already above my head.

Amid the profusive tumble of vegetation competing for space and light along the track are many wildflowers I have never seen before, and am struggling to identify. It’s partly because the council has no money to pay someone to strim it, and all the better for that. I’m enjoying the word ‘vetch’, which seems to apply in many cases. Where in places the trees overhang the path along by the river and the undergrowth crowds in, the air hangs heavy, still and damp, and it’s almost like walking through a tropical, or at least subtropical rainforest.

Soon, as the questing pale-green tendrils of the briars reach out across the paths to snag us, we shall need to be swinging pangas to get through, wearing puttees to ward off ticks, keeping a wary eye out for snakes and Welsh jaguars.

Our walks these late spring days are enlivened by an audible increase in cheerful-sounding birdsong, while the insect population does seem marginally recovered – although still very few bees, nevertheless they are here in appreciably more numbers than last year, when the “Beast from the East” interrupted everything. Some small, specialized caterpillar infestation has reduced much of the young hogweed foliage to skeletal shreds. Three orange-tailed bumblebees came browsing on my tiny, mauve-flowering patch of chives during a rare appearance of the sun one day last week.

Perhaps all is not lost quite yet.

I have wondered if the increase in carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is playing its part in the extraordinary efflorescence of our little river valley. In which case, this is the place to come for a draft of bracing oxygen to help propel us along, leaping nimbly out of the way of cyclists, who all seem to have adopted a fashion this year for big, fat, squishy tyres on their bikes.

It hasn’t stopped their reckless speeding and seeming inability to fit a bell with which to blast you out of their way as they approach silently from behind. I have trained Hunzi to the word “Bicycle!”, whereon hearing it he knows to get off the path and wait. But if we don’t see them coming until too late, much cross swearing goes on. The sense of entitlement is extraordinary.

I would take to two wheels myself, indulge in a bit of virtue signalling, but my GP tells me my recent MRI scan showed my prostate is now enormous. Even sitting square on a chair, let alone a bicycle saddle, with a rubber tube running through it is agony. He also tells me there is an accompanying “nodule”, which the specialist, off whose list I was struck three weeks ago for the new NHS list-reducing crime of failing to reply to a routine letter in time, chose not to tell me about.

Oh dear. Never mind, I’m sure it’s nothing. As my GP says, 80 percent of the dissected cadavers of men over 90 show that they have lived perfectly happily with undetected prostate cancer for years and it has not ultimately killed them. Or was it the other way around?

The latest thinking apparently is, it’s better not to know. Treatment may only make things worse. Just get on with it, is their motto. No-one lives for ever, not under a Tory government.

 

My legacy

I really do mean to get on with recording that album of 12 acapella jazz songs I’d planned. I’d love to have it done and packaged in time to take a few copies to France, amaze my tutors. I don’t think anyone has done it before. In this case it’s not vanity, but a total dearth of willing and competent jazz pianists in the area that is impelling this seeming indulgence in a possibly mad venture.

But I’ve discovered that my expensive virgin French tape reels don’t fit tightly on the spindles of the analog recorder I acquired last October, that I have not yet even dared switch to Record. They have a tendency to wobble and fly off. The spindles themselves have no clasps to keep the reels firmly in place.

And I had forgotten that in summer, my voice becomes husky and reedy and I get a cough and watering eyes and run out of puff from breathing pollen and enhanced traffic pollution from the street outside; while the extra holiday traffic sets up a constant, invasive din.

It’s never going to happen, is it.

 

Within hours of reports in US media that the coach of NBA champions, the Toronto Raptors, had demurred over an invitation to the White House, headlined as “Trump snubbed”, four people have been injured in a shooting at a Raptors’ victory parade in Toronto. The Pumpkin telegraphs that he hopes there’s no connection.

 

GW: Wet, wet, wettest

Some new areas feature in this Thursday’s extreme weather events calendar, compiled with thanks as ever to the diligent folks at Copernicus’ “Floodlist” website, and others:

Mongolia: “As many as 12 people have lost their lives in recent flooding. Mongolia Red Cross said that heavy rain began on 15 June, causing flooding in parts of the capital, Ulaanbaatar and nearby areas. Many roads have been blocked and drivers left stranded. Some flights from Ulaanbaatar were cancelled or delayed. The heavy rain was accompanied by strong winds. Several buildings suffered severe damage and 2 buildings were completely destroyed in Bayantsogt.” (Floodlist) The weather follows a month of wildfires.

Azores: “Raging flash floods swept through streets on the islands of Terceira and São Jorge, 16 June, damaging homes and vehicles. The worst hit area was the municipality of Angra do Heroísmo on Terceira Island, where 30 of 36 incidents occurred. Nine people were evacuated from their homes. Angra do Heroísmo recorded 108.1mm of rain in 24 hours to 17 June. Mean total rainfall for June is normally 48.5mm.” (from Floodlist)

Greenland: Temperatures in the north of Greenland peaked last week at a provisional 17.3C, 63F, making it warmer than parts of the UK. On 15 June, the Washington Post reported, temperatures over parts of Greenland were 22C above normal. Above-average temperatures over nearly all of the Arctic during May have led to early ice retreat, with the second-lowest extent in the 40-year satellite record being registered. A sudden rise in Greenland ice-melt at the beginning of June exceeded the 1981-2010 median by over 30%. About a million sq m of sea ice has been lost six weeks early. (From: Guardian Green Light)

Brazil: “A heavy downpour lasting around 6 hours hit parts of Pernambuco state on 13 June, causing over 100 incidents of flooding and landslides in several areas”, including the cities of Goiana and Recife. 7 people are reported killed, including 5 people in a landslide in Camaragibe. “Goiana recorded 198mm of rain on 13 June.” (Floodlist)

China: “88 people have now died as a result of heavy rain, floods and landslides in southern and central provinces over the last few weeks. The rain has spread to more areas including Hunan and Guangdong. Over 6 million people have been affected, with 388,000 displaced. As many as 17,000 houses have collapsed and a further 82,000 damaged. 17 people are thought to be still missing. Emergency services have rescued a total of 5,060 people and assisted with the emergency evacuation of 14,542 people. Vast areas of crops have also suffered damage.” (Edited from Floodlist)

India: A state of emergency has been imposed in Bihar after the heatwave that’s been tormenting the subcontinent for weeks left 184 people dead and several hospitalised. Gaya and Patna recorded temperatures above 45C, 113F on Saturday. Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh have witnessed temperatures over 46 degrees on a regular basis and occasionally in excess of 50C. At one point during the last 30 days, over 10 places across India witnessed the hottest temperatures on the planet. (India Today) The city of Chennai has cut water supplies by 40% as drought has emptied four main reservoirs. 21 Indian cities are expected to run out of groundwater by 2020. Poor management is principally to blame, says a govt. thinktank. (Guardian)

USA: “Heavy rain could cause localized flash flooding across an expansive area this week, from the southern and central Plains to the Ohio Valley and mid-Atlantic. Scattered severe storms are possible each day, posing mainly a risk of damaging wind gusts and large hail. Scattered showers and thunderstorms are ongoing from Texas into the mid-Atlantic. Flash flooding has been reported south of Cleveland, Ohio, 17 June.” The Mississippi river has crested again in Louisiana, just short of the level that would force the army to open a key spillway and flood potentially $2 billion of crops. (The Weather Channel) Accuweather is warning of more tornadoes in the midwest on Wednesday (19 June), while its meteorologists are monitoring an area in the West Pacific for a possible typhoon forming on a potential track from Guam to the Philippines.

Europe: Heavy thunderstorms and hail have been continuing over the weekend across large areas of eastern Europe and the Balkans. Zagreb, capital of Croatia was “hit by a thunderstorm and gale-force winds that ripped off rooftops and left one person dead and 22 injured. Cyclone Teodor was created by bad weather in northern Europe and formed overnight as a secondary storm over the northern Adriatic, bringing damaging waves and high winds, reaching 200 km (124 mph) per hour along the Adriatic coast and causing traffic suspensions on land and sea. Hundreds of trees were ripped out, Croatian Radio said.” (From: Earth Changes Media)

UK: Torrential rain and thunderstorms have hit parts of the UK overnight as unsettled weather continued to cause disruption across the country. Homes were left without power and roads were flooded in parts of the south-east, while Lenham in Kent had 42mm of rain between 11 pm and midnight. Eastbourne in East Sussex is said to have had about 1,000 lightning strikes in an hour. (Guardian)

Tunnel approaching….

The Munch Bunch

Italy: Against a background of reports of the decimation of global insect populations, “A swarm of locusts enveloped Sardinia off the coast of Italy last week. Local farmers reported it was the worst infestation they had seen since the end of World War II. The Italian agricultural association Coldiretti released a statement on Tuesday saying ‘We are walking on a locust carpet.'” (breakingisraelnews) France24 reports, over 2,000 Ha of crops were damaged. The phenomenon has affected several parts of the Mediterranean this year and is reportedly due to a wet year last year, following a drought in 2017.

Did Hitler win after all?… And whither the UK?… GW: Pick me up, put me down, spin me round and round…

“New technology should not be banned or condemned because of its potential misuse.”

– Amazon’s philosophy, regarding its sales of a facial recognition app to the Surveillance State.

 

As people old enough to remember life under Nazi occupation die off, younger generations feel no connection with the 1930s and ’40s, no sense of alarm.

Did Hitler win after all?

The most astonishing abuses of local government and state powers across what used to be the more civilized, welcoming and moderate countries in Europe are revealed today in a major report from Open Democracy.

What is your reaction, for instance, to the news that a 71-year-old woman in France was arrested, held in a cell for 24 hours, charged with people trafficking and CONVICTED after stopping her car and giving a lift to a weary mother and her child on the road from Nice to Antibes? Oh, because the passengers happened to be undocumented African migrants.

Or that, in Greece, the cradle of modern civilization, ha-ha, a retired German couple were sentenced to 16 YEARS in prison after they stopped their boat to rescue some refugees? Mercifully the sentence was reduced on appeal to just 3.5 YEARS.

Or that a British volunteer, Tom Ciotkowski, 30, is facing up to 5 YEARS in jail in France, merely for filming another volunteer at the Jungle camp in Calais being pushed to the ground and kicked by police, the criminal charges being “contempt” (of the police? You have to be kidding, monsieur!) and “showing solidarity” with illegal immigrants?

Hundreds of people ranging from Christian pastors and elderly academics to journalists, charity volunteers and even firemen are being harrassed and detained by immigration and law enforcement – I won’t call them officers, they’re just goons, hired thugs in it for the joy of exercising their own base brutality, the sexual thrill of wearing the uniform and the celebration of hate-filled ignorance – for helping the helpless. Laws are being passed, that are in direct opposition to years-old United Nations conventions.

In Hungary, under the autocrat Orban, it’s now a criminal offence even for lawyers to advise immigrants and refugees of their legal rights – of which, it seems, they no longer have any. In Greece and Italy, people have been arrested just for having phone contact with migrant support groups. A team of Spanish firefighters who went to Lesbos as volunteers to help with search and recovery operations were arrested, threatened with up to 10 years in gaol, heavily fined and themselves deported.

Simple acts of Christian charity and compassion are being criminalised as a wave of enthusiastic, racially-based proto-fascism sweeps across a continent deprived of aspiration by a ruling coterie of neoliberal meritocrats. This is not something confined to “far off countries of which we know little”. The editor of Marie Claire magazine in Belgium was charged with people smuggling after feeding and giving clothes to a Sudanese teenager hoping to get to the UK. She was subsequently acquitted, but the signal had been sent, in a small, recently invented country with a history of the worst colonial human rights abuses of all:

No more brown people.

And here, too, thanks to the sociopathic vicar’s daughter Theresa May, and her “hostile environment” policy, no kindness or act of caring will go unpunished. The Guardian reported (29 April, 2019):

“A man who brought his (7-month-old) baby niece to Britain in the back of his car from a French refugee camp after she suffered serious burns is facing deportation from the UK on Tuesday. Najat Ibrahim Ismail, 35, an Iraqi Kurd with a British wife and three young British children, was prosecuted for trafficking.”

His deportation flight was halted on the runway after a public outcry, even the judge who gave him that critical 12-month sentence (it’s the automatic deportation cutoff point) accepted he hadn’t been trafficking, but he is still under threat of being separated from his British family and sent back to God knows what; having been admitted in the first place only because he’d been tortured in his own country – a country which, incidentally, we invented, depriving his people of their own statehood.

This is what now passes for British justice, that we can’t even tolerate compassion towards babies while denying our guilt for creating this situation in the first place.

The BogPo has argued before, the UK Home Office is not fit for purpose. Clumsy, cynical, expensive, illegal and too often lethal mistakes are being made now on an almost daily basis in its Immigration department. Thousands of people – not only brown people, but legally settled white EU citizens – are having their lives turned upside down and their rights trashed by harsh and often incorrect decisions, seemingly made by overworked, harrassed and incompetent officials.

No-one will convince me this chaos is accidental. With the financial support of foreign disruptors, it is being promoted by political chancers like Johnson and Farage. The nightmare is, millions of voters support them – not because they are good leaders with policies that will make life better for millions, but because they are celebrities, entertainers one step removed from standup comedians “as-seen on TV!”.

As with Trump, the dumbfucks don’t care whatever else he does, fiddles his taxes, endlessly lies about everything, tears up treaties, abuses the powers of his office to obstruct justice and line his pockets, pardons racists and pedophiles and persecutes “foreigners”, they merely see him as “different” and hang on his every garbled word, because he had a third-rate TV show where he was encouraged to play the part of a successful billionaire, the embodiment of the American dream; and because he promised them an American “earth” he knew he couldn’t possibly deliver.

Well, without wishing to make a direct comparison, Adolf Hitler was “different” too. It takes a huge inversion of logic to vote for someone who so clearly doesn’t have your best interests at heart, merely because they’re not the people you voted for last time, whom you are easily persuaded (without a great deal of knowledge of the facts) haven’t served you very well. And they probably haven’t, but is a total phony like Nigel Farage going to do better?

A filthy cloak of barbarism is descending over Europe once again. As people old enough to remember life under Nazi occupation and the vast sacrifice it took to end it die off, younger generations feel no connection with the 1930s and ’40s, no sense of alarm.

They see no parallels between the street-scumbag rhetoric, say, of a Matteo Salvini, Pretty-boy Wilders or Jorg Heider; even of that self-pitying criminal midget calling himself “Tommy Robinson”, and the parade of squalid villains of the murderous decades of fascist regimes founded on licensed brutalities and a too-easily manufactured hatred of The Other.

If you support any of this, just answer me one question.

Why?

Why are you so willing to be taken advantage of, again?*

http://www.opendemocracy.net/en/5050/hundreds-of-europeans-criminalised-for-helping-migrants-new-data-shows-as-far-right-aims-to-win-big-in-european-elections/?utm_source=Daily+Newsletter&utm_campaign=25b6e86974-DAILY_NEWSLETTER_MAILCHIMP&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_717bc5d86d-25b6e86974-408090269

*Actually, there’s no need to answer that. The fascination of fascism is not the obvious lie that it will “end corruption” – it is the very essence of corruption – and make everyone great again, as if they were ever great in the past – but that it puts a malign power directly into the hands of those who are most willing to wield it against their fellow men.

It’s the religion of psychopathy.

 

And whither the UK?

What will Britain do if America decides to bomb or invade Iran, merely to fulfil a 20-year ambition on the part of the “retread neoconservative”, the insane Irish war hawk (who has never served in anything more impressive or risky than the National Guard) John Bolton, and possibly bolster Trump’s re-election prospects by being seen to take tough action against an imaginary threat, although polls show another foreign war is not yet supported by his dumbfucks?

Well, the Tories always do well out of wars, and pathetic Labour are invariably split over whether to support them or to risk the opprobrium of the Daily Mail.

Anyway, I fear we have the answer. From a Guardian/Observer piece by Simon Tisdall, 19 May:

“Memories of the Iraq fiasco may have influenced Major-General Chris Ghika, the British deputy commander of the coalition against Isis, when he was asked about the American claims last week. “There’s been no increased threat from Iranian-backed forces in Iraq and Syria,” he said. Since Ghika is based in Baghdad, he might be expected to know best.

“That did not stop the Pentagon issuing an extraordinary rebuttal, saying the general’s comments “run counter to the identified credible threats”. In another echo of Iraq, the British government caved in to US pressure and disowned Ghika the following day, saying that it fully agreed with Washington’s threat-level assessment.”

Lies, lies, and more fucking lies. We’re always taken to war by tiny people: failed politicians on the backs of lies. Even the Pentagon doesn’t agree with these phony security assessments, but who are they to know better than the trio of feral hacks who have seized power in Washington, and who only have the template of the successful 2003 invasion of Iraq to guide them into another murderous 15-year-long debacle on behalf of Raytheon, Boeing and the US arms industry?

Christ, what a bunch of evil fuckers the Trump crew are. Who in God’s name is letting them get away with this crazy shit?

Meanwhile, world oil prices are rising rapidly as a result of American belligerence towards Iran, Venezuela and Libya. OPEC countries are delighted, as US overproduction had depressed prices and was causing economic damage to producers like Saudi Barbaria, who need a higher price to balance their budget. Mr Trump will not be happy, as he has assured his dumbfucks of permanent cheap gasoline to fuel their SUVs. On the other hand, whose fault is it? He knows nothing whatever about the economics of trade, and will not be told.

“As one British minister said this week, ‘The risk of this proving unmanageable and blowing up in our faces is growing'” (The Guardian, 19 May).

 

The daily average CO₂ level recorded by NOAA at Mauna Loa, Hawaii, on May 15, 2019, was 415.64 ppm, with some hourly measurements over 417 ppm. It’s been climbing during the month and may well exceed 420 ppm by next spring. Super-greenhouse gases methane and nitrous oxide (N20) are giving even more cause for concern. Arctic sea ice was at a record mid-April low extent, with virtually no ‘old ice’ more than 2 years old left, indicating rapid thinning. (edited from Arctic News)

April 2019 globally was the second warmest on record (NOAA).

GW: Pick me up, put me down, spin me round and round

USA: In what The Weather Channel‘s Bob Henson reports is a “highly unusual for late May”, volatile situation, the chain of violent supercell storms that has plagued the southwestern states from Texas up into the Great Lakes almost weekly for the past three months and created the worst flooding since 1927 shows no sign of stopping. More than 40 powerful tornadoes touched down in Oklahoma, Kansas and Nebraska yesterday, staff at a tornado warning center had to take refuge in the basement as one formed right over their office. And the forecast for tomorrow, Monday 20 May, is worse, with very strong winds a feature!

“A powerful squall line continued to wreak havoc as it moved into Missouri and Arkansas on Saturday afternoon and evening. High winds and heavy rains will be the main threat, but hail and tornadoes are possible. Severe weather should be more muted on Sunday, but bands of storms capable of severe wind and hail will rumble from the Mississippi Valley up to Michigan and across to western Pennsylvania and New York by evening.” Flood warnings too: up to another 6-in. of rain is forecast on already saturated ground.

New York state governor Andrew Cuomo has declared a state of emergency in 8 counties and put the National Guard on standby as the water level of Lake Ontario edges within millimetres of an all-time high. (The Weather Channel)

Meanwhile, with a fortnight to go before the start of the Atlantic hurricane season, one may be forming east of the Bahamas. “As of Saturday, odds were close to 50-50 for development next week of each of a pair of tropical cyclones, one in the Atlantic and the other in the Eastern Pacific (off the coast of Mexico).”

Tuesday 21 May: The Atlantic tropical storm now has a name, Andrea, but it’s heading into cooler waters and with strong wind shear is expected to dissipate. It’s set a record however for the number of named storms to form before the official start to the season. All in the past 5 years…. (The Weather Channel).

Paraguay: 16 people are feared drowned after extensive flooding covered large areas of the country. Over 60 thousand families have been affected and the Paraguay River stands almost two meters above its critical level. 700 people have been evacuated in Argentina, where over 600 thousand Ha of crops have been lost to floods. (Floodlist)

Europe: States of emergency have been declared in Bosnia and Croatia after storm-force winds and torrential rain caused extensive damage and rivers to reach red alert levels. “Houses and crops have been damaged in affected areas, and power and water supply severely disrupted. Flooding and landslides have blocked several roads and some schools have been closed.” At least 1 person, a child, is feared drowned. The city of Banja Luca received 111mm of rain in a 48 hour period. Heavy rain in northern Italy over the last few days has caused rivers to break their banks and reactivated a landslide in the Veneto region. (Floodlist) More severe storms and high winds are forecast for southeastern and eastern Europe over the coming days. (Severe-weather.eu)

UK: Overnight rain has helped firefighters to to dampen down two wildfires that have destroyed thousands of acres of moorland in Scotland. A woman has been arrested in connection with a large fire on Ilkley Moor, in Yorkshire. Otherwise where your old Granny is, it’s all still unusually agreeable.

Antarctica: A major study of 20 years of satellite data has shown that the Antarctic glaciers are thinning five times as fast as was thought. In places, over 100 metres of ice thickness has been lost, with melting extending up to 300 miles inland. A report in Guardian Green Light quotes the research team: “A complete loss of the West Antarctic ice sheet would drive global sea levels up by about 5 metres, drowning coastal cities around the world. The current losses are doubling every decade and sea level rise is running at the extreme end of projections made just a few years ago.”

 

The Pumpkin – Issue 85: Does anyone still imagine the American republic is a democracy?… Does anyone still imagine the United Kingdom is a democracy?… Gay abandoned…GW: all a bit topsy-turvey if you ask me

Ed Note: Things may slow down on the old BogPo express over the next two weeks as I shall be busy earning my annual train fare to France. I’m continuing to edit and add to this issue for now.

UB

“Who’d have thought going on the Jeremy Kyle Show would lead to this?” (Photo: Michael McGurk, Brirish Press Awards. With apologies!)

According to New York city officials, the president’s eight largest New York properties pump out around 27,000 tons of planet-warming gases every year, the equivalent of 5,800 cars. If no remedial measures are taken, by 2030 Trump’s kids will be paying over $2 million a year in fines. (from Guardian)

The old fraud won’t be around, of course. And good riddance, he should be buried at Fresh Kills (the city rubbish dump.) His vicious policy of confiscating people’s children at the Mexican border and farming them out to abusers having largely failed, the latest wheeze being quietly implemented by the Department for Housing is to separate migrant families living in subsidized housing.

“HUD acknowledged the Trump administration could displace more than 55,000 children if plans to evict undocumented immigrants from public housing is (sic) successful.” (Guardian)

The rule to date has been that at least one member of a household in which migrants are living must be properly documented. The new rule, which the media is attributing to Trump’s dead-eyed college vampire, Stephen Miller,  is that if even one undocumented migrant is living in subsidized housing, the entire household – usually a family – has to get out. (Undocumented does not always mean illegal, by the way. Applications and appeals could be pending.) That includes children….

Trump spent the minimum amount of time he could with his various families, rarely if ever interacting with his four (known) children. He clearly hates families – his own parents were aloof and hypercritical – and has no family values to speak of. He is a genuine sociopath without empathy or understanding. What a fascinating character!

Psychology students will be crafting their PhD theses on this piece of shit for a long time to come.

 

Does anyone still imagine the American republic is a democracy?

Last week, claiming “security concerns”, the White House revoked the access credentials of more than 50 press correspondents, including all six of the passes issued to the deeply hated Washington Post. There are to be no more of the old, anodyne, ritually structured encounters in the briefing room, where the fake-tanned, abusive President can tell the assembled media that they are “very rude” and “fake news” when they presume to ask him questions.

“Exceptions” are being individually approved now by the chief spokesbitch, sweaty Sarah (“Ah’m a Christian!”) Huckabee Sanders, but only, it seems, in the case of correspondents with no history of criticizing the President. Sit-down classroom-style briefings have been abandoned in favor of informal “gaggles” to be held outside on the driveway, and only then to pre-registered attenders. (See various reports collated on the Mike Malloy channel) When it rains, expect no news.

There is henceforth to be no independent in-house press oversight or hostile questioning of the President, ending a decades-old and perhaps too cosy relationship between the White House and its tame Press Corps. It’s a situation Trump has also tried to impose on the Congress, invoking a bogus “executive privilege” to bar anyone connected with his administration from giving testimony to any of the five congressional committees investigating his egregious conduct, and refusing to accept legally enforceable subpoenas.

The United States has effectively been taken over by a criminal gang locked in tight formation around a pretend mafia-boss who knows he has been outed as a felonious obstructor of justice and abuser of office by the Mueller investigation; knows too, that he faces at least 16 further criminal investigations for fraud and money-laundering in the Southern District of New York, and who is determined to distort and suppress the truth by any means.

Back in the blood-caked hands of the Project for the American 21st Century, the regime is hurriedly manufacturing a case to begin bombing another invented enemy, Iran. Having dispatched a carrier group and B-52s to the Arabian Gulf, “Security” adviser John Bolton has followed it up with a specialist cruise-missile launcher, and has called for 120 thousand troops to be put on readiness. The Washington Post acknowledges that Trump is not so interested in invading Iran, but has given Bolton his head. This cowardly mad old backseat neocon fucker needs to be institutionalized, and quickly.

Writing in The New Yorker, however, Susan Glasser speculates that Trump is rapidly tiring of Bolton’s tub-thumping – especially as Candidate Trump promised on the campaign trail no more American adventures, and he likes to keep his promises – mad and reckless as many were: “Amazingly enough, we are now at a moment in the Trump Presidency when the capricious President himself is being touted as the possible constraint on hawkish advisers like Bolton.” The danger is not past, however: “I wouldn’t discount the chance that a series of mistakes could lead to a conflict that Trump himself doesn’t want.”

Two sabotage “attacks” on Saudi oil tankers and the apparent rocketing from drones of Saudi pipelines are already being blamed on Iran. None did the “significant damage” being claimed, which seems significant in itself. Iran has condemned them. And who, given the tinder-dry political situation and Bolton’s long-held determination to kick-off a war, is more likely to have carried them out, the Quds force of the Revolutionary Guard or US/Saudi black ops forces?

Meantime, we are learning of a “secret” financial connection between Qatar and Trump’s plastic son-in-law, Jared Kushner. Actually we’ve known about it for months, but strong suspicion is not knowing. What we saw was that soon after Trump’s 2017 visit to Riyadh, Saudi Arabia persuaded the UAE to join in an economic blockade of Qatar that ended happily just days after a Canadian asset-management company agreed to take a 99-year lease on 666, 5th Avenue – a disastrous loss-making 2007 development for Kushner Companies – “paying a near-century’s worth of rent upfront”. (Vanity Fair)

Brookfield Asset Management is a well-funded arm of the Qatari sovereign wealth fund’s investment division, and although the fund is claiming to be bewildered and unhappy that such a deal should have been brokered, if it ever was, the money arrived fortuitously just in time to forestall what might have turned into a massive $billion debt default against Kushner Companies and their gargantuan New York white elephant.

(http://www.vanityfair.com/news/2019/02/qatar-666-5th-ave-jared-kushner)

And it was apparently Jared’s criminal father, Charlie Kushner, who was behind the deal; favorite son Jared being too witless and inexperienced, basically, to be the real brains behind Kushner Companies, while time-served fraudster and witness-intimidator Charlie is barred technically from running the business.

So we can see that the Trump regime is not above getting down and dirty to suborn US foreign policy for the benefit of the President’s criminal associates. We know the regime owes bin-Salman one for that. And that Saudi Arabia and Israel would both like the US to lead on regime-change in Iran. An Iraq-style invasion however seems unlikely before November as summer temperatures in the region are regularly starting to exceed 50 deg. C, making fighting on the ground pretty nearly impossible.

Unless they want to see their capital cities going up in smoke, beleaguered and deeply unpopular centrist European politicians like May and Macron must not be tempted to rush to join Trump and his satraps Bolton and Pompeo in some unholy war against what he calls “the ayatollahs” of Tehran – no filthier or more murderous and corrupt a theocracy than that of Riyadh or Tel Aviv; Moscow, Manila or indeed, Washington.

The lessons of Iraq must be learned.

There must be no collusion with this profoundly corrupt President and his narcissistic, dictatorial ambitions.

But I fear there will be.

 

The Pumpkin confesses:

In the middle of “Years and Years”, former Dr Who-tsar Russell Davies’ latest near-term futuristic family-saga drama on TV, a newsflash pops up, proclaiming “Trump wins second term in office”.

Instantly, I burst into floods of tears, beating my head on the keyboard, loudly moaning “no, please, no!”.

I blame the wine.

The misery is compounded (spoiler alert) when, in the final days of his second term, Trump nukes an island in the South China Sea. Okay, there are episodes to follow, so it might not escalate too badly.

But I’m not sure I might not have to spend more of these lighter evenings out, doing something. Anything.

 

Tickety-boo

“Clarance Jones of Lynn, Massachusetts, the nation’s most frequent winner, claimed more than 7,300 tickets worth $600 or more in only six years. Jones would have had to spend at least $300 million to have a 1-in-10 million chance of winning so often, according to a statistician at the University of California, Berkeley.”

The Columbia Journalism Review bombarded several co-operative states with FOI requests to obtain data on unusually frequent lottery winners and concluded that many claimants were acting as proxies for the real ticket-holders , who didn’t want their creditors or the tax authorities finding out.

It’s a living, I suppose.

 

Does anyone still imagine the United Kingdom is a democracy?

Threatened by a feeble suggestion that accusing a certain Mr Richard Cook of breaches of electoral law in channelling money to Be.Leave and other dodgy pro-Brexit causes in advance of the referendum is “basically defamatory” (whatever status “basically” has in law!), having already rapped the main Vote.Leave campaign on the wrist for overspending its allowed budget, the supine and toothless watchdog, the Electoral Commission, is refusing to investigate further evidence of fraud, saying it wouldn’t be in the public interest.

Just what the hell is in the public interest, if Brexit was bought with illegal donations from unregistered and possibly foreign parties? Well, astonishingly, the Electoral Commission is not sure if buying votes with the illegal proceeds of crime is actually unlawful.

So much for democracy.

Anyone who like your Uncle Bogler delights in poking a stick at the dimmer elements of the Commentariat on, for instance, The Guardian‘s website, will be familiar with the cry that invariably goes up from despondent and truculent majoritarian Leave voters when you ask what on earth they thought they were voting for: “You Remainers don’t respect democracy!”

Well, no, we don’t respect criminals who steal our democracy, as they clearly did, with or without the knowing participation of certain ambitious politicians who have nothing whatever to offer the British voter, other than the prospect of imposing on us their corrupt brand of unenlightened self-interest for years to come.

At the heart of the conspiracy is the Democratic Unionist Party of Northern Ireland – the bunch of ten knuckle-dragging Protestant gargoyles on whom Theresa May thought she could rely for extra votes in the Commons in return for a billion-pound bribe from the British taxpayer, and then found to her cost that she couldn’t.

(We should perhaps remember that the bulk of the DUP’s possibly illegal campaign contribution was spent on advertising in Northern Ireland and in London, both areas that voted solidly Remain; and for unspecified services on a Canadian data analytics company, Aggregate QI, linked with Cambridge Analytica and the Mercers, father and daughter – the secretive billionaires who bankrolled Trump’s election victory and put Steve Bannon into the White House. But as the DUP continues to refuse to reveal the source of the donation, we can only speculate.)

And Cook, who he? A reticent former Tory party candidate with unexpected sources of funding – a business partner at one time was the former Saudi chief of intelligence – who has, basically, allegedly dabbled in some rather sticky business – illegal waste dumping, money-laundering and illegal arms shipments being among the activities mentioned in certain press quarters. (See previous Posts)

According to Open Democracy:

“The bulk of the DUP’s massive Brexit donation was spent on a wraparound advert in the Metro newspaper just days before the European Union referendum. Spotlight (Antifa) journalists discovered that the advert, costing £282,000, had been booked directly by Richard Cook, not the DUP.”

The Electoral Commission, however, has argued that it cannot go further to expose the illegal “dark money” donation as they themselves can find “no evidence” that Cook booked the advertisement. (Asking Metro might produce some information?) And in the light of investigations by OpenDemocracy.org into a Madrid-based conduit for US “dark-money” donations to Vox and other far-right European parties, MPs have called on the Electoral Commission to look afresh at possible further breaches of electoral law by Vote Leave, so far without success.

The embarrassing inertia – call it incompetence rather than corruption – of our legal institutions threatens to undermine any further possibility that a historic wrong can be righted at the last minute. The government has no interest whatever in pursuing criminal investigations until it can declare that it has fulfilled the deeply suspect mandate given it by “the will of the People” to wreck the country and very probably break up the Union.

http://www.opendemocracy.net/en/dark-money-investigations/not-in-the-public-interest-why-the-electoral-commission-didnt-investigate-vote-leave-and-dup-donation/ Baed on reporting by Jenna Corderoy and Peter Geoghan.

 

Gay abandon

A few years ago now, Fox News was enlivened by exchanges between the fat, sweaty Trumpsucker and rack-rent landlord, Sean Hannity and our very own, the late-lamented Christopher Hitchens, last and bravest of the public intellectuals, who had dared to write rude things about the recently deceased “Reverend” Jerry Falwell, a hugely wealthy and hypocritical, corrupt Tele-vangelist currently roasting for Eternity down below.

Some speculation now surrounds his son, Jerry Falwell Jr (so up their own fundaments are these fundamentalists, that they insist on perpetuating their holy egos in the names of their offspring). It’s being whispered that the married minister of the bogus church had an affair with the household’s handsome young “pool attendant” (Blessed are the poor… etc.)

And that having taken him into their home, a well-chiselled 21-year-old they met at a hotel, the rabid homophobe Falwell “invested” $1.8 million in a “business venture” of this Adonis, Carlo Grande, which turns out to have been a gay party venue, or “flophouse” as it’s been described in the Washington Post.

Which takes us back to President Trump (it still sticks in the craw) and his former lieutenant, rough-edged “fixer” and part-time legal advisor, Michael Cohen, who started his three-year prison sentence last week for obeying Trump’s orders to “fix” some of the President’s own indiscretions using campaign funds, and then lying for him. (The President remains at liberty, of course.)

In a splurge of late confessions, Cohen has alleged that Falwell employed him in 2015, at Trump’s suggestion, to also “fix” a cache of exceedingly embarrassing photographs he wanted to make go away. Rachel Maddow of MSNBC reported on the Post story last week, that after bullying them out of the possession of the unnamed blackmailer, Cohen had managed to hang on to one particularly damning image as insurance.

Presumably it’s now in the hands of the FBI.

Falwell, meanwhile, had popped up at several of Trump’s campaign rallies, literally comparing the Orange Tax-dodger and chief pussy-grabber to Holy Jesus and exhorting his evangelical dumbfucks on Biblical authority to vote for the new Messiah. Interviewed in the Post, he described Trump as “pretty much perfect”, acknowledging that he might have sinned from time to time (yes, whose was that by-blow Trump’s pal Elliot Broidy had aborted and paid $1.8 million to the Playboy model to stay stum?), but that it was his policies, not his character that really recommended him to Christian voters.

Odd, says the Americans United website, since his father had once described his ideal occupant of the White House as someone who would say: “As long as I am President, I shall lead this country in the ways of Christ as set forth in this book, God’s Holy Word. I would vote for the president who would take a bold, uncompromising stand against sin – SIN – and tell us what he believes it is.”

The question must obviously be, why would F. Jr turn so suddenly and completely against the idiotic precepts of his insanely corrupt and uber-wealthy dad, F. Sr, buoyed up by the contributions of his poorest parishioners in hopes of admission to Heaven, in order to announce the Second Coming of Christ in the bloated and unlikely shape of the decidedly un-christian and unethical serial adulterer and swindler, Trump?

And when can we expect a suitably painful Crucifixion?

We should be told.

 

One law for the poor

US actress Felicity Huffman has pleaded guilty to fraudulently conspiring to win a college place for her daughter. Prosecutors have recommended a four-month prison term and a $20,000 fine. Huffman, 56, was among 50 charged in the college admissions scandal. (BBC News)

According to a recent biography by US-naturalized Brit journalist Katy Ward, “Kushner Inc.”, Charlie Kushner made a $2.5 million donation to Harvard shortly before his educationally substandard plastic-toy-boy favorite younger son, Jared, was admitted over a number of more promising but less wealthy students.

Are these cheating, rack-renting bastards going to jail for it?

Doesn’t look like it. Jared is the President’s son-in-law. Although he’s no longer quite such a trusted White House advisor, in fact Orange Dad has been hoping to find a way to get rid of him. This pay-for-places scandal would seem to be a good opportunity?

Questions, however, would have to be asked about how Trump even got into primary school.

 

GW: all a bit topsy-turvey if you ask me

Russia: A corridor of exceptionally warm airmass is reaching far into NW Russia, with daytime highs at the Arctic circle pushing up to 30-31 °C! “This is exceptionally warm weather for the region, about 25-30 Deg. C above average” for mid-May. (Severe-weather.eu). The temperature in one of Russia’s most northerly ports, Arkhangelsk, 1100km north of Moscow, hit 84.4F, 29.1C on 12 May.

45 forest fires have been raging around the city of Irkutsk, near Lake Baikal. There are reports of the sky turning black and residents getting sick from bad air quality. (Siberian Times) Moscow News 25 April reported 1 dead, 8 injured – and a cost to date of US$15m.

USA: Large parts of Texas, Kansas and Mississippi are underwater, with emergencies declared. “Parts of the state have been badly affected by storms since the start of the month. Houston, Tx. saw around 10 in. (254 mm) of rain in 24 hours to early 08 May, 2019. 1 person died in flash flooding in Austin. A slow-moving storm dumped heavy rain in parts of Mississippi on 09 May. Some areas recorded up to 8 in. (203.2mm) of rain in 24 hours. The city of Jackson experienced severe flooding. (Floodlist)

Leading Democratic presidential candidate, Joe Biden reportedly still has not formulated a policy on climate change and is sitting on the fence when it comes to reducing carbon emissions from burning fossil fuel. Of the 22 runners, only 2 have dared to declare a course of action. (Guardian)

It’s been the wettest year-long period in U.S. records going back to 1895, according to the NOAA . Averaged across the contiguous U.S., the total of 36.2-in. made the period from May 2018 to April 2019 the first year-long span ever to top 36-in. (3 ft). (Weather Channel)

Adding to the above, it’s 18 May and Mammoth Lakes, California has just had 10 inches of SNOW! The popular ski-resort area has had a total of 470 inches of snow this winter. Elsewhere in the northern part of the state they’ve had record rainfall.

Australia: Intensifying to Cat 2 in the South Coral Sea, out-of-season Tropical Cyclone Ann is forecast crossing the northern tip of Queensland near Cairns before heading across the Gulf of Carpentaria in the next few days. (News AU)

India: At least 300 yaks have starved to death in Sikkim province near India’s border with China after getting trapped by heavy snowfall. The yaks had been trapped since December. Authorities had tried to drop food to the animals but were pushed back by poor weather. (BBC Weather)

Europe: As exceptionally cold weather has continued to affect eastern central Europe, Spain and Portugal have been experiencing a spring heatwave, with temperatures up in the mid-30s C, mid-90s F: 10C to 14C above the mid-May average. Northern Italy has had more severe thunderstorms and a powerful Bora wind is blasting the Balkans, where there’s a warning of flooding as 300 mm of rain is expected during the coming days.

Weekend outlook, 18/19 May: “Temperatures in parts of Norway, Sweden and Finland will reach above 20s, with daytime highs reaching into mid-20s locally. That is quite exceptionally warm for now, up to about 15 °C higher than the long-term average!” (Severe-weather.eu)

The Fortunate Isles: It’s getting harder than ever for your old Gran to concentrate on some far-off global climate emergency when the weather here on the west coast of Great Britain is so bloody agreeable!

We have 19.5 degrees under sunny skies again today, and for the rest of this week, dry and getting warmer. The green spaces are in full leaf, the oaks looking especially fine, the ash – well, they say “oak before ash, we’re in for a splash… Ash before oak, we’re in for a soak”, so a dryish summer is projected in nature. Clouds of midges over the footpath, birds chirping merrily…. Just a slight note of concern, some trees are looking stressed, with strangely withered leaves; while we’ve just strolled through a wildflower meadow and disturbed no butterflies or any insects at all. Nor still are many bees around, despite the profusion of pollen sources getting up everyone’s noses.

We met almost none today, even amid the glorious blossoming of the May trees only one or two per show.

 

The Pumpkin – Issue 80: Long Essay – Trump: “I’ve got a little list!” Chor. “He’s got a little list!”… False flags… GW: Cry me an atmospheric river.

 “I support the Great Lakes. Always have. They’re very big, very beautiful, very deep – record deepness, right? Am I right?” – “The wit and bullshit of Donald J Trump” sliming an audience in Michigan.

 

“Take cover.”

Trump: “I’ve got a little list!” Chor. “He’s got a little list!”

The Pumpkin writes:

With the exception of early spec. pieces in Guardian Comment by Robert Reich and Richard Wolffe, and specious attacks on the US media (singling out the impeccably source-checked Rachel Maddow as the poster-child for news fakery) there has been a curious dearth of reporting here in the worrying aftermath of a memo that came out at the weekend (on a Sunday?) from the US Justice Department.

Although only a brief and tentative summary of the mountain of evidence Mueller has amassed, the letter gave room at least for the President himself to proclaim with total self-justification that he has been fully “exonerated” by the inquiry into widespread allegations that his campaign team “colluded” with Russia to game his election, and that he subsequently attempted to obstruct the inquiry by, among many other clumsy ruses, firing the head of the FBI, James Comey, and subsequently his deputy, Andrew McCabe.

Sadly, no such exonerations may be inferred! Only that the evidence did not point conclusively to a conspiracy – not that the suspected collusion did not happen, or that Trump was not keen to hush it up. Quite the contrary. Mr Trump has naturally seized on this narrow legal interpretation as a lifeline to proclaim his innocence – of everything, ever! – to whine about persecution, and to demand that his political enemies and critics in the media should be purged. (He has never fully understood the role of an Opposition party in Congress.)

So what do we think we know?

Well, first of all it would be odd if the report does not include a reference to the overwhelming intelligence that there was illegal Russian interference in the election. If there was not, the whole case would have collapsed and it didn’t and it hasn’t. I have not heard anyone make this point.

The question then shifts to who knew what, and when did it become known – Mr Trump is still denying it ever happened, but that may only be because his ego will not let facts undermine the legitimacy of his election, which was doubtful enough.

Was the interference solicited by Trump or members of his team or merely encouraged or even just sidelined – was there collusion – and was the law correctly followed in dealing with the information? (Obviously not, as it took months to drag it out of everybody.) Do the President’s public efforts to shift blame for what he says did not happen onto the previous administration and his political opponents add up to more than just a befuddled old man muddying the waters, or – taken with his physical actions in firing many of the investigators and worse – do they add up to a blatant campaign of obstruction?

If so, of what? Why obstruct, many have asked, if no crime was committed? And can a President in any case “obstruct” the justice he is ultimately responsible for administering?

The general view is, that as Mrs DeVos seeks to defund programs for blind schoolchildren – no, that’s not an April Fool – to pay for more tax cuts for the billionaire DeVos family; as the Republicans scramble to unpick Trump’s statements about universal healthcare they’re not planning or funding, and about sending Americans back to the moon, the shitty bits will come out in easily swatted dribs and drabs, and as the shy and retiring author slips back into the shadows, interest in Mueller will rapidly wane.

Trump was, of course, recorded in a widely shown TV interview with Lester Holt of NBC way back in 2017, admitting he fired Director Comey to make the “Russia thing” go away; a claim he allegedly repeated the next day at a private Oval Office meeting with Russians: ambassador Kysliak and Foreign Minister Lavrov, at which no witnesses other than a Russian photographer and the interpreters were present – he sent his new Security Advisor, 3-star Gen. H.R. McMaster, out of the room. Afterwards, he forced McMaster to go out and lie to a press conference that he had not, in fact, accidentally tipped the Russians off about a top-secret Israeli undercover operation against IS.

When the Justice Department had previously tried to warn him that his National Security adviser, Gen. Flynn, was a suspected Russian asset, instead of firing Flynn he fired the acting Attorney-General, Sally Yates. (He is now not dismissing the idea of pardoning Flynn, who he says is a decent man calumniated as part of the witch-hunt by trial judge Emmet Sullivan as having “sold his country out”. That’s pardonable – normal even – in Trumpworld.) Crude attempts were then openly made to prevent Yates testifying at the subsequent Congressional inquiry.

Investigations have already shown that there were over 100 instances of communications and meetings between team members and Russian entities during the campaign. But “no collusion”, apparently. Trump has on a number of occasions openly supported Russia’s President Putin’s word over that of his own security chiefs, has lifted sanctions in some cases, refused to impose them in others, and made foreign policy decisions that seem to fall in line with Russia’s global ambitions, against the interests of the US and its allies; notably his derisive and damaging attacks on NATO.

His transgressive behavior and frequent praise of Putin as a man with the power to get things done (including killing his critics) has raised unanswered questions about where his loyalties lie. He has attempted on 25 occasions to use the issuing and revocation of security clearances to control the conversation on Mueller within the security establishment.

Eventually it emerged too that he had lied extensively about having no business connections with Russia. Since 1987, but especially after a visit to the capital in 2013, he had been trying to obtain planning permission (against city building height regulations), seeking partners and finance for a 400-room “Trump Tower, Moscow” – efforts that were continuing, according to the Cohen testimony, even as he took office. It has also not been denied that as part of his efforts, there was an offer to gift Mr Putin off-plan, the $50 million penthouse apartment.

We also know from many sources that developments of his have been extensively financed or purchased by Russian investors, several of whom are suspected by the FBI of having connections to organized crime: racketeering, trafficking and money-laundering; and that he has potentially compromising debts to Russian and other overseas banks. According to his sons, “We do business there all the time. We have no problem getting finance from Russia.”

The case of the hot lady lawyer

On 9 June, 2016 (during the campaign) son Donald Jr, privately engaged with a Kremlin lawyer, Natalya Veselnitskaya, and the now convicted felon Paul Manafort, soon-to-be chair of the campaign committee; together with two former GRU operatives, and Trump’s son-in-law and senior WH advisor, Jared Kushner, at a meeting in Trump Tower, New York; facilitated by a Russian oligarch, property developer Aras Agalarov and his pop-singing son Emin, a “friend” of Trump Jr’s. The go-between was a sleazy British music promoter and ex-tabloid newspaper stringer, Rob Goldstone,.

Trump’s press people and Trump himself persistently lied about the purpose of the meeting (Trump notoriously dictating a press release giving false version of events exonerating his son to his Communications Director, Hope Hicks while aboard Airforce One) until an email from Goldstone was produced, showing the meeting had been called to discuss Russian support in obtaining “dirt” from inside the Clinton campaign; and that Donald Jr had replied, welcoming the prospect. The meeting broke up, apparently when the Americans decided Veselnitskaya wasn’t offering dirty enough “dirt” to satisfy the campaign objectives.

“No collusion”, then.

We still don’t know the full story, but it seems significant that at least three of those who attended the meeting, including Ike Kaveladze (“A Russian American businessman once accused of laundering more than $1.4bn into the US from eastern Europe” Guardian) were said to have had substantial experience (including convictions) of processing Russian and Ukrainian dark money through anonymous offshore accounts registered in tax havens.

Was any pledged to the Trump campaign at that meeting?

Within hours of which, at a public hustings Trump openly – possibly rhetorically – called for Russia’s assistance in hacking servers to find “30 thousand emails” it was claimed Mrs Clinton had deleted from a private account while Secretary of State in the Obama administration, on suspicion they contained breaches of security and evidence, both of culpability in the murder of the US ambassador to Libya, and of an illegal deal to sell uranium to Russia – both charges having already been investigated and dismissed by the FBI. (Hacking is illegal in the US, as is calling for it.)

Where had that information come from?

Members of his campaign team, including the longtime political “fixer” Roger Stone, were subsequently found to have had direct contact with Julian Assange of Wikileaks, a fugitive from justice, that eventually, er, leaked the Clinton emails, that US intelligence services swore had been recovered by GRU hackers. The FBI investigated the emails again, and found no significant breaches of security; a finding Trump refused to accept. However, the reopening of the investigation was prematurely announced by Comey and is thought to have played a significant role in Clinton’s defeat at the polls.

While, following the controversial $95 million sale of a condemned and rotting Florida mansion to Russian businessman Dmitry Rybolovlev, that netted Trump a $45 million profit, the “Fertilizer King” apparently turned up in his private jet, coincidentally parked next to Trump’s personal plane, at a hustings in Cleveland on the night when the candidate unexpectedly altered a party policy statement concerning Russian interference in eastern Ukraine to favour the Kremlin’s position. I imagine this widely reported story would have been of intense interest to Barr, as it may have provided evidence of a “quid pro quo”.

On taking office, Trump subsequently appointed his friend Wilbur Ross to the post of Commerce Secretary. Ross was at the time vice-chair of Bank of Cyprus, named as part of the “global laundromat”, in which Rybolovlev reportedly held a 10% stake and other oligarchs said to be close to Putin were named as co-investors.

A possible red herring, computer security analysts in 2016 reported the accidental discovery of a mysterious stream of traffic, in the form of thousands of apparently unanswered “pings” from a Russian bank, Alfabank, to a dedicated server in Wisconsin whose IP address was confirmed as being registered to the Trump Organization. Owned by a Ukrainian oligarch, Mikhail Fridman, Alfabank was linked to the Kremlin via its co-director, Pyotr Aven – a judo partner of Putin’s. The fascinating detective story is originally found at slate.com: “Was a server registered to the Trump Organization communicating with Russia?” (Oct 2016 cover story)

Other traffic from Alfabank was traced to a company, Spectrum Health, owned by Trump’s billionaire friend, Dick DeVos – husband of the unqualified Betsy, whom Trump controversially appointed as his Education Secretary. The connection was strenuously denied, but almost at the same time Fridman announced that he was moving some of his vast investment portfolio out of the energy sector and into US healthcare companies.

Trump’s lawyers, led by John Dowd, refused to let him be interviewed in person by Mueller, but instead agreed for him to answer a list of questions in writing; a list supplied ahead of time and vetted by the Trump team. Dowd’s outspoken view was that Trump couldn’t be relied on as a witness, either to tell the truth or to stick to a story that wouldn’t incriminate himself. Shortly after, he left the team. But lack of candour hasn’t stopped Trump from having at least two lengthy informal private meetings with Vladimir Putin at G20 summits, with no State Department officials or other witnesses present other than interpreters sworn to secrecy, and apparently no notes taken.

What does that say about his innocence or guilt? Or his mental capacity? And why, if he was so confident he would be exonerated, did he need to gather round him a team of maybe 15 or 20 lawyers – mostly, it was said, second-raters as no leading law firm would touch him with a bargepole!

Needless to add, those “not involved” have at times denied all or most of the above.

Nerves of Steele

Trump has consistently tried to discredit and muddy the waters around the so-called Steele dossier, which he claims is a fake. Most people seem to believe his line that a British agent was paid by the Clinton campaign to make up a lot of stories about Trump’s relationship with Russia and the Kremlin, but that is absolutely not how the dossier came about. It was another lie. Had Trump tried to dispute the actual document, line by line, it would have been an admission of what he had vociferously and frequently denied, that he had indeed done much business with Russia. So he just trashed it.

Christopher Steele, a former MI6 Moscow bureau chief, runs a private consultancy in London offering expertise in the Russian sector. A conservative Washington political research consultancy called Fusion GPS was commissioned originally by an internal Republican party committee to try to find out what “dirt” if any, Putin had on Trump, in order to help them divert any possible revelations that might come out during the campaign. Fusion’s director, Glen Simpson hired Steele.

Steele gleaned information from his old Kremlin insiders, some of whom have since “disappeared” or unfortunately died from unexpected health problems – such as Igor Korobov, the head of the GRU – that attested to many contacts between the Trumps and the Russians – and a possible campaign of interference in the 2016 elections. The story is that he was so alarmed by what he found, he sent the info straight to the FBI, who ignored it. (No-one is arguing the case that the Feds are competent security minders – see 9/11 for details.)

In turn, Simpson passed some of the threat info to the Democratic party’s national committee, who also took no notice, even while the GRU (“Guccifer 2” and “Fancy Bears” were two of their user groups) was ferreting around inside their computers. It just seemed improbable; while, for some reason, Simpson persisted in dealing with a junior IT bod whose superiors didn’t want to believe him until it was too late.

Eventually, so much signals traffic alerted European intelligence agencies to contacts between the Trump campaign and Russia that the FBI opened their investigation by surveilling campaign foreign relations advisor, Carter Page and three others under a duly authorized FISA warrant, that turned up Trumps, as it were – apparently incriminating phone conversations regarding Russia – hence the wider investigations leading to Mueller; since when, more than 80% of the dossier has checked out.

Not, sadly thus far, the bit about Trump and the p-p-prostitutes in the hotel room! (Putin joked, “We have the best prostitutes in the world!” (I imagine they’re no longer around to testify, if they had ever existed.)

It would be extraordinary if all of these well-attested, triple-checked press reports were shown by Mueller to be just “fake news”, as rightwing online commenters are now Trumpeting, merely on the basis of Barr’s reluctance to indict a President. The A-G has now promised a “redacted” version will come out shortly.

Burden of proof

It was always going to be difficult if not impossible to find an obvious quick, short, clearcut and direct link between Trump and Putin in a conspiracy to swing the election. Neither man works that way; Trump would hardly have sent a tweet asking Vladimir for a leg up, and it was not the point anyway.

The wider implication was that Trump’s minions, as Cohen testified to Congress, would be essentially coerced into showing loyalty by his alternating abusive rages and praise, maybe compromised over personal secrets, to seek to interpret his strategic aims and do his unspoken bidding. That was how he worked, mafia boss-style. There were never any “smoking guns”, and if there were they could be made to stop smoking with enough money tipped in the right direction.

Mueller may, for instance, have looked at a $25,000 check paid to a PAC of Florida Attorney-General Pam Bondi, following which she closed an investigation into the notorious Trump University scam, and decided that was another one for the Southern District of New York to ask why the money appeared to have come from a tax-exempt charity, the Trump Foundation.

There was no need for “collusion” when the Russians wanted to disrupt the democratic process and keep Clinton off the international stage. They didn’t need permission. Campaign officials merely needed to go along with it and keep enough contact to know not to get in the way, while Trump would no doubt have found it useful from both an electoral and a business point of view to let Putin do his work without having to ask for help, and communicate in private.

As they say in the military, no names, no pack drill.

The four-page letter from newly-appointed Attorney-General William Barr in fact makes clear that Mueller has unearthed a mountain of evidence, based on over 2,800 subpoenas, 500 seizures of thousands of documents and “tapes”, 37 indictments, 7 convictions to date on multiple counts leading to prison terms, however many Grand Juries, etc., some of which are still sitting. Supporting evidence, which it would have been impossible for Barr to have gone over in detail as well as the 800 – or is it only 300, as a concerted leak from the Justice Department is now saying? – pages (everyone has finally settled on 480) of the actual report to produce an authoritative verdict in under 48 hours.

But in the opinion of Barr, appointed by Trump following the firing of A-G Sessions for “disloyalty” (make what you will of that), if there is no finding of “collusion” in Mueller’s summary, then any subsequent attempts by Trump to pervert the course of justice could not amount to the more serious charge of “obstruction”, as they were purely defensive – a plainly ludicrous position to hold. Just because you robbed a different bank, doesn’t entitle you to shoot the sheriff.

Barr does, however, state clearly that Trump has NOT been exonerated of obstruction – a negative conveniently being ignored in the White House version. He merely states that he and Deputy A-G Rosenstein do not intend to proceed with an indictment: that being up to Congress to decide. There’s a lot of buck-passing going on, understandably as the case involves the august personage of the President of the United States.

Rosenstein too presents an interesting challenge. Owing to A-G Sessions’ recusal from the Mueller inquiry over his own illegal evasions about meeting Russian officials – a recusal that infuriated Trump, as he regards the office of Attorney-General as one that ought to be protecting him from gratuitous investigations – Rosenstein, a man it is said of impeccable probity, effectively became Mueller’s boss.

Summoned to the White House in December, after a meeting with Trump he announced he would be stepping down in March. Everyone assumed he had been fired to enable Trump to put in someone more compliant, who would slow or even kill the Mueller inquiry stone dead. In the meantime, Trump had appointed another “no indictments of presidents” advocate, the bizarre Matthew Whitaker, as temporary A-G. Whitaker could never be confirmed in the post, having been involved as a legal consultant to, and fixer for,  a company that was fined $26 million for investment fraud in his home state of Florida.

Then, just two weeks ago, after Barr’s arrival Rosenstein seems to have changed his mind. One can only assume he had become aware that Mueller was about to conclude, and didn’t want to miss the party. That’s assuming no-one had gotten to him and he’d agreed to co-operate with the “exoneration” narrative to save himself from Trump’s coming purges.After all, who had signed off the letter Trump dictated, justifying firing Comey?

Writing in Vanity Fair, Barbara Levin points out of Barr:

“… the guy literally got the job by sending an unsolicited 19-page memo to the Justice Department last June in which he called the special counsel’s inquiry into potential obstructions of justice “fatally misconceived,” described Mueller’s actions as “grossly irresponsible,” and insisted “Mueller should not be permitted to demand that the president submit to interrogation about alleged obstruction.” Given the choice between charging Trump—who seemingly admitted to obstructing justice on TV—with the crime or not, it’s not totally far-fetched to assume Barr would be inclined to go with the latter.”

Then, still defiant US media are bearing in mind Barr’s prior record as Attorney-General under the George HW Bush administration, when he engineered the case for pardons for six Reagan-era dirty tricks operatives, including Col Oliver North, involved in the illegal, so-called Iran-Contra affair (en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Iran–Contra_affair) These are considered to be telling indications of a deferential attitude toward authority. They are also qualifications for an employee who is capable of dissembling. You can see where Trump was tending to go, and his attraction to hack A-Gs who won’t dare to indict a sitting President has itself been put forward as evidence of obstruction.

It was not Mueller’s job to determine guilt or innocence. It was not in his brief. He was appointed as a Special Counsel, not as a Special Prosecutor. The proper procedure would have been for Barr to send the report to the White House, to law officers, and to Congress for appraisal; to publish the findings, and for it to be determined on the basis of all the evidence whether indictments should follow. That might still have happened. Instead, Trump’s chief enabler in Congress, the Savonarola of the Senate, “Cocaine” Mitch McConnell has moved to block release of the report, openly defying a 420–0 vote in the lower house demanding its immediate production.

Thus, in the absence of the report itself, a highly dangerous political vacuum has developed, that I call “Trump Unleashed”.

Trump Unleashed

“No collusion!” has been one of his constant rallying cries for nearly two years, along with febrile attempts to undermine the legitimacy of the inquiry and those involved. An apparent finding of “no collusion” in this one investigation seems already to be playing into his small hands, undermining public trust in the 16 other court-appointed investigations and a Congressional inquiry currently going on into Trump’s financial dealings.

It has effectively enabled Trump to assert that all such investigations are part of a “Witch-hunt” against him, motivated by his enemies and having no basis in law. Thus reified, despite all the other accusations hanging over him and his well-attested (but clearly entirely innocent) associations with criminals and corrupt officers in many countries, this meme of innocence will undoubtedly encourage “Honest Don” to attempt to consolidate his singular power over the judiciary, the media, the Treasury, the security establishment – the State; ruling independently of Congress in a loose triumvirate with the bristly neocon National Security Adviser, John Bolton, and the entirely Koch Industries-manufactured Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo.

In all of the above, the sharp-witted reader may note that I have not gone into the backstories and admissions of guilt – all involving contacts with Russia and Ukaine – by Trump’s lieutenants: Flynn, whose son Mike Jr cannot escape censure for his efforts to spread the absurd “Pizzagate” conspiracy theory, that Clinton was masterminding a pedophile ring out of the non-existent basement of the Comet PingPong cafe in Washington – a meme for which the British alt-right Islamophobic disruptor Jim Dowson has taken the credit, Dowson being a known recipient of Russian dark-money funding. Flynn, Manafort, Papadopoulos, Gates, Corsi, Page, Stone, Cohen… their connections with Russia are extensive and admitted in open court. Their grubby deeds are enumerated elsewhere.

Mr Trump’s legion of dumbfucks would struggle to muster two rational brain cells between them. They may choose to accept unquestioningly, his protestations that he has been fully exonerated by the Mueller report, but that is not true; it is a belief based on months and months of assiduous attempts by propaganda and barefaced denials to undermine the validity of the investigation, while ignoring the very obvious conclusion that nothing here passes the smell test. You would have to be a very unreasonable person not to conclude from all of the above, and the rest, that there were at least valid grounds for enquiry.

Yet despite his disastrous record in office the latest poll indicates that the vast majority of Republican voters – 79% – ominously acclaim Trump to be “the greatest President in US history” (I seem to remember those were his words?). Other, more sanguine Americans may cling for sanity to the fact that still, despite their best efforts at voter suppression and intimidation, Republicans are only a shrinking one-third minority of the overall franchise!

On the basis of its singular usage in the Barr letter, Trump is of course claiming total exoneration, although all the evidence pointing toward criminality has not yet been fully exhausted. He has repeated forcefully his view that (although it has apparently exonerated him – this is how his strange mind works) the legally constituted Special Counsel inquiry was an unlawful harrassment, a “hoax” that for two years has been stalling his project to Make America Great Again, as it says on his Chinese-made hats. He has accused individual investigators of “treason”; although the investigations were of him, not of the country.

He has demanded yet again that those he holds responsible – they include Hillary Clinton, James Comey and former President Obama – should themselves be criminally investigated, and has made threatening statements with regard to the potential for violence of his support base if his ambitions are further thwarted. One understands from the timing, that if Mueller had not given sufficient leeway to allow Barr to claim that the report exonerated him, an army of “Bikers for Trump” would have siezed the commanding heights.

Don’t be fooled. Despite evidence of some mental decline, an informal diagnosis by many experts of his delusional malignant narcissism and his wayward ignorance of political and economic affairs, this man is not a clown.

He has extremely dangerous autocratic and militaristic tendencies bordering on a modern interpretation of fascism: total contempt for the institutions of state and law, the international postwar settlement; complete disdain (openly bought) for the scientific consensus on climate, an unnatural, not to say fetishistic attachment to the symbolism (if not the actuality) of the US military and a warped understanding of the powers and responsibilities of his office: other than that they must aggregate to him personally, for his private benefit, rather than to the nation; since both interests in his mind are identical.

“L’État, c’est moi”, as Louis X1V reputedly put it.

He has also disturbingly uttered more than ten thousand plain, outright, independently fact-checked falsehoods since assuming office on 20 January, 2017; although his support base refuses to see them as such. Don’t assume he does it because he can’t help it: there is both pattern and purpose to his lies. And he has made many perturbing statements about his wish to control and even shut down, parts of the media with which he disagrees; even to the extent of calling for a rewrite of the First – free speech – Amendment. This is an instinctive dictator.

And now in the backlash – I feel sure the internet will be using the word “Trumplash” before long – US news outlets are already reporting on a memo the White House has sent out to the mainstream TV News channels, giving producers a blacklist of names of frequent guest contributors whom Trump warns menacingly they should think carefully about inviting on their talkshows ever again. They include a number of prominent critics among Democrat politicians, including the chair of the Intelligence Committee, Rep. Adam Schiff, the much-respected Senator Richard Blumenthal – and former CIA director, John Brennan.

Schiff came under concerted and clearly scripted attack by Republican congressmen in a plenary session only yesterday, demanding his resignation. The contrary actions of his predecessor, former House Intel chair, Devin Nunes, were not brought up. Schiff’s spirited defense echoed all of what I have been saying here, and should be viewed as a classic of clear-sighted oratory, of a kind Trump is making disappear: the sheer weight of evidence, he said, justifies concern, and the President’s persistent efforts to dismiss it must surely present evidence of guilt.

Finale: The Kush

For me, however, the even darker doings concerning Saudi Arabia, Prince Mohammed bin-Salman and the bullying of little Qatar until their sovereign wealth fund agreed to bail out Jared Kushner’s disastrous real-estate project at 666, 5th Avenue is a far more serious breach of ethics, Presidential privilege and firmer evidence that the Trump family is abusing the power of the White House and undermining the security establishment to subvert US foreign policy for the financial benefit of the Trump family.

An introduction can be found at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Hw0q2ppoDEM, an item that quotes “MBS” as gloating that he has the President’s senior policy advisor “in his pocket”. The MSNBC piece is over a year old, and a lot of blood has flowed under the bridge since then.

Kushner, for instance, is accused of abusing his security clearance, which we now know was controversial and sanctioned only by order of the President, to provide Riyadh with a top-secret CIA file of names of the Crown Prince’s opponents, many of whom were arrested and tortured – and at least one, Jamal Khashoggi – shockingly murdered.

Does Kushner have Khashoggi’s blood on his hands? Is that why Trump so steadfastly refuses to accept that “MBS” ordered the killing, in case it can be traced to his son-in-law’s helpful betrayal of intelligence secrets?

The problem being, that as Trump has successfully focussed the entire nation for two years on “the Russia Thing”, that has ended (thus far) without firm conclusion, no-one will now dare to open an inquiry into even worse and more treasonous crimes he may have committed in office.

This story, that I have tried to cover before, is affirmed in a new book, “Kushner Inc., – Greed, Ambition, Corruption”, by Vicky Ward, that is even now sitting on my bedside table; while already the standard wording from the White House smoke machine is calling “fiction” on it and thus giving it extra credence and coverage.

Newly empowered by the “no collusion” verdict, which, incidentally, polling suggests has not been bought by the majority of Americans, the contributors’ blacklist may be only the first of many such “little lists” of the President’s perceived enemies marked down for retribution in various ways and to shut down media prurience in case worse emerges.

The Pumpkin’s advice: “Take cover”.

 

False flags

Particularly in view of some strangely enormous lies that are emanating from the White House this week, as Ms Maddow has indicated on her show.

Vice-President, Mike Pence announced in a big speech that US astronauts would be returning to the Moon by 2024. That was news to NASA, whose moon-program budget has just been slashed as part of the cuts to provide more tax relief for the wealthy, and who had no plans for another moon landing in any case before 2028.

Mr Trump made a major announcement that, thanks to him, free healthcare was now going to be fully available to all Americans, paid for by the government. Simultaneously, his budget was being presented to Congress, abolishing the Affordable Healthcare Act (Obamacare) and slashing the budgets for Medicare and Medicaid by a trillion dollars. No alternative has been presented.

And another major announcement, concerning his now total defeat of ISIS. Just ahead of reports that the IS is more active than ever in West Africa and Libya, while tens of thousands of surrendered IS fighters are still available to regroup as no-one knows how to process them.

He then summoned the press to the Oval Office to witness him signing an order that in future, all US oil and gas pipeline projects must use American steel. The only problem being, there is no such order. Never has been. It was a fake document!

After which he set off into the countryside to tell an appreciative “rural rally” that he has introduced universal high-speed broadband to rural areas. Only he hasn’t, and there is no urgent plan to.

Maddow’s take on all this is that the Trump regime now realizes that to attain electoral popularity and with the 2020s coming up fast, it’s only necessary to announce wonderful things. Say anything! Nobody will even notice when they don’t happen. No-one will remember what was promised.

Oooh, cynical, Rachel.

 

GW: Cry me an atmospheric river

New Zealand: “Authorities have declared a state of emergency after record rainfall hit the South Island. Flooding has destroyed a bridge and several roads. At least one person is thought to have died. … The country’s National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research (NIWA) said the rain was brought by an atmospheric river which ‘has an atmospheric footprint’ that extends some 5000+ km, from the Timor Sea to New Zealand. … According to NIWA, Cropp Waterfall recorded 1,086 mm of rain in 48 hours to 27 March, the highest ever 48 hour total for the country”. (Floodlist)

Pakistan: “Days of heavy rain in Balochistan Province caused a landslide on 24 March, 2019, killing at least 6 people. According to local media reports, the landslide struck in Harnai. The victims, thought to include 5 children, were in their home at the time. Around 60 thousand people have been affected by flooding in Pakistan and northern Iran. According to the latest report from the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA), 31 people have been confirmed dead in flooding in Iran since last week.” (Floodlist)

USA: As yet another huge winter storm that has already caused floods in northern California and dumped another foot of snow over the Sierras, sweeps across the flood-saturated prairies of the midwest:

“A … phenomenally strong and prolonged “warm wave” (is) vanquishing monthly temperature records across northwest Alaska. (A temperature of 70F was recorded at Klawock on 25 March, the highest ever so early in the year.) At Utqiaġvik (most northerly habitation), temperatures have hovered between 10°F and 30°F. Similar readings are expected almost every day into next week. … The average high and low for March 25 are –5°F and –18°F. In 99 years of recordkeeping at Utqiaġvik, no March has ever ended up with a mean temperature above zero. In the first 25 days of March 2019, the average has been 1.9°F. Given the forecast, this month is sure to leave the previous warmest March average (-0.7°F) in the dust—and that record was set just last year, in March 2018.” (Wunderground/Earther)

While Michael Snyder (The End of the American Dream) writes of the disruption caused by the winter storms:

“The recent flooding is going to keep thousands of farmers from planting crops on time, and thousands of others are not going to be able to use their fields at all … When you factor in what is going to happen over the next three months, we are talking about an agricultural disaster of unprecedented magnitude in modern American history.” At this moment, some areas in the Upper Midwest still have “more than 20 inches of snow” on the ground… 200 million people are at risk (of further floods downstream)… (Zero Hedge)

Europe: As strong winds again batter the coast of Norway, warnings have been issued for the South Ionian sea, Crete and surroundings with threat of severe storms, capable of producing marginal hail, severe winds and torrential rainfall. Waterspouts are possible too. Similar conditions are forecast for northern Morocco with threat of severe storms, capable of producing large hail, severe winds and torrential rainfall. (Severe-weather.eu) It’s been warm and sunny all day here in Boglington! (28 March)

 

No colusion… Thus it begins… Stormy Weathered… Is it somehow getting colder?… The Idiot in the Box… GW: It never rains but it pours

Recent research has estimated that by 2030, the planet will be generating at least 5bn tonnes of poo each year. (Guardian)

 

Jeremy Corbyn with Labour councillor for Morecambe Lizzi Collinge.

“Oh, we do like to be beside the electoral suicide!”

Corbyn paddles while half the nation protests. (Sean Smith/The Guardian)

 

“Announcing (on a Sunday!) that there was “no collusion”, Barr has thrown the failing Republicans more than a lifeline.”

No colusion

So the verdict of Mr William Barr, newly appointed Attorney-General of the United States, is that the Special Prosecutor’s report he has finally been presented with by the vanishingly polite Bob Mueller, who has possibly foolishly left it up to the Department of Justice to have the final say in his investigation, fully exonerates the President of any suspicion of collusion in Russian attempts to intervene in his controversial 2016 election.

And that, he argues, is why there is no case to answer for the obstruction of justice charge either. Because if you are innocent of the one, whatever you then do in the full glare of publicity to continually and deliberately bugger-up a legally constituted criminal investigation into yourself, you cannot be guilty of the other. An interesting legal precedent: “I didn’t rob that bank in the first place, so shooting the sheriff can’t be a crime.”

And now it will be up to the Democrats in Congress to reverse his verdicts, which may prove difficult given the preponderance of well-funded Republican Trump enablers in the Senate, in desperate pursuit of re-election.

Once again, it seems Trump leads a charmed life. And once again, ordinary people are asking in their bewilderment, how come the holy-cow Constitution could allow one rogue individual to control all the appointments to the justice system and elevate themselves above the law, cementing corruption into the nation’s foundations?

The announcement seems to have met with a curiously muted response in the US and British media, third item down the BBC News running order, and a “wait and let’s see what the report actually says” attitude, rather than pundits reacting hastily to a 4-page summary from a possibly selective source.

But that’s the official reaction. Unofficially, my bet is, it could be months before the full report is released, by which time it will be coal slurry under the bridge. No-one will care anymore. We shall shortly see what Trump Unleashed can do, now his political opponents and critics in the media have been flattened by this unexpected verdict. He certainly wasn’t expecting it, but already he is castigating everyone involved as “evil”, and (like any good dictator) demanding criminal investigations into the investigators.

I would, were it up to me, become hysterical at this juncture and head for the border at the thought that Mr Trump will now consider himself free to wreak even greater havoc on American democracy and continue to betray his country’s former allies around the world with ever greater insouciance in support of Mr Putin’s hegemonic objectives for the Russian Empire, pursuing his own financial ends the meanwhile, but what do I know? Perhaps one ought not to take seriously, his recent threats of armed violence against the American people if things do not go his way. Perhaps.

The evidence of multiple contacts – more than 100 – between officials of the Trump campaign and individual Russians during 2016 was, I thought, pretty damning.

That many lied about those contacts, and some have gone to jail for it, while others who also had meetings with Russians have been granted top-drawer security clearances on the personal intervention of the President, over warnings from the security agencies, is pretty incontrovertible.

That numerous Russian individuals and intelligence-led organizations have been indicted in their absence by Mueller, and Russian spy Maria Butina, who infiltrated the NRA to funnel $30 million in Russian money to the Republican campaign, convicted for seeking to influence US politics during the 2016 presidential election, suggests that he cannot believe there was no Russian interference; only that he cannot ultimately prove that Trump himself was an instigator.

In which case, why did Trump refuse to act on multiple warnings that Russians were interfering with the election, and still refuses to accept the evidence? Why does he continually praise and defer to Putin? And why did he not act immediately when told by the Justice Department that Flynn was most probably a Russian asset; instead, firing the messenger – Deputy Attorney-General Sally Yates?

That there are several ongoing investigations into other, similar cases involving the FBI and Trump henchmen accused of acting for foreign powers including or connected with Russia, and therefore the conclusion has to be that there is as yet no conclusion to the Mueller story, seems a reasonable proposition.

Given these ongoing investigations, what actually has Mueller submitted, and why – why now? And why has Mr Barr stated that Mueller has now stepped out of the picture – is it just because he has delegated the other parts of his investigation to other jurists? Or has he in essence been fired by Barr, who took office only last month on a cross-fingered promise that he would let the investigation run its full course?

The evidence of actual Russian attempts to interfere in the election, ranging from the use of “bots” to spread disinformation and attempts to hack the voting machines, to the direct involvement of Paul Manafort, chairman of the Trump campaign and Ukraine political fixer, in supplying confidential polling data to the Russians via Konstantin Kalimnik, an agent of Putin’s friend Oleg Deripaska, to whom he owed $10 million was, I thought, pretty much settled, given that all seven of the US security services agreed on the evidence.

Yet Mueller has supposedly found no evidence of “collusion” amid the tangle of corruption and intrigue.

Is that just “no evidence” – The Pumpkin referred last week to Cohen’s testimony, that Trump is a past-master at wiping his fingerprints off every shitty con and blackmail he has ever (allegedly) plotted – or “no collusion”, period? And does “no collusion” mean nothing at all happened, or just that Candidate Trump wasn’t giving the orders?

We must wait and see when Barr releases the report in its entirety; although The Pumpkin has frequently explored the thought that it would be perfectly possible for Mr Putin to have acted alone, in ordering the hack of the election to defeat Clinton without any direct link to Trump; while Trump and his dimwitted henchmen shuttling back and forth to Moscow and Kiev and Belgrade merely performed the roles of Useful Idiot.

The Russia connections may very much have had more to do with his business ambitions – his attempts to raise cash to build a 400-room Trump Tower Moscow in contravention of city planning ordinances, complete with a $50 million bribe to Putin; his perceived laundering of dodgy Russian investment funds through his Scottish golf courses and other developments – his diffident attitude to sanctions – and with Jared Kushner’s desperate scrabble behind the sofa cushions of dad-in-law’s contacts to plug the $2 bn black hole of 666, 5th Avenue – his expensive white elephant, to mix one’s metaphors.

But it’s too late now. Trump brays he’s been entirely exonerated, his accusers were “evil”, and that will be enough for a lot of voters who can’t be bothered to read the small print, and who willingly believe his assertions that the investigation was cooked up by his enemies – had no legal standing, which is of course delusional nonsense – and that the Justice Department must now reopen the investigations that have already found Hillary Clinton and her campaign not guilty of wrongdoing. With Barr in charge and the courts packed with Trump judges, he may yet get to “Lock her up!”

Now, the effect of it is bound to be that whatever else Mr Trump is accused of – and it’s a lot – both he and his enablers in Congress will now have not just a megaphone, but a Marshall amplifier (goes up to 11) with which to howl down the “Democratic witch-hunt” at every opportunity, in the run-up to the 2020 elections. It may even bring about the collapse of other cases as witnesses could be too intimidated to testify.

“No collusion” has been Trump’s bitter rallying cry for two years. Announcing that there was no collusion found, which is purely his own interpretation, Mr Barr has thrown the failing Republicans, with their Trump-enabling, Koch-funded industry, more than a lifeline.

He has given Trump’s flagging support base, who were, it seemed (apart from the crazed Evangelicals) beginning to get that he has betrayed them bigly on tax and health and jobs, a new lease of life. Their smelly, semiliterate comments are all over YouTube this morning, of the “see, ya fuckin’ libtards, what did we tell ya? Our President is innocent! Now we’re comin’ for ya!” variety.

And now the Russians are also free to meddle with 2020 as much as they like. Was that what this was about, all along?

By focussing on that one crucial element of the report – and we know that Mueller was also probing deep into Trump’s financial relations with Moscow, which are a whole other story – Barr has essentially made all the many peripheral issues magically go away. “No conclusion” is already being spun into a narrative of victimisation of a wholly innocent and traduced President, Honest Don, besieged by lying political dwarfs from the Deep State. (His own fact-checked lies while in office now amount to more than ten thousand!)

And the irony is, “collusion” is not, as Trump’s friend and lawyer Rudy Giuliani has frequently reiterated, even a crime in law.

So the big questions remain unanswered. If there was “no collusion” – let’s use the proper word, conspiracy – what was all that about? Why was everyone lying? And why has Trump devoted every waking moment when he was not either watching Fox & Friends or cheating at golf at the taxpayer’s expense to making the investigation go away, by fair means and foul?

Why did he become increasingly pressured, sweaty and insane as the investigation was approaching its unexplained shock  conclusion? And why has Mueller, who was so strongly rumored to be preparing indictments against Jared Kushner and Donald Trump Jr, on much the same charges as Manafort, Stone and Flynn, suddenly backed away from those too? Has Manafort’s co-operation proved so totally unreliable? Is Flynn not being as forthcoming as was expected? Has Trump got Mueller’s grandkids chained to a radiator in a basement somewhere?

“Trump Unleashed” is a fearful thought, given the history of his presidency so far. Will his authoritarian, not to say autocratic instincts now be let loose on his perceived enemies in the media and in Congress? Is it the triumph of Putinism?

Many serious charges remain on file, much testimony stands against him in other courtrooms and local offices of the FBI, but there was “no collusion”! So, with that global vindication and the collapse of the Democratic balloon, what remains? Well, many indictable crimes, possibly.

But “no collusion” with Russia!

And in his mind, and that of his dumbfuck supporters, that’s all that matters.

 

Stormy weathered

Has he, for instance, already set about a vengeful demolition job on Michael Avenatti, the former progressive media darling and briefly self-promoting Presidential candidate for 2020, who very publicly represented porn actress Stormy Daniels in her short-lived campaign to call Trump out as a serial adulterer who paid $130 thousand to buy her silence during his election campaign?

For a few months, Avenatti was really getting under Trump’s gossamer skin.

Their efforts foundered when they went a step too far and tried to sue Trump for slander. Advice, don’t sue Trump, just – if you have to – you know – kill him? Because otherwise you are going to lose bigly, down to your suspenders.

And the pair fell out, with Daniels accusing her counsel of unfair dealing. Since when, Avenatti’s number seems to have slipped from the program researchers’ yearbook, and he is in a world of legal trouble himself. NBC reported, Monday 25th:

“Celebrity lawyer Michael Avenatti was arrested Monday in New York City on charges of trying to extort up to $25 million from Nike by threatening to publicize claims that company employees authorized payments to the families of top high school basketball players. Avenatti also was separately charged in a second federal case in Los Angeles with embezzling a client’s money “in order to pay his own expenses and debts” and those of his law firm and coffee company, and of “defrauding a bank in Mississippi,” prosecutors said.”

He’s also being charged in a Nuremburg court for starting World War Two by invading Poland, causing the deaths of 80 million people; of stock frauds bringing about the Great Depression, and of several gruesome murders of young women in 1880s Whitechapel, London. For those offences alone he’s looking at many consecutive life sentences.

Just imagine, if Trump finds himself in the next cell!

Thus it begins

Well, probably not. But what he has already done is to order a memo sent out to “TV Producers” (no names, no pack drill) listing a number of contributors the White House advises should not be allowed on current affairs programs in future because of their antipathy toward the President. They include Democratic Senator Richard Blumenthal, Representative Adam Schiff (chairman of the House Intelligence Committee) and former CIA director John Brennan.

This, it’s feared, is just the start of a purge of Trump’s critics and opponents.

 

Nominative Determinism corner

Head of the anatomical training simulation unit at Imperial College, London, is surgeon, Professor Roger Kneebone.

 

Is it somehow getting colder?

In places, yes, appears to be the briefest summary of a lengthy report reprinted with lots of diagrams I don’t understand on the Arctic News website this week. And will continue to do: for global warming is no longer considered to be a linear process, but one that is becoming increasingly disjunctive – chaotic.

Localized cooling is a transient phenomenon that has, basically, two causes. One we know about: the weakening jetstream has brought two winters of record cold to the northern United States and southern Canada, as the Polar vortex has become divided – while the far north of Canada, northern Siberia and the entire Arctic basin has experienced record warmth.

“As the concentration of greenhouse gases is rising and amplifying feedbacks from land, oceans and ice sheet melting increase, transient temperature reversals (stadials) accentuate temperature polarities between warming land masses and oceanic regions cooled by the flow of cold ice melt water from the ice sheets, leading to extreme weather events. The rise in Arctic temperatures, at a rate twice as fast as that of lower latitudes, weakens the polar boundary and results in undulation of the jet stream, allowing warm air masses to shift north across the boundary, further heating the polar region. The weakened boundary further allows cold air masses to breach the boundary shifting away from the Arctic. Combined with the flow of ice melt water from Greenland, these developments are leading to a cooling of sub-polar oceans and adjacent land.

“The freezing storms in North America … are cheering those who refuse to discriminate between the climate and the weather.”

That warmth, however, is causing rapid ice melt, which in turn is building up the cold spots in the north Atlantic and Pacific oceans, with a possible reduction of about 2C, that can also bring about rapid freezing events; as study of past climates, when CO2 and other greenhouse gases were concentrated in about the same quantities as they increasingly are now, shows. The paleo-climate record indicates that:

“during the last ~450,000 years peak interglacial temperatures were repeatedly succeeded by temporary freeze events, attributed to the flow of cold ice melt water flow into the North Atlantic Ocean (Cortese et al. 2007) …, associated with rapid rises in sea level, as during the last glacial termination … The rise in extreme weather events associated with current global warming to ~0.9°C above 1884 level (NASA, 2018) compares with temperatures and extreme weather events associated with the early Holocene Period (~11.6 –7.0 thousand), a period of major sea level rise of ~60 meters (Smith et al. 2011)”

Warming – freezing – either way, the consensus of thousands of peer-reviewed papers is that the threshold of 1.5C degrees of warming (on average!) we are approaching within a very few years (if we have not passed it already) and the consequent contrasts on the borders of cold and hot regions are going to bring about more massive disruption to the world’s weather, with stronger storms and bigger waves and tipping points being exceeded to allow feedbacks that point to an uninhabitable Earth within a few decades; and not a lot that can now be done about it.

Food security – this is my added observation – is dependent on climate stability and no sudden reversals. The report goes on to conclude among other things that water management will have to improve, to ensure drought-affected regions can be more efficiently supplied from wetter areas. I suggest there is no shortage of fresh water, in fact quite the reverse. It’s just that most of it is wasted.

(The report is by Dr Andrew Glikson, Earth and paleo-climate scientist at the Australian National University. Source: http://arctic-news.blogspot.com/, 23 March)

 

Algorithm Corner

“Do you remember the evenings at the pub when you’d be stuck with other people’s crappy selections on the jukebox?”

The Idiot in the Box

If the BBC iPlayer starts once more counting down to Series 8 Episode 8 of “Father Brown” while I’m waiting for Series 4 Episode 2 of “Call of Duty” to start, I think I shall go mad.

I have seen Series 8 Episode 8 of “Father Brown” twice already and it is as mildly diverting a murder-not-much-mystery show (with no fruity swearing and fewer bent cops) on a wet Sunday afternoon as all the others. I have no especial wish ever to watch any of them again. To that end, I have now three times clicked on the Delete from List button.

But the button is clearly there only as placebo for angry viewers.

The Idiot in the Box has unilaterally decided I’m a fan of any and all detective series, however anodyne, weakly humorous and Sunday afternoonish, and is indiscriminately trying to force-feed me the next one on its list, whatever it is. (Do you remember the days at the pub when you’d be stuck with other people’s crappy selections on the jukebox?)

Yet despite my advancing years and lavish whisky consumption, I am still sentient and perfectly capable of selecting things for myself, provided they are offered in sufficient choice. Which is the problem with the iPlayer menu: there is practically nothing on it that I have not seen before, or that I would ever willingly watch even once, let alone three times.

But you can’t tell them.

Whose daft idea was this?

 

GW: It never rains but it pours

“A recent report released by a coalition of environmental groups found that 33 global banks have provided $1.9 TRILLION in finance to coal, oil and gas companies since the 2015 Paris climate agreement.” (Guardian Green Light)

South-central Asia: “Flooding has affected parts of Afghanistan and Iran over the last week. Iranian Red Crescent Society (IRCS) reports it has provided relief and assistance to around 50,000 people affected by flooding in the northern provinces of Golestan and Mazandaran over the last few days. In Afghanistan at least 13 people have reportedly died in flash flooding in Herat province. Flash floods earlier this month affected 14 provinces of the country, leaving at least 63 people dead.” (Floodlist)

Australia: No longer expected to come ashore, Cat 2 Cyclone Veronica is stalled 60 miles off the NE coast and lashing residents with strong winds, rain and huge waves, threatening flooding. For only the second time in the big island’s known history, another powerful cyclone has simultaneously made landfall on the western side. Residents who have not evacuated are riding out Cat 4 Cyclone Trevor, which crossed the Gulf of Carpentaria in the Northern Territory last weekend, bringing down trees and power lines. Both regions are sparsely populated and no casualties have been reported. (BBC)

USA: The Missouri River in the city of St. Joseph on the Kansas border reached record levels on 22 March. Thousands of residents and workers were placed under evacuation orders in areas along the riverfront. The orders have since been lifted. States of emergency remain in force in Iowa and Nebraska, where at least 3 people have died in extensive river floods and damage is estimated at over $3 billion. Authorities expect flooding from snowmelt and intense rainfall in the Midwest to continue into May. Agricultural production has been severely affected.

South Atlantic: Forming about 600 miles northeast of Rio de Janeiro, Tropical Cyclone Iba is only the ninth ever recorded in the South Atlantic. “Steering currents will take Iba to the southeast, out to sea,” writes Dr Jeff Masters at Wunderground, “and the system is not a threat to any land areas.” Iba is expected to strengthen, but not to reach hurricane status. “While subtropical storms form about once every year in the South Atlantic, Iba is the first named fully tropical cyclone there since 2010. Sea surface temperatures have been running about 1°C (1.8°F) above average in the region where Iba formed.”

Wales: I have 17.1C, a pleasant 63F in my shady front garden this sunny March afternoon, 25th, at 14.39 hours.