The Pumpkin – Issue 86: Collision… Trumpenfilth corner… How many wars can Trump sustain all at once?… Bent crude… The Man Who Would be King… GW: Water, water everywhere – except where there’s drought…

“Gangs in England are so adorable. This is what we could have here if we just implemented gun control!”

– Stephen Colbert, on the milkshake attacks in Britain on rightwing agitators like Robinson and Farage.

 

Brexit party and supporters at an event in Bamber Bridge, Lancashire

Last Brexit to Nowhere… Leave supporters who have stolen our future
wait to die at a working men’s club in Lancashire. (Photo: Guardian)

 

How many wars can Trump sustain all at once?

You must watch this issue of Thom Hartmann’s vlog (link below). Unlike any panel discussion of Trump’s startling refusal to co-operate with legislators I’ve heard on US media, arguing that he is above the law, it provides a crystal-clear, historical analysis of the legal position regarding the constitutional battle between Congress, the courts and the White House.

And the conclusion is terrifying.

Spoiler alert: Thom’s verdict

If Trump refuses to co-operate with investigations, tough luck. Not even the Supreme Court can enforce the law if the President chooses not to obey it, as Congress and the courts have NO POWERS OR MEANS OF ENFORCEMENT under the constitution. Only the Executive branch, which includes the Justice Department and the White House, can order arrests.

And with the appointment of Attorney General Barr, Trump has the DoJ in his pocket.

Even if Congress were to impeach Trump for ignoring legal subpoenas ratified by the Supreme Court, as he is proposing to do if decisions go against him, they have no power to arrest him. And he knows it.

Until Nixon, such unpresidential defiance of US law has occurred only three times in the history of the USA. The first was in 1861, when the southern states backed the Supreme Court against a certain Abraham Lincoln, who refused to give way on their ruling that African slaves were not humans, and it cost 600 thousand lives to settle the matter.

Not for nothing does Trump sit under a portrait of his favorite President in history, the appalling racialist Andrew Jackson, who twice ignored the Supreme Court in matters pertaining to his genocidal campaigns aganst First Nation Americans.

How many wars can Trump sustain all at once, on how many fronts? A clue may lie in the number of law suits he’s currently juggling.

I refer you to the incomplete list of lawsuits pending against Donald Trump (NB these are only primary cases, excluding many hundreds of cases in which he is named incidentally.)

en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_lawsuits_involving_Donald_Trump

Thom Hartmann: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B1Zv3zlK714

 

Collision

An open letter stating an opinion that Trump should face trial for multiple crimes of obstructing justice on the basis of the evidence gleaned by the Mueller investigation and published in the redacted report has been signed by 900 (nine hundred!) current and former prosecuting US states’ attorneys.

The problem being that only the Department of Justice can indict – the investigation was under their jurisdiction. And the Attorney General whom Trump personally appointed in February to run the DoJ, M William “Bill” Barr, is refusing to indict on grounds that you cannot indict a sitting President; although that is a controversial opinion or, as we say, bullshit.

Talk about obstructing justice!

While the President also remains an “unindicted co-conspirator” in the case for which his lieutenant, Michael Cohen, was sent to gaol for three years, for co-operating with Trump’s order that he should pay bribes to silence two inconvenient women, illegally out of campaign funds, to assist Trump’s election prospects. The President remains under suspicion that he also persuaded a friend, Mr Elliott Broidy, to pay $1.8 million to a Playboy model whose baby he had aborted, and to accept responsibility himself.

Next week, this corrupt criminal – yes, he last year pleaded guilty in a New York court to misuse of tax-exempt charity funds and his Trump Foundation was compulsorily wound-up; while, in 2017 he was forced to pay $35 million reparations in a case involving the bogus “Trump university” scam – and his wretched family, all of whom are under investigation for financial crimes – is to be entertained, literally royally, by the British State, at a cost of many millions of pounds, and will hypocritically attend a 75th anniversary parade to mark the joint military invasion of Europe by US, Canadian, French and British forces.

Pray for rain.

 

During President Trump’s election campaign he promised voters that, unlike “lazy” Obama, he would be the hardest-working president in history. In his first 27 months in office he has played golf on average once every three days, at a cost to the US taxpayer now of $102 million. (TYT/The Huffington Post)

 

Trumpenfilth corner:

I wrote recently that the 2020 campaign will only get filthier. In response to Speaker Pelosi’s comment that Trump is engaged in a cover-up with regard to the Mueller report, video of her statement has been digitally edited to make her look drunk and rambling* and this fake news version was helpfully put out on air by the Fox Business channel.

It’s also been posted online with, so far, 2 million views. Facebook and Twitter have made half-hearted attempts to takedown the video. No doubt many dumbfucks will not have the cognitive abilities to see what’s been done to the original, although it’s pretty crude. Or they’ll just think it’s hilarious.

Asked about it, Trump defended it, whining that she attacked him first. An opposition politician! And this is the cheesy sleazeburger with an emotional age of nine they’re inflicting on the 93-year-old Queen next week, officials desperately claiming “It’s not the man, it’s the office”?

*How to edit a video to make a person look drunk and rambling, Part One. First, cut it into little pieces and put it back together with little delays and overlaps and hiccups and repeats. Then you slow the voicetrack down by about 15%. We recommend you use FinalCutPro for a cleaner finish.

 

Bent crude

It’s axiomatic now that Trump’s actions stink of corruption and malpractise. To the point where, it seems, nobody cares. He hasn’t launched the nuclear missiles, like everyone feared. He’s derailing the economy, but the Obama momentum, a global recovery and a weak dollar are still keeping it going. Cuts in Medicare and tax increases on the middle-class have yet to kick in. He’s done many other horrible things, told endless lies, started a trade war and bust the budget, but so far they haven’t made a telling shot among his base. His chief propaganda mouthpiece, Brad Parscale (late of Cambridge Analytica) is Facebooking lies like a good ‘un.

And many people quite approve of the way he seems to be standing up to the hated politicians in Congress, even if it is to cover up his own crimes.

He continues to protest his innocence of the charges investigated by Mueller. It’s been two months now since his hand-picked Attorney General, a man who doesn’t think a sitting President can be indicted for anything, a man who has argued the Mueller investigation was illegitimate, released a three and a half page summary of a 488-page report, using Mueller’s inability or strange unwillingness to prosecute a sitting President for abuse of office as a pretext for claiming he totally exonerated Trump and his campaign, which he absolutely did not.

Mr Barr is again summonsed to testify before a Congressional Intelligence Committee, Thursday (23 May) and the media is waiting to see if he turns up, having refused to the last time and being held in contempt for it. Unfortunately, Congress has no powers of arrest outside the building itself.

The redacted report has been published, but few people have taken the time to read it. Those who have are convinced, despite the redactions, of the President’s guilt. The one Republican senator who read it and admitted openly that he was convinced of Trump’s guilt has been, as they say, sent to Coventry by his colleagues.

The vast majority of Americans however are left with just those three and a half carefully selected pages and a president who continues to tweet and whine and cry and boast that he’s a “stable genius” (yep, he said it again!) who has been cleared of all charges; and who has now said he will not co-operate on government legislation while the House is investigating him – a childish tantrum neither Nixon nor Clinton threw, even while impeachment hearings were going on.

What are the public supposed to think? The Justice Department continues to refuse to release the unredacted report, even to Congressmen and women with the highest security clearance.

Well, they could look at his behavior. Whining and blustering that he’s been proven innocent, Trump has continually attacked the investigation as illegitimate, the investigators as biased plotters – “traitors”, he’s calling them, in the best tradition of dictators the world over. He’s called for them to be investigated, and a supine Justice Department already convicted of lying to the House is complying.

And nobody seems to think that’s strange. If he was exonerated, what’s the problem? Why not release it all? But it’s just what he does. Look how he continues to claim Hillary Clinton rigged the 2016 election, even though he won it! Nothing must be allowed to undermine the legitimacy of his presidency, which he genuinely seems to believe in his paranoia and delusional narcissism will go down as the greatest in history; although he has achieved nothing but growing inequality and chaos.

Perhaps unwisely, Mueller left it to the Justice Department and Congress to make up their minds based on the mountain of evidence he uncovered, and is now curiously silent on the whole affair. Trump has continued to claim that, as he was exonerated, which he was not, there is no evidence of crimes; consequently further investigations and the judgement of Congress have no validity and must end – before, many assume, more dirt comes out.

And time is going by, with the 2020 elections approaching and the public growing bored and fractious and easily distracted by talk of war and an immigration crisis on the border, “collegegate” and the unsatisfactory conclusion of Game of Thrones.

The British government, equally in chaos amid similar accusations of divisiveness and abuse of the poor and immigrant, with the far-right poised to take control and Prime Minister May due to stand down as Conservative leader in total humiliation on 7 June, has dumped almost the entire State visit of the criminal Trump family, which she instigated, onto the shoulders of the extended royal family – a further “exoneration” Trump and his infinite propaganda machine will make maximum capital out of for the dumbfucks.

Now, congressional committees trying to investigate the findings of the report, as Mueller charged them to do, are themselves being shut down, either by lawsuits – all so far rejected in the courts – or by the simple expedient of the White House refusing to release information under subpoena, refusing to allow witnesses quoted in the Mueller report to give testimony about their evidence to Congress, daring the Democrats to impeach.

The main example is that of Don McGahn, former White House counsel, who gave over 30 hours of testimony in private to the Mueller team, but is now at risk of being charged with contempt of Congress, having failed to show up for a scheduled committee session under subpoena. Why? Well, it’s possibly to do with his law firm having $1.2 million worth of consultancy to the Republican party that’s going down the pan if he testifies.

Witness intimidation.

And, at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q8LI2-dCoro, Rachel Maddow discourses on the other main topic, that of the request by the House Oversight Committee to see Mr Trump’s tax returns.

The committee is empowered by a law of 1927 that is absolutely clear: if the chairman wishes to see anyone’s tax returns, the IRS is legally obliged to comply. But no, Trump is not of a mind to let anyone ferret through those, literally, thousands of pages detailing his financial activities over 7 years. A barrage of dubious legal objections has been put up to deny the committee’s clear and lawful request; Mr Trump having hired a separate legal team to fight on just this one issue.

And, it turns out, in Trumpworld there are massive and unexamined conflicts of interest between the top three officials at the IRS and their duty to the law. Three officials whose appointments were in the gift of the President, whose appointments were railroaded urgently through the Senate by the leader, “Cocaine” Mitch McConnell*, as the likelihood of impeachment drew nearer.

(Incidentally, the question remains, was Donald Trump at any time involved in the cocaine trade? Evidence suggests he may have been, but that’s yet another accusation that’s gone unresolved for years, as there’s just so much of this stuff going on that the legal system is totally underequipped and unable to deal with it all.)

Three officials, one of whom happens to be a partner in an accounting firm that used to work as tax advisors for Trump Organization. Another of whom just happened to write a legal opinion that while the IRS may be obliged to furnish tax returns to the committee of anyone in the country on demand, the law doesn’t apply to the President. He also happens to own several apartments in Trump condominiums.

The third, Stephen Mnuchin, is the Treasury Secretary. He’s a former longtime Goldman Sachs man, like several of Trump’s arslikhan cabinet of all the millionaires, draining the swamp, who profited from the 2007 crash by buying up the assets of busted banks and loan companies cheaply and foreclosing on all the debtors, including hundreds of families who lost their homes. According to Wikipedia:

“Mnuchin founded a hedge fund called Dune Capital Management, named for a spot near his house in The Hamptons, in 2004 with two former Goldman partners. After its founding, Mnuchin served as the CEO of the company. The firm invested in at least two Donald Trump projects, the Trump International Hotel and Tower in Honolulu and its namesake in Chicago.”

Together, these profoundly conflicted appointees at the head of the country’s tax collection service form a formidable wall against intrusive inspections of their patron’s financial affairs, even as they may be mandated by law and unbroken precedent.

But, you know, given Trump’s nature, it may just be that his tax returns will show nothing amiss. It’s possible that he’s just preternaturally averse to being investigated. Or that he’s happy to create a diversion by getting the media to focus obsessively on his taxes and ignore how he makes money illegally outside of the tax system altogether.

 

*Where does the nickname “Cocaine Mitch” come from? Apparently, from a debunked story involving his wife’s Chinese family; although financial journalist and veteran Trumphound, David Cay Johnson, has written that there is substantial circumstantial evidence linking Donald Trump with the Columbian cocaine trade in the 1980s.

But apparently, McConnell is willing to leave no turd unstoned when it comes to re-election, and is milking the monicker for all he’s worth. He has already raised $70 thousand from sales of Vote for “Cocaine Mitch” T-shirts. As website FastCompany.com reports:

“It’s exactly the kind of trolling nihilism you can expect from the man who obstinately opposed the Obama administration at every turn and now frequently calls Democrats who don’t accede to Trump’s agenda ‘obstructionists.’ Cocaine is hilarious, trolling is politics, nothing matters, who cares?”

 

Trump has ordered US farmers to be compensated for losses caused by China imposing retaliatory tariffs against the tariffs he’s imposed on China, blaming China for deliberate aggression against US farmers. The cost to the US taxpayer: $12 billion. Experts believe the soybean trade may never recover.

 

The Man Who Would be King

The Guardian is reporting on video evidence of meetings between Nigel Farage and Steve Bannon, in which the two men discuss the possibility of forming a “global alliance” of some of the most terrible men on the planet “to combat globalism”.

It would be funny if it weren’t so horrific. “Fake news”, if the possibility exists that The Guardian does not check its sources carefully. But after luring Mr Bannon to a private entrance at the Ritz Hotel in London, presumably because the doorman wouldn’t have let an Islamophobic nihilist looking like a dishevelled drunk into the foyer, the conversation with Farage is all apparently there on tape, in the form of out-takes from a new fly-on-the-wall (more like “flies-on-a-turd”) documentary about Bannon, The Brink, to air here in July.

Among those great leaders they thought it would be a nice idea to involve in their little plot to rule the frazzled earth are the self-admitted murderer, Duterte of the Philippines, on whose say-so thousands of presumed “drug dealers” – mostly harmless addicts – have been exterminated by police death squads, and who speaks openly and pleasantly of raping women.

Indian “strongman” – actually he’s just an elderly peasant buoyed up by heat-crazed Hindu nationalists and appears to The Pumpkin from a distance to be a quite profoundly stupid man – Narendra Modi is on the list, as is the authoritarian Hungarian PM, Viktor Orban, ruthless exploiter of any passing populist issue and slayer of NGOs. Egypt, too, was mentioned – see below.

Amusingly, Farage is on tape telling Bannon he finds Boris Johnson too lightweight and incapable of concentrating on anything for more than a few seconds. This, from the pathetic Trumpsucker photographed in the Golden Elevator, adoring inches away from that other adulterous, overweight, tow-headed scamp who practically invented ADHD.

(In case you objected to my use of the word “turd” earlier, I should mention that this global conspiracy of White-is-Rightists was known appropriately as The Movement.)

Apparently The Movement has been abandoned, as the funding mechanism wasn’t quite meeting internationally accepted rules, while Farage’s instant pop-up Brexit party, the No Deal, anti-EU party leading in the polls for tomorrow’s EU elections, is being investigated for accepting illegal foreign donations.

Taking a leaf out of Trump’s “Quick, smear anyone you think may be a threat!” playbook, Farage has been quick to dismiss the Electoral Commission without the slightest evidence as a bunch of Remainers. The worst insult he can imagine! It might even work with his Brexit party dumbfucks, 5,000 of whose jobs at British Steel in 70% Leave-voting Scunthorpe are imminently threatened by Brexit contractions.

Let’s hope it doesn’t end there, and that these deluded voters finally understand what an unreconstructed fascist this deeply unpleasant, richer-than-he-pretends-to-be, “Man o’ the People” is.

From supporting removal of workers’ rights, to cynical climate-change minimization, to privatisation of the NHS, Farage is not at all what his fans think he is. Or maybe he is, I don’t know. Anyway, being “different” is not a reason to vote for someone who has no plan to do you any good whatsoever.

And how “different” is he? Most if not all of the dead white men in the Tories’ factional European Research Group share his 1950s golf-club-bore views; as do, apparently, the elderly lads and Thatcherized mineworkers of northern working men’s clubs.

Miserable old farts, our beer glasses are empty, but our time has come to screw the rest of you.

 

A filthy, murderous little regime

“Ahmed Saddouma will face his final hearing on 8 June for a crime he could not have committed. He was only 17 years old when he was abducted from his bed in the middle of the night by the Egyptian authorities. He was tortured for three months until he ‘confessed’ to a crime that took place 21 days after his arrest. He was sentenced to death in a mass trial of 30 people, where he could not present a defence.”

Thus the content of an email from Reprieve, the NGO that campaigns worldwide against the gross injustice of the death penalty, especially where no defence case is admitted.*

The filthy, murderous regime of General al-Sissi grows more barbarous with each passing day. As it has the courts in its pocket, a policy of torture and the vast financial and military resources of the United States of Ismerica to underpin it, the regime easily passes the bar of fascism.

Fascism is when the State, for its own ends and those of its partners in business, the military and the religious establishment combined, empowers its ordinary citizens to unleash their frustration, their brutality, what Hannah Arendt called the banality of evil, on the chosen Other: in this case, members of the Muslim Brotherhood, an invented enemy.

How bitterly must those who took part in the Arab Spring revolution that overthrew the last oppressive dictator of Egypt, Hosni Mubarak, be regretting their failure to properly organize and to coalesce around clear ideals and objectives, allowing this strutting, pockmarked little shit to take over and impose the most astonishing brutality on his people; with almost daily judicial massacres of his perceived “opponents”.

The “strongman” view of history is littered with such examples, of lawless, power-crazed thugs – generally ugly little men of reduced stature and stunted intellect but infinite low cunning – riding to power on the credulity of the mob and the seemingly endless willingness of followers to hide inside a uniform and commit unbridled acts of violence against even those fellow citizens who would hope to improve their lives too.

I signed the petition, but without optimism. Theresa May is not going to intervene, she may not even be in office tomorrow. How many more Ahmed Saddoumas will hang before justice and moderation and good governance are restored to the world?

It will never happen in our lifetimes. We are descending into a barbarism not seen since the 1930s, that will undoubtedly end with the collapse of the socio-economic order as the planet rapidly heats beyond bearing.

*And just watch sales of Amazon’s new face recognition app to oppressive regimes like Egypt’s.

 

GW: Water, water everywhere – except where there’s drought

USA: Heavy snow is reported in Denver, Colorado; major flooding is forecast for the northeast, more storms for Texas; while in Georgia, temperatures are approaching 37C, 98F.

A dangerous storm system in South and Midwest USA has produced dozens of tornadoes, strong winds, hail and heavy rain since Monday 20 May. Oklahoma, Kansas, Texas, Arkansas and Missouri have all been affected, with major flooding reported in parts of Oklahoma and Missouri. 2 people died in a vehicle accident. Heavy rain is expected to increase river levels, many of which have been high since March this year. More storms are forecast throughout the week. As of 22 May, rivers were above flood stage in 370 locations across the South and Midwest. (Floodlist)

Update, 25 May: A large and violent tornado has left at least 3 people dead in Missouri as torrid weather continues to pummel parts of America’s midwest. A series of devastating storms hit the area on Wednesday night (22 May) leading to multiple tornadoes. The region has already endured days of torrential rain and flooding.

All 3 fatalities were in Golden City. Another tornado carved a 3-mile swathe of destruction through the state capital, Jefferson City (where people are thought to be trapped under rubble). It brought the death toll from Midwest twisters this week to 7. (BBC Weather)

Drought and unseasonally warm temperatures in Canada have brought two massive uncontained wildfires to northern Alberta in an early start to the season (BBC). 5,000 residents have been evacuated from the path of the Chuckegg Creek wildfire, which is burning out of control and has already consumed 200 thousand acres. The High Level fire has been prevented from reaching the town but has burned 100,000 sq km of forest. (CNN/Global)

Japan: as Trump arrives to play golf with Abe, the Japan Times reports, “Unseasonably hot conditions gripped wide areas of Japan on Sunday, with the town of Saroma setting the highest temperature ever recorded in the country for the month of May. The mercury hit 39.5 degrees in the northeastern coastal Hokkaido town. (26 May). Strangely, although the earthquake that shook Tokyo an hour before Airforce One touched down gets a mention, mainstream media is making no mention of the heatwave.

Germany: “Storm Axel” brought heavy rain, strong winds and thunderstorms to parts of Germany between 20 and 22 May. Several states were affected by flooding. Some areas of Bavaria recorded over 250mm of rain in 48 hours. I person is known to have died. Rail travel was disrupted. (Floodlist) The storms are moving away across Georgia into Russia (Severe-weather.eu)

Turkey: Over 30 buildings have been destroyed or severely damaged by a landslide in Aybasti district in the Black Sea province of Ordu. The area had been affected by an earlier landslide in February. It’s thought recent heavy rainfall in the area triggered a second landslide on 15 May. Over 80 homes have been evacuated. (Floodlist)

Mali: At least 14 people have died in flash flooding that hit the country’s capital, Bamako, on 16 May. The flooding struck after a sudden torrential downpour that lasted several hours. Flood water was up to 2.5 metres deep. At least 1 person has died in flash flooding in southern Ghana after a downpour lasting around 2 hours on 15 May. It’s one of several spates of flash flooding to affect the country since March this year. At least 12 people died in the capital Accra in early April. (Floodlist) In Guinea, 5 people died when drains in the capital, Conakry, blocked with years of garbage, backed up during a heavy rainstorm. (from: Floodlist)

Korea: North Korea is suffering its worst drought in 37 years (when tens of thousands starved to death) and has called on its citizens to “battle” against the crop damage. It comes after the UN said that up to 10 million North Koreans were “in urgent need of food assistance”. State TV however is showing images of lush crops and flowing streams. So it must be bad.

UK: As Sheffield council contractors continue to hack away at the city’s remaining mature trees, protected from elderly protestors by the police and courts, “more than 130,000 trees are to be planted in English towns and cities over the next two years as part of the nation’s battle against global heating”. Previous tree-planting programs are way off schedule. Environment secretary, Michael Gove has announced that grants for the plantings will be made available through the Urban Tree Challenge Fund. Researchers have determined from lake sediments that flooding twice in the past 10 years in Cumbria was the heaviest for over 550 years – as far back as they can go. (Guardian Green Light)

Tunnel approaching….

Yellowstone: Steamboat geyser, largest in the park, went off on 21 May for the 17th time this year, on course to beat last year’s record 32 eruptions. Normal activity is 2 or 3 a year. A huge, very deep M8.0 earthquake in Peru on Sunday 26 May (1 dead, a dozen injured, buildings brought down) seems to have produced a responding M4.2 quake in Utah, near the caldera. (Mary Greeley) Was the M5.0, 48 miles south of Tokyo, also related?

 

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The Pumpkin – Issue 81: If it moves, chop it off… The Great White Whale conspiracy… Facts, dear boy… Whaddo I know?… GW: We all live in a Yellow Submarine… There goes the sun… When is a burger?

Saddest Quote of the week

Found beneath an Oleta Adams video:

When I lonely I really want to be hugged.

 

It’s estimated that Americans may have inadvertently spent $40 billion in 2018 on online shopping, while drunk.

(The Pumpkin’s ever-expanding jazz CD collection and ever-shrinking savings can attest, it’s not just Americans…)

 

“And was your dad born in Germany too?”

 

If it moves, chop it off

To the annoyance of many Western celebrities, the diminutive Sultan of Brunei, a Mr Bolkiah, who, without wishing to seem racist, resembles a worried-looking marmoset with a very large bank balance, has implemented Sharia in his tiny statelet on the island of Borneo (pop. 440,000) and is proposing to stone gay people to death and cut off the hands of shoplifters, as he needs the votes of the Muslim majority.

Meanwhile, according to the Guardian, his brother Jef:

“…embezzled $15m (£11.5m) from the state during his tenure as finance minister in the 1990s. He was revealed to own 600 properties, 2,000 cars, a private Boeing 747 and several works by Renoir, Manet and Degas. Jefri’s flamboyant lifestyle, which came to light in a series of court cases, involved a harem of foreign mistresses, the purchase of erotic sculptures of himself with his fiancee, and a luxury yacht he called Tits.”

All perfectly halal, according to the Qu’ran. Meanwhile the senior brother, Sultan Bolkiah has hastened to assure the human rights brigade around the world that these sentences are very unlikely to be imposed as sodomy in Sharia requires two upstanding independent witnesses for a conviction.

 

Oh, what a tangled web we weave, when once we practise to deceive.” – WS

The Great White Whale conspiracy

“The U.S. Justice Department is investigating whether $100,000 donated to a Trump-related political fundraising committee originated from a fugitive Malaysian businessman alleged to be at the center of a global financial scandal, according to people familiar with the matter.” – The Wall Street Journal, 13 March, 2019.

So, what’s the Orange Booby got himself into now, with his terrible judgement – or is it just rotten luck at frequently making business connections who often seem to be… a trifle gamey, let’s say?

Well, the “businessman” is a pudgy Chinese-Malay financier, Low Taek Jho, or Jho Low as he is known, aka the “Billion Dollar Whale”, who has vowed not to give himself up to any jurisdiction where his guilt has already been presumed. That’s about six so far. He’s thought to be in hiding in Hong Kong, or maybe as a guest of the Chinese government on the mainland; and rumored to have had plastic surgery to lessen the risk that Interpol will find him. His share of the loot has been put at $10 million, but that’s a likely huge underestimation.

“Low—who became infamous for ripping up Manhattan clubs with $160,000 bar tabs and plied Lindsay Lohan with champagne on her 23rd birthday—was indicted last year in the U.S. on three counts of conspiring to violate foreign anti-bribery laws and launder money. He also faces charges in Malaysia for his alleged role in a scheme to steal billions of dollars …” – The Daily Beast 12 March, 2019.

“Billions of dollars from a state fund (1MDB) meant to help the Malaysian people went missing, disappearing into the shadows of the global financial system. According to US and Malaysian prosecutors, the money lined the pockets of a few powerful individuals and was used to buy luxury real estate, a private jet, Van Gogh and Monet artworks – and to finance a Hollywood blockbuster. … Authorities in at least six countries (are) probing a vast web of financial transactions stretching from Swiss banks to island tax havens to the heart of South East Asia. Goldman Sachs, one of Wall Street’s most powerful banks, is facing criminal charges in Malaysia – which it says it intends to vigorously defend.” – BBC News special report, 2 April, 2019.

And, oh, look, here’s Trump’s old friend and retired Republican Party charity chugger, Elliott Broidy popping up again:

“The US Justice Department is investigating whether longtime Republican fundraiser Elliott Broidy sought to sell his influence with the Trump administration by offering to deliver US government actions for foreign officials in exchange for tens of millions of dollars, according to three people familiar with the probe.

The FBI is: “investigating claims that Broidy sought US$75 million from Malaysian businessman Jho Low if the Justice Department ended its investigation of 1Malaysia Development Bhd (1MDB), the country’s state investment fund.” The Straits Times, 18 August, 2018.

And, again from The Daily Beast, September 2018:

The team of lawyers and consultants working for Low (in the US) included (New Jersey Governor and former Trump campaign organizer, Chris) Christie, lobbyist Ed Rogers, Trump’s longtime lawyer Marc Kasowitz, Trump Organization lawyer Bobby Burchfield, and vice chairman of the Trump campaign’s joint fund with the Republican Party, Elliott Broidy.”

So, in short, what do we get from this? Well, nothing in life is certain, not even in Trumpworld “death and taxes”, but a brief summary of the allegations goes:

In the summer of 2018, as the Mueller Russia probe continues to draw the crowd in its agonizing buildup to ‘nothing to see, folks’, Malaysian playboy, Jho Low is on the run, wanted by authorities for his part allegedly in shaking down a sovereign wealth fund from which $4.5 billion has gone missing.

A fund created by Prime Minister Abdul Razak, ousted in 2018 by the 92-year-old former PM Mahathir Mohammed amid allegations of corruption, and who was subsequently arrested on charges of embezzlement. (His case comes up in court today, 3 April, 2019.)

“Californian businessman” Broidy, who is so close to Trump he took the rap for paying $1.8 million to Shera Bechard, a Playboy model whose baby Trump allegedly had aborted, apparently in turn tried to shake down J-Low for $75 million on a promise to get his friends, the Trump administration to make the FBI’s investigation go away.

Represented by numerous lawyers and influencers directly connected to Trump, J-Low is thought to have subsequently paid/laundered £100,000 illegally as a foreign entity through a named US intermediary into a SuperPAC set up to fund Trump’s bid for re-election in 2020.

You couldn’t make this up, and there’s more.

Before we go on, most Important: “An attorney for Broidy said in a (brusque) statement: ‘Elliott Broidy has never agreed to work for, been retained by nor been compensated by any foreign government for any interaction with the United States Government, ever. Any implication to the contrary is a lie’.”

I think they mean “imputation”,  but that’s American lawyers for you. Ever! Depending on who you lie to, lying is no more an offence in law than collusion. And just watch that qualified word, “government”. Not “fugitive Great White Whale”.

Meanwhile, according to the Straits Times report, the Justice Department has subpoena’d records related to Broidy’s financial dealings from another Trump ally and Republican fundraiser, Steve Wynn, billionaire owner of Las Vegas casinos. Mr Wynn has reportedly had to step down from his executive role facing allegations of sexual misconduct and reports of attempts by his company executives to bury them, as Reuters and the WSJ have just reported today (02 April).

His lawyers insisted: “Steve Wynn is completely cooperating with the investigation and he certainly has no reason to believe that anyone acted improperly in anything he knew about or was involved in.”

The way this is going, I should not be surprised if Madam Zhang, the Chinese woman who bluffed her way past lax security into Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort, clutching a Chinese passport, announcing she was there for a non-existent event and brandishing a bag containing four Chinese cellphones , a laptop and a USB stick loaded with undisclosed “malware”, wasn’t linked in some way to the local Chinese grubby massage parlor lady, Madam Yang, who has been photographed with and sells access to Trump at his club, and all of them involved in a Chinese government or Huawei technology spy plot.

For, read on….

Oh, no, look, don’t. I’m going to leave you with a link to the Straits Times story at the end of this piece, because Shakespeare was spot-on as usual when he wrote: “Oh, what a tangled web we weave, when once we practise to deceive.” My brain just won’t stretch to all of this. But, reading between the lines, improbably:

You’ll thrill to the allegations, all obviously vigorously denied, that Broidy also solicited $millions from the Chinese government in exchange for a promise to persuade the Emirati of Qatar to help them extract an exiled billionaire dissident, Guo Wengui from the USA. Guo was apparently spilling the beans over corruption allegations against high-ranking officials in the purportedly squeaky-clean Xi regime. Googling his name turns up three interesting facts: 1, he also calls himself Miles Kwok; 2, he has taken Emirati nationality, and 3, he is a good friend of one Steven K Bannon.

That Broidy subsequently tried to sue Qatar for “hacking his email accounts” after he invented the story, fake news retweeted by Trump, that Qatar was a global funder of terrorism – an accusation that went away only after Qatari investors “loaned” $500 million to Charlie, ex-con father of Trump’s near-bankrupt son-in-law and chief White House policy advisor, Jared Kushner, under helpful pressure from his friend Crown Prince bin-Salman of Saudi Arabia, to whom (to oil the wheels, it’s inferred – source: MSNBC) Kushner had used the clearance Trump granted him – against the advice of security advisors – to slip a top-secret CIA list of names of Saudi dissidents and political opponents who ended up being imprisoned and tortured in the Ritz-Carlton hotel in Riyadh (MSNBC reports), a list possibly including the murdered Washington Post contributor, Jamal Khashoggi…. (That last bit is my own “implication”, but it would explain Mr Trump’s adamantine refusal to point the finger at MBS if it also implicated, a) his son-in-law, and b) his practise of handing out security clearances like candy, wouldn’t it.)

Oh, and (spoiler alert), that Broidy’s wife’s law firm has also provided “advice” to Jho Low.

So somehow, yes, woven through the whole murky tale like a rogue orange thread can dimly be perceived here and there, the bulky figure of President Donald J Trump – who claims to the amusement of the golfing world to have won 18 golf titles, some of which do not even exist.

Welcoming the former Malaysian Prime Minister whose name has been for two years at the centre of the 1MDB scandal, arrested last year and suspected of embezzlement in the sovereign fund he himself created, on 12 September, 2017 the President’s little thumbs had tweeted:

“It was a great honor to welcome Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak of Malaysia and his distinguished delegation to the @WhiteHouse today”.

And praised Najib for “his country’s financial investments in U.S. companies”. (LA Times)

Presumably, the “distinguished delegation” would have been guests at the Trump International Hotel at the old Post Office building in Washington, where foreign diplomats and lobbyists pay up to $170 thousand per room, per night, to hover in the President’s lucrative anteroom; and from which, so far as anyone knows, Trump has not recused himself as the beneficial owner.

So much of this convoluted story contains elements that will be entirely familiar to everyone who has followed what anyone knows of the Mueller investigation, and the extensive, excellent reporting by investigative journalists over the years of the workings of the Trump empire and its global network of pretty fruity business connections. And yet it is a story no-one is piecing together, although it is far more indicative of corruption than Russiagate.

There is of course no suggestion that Mr Trump is personally implicated in the 1MDB scandal, or in the murder of Jamal Khashoggi; although he is suspected of having had some possible knowledge of the Saudi hack of embarrassing sexts from the phone records of his arch-nemesis, Jeff Bezos, owner of the Washington Post – text messages and photos that somehow ended up in Trump’s friend David Pecker’s supermarket gossip-rag, the National Enquirer. And the Post has been most critical of MBS and his role in the Khashoggi murder in recent months.

No, the point of this piece is merely to suggest that perhaps sufficient due diligence is lacking in certain places where US political campaign finance and foreign policy are involved; and that the President and officers of Trump Organization do seem remarkably unlucky in their choice of associates.

When, oh God, will it ever stop?

http://www.straitstimes.com/world/united-states/trump-fundraiser-under-probe-for-allegedly-seeking-us75m-from-jho-low-over-1mdb

We all love a winner

The story I love most about Trump cheating at golf is when he managed to win a tournament he wasn’t even playing in.

The tournament was taking place at his Bedminster club in New Jersey. Seeing the strength of the field, he shot off to play a round at a different club in the next county, and later called in to his club captain to ask what the winning score had been. Told it was 73, Trump immediately claimed to have just shot 72 on the other course, which made him the winner, and ordered the poor guy to replace the name of the winner on the board with his own. Later his caddy confirmed, he’d actually shot 84.

This is the President of the United States of America. Time will surely make him out to be one of the most fascinating psychological studies of any political figure in history.

PS – The Pumpkin’s confident assertion that the famous “oranges” slip-up, when Trump took three goes last week at struggling to pronounce the word “origins” before giving up, after imagining (not for the first time) that his father was born in a “lovely” part of Germany (Fred was born in The Bronx in 1905) is indicative of Alzheimer’s, may not prove correct. “Mini-stroke” seems to be at least worth considering.

 

Facts, dear boy

An interesting piece on the Politico website today examines the evidence for Trump’s vainglorious claim to be a winner, not just on the golf course, and finds that Washington Post researchers have tracked down well over 60 court cases he has lost in the past two years; mainly on points of law instituted to prevent dictatorial actions on the part of the Executive – America, of course, being the Land of the Free.

Where Presidential edicts are concerned, specifically, they say previous incumbents have had a 70 per cent success rate at defending their policies in the lower courts. Trump’s has fallen to just 6 per cent. Among hideous things he has so far been prevented from doing, are extending drilling rights into the Arctic marine reserve, and forcing people to work for their Medicare.

Of course, we remember the early failures of his nitwitted immigration policy, the discriminatory so-called Muslim ban, that had to go all the way to the more pliable Supreme Court before even a limited version could be implemented.

And it’s all apparently down to the incompetence of the many Trumptards he has casually put into administrative offices for which they have not the slightest interest, knowledge, experience or qualification.

“In case after case, judges have rebuked Trump officials for failing to follow the most basic rules of governance for shifting policy, including providing legitimate explanations supported by facts and, where required, public input. … Two-thirds of the cases accuse the Trump administration of violating the Administrative Procedures Act (APA), a nearly 73-year-old law that forms the primary bulwark against arbitrary rule.”

Interviewed by Politico, one researcher tellingly observed what others have suggested is a key point about the Trump method of administration:

“…they were more interested in making announcements of deregulatory change than in the change itself, so the risk of a judge blocking their actions didn’t concern them all that much.”

In other words, Trumpism is all about style over substance. Facts and Acts don’t come into it. But the betting is, he has a large enough base of dumbfucks who BELIEVE him when he says he has succeeded against the odds in carrying out these wonderful promises, making America great again, that they will vote for him in 2020 regardless of however little he has actually managed to achieve.

White House aides, however, are pointing to signs that he is too old and tired and disillusioned to really want to run again, and is just going through the motions. It will depend, I suppose, on the outcomes of more cases against him, some of which could see him locked up for life should he leave the relative security of the Presidency.

(He is also going around chuckling that he has already lined up another Conservative replacement for the one remaining liberal voice on the Supreme Court, the ailing, 85-year-old legend, Ruth Bader Ginsberg – whom he expects to die any day now. Prompting the question, in the cradle of Democracy why in the hell is the President constitutionally allowed to pack US courts with his own supporters? What idiot thought that one up?)

 

Whaddo I know?

Do you ever have one of those moments where you question everything you think you know? It can be disconcerting.

I was working with a group of actors the other evening, when the subject of “Morocco leather” came up. It was mentioned in the script. One of the younger members of the cast wanted to know what it was?

I immediately launched into one of my knowledgable, elderly wise man-splanations. It was, I asserted confidently, that fake leather fabric you find covering Edwardian (early 20th-century brown) furniture, desktops and so on, usually green or maroon and often with gold tooling.

Before I could finish, however, the questioner had whipped out her cellphone, referenced Google and searched online – it took her all of five seconds – and interrupted me with the news that it was actually goatskin, and came with typographical emboldenings:

“Morocco leather (also known as Levant, the French Maroquin, or German Saffian from Safi, a Moroccan town famous for leather) is a soft, pliable form of leather widely used for gloves and the uppers of ladies’ shoes and men’s low cut shoes, but traditionally associated with bookbindings, wallets, linings for fine … ”

I shan’t bother reading on beyond the headline. “Fine” what? I don’t really care what. I am crushed, and never wish to see or hear of another item made from Morocco leather, lest it remind me of my human failings. Except, of course, that it occurs in one of my lines in the play, so I shall have to be reminded of it about thirty times more, nightly.

Needless to say, since that night I have been discomfited; uncertain, twitchy and neurotic. I feel keenly that I have lost my own compass, and my standing within the group as their oracle and sage; the One who Knows Everything, the All-Seeing Eye – the best bloke for the pub quiz team

I’m now just a daffy old man whose opinion and knowledge are not to be trusted on any subject; even one concerning the past, of which I have considerable – possibly too much – experience.

How many other total misapprehensions have I been laboring under for almost 70 years?

Apart, that is, from a belief in a world of certainties?

 

GW: We should all live in a Yellow Submarine

Iran: The death toll from major floods and landslides over the past 15 days has risen to 62. The southern province of Fars had been hardest hit with 21 dead. 14 people had died in the western province of Lorestan and 8 in the northern province of Golestan. With many unaccounted for the count could still rise. Over 140 rivers have burst their banks, sweeping away roads and bridges. Most of the country has been affected by flooding since March. The north-east was swamped on 19 March before the west and south-west of the country were inundated on 25 March, killing 45 people. (Guardian)

Syria: Flooding has also affected thousands across parts of Iraq and Syria over the last 10 days. Over 6,500 families were affected as flooding hit refugee camps in Northern Syria between 29 to 31 March, 2019. Tents were swept away, and personal belongings were destroyed by the torrential rainfall. 2 people are reported dead. The Union of Medical Care and Relief Organizations said: “The flooding this season has been terrible and combined with the overcrowding in the camps, is making a bad situation much worse. (Many people have lost everything.) …We call on the international community to provide immediate humanitarian aid, assistance and necessities to those affected.” (Floodlist)

USA: More severe weather has been moving up on the jetstream from the Gulf through the southern states, bringing thunderstorms and “baseball-sized” hail. Temperatures in the southwest are already warming up: Phoenix Az. is posting in the high 90sF, 36C.

Southern Europe: As a slow-moving deep low bringing snow back to the British Isles, in some quantity in the north, drifts gradually southwards, “torrential rainfall (up to 250 mm) and excessive snowfall are expected in parts of the Alps and Apennines in SE France, north Italy, western Slovenia and NW Croatia on Wednesday and Thursday. Significant flooding is possible locally”. (Severe-weather.EU) Update Mon 8 April: Heavy rain fell in parts of Greece over the weekend 05 to 07 April, 2019, causing some flash flooding, in particular on the islands of Rhodes and Crete. Around 20 rescues were effected. This is the third wave of flash flooding to affect Crete since mid-February. (Floodlist)

An eerie image of the jetstream resembling the tormented face in Munch’s The Scream, posted on Arctic News. From Earth Nullschool.

 

There goes the sun…

A lengthy article in Forbes, the business magazine most quoted for its lists of the wealthiest people you’d hope never to meet, makes for depressing reading on the subject of solar energy.

Unless we can manufacture cheap, steady-state, virtually indestructible solar panels, experts say, we are building up a huge problem for the future with large quantities of waste materials having nowhere to go, other than to dumps in poorer countries, and toxic residues from disposing of old or broken panels.

Even while panels are still working, researchers have found heavy metals like cadmium are leaching into the ground; while panels that get smashed, for instance by tornadoes, require the broken glass to be swept up along with all the soil and stones, that make the manufacture of glass cullet impractical.

The cost of recycling ought to be born by the manufacturers and suppliers, but the added cost often means they go bust, leaving the public to pick up the bill – which is precisiely the problem in the sunniest countries, that tend to be the poorest, but where there are the most panels to safely dispose of – and the weakest regulation.

Chinese companies have adopted a somewhat cynical solution of selling older, used panels on cheaply to Africa and the Middle East, as they’re not required to operate at peak efficiency.

The replacement life of a solar panel in one of those huge arrays is unexpectedly short – maybe only months. And at today’s raw materials prices and with the difficulty of recovering the more valuable contents, it’s not really economical to recycle them.

Oh dear, what to do?

I’ve got a good idea for Forbes. There’s lots of black stuff in the ground we could set fire to instead.

Easier. Cheaper. More… wealthsome.

 

Postscript corner

Bugger burgers

Burger: “a flat round cake of minced beef that is fried or grilled and typically served in a bread roll; a hamburger.
a similarly shaped food item made of a specified ingredient.” (Google)
Burger: 1. Meat or other food pressed into a round, flat shape and fried: 2. short form of hamburger. Learn more. (Cambridge Dictionary)
Gentle Spammers, Likers etc., I think I’ve just become a Leave voter. The dastardly EUs of Brussels are proposing that “burgers” not made with meat must henceforth be known as “discs”, so as not to confuse people, who are of course incredibly thick.
The dead hand of the meat trade lobby is being perceived behind the edict. But it is abundantly clear from the many definitions on the market, that the inclusion of ground meat is not essential to define the term “burger”. Nor will you ever see a “burger” grazing in a field. The burger is not the meat, it is the presentation of the entire dish.
If the EU wises to clear matters up, perhaps they could start with the confusion caused by people calling burgers made with ground beef “hamburgers”.
Or, as President Trump spells it, “hamberders”. He has Alzheimer’s and so is to be excused for reverting to baby language. He is likely to become dreadfully angry and confused, though, when his valet brings him his bedtime “cheese disc” in future.
Hamburgers are not made from ham, but may have originated in Hamburg, a rough port city where anything goes and the sailors are too drunk to tell the difference.
It seems eminently clear that these faux politicians have little understanding of etymology, let alone of how ridiculous they make themselves. The “burger” does not refer to the filling, but to the overall design: sesame bun, wilting lettuce leaf, blob of pepper sauce, slice of Kraft plastic cheese an’ all.
But then why would you expect MEPs on £110k a year plus vast eating-out expenses to know what a friggin’ “burger” is? They can afford not to have to eat shitburgers, “shit discs”, whatever, like the rest of us do.
It’s just that Boris Johnson’s mythical EU ban on bendy bananas comes to mind. That, and Mr Trump lying to a crowd about the Democrats’ Green New Deal taking away their burgers (along with their guns and SUVs). That, and the recent discovery that rightwing Australian PR guru, Lynton Crosby has been channeling £millions in untraceable notes into a social media campaign for the ERG to tell porky-pies about Brexit ‘No Deal’ being as good for people as breathing carbon dioxide, nicotine or Strontium 90.
Should we call Fake Nooze on the whole sorry story? It sounds like it. Or was it an April Fool?
We should be told.

The scaly scales of justice, #1… The scaly scales of justice #2… Monstering cookies…Trump: Hittin’ ’em in the pocket… GW: sperm counts falling like snow…

Quote of the week

“You enabled the nationalism that threatens our societies. You stiffed so many of us. You fought for rules that let you steal the future from our children. You pushed for monopolies … and austerity and deregulation. People got angry, and some of them voted for hell. And who benefited? You again. Because instead of following their anger up to the summit where you gather, the enraged were goaded, sometimes by your fellow plutocrats, into punching downward and turning on the most vulnerable.” – Anand Giridharadas, in an open letter to the World Economic Forum (Davos), published in the New York Times.

According to Oxfam, the richest 26 individuals now own 50 per cent of the world’s wealth.

“Let the Yanquis come. They will see we have many more medals where these came from!” Venezuela prepares.

The scaly scales of justice #1

Despite turning up at court along with its co-defendants trailing no fewer than four pairs of defense barristers, “a spokesman for the University of Bristol said it was fully committed to assisting the coroner’s investigation and ensuring that any lessons learned were built into its support.

“At the heart of this is a student who has tragically died, her family, and members of our community who continue to be deeply affected by this loss. Our thoughts remain with Natasha’s family and friends. The evidence submitted in advance of the pre-inquest review shows that every effort was made to assist and support Natasha, both from within her school of physics and by the university’s pastoral support services,” the spokesman said.

Except that…. Natasha Abrahart had “’no direct contact’ with the university’s student wellbeing service, the first pre-inquest hearing in August last year was told.” Although as it turned out, she had emailed the university begging for help and seemingly got no reply. Now her parents are faced with at least £50 thousand in costs they are struggling to fund through an internet appeal, to try to match the legal firepower of the university, just to find out the truth about what happened to their daughter.

Meanwhile, student suicides continue to mount up: 95 in 2016-17 alone. (All from Guardian report, 22 Jan. http://www.theguardian.com/education/2019/jan/22/student-death-did-university-do-enough-help-natasha-abrahart-bristol)

Somehow our institutions – universities, the police, the NHS, the Home Office, the Department of Work and Pensions – have to be made to take responsibility for their failings and stop lying and bullying and spending their way out of trouble with our money.

The scaly scales of justice, #2

Nixonian fixer (he apparently bears a tattoo of Nixon’s face across his scrawny shoulderblades), Trump bagman and all-round dirty trickster, the reptilian Roger Stone, 64, was arrested before dawn by armed, presumably pissed-as-hell, unpaid FBI agents today and bailed for $250 thousand on 7 charges, mostly to do with lying to everyone and intimidating a witness, presumably Jerome Corsi – Obama “birther conspiracy theorist and occasional conservative pundit” (Vox).

Released from the courtroom, he reached immediately for a phone and called the one man in America he thought would stand by him: Alex Jones, the rabid rightwing motormouth and bitterly estranged father-of-two who fronts the shameless but relentlessly constructive InfoWars YouTube channel, and his two million Adderall-addicted followers.

Protesting his innocence of what he called the “bogus” investigation into collusion with Russia (he is now the 36th entity to be indicted by several Grand Juries on “bogus” charges concocted by the Mueller team), Stone nobly declared: “”There’s no circumstance under which I would bear false witness to the president.”

It’s my long-held belief that, as a nabbed henchman, you can only betray someone if they are actually guilty of doing something that’s probably illegal, or hiding dark secrets. Otherwise, there’s nothing to betray. But the suggestion that Stone has become the victim of a brutal and intimidatory Deep State system that might somehow force him to declare falsely that the President is a Kremlin stooge is straight out of the “Tommy Robinson” persecution playbook.

While the charges contain no suggestion of collusion with the Russians, Mr Stone has had some problems recently explaining why he went around boasting to everyone about his relationship with Wikileaks’ Julian Assange, The ‘Man in the Iron Mask’ of London SW1, who most certainly did “collude” in the release of tens of thousands of emails illegally hacked by the Russians from Clinton and her campaign staffers, if he really didn’t.

I’d say “watch this space!” but I’m losing track of them all. There’ll be a new space along tomorrow.

 

Monstering cookies

As I don’t keep up with the technology stuff, I have little idea – is it an EU thing? – why every damn website now has to put up a big box obscuring their page content, requiring you first to grant permission for them to slap cookies all over your computer; and then to switch off your adblocker so they can show you wonders you have no interest in.

The BogPo doesn’t do it, why should they?

Why do they want or need to give you cookies in the first place? I only want to read the fucking article, maybe even not that much, just check a name or a quote or something in the first lines. I may not ever return to that site, it’s just research, a reference thing. I’m not interested in subscribing for everything they publish. I don’t want to participate in some obscure game of drones, to capture my location and identity and have ads pointlessly targeted at me.

If you’re brazen anough to want to openly publish information on the worldwide web, it’s my view you shouldn’t put more terms and conditions on my right to read it than you absolutely need to; and leave my privacy alone.

Even less reasonable, it seems to me, is that I should have to tick that box every damn time I bring up the same website. It cannot be without the bounds of possibility to employ a one-tick-is-forever system. Once you’ve put your damned cookie on my computer, for whatever purpose, why do you need my recurrent permission to leave it there? It’s just annoying, and not likely to endear me to you

Grrr.

 

Trump: Hittin’ ’em in the pocket

As we all kno, the FBI is Trump’s chief bête noir: an existential threat both to him and his family, and to his tenure of a brain-damaged presidency he never really wanted and for which he was spectacularly unqualified and unprepared.

Not only is the Special Counsel, Bob Mueller reliant on handpicked federal agents to pursue his inquiry into Trump’s financial dealings, that may amount to decades of money-laundering; his ties (we can put the prefix “loyal-” to that) to Russia, and his illegal attempts to lie and deceive the American public into believing he is innocent while investigators are pursuing what he continually mischaracterizes as a politically inspired “witch hunt” against him.

The FBI is also itself pursuing many lower level enquiries at the behest of courts and grand juries all over Washington, Virginia and New York, including into already indicted Trump lieutenants Paul Manafort, Michael Cohen, Roger Stone, Rick Gates, Sam Nunberg, George Papadopoulos, etc. as well as Erik Prince, DHS Secretary Nielsen and others connected with his administration; but most especially, into the Trump children: Don Jr, Eric, Ivanka and Jared Kushner, and their roles in the many scams the First Crime Family has perpetrated in its gilded patriarch’s insatiable quest to finally please his dead dad, Fred.

So how to shut down those investigations and make them go away? Why, suggests MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow, there is surely no better way than by so damaging the FBI’s employees financially that it exposes them to loss of their security clearances, their family health insurances and their jobs on grounds of vulnerability to corrupt offers from criminals and spies; not to mention making working for the FBI a less than glamorous career option for the best graduates when you know you could be putting your life on the line every day for no pay, on the whim of a vindictive sociopath in the White House.

Under cover of a manufactured crisis on the southern border, based on phoney fears of a mass “invasion” of criminal migrants, and a preposterous demand for billions of dollars of public money to build a 2,000-mile border wall, or fence, or “steel slats”; a “wall” that most experts believe would have not the slightest effect on drugs and crime and illegal immigration in the country; a “wall” that the opposition Democrats simply would not accept as public policy when funding is sorely needed for so many more socially useful causes; a “wall” that Trump pretends is so vitally necessary to national security that to obtain it may not preclude him taking emergency powers; an illogical, ineffectual, stupid “wall” with which he seems so unshakeably obsessed, the Great Dealmaker has deliberately manufactured a blunt instrument: a shutdown of many government departments, including, as it happens, the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

That is to say, a shutdown but not always a cessation of work. FBI agents, who cannot go on strike, are being forced to continue working without pay, and have already missed one monthly check as the shutdown spreading out to affect millions of hard-pressed people living from month to month – including many Trump supporters, whom he seems to be throwing under the bus – and costing the economy billions of dollars, enters its second month with no resolution in sight. Even now, US airports are clogging up, with flight delays around 45 minutes, as everyone from the air traffic controllers to the intimidating immigration staff is not getting paid.

That’s despite the House majority Democrats helpfully offering repeated bills to keep the finances flowing – bills that the profoundly corrupt, arch-Trumpsucker and Senate leader from Kentucky, Mitch McConnell – Cocaine Mitch, as he’s been called – refuses to debate unless there’s $5.7 billion for the “wall”. It’s been his dubious role to block any legislation the Republican funders won’t support, going back to the Clinton era.

FBI offices are reported to be opening food banks for cash-stricken employees.

The majority of Americans, two-thirds have not bought Trump’s lie that the crisis is all the fault of the Democrats. They all saw and heard him take responsibility for what the wily Speaker Pelosi was calling “the Trump shutdown”. They can clearly see who is obstructing the legislature. Daily, he piles lie upon lie*: one of the latest being to claim the “wall” will solve the opioid crisis that is killing 50 thousand Americans every year, when any fule kno’, the opioid drugs are being manufactured legally by Big Pharma in the USA and overprescribed by doctors, not smuggled across borders.

Indeed, his claims are getting so lurid and far-fetched it’s impossible to think that he really believes in them himself.

But it may not yet have sunk in, that there is a distinct possibility this whole shitty mess affecting many government departments has been deliberately created as smoke and mirrors, while the real aim is to hit just one specific target:

The pockets of the people lawfully investigating “Individual 1’s” – the “unindicted co-conspirator’s” – the President’s many crimes.

Thom Hartmann has a most excellent commentary on all of this: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Km20E5_-TqM

Addenda

MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow reports, there has also been some written evidence in the form of memos suggesting that the “crisis” at the border may have been cooked up in the Oval Office as early as 2017 to provide false evidence on which to hang future “emergency” decrees amounting to a potential seizure of the government.

She further mentions, the appropriate contractor Trump will need to go to for slats employing the right kind of steel for his border wall is a Canadian company owned by a Russian, Chelsea FC’s very own Roman Abramovitch: sometime rubber-duck salesman, Israeli citizen, owner of the world’s biggest superyacht, leading contributor to the Putin slush-fund, victor of the somewhat bloody ‘aluminium wars’ of the 1990s and married to Irina, one of Ivanka Trump’s closest friends.

Trump is no doubt most apologetic for having been made to sign a Congressional order sanctioning the $11 billion oligarch back in 2018. As we’ve discovered with Paul Manafort, for Putin’s favorite olgarchs it’s payback time.

*The Washington Post‘s tally of Trump’s lies now stands at over 8 thousand since he took office two years ago. On a good day he manages around 30.

 

Things are spinning out of control.

Against a background of economic collapse engineered in part by US interests opposed to the shambolic leftwing government in Venezuela, bereft of any sound foreign policy advice the idiot Trump has tweeted that he is backing Juan Guaido, a 35-year-old rightwing opposition politician from the sidelined national assembly, who has declared himself ‘Interim President’.

You’d think Trump would approve more of the populist (but not popular) President Maduro, a blundering incompetent who he says is an unelected dictator, rather than supporting a coup whose figurehead claims to be a Libertarian, but there’s nothing rational or consistent about the US president other than his ceaseless quest for money and validation.

Maduro says he’s staying, and appears still to command the loyalty of the security forces, so things seem set for a showdown. American diplomats have been given 72 hours to leave the country. Civil war looms, with the potential for US military intervention: nothing is off the table, says Trump.

Meanwhile, the would-be dictator Trump’s former attorney and criminal bagman, Michael Cohen, has had to plead with Congress to postpone a scheduled appearance in front of a sitting committee because Trump has openly threatened his family if he testifies.

Further explanation comes from Trump’s senile motormouth attorney Rudy Giuliani: Cohen’s father-in-law is Ukrainian. ‘Nuff said? No? Well, organized crime… ya know? Nudge nudge…

Trump, who now no longer seems to care what he says or does, despite his rocketing public disapproval ratings, up 9 points this week, has also seemingly warned House Speaker, Nancy Pelosi to “be careful”, if she continues to refuse him the chair in Congress to deliver his State of the Union address on the 29th unless he orders federal workers whose pay he has suspended for the past month back to work.

See, the nasty mans

Among other threats Trump is making, is to speed up deportations of the children of ‘undocumented’ immigrants with temporarily protected status under an Obama-era decree. Meanwhile his Republican apologists are brushing aside claims of hardship as 800 thousand federal workers face a second missed paycheck: Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, until his appointment a director of a bank heavily sanctioned for money-laundering and run by the man who loaned Trump millions of dollars he has yet to pay back, being typically helpful in suggesting they could take out bank loans to pay their rent.

Other leading Republicans have suggested the government workers should be grateful they’re getting a free extension to the Christmas holiday, claiming that it’s a privilege to be able to make this sacrifice for the future of their country.

Is anyone else re-arming, and shouldn’t we be?

It surely ought to have clicked with poison-monkey Ross of all people, a man with a face like the portrait in his attic, that US banks wouldn’t even lend to Trump anymore. Banks only lend to customers with proven income.

It’s hard to see why the country is not engulfed in fire and fury against these fucking monstrous sons of bitches.

 

GW: sperm counts falling like snow

USA: “Parts of the Midwest and Northeast were still digging out Monday after Winter Storm Harper dumped 1-2 feet of snow in some locations and brought some of the coldest temperatures of the season. In the Northeast, the storm left behind a trail of thousands of flight cancelations, hundreds of crashes, thousands of homes without power and at least 10 dead. In addition to ice and snow, several states were dealing with coastal flooding on Sunday.” (from Floodlist)

“Two more blasts of bitterly cold air will dive across the central and eastern U.S. through next week, bringing widespread subzero temperatures to the Midwest while also keeping the South and Northeast shivering at times. Temperatures as low as minus 20F with -40F windchill are forecast for next week as far south as Missouri.” (The Weather Channel)

Africa: The Red Cross reports that torrential rain and flooding in Burundi has left at least 10 people dead and over 100 homes damaged or destroyed. The rain began late on 17 January, 2019, causing severe material damage. In Niger, emergency relief efforts are underway as extensive flooding around the capital, Niamey, has affected more than a thousand homes. (from Floodlist)

Madagascar: Heavy rainfall that began late on 19 January, 2019, has caused problems in the capital, Antananarivo. Local media say that several people have died, some are still missing and several were injured after buildings collapsed due to heavy rain, landslides and flooding. AFP news agency reports  the death toll is 9. (from Floodlist)

Australia: “At least 28 locations hit all-time highs on Thursday. In Adelaide, the capital of South Australia, the official West Terrace station rocketed to 46.6°C (115.9°F) … About 200 miles away, the city of Port Augusta hit its all-time high on Thursday with a blistering 49.5°C (121.1°F). … “the Red Rocks Point station—which faces Antarctica from the Nullarbor coast—hit 49.1°C (120.4°F): ‘the highest temperature recorded anywhere in the world at such a close distance (70 metres) from an open ocean.'”. (Wunderground)

“Around two dozen (later 90) wild horses in various stages of decomposition have been discovered strewn along a 100-metre stretch of a swimming spot called Deep Hole, 20 kilometres from the remote community of Santa Teresa.” (The watering hole has run dry. Deaths of wild camels are also being reported.) “The region has hit a record 12-day run of temperatures above 42C.” (ABC News)

Europe: “Yet another excessive snowfall event is developing across the western and northwestern Balkan peninsula through the middle of this week as a deep cyclone … pushes into the north-central Mediterranean region. Up to 20-50 cm of fresh snow is possible in many areas, locally even more. Severe winds will result in blizzard conditions in some areas. Up to 70-100 mm of rainfall is likely along the W coast of Greece. Also some very windy weather, particularly at higher elevations on Crete and islands in the eastern Aegean region, where peak winds will likely exceed 100 km/h.” (Severe-weather.eu)

Spain: “4 people have died in landslides and flooding caused by (three) days of heavy rains in northern Spain. One of the victims was swept away by flooding from an overflowing river in Tineo. The other victims died in separate incidents in Laviana, Mieres and Salas when their vehicles were either swept from the roads or caught in landslides.” (Floodlist)

And disturbing news for increasing numbers of migrants trying to reach Europe. Thanks to that deep Arctic low, “waves reaching maximum heights up to 10-14 meters are expected on Friday, pushing towards the eastern Mediterranean and affecting the coasts of (Algeria) Libya and western and southern Crete. Expect the waves to gradually diminish over the weekend.” (Severeweather.eu)

Visit the BBC’s weather service and marvel as a gurning Darren Bett prattles on about the jetstream keeping cold air hanging over the British Isles for a few days, while failing to remark that his graphic shows there is a huge broken loop trailing all the way from the Arctic down into the Sahel.

It’s not supposed to do that.

The living end…

High energy: The National Audit Office reveals, the British taxpayer is having to pick up the £24 billion bill for previously agreed tax reliefs for oil and gas companies decommissioning their North Sea drilling rigs, as the wells run dry. The figure is related to their tax-deductible losses, so the more money they can manage to lose, the more the Treasury is obliged to refund them.

Yellowstone: The Blessed Mary Greeley reports, there was a new swarm of quakes in the caldera over the weekend. Two larger quakes – M2.8 and M3.0 – hit close to Old Faithful geyser on the 21st. SO2 and ancient helium outgassing is seriously increasing; as is the upwelling magma, with continuing ground deformation, seismic drumbeats and tornillo waves, and rising ground and water temperatures.

If that’s not enough….

A new threat related to global warming has been identified: a decrease of ozone in the stratosphere. As warmer air becomes more laden with water vapor it’s allowing increasing amounts of life-ending UV-B radiation to reach the earth’s surface. Arctic News’ “Sam Carana” reports:

“Rising temperatures cause heat stress and infertility, and there are domino effects (especially for rising ocean methane emissions. GW). Furthermore, stratospheric ozone loss causes cancer and infertility. Only once the ozone layer formed on Earth some 600 million years ago could multicellular life develop and survive. Further loss of stratospheric ozone could be the fastest path to extinction for humanity, making care for the ozone layer imperative. As described in an earlier post, Earth is on the edge of runaway warming and a moist-greenhouse scenario means oceans are evaporating into the stratosphere with loss of the ozone layer.” http://arctic-news.blogspot.com/

Following that up, because Carana is an acquired taste, your Gran finds the following on NASA’s website:

“NASA scientists analyzing 30 years of satellite data have found that the amount of ultraviolet (UV) radiation reaching Earth’s surface has increased markedly over the last three decades. …UV-B damages DNA, causing a range of health problems such as skin cancer and diseases affecting the immune system.”

And from The Conversation, a report that finds extreme heatwaves can seriously damage male fertility:

“… (Red flour) beetles, and many cold-blooded animals, can live for years and are likely to see multiple heatwaves. When we exposed (beetle) males to two heatwave events, ten days apart, their offspring production was less than 1% of that of unheated males.” – Kris Sales, PhD researcher in evolution biology, University of East Anglia.

So keep fanning yer nuts, mateys, or we’re done fer!

 

 

The Pumpkin – Issue 73: He’s gone completely nuts… The Dunning Kruger Effect strikes again… Straight thinking… It’s something in the air… GW 2019, and the beast goes on….

“No-one has as much hair as me. I have the greatest hair of any president, maybe in history. I am ordering a complete shutdown of hair until we know what the hell is going on.” Serenaded by a barbershop quartet, Trump adopts the bald approach and shaves the day.

He’s gone completely nuts

He’s been unable to persuade House Leader Nancy Pelosi that she’s really the one who is causing the shutdown of large parts of the government, putting 800 thousand employees on garden leave or forcing them to work unpaid for the last two weeks, because the Democrats won’t vote funding for the wall.

It’s a ploy for which he is on video recently saying he takes full responsibility. But now he doesn’t.

Following their meeting, the madman declared that he is prepared to shut the government down “for months or years if necessary” and call a State of Emergency to enable the army to take over the running of essential services, if he does not get his $8 billion for the border wall. He will order the Corps of Engineers to build it, using contingency funds from the military budget.

Supported by the Republican leader in the Senate, the creepy old slimeball Mitch McConnell,  a supine Trumpsucker who would kill his own grandchildren to save the profound corruption wing of the party, Trump has in effect declared war on the House of Representatives, now with a substantial Democrat majority, and on the US Government.

Pundits are gauging his mood and think that he is probably bluffing, but the threat to declare a State of Emergency is something they have been fearing since he was first elected.

It would be a first step towards achieving the absolute authority Trump craves. Most of the key positions in his cabinet are currently filled by “acting” executives he can replace at will. He has no legal team capable of defending him, so some drastic action is required.

Declaring martial law and assuming executive powers would allow him to round up and imprison his political opponents and detractors, as he has many times threatened to do, without trial.

He could shut down the media, and suspend the Justice Department, ordering all investigations into his and his family’s extensive criminal activities and the literally hundreds of civil suits outstanding against him be stopped in their tracks.

It’s not about the wall, it’s about Mueller.

In case you think it’s an exaggeration to say he has truly gone out of his mind, try this:

 

The Dunning-Kruger Effect strikes again

“How do you impeach a president who has won perhaps the greatest election of all time, done nothing wrong (no Collusion with Russia, it was the Dems that Colluded), had the most successful first two years of any president, and is the most popular Republican in party history 93%?”

Trump responds with a tweet to an ill-advised criticism in the House, praising himself to the skies. Does he really believe this nonsense? Because it’s all a complete fantasy. That paragraph alone contains five provable lies.

Psychologists, Drs Dunning and Kruger came up in the late ’90s with a fascinating theory: some people are too stupid to know how stupid they are, thus assuming wrongly that they know more than anyone else.

We’ve all heard Trump boasting that he knows more than his generals about dealing with ISIS, and more about tax than any accountant (except, obviously, his own). He admitted ruefully that the dreadful US healthcare system that he had told MAGA rallies from Hicksville to Okeefenokee he would fix in a heartbeat was in fact “complicated”. Who knew? He knows all about nuclear science because he had an uncle who worked for NASA. He invented the phrase “fake news”, that maybe nobody had ever used before. All of the media his public image totally depends on, that fantasy that he is a successful billionaire business mogul, is “fake” and “failing” – “enemies of the people”. The entire criminal justice system from the failing FBI to the disloyal Justice Department is a Democrat conspiracy against him.

He understands the polls “a lot better” than many pollsters, which is just as well because they’re giving him only 34% approval for the job he’s not doing well, and 80% disapproval for his border wall, although he says it has overwhelming support and will keep out criminals, drugs and diseases. Border patrols, he says, are arresting ten terrorists a day; many appear to be children. Contrary to the advice of fire and forestry experts, he still insists that raking California’s forest floor regularly will prevent wildfires, which were made worse by the authorities syphoning all the available water off and sending it to the Pacific.

Just two days ago, he commented that technology was something he knew more about than anyone else. He’s making Medicare stronger for all while defunding the program to pay for tax cuts for the wealthy, including himself. Puerto Rico is an island surrounded by lots of “ocean water”, he informed us he had just learned, while 3,000 people did not die in the botched aftermath of Hurricane Maria, that figure from research commissioned by his own administration was made up by Democrats to “make me look bad”.

”Clean coal” is, of course, coal that has been washed before burning. His inauguration crowd was visibly the biggest in history; the photographs showing a virtually deserted plaza were faked. Millions of undocumented migrants voted for Hillary Clinton, which is why he won. The Lockheed-Martin F-35 fighter, the most expensive flying weapons platform in history, which he claims to have helped design, is literally invisible, you can’t see it.

Climate change may be a hoax, “many scientists have said it’s a hoax” (98% of the world’s scientists must be complicit in a 140-year-old hoax then, because they all say it’s real, as do Exxon-Mobil and Trump’s own science policy department), “It may be a hoax, I don’t know”… (he always qualifies his more questionable assertions in such a way as to suggest he would be right if only you believed it too….)

The recent vertiginous slide in the stock market is “just a blip” and all the fault of the Federal Reserve bank (although he caused it by his winnable “trade war” with China, having taken credit for the previous rise that was due to the policies of the previous administration)… While his tariffs that are “bringing back millions of American jobs” and his assaults on migrant workers are causing shutdowns and layoffs and farm bankruptcies….

For many more totally false and self-aggrandizing assertions, try: http://www.politifact.com/personalities/donald-trump/statements/byruling/false/

His verified untruths now running at over eight a day, Trump is clearly very confident in the amazing breadth and depth of his knowledge, but sadly none of it turns out to have much basis in fact. Some of it is expedient lying for political effect, but much more of it seems to be based in some delusionary alternative reality he inhabits.

And by his compulsive outbursts of rage tweeted against the Special Counsel enquiry, to the despair of his defense team, and his emplacement of outspoken, biased defenders within the Justice Department and the courts, he continues to implicate himself deeper and deeper in the federal crime of obstructing justice; for which he can be indicted.

Indeed, he may be one of the most profoundly stupid and ill-informed people ever to hold the office of President; carried over the line by irrepressible narcissism.

So much so, that he lacks the mental apparatus to know he’s not the brightest bulb in the chandelier, and that’s Dunning-Kruger at work. Impervious to expert advice, incapable of absorbing more than the simplest of cartoon briefings, seemingly barely able to read, his policies informed by the little yammering TV faces on Fox & Friends, from where increasingly he imports his staff appointments, he has chosen instead to assume he is the smartest person alive.

“I’m, like, a really smart person – a very stable genius,” he told a CNN reporter. He told another interviewer, without his unique brain the economy would collapse. He had earlier claimed that both Vladimir Putin and Margaret Thatcher had hailed him as a genius.

Researchers found no truth in the assertion, Trump having seized on the word in a mistranslation of a speech in which Putin described him as merely ‘colorful’.

But he’s not alone. Dunning-Kruger appears to infect many politicians. Here’s another great example:

The train now departing…

The British Transport Secretary, Chris Grayling is a very tall man with a head shaped like a lightbulb. He has been under fire all the past year for the abject failure of an attempt by the government-contracted train operating companies to reschedule their timetables in a supposedly co-ordinated manner, that led to chaos on the network with thousands of cancelled services – some trains reportedly not heading to the advertised destinations, stranding passengers miles from where they needed to be – and had to be abandoned.

It has been admitted that the failure was because no-one was in overall charge. As Grayling himself has pointed out, he is not a “railway specialist”. So it wasn’t his fault no competent individual had been appointed to oversee the complex project.

A 3% fares hike that came into effect on 1 January with no sign of improvement in the dirty, unreliable and overcrowded service has understandably pissed-off hard-pressed commuters – again. Britain has by far the most expensive train fares in Europe, per mile. Grayling says, it’s all the fault of greedy train drivers wanting more money.

Alternatively, he says, it’s because the train operators need loads of money for investment (much of it goes in executive bonuses!) – it’s the same lame excuse every year.

Either way, it’s nothing to do with him; a 140% increase in passengers being shoehorned into groaning carriages and often stranded by the endless “engineering works” or “leaves on the line”, must, he says, be proof of the popular success of the railways. Although one might conclude, it’s his failure to ensure the maintenance of the roads, the lack of parking, increasing town-center pollution charges and the ever-rising cost of city living that are driving people who live out beyond cycling distance to board the cattle-truck commuter trains in increasing numbers.

Meanwhile, the UK government has been trying to frighten rebel Conservatives in Parliament by making a huge deal out of emergency preparations for major freight delays at ports leading to shortages of food and medicine in the event that Brexit goes ahead without a formal separation agreement. Effective customs protocols and systems haven’t yet been put in place or even invented. The costs of stockpiling are rising – $120 million to date.

With less than three months to go, “Failing Grayling” as the press are calling him has played his part by handing a $19 million contract to a small, unknown company to operate additional cross-channel ferry services to speed the importation of vital supplies from France. A company that owns no ferries and has no experience of maritime freight operations. Questioned on the BBC about this perverse choice, Grayling replied that people should be pleased that he’s supporting a new British business startup – one of whose white, middle-aged male directors appears to be a hefty party donor. Plus, he had made sure they had a watertight contract (my pun, sorry.)

So the company has gone full-steam ahead and published a website, detailing its terms and conditions of business, its contract with the taxpayer, and is now being ridiculed on social media as it appears they simply cut-and-pasted a pre-written document from some fast-food supply company and accidentally omitted to re-word large sections of it.

Grayling’s watertight contract for a cross-channel supply lifeline is all about pizza delivery.

Commentators are demanding to know, how the hell does this incompetent, bungling nitwit keep his job? No-one has an answer – least of all Grayling, who continues to show a total lack of self-awareness as he blunders from one ministerial post to another, trailing chaos in his wake.

Yet his interviews reveal him to be a man of boundless self-confidence, and the Dunning-Kruger Effect is probably all that is carrying him through.

Like Trump, Grayling is so stupid, he doesn’t know he’s stupid.

It doesn’t bode well for all our futures.

Postscriptum, 26 May: Since the above, Grayling’s department has paid out a further £83 million in compensation to actual ferry operators or companies with ferry operating experience, who were not included in the tender process as they argue they should have been. The original contract with Seaborne Ferries has been cancelled, at full cost.

Yet you can find many people still posting comments claiming Labour is the party of financial mismanagement.

 

Straight thinking

“It would never occur to him to ask what books will be in the library, since he himself barely reads.”

“US President Donald Trump has mocked the Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi for funding a library in Afghanistan. Mr Trump suggested the contribution was of no use to reconstruction efforts in the country. ‘That’s like five hours of what we spend,’ the US president mocked.”

Everything this dumb bastard says or tweets is based on the crudest of transactional analyses.

The idea that libraries are educational, civilizing influences and have been since writing was invented would never occur to him as a developmental tool, so crudely fashioned is his reptilian brain.

Since he has none, the moronic Trump does not value knowledge; does not comprehend – cannot comprehend – the priceless nature of learning to an isolated tribal country like Afghanistan, that has been at war for decades and is increasingly controlled by puritanical, religious primitives almost as crude and reactionary as the President of the United States and his Evangelical base.

It would never occur to him to ask what books will be in the library, since he can himself barely read and has no interest in doing so.

Will there be fiction, to open up new horizons and introduce stimulating creative ideas? Poetry? Will there be a reservoir of the region’s long history, promoting ideals of courage and sacrifice that can be built on? The foundation stories of the nation? Or will there be textbooks, the basic building-blocks of learning, spreading enlightenment, internationalism and the roots of future value-creating innovation? Will the books help to spread the ideas of liberal democracy; bring healing and reconciliation to a fractured nation? Will they teach engineering, economics, medical science and technology? Or will the books be all of these and more?

He doesn’t give a fuck.

He’s the president, and you’re not.

A library – a room full of dumb old books – is just not expensive enough to compare with all those $trillions and lives both military and civilian successive US administrations since 9/11 have wasted pursuing the Great Game, that he thinks should be paid back in treasure. As if India is somehow in debt to him personally.

But it did occur to him to praise the Russians for invading Afghanistan in 1979; a history of which, evidently, he is entirely ignorant.

Fuck Donald Trump, right to Hell.

He wouldn’t know.  He’s never read a book; not even the ones he lies constantly about having written himself. He’s just a thuggish, bullying imbecile stuffed with junk food; a Frankenstein creature cobbled together by the media out of the volumes of rotting cheeseburger that lumbering suit contains; a brain, made from congealed greed and expedient lies; a philosophy of Bannonite nihilism imposed on a mob-boss mentality that has shown an extraordinary degree of compromise and cowardice during his two years of bullshitting his way around the office of President.

A lifelong minor criminal, a cheating small businessman sanctified by a garbage TV show, now a senile buffoon who can no longer imagine how you close an umbrella.

It is possible no man has been hated as much as Donald Trump is hated, by millions of Americans aghast at his incompetence; his rudeness, sheer nastiness; and by people of sensibility around the world, for the thuggish gangsterism, childish tantrums, celebrations of ignorance, betrayal of ideals and fathomless corruption he stands for.

If as the Evangelical Christian conman, former convict and fellow borderline psychopath, Jim Bakker, says, Trump has been sent by God and must be unquestioningly obeyed, then it is surely to teach us a lesson in civics.

Never again should any sentient body of people even dare to think of electing a totally unqualified and so obviously unfit candidate merely on the grounds that you’ve seen him looking powerful and decisive on TV (you think the word “reality” in “reality show” means it’s real?), he’s a bit “different” from conventional politicians; he dares to “say what we are thinking” and takes no nonsense from so-called experts, the liberal elite.

It’s liable to be the end of your world and mine.

Because you’re not thinking straight.

 

It’s something in the air

Some years ago, the British biochemist, Dr Rupert Sheldrake proposed a strange theory: that once something had happened once, it reduced the odds against it happening again. The cosmos was capable of learning from experience.

For instance, crystals all form in the same way, once the original crystal has formed. Why? Is there some kind of cosmic energy field that arranges things so?

Learned behaviors in biological organisms too seemed to spread in a kind of contactless way, that he put down to genetic memory. Sheldrake called it the field of “morphic resonance”, and conducted an experiment at long distance, whereby pupils in the UK were set to solve a math problem that was then given to pupils in faraway Turkey, timed against a control problem both groups had already solved, to see if the Turkish pupils got any faster once the new problem had first been solved in Britain.

Sorry to disappoint, but I absolutely forget what the outcome was. Probably inconclusive. Because, of course, Sheldrake was roundly mocked and accused of practicing New Age pseudo-science by his colleagues in the biochemistry community.

Although he continues to obtain appointments to various, apparently serious, parapsychological research posts – mainly in US universities – and wins awards, his theory of morphic resonance remains unproven out on the fringes of rational science.

Except that there does seem to be a curious connection, possibly spiritual, between the UK Conservative party and the Trump so-called administration to suggest a possible proof.

While there is no direct chain of command, nevertheless the British Home Secretary, Sajid Javid, a man with a face looking as if it was created by a mildly sozzled balloon-animal entertainer at a children’s party, the second-generation son of an immigrant Pakistani bus driver, seems to have had a very similar epiphany to that of US President Donald Trump, only a few days behind.

Both men coming imminently from migrant family stock, are nevertheless committed to the same course of demonizing refugees in exchange for the bigot vote.

Javid: “…a face looking as if it was created by a mildly sozzled balloon-animal entertainer…” (Photo: James Gourley/Rex/Shutterstock)

There used to be an ad for an insurance company who claimed: “We won’t make a drama out of a crisis”. In Mr Javid’s case – he refers to himself, apparently, as “the Saj” – he has been busy over the holidays doing precisely the opposite: claiming that the attempts since the beginning of November by about 200 bedraggled Iranian migrants to cross the Channel in small inflatables amounts to a national emergency, worthy of recalling the British Navy to fight them off.

The teenage Defense Secretary, Gavin Williamson, a fresh-faced ex-fireplace salesman who pops up at every turn eagerly offering to put soldiers on the streets to quell non-existent public disorder and hand out rations, as Our Boys have nothing better to do, immediately rallied to the flag, pulling his little fleet of warships back from every corner of the globe to defend the Realm. But then, he too is gunning for Theresa May’s job when he grows up.

The resonances between this absurd exaggeration and Trump’s bullshit pre-midterm elections propaganda campaign, shoving out massive quantities of fake news about the terrifying so-called migrant “caravan” wending its way from Honduras to the Mexico border where, without his $5bn Wall, they would be primed by the Jew Soros in league with the failing Dems to invade, bringing in drugs, gangs, murder, terrorism, pollution of the white race, unknown diseases and people willing to do shitty jobs, are striking; albeit the American version is land-based and the British, in the finest tradition, maritime, both are examples of calculated rabble-rousing that are falling rather flat with the majority.

Without any apparent collusion, both men seem to have hit on much the same idea of closing the borders, both for promoting themselves as decisive leaders facing down an existential threat of exaggeratedly enormous proportions; and for dividing their countries over a matter exciting much irrational debate and manufactured tension.

To enhance his voter appeal, The British Saj cut short his holiday in South Africa and flew home to confront the armada of desperate people as brown as himself, only to end up more red-faced as colleagues opposed to this rather obvious pitch for the leadership of the party post-May gleefully leaked that he and his wife Laura had been largeing it in a £1,700 a night safari lodge, while over a million Britons had been enjoying Christmas dinner at their local charity food bank.

What both men are resolutely ignoring is the illegality of denying genuine refugees the right, guaranteed by the United Nations, to apply for asylum and have their cases fairly heard. The claims are the same: you don’t know who these people are; there could be terrorists among them; they’re being trafficked by bad men; the crossing is dangerous so they mustn’t be allowed to try; they should apply in the first country they come to; sending rescue ships will only encourage them; there’s no room at the inn, etc., etc.

Meanwhile, as reports emerge of extensive child abuse going on in the makeshift holding pens to which the appalling Kjaersten Nielsen, US Homeland Security Secretary, continues to send hundreds of children ripped away from their migrant families at the border, the British government still has no knowledge of the whereabouts of more than 500 refugee children, legally qualified to join family members in Britain, who simply vanished from the makeshift camps across the Channel after a campaign led by the fascist-leaning Daily Mail resulted in a halt to the program they were meant to be admitted under.

And, following the efforts of the French police to eradicate the unofficial Calais “jungle” camp, men, women and children are sleeping in the open in fields around the Channel ports, hoping against hope that someone will ferry them the 26 miles to what they foolishly persist in imagining might be freedom.

While all there is in the air is the oppressive miasma of manufactured prejudice, the fear that “once you let one in, they’ll all want to come”.

Proving conclusively, Sheldrake’s theory of morphic resonance.

 

No discrimination

Texas police looking for a white man described by several witnesses in connection with the drive-by shooting of 7-year-old Jazzmine Barnes have arrested 20-year-old Eric Black Jr.

Mr Black is… er, black.

 

GW: 2019, and the beast goes on….

Australia: “Adelaide has seen temperatures soar to 41C as SE Australia sweats its way through 36 hours of intense heat. Further inland, Port Augusta touched 44.7C, Ceduna 45.5C and Nullabor 46.2C at 1.40pm. On Friday, Melbourne is set to hit 42C, a ‘once in a decade’ heat event. Several wildfires are being reported. Parts of New South Wales including Sydney are sweltering through day 10 of a heatwave”, although on 2 Jan. the city was battered by an intense hailstorm powerful enough to smash car windows, while strange cloud formations were reported.

‘Mammatus’ cloud over Sydney, 2 Jan. (Dylan Robinson/News Corp)

And then… The “change will be even more dramatic in Melbourne late on Friday afternoon. The 40C Friday will turn into a high of just 22C on Saturday. Melburnians could see a drop of between 15 to 20 degrees in just one hour on Friday afternoon as the cold front careers through.” A wildfire in Tasmania has burned 30 sq miles of forest in a conservation area. Meanwhile “the cyclone season is in full swing in Queensland with Cyclone Penny looking like it will make a handbrake turn and come straight back towards the coast.” (all reporting:  News.com.au)

 

USA: The overnight low in Phoenix, pretty much the hottest city in America, dropped to 30F, -1C on 02 Jan. as Winter Storm Fisher brought up to 6 inches of snow to the Arizona desert. Wintry conditions have since arrived in Texas and Oklahoma, where freezing rain has caused multiple car crashes. The jetstream is reportedly slumped all the way down into New Mexico where up to 3 feet of snow has fallen at altitude near Los Alamos. (The Weather Channel)

Nevertheless, European forecasters Severe-weather.eu are predicting a rapid warming over the whole continental US, with temperatures climbing over the next 7 days to 10 to 15 degrees C above normal for January. Residents of Sanibel Island, Fla. were bemused on 22 Dec. to experience a tidal surge through the town, produced by a ‘meteotsunami’ caused by a rapid change of barometric pressure. “Temperatures dropped by almost 10 degrees in Southwest Florida as barometric pressure momentarily rose by 1.6 millibars. Waves were projected to be about 1.7 feet at 1:30 p.m. but reached 5.04 feet before decreasing rapidly over the next hour.” Wind gusts measured by the National Weather Service spiked at 54 mph as a storm brought heavy rains and tornado warnings to the Naples area. (Naples Daily News)

Philippines: Death toll from floods and landslides inflicted by Tropical Depression Usman is now 105. Almost a quarter of a million people have been affected. “The storm has caused severe damage to agriculture, with costs estimated at over $6.5 million.” Heavy rain that began on the 29th Dec. was still falling on 3rd Jan. (Floodlist)

Sri Lanka: Severe weather from late December has affected over 125,000 people. At least 2 died and 5 were injured. …Strong winds, heavy rain and flash flooding began around 22 December and continued for several days. Sri Lanka’s Department of Meteorology said 365.1mm (13 in.) of rain fell in Mullaitivu district, in 24 hours to 22 December.

Europe: A cyclonic Bora wind over the Tyrrhenian sea is expected to produce up to half a meter of snow over central Italy and a secondary cyclone forming over Greece pushing up through the Balkans, may bring as much as 30 cm of rain to parts of Turkey in the next few days, moving on into the Caucasus with heavy snowfall in the mountains. With a developing Sudden Stratospheric Warming event, the polar vortex is splitting, bringing very cold weather down from the Arctic that’s likely to persist. (from The Weather Channel)

Update 5 Jan: Europe faces a deep freeze next week, amid forecasts of a giant snowstorm over large swathes of the continent. The AccuWeather warning system has issued a blizzard alert for areas of Germany and Austria so far. (Express) Up to three feet of snow is expected to affect many Alpine resorts – good for skiers, but only if they can get there!

Update 7 Jan: Over the weekend, 7 dead, ‘several more’ missing as skiers are unable to cope with the extreme conditions. Another 4 ft is expected in Austria by Thursday.

 

End notes

  • “Public opinion polling indicates that although there is widespread acceptance of climate change resulting from human activities, the public’s preparedness to pay for action to mitigate climate change is actually declining – even as climate scientists warn of the increasing urgency for action. These results signal a serious problem in the public communication of climate change.” – Dr Mary Debrett
  • According to Professor Boris Worm of Dalhousie University, Nova Scotia, and co-researchers in five countries, the trendlines are showing that if we do not act immediately to protect the oceans, the last saltwater fish will die sometime in 2048.
  • A record $3.1m has been paid for a giant bluefin tuna at Tokyo’s new fish market. It was bought by sushi tycoon Kiyoshi Kimura, who runs the popular Sushi Zanmai chain. Stocks of Pacific bluefin have been depleted by 96 percent from their pre-industrial levels. (from Guardian)

Brexit: the day war broke out… On entering the lobby…. Wanted, dead or alive… Clawing one’s way up the ladder… Feeble Brexit joke… I Spy, with my little i… The ultimate hack-proof account…GW: A flippin’ and a floppin’ like a fish out of water

Prelude

8 pm, Wednesday 14 Nov.

After a stormy five-hour meeting, Theresa May has won the backing of her cabinet for a Brexit withdrawal deal already approved in principle by the EU commission.

So that’s that then? We can start trade talks?

Until, of course, one remembers how she got the “backing of her cabinet” for the previous draft, the so-called Chequers agreement, only for the swivel-eyed hard-or-no Brexit lunatics to renege on it three days later, and for Boris Johnson to resign as Foreign Secretary; which, tragically, he can’t do twice.

Presumably the change of mind – I can’t say heart – came after Aaron Banks’ clandestine moneymen had got to them.

The odds are still on a No Deal Brexit, or I’ll eat my stash of tinned sardines!

Oh, zet’s so sed, Theresa! Vot, ze kebinet chust agreed to beck your plen? Vot vill you do now, stay on as PM?

The day war broke out

10.15 am Thursday, 15 Nov. 2018

I’m struggling to organize my departure from a holiday hotel in somewhere like Switzerland, up a mountain, only I’ve left a trail of my possessions at various points between the hotel and the departure terminal below, a great glass hall; things I have put down and forgotten to collect on the way: a blue suitcase; clothing; my cat; her lead, without which I cannot take her anywhere.

The train is due to leave at three, and it is now gone half-past twelve; but the station is somewhere further on and I still have to get there. As I hurry through the bustling hall, its tables and chairs and potted palms, trying to find things, someone beside me is lecturing me in a voice of calm reason about classical antiquity; a history I know I once knew but have forgotten.

I find the information desk – the lecturer is now a bitter woman I once worked for, whom I didn’t like – where the unhelpful young man tells me there is possibly a bus I can persuade to take me back to the hotel, only it may have closed by now. He goes back to chatting indifferently with his colleagues.

I don’t speak the local language; and in any case, I realize, I now have no shoes on and set off in search of them. Eventually I find them on a chair, but time is running out and I can no longer remember what it is I need to go back and collect, or why. What was in the suitcase? Do I really need it, whatever it was? Couldn’t I just leave it behind? I sit down and start to weep piteously: “I can’t do this on my own anymore!

I wake up. On the radio, Melvyn Bragg’s guests are discussing the agreeable Roman poet, Horace, unaware that war has broken out.

*

The 15th of November dawns a stunning day in Boglington-on-Sea, the sun is blazing once again out of a clear blue sky, it is T-shirt warm and the Shadow Brexit Secretary, Kier Starmer has just signalled in a radio interview to the Brextremists in Theresa May’s treacherous cabinet of incompetent plotters that Her Majesty’s Opposition will also oppose the draft treaty she has negotiated with the EU Commission.

Without a bad deal, there is to be No Deal. Negotiations are all-but time-expired.

The neolithic Ulster Unionists and the Scots Nats have also expressed their disappointment with the terms of withdrawal, that commit us to, essentially, remain within the Customs Union indefinitely, under the control of Brussels, with separate status for Northern Ireland – a Protestant red line.

Due to address the Commons at ten o’clock to present her rapidly unraveling triumph, the Prime Minister is now very far from achieving a majority and may be forced to resign, triggering a general election. Jacob Irish-Mogg of the “European Research Group” cabal has already written to the Chairman of the 1922 Committee, calling for a vote of No Confidence. Only 47 more letters, and a vote will be triggered.

Having only last night agreed (apparently unanimously) to back her plan, starting with some junior plotter no-one has heard of, but spreading like a California wildfire, led by the Brexit Secretary Dominic Raab, one by one while the 10 o’clock news is still on the air her ministers have started to stick it to Mrs May again. Before the bulletin ends, we learn that the rebarbative liar and arch-grinder of Britain’s poor, the Workhouse and Pensions Secretary, Esther McVey is second in line with the carving knife; while that pathetic little attention-seeker, Michael Gove has announced that he can’t decide whether to stay or go.

The tragedy is, by voting in numbers to leave the EU, Britain’s downtrodden masses have voted to maroon themselves with this ambitious, expedient cow and her strident calls for British nationalist independence in charge; along with the exultant hedge-fund manager, Rich-Mogg; baboons Johnson and Gove; Eival Duncan Cunt; Russian Farage, Money Banks and the rest of the neoliberal superheroes, as the pound lurches southwards again.

It is a coup d’état.

Civil war.

How we prosecute a civil war in 2018 will of course be very different from 1640. There may be no citizen armies mustered, armed with agricultural implements, to hack their Royalist opponents into pieces; no small-arms fire from the private militias of the nobility, no Roundhead cannonballs thumping into the walls of late-medieval castles under siege.

How we will do it I don’t know. Maybe by lethal Tweet. It’s only just beginning.

This coffee is too strong.

But it’s a lovely day outside. I just thought you should remember that.

 

 

On entering the lobby….

(This item has been moved here from Issue 70 of The Pumpkin owing to extra Trump news)

Within days of a well-received memo emanating from Head of News Fran Unsworth, freeing BBC editors from the responsibility to put up unqualified lobbyists as spokesmen for the non-existence of man-made climate chaos in the holy name of balance, Mr Myron Ebell popped up on a Newsnight “extinction” special to peddle his usual noxious brand of Exxon-sponsored denier bullshit.

The same Mr Ebell who, in 2005, was the subject of Parliamentary questions after a notorious appearance on BBC Radio 4’s Today program, in which he attempted to make out that Professor Sir David King, the UK’s chief scientist, was not qualified to speak on the subject. Mr Ebell’s only qualifications being a bidness degree, and the lots and lots of lovely money he makes working as a freelance scumsucker for US energy corporations.

It appears that the Establishment and its mouthpiece are unashamed of the way they are carrying on, openly flouting norms of decency in the battle to manipulate public opinion in support of some grim new realities.

Given that this kind of thing is still going on, it’s perhaps not surprising that there are elements within 10, Downing Street who felt no shame at outing an inconvenient Brexit whistleblower as gay, a Muslim man with a family, thus causing him to lose his job with The Taxpayers’ Alliance, now revealed as a phoney front operation for shady, dark-money interests.

That doesn’t stop them from being regularly invited onto BBC programs as experts on whatever, tax. Paying.

The Alliance, which reportedly shares an office address in Muston St, W1 with half a dozen other false-front political lobby groups posing as educational research charities, or “think-tanks”, startled the legal profession last week by fully owning up to a massive smear campaign against Shamir Sanni; including a possibly libellous attack on him on the BBC by Matthew Elliott, head of the Vote.Leave campaign. The Guardian reports:

“The alliance has accepted all the allegations Sanni made during his action claiming unfair dismissal, wrongful dismissal, direct discrimination and ‘dismissal by reason of a philosophical belief in the sanctity of British democracy’*. Significantly, it has also conceded that it is liable for what Sanni’s lawyer, Peter Daly of Bindman’s (solicitors), describes as ‘extreme public vilification’.” (13 Nov.)

Mr Sanni was behind the revelation that the Vote-Leave campaign had massively overspent its permitted budget during the referendum, deliberately hiding the overspend through creating – I have to use the phrase again – other false-front groups on the pretext that they were each operating independently and hence, within financial limits. He was later vindicated by the Electoral Commission. Criminal investigations, sat on by Downing Street for five months, are finally groaning into gear at the National Crime Agency.

The supposedly independent Alliance has also owned up to operating Mr Elliott’s website for him, and other dodgy dealings.

Why?

Well, it seems there are two strands to these astonishing admissions. One is that the Taxpayer’s Alliance is affiliated to the Institute for Economic Affairs, parent of the European Research Group, a nasty little Westminster claque to which a number of prominent Brextremists in Parliament belong, including the Brexit Secretary, Dominic Raab; and two, by freely confessing to sins that are certainly going to cost them a lot of money by way of compensation to Mr Sanni, his case against them falls away and there is no chance they can be pressed under cross-examination to reveal the secret sources of their funding.

So, the hunt for the money goes on. However, it appears increasingly that for whatever reasons – possibly to prevent civil unrest, or to mask its role in the grotesquely incompetent pantomime of the Brexit negotiations – the Prime Minister’s office has been fighting a rearguard action to prevent the truth coming out about how the referendum was hijacked by a coalition of neo-Thatcherite and Christian Right elements, probably with Kremlin backing, to destabilize the EU and open the way for neoliberal authoritarian anti-abortion governments to assume control.

*”dismissal by reason of a philosophical belief in the sanctity of British democracy”! WTF? I know, I was once sacked for not being Welsh enough!

“48 letters” Irish-Mogg: the tragic, faux-aristocratic loner many working-class Brits yearn to touch their forelocks to, seein’ as ‘es such a toff an’ all, contemplates a pile of ham sandwiches and thinks of his colleagues in the ERG.

Wanted, dead or alive

Following the news that a Republican candidate and convicted pimp has won November’s Congressional election in Nevada, despite having died in October, come the equally disturbing outcomes of two legal cases in Romania….

Where a higher court has ruled in a case brought by police, that a man who had successfully appealed against a speeding conviction should have his license returned, even though Mr Valerian Vasiliu died just days after the original verdict.

And where another court has ruled that, although he has turned up alive after an absence abroad of several years, Mr Constantin Reliu, 63, must remain officially dead, having been declared as such when his estranged family obtained a death certificate for him.

A non-person, he is now unable to obtain benefits, rent a home, or hold a bank account or passport.

Taken with the unreconstructed Thatcherites in the UK cabinet, we are increasingly living in a world of quantum relativity, where zombies roam. (Except that Mrs Thatcher was entirely in favor of the European Union, as long as they let her be in charge of it.)

On the subject of speeding, a 15-year-old boy in Cleveland, NE England, has had six points deducted by magistrates from his driving license for speeding on an electrically assisted push-scooter and other infringements amounting to reckless driving under the 1854 Highways Act.

In case he ever gets a driving license; the legal age for which is 17.

A police spokesman warned that virtually no-one is aware of the law regarding the use of personal light electric vehicles (PLEVs), which are becoming increasingly popular among young adults. (Guardian)

 

Clawing one’s way up the ladder

A pictorial biography on the BBC website to mark the 70th birthday of the still uncrowned Prince Charles records that he was “educated at home until the age of eight”.

Wrong!

As well I know, Charles was the first royal prince to be publicly educated outside the precincts of the royal palaces. From the age of six-going-on-seven, he attended Hill House pre-preparatory school in Knightsbridge, London, before embarking for Cheam.

I know that, because I was there myself, at the time.

In fact, I was very probably the first – but almost certainly not the last – commoner to physically abuse the royal personage; kicking him hard on the shins and running away, after he had told me somewhat imperiously to “shut up”!

Charles at 8, in Cheam uniform. But this was not his first school!

I confess, I had been nastily guffawing at him when he fell over while trying to kick a football during afternoon sports time at the Duke of York’s barracks, in Chelsea. Footballs in those days were made of thick leather with an inflated pig’s bladder inside and practically immovable in the wet. My Republican mother had inculcated anti-Royalist sympathies in my skinny breast, although I have since come to regret my actions and would like to take this opportunity to apologize to HRH Prince and his friends, the trees.

Also, I was personally resentful that I had worked my ticket up the classroom hierarchy all the way from the first form to set 6B, only for this privileged interloper to arrive with a media fanfare and his own personal detective in the set above me. It didn’t occur to me at the time that he was – and is – ten months older. It was no consolation when my doting mother remarked that I was probably far cleverer.

The rest of the day we did Latin and stuff under the firm tutelage of the redoubtable headmaster, Colonel Stuart Townend, who was still running the place when he died in 2002 at the age of 93. Hill House boys were a familiar sight, trooping in crocodile formation along Hans Crescent in our rust-brown uniforms and baggy, Don Bradman caps. (Things have changed a bit: popstar Lily Allen is an alumna, I believe.)

Many years later, a curious incident occurred in the daytime.

In 1997 I was working as an editor, part-time, for a measly £8 an hour: correcting copy, ghostwriting and typesetting humdrum paperback books about business management and finance, slaving away on a burned-out computer in the alternately freezing and baking attic of the home of a morose Old Etonian micropublisher somewhere in darkest Gloucestershire, when I took a phone call.

It was a reporter from the Daily Express, who had by some devious means known only to tabloid hacks tracked me down at work. He wanted to know if I had been at Hill House with Prince Charles? Cautiously, I admitted to it, and he asked me if I remembered a certain individual who had featured in a news story a few days earlier?

This person – whom I was sure I had not known – had thrust himself forward at a charity reception, and introduced himself to the prince as “a homeless man” who claimed to have been at Hill House with him; the idea of anyone from such a privileged background being homeless seeming somewhat unlikely to the editor of the Express, a populist rag for the caravan set.

Intrigued, I asked the journalist if he had contacted anyone else from our year, and he mentioned several familiar names. I asked if he knew how they had all fared in life, as I certainly had not kept in touch, and was mildly surprised to learn that not one had gone on to become anything out of the ordinary; about the best of us was an architect.

The idea that a posh education automatically opens doors denied to any hardworking pupil from a humbler background has always seemed a trifle invidious. As literate as I may be, familiar with the classical tropes of Times crossword-setters, I never got to university. I’m a retired domestic caretaker living almost entirely on the State pension.

I wonder, if Charles hadn’t been trapped in The Firm with his tedious life mapped out for him by courtiers, what he might have made of himself?

(Photo pinched from the BBC archive, sorry)

Fully occupied

In case you were wondering what life is like as you approach 70, what you do with your empty days, the answer is quite simple:

You spend them looking for your glasses.

 

Feeble Brexit joke:

What is the masculine form of Vaseline?

Vassalage…

(I was pleased to see that the comedian’s comedian, Stewart Lee, latched onto this joke for his weekly Observer column. I’m still waiting for the money.)

(Returning to this Post weeks later, I realize future generations reading this bit will not get the reference. Brexit secretary Dominic Raab referred to the likely state of Britain should Mrs May’s Brexit deal be passed, as ‘vassalage’ to the European superstate.)

On ice

An American oil company hoping to take advantage of the greedy Trump pig’s rollback of the defense of the nation’s remaining pristine wilderness and protected ocean reserves, has hit an unexpected snag.

In order to drill in the Beaufort Sea, Texas-based Hillcorp Energy requires a stable and reliable ice platform from which to begin operations. Which they have now had to cancel.

The ice has all gone.

 

I Spy, with my little i

Hi, you may have read one or two moans I’ve indulged in about the increasing breaches of client privacy I’ve been detecting on various web platforms? If that’s what they’re called?

Like when I’ve discussed making payments in an email, Google offers me an auto-reply about money transfers?

And how I think that goes too far, given the generally confidential nature of personal financial transactions and natural concerns one has about banking security.

So, I just went to YouTube and there, right up front, I’m being offered some video of a Joni Mitchell concert in which she sings “Both sides now”, which is curious, since most of the recommendations I get are based on my obsessive interests in US politics, climate change and modern jazz.

But of course, two weeks ago I quoted from the very same Mitchell song on this, muh li’l bogl.

Welcome to my readership, secret Follower.

Even though he or she spells their name in Cyrillic text.

дмитрий куприянчик

(You might like to send them a cheery message of greeting.)

 

If you have a spare moment, go kill these assholes

Also, please send a message of Christmas cheer to the environmental health department of Kansas City, USA who (for hygiene reasons) sent officials out to pour bleach over the food offerings of charities running soup kitchens to help the homeless, if they didn’t have an official permit.

I am honestly struggling not to put a fake news sticker on this story from TYT/Ring of Fire. Really?

The home of Charlie Parker?

 

The ultimate hack-proof account

Dominic Raab, the newly resigned Secretary of State for standing by and watching Theresa May’s officials scramble together the Brexit deal, attracted scorn and ridicule the other week when he confessed he had no idea that 16% of all Britain’s trade passes through the port of Dover.

Karen Bradley, the newish Northern Ireland Secretary, admitted she had so little idea about politics in the divided province that she did not understand the historic relationships between religion and voting preferences. Why were Catholics mostly  Republicans? And why wouldn’t they vote for the mostly Protestant Unionists? She wanted to know.

Surely, their naivety and inexperience pales into comparison with Mr Yoshitaka Sakurada, 68, the deputy Japanese minister in charge of cyber security, who has “provoked astonishment by admitting he has never used a computer in his professional life” and had no clue what a “USB memory stick” was.

“Since the age of 25 I always had a secretary to do that sort of thing for me”, he confessed sheepishly.

I know, since the divorce I’ve got a problem doing the washing-up.

 

GW: A flippin’ and a floppin’ like a fish out of water

“Very warm weather” – up to +15C anomaly – persisting over the Arctic, Iceland, Greenland, Scandinavia down into the British Isles and northern Europe through into next week, will push a mass of cold air down into the Balkans and across the Mediterranean. Morocco is in line for a clobbering from another deep low. Northern Scotland is forecast to broil today (14 Nov) in 17 degrees of highly unseasonal warmth.

I’m out today in my T-shirt. It’s all a bit topsy-turvy, this extinction business.

USA: Following analysis of emergency calls, the number of residents of Paradise, California missing, possibly perished after the Camp Fire raged through the town of 27,000 has been increased to OVER 600.

Up to 8 inches of early snow on the east coast and a big freeze-up has snarled traffic from Mississippi to Washington DC and up into New England. 6 people have died in traffic accidents.” (PBS) Prompting the Orange Nightmare to snarf: “So what happened to global warming?” In California: “As of Thursday morning (15 Nov.), the Camp Fire was 40 percent contained after having burned across 140,000 acres (219 square miles). 63 people are known to have died in the town of Paradise, overrun by the fast moving fire last week. Early enquiries blame communication problems and poor road infrastructure for the failure to get people out in time.

“Smoke from the catastrophic Camp Fire continues to plague much of central and northern California, bringing dangerously high levels of fine particulate pollution. Hourly levels were in the red “Unhealthy” range at more than 30 official EPA monitors across the region. … Two stations near the Camp Fire recorded PM2.5 levels on Thursday morning well into the maroon “hazardous” range—the highest level of danger on EPA’s Air Quality Index (AQI) scale. At this level, EPA warns that this would trigger a health warning of emergency conditions.” (Wunderground)

RT (Russia Today TV) is reporting, the fire also overran a heavily polluted nuclear waste disposal site, carrying radiation over Los Angeles. Well, it’s Russia Today, so.

Argentina: Four days of “severe weather, including heavy rain and flash flooding, has left around 3,000 people evacuated from parts of the capital Buenos Aires. Sauce Viejo city in the province of Santa Fe recorded 196mm of rain in 24 hours to 12 Nov. (National weather service) said that this November has already been one of the wettest on record.” (Floodlist)

Atlantic: After bringing heavy rain to the Leeward Islands, Tropical Depression 96L has turned north, where it has run into strong wind-shear and is not now expected to develop into Hurricane Patty after all. She’ll have to wait for another bus to come along.  Wind-shear has been a feature of this year’s overly quiet Caribbean hurricane season, keeping storms well out of harm’s way for the islands trashed last year by Irma and Maria.

World: October 2018 was the planet’s second-warmest October since record keeping began in 1880. The only warmer October came in 2015 (NOAA). The deadliest weather-related disaster of October 2018 was Cyclone Titli (eastern India) which killed at least 85 people and injured hundreds more. Storm surge, high winds and torrential rain were blamed for $920 million in damage.(Wunderground)

Pollution: A new “study, published in the Lancet Public Health, found the capacity of children’s lungs was reduced by about 5% when NO2 pollution was above legal levels, … resulting in a  higher risk of an early death, as well as a higher risk of lung diseases. Most urban areas in the UK have illegal levels of nitrogen dioxide (NO2) pollution. … The latest government action plan, which environmental lawyers called ‘pitiful’, revealed air pollution was even worse than previously feared.” (Edited from Guardian report)

Yellowstone: Steamboat geyser, biggest in the park, erupts for the 27th time this year. A normal year might see one or two eruptions, if any.

 

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

Quote of a while ago

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Is this starting to remind you of anything?

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

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

Yes, Jeff and Susan joined the Pod People.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

HR disaster

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The economy was booming!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Our ever-so elegant, inadequate, powerless words?

God help us.

x

Bar, bar, black sheep

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

*Oh yes, he does!

x

Own gooaaaalll!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Manchester United.

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

Because it is owned by Americans, possibly.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sure she’d be absolutely fine.

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

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

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

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

Local affiliate, naturally.

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

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

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

Not East London, mind.

Fairly central, in fact.

x

Daddy, I can’t breathe

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The food industry really has to get its act together.

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

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

 

Sorry it’s so long.

GW:

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

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

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

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

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

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

(From Wunderground)

 

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

Comment:

Meteorological meltdown

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

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

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

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

This is insanity. Two reasons:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Probably.

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

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

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

 

The Pumpkin – Issue 62: Salmond phishing in Scotland… Painting the skeletons pink… Phooarh!…GW: Wash me down and blow me!

Amen Corner

“We get climate change wrong too often… Manmade climate change exists: if the science proves it we should report it. To achieve impartiality, you do not need to include outright deniers of climate change in BBC coverage.”

– Long overdue memo from Head of News, Fran Unsworth to all BBC producers.

Ghoul’s out for ever. (Justin Tallis/AFP/Getty Images)

The Pumpkin says: Two hurrahs for Auntie Fran! Fuck off, Lawson, you moneygrubbing ecocidal old ghoul. Back in your grave. And clear up the soil and maggots after you. (See Posts passim)

http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2018/sep/07/bbc-we-get-climate-change-coverage-wrong-too-often

 

“Is sexual kompromat not precisely the tactic Trump and his cohort have been using for years to crush their enemies?”

Salmond phishing in Scotland

Along with many sources, The Pumpkin has previously speculated about the provenance of the variously named Trump International Golf Links project, also known as Trump Aberdeen, or Trump Balmedie; where its $120 million startup funding may have come from, since it certainly did not come from the near-bankrupt Trump Organization in the USA or any cautious British or US banks; and through whom it was channeled.

There are and were numerous other concerns about the development, of course. How Trump railroaded through planning consent over the objections of the community and properly concerned environmentalists; what role the then SNP leader, Alex Salmond played in swinging the decision; how Trump opposed the siting of an offshore wind farm – he hates wind farms – a project supported by Salmond; his bullying and harassment of local resisters – his attempts to massively increase the size of the development, despite the fact that it’s been making heavy losses, partly thanks to the retreat of the North Sea oil industry and the winding-down of Aberdeen as its capital.

And then there was the well-reported instance of Trump’s dimmest son, Eric bragging to a golf journalist that they got $100 million from some golf-mad Russians for course developments. At the time, according to Wikipedia, there were only 9 functioning golf courses in the whole of Russia, and only 4 PGA-registered professionals. The boast was backed up by Donald Jr, who told another journalist that “they were always in and out of Russia”, where the development funding was virtually limitless.

This seemed to contradict Trump Sr’s frequent forceful assertions that he had no business with Russia. None.

Anyway, that’s not what The Pumpkin has been thinking about this morning. Another well-sourced piece by Adam Davidson in The New Yorker this week, entitled “Where will the Trump investigations go next?” (a question on many people’s minds as elections approach and some kind of denouement in the Mueller enquiry is eagerly anticipated) has revived our curiosity, to the point where he lazily dialled “Salmond/Sorial” into the Googlebox and sat back, waiting for any nugget to fall into his lap.

And, unlikely though it may seem, numerous reports have popped up, linking the two names.

Still an Executive Vice-President at Trump Organization, George Sorial was Trump’s point man on Aberdeen: the guy who did all the negotiating, the railroading, the project management and the harassment of the natives (including cutting off their water supplies and throwing high ramparts around their properties) – as well as the relationship-building with Salmond, who somehow became convinced overnight that the development on a Site of Special Scientific Interest would after all be A Good Thing for Scotland, despite all evidence to the contrary.

It seems that part of the relationship-building involved a Salmond scheme whereby Trump, Sorial – and, by extension, Donald Trump Jr – were flattered to be added to a list of international business movers and shakers named as “Global Scots”, honorary nationals who would commit to promoting Scottish business interests worldwide – presumably in anticipation of a Yes vote in the 2014 Independence referendum, a vote that never arrived.

The newly adopted Republican candidate, Trump Sr was swiftly dumped in early 2016, ostensibly because of the multiculturalist SNP’s objections to his campaign promise to introduce a ban on Muslims entering the USA. Donald Jr’s delisting came soon afterwards because, as any fule might have expected, he simply hadn’t fulfilled any of his commitments to promote Scottish business, being too busy chasing tail, pomading his hair (I bet he’s a Dapper Dan man!) and slaughtering endangered animals for their body parts.

There then came attempts to drop Sorial.

Buzzfeed reported (November 30, 2016 – 3 weeks after Trump was elected President)

“According to a freedom of information request from the Scottish government, Salmond gave Sorial the role on the basis that he was “responsible for the Trump developments in Scotland”, he would be an “advocate” for the country, and his parents were from the Scottish island of Lewis.

“However, after being told Sorial was still a Global Scot, Salmond told BuzzFeed News that Sorial should step down from the role. The former first minister has been a vocal critic of Trump since relations between the Scottish government and the tycoon soured over the construction of a wind farm near his golf course.”

The Pumpkin has been wondering about poor Mr Salmond, who has just last week had to resign his seat in the Scottish Assembly and crowdfund an appeal for his legal fees, in order to fight accusations of sexual impropriety made against him quite out of the blue by “two women”.

Is sexual kompromat not precisely the tactic Trump and his cohort have been using for years to crush their enemies and punish or silence their disloyal “friends”, bringing them back into line? One thinks of Charlie Kushner, father of Trump’s son-in-law Jared, part of whose 5-years sentence of imprisonment was for witness tampering – insomuch as he tried to silence his brother-in-law with a DVD of an encounter with a prostitute in a motel room, which Kushner Sr then sent to his own sister, to put a little more pressure on her husband.

And we have heard Trump protege and quasi-legal bagman, Michael Cohen not only pleading guilty to financial violations, but fingering Trump as having ordered him to payoff a porn star and a glamour model out of a special slush-fund created for the purpose, using corporate donations fraudulently elicited to buy access to the White House; while speculation surrounds another Trump associate who may or may not have been involved in silencing a woman who is claiming to have spawned an illegitimate child by Trump.

No wonder he so admires Boris Johnson.

We then have the lurid details of what may or may not have happened in a Moscow hotel room in 2013, as listed in the notorious so-called “Steele dossier” among other instances of compromising information the Russians may or may not have on the President.

So there’s a lot of this sort of thing going around. Were the women put up to “hashtag Metoo” Salmond? Most probably no, but allegations of groping and worse are the kind of “black information” Trump has reportedly stored up for years against individuals he encounters, to secure lasting loyalty; silence (Omerta), and to use against his victims later as necessary.

Could we suppose, taking things to their extreme, that Salmond’s about-face on his apparent loyalty to Trump Org., the defiance of Trump’s thwarted Islamophobic program, the row over the wind farm and the perceived slight of the Leader of the Free World no longer being considered to be an honorary Scotsman have penetrated the notoriously thin skin of the President, and earned poor Alex the dubious distinction of becoming the victim of a Mafia-style vendetta to destroy the career of the ebullient former cruise-ship entertainer?

Betrayal being the number one crime in the Trump playbook? And when Trump Org. has announced it plans further leisure developments in Scotland?

As Davidson writes:

“Some have argued that Trump didn’t knowingly break the law—that he was just impulsive and unfocussed and would, accidentally and without proper due diligence, end up working with crooks. My source told me that this was nonsense: of course Trump knew when he was breaking the law. “Come on. He was trained by fucking Roy Cohn.* Seriously.”

http://www.newyorker.com/news-desk/swamp-chronicles/where-will-the-trump-investigations-go-next?

http://www.buzzfeed.com/jamieross/donald-trumps-right-hand-man-is-still-an-ambassador-for-scot

*By all accounts, Cohn was an absolute swine, acting as an implacable and cunning prosecutor in the notorious Joseph McCarthy anti-Communist “witch-hunt” hearings; an attorney for the brutal Gambino crime family, and a friend of Trump’s dodgy property developer father, Fred.

In a related earlier piece, however, Davidson recounts how he attended functions at Cohn’s grand mansion, that were almost royal garden parties; and where, like Trump, Cohn would insist on holding open sessions at which rich and influential men – policemen and judges among them – would step up to offer him effusive public praise, adulation that he wallowed in.

The extraordinary thing, Davidson says, is that unlike Trump’s Imperatorial cabinet meetings at which everyone is mercilessly forced to grovel and praise God for his existence and their jobs, Cohn’s guests genuinely seemed to mean it. For those who weren’t his victims, he seemed to offer loyal friendship and a likeable side.

And that’s the secret of success.

Something the thin-skinned and vindictive tinpot dictator, Trump never learned.

http://www.newyorker.com/news/news-desk/where-trump-learned-to-love-ritualized-flattery

x

“Instead of producing a potboiler one would have hoped Woodward might have credibly pursued the paths trodden by veteran Trumphunters, following the money to expose the dark underbelly of America’s worst ever President.”

Painting the skeletons pink

All America is agog at the publication in the failing New York Times of an op-ed piece by an anonymous contributor, described as “A senior member of the Trump administration”, calling the President out as an erratic and incompetent lunatic, whose wilder policy initiatives have to be buried by his staffers before they can do any harm.

The situation is being made very much worse by an incandescent Trump demanding the miscreant’s head on a platter, to be charged with “treason” (the irony escapes him). If he would only shut up and stop reacting like a child to these provocations, The Pumpkin opines, it might look a lot less like the accusations are true.

Nor is it helping, that the piece has come out only a day after the official publication date of “Fear”, the new “piss-and-tell” book about the churning guts of Trump’s White House by legendary investigative journalist, Bob Woodward (of Watergate fame). No collusion? Possibly not.

On Thursday, the supine BBC managed to find a queue of three Trump apologists, including the discreditable neofascist missing-link, Gorka (“why, oh why?” etc. – BBC listener), who all spouted the same incredible lines about what a great job the President is doing and this is all sour grapes from the lyin’ Democrats in cahoots with da fake nooze media.

Meanwhile Trump was saying pretty much the same thing, boasting about his historically high poll ratings. (He recently told one of his flashmob rallies that he didn’t know if they had polls in Abraham Lincoln’s time (they didn’t. Ed.), but if they did Trump’s ratings would be beating them….) He is insane, in case it hadn’t already occurred to you.

The latest WAPO/ABC polling puts him down at 36% national approval, by the way, with 52% thinking he’s a total trainwreck and 49% calling for his impeachment.

Anyone who knows anything about the workings of great newspapers like the NYT knows they don’t print unverified gossip from anonymized sources without very careful checking. They certainly don’t fake-up op-ed pieces of this seriousness themselves and then source them to non-existent senior members of the administration. Trump isn’t calling for them to be shut down because they tell lies about him.

Trump has now embarked on what one can only describe as a “witch hunt” to out the witch who wrote the piece, sparking fevered speculation as to the true identity of his critic – who, as a staunch Republican, hypocritically went out of his or her way to applaud some of the shittier “achievements” of the administration, such as the utterly cretinous trade policies, the wreckage of the public health insurance system, the vainglorious superfunding of the already bloated military, the rollback of consumer and environmental protections and the budget-busting $1.4 trillion giveaway to the party’s funders; none of which has added a jot of happiness to the lives of the vast majority of Americans.

So, for the past few days his closest advisors, a group known as “the adults in the room” have been rushing to deny responsibility. Many commentators are pointing at Vice-President Pence, on the basis of various clues, such as the use of the world “lodestar”, a metaphor Pence is constantly using; and the fact that he has gone off somewhere at this rather crucial time and had to send his fridge to a press conference*.

The Pumpkin’s betting is on Trump’s public defender, Rudy Giuliani – with help over the more difficult spellings. Trump is alleged to have said very terrible, almost shockingly terrible things to poor Rudy in the past, totally emasculating him, whenever the former mayor of New York’s TV performances have not defended the President sufficiently robustly.

Is this Rudy’s Revenge?

Whoever it is, Sessions, Kelly, whoever, given the reluctance of the debutant to step forward, doesn’t this look like a case of painting the skeletons pink? Should Trump go down any time soon, this individual will be able to step forth from the shadows, this ersatz Deep Throat, and proudly proclaim their patriotic instincts and innocence of the Trump stain. Look, my skeletons are still alive!

There is also, of course, the possibility that Trump himself commissioned the piece from a ghost writer, to take the wind out of Woodward’s sails – and sales. It wouldn’t be the first time he has misled the “enemies of the people” in this way; and none of the allegations of his bizarre behavior is original, they’ve all appeared in print before.

It’s a handy distraction, too, from the Congressional hearings on his pick for the Supreme Court, Brett Kavanaugh – who, when quizzed about any previous connections he may have had with anyone on Trump’s legal team, prevaricated that “he couldn’t remember” and asked his inquisitor, the forensic Senator Susan Harris, to suggest some legal names because he didn’t know any. So that’s a rubber stamp, then.

But who knows? It’s bound to come out soon enough.

In The Pumpkin’s view, it’s a shame Woodward’s book is being filleted by the media for the more lurid tales of life in the Trump White House, until it appears that they might be the major or possibly the only theme. I hadn’t budgeted for another Trump tome this month, I’m still pondering ordering Craig Unger’s House of Putin, House of Trump. At least it’s not just more in-house tittle-tattle, of which I have four volumes already.

We can all see from his forgetful behavior and manner of speaking that the President is senescent, almost certainly in the early stages of dementia. We sense too that he is annoyingly inept as an administrator, ignorant of foreign affairs, industry and economics; a vain, crass, incurious and demanding bully, a whining, childish, foul-mouthed solipsist with no regard for anyone other than himself and his own fatuous saloon-bar theories; that he has succeeded in life only through mendacity, extreme venality, adroit publicity and affecting the threatening posture of a Mafia chieftain. He has also revealed a surprising capacity for cowardice.

We know all that.

We already have a raft of books and articles based on the testimony of dozens of leaky insiders describing Trump’s manic outbursts, his “senior moments”, his impulsive policy-making and his horrible dietary habits. So I guess we shall just have to see what Mueller can do, while Trump furiously tries to undermine the credibility of the Russia investigation, brutalizes the Justice Department, slags-off the media and packs the courts with unqualified placemen.

Whatever finally comes out from Mueller may gain no traction at all among the Republican voters.

As the much-decorated doyen of investigative journalists, instead of producing a sensationalist potboiler one would have hoped Woodward might have credibly pursued the paths trodden by veteran Trumphunters like David Cay Johnson, Craig Unger and Adam Davidson, following the money to expose the dark underbelly of America’s worst and most corrupt ever President.

Because the real question few dare to ask is, what terrible secret is it, that he is apparently willing to destroy the presidency to protect?

Shall we ever be allowed to know?

*Younger readers, if any, might not recognise the reference to a Monty Python sketch. Carry on.)

x

Phooarh! Trump strikes out

“Never mind, Mr President, it can happen to anyone. Let’s get you all cleaned up…” (photo: Empirenews.net)

Despite his insistent promises to the adoring dumbfucks on the campaign trail that he wouldn’t have time to play golf because he’d be permanently in the Oval Office, “working my ass off for you” (massive cheer!), and a virulent campaign of Fox poo claiming his predecessor, Obama, was never off the golf course even during national crises (“he plays more even than a member of the PGA”) the website Trumpgolfcount reports that after just 590 days in office, the Fat Fibber has spent 349 days at his own golf resorts, while Obama managed only 328 days golfing in 8 years.

Total cost to the US taxpayer so far: $77 million. (Cost to local businesses forced by the security service to shut up shop while he plays, incalculable.)

But he works so hard – at least four hours a day including an hour for lunch, according to White House insiders – he surely deserves the time off. How else would his tacky resorts make any money?

x

GW: Wash me down and blow me!

Hawaii: “Back up to Category 3 strength on Thursday afternoon, Hurricane Olivia remains on a long-term course that looks increasingly likely to take it across the Hawaiian Islands. Located about 1200 miles west of Cabo San Lucas—and was heading west-northwest at 14 mph. Update (11:30 pm EDT Thursday): Olivia has now attained Category 4 strength, with top sustained winds of 130 mph.” (Wunderground) Weaker Hurricane Norman passed well to the north of the islands this week. Hawaii was battered last week by 135 mph Hurricane Lane bearing up to 53 cm of rain, the most powerful storm in a quarter of a century.

Guam: “Though it was just a minimum-strength tropical storm with 40 mph winds on Friday, Mangkhut promises to become a ferocious typhoon over the next few days. The system is surrounded by a large envelope of very moist air and it will be traveling over very warm SSTs of 29 – 30°C (84 – 86°F). …The Joint Typhoon Warning Center predicts that Manghut will rocket to typhoon strength by Sunday local time and will be a Category 4 typhoon by the time it nears Guam on Tuesday.” (Wunderground)

Bermuda: Hurricane Florence, which had strengthened into the first major hurricane of the 2018 Atlantic season, weakened to a Category 1 storm Thursday as it moved on a path toward Bermuda. As of 5 p.m. ET Thursday, the storm had maximum sustained winds of 80 mph but was expected to reintensify Friday, the National Hurricane Center said. Large swells from Florence are expected to hit Bermuda starting Friday. Life-threatening surf and rip tides are possible.” (CBS News)

Mexico: “Flooding in the city of Piedras Negras in Coahuila state, (on the Texas border) on 04 Sept. affected more than 10,000 residents. Around 20 people were forced to evacuate and stay in temporary accommodation. Roads in the area also suffered damage. No injuries or fatalities were reported. Local Civil Protection said that more than 150mm of rain fell from late Monday 03 Sept. to early Tuesday 04 Sept.” (Floodlist)

USA: “Kansas Governor, Jeff Colyer issued a state of disaster emergency declaration for five Kansas counties affected by flooding from 02 to 04 Sept. An estimated 300 people were displaced, with areas around Manhattan worst affected.” Over 9 inches of rain fell during the storm. (Floodlist) The east coast may feel the force of Hurricane Florence later in the week.

India: “At least 19 people have died in flood-related incidents in Uttar Pradesh since 01 Sept. Nearly 300 villages have been affected. Many of the deaths were a result of collapsing buildings or lightning strikes. Over 220 houses have been damaged or destroyed in the heavy rain and flooding over the last 4 days.

“The flood-hit south Indian state of Kerala has declared a health alert after 11 people died of leptospirosis or rat fever in the last two days (to 04 Sept.). Health officials in the state said there was no immediate cause for alarm and the situation was under control (! Ed.). Flooding has killed around 400 people in Kerala since June.” (BBC Weather)

Australia: Has been accused by Pacific nations of trying to water down the Boe Declaration on emissions reduction. “Dr Bill Hare, a lead author on the IPCC fourth assessment report, told Guardian Australia that Pacific leaders were growing increasingly disenchanted with Australia’s refusal to commit to cutting carbon emissions, even as their nations faced massive economic, physical and social disruption, even existential threat.”

UK: The Met Office has confirmed, 2018 was the hottest summer they’ve ever recorded in England, and the joint-hottest for the British Isles as a whole. The 10-day forecast from 08 Sept. is completely chaotic, although not extreme, as the huge loops currently in the jet stream break apart into separate segments and go spinning off over the course of the next week. Watch the BBC weatherman struggle to explain!

 

Scary corner

“Roundworms from two areas of (the Siberian permafrost) came back to life in Petri dishes, says a new scientific study. Some 300 prehistoric worms were analysed – and two ‘were shown to contain viable nematodes’.

“‘After being defrosted, the (possibly 42 thousand year-old) nematodes showed signs of life,’ said a report today from Yakutia, the area where the worms were found. ‘They started moving and eating.’

“Both are thought to be female.”

Siberian Times