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

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

UB

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Does anyone still imagine the American republic is a democracy?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The lessons of Iraq must be learned.

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

But I fear there will be.

 

The Pumpkin confesses:

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

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

I blame the wine.

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

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

 

Tickety-boo

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

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

It’s a living, I suppose.

 

Does anyone still imagine the United Kingdom is a democracy?

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

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

So much for democracy.

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

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

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

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

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

According to Open Democracy:

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

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

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

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

 

Gay abandon

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And when can we expect a suitably painful Crucifixion?

We should be told.

 

One law for the poor

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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Deep breath… Donald and the magic money machine… GW: going down a bomb. New BogPo undergoing boglogenesis for Thursday

“We do not expect our species to exist forever. But it is unworthy of us – and of what, collectively, we know we can become – to die in the way we’re threatening to die: blindfolded, blustering, callow, lying to each other and ourselves.”

Environmental campaigner, the late Dorothy Dinnerstein, quoted on OpenDemocracy.org

 

Deep breath…

Daily average atmospheric CO2 as measured at Scripps Mauna Loa observatory at 9,000 ft altitude on 3 May was 415.09 ppm, approximately 10 ppm higher than the 405 ppm average at end-March last year.

That’s the highest count measurable from core samples, etc. in the past 800 thousand years and puts us on course for 10 deg. C, 18F of warming over AD 1750 levels. (from Arctic News, 6 May)

Wunderground carries and gives additional weight and exposure to an item that appeared on Arctic News a couple of months ago, regarding research at CalTech showing how one result of a 4C rise by 2100 could be the loss of marine stratocumulus clouds that reflect sunlight back into space.

“If humanity maintains its current business-as-usual emissions path for the next 100 years, the resulting 4°C (7°F) of warming may be enough to cause highly reflective stratocumulus clouds over the subtropical and tropical oceans to disintegrate, resulting in an additional 8°C (14°F) of warming, according to research published in February. The resultant “Hothouse Earth” climate, 12°C (22°F) warmer than pre-industrial levels, would be enough to melt all ice on the planet, raise sea levels by over 200 feet over a period of centuries, and produce heat waves too hot for humans to endure outdoors for over half of Earth’s population (as currently distributed.)

I love the optimism of scientists, don’t you? Because a) what if we hit not 4C, but 10C, on current trend, as forecast by “Sam Carana” above, possibly even in the next decade? Add 8C to that, and Venusians start to feel at home.

And b) long before it gets “too hot for humans” we will have suffered global socio-economic collapse, even assuming we can still produce food in underground farms and laboratories, requiring a huge energy supply; and, potentially, nuclear exchanges escalating from unsustainable conventional resource wars. While on the principle of co-extinction of species, with another million on the UN’s danger list humankind will be long gone before we drown.

Start saving now

A team of British, European and US researchers have been looking at the probable cost of various warming scenarios, based on the aim of the outdated Paris accord to keep warming “well below” 2C. Given the likelihood of non-linear warming caused by feedbacks such as Arctic “blue ocean” and consequent methane release, they estimate that if warming can be kept to 4C by the end of the century, the cost to the global economy by then will have been $2,197 TRILLION.

One tipping point frequently quoted is the loss of winter sea ice leaving the Arctic ice-free in summer, the darker water absorbing more heat. Thomas Krumpen of the Alfred Wegener Institute warns that an important current that helps to distribute new sea ice across the region in late autumn, known as the Drift, is becoming weaker and more erratic. It’s estimated too that 50 years ago, the Greenland ice sheet was losing 47 billion tonnes of ice annually. It’s now 290 billion tonnes. The Arctic is heating up twice as fast as the rest of the planet.

Lloyds of London made a $1 billion loss in the last year on insured disasters, while Aon Insurance estimates March alone’s extreme weather events cost the world economy $8 billion. Of course, the majority of disaster zones in poorer countries experience far greater uninsured losses.

(All taken from an article in Floodlist crediting Climate News Network, citing various papers)

La la la la la…

According to a major international survey, 17% of Americans believe that “the idea of manmade global warming is a hoax that was invented to deceive people” (54 million people!) 13% thought the climate might be changing but humans are not responsible. (Guardian, 8 May)

America has the highest proportion of climate change deniers in the world: of those who describe themselves as conservatives, over 52% said they believe in the hoax theory.

Coincidentally, it also has the largest per capita carbon footprint. (Followed closely in both categories by its friend, the oil nation of Saudi Barbaria.)

Of course, for it to be a hoax would improbably require the covert participation of thousands of trained researchers with actual PhDs across dozens of countries and institutions, producing peer-reviewed papers over many decades, going back to the late C19th.

There would also have to be some point to it.

To believe it to be a hoax would require the brand of logic that says you can go on pissing in your bath water forever and it won’t overflow or turn yellow and smelly.

The kind that can’t manage to balance objectively the likely gain to the shareholders of the coal, oil and gas industries of continuing denial, against any conceivable gain to the broader scientific community from continuously lying to people.

For it to be thought of as a hoax requires only a large enough number of poorly educated, self-interested, contrarian twats with their heads up their arses, plus a few million dollars worth of propaganda from the Koch brothers and Exxon-Mobil.

Plus, of course, the word of the least intelligent, most ignorant – most unqualified – president in US history. A trustworthy source who has otherwise made up more than ten thousand well-attested lies in 27 months.

Sure, it’s a hoax.

 

Justice is blind

“Today Anna Sorokin will be sentenced in New York for masquerading as Anna Delvey, an extravagant socialite. Sorokin bankrolled an implausibly lavish lifestyle with tens of thousands of dollars she swindled from banks, hotels and friends who believed she was a wealthy German heiress.” (Guardian)

For over 30 years, a person has been going around New York masquerading as “Donald Trump”, a billionaire businessman and glamorous playboy. In that time he’s cost the US taxpayer half a billion dollars, stiffed his workers and suppliers, refused to pay bills, groped women, accepted money from gangsters, imported and employed undocumented labor. He bankrolled an implausibly lavish lifestyle with tens of millions of dollars he swindled from banks, threatening to sue them if they asked for their money back.

He’s not going to prison at all.

That is…

While the Democrats in the House of Representatives have been battling the Justice department in vain to get hold of the unredacted Mueller report, judge Amy Berman Jackson, hearing the case against Trump crony Roger Stone, has issued a court order requiring the DoJ to hand over redacted material relating to Stone’s prosecution.

Lawyers have agreed, they cannot refuse. The material is due on Monday. Other judges are now making similar orders and may soon join the ranks of the few people in the USA who have been allowed to view all the material Trump’s tame Attorney General Bill Barr has blanked out and is refusing to let legislators see.

While, in case anyone is still clinging hopefully to the last few shreds of possibility that Trump is not the most corrupt president in US history, Bloomberg is reporting that the Chief Counsel at the Internal Revenue Service, the man who is blocking lawful Congressional demands for the release of the President’s tax returns – those bits that have not already leaked – and whose appointment was railroaded through the Senate confirmation hearing on the personal order of the President, was formerly for a time a tax advisor to… The Trump Organization.

No conflict there, then.

 

Donald and the magic money machine

Look, I know you just want to get on with your life, but this is bugging me. Has been for three years now.

What is he so scared will come out of his tax returns, that his dim Treasury Secretary, Grinning Steve “call me Stephen” Mnuchin is prepared to go to jail for, being as he is in contempt of Congress for refusing to allow a lawful request to the head of the IRS – himself a barely qualified Trump appointee – to release them?

Why is Trump fighting like a cat in a sack to prevent anyone knowing about his finances? It’s a perfectly accepted thing, every new president and senior government official, every candidate for high office has to ‘fess up, but he absolutely will not.

Just yesterday, the good ol’ New York Times financial people have reported, they’ve managed to get hold of a series of basic Internal Revenue Service documents, just the annual listings of their top and bottom wealthy taxpayers, just a headline thing with no details.

From which, it appears that for about 10 years in the 1980s and 90s one Donald John Trump, hugely successful and flamboyant billionaire businessman, paid a small amount of tax in only two of them.

In the other eight years, he managed to LOSE a total of $1.17 bn, thus avoiding tax on his business and personal revenue – which he basically believes are one and the same thing.

Now, we recall, don’t we, the pre-election TV debate with Clinton in which Trump accepted that he paid next to no tax, and that was because he was “smart” – billionaire presidential candidates shouldn’t have to contribute a penny to the nation, patriotism (as Edith Cavell once said) not being nearly profitable enough.

It transpired that his accountant had declared a deductible billion dollar write-down, that sheltered him from income tax for several years. It was reported in the mainstream media at the time, but everyone seems to have forgotten about it until now, when this actual evidence has emerged. (And also since the accountant has been spilling it to the Mueller team.)

Now, I love a good conspiracy theory, so the clouds parted when I saw the Times piece today.

All the leftish TV pundits are speculating that this is what he didn’t want to come out, that instead of being the brilliant supermogul he pretends to be, the world’s greatest dealmaker, he is a totally crappy businessman whose dad bankrolled him to the tune of half a billion dollars, that he appears to have pissed away, and more.

But there’s nothing new in that theory, journalists who have followed Trump around with a shovel have been trying to tell people for years that he’s the phonus-balonus.

I’m looking at it from a more squinty angle, however.

WHAT IF…

The Times financial team has been puzzling over one entry.

It seems that at one point, Trump declared a special one-off receipt for $50 million in interest earnings.

How, they are asking, and from where could he have earned $50 million in interest when his businesses were making such huge losses?

Well, my friend over at The Pumpkin brightly suggests, over a pint or two, it’s about what you’d expect to earn in a year on a billion-dollars worth of deposits, no?

In the sober light of day, I’m sure there’s a perfectly innocent explanation. In the world of accounting, not everything is what it seems, not necessarily illegally so. There might have been a very good reason why such a large amount needed to be lumped all at once into the column marked “interest earned on investments”, like “We can’t get away forever with not declaring something”.

So, what if he didn’t actually lose that billion, and instead had salted it away somehow, somewhere, in dribs and drabs of fifty, a hundred or two hundred million at a time, and merely declared the money as lost?

Say, in fake bank accounts in Russia, where the regulators are probably piled in groaning heaps in corners? (Has anyone looked for accounts in the name of David Dennisovitch, I wonder?)

Or, say he had carefully crafted those losses, purportedly to creditors (whom he reputedly seldom pays) but actually to confederates? (Like energy, money can neither be created nor destroyed.)

And say those deposits might be the true source of his Russian loans to his leisure developments? (Other countries and banks may be involved). That he’s been lending to himself, laundering his own money outside the system?

If true, that would be a far stronger reason for Trump to want to keep Mr Putin happy by helping to bring down the West, as if found out it would see him eating porage with no salt for many lifetimes to come.

Those debts Trump supposedly owes, that Putin has supposedly picked up the marker for – well, so what, frankly? It’s not illegal to be a lousy businessman, it’s not illegal to borrow investment finance from Russian banks owned by Putin’s mates or the GRU, like his idiot sons have explained he does, although in many people’s view it ought to be illegal to build tacky golf resorts everywhere over people’s land. He even loses money on those.

But huge hidden deposits, concealed from the IRS? Like, those big “debts” he supposedly owes are actually his own assets?

Whoof.

Just speculatin’. Usually wrong, yunnerstan’. No head for finance, least of all this stuff. Too easily detected. Pure supposition. Probably not even possible. Just ignore.

PS Mr Trump has hit back, claiming he lost the money deliberately, in a financial game all successful property developers play (aye, it’s called “laundering money”…) Then he exerted Executive Privilege over Congress to prevent any further inquiries into the Mueller report, appointing a new law firm just to delay release of his financial records, resulting in a declaration of war from the Democrats, who have started contempt proceedings against Trump officials resisting lawful subpoenas to produce evidence the President fears will incriminate him further.

So far, it’s all proceeding along exactly the lines familiar to historians of the Watergate conspiracy.

What is he hiding? And why doesn’t anyone appear to know?

 

GW: going down a bomb

Europe: A storm undergoing rapid “bombogenesis” (drop in pressure) out in the Atlantic is forecast to bring high winds and torrential rain across the British Isles into much of NW Europe down to Spain from 8 May. SW France is expecting severe thunderstorms and “a tornado or two”. (Accuweather) So far, here on the ground the forecast seems to be a bit of an exaggeration.

Meanwhile, as central and southern Europe continues to shiver under an airmass straight from the Arctic, Spain and Portugal are expected to warm up rapidly at the weekend, with a +14C spring temperature anomaly peaking in the high 30s C (high 90s F) next week. (Severe-weather.eu)

USA: Heavy flooding continued inundating towns and farmland along rivers in the Midwest on Monday. The swollen Mississippi River breached levees and forced road closures and drove people from their homes as high water levels make their way downstream. More severe storms are forecast to trundle northeastwards from Texas towards the mid-Atlantic during the week. (Accuweather)

The Weather Channel reports, nearly 3,000 avalanches have been recorded this year in Colorado.

In brief

Indonesia: 1 person has died and several are injured, with some localized farming losses, after heavy rain caused a flash flood in Samosir regency, North Sumatra, 3 May. (Floodlist)

Australia: The city of Mildura in Victoria state was engulfed by a huge dust storm on 7 May, whipped up by 50 mph-plus winds.

Insurance industry research has shown that extreme hot days in Australia are now 80 per cent more common and extreme cold days 74 per cent less common than the long-term average. (ABC News)

Namibia: A state of emergency has been declared as drought grips the country for a third successive year. Over half a million people are said to have not enough to eat. (BBC)

Russia: sweltering in a heatwave, Moscow has again (twice last year) been battered by a massive storm, with lots of hail and localized flooding. High winds tore up trees and flipped cars.

 

Get it together, guys!

One possible factor behind the public confusion over climate change that the denier community has improperly exploited, is the apparent inability of the scientific community to act like a community and cross-refer data sensibly across the barriers of specialized disciplines.

As a for-instance, take the story above, that in some parts of Australia you’re more than twice as likely to get dangerously hot days now than you were, say between 1980 and 2010, which is usually taken as the long-term average. Nationwide, it’s about an 80% increase. Sea level rise around some parts of the coast is also an alarming 6 cm, although the news report gives no starting date for that, so it’s hard to evaluate the significance. (ABC News)

The research was done for actuaries in the insurance industry, who have therefrom concluded that by 2100, getting on for a million homes will become uninsurable.

It really ought to occur to these clever risk-analysts that if extreme temperatures and sea levels go on increasing at the reported rate, which given the corruption and inertia prevalent among the country’s simply appalling politicians they are bound to do, there won’t be anyone around to pay the premiums.

Australia will have become uninhabitable long before it becomes uninsurable.

And in a similar vein, this morning the UK Environment Agency has published its views on the nation’s flood preparedness, urging the government to spend a billion pounds a year on resilience measures and warning that coastal communities will have to be relocated – if the global average temperature rises by 4 deg. C.

The Agency has completely failed to comprehend what a rise of 4 deg. C in the average temperature is going to mean in terms of the extremes we should experience in the meantime. Especially if the theory holds up, that at 4 deg. C the oceans will lose their reflective blanket of stratocumulus clouds, leading to a rapid rise of a further 8 deg. C. So far, that’s only a theory.

However, there has been a tragic tendency on the part of risk analysts to think lineally, in terms of these artificial cutoff points: 1.5C good, 2C bad; “blue ocean event” – as if there is one state prior to the last ice cube disappearing, and a new state immediately following it. And as if Chaos theory does not predict any sudden change of state resulting from tipping points being exceeded.

Many gloomier scientists whose prognostications are so frequently ignored by governments, NGOs and the media, all of them with their own half-baked perspectives, have concluded that a rise of 5 deg. C is the point of extinction for the human race.

How well do we imagine we are going to cope at 4 deg. C – which is, after all, nearly 5C and likely in itself to double the rate of warming? What will be the effect on global food production? On our cities, sweltering in 45C, 50C heat in summer?

Wel, so long as our clever department is focussed entirely on the effects of sea level rise and heavier rainfall, we can’t take the holistic view of a drastically changing economy and potential system breakdown to put out a more meaningful report.

Let’s just knock back the values of coastal properties for now.

Britain welcomes criminals of all kinds… You do have to be crazy to work here… Oligarchs at sea… GW: “A catastrophe of unimaginable proportions is unfolding” This week’s BogPo, for instance…

Thought of the day

“We are Buddhists, and we now meditate daily on loving kindness for our President. When we do, we recite the phrase, ‘May President Trump find the wisdom to resign.'”Susan L. Rhodes and Charles R. Schwenk, writing on OpenDemocracy.org

 

Quote of the century so far

“The conclusion that Congress may apply the obstruction laws to the President’s corrupt exercise of the powers of office accords with our constitutional system of checks and balances and the principle that no person is above the law.” – Robert S Mueller, Special Counsel

 

Britain welcomes criminals of all kinds

The innocent Mr Trump is an unusual kind of criminal, isn’t he.

Most old lags have boundaries, moral and legal. They know the law as well as any barrister. That they repeatedly break the law is a choice they make, many of them because of the straitened social circumstances in which they got into trouble in the first place; because of the ease with which money can be made from crime, and because of an inadequate and underfunded criminal justice system based mainly on the punitive instincts of the public at large, egged on by the tabloid press, that traps them thereafter in a pattern of criminal behavior.

There’s a calculus of risk.

Rather than consciously break the law, Mr Trump, however, seemingly does not believe the law applies to him in any sense. He has made a life choice simply to ignore the existence of law; or rather, as in everything else, to regard his relationship with the law as a transaction, a set of circumstances that can be turned to his pecuniary advantage. And he seems to lead a charmed life: despite the voluminous evidence of his dishonesty and cheating, his criminal connections, we seem to have no answer to it.

It’s mostly a social thing with him too. If you start out at the age of three as a pretend-employee of your daddy’s company, on a very real tax-deductible salary of a quarter of a million dollars a year, there is very little that will impress upon you thereafter, the vital importance to the survival of humanity of mutual co-operation and occasional acts of altruism; or the benefits of thrift. And what is there to anchor you in the truth? Shifting facts become negotiable; denial is without consequence.

Subsequently as you grow up receiving $100s of millions in phony bailout loans from your dad, more tax avoidance stiffing the IRS for half a billion dollars in the process, the less you care about the origins of the wealth that flows like electricity through your projects and the more the culture of money-laundering becomes habitual.

Because tax avoidance strategies for the rich are, essentially, a legal form of money-laundering, whereby a taxable sum of money is passed through any of a series of special tax-free or low-tax vehicles, loopholes in the financial continuum designed to further enrich the rich, to emerge clean and whole, without loss, on the other side.

Why stop there, when at any one time over four quadrillion dollars obtained from who-cares-where is floating around the planet in free-fall, just waiting to be diverted into another superyacht complete with optional missile battery, or a mission to Mars? Compared with many involved in this financial merry-go-round, Mr Trump is small beer. Small beer, but with a planet-sized thirst.

Many witnesses and suspects interviewed by Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s team of bloodhounds investigating the story of Russian interference in the 2016 election have testified under oath, on pain of imprisonment for lying, that during and after the election Mr Trump routinely commanded them to carry out actions on his behalf, that were – to them – clearly illegal. Ordering an illegal act is, legally speaking, the crime of conspiracy.

The legality of Trump’s behavior changed, however, with the appointment of the Special Counsel. From that point on, every command the newly elected President gave that was directed at hampering, discrediting or otherwise removing the threat to his position that might have been created by an investigation designed to expose the true extent of foreign interference on his behalf would constitute a de facto obstruction of justice; a prisonable offence.

But what if the original offence he is said to have called for was never actually carried out?

American jurisprudence has been arguing for months around the question: if knowingly working with the Russians and their tool, Julian Assange’s Wikileaks, to influence American voters was not actually illegal – which for the most part it might not have been – then would the President’s attempts to make the investigations go away be obstructing anything at all?

While others wondered, why the intensive efforts to shut down the investigations if there was nothing to hide? Why did Trump staffers do nothing to reject the help they were illegally offered, and report the Russian overtures to the FBI? And why did the President declaim despairingly that his presidency was over, “I’m fucked”, on hearing that a Special Counsel had been appointed, if he was not aware of his wrongdoing?

(The answer being, that the President has a number of personal issues on the mental disorder spectrum that make it virtually impossible for him to concentrate long enough or sufficiently distance himself from his own solipsistic worldview to grasp the basic tenets of constitutional law, and has a decades-long history of making investigations into his suspicious financial activities go away, by one means or another. His obstructionism is purely instinctive.)

In most cases, it turns out, Trump’s people simply ignored his illegal commmands and carried on the already pretty filthy, but mostly lawful process of campaigning to get their man over the line, supported by billionaire disruptors seeking to destroy the whole annoying business of interfering government and messy democracy; while in the background, the Russian state’s foreign intelligence arm, the GRU continued and continues to spew out personalized disinformation using voter data stolen from Facebook and other accounts, to undermine the will of the West.

And those acts of disobedience were what is currently, some say precariously, saving him from indictment. Although in the normal course of events what he did was criminal, nevertheless in the special circumstances of an election the law breaks down. While there was most definitely obstruction, there was no hard proof of prior conspiracy. While there was most definitely collusion, that is not a known crime. While there is a mountain of evidence of connections between the campaign and the Russians, the conversations were seemingly not sufficiently effectual to suggest conspiracy to commit treason, which is.

(The Pumpkin has bogld indefatigably over the past year or so, that Mueller was likely to find evidence of collusion, but no conspiracy; that while the interference was gratefully received and in regard to some aspects of election law and data protection may have been illegal, there was no requirement for command and co-ordination from the Trump end to make the Putin-inspired plan work. Of course, Mueller would have little or no knowledge of the content of the closed-door meetings between Trump, Putin and Putin’s top officials without asking the President himself to explain, which he decided not to do out of fear that the blabbermouth Trump would convict himself, or find himself compulsively lying.)

Purely for those reasons, having concluded that Mr Trump was indeed responsible for obstructing justice in no fewer than ten compound ways, each meriting its own chapter of Volume 2, and that the Russian effort did in fact happen, Mr Mueller’s 448-page report finally abandons the attempt to prove that Mr Trump (or his tragically dim offspring, Donald Jr) had sufficient knowledge of the origins and consequences of his actions as to have committed offences indictable by him, and submits the evidence instead to the whims and tortuous political processes of a Congress still hagridden with powerful Trump enablers in the Senate to see if they can do better.

Poor Bob Mueller was too honest and upright for his own good; and ultimately, that of the free world. I’m afraid fire needs to be fought with fire.

In what would certainly not be his last – and most successful – effort to obstruct, or at least divert the course of justice, Mr Trump had the States’ Attorney-General removed from office and planted his own man in the Justice Department. William Barr has a notorious history of defending crimes committed at the behest of past Presidents against Special Counsel investigations. Nor does he think Presidents can or should be indicted for crimes, and has written an extensive legal opinion on the matter, which made him a shoo-in.

Barr’s strategy in this instance has been to pre-issue misleading headline announcements claiming the Mueller report has totally exonerated the President, in advance of the actual publication of a heavily redacted account that, even so, still paints a picture of a profoundly corrupt and dysfunctional Administration directed by, yes, a criminal mind; and of many abuses of Executive authority: what are known as “high crimes and misdemeanors”.

The assumption being that, as Americans would rather not have another criminal in the White House after Nixon, they will be extra-willing to believe Trump’s protestations of innocence based on a couple of favorable headline findings, and not bother reading the small print, while interest gradually wanes and war in Iran, or whatever, commands tomorrow’s headlines. (Secretary Pompeo, a well-lunched creature resembling a Vogon functionary made entirely of Koch brothers’ money, is already attempting to link Shi’a Iran with Sunni al-Qaeda, the same improbable alliance that let Bush kick-off the second Iraq war.)

(PS a carrier group is now heading for the Gulf of Arabia to counter what Pompeo claims is an Iranian threat. See: “Gulf of Tonkin incident” for precedent. 07 May)

The chair of the House Oversight Committee, Congressman Elijah Cummings, has issued a subpoena for the full report to be made available; and, for his pains, Mr Trump is attempting to sue him in court, to destroy him financially. Trump is also warning any of his current or former people against testifying to the committee hearing on the Mueller report; while his lawyers are fighting a desperate delaying action against the Congress’ perfectly established powers to subpoena evidence and witness testimony. Those are not the actions of an innocent man. Meanwhile, Trump will surely now be redirecting Barr’s efforts toward making the many other criminal investigations being conducted into him, for instance by the Southern District Court of New York, to go away too.

The words “hole” and “digging” seem apposite.

That this astonishing saga is being played out in plain sight, where anyone with eyes (and that’s about two-thirds of American voters but not 90 per cent of Republicans) can see that here is a profoundly disturbed, corrupt and amoral individual, tragically in the middling-stages of age-related mental disintegration, who has nevertheless succeeded largely in imposing his own brand of autocratic gangster-capitalism on their Constitution and has essentially kidnapped the Justice Department for his own purposes, seemingly without restraint, is bad enough.

But that Mr Trump has invited himself to make a State visit to Britain as a guest of Her Majesty the Queen, hopefully to ride smirking in triumph in a gilded carriage along the Mall as the crowds bay their disgust, and to hijack the D-Day 75th anniversary parade in Portsmouth (assuming it’s not raining), and is proposing to arrive six weeks from now, whether we want him or not, is the most breathtaking denouement imaginable; wonderful optics for his shrinking base of dumbfucks, the ultimate vindication of his terrible presidency.

(We imagine, too, that as we haven’t had any good public dust-ups since the Tottenham riots in 2011, and another long, hot summer is in prospect, with the encouragement of the gilets-jaunes across the channel it’s also the most potentially disruptive event possible.)

This pompous, overbearing, undereducated, frequently failed realtor from the arse-end of New York, oafish social-climbing made-for-TV President, nepotistic tinpot dictator and kleptocrat, friend to mafiosi, criminal oligarchs and brutal dictators* the world over, a succubus with no regard whatsoever for the rule of law or the consequences of his actions for anyone other than himself (“racist”, “conman”, “serial adulterer”, “trafficker of underage models” and “accused rapist” go without comment), joins a sorry line of shits, psychos and general self-promoters that for the squalid purposes of trade the poor 93-year-old Queen Elizabeth has had to feed and water and put on public display over the years; monsters like the reputedly cannibalistic kleptocrat, Mobutu of Zaire; the genocidal “Mr 10 per cent” Suharto of Indonesia and the appalling, motheaten Ceausescus, the vampires of Romania.

The one consolation being, they all met some kind of fate in the end.

 

*It seems he’s found a new one to admire, in the vengeful figure of Libyan warlord, Gen. Khalifa Hifter, who is leading a military offensive against the internationally recognized Libyan government in Tripoli. According to today’s Washington Post, Mr Trump has apparently rung up to congratulate him on his advance. “In their conversation, the president praised Hifter for fighting ‘terrorism’ and protecting Libyan oil assets.”

The incoherent Middle Eastern dimension to Trump’s corruption is surely ripe for a second Special Counsel investigation. Gen. Hifter – I can’t help thinking Trump has confused him with the Austrian-born German chancellor with a similar name – since Hifter’s brutal but efficient military campaign at the head of his own private army is being funded by the United Arab Emirates and Crown Prince bin-Salman, the dictator-in-waiting of Saudi Arabia; another murdering, torturing, dissent-crushing strongman whom Trump refuses to criticize in any way.

 

Criminal #2

I’ve just had the following email from the Reprieve NGO:

“We are writing today with some incredibly sad news: Saudi Arabia executed 37 people in one day – including three arrested as teenagers and tortured into “confessions”. Five of those executed, including the three teenagers, were Reprieve cases. This is yet another horrific disregard of human rights by the Saudi regime. Conducting this mass execution without notice just days after Easter, it appears that Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman thought that this could pass without international condemnation.”
Three more teenagers are scheduled among others still to be beheaded by Crown Prince Murderer, for the crime of being picked up off the street by police brutally putting down a peaceful demonstration by Islamists. This is the overpromoted, psychotic camel-fucker Trump loves and cares for, and his money, so deeply.
Reprieve has called on Theresa May to protest these actions: as if. This is the same Theresa May who warmly received “MBS”, as More Blood and Sand likes to be known, at Chequers, her agreeable country residence, in March last year.
As long as these unreconstructed stone-age barbarians continue to pump the black gold they serendipitously inherited for free from beneath the desert sands and continue to use it to buy arms from the West, arms they are using illegally to prosecute a war against women and children in Yemen, while continuing to oppress and torture and maim and murder their own people in the name of their fissiparous religion, while they continue to fund Wahhabist terrorism the world over, no-one will lift a finger against them.
What a fucking horrible world your loving God sees fit to order.

You do have to be crazy to work here

Controversial Washington state representative for Spokane Valley, Matthew Shea has been caught plotting online with right wing extremists to carry out surveillance on, and violently attack, liberal activists in his constituency. A Republican, under the internet username “Verum Bellorum” (“True Warrior”, apparently), Shea was also found to be planning “psyops” against these activists, according to conversations that he was having with three known extremists via an app called Signal.

This is not the first time that Shea has invoked lethal violence: in his political manifesto, he calls for the deaths of all men who fail to follow true Biblical teaching, although he claims this was just a bit of banter with a few likeminded friends (TYT/Ring of Fire, citing Guardian America, 20 April/Rolling Stone).

Although he might seem to meet the legal definition of terrorist, Mr Shea has yet to be arrested and questioned, let alone charged with any crime. It goes without saying that he is a regular on Alex Jones’ Infowars and other crazy rightwing conspiracy sites; an anti-abortion, anti-vaccination, anti-law enforcement, extreme gun-rights activist; and that he has frequently called for a civil war – a final battle – against unbelievers, including communists and Muslims, but also Washington liberals.

Apparently the darling of Spokane Valley residents, he is currently serving his sixth term in Congress, when by rights he ought to serving his time in a federal penitentiary, for incitement.

 

Oligarchs at sea

A friend tells me over a simple lunch about the time he went on a cruise. Somewhere in the Bahamas they steamed past an enormous private yacht not much smaller than themselves. As he watched, a helicopter took off from the deck – and a large motor launch emerged from an opening in the side, just like in a James Bond movie. He asked the purser about it. “Oh”, said the seadog,”that’s one of (Roman) Abramovich’s. He’s not on board, of course, he has four others like it, all painted gray so as not to attract attention.”

My friend remarks that, were one to win, say, one of those €100 million-plus jackpots on the Euromillions lottery, against odds of billions to one, one might be able to afford a partway decent yacht, just. But would you then be able to pay for the crew, the mooring and maintenance charges, the fuel – the expensive art collection, the food and the champagne? It reminded me of the visitors to the rotting C18th “stately home” where I was the Estate Manager for several years, who would gaze around wistfully and fantasise aloud about winning the lottery and buying the place. I would sneer at them loftily: “Yes, but you would need to win ten lotteries if you want to keep it standing!”

 

GW: A catastrophe of unimaginable proportions is unfolding.

“Sam Carana” – a pseudonymous collective of climate scientists writing on the Arctic News blogspot site – has just posted this:

“March 2019 temperature is in line with an earlier analysis that 2019 could be 1.85°C warmer than preindustrial and that a rapid temperature rise could take place soon… .

“A catastrophe of unimaginable proportions is unfolding. Life is disappearing from Earth and all life could be gone within a decade. At 5°C of warming, most life on Earth will have disappeared. When looking at near-term human extinction, 3°C will likely suffice. Study after study is showing the size of the threat, yet many people seem out to hide what we’re facing.

“The long-term … trend (graph shown on website) points at 2025 as the year when 3°C rise from preindustrial could be crossed, while the red trend that focuses on short-term events shows how a 3°C rise from preindustrial could be reached as early as in 2020.”

That is, next year.

And if that’s not enough to cheer you up, here’s Paul Beckwith, blogger, Prof. of geography and oceanography at the university of Ottawa:

“Nitrous oxide emissions from our rapidly warming north are up to 12-times higher than we previously thought, since thawing Arctic permafrost is a huge source. The problem is: 1) the top 3 meters of permafrost contains 73 billion tons of nitrogen; 2) as it thaws microbial action releases bucket loads of N2O; and 3) N2O is a very powerful greenhouse gas, with a Global Warming Potential about 300 times that of CO2 (lifetime in atmosphere of 114 years).” (YouTube presentation, citing Wilkerson et al.) As seas warm, we’re also detecting a rise in hydrogen sulphide gas emissions (fart gas) – yet another greenhouse gas.

Middle East: “…extreme weather has caused bizarre ‘ice floods’ to sweep across deserts in Saudi Arabia, Iran, and the United Arab Emirates. The freezing plunge in temperatures has perplexed meteorologists in a region that is typically basking in scorching sunshine at this time of year.  Last week, several parts of Tunisia were hit by snow and torrential rainfall, causing fatalities.” (Express) In other parts of the region, massive dust storms were thrown up by strong downdrafts.

South Africa: “Heavy rain has caused flooding in parts of KwaZulu-Natal and Eastern Cape Provinces. Oribi Gorge in southern KwaZulu-Natal recorded 234mm of rain in 24 hours to early 23 April. Schools and roads have been closed after widespread flooding in the coastal city of Durban. At least 5 people have died and dozens of others have been injured after buildings collapsed during flooding and mudslides in different parts of the city. There are reports of informal settlements in Chatsworth being washed away.” More heavy rain is forecast. In Malawi, at least 3 people have died and 9 are injured after heavy rainstorms triggered landslides in the country’s northern region on 20 April. 5 people are still missing. (Floodlist)

Iran: More than 10 million people have been hit by flooding in Iran. Thousands are homeless after the deluge, and there are fears of more heavy rain. (Al Jazeera) “25 out of 31 of Iran’s provinces have been affected. Officials say 76 people have been killed so far, with some 150,000 homes partially or completely destroyed. Bridges across the country and miles upon miles of road have been left unusable. Authorities say the estimated bill to repair the damage stands at least $2.5 billion.” (NBC)

USA: Houston, Tx. is on flood watch again as yet another band of severe thunderstorms moves slowly northwards across the state. Travel disruption and evacuations are expected with damaging wind, big hail and possibility of tornadoes. (Accuweather). The powerful storms that ripped through parts of the United States last week killed at least 5 people in Mississippi, Florida and Alabama, officials said. (CNN)

Colombia: At least 17 people were killed in a big landslide on Easter Sunday after days of heavy rain (The Weather Channel)

Meanwhile, in Argentina: Storm over Chaco Province. “2 people were electrocuted when power cables fell into flood water in the city of Las Breñas. Among the worst hit areas was Corzuela, where 300mm of rain reportedly fell in just a few hours during the storm. The village of Mesón de Fierro, around 50km south of Corzuela, recorded 380mm. Around 1,800 people have evacuated their homes.” (edited from Floodlist)

Spain: “The central eastern coastal province of Alicante was hit by severe weather between 18 and 22 April,  including winds of 100km/h, waves of more than 2.5 metres and torrential rain. Flash flooding affected several areas of the Valencia region. Images on social media showed flooded streets and some cars completely submerged. The Red Cross said at least 23 people were rescued from the floodwater and around 90 had to stay in a provisional shelter. Xàbia recorded 248.4 mm of rain in 24 hours on 21 April.

UK: Here in the UK to follow the record-breaking warm end of February we’ve had a record-breaking, sunny Easter holiday with the temperature at Heathrow exceeding 25C, 75F. In my shady front garden although it’s clouded over it was still 21C at 7 pm today, Monday 22 April, while the “Max” reading for the weekend is showing 28.5C. Nothing to see there, then, as it’s all crashing back to normal tomorrow. Incidentally, I just drove 200 miles to and back from a jazz weekend in the countryside and all there is by way of squashed bugs on the windshield are a few midges.

 

Affluence corner

One unexpected consequence of the affluent lifestyle: an alarmingly swaying skyscraper in Manila, Philippines emptied its rooftop swimming pool from a great height into the street below, drenching fleeing pedestrians during one of the two M6+ earthquakes that rocked the main island of Luzon on Easter Monday. Video: weather.com/news/weather

According to the local association of funeral directors, it is now more expensive to be dead in Hong Kong than it is to be alive. A niche for a funeral urn in one of the more affluent cemeteries can set you back HK$1.3 million, while burial plots are no longer obtainable owing to lack of undeveloped land. (Guardian)

The Pumpkin – Issue 82: STOP PRESS: Trump wins Augusta Masters golf!…Please don’t make me vomit, Ms McDaniel… Lock ’em up – again… The Great Mystery… GW: Rain, rain, go away, come again some other day. Essay: To hell with the Illuminati, it’s the Bannonites.

Quote of the Week

“Brexit does seem to me a national tragedy… the great lie of the Brexiters, their magic dust, was to persuade 37% of the electorate that the EU, not the UK, was in charge of immigration, and they succeeded.” – Novelist, Ian McEwen.

 

 

STOP PRESS: Trump wins Augusta Masters golf!

The President’s record score of 29 at the virtual Augusta course on the new video golf simulator in the White House, Sunday puts him one stroke ahead of Tiger Woods over the back 9 holes for the Masters’, according to WH spokesmouth, Lyin’ Sarah Sanders.

“Had he been in Georgia, the President clearly would of finished 14 strokes under par”, said Sanders, “overall beating Woods’ 2-under par 70 for the 4th round and 275 for the championship by one stroke. Besides, they shoulda never let a black man on the course.

“The President’s name will go on the Roll of Honor as winning his 19th and most prestigeous professional title yet.”

A tailor has been despatched to Augusta to let out the winner’s green jacket.

 

Please don’t make me vomit, Ms McDaniel

Ronna McDaniel, chair of the Republican National Committee and a Romney by birth, described the congresswoman as “anti-American”.

 

(The following two articles have been moved from this week’s BogPo for reasons of space and tendentiousness.)

Lock ’em up – again

In the shining citadel across the water, a newly fired-up Trump, “exonerated” of the Russia thing (Senate leader McConnell still refuses to allow the Mueller report to go before Congress, so we only have the word of Trump appointee, the increasingly uncomfortable-looking Attorney-General William Barr) has embarked on another round of bloodletting, firing in quick succession his Homeland Security director, one of her deputies and the head of the Secret Service; several other Homeland Security people are also believed to be on the way out.

Advised on the matter by the darkly-brooding racist, Stephen Miller, 33 – a self-styled Svengali figure, Bannon protégé and miraculously one of the few survivors of the original administration – Trump says he does not regard the officials as being tough enough on immigration, which is now his single-issue cause for the 2020 election. Mr Miller will henceforth be in charge of the ethnic cleansing strategy.

There’s growing concern that more than 20 cabinet and senior admin posts including Trump’s Chief of Staff and Defense Secretary, are now occupied by, essentially, ‘temps’ – acting officers under no Congressional oversight, reporting directly to Trump, who holds their places in his gift. Whole government departments including State have been hollowed out, concentrating enormous power in the hands of the President, his closest henchmen and his family (even their positions are not assured).

Did I just find myself writing that? “The President and his family”? What, is this Khazakhstan?

Outgoing DoHS Director, Kirstjen Nielsen – a deeply unpopular figure in the country owing to her department’s policy of concentrating migrant children as young as 18 months in cages, a policy she may soon be asked back to Congress to explain why she lied to them about it – has been quoted as saying, Trump is “increasingly unhinged”.

After his visit with Nielsen to El Paso late last week, Border security officials had to order their staff NOT to follow Trump’s direct instructions to them to turn away anyone applying for legal asylum, and to resume separating children from their families, as both are against the law.

He has since denied instructing them to do any such things, which is plainly another lie. As was his statement to the press that the policy of separating migrant children from their families was instituted under the Obama administration and he was the one who stopped it. Another two whoppers there, it is still continuing. (And people are still prepared to vote for this grotesque, lying old monster to take another turn in the White House? They’re as sick as he is.)

Nielsen confirmed, the President had on a number of occasions called her in the night to order her illegally to defy the courts on immigration policy and even international law.

But then, as we recall, in January, 2017 the newly elected Trump told his friend Chris Christie with regard to a transition budget he thought should be his personally and not the State’s, “I don’t give a fuck about the law, I want my fucking money!” And has since set about bending and stacking and badtweeting the court system he finds such an embarrassment to his financial ambitions – until he needs it to sue somebody.

A malignant, tinpot dictator; and a genuinely mad one too.

It’s really not looking good for any of us, is it.

 

Factoid Corner:

More than 30 million Americans cannot read, write or do basic math to 3rd-grade level. The USA rates 125th out of 187 countries on educational attainment.

 

The Great Mystery

…is, of course, that Mr Trump is not behind bars.

Look, how does he get away from the fact that it is clearly against the law to order another person to commit a crime? That is the definition of conspiracy – criminality by association.

Here is an outgoing senior administrator, nevertheless a subordinate, telling everyone that her boss, the President of the United States, ordered her, more than once, to break the law; which she appears to have done.

But the defense is, well, how come Nielsen is only saying that, now she’s been fired? (Although we’re telling everyone she resigned….) (Stephen Colbert had a neat gag – “She’s resigning to spend more time breaking up her family”!)

And just weeks ago the convicted felon, Michael Cohen gave testimony to Congress under oath that the President of the United States, his former employer for 10 years in a private capacity, had ordered him to break the law on “maybe, at least” 500 occasions.

The defense was: “He’s a convicted felon, what do you expect?” Although they know perfectly well he can’t get any further mitigation by testifying, now he’s been sentenced.) And the likelihood is, evidence of those multiple occasions, both written and taped, would have been seized by the FBI in raids on premises connected with Cohen. Evidence!

We know from court testimony that Trump misdirected Cohen and probably Broidy too, to misuse over $2 million of campaign funds to pay off inconvenient mistresses; one of whom may not have put him in good with the Pro-Lifers in his base. Why does he remain an “unindicted co-conspirator” in that regard, why has he not been charged?

We believe too that those funds included illegal foreign donations, that are now being linked possibly to a huge criminal case in Malaysia. No satisfactory account has been produced, of moneys apparently left unspent from his supersized inauguration fund, that were still being received long after the inauguration. Nothing more is heard of the special fund Cohen says he ran to sell access to the Oval Office, again with foreign money.

And there were the artificially inflated assets he is said to have declared, to fraudulently obtain $2 billion in loans from Deutsche Bank; and the junk bonds he defaulted on, to build the failed Taj Mahal casino in Atlantic City; and the personal legal expenses he covered with money from his tax-exempt charity Foundation….

All water under the bridge, move on!

The list goes on and on and on, dating back far beyond any statute of limitations; and yet nothing is ever done about him; although tax journalist, David Cay Johnson says he was quietly fined twice for tax fraud back in the 1990s. His placeman, Treasury Secretary Mnuchin is technically in charge of the Internal Revenue Service, thus Congress is unable to have sight of his tax returns, while the subpoenas of the lower House apparently have no force in law to make him produce them. Is he possibly hiding something?

What was the Constitution for? The Founding Fathers could have used the time more productively beating their slaves.

Now we have the farce of Mueller. I imagine his damned 400-page report is on a thumb drive in a bank vault for his protection, but taxpayers were sold a $24 million bill of goods on the irreproachable integrity of the granite-jawed ex-Marine who now refuses to speak out in defense of his own unpublished investigation as it is slowly and comprehensively being excised – its unwanted “facts” – Evidence! – trashed and buried by the Justice Department and Trump’s corrupt enablers in the Senate.

What in God’s name is there in the US Constitution that prevents anyone in authority from simply arresting this criminal person and bringing charges of conspiracy to cause others – his accountants, e.g., – to commit Federal crimes? They even managed to get Al Capone in the end, and when it came to financial crime he – well, he found it easier to sell bootleg liquor and organize the odd massacre, but they couldn’t prove that.

The evidence against Trump is overwhelming, yet the bar is set so high the relevant authorities seem mesmerised and in fear of looking foolish. It seems that it is always evidence “of the wrong kind” – non-proceedable. No smoking guns, just smoke. If this were anybody else, he would be behind bars now. Instead, crouched behind a barricade of lawyers and more lawyers, he is consolidating absolute power into his own tiny hands.

Why – how – does he get away with it, time and again?

I have speculated before that he must enjoy special protection. Ultimately, every case against him has to be made go away lest it reveals some uncomfortable truth that is never spoken about.

Is – or was – he possibly ever a mafia informant?

No, ridiculous. He’s just living proof of how a bullshitter can succeed in a country that lives and dies by bullshit.

 

Factoid Corner

Over 1200 cases of Ebola have been reported in Congo (DRC), with over 750 deaths and mounting. Authorities and NGOs are struggling to contain a major outbreak.

25% of Congolese surveyed still say they don’t believe Ebola exists.

 

GW: Rain, rain, go away, come again some other day

Colombia: “…since the start of the rainy season, 1 April,  the National Crisis Room has recorded 57 severe weather events, including damage caused by torrential rain and thunderstorms, as well as 24 landslides and 19 floods. 10 people are known to have died.” (Floodlist)

China: “Heavy rain from late on 11 April caused severe flooding in the southern Chinese city of Shenzhen (and other areas of Guangdong Province). China’s National Meteorological Center reported that 118.8mm of rain fell in Wuchuan in 24 hours to 12 April.” Xinhua news agency says that at least 7 people have died and 4 are still missing. (Floodlist)

USA: “Powerful storms swept across the southern US on Sunday, after unleashing suspected tornadoes and flooding that killed at least 8 people, including three children, injured dozens and flattened much of a Texas town. Close to 100 homes were destroyed. Nearly 90,000 customers were without power in Texas, Mississippi, Louisiana, Arkansas and Georgia as of midday Sunday.” More storms were forecast moving through during the week. (Guardian/Weather Channel)

Previously: “Winter Storm Wesley continued to wreak havoc on Minnesota and the Dakotas Friday morning (12 April), closing schools and government offices, knocking out power to tens of thousands. 3 people are believed to have died. Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz declared a state of emergency Thursday night in 64 counties and three tribal nations to deal with the heavy snow and flooding that continues in the state. He also authorized the state’s National Guard to provide emergency aid.” (The Weather Channel)

In an extraordinary time-lapse sequence, the shoreline of Lake Superior is seen freezing over in a matter of hours as a result of being “spray-frozen” by a strong easterly wind.

Up to 14% of the labor force in midwestern states are reported to have relocated to other parts of the country, especially the cities, since vast tracts of land became flooded over the winter and there’s seemingly no end to the chain of storms bringing late winter snow and heavy rain across the region. It’s not known if these internal “climate refugees” intend to resettle permanently, but the effect on agricultural output is likely to be significant. (Floodlist, citing LinkedIn and other sources)

Ghana: 7 people have died as the capital, Accra, floods again following three hours of torrential rain. Inadequate drainage is being blamed for the flooding, the second such incident this month.

United Arab Emirates: Emergency services rescued more than 700 people from flash flooding in a northern district on 13 April. Hundreds of cars were washed away.  “Wadi Shiha in the mountains of Ras Al Khaimah received record high rainfall of 247.4 mm.” (Floodlist)

Nicaragua: not a single leatherback turtle made it to the annual egg-laying on the beach at Chacocente this year. Part of the problem is, warming oceans are contributing to a growing imbalance in the sex of the turtles, with many more females hatching than males. The other part of the problem is poaching: Nicaraguan men apparently think eating turtle eggs makes them sexier. Like the planet needs more dismal cretins.

UK: A taste of things to come, the Glasgow Herald reports, around 450 thousand sheep and newborn lambs in Scotland may have died in the “Beast from the East” cold weather anomaly in March of 2018, resulting in compensation payments of over £100 million. Many more sheep and cattle were then slaughtered due to lack of forage available during the subsequent six-weeks drought and record temperatures, as the grass failed to grow.

“An independent report for the World Wildlife Fund in Scotland found farmers had lost £161 million in 2018. That amounted to six per cent of total farm output.” Vegetable prices, too, increased dramatically over the year. “Farm-gate wholesale prices, said the WWF report, were up 80% for carrots, 41% for onions and 61% for lettuce between March and July of last year.” The picture was no better in England.

The Easter weekend is expected in many places to be around 9C above the average high for the time of year.

  • Insurers Aon report, global flooding events in March alone have led to $8 billion in insured losses.

 

Plagiarism Corner

To hell with the Illuminati, it’s the Bannonites

I am now going to break the solemn oath of journalists the world over and reproduce here part of an article published on Open Democracy, 14 April at a length that would normally be considered excessive for the purposes of review and illustration.

Why? Because it mentions a number of malefactors I have previously written about in other Posts, who are linked (in my mind at least) with a millionaire British ultranationalist “disruptor” called Jim Dowson, who never seems to feature anywhere in the investigations into who funded the unofficial Leave.EU campaign, although he boasted about it, and I want to show you that I am not some paranoid Remainer fantasist!

It also introduces a new “disruptor” in the person of Benjamin Harnwell. Both men are virulent alt-right Christians: anti-LGBTQ, anti-Islam, anti-abortion, anti-EU, who – by far cleverer journalists than me – it’s claimed are funded by dark money sources linked to the Kremlin, via the Russian Orthodox Church.

You should refer to the full article in Democracy Now, but I suspect you have an urgent appointment, so the following extract will have to do.

To give it full accreditation, and my apologies (I have sent OD a little more guilt money and helpfully corrected a number of typos), it is an article entitled:

How Pope Francis became a hate figure for the far right

by: Leigh Baldwin, Marcus Leroux, Claudia Torrisi and Stefano Vergine

“Steve Bannon apparently doesn’t choose small targets”, said John Carr, a former policy chief at the US Conference of Catholic Bishops. “He helped make Trump President and now he wants to undermine the leadership (of) Pope Francis”.

(I have written before about Bannon’s relationship with the extremist US Cardinal Burke – a fancy dresser who, according to the article, is behind a kind of ‘birther’ movement supporting the retired Pope Benedict against the current incumbent* – and how their associate Joseph E Schmitz, a self-proclaimed “Knight of Malta” driven by fear and loathing of Islam, penetrated both the Pentagon and later the White House.)

The DHI institute in Italy, of which Bannon is a patron, was founded by a British former Conservative party member called Benjamin Harnwell who converted to Catholicism in 2004 and was chief of staff for a British MEP, Nirj Deva, in Brussels until late 2010.

(Dowson had been a Presbyterian minister.)

Harnwell was introduced to Bannon by another American and former Breitbart contributor Austin Ruse, who runs a Catholic conservative lobby group called C-Fam that has been described as an anti-LGBT ‘hate group’ by the Southern Poverty Law Center.

C-Fam has disputed this description, calling it a “false moniker (that) has been wielded by those who oppose the natural family and marriage”. (With the natural family defined as a man, woman and their children and marriage as between opposite-sex couples only).

Also on DHI’s board of trustees, “Austin is one of these people who has taken the pro-life cause and connected to a much larger agenda of conservative politics and power”, said Carr.

The Institute’s chairman, meanwhile, is Luca Volonte, an Italian politician and anti-abortion campaigner who is currently on trial in Milan facing corruption charges.

Leaked accounts from Volonte’s charitable trust, seen by SourceMaterial, show the influx of more than a million euros from companies that were identified as part of a “laundromat” used to pump illicit cash into Europe from Azerbaijan and Russia.

Bank statements for his Novae Terrae foundation from 2014 to 2017 show that among the first beneficiaries of this influx of funds was Harnwell, who received €12,000 in 2014.

Others included Edward Pentin, a DHI communications consultant who received €1,000 that year. He told SourceMaterial this payment was for help arranging a DHI conference in 2014.

Along with a business associate of Konstantin Malofeev, a Russian oligarch close to Vladimir Putin, both Ruse and Volonte are directors of the International Organization for the Family (IOF) that runs the World Congress of Families (WCF) network of ultra-conservatives.

(I have written before about Malofeev, a minor oligarch who channels money for the Orthodox Church and is a disciple of Aleksandr Dugin, said at times to be Putin’s spiritual advisor and a latter-day Rasputin.)

Others in DHI’s colourful cast include a “priest to the stars”; a chairman of the hard-right Bow Group think-tank whose flight to a WCF event in Moscow was paid by a Putin-linked oligarch; and a one-time lobbyist for Bosnian-Serb leader Radovan Karadzic.

Source: http://www.opendemocracy.net/en/5050/how-pope-francis-became-hate-figure-far-right/?utm_source=Daily+Newsletter&utm_campaign=1fa6ba4e22-DAILY_NEWSLETTER_MAILCHIMP&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_717bc5d86d-1fa6ba4e22-408090269

* See also LA Times: Is Pope Francis being upstaged by his opinionated predecessor? (14 April) http://www.latimes.com/opinion/enterthefray/la-ol-francis-benedict-20190412-story.html

Leigh Baldwin and Marcus Leroux are investigative journalists with Source Material. Claudia Torrisi is a reporter for openDemocracy’s gender and sexuality section, 50.50 and its Tracking the Backlash special investigation. Stefano Vergine is an Italian freelance journalist who co-authored a book on Italy’s Lega party.

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

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

 

“Take cover.”

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

The Pumpkin writes:

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

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

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

So what do we think we know?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The case of the hot lady lawyer

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

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

“No collusion”, then.

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

Was any pledged to the Trump campaign at that meeting?

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

Where had that information come from?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Nerves of Steele

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Burden of proof

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Trump Unleashed

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Finale: The Kush

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Pumpkin’s advice: “Take cover”.

 

False flags

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Oooh, cynical, Rachel.

 

GW: Cry me an atmospheric river

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

Jeremy Corbyn with Labour councillor for Morecambe Lizzi Collinge.

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

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

 

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

No colusion

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But “no collusion” with Russia!

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

 

Stormy weathered

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thus it begins

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

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

 

Nominative Determinism corner

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

 

Is it somehow getting colder?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Algorithm Corner

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

The Idiot in the Box

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

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

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

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

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

But you can’t tell them.

Whose daft idea was this?

 

GW: It never rains but it pours

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Pumpkin – issue 77: Why Trump hates Puerto Rico… Why we love Randy Rainbow (and you will, too!)… Yang and the Big Yin… A voice from the dead… Eat shit, dystopians… GW: Ooh, what a spin I’m in… Ending it all down under

Quote of the Day

“Unfortunately, the Nazis don’t play cricket. If they did, we wouldn’t be on opposite sides now.” – Capt. Mainwaring (from BBC TV’s “Dad’s Army”)

 

Ivanka Trump, left, and Jared Kushner.

“So long, suckers! Thanks for all the security clearances…”

(Lucy Nicholson/Reuters. Sorry!)

Why Trump hates Puerto Rico

Wanna know why Trump hates Puerto Rico so much?

Maybe because it’s got the word ‘RICO’ in the name.

RICO – The Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act – is the 1970 Act of Congress detailing how prosecutors can go after organized crime.

“The RICO Act focuses specifically on racketeering and allows the leaders of a syndicate to be tried for the crimes they ordered others to do or assisted them in doing, closing a perceived loophole that allowed a person who instructed someone else to, for example, murder, to be exempt from the trial because they did not actually commit the crime personally.” (Wikipedia)

In the light of key moments in the Michael Cohen testimony to Congress, when he averred that Trump uses a kind of coded mobspeak to persuade people indirectly to carry out illegal acts that benefit him without putting himself in the frame, and did so in the case of Cohen’s buying the silence of porn star Stormy Daniels with election funds, people are increasingly talking about bringing RICO to bear on his former employer.

No-one yet wants to accuse Trump of being an actual mob boss, a racketeer – but many people from former FBI director James Comey and his successor, Andrew McCabe, to Congressman Schiff and the liberal media are drawing attention to the obvious parallels between the way Trump runs his businesses, the way he suborns everyone around him to do his bidding, reeling them in one bad deed at a time, insisting on personal loyalty and a code of omerta, and the way mafia bosses ran – or run – their ‘families’; spinning a web of corruption, lies and deceit around everyone and everything he deals with.

Just the way Trump tweeted that Cohen was a “rat” is being seen as proof that the president is not the legitimate businessman he boasts he is. Because to “rat” in criminal circles is not to lie, but to spill the actual beans.

And Trump has beans in spades.

Given that Trump’s mentor was the notorious mob attorney and top-level ‘fixer’ of politicians, police chiefs and judges, Roy Cohn, and his associates have included ‘Fat Tony’ Salerno, a member of the Gambino crime family, and Felix Sater, an associate of the Armenian-born Russian mob boss Semyon Mogilevitch, who invested unwisely in Trump casinos, it’s not really a surprise.

What is a surprise is that the RICO Act was most successfully put into practise by none other than Rudy Giuliani, the ‘shoot-from-the-mouth’ lawyer Trump now relies on to protect him in countless bizarre media interviews, back in the days when, as a New York Attorney-General in the mid-1980s, and later as mayor, he was instrumental in taking down the city’s notorious crime families.

Could this be why Trump appointed him – and despite his many gaffes, keeps him on? Because he knows more about racketeering and how it is investigated than most lawyers ever will, is Giuliani the gamekeeper-turned-poacher for the head of the criminal Trump Organization, now being investigated by the Southern District Court on at least 18 counts of fraudulent financial activity, obstruction of justice, bribery, extortion, witness intimidation, organized employment of undocumented immigrants, etc.?

You know, stuff the mob does?

In a widely quoted piece in the New York Times today, historian and author, Garrett M Graff writes:

“The parallels between the Mafia and the Trump Organization are more than we might like to admit. … Cohen was clear about the rot at the center of his former employer: ‘Everybody’s job at the Trump Organization is to protect Mr. Trump. Every day most of us knew we were coming and we were going to lie for him about something. That became the norm.’

“Indicting the whole Trump Organization as a ‘corrupt enterprise’ could help prosecutors address the thorny question of whether the president can be indicted in office.” Graff writes. For a second time, Trump could be labelled as an “unindicted co-conspirator” as, from the relative safety of the Oval Office, he watches helplessly while his rackety empire is progressively dismantled around him. At that point, getting himself re-elected in 2020 would not be much help.

RICO would also allow the authorities to seize the assets and interdict the revenue streams of Trump’s entire operation; possibly to prosecute the officers of the company, including Trump’s awful children – and impeach the President himself, actions neither the Mueller probe nor the splurge of inquiries and subpoenas of documents announced by the Democrats having fun with their newfound majority in the House of Representatives seems likely to be able to achieve on its own.

http://www.nytimes.com/2019/03/04/opinion/rudy-giuliani-trump.html

 

Why we love Randy Rainbow (and you will, too!)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z7q0bz0sk30

 

Yang and the Big Yin

“There is something deeper, most commentators feel, that he doesn’t want to come out; something for which he is preparing to exercise the Presidential pardon on his own account if Mueller or the FBI gets too close. It is something potentially so serious that he has twice in the past week been prepared to say, or not say, dumb or reckless things that add to the growing tally of reasons to impeach him. He’s prepared to risk his position, to bet the presidency on it.”

The Pumpkin made that comment about two years ago, but we are still really no wiser.

The “thing” he didn’t want to come out then is most probably the Trump Tower Moscow story, that has emerged from the investigations into Trump’s legal fixer and bagman, Michael Cohen – now staring at a three-stretch and pouring his little heart out to Congressional committees.

He and several of Trump’s staff were involved in clandestine Russia trips and meetings during the 2016 election campaign that have since turned out to have been involved with his plans for a huge and lucrative hotel complex, that required Putin’s permission. Plans the boss didn’t want the minor inconvenience of running for President and even possibly being elected to get in the way of.

It’s one possible explanation for why he so vehemently denied time and again he had any business in Russia, which was a Bigly Lie; and why he has done everything in his power to please Putin, as he stood to gain hundreds of millions of dollars from the project. And in part why the puppetmaster, Putin has kept him dangling on a string ever since.

However, those pesky sex scandals never seem to be far away. The Daily Kos website and others are currently digging into a story that starts like this:

“In late February, billionaire Robert Kraft, owner of the New England Patriots, was arrested in a prostitution sting centered around a day spa in Jupiter, Florida. Kraft faces two counts of soliciting sex, and prosectors say evidence includes video surveillance taken at the spa.

The investigation uncovered a series of crimes taking place there, resulting in charges that include human trafficking, racketeering and money laundering. (All my italics. A quick divert to en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Meyer_Lansky will bring you up to speed on the history of mafia activities in Florida and elsewhere.)

“Turns out, spa founder Cindy Yang is quite the fan of Donald Trump and Republicans, and has appeared at a number of Republican events. She was also a guest at Mar-a-Lago for a Super Bowl watch party with Donald Trump himself.” (http://www.dailykos.com)

Yang has also personally donated over $50 thousand to Trump’s 2020 campaign war chest; and she and her family are or were the owners of a number of other suspected “rub-and-tug” massage parlor operations across the state, ten of which have been closed down by investigators on suspicion of employing undocumented women. Since selling her original spa, she has founded a lobbying business fairly openly selling access to Trump during Mar-a-Lago weekends. Did he know about that?

(Incidentally, Googling “Trump; Kraft” will bring all this up on Mother Jones and other websites, including the Miami Herald, which seems to have broken the story in the first place as its reporting is extensively quoted with little attribution elsewhere.)

The story reminds us however of a previous exposé in The Daily Kos, regarding Trump’s New York model agency in the 1990s and a string of under-age, ‘size-zero’ models imported as undocumented migrant workers from Eastern Europe; some of whom may have ended up at another agency owned by notorious pedophile and “man about town”, John Casablancas, a “friend” of Trump’s – along with his 14-year-old daughter, Ivanka.

That line about “charges that include human trafficking, racketeering and money laundering” therefore gains a certain resonance in the light of The Pumpkin’s lead story, above, that the Southern District court of New York is considering invoking the RICO anti-racketeering Act to enhance their powers to investigate the Trump Organization and its officers – among them, his children.

For here is a direct connection apparently between Trump’s operation and another family network in Florida accused of involvement in what look remarkably like organized criminal activities, as listed in both hearings. The Herald reports:

“Facebook is covered in photos of (Yang) standing with President Trump, his two sons, Eric and Donald Jr., Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, Sen. Rick Scott, Sarah Palin, the president’s campaign manager and an assortment of other high-level Republican operators.”

Whie she was also photographed alongside Trump with Kraft at a Patriots’ party at Mar-a-Lago.

The Pumpkin has long wondered, and publicly posed the question wherever able, about Trump’s apparent obsession over images of young women with their hands bound and tape over their mouths, bleeding from the eyes, etc. It’s something he frequently alludes to during his rambling campaign speeches about immigrants, traffickers and gang crime.

It may be an image he got from a movie. In a recent speech to his MAGA dumbfucks in El Paso, he recounted as entirely truthful, a completely fictitious scene involving migrants on the border that he had most probably seen in a film, as several keen cinéastes have pointed out. So that could be the most probable explanation for his flashbacks to girls being kidnapped, tortured and even murdered. He saw it in a movie.

What kind of movies does the president watch?

The other explanation doesn’t bear thinking about. But it’s probably all just innocent fun. As The Kos optimistically concludes:

“If nothing else, it shows just how easy it is to buy access, and that should be troubling to us all.”

 

A voice from the dead

A six-week old embryo in Alabama is suing a 16 year-old-girl for aborting it.

Using a new ‘personhood’ law pushed through the legislature by an anti-abortion group, 19-year-old Ryan Magers has brought a joint action together with his putative, never-to-be born son or daughter against his unnamed former girlfriend, the family planning clinic AND the pharmaceutical company that made the pill, for infringing his paternal rights.

No-one is saying who put this little shit up to it, he’s unemployed and can’t afford a lawsuit, but the girl, who was underage at thde time and now faces an uncertain future as she has been named in court as “the Mother” is insistent she did not consent to sex. The inchoate bundle of cells she expelled is being named in the case as “Baby Roe”.

It’s not a baby. She’s not a mother. Ryan is not a father. But he is a rapist, and the Alabama court system appears not to care about that part.

It’s the first case of its kind and if the judge rules in favour of the plaintiff it’ll set a troubling precedent in terms of male rights over women’s bodies.

Great news on International Women’s Day. But make no mistake:

The Evangelicals and the Trump Judges are coming for you. (Story: Jill Filipovic, in The Guardian)

 

“We truly live in a world spiralling into madness and the dark.”

Eat shit, dystopians

“Washington’s ambassador to the UK has defended the US’s approach to food hygiene and farming. Criticism of US food standards was ‘designed to reduce not increase trade’,” Woody Johnson told the BBC. “Mr Johnson said the UK should accept American meat as part of a post-Brexit trade deal. ‘To get a robust trade arrangement, that lifts all boats, it has to include farming and farm products,’ he said.”

If that sounds reasonable, The Pumpkin would like to refer you to an excellent piece written for The Guardian this morning by Mr George ‘Useless’ Eustice, the recently resigned Minister for Agriculture, Food and Fisheries, on the subject of America’s antediluvian farming practices.

It’s not for the squeamish.

http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2019/mar/06/us-chlorinated-chicken-trade-deal-agriculture

Mr Eustice, a farming MP who has quit his post over the usual Brexit disagreements, nevertheless makes some very robust points. Britain was largely responsible, he argues, for raising all the boats in the EU when it comes to more humane farming practices, clearer food labelling and product hygiene.

Are we going to throw all that away to become part of the virtually unregulated Big Food production racket? (He doesn’t mention the Chicago mafia, but the huge US food conglomerates and their lackadaisical attitudes to animal welfare, consumer protection and pollution runoff have mostly grown out of the criminal monopolies and union abuses of the 1920s.)

Well, it’s a good question, George. If you don’t believe we should be bullied into accepting cheap industrialized food dumped on us from the USA, why did you vote to leave the EU, you dismal shit-shoveller? What else did you think would happen? Farmers are committing suicide in droves already because of what you’ve done.

And if there is one thing in your article it might be possible to doubt, it is the optimistic assertion that the Yanks (their meat-producers’ cabal already seeking entry by the back door of the Institute for Economic Reform, parent of the treasonous Parliamentary conspiracy known as Jacobin Irish-Mogg’s European Research Group – are you starting to twig what’s been going on, you Leavers?) are going to accept our rules and regulations.

Yet you are well spoken of in farming circles. We truly live in a world spiralling into madness and the dark.

Britain should tell Robert Wood “Woody” Woodpecker 1V to go fuck a chlorinated chicken. What does this overprivileged, aristocratic scion of a baby-powder dynasty know about UK/EU food standards and farming, anyway?

How dare he come over here and order us that it’s shit or bust as far as a post-Brexit trade deal with his failing country goes? Is this their subtle way of negotiating? Are we going to accept being a directly ruled province of the criminal US empire and go down the pan with them?

Also, kindly note one detail of Johnson’s remarks. He says: ‘farming AND farm products’. In other words, we don’t just have to take their chemically supplemented, mechanically rendered horseflesh in our shops, to accept the millions of extra food-miles needed to turn us all into gross, waddling blimps and give us endemic cancer and irritable bowel syndrome to keep the US healthcare corporations Mr Johnson will no doubt order us next to replace the NHS, happy.

No, we have to accept their “farming” too – i.e. submit to allowing US producers to set up their black-site torture-factories in leafy Britain, without submitting to UK/EU regulatory standards; putting UK producers out of business.

No, we’re proud Britons! Oh, oh yes, right, sorry….

It seems to The Pumpkin that so much about America still smacks of the early-20th century: its abusive labor laws, its collapsing infrastructure, its rigged Tammany Hall elections, its casual brutalities, its isolationism, its intolerance of any hint of social co-operation (a huge threat to corporate interests) – the ignorance and fear of its citizens, the corruption, racism and institutionalized criminalities of its rotten system of governance; its flag-shagging, God-bothering hypocrisies; its rapacious business culture, its childlike militarism; its desperately limited, fiber-free diet.

Which is why I voted not to leave the EU rather than be dragged screaming into the nightmare of Trumpworld. Could you not see this coming, you pointless, half-witted Leavers swiping kiddie porn day and night, on your piss-stained, pay-nothing-now, sale-bargain sofas, guzzling your fucking giant bargain buckets of lardy chickenshit in roomsful of discarded £4 Primark sweaters?

Welcome to dystopia.

 

Footnote:

A Matter of National Pride

The American Cancer Society says the jury’s very much out on baby powder. But a New York Times article last December describes how Johnson & Johnson has for many years been using lobbyists to fight a desperate rearguard action to convince American mothers that their talc product is free from carcinogenic asbestos contamination; which it possibly isn’t.

“In one instance, Johnson & Johnson demanded that the government block unfavorable findings from being made public. An executive ultimately won assurances from an official at the Food and Drug Administration that the findings would be issued only ‘over my dead body,’ a memo summarizing the meeting said.”

Currently, there are 12 THOUSAND lawsuits pending against billionaire Ambassador Woody Hardon’s family business. No wonder he seems particularly sensitive to criticisms of safety standards in the US factory farming industry. It’s a matter of national pride.

http://www.nytimes.com/2018/12/14/business/baby-powder-asbestos-johnson-johnson.html?mc=contentSEintl&ad-keywords=IntlAudDev&gclid=CjwKCAiA_P3jBRAqEiwAZyWWaNLAPA–AvDWSFF6jt4cYnGxjQDyfLOkpHCPIbB03mOg60PebEUa3xoCAjgQAvD_BwE

 

 

GW: Ooh, what a spin I’m in

USA: The Weather Channel reports, the contiguous USA (that’s the big bit without the colonies) had its wettest ever winter season (December to March). Averaged over the whole country, they’ve had more than 9 inches of rain (31 inches over the whole year, thanks to Hurricane Florence), with local rainfall and snowfall records set in many places; and the second wettest ever February. It’s never been wetter before in Tennessee. Nome, Alaska held the snowfall record with 69 inches. Despite all that, thanks to a weak El Niño, a warmer December and a Top 10 warm winter in the southeastern states it has still been the 38th warmest of the past 124 winters.

This may sound familiar, however: “Another powerful low-pressure system will track across the Lower 48 late this week and into the weekend, bringing snow and wind from the West into the Plains and Midwest and a risk of severe thunderstorms to the South.” (Forecast, 6 March). Winter ain’t done yet. Before and after photos of the devastation caused by the monster EF-4 hurricane that tore through Lee County, Alabama last week killing 23 people, can be seen at weather.com/storms/tornado/news/2019-03-05-before-and-after-images-tornado-damage-alabama?cm_ven=wu_videos?cm_ven=hp-slot-3.

Africa: Heavy rains in southern and central parts of Malawi have caused flooding and rivers to overflow, in particular the Shire River in Chikwawa, where local media say 6 people have died and many more are missing in flash floods and river flooding after 160mm of rain fell in one day. (Floodlist)

Indonesia: Heavy rain on Flores Island caused flooding and landslides in West Manggarai Regency early on 7 March. At least 2 people have died, 6 are still missing and 3 reported injured. (Floodlist) There’s also flooding in Java.

Arctic: As we head into spring in the northern hemisphere, Arctic sea ice “Extent (extent is not volume, by the way) for February 2019 averaged 14.40 million square kilometers (5.56 million square miles). This was 900,000 square kilometers (347,000 square miles) below the 1981 to 2010 long-term average extent. For the Arctic as a whole, 2019 tied with 2015 for the 7th lowest average February extent in the 1979 to 2019 satellite record.” (US National Snow, Ice and Data Center) BBC reports, Greenland is getting too much rain in winter when it should be snowing, says a new report.

Antarctic: More shocking are the satellite images for the South Pole, revealing an enormous loss of ice that was in extent in January the third lowest since 1981, but in concentration visibly thinning everywhere. “Across the entire continent, there are more than 750,000 square miles of sea ice missing, a record deficit for this time of year. Antarctica will keep shedding sea ice for about another six weeks or so, and is currently on pace to drop far below the all-time record low set in 2016.” (Grist, 3 Jan) The Ross Ice Shelf retreated a month before it usually does. Loss of sea ice leads to shelf collapse, allowing the major glaciers to slip into the sea. A global rise of 3 meters would follow, if they all did.

 

Ending it all down under

Australia: Readers, Spammers etc. will be broadly aware that the climate in Australia has crashed spectacularly. Record heatwaves both for temperature and duration, record floods, cyclones, record wildfires – economic damage, increasing food (and wine!) production problems, major loss of wildlife, another vast area of the Great Barrier coral reef bleached beyond recovery. All these have occurred in the past year.

It’s coming into autumn now and the furthestmost southerly part of Australia, the part nearest the Antarctic – the island of Tasmania – has had an appalling summer of fires rampaging through its unique ancestral forest, while only two days ago, 5 March, the temperature exceeded 39 degrees C.

Controversy over the failed policies of successive governments to take more than a passing interest in these problems grinds on. It’s currently focussed on this phantom “emissions reduction fund” of AU$2bn set up in 2009, that appears to have done precisely nothing as emissions continue to rise, but which has become a political football. Most recently, the Morrison government decided to rename it the “climate solutions package” – from which it has already made a big grant to global mining company RTZ to operate a new diesel-fired power plant up in Arnhemland, adding to emissions.

Finagling of “carry-over” carbon credits has also allowed the government to pretend they’re making progress on meeting their Paris targets by contributing years of past credits – which are earned by selling your excess emissions to less polluting countries – under the old Kyoto agreement, to the current account balance. In the meantime, Australian ministers of the bluffer sort continue to ridicule the science behind climate change, and to promote the country’s main source of energy: no, not vast amounts of free sunlight – coal.

Now there’s a report in The Guardian that possibly explains why they’re continuing with this suicide mission. Lobbyists in Australia have been secretly hurling money into the blazing reactor of official denial and indifference:

“The multinational mining giant Glencore spent millions bankrolling a secret, globally coordinated campaign to prop up coal demand by undermining environmental activists, influencing politicians and spreading sophisticated pro-coal messaging on social media. An investigation by Guardian Australia can reveal the covert campaign, dubbed “Project Caesar”, was orchestrated by world-renowned political operatives at the C|T Group, the firm founded by Sir Lynton Crosby (the genius behind Theresa May’s 2017 ‘Strong and stable’ election trainwreck) and Mark Textor.”

The $7 million campaign has used personalized social media messaging and conventional media to target disinformation – fake news – aimed at undermining environmental organizations such as Greenpeace and companies promoting renewables, and “helped set up online grassroots groups to push positive messaging about clean coal technology”. Or, as Glencore’s spokesmouth puts it: “The project’s objective was to convey simple facts about coal and in particular to counter misinformation from environmental activists.”

I don’t know about you, but your old Granny is warming to the idea that the only solution to these sick bastards and their bottomless pockets the world over is extreme personal violence.

http://www.theguardian.com/business/2019/mar/07/revealed-glencore-bankrolled-covert-campaign-to-prop-up-coal