An Apple a day…. Is the war in Afghanistan finally over?… Don’t mention the other war!… The madness of King Donald… GW: means Grotty Weather, of course.

Quote of the Week:

“At 6.25am, I catch the first bus back into town and begin a day of intensive shoplifting. Such is my life for as long as it lasts.” – Writer and broadcaster Wilfred De’Ath, who has died, aged 82. From his final column.

De’Ath spent the last many years of his life wandering the byways and alleyways of England and France as a persistent and always triumphantly annoying homeless man, a diabetic amputee, camping (though not always welcome) in often freezing churches and hospitals where sleep is discouraged, writing a wry monthly column for The Oldie magazine. Nurses especially were never safe from his clutches; his picaresque accounts of a life of boozy sexual conquests and his feeble defence of Jimmy Savile are unreliably awful.

A true English eccentric, he leaves one son, Charles.

 

“More than 80% of patients have mild disease and will recover, 14% have severe disease including pneumonia and shortness of breath, 5% have critical disease including respiratory failure, septic shock and multi-organ failure, and 2% of cases are fatal.

“The risk of death increases the older you are.” – WHO official.

Yes folks, it’s the Baby Boomer Plague!

Only avocado toast can save us.

 

British Home Secretary Priti Patel looks on as British Prime Minister Boris Johnson chairs a cabinet meeting. (Paul Ellis/Reuters)

“We’re only taking the brightest and the best. And you weren’t born here, BoZo, so you’re on the next charter flight to Patagonia.”

An Apple a day….

Poor Apple, thanks to Covid-19 unable to get any more iPhones and stuff made in and exported from China, their shares are down 4% today, 18 Feb. 4% of a trillion dollar market cap is a pretty big lot of money to you and me.

(Although, happy day, I’ve provisionally managed to sell one of my guitars over the weekend!)

No wonder so many Republican Senators and Steve Bannon are convinced it’s all a Chinese plot to destroy the US economy; claiming that a military-grade virus was deliberately let loose from a top secret government facility disguised as a fish market in Wuhan, or something.

Not going to win many wars with a 2% kill-rate and a 14-day incubation period, are they, these Chinese? Not going to defeat America with, what, 29 cases in three months, all of them caught abroad? When they’ve already killed off 2,000 of their own people?

What mysterious plague has infected these Republicans, I wonder?

They all seem to be utter cretins.

 

Corona v. Us

As 150 million Chinese remain in lockdown to try to contain what seems for most to be no worse than the usual seasonal ‘flu outbreaks everywhere gets this time of year – deaths from ‘flu in the USA are running well over 12 thousand and nobody seems in the slightest bit concerned – the Financial Times is speaking of the world economy in fretful terms: “Global outlook darkening.”

Except that reports of a tiny fall in the rate of infection in Wuhan pushed world markets up by 1% in overnight trading. They are nothing if not optimists, the men who bet on flies.

18 Feb., the number of cases on ‘death cruise’ ship, Diamond Princess, in Yokohama harbor has risen to 542, another 66 being confirmed overnight – including the Abels, a plucky British couple who have been bogling about it from their cabin and say they were frogmarched off to a hostel with no wi-fi or phone signal, protesting that they don’t have the disease and if they really do, why aren’t they in proper hospital? (Update: they are now. It pays to complain.)

The British government has finally made vague waffling noises about arranging an evacuation flight for the trapped Brits, and has booked-out the Holiday Inn at Heathrow as a provisional holding tank. I’m not sure which would be worse?

Dr Sylvie Briand, head of the WHO’s endemic diseases division put the plight of the passengers – many of whom have since been repatriated – into some kind of perspective: “We need to make sure that we focus on our objective, our public health objective, which is to contain the virus, not to contain the people,” she said, pointedly.

Lawyers are now getting involved as it has dawned on some people that trapping 3,700 passengers and crew together in the confined space of a ship was more likely to spread than to contain a highly infectious disease.

New cases are increasing in Japan, with the infection now being transmitted locally, according to Japan Times. Singapore has slashed its GDP growth forecast for 2020 by a percentage point as cases there pass 75.

Premier Xi reportedly learned of the outbreak two weeks before any official announcements were made, according to the FT. China’s Central Bank has lowered interest rates to prop up the stockmarket. Farmers are having to slaughter millions of chickens owing to a shortage of feed.

In Wuhan, Liu Zhiming, the senior medical physician fighting the outbreak, has died, age 51. Snatch squads are making door-to-door searches for possible hidden victims, police are reportedly barricading people in their homes.

Two citizen journalists who reported on the situation in Wuhan have disappeared under the guise of “quarantine”. The Chinese internet, too, is in virtual lockdown, with freedom of information protestors being threatened with severe punishments for spreading ‘rumors’; while ID checks have been brought in for anyone buying cough medicine.

Two men were arrested in Hong Kong, charged with stealing $100-worth of toilet rolls at knifepoint.

Update: 18 Feb., cases 73,438; deaths 1,875. Deffo slowing down, but early days, say boffins.

Update revised: 19 Feb., cases 75,227; deaths 2,012. Diamond Princess 621 – Brits told ‘you can’t leave’.

Revised update updated: 20 Feb., cases 75,761; deaths 2,130. Hubei has changed its reporting criteria again. A sudden spike in cases in S Korea is reportedly due to a ‘superspreader’ who has infected at least 37 members of her church congregation, having never even been abroad. The city of Daegu, pop. 2.5m, is on lockdown.

Japanese authorities have begun evacuating the healthy passengers from the Diamond Princess. Four Britons who tested positive have been removed. Other Brits have been told by the FO that if they leave the ship, they won’t be allowed on any evacuation flights.

Chinese epidemiologists have published figures showing that the vast majority of patients who have died are over 60. Odds on the likelihood of dying are highest at 14.8% among the Over 80s and about 3.4% for the Over 60s. Very few deaths have been reported in the Under-50s demographic, and none in children under 9.

So you could call this the Baby Boomer Killer or, as most deaths have been in elderly patients with pre-existing heart and respiratory conditions, probably from smoking and living in a heavily polluted industrial environment – Wuhan is the manufacturing capital of China – in our own case, you might say the Leave Voter Virus.

(Reporting/Stats: Worldometer, Guardian, Aljazeera, Japan Times, FT, BBC News)

 

Is the war in Afghanistan finally over?

Buried in the news today is a report in the Washington Post that an agreement has been reached in Doha between US negotiators and Taleban leaders for a 7-day ‘cooling-off’ of hostilities, followed by the official signing in Kabul of a peace accord.

Such an outcome, with the withdrawal of thousands of US troops, is calculated to be a vote-winner in the upcoming US elections, and Trump will take full credit for it; regardless of whatever actual terms the accord may be based on and its implications for the Afghan government and people.

Because we don’t yet know, if any side has, who has actually won.

America’s longest-running conflict began in 2001 after the 9/11 terror attack on New York, with the US blaming Afghanistan for hosting rebel al-Qaeda units and protecting the man they declared was responsible, Osama bin-Laden; although it was later confirmed that 15 of the 19 attackers had had Saudi nationality, as did bin-Laden, by then being protected by the Pakistan security services.

Since then, over two-and-a-half thousand US military personnel and 1,750 civilian contractors have died, along with 850 troops from allied nations. A figure from Wikipedia of 111,000 Afghan civilian and military casualties combined seems absurdly low. President Ashraf Ghani was recorded in 2019 as saying 45,000 service personnel, including police, had died since he came to power in 2014. Numbers of Taleban and other fighters killed are impossible to estimate.

The Pumpkin is betting that a deal will be easily spun into an American victory, but less easily justified as it will not result in any serious shift in the balance of power in the country. With no-one holding the ring, and Afghan government forces as weak and corrupt as ever, hostilities might very well resume between the Northern Alliance – a squabbling tentful of drug-dealing warlords – and the ascetic, extreme Muslim Talebani, who regard the regime in Kabul as nothing more than a corrupt US puppet.

Will the accord, if it does get signed, halt the relentless infiltration of Taleban insurgents, who already control much of the country? Are they likely to back off now, sensing victory, with the inviting prospect of having driven all the foreigners out – for the umpteenth time in 300 years?

And then there is the question of who, if anyone, will be able to resist the likely return of Russian influence as Putin continues to fill the vacuums created by Western withdrawals; and how will that play with Beijing, also vying for influence in the region?

 

Don’t mention the other war!

In case you were wondering why Messrs Parnas and Frumin are still being prosecuted for campaign finance irregularities involving laundered Ukrainian money, but the guy who hired them, the president’s lawyer Rudy Giuliani, isn’t even under investigation, Rachel Maddow at MSNBC has a possible answer.

She reports, 19 Feb., that Barr’s Justice Department – should that be Trump’s Justice Department, we wonder? – issued a memorandum in January, only now released, ordering all federal courts under its jurisdiction to funnel any open cases involving matters pertinent to Ukraine through a single official.

No new cases involving anything to do with Ukraine may be opened without first consulting the department, says the memo.

The story follows on from the revelation that Trump is no longer being investigated by New York prosecutors for campaign finance violations involving payoffs to inconvenient women, in the case where he was named as an unindicted co-conspirator with his lieutenant, Michael Cohen – whom the President is gleefully leaving to rot in jail, obviously, as punishment for co-operating with the Mueller investigation, while trying to get his other cronies who aren’t considered ‘rats’ off the hook.

The 17 cases against Trump and his dodgy children appear to have been quietly dropped, it’s reported, following a visit to the Southern District court last year by Barr – on the day after Trump appointed him Attorney-General.

At the weekend, having controversially attempted to interfere in the sentencing of another of his soldiers, Roger Stone, Trump announced he had commuted the sentences handed down to two corrupt politicians, as well as to his fellow billionaire fraudster, the ‘Junk Bond King’ Michael Milken, referring to himself with breathtaking insouciance as “America’s chief law-enforcement officer”.

That’s actually supposed to be the Attorney-General, it’s not in the job description of the president. But when you have committed so many crimes it helps to be in charge of the investigations and to have the FBI broken and the Justice Department in your pocket.

Eleven-hundred current and former federal prosecutors have called for Barr’s resignation.

We keep reading Comments from apparently sensible political experts that, no, America is not Weimar Germany, don’t we.

Indeed, it’s looking more like 1920s Chicago.

 

The madness of King Donald

Remember when he threw paper towels at hurricane survivors in Puerto Rico? Well, now he’s gone one better, in a bid to peel off a few black votes.

At a recent, quite small rally of a hundred or so seriously deluded African Americans, organisers called the audience up on stage one by one and, praising all that Trump has done for the black community,  handed out $thousands of free money in the form of ‘cash prizes’.

The money came from a donation of a quarter of a million dollars from Trump SuperPAC, America First!, to the Urban Revitalization Coalition of America, a non-profit run by Trump ally, Darrell Scott.

Mr Scott was handpicked in 2016 to improve Trump’s image with black voters by Michael Cohen, who has since branded Trump a ‘racist’. (Reporting: New York Times)

People have been wondering why Trump has pardoned or commuted the sentences of several corrupt former officials. It seems his choices were crafted to send a message to his opponents, as each of them was convicted of criminal acts of which Mr Trump has himself been accused.

Flamboyant former Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich, for instance, the man who tried to sell President Obama’s vacant Senate seat to the highest bidder, was impeached before being found guilty of 17 charges, including wire fraud, attempted extortion and conspiracy to solicit bribes.

He left a Colorado jail today, claiming loudly that he had been held as a political prisoner.

 

seviri_nat_airmass_20200219_1845

Earth is beginnoing to look more like Jupiter… new storm to follow Dennis midweek. Image: Meteosat.

GW: means Grotty Weather, of course

North Atlantic: “… a new, potentially explosive development of an extra-tropical cyclone is expected tonight”(18 Feb.), following on the heels of Storm Dennis, that left extensive flooding across the British Isles at the weekend. (Severe-weather.eu) The storm is passing between Scotland and Iceland on the 20th. A remarkable central pressure drop of 44mb in 18 hours was recorded on the 19th, to bring hurricane-force winds over southern Iceland.

Another deepening cyclone is being monitored behind that, organizing out of Canada across the Labrador Sea, and inspires a BBC forecast of a third weekend deluge in 3 weeks for already saturated areas of the British Isles.

USA: states of emergency have been declared across Mississippi and Tennessee, reports Floodlist. “Days of heavy rain caused rivers and dams to rise, prompting evacuations and some flood rescues. Among the worst hit areas is Jackson, Mississippi, where the Pearl River reached 36.67 feet on 17 Feb., its third highest level on record.” Governor Tate Reeves described it as ‘historic; unprecedented’.

Australia: Another powerful storm front “pushed through Sydney, Australia, on Tuesday night, bringing with it an intense lightning show and powerful winds. Power was cut to many throughout the city as gusty winds brought down trees and power lines”, disrupting transport. (Accuweather) Local video showed big hailstones thumping down as the storms broke over NSW and Victoria states.

Indonesia: “authorities report that at least 2 people have died and hundreds of homes damaged after flooding and landslides in 4 provinces of the country.” in West Java’s Bandung regency, thousands of people have been affected by flooding for the second time in a month. There’s also been severe flooding in Borneo. (Floodlist)

Argentina: floods have followed days of heavy rain in the north of the country. In Chaco, 192mm of rain fell in a single day. In Tucuman a storm on 18 Feb. has left communities cut off and caused wind damage to properties. Hundreds of people have been evacuated and the army is delivering relief supplies. (From: Floodlist)

Peru: “Landslides and flooding in southern Peru have damaged homes leaving dozens of families displaced and at least 2 people dead. 1 person is missing and over 200 families displaced after heavy rain triggered a landslide in Ayacucho , south-central Peru.” (Floodlist)

United Kingdom Weather Radar

This is us today! Nobody wants Britain anymore – we’ve been painted out! (Accuweather rain map, 19 Feb.)

Tunnel approaching….

Some positive news from America, legislators in the state of Utah have approved plans for a funded program to move to renewable energy, electric vehicles and carbon reductions over the next decade, flying in the face of Trump’s rebarbative policies. What’s unusual about the Utah Roadmap, as it’s being called, is that Utah is a rock-solid Republican state. Ironically, voters will be going all-out in November to re-elect the environmental vandal and criminal ecocide, Trump. (Reporting: Guardian Green Light)

Methane: “A single blowout at a natural gas well in Ohio in 2018 discharged more methane over three weeks than the oil and gas industries of France, Norway and the Netherlands released in an entire year.” A new report examining the more-than doubling of atmospheric methane in the modern era claims that the volume of human-induced methane emissions from oil and gas operations – especially fracking – has been underestimated by 40 per cent; ‘experts’ concluding therefrom that industry measures to reduce or even capture and store emissions will be a major step forward in reversing climate change.

Where do they get these people from?

The Guardian report of the report fails to make the obvious point that global heating is the single greatest cause of methane emissions from thawing deposits under the sea and permafrost on land. It’s known as a feedback loop, Guardian people. I’d also defy you to distinguish between ‘natural’ and ‘man-made’ sources of methane when man-made CO2 is causing the heating that is releasing methane naturally from ‘sinks’ where it has remained frozen in vast quantities since the end of the last glacial period, 12 thousand years ago.

Arctic: “On February 18, 2020, the Arctic was as much as 3.6°C or 6.48°F warmer than 1979-2000.” The extent of sea ice is marginally greater currently than the 2010-20 average, however it is very thin and there is virtually no ice more than 2 years old to melt below the surface and thus provide a buffer to prevent heat reaching the lower depths where volatile hydratic methane clathrates are found in large numbers on the shallow sea bed. (From: Arctic News)

 

Wild is the wind… Building bridges… The madness of King Donald… GW: I’ll take a little water in that… Gotland dammerung.

QotW

“What is the cost of lies? It’s not that we’ll mistake them for the truth, The real danger is that if we hear enough lies, then we no longer recognize the truth at all.” – From the script of TV miniseries, Chernobyl.

Boris Johnson’s £60m Thames cable car, delivered when he was London mayor, reportedly turned out to have just four regular users.

“Pwafle-whaffle…, this shiny toy car is turning left. Who’s with me?”

Wild is the wind

This could be difficult to explain, because as your Old Granny W. has said before, there is so much intense cyclone activity in the North Atlantic currently that it is becoming difficult to differentiate one storm from another. However, on the heels of Storm Ciaro, Severe-weather.eu reports, there is another cyclone heading into the British Isles tonight, 12 Feb., with central pressure falling to about 960 mb – windy and rainy.

Then there is Storm Dennis, due on Saturday

Only, forming off the coast of Newfoundland, maybe behind that or part of it is a potential monster of a storm, that we think should be christened Stormy Daniels. It is, they say, very possibly destined to be the most intense storm ever recorded in the region, with central pressure plummeting by 50 to 60 mb in 24 hours, to an impossibly low 915 to 920 mb, producing tremendous winds and waves up to 18m, 60 ft in height.

Is that Dennis? No-one is making it clear.

Severe-weather.eu says: “What we are seeing on the weather models through the remainder of this week is beyond exceptional – an incredibly large, extremely deep and violent system, with central pressure potentially even shooting towards the lowest pressure readings ever observed, will be possible.” The BBC Weather service merely describes things as ‘wet and windy’. Is that classic British understatement or is Severe-weather getting overexcited?

Below is a map of projected peak wind gusts on Thursday,13th. The outline of the British Isles can just be seen in the centre. It’s pretty messy: hung on your wall, it might be worth millions:

gustkph_20200212_00_024

Where are these cyclones obtaining their formidable energy, over the cold waters of the North Atlantic in winter? Please, do not tell me that everything is normal and this is just the natural cycle-stroke-solar minimum!

And, OMG as they say, as a brutally cold weatherbomb deposits Arctic gales and snow over the northeastern states of the US, and with two intense cyclones already out in the North Atlantic, now there is another matching pair of huge, powerful cyclones presenting an even more perfect picture from space, forming across the North Pacific and heading for Alaska with hurricane-force winds via the Aleutian Islands.

This is unprecedented, Day After Tomorrow stuff.

We are fucked, no question.

 

Corona v. Us

Update: 13 Feb. 00.00 hrs, 45,222 cases; deaths 1,118. 4,888 ‘recovered’. First case reported in London; Hove ‘spreader’ Steve Walsh leaves hospital, clear. All quarantined travellers in UK testing negative. Experts warn of an outbreak in the UK lasting into the summer.

Reset: 13 Feb., Beijing has fired officials in Hubei province and recalculated: cases 60,376; deaths 1,369. Authorities in Wuhan impose 24-hour curfew on all but health workers.

USA: An estimated 22 million people have experienced ‘flu-like illnesses in the U.S. this season, with 210,000 hospitalizations and 12,000 deaths from the ‘flu, according to the CDC. The second peak of the season, which still has weeks to go, has seen a major rise in hospital visits described by epidemiologists as “hard to believe”. (Accuweather)

An extended outbreak that limits the volume of … (prescription) drugs available for export from China could lead to shortages and price increases, particularly in the United States, according to ratings agency Moody’s.

New update: 14 Feb., it appears no figures can be trusted as Beijing first revised the numbers upward but has now admitted that over 100 deaths were double-counted. ‘Over 60,000’ cases is a best guess estimate this morning, with close to 1,500 deaths. Wuhan says 1,700 patients are health workers.

A report in The Sun newspaper says the Chinese woman patient who tested positive in London a few days ago attended a conference at which a number of MPs were present.

 

Sleep tight

Zero Waste Scotland has estimated that if the 600,000 mattresses Scotland throws away every year were stacked on top of each other, the pile would be more than 100 times taller than Ben Nevis.

Yes, but safer to climb, I should have thought, in your ordinary day clothes and trainers in the middle of winter with Storm Ciaro bearing down, as most people do.

 

Building bridges #1

The Queensferry crossing, the bridge that connects Edinburgh and Fife, remained closed on Wednesday morning in the wake of Storm Ciara, resulting in commuter chaos and lengthy tailbacks on the 35-mile diversion necessary for drivers.

The £1.35bn bridge, which opened to traffic in August 2017 and had been hailed as a crossing that would remain open in all weathers, has been closed since Monday night owing to excessive ice forming on the superstructure…. A lesson there possibly for Vanishing Johnson and his bridge to Northern Ireland?

Building bridges #2

Mr David Ross, a just-about billionaire and massive Tory-party-donating schmoozer, ousted as deputy chair of Carphone Warehouse over a dodgy loan guarantee, who was listed on the Prime Minister’s latest sexpenses declaration as having provided Baris and Carrie with a free £15k holiday in the West Indies at Christmas, has denied it was he who paid for the relaxing jaunt away from the turmoil of assassinated Iranian generals, but says he merely supplied a contact with a fellow villa owner.

The hunt is now on to find out who did pay, before the Commons Standards Committee gets involved. (£15 grand is not such a lot of money, you would imagine Baris on his new PM’s salary could have afforded to pay for his own fucking holiday? Carrie’s not that hard-up either. Poor chap, must have been exhausted after toasting his election victory with his Russian friends.)

According to The Guardian report, Mr Ross was certainly in the habit of currying favor with one of Baris’ predecessors, David Cameron – like him, a fellow ‘tax exile’ – to whom he gave free helicopter rides, and sucking up to a litany of tired old A-listers with jollies at his “huge villa” on Mustique. In best Cliveden style, it is said, “prominent Tories are known to have been visitors to shooting parties at his sprawling country estate in Leicestershire”.

A Number 10 spokesmouth commented: “All transparency requirements have been followed…” Yes, you certainly can see right through them.

These are just the sort of chaps we want running New Britain.

 

Zombie genes

Paleontologists are excited over the discovery of an entire set of chromosomes dating back to our time in Africa, that have no known corresponding fossil relics to prove that the bearers ever existed. They’re calling it the ‘ghost population” – an unknown species of human that must have lived half a million years ago, and cross-bred with known populations, passing its genetic inheritance down to modern people.

All West Africans tested so far have up to 20 per cent of this mysterious hinterland coursing through their veins. Given their geographical location, muses The Pumpkin, it must surely have spread through slavery “comforts” to white Americans. He suggests US geneticists should have a look. Maybe it’s that mythical “stupid gene” Trump voters have inherited.

 

Suffer little children

Anyone who disbelieves in the Millennium Bug should read the following tale.

“A 101-year-old Italian man who has been in London since 1966 was asked to get his parents to confirm his identity by the Home Office after he applied to stay in the country post-Brexit.

“In what appears to be a computer glitch (his birthdate of 1919 came up as 2019) the Home Office thought he was a one-year-old child.”

Yet they STILL WROTE TO HIM! Demanding 5 years’ tax records to show qualifying continuous residency.

This cowboy bunch are not fit for purpose and must be disbanded.

(Reporting: Guardian)

 

The madness of King Donald

After reminding his cheering, swivel-eyed dumbfucks at a spoiler rally on the other side of town from the Democrats’ New Hampshire primary that public healthcare and social security had never been safer than in his tiny hands, after a chilling remark about how he’s not allowed to say how beautiful Ivanka is because she’s his daughter, Trump unveiled his 2021 budget.

It contains a trillion dollars in cuts to public healthcare and social security programs to pay for yet more military spending, more of his border wall and other immigration controls, and bigger tax breaks for the wealthy.

He also outlined a further massive cut in the budget of the organization that’s struggling to contain the coronavirus and a major ‘flu epidemic, the Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta, and proposed to slash the US contribution to the World Health Organization by 50 per cent.

He sure hates America.

 

Yet another book about the insanity in the White House recounts how, when Reince Priebus, who comes from Wisconsin, was Trump’s first Chief of Staff, Trump would get into a weird riff over the state’s official mascot, the badger, about which he appeared to know little. “Are badgers mean to people?” he asked. “How do badgers work?”

 

GW: I’ll take a little water in that

Antarctic: “has registered a temperature of more than 20C (68F) for the first time in history, prompting fears of climate instability in the world’s greatest repository of ice. The 20.75C logged by Brazilian scientists at Seymour Island on 9 February was almost a full degree higher than the previous record of 19.8C, taken on Signy Island in January 1982.” (Guardian)

Brazil: “Heavy rain has affected wider areas of the state of São Paulo, 11 Feb., with severe flooding reported in the city of Botucatu, where 1 person has died and 2 are missing. 3 have been killed elsewhere in 88 reported mudslides. Some places recorded more rain in 3 hours than normally seen in the entire month of February.”

Bolivia: floods, 1 dead.

Indonesia: Jakarta, hit again. Several rivers overflowed, 1.7 meters of floodwater in places. No casualties. Up to 150 mm of rain fell in 24 hours, in the north of the province.

Australia: “Torrential rain has been falling in parts of New South Wales (NSW), Australia, since 07 February, 2020, causing rivers to rise and flash flooding. Strong winds have also caused damage and thousands of homes have been without power. Sydney received 391.6 mm of rain between 07 and 10 February, more than three times the average for the whole of February.” Narcoola, Queensland, had more than 230 mm in 24 hours to 11. Feb. Waves more than 5 metres high have lashed the coast, but the rain has at least replenished the city’s near-empty water reserves.

Accuweather reports: “drenching rains across NSW have extinguished 30 fires, including the Gospers Mountain “mega-blaze” (outside Sydney) which burned more than 500,000 hectares (1.24 million acres).

The industry has declared an official ‘catastrophe’ for the 6th time in 5 months after insurers received 10,000-plus claims for storm damage, with a value estimated at AUS$45 million, on top of thousands of claims for fire damage in the last 3 months.

Burundi: the flood situation has worsened. Initial reports indicate 3 dead and over 1,000 people displaced.

(All above, Floodlist reports, 12 Feb.)

Russia: Minus 25°C temperatures by day, minus 45 at night, 65 mph winds and huge snowfalls have buried the Siberian city of Norilsk in several meters of the white stuff. Videos show residents digging down from 1st-floor height to find their garage doors and clear driveways. A local bus terminal is sheltering people who can’t get back to their homes in the city. (Siberian Times)

USA: “Heavy rain that caused flooding from Louisiana to the Carolinas continued Tuesday, 11 Feb.  Many rivers and creeks were at or above flood stage. Tennessee Valley Authority said some of its rivers and lakes had received as much as 400% of their normal rainfall for this time of year. In Mississippi, emergency management officials were keeping a watch on the Oktibbeha County Lake Dam. In Jan., the dam was in imminent danger of breaching before pumping lowered the water level in the lake. Officials said the dam has again risen to the same dangerous level.” More heavy rain, wind, thunderstorms, possible tornadoes and snow are forecast this week, on the usual track. (Accuweather)

Update: 12 Feb., northern and eastern states experienced the coldest spell of the winter so far, hit by “a fierce winter storm that produced ‘near impossible’ travel conditions with near-zero visibility and strong, biting winds.” In North Dakota, Accuweather‘s own patented temperature index (basically I think it’s got something to do with how hot or cold it feels, rather than the true figure – no-one does facts anymore) plummeted overnight to minus 60 whatever. Accus?

Despite the wintry plunges, more than 5,500 new warm weather records for both highest daytime and nighttime temperatures have been set in the USA already, just in the first 40 days of 2020. Only 307 daily record lows were recorded. On 3 Feb, Atwood, Kansas posted 84°F, 29°C. (The Weather Channel)

Britain: as we prepare for Storm Dennis later in the week, around 8 thousand homes in Cumbria, in the northwest, are still without water after a main burst during Storm Ciara on 9 Feb. Updates to follow….

Tunnel approaching….

Insectaggeddon: A survey of insects hitting car windscreens in rural Denmark used data collected every summer from 1997 to 2017 and found an 80% decline in abundance. It also found a parallel decline in the number of swallows and martins, birds that live on insects. A second survey, in the UK county of Kent in 2019, examined splats in a grid placed over car registration plates, known as a “splatometer”. This revealed 50% fewer impacts than in 2004. (Guardian)

Envirocide: Trump has signed an order approving plans to open up the world-famous Utah national monument land known as Grand Staircase Escalante to drilling, opencast mining and grazing, over the objections of environmental groups and residents. Over 1 million tourists visited the site last year.

He really hates America. You have no idea.

Global weather

You think this is normal? Of course you don’t. It’s just choreography. Synchronized extinction. 140 mph winds forecast over Iceland. (Photo: probaby NOAA from Severe-weather.eu)

 

Gotland dammerung

“Taking in all stages of production, concrete is said to be responsible for 4—8% of the world’s CO2.”Guardian special report, Feb. 2019.

“Experts” have come up with an interesting idea to construct two huge dams: one between Scotland and Norway, another across the Dover strait, to seal off the southern part of the North Sea from sea-level rise and protect coastal infrastructure in the UK, Denmark and the Netherlands. The cost of this “North Sea Enclosure Dyke” is estimated at between €250bn and €500bn which, judging by the ever-multiplying cost of HS2, looks pretty conservative. Your Old Gran would suggest budgeting about £1.5 trillion, currently the entire annual GDP of the UK.

But the North Sea is mostly only 100 meters deep, having flooded relatively recently in geological time, inundating a huge area of low-lying countryside known as ‘Doggerland’. So the feasibility is looking promising, and motorway or high-speed railway lines or even a Baris-style airport “runway” across the tops; maybe the odd island tax shelter, would create a bridge between Europe and the UK that would… Oh, yes. Right. Anyway….

Your Old Gran has a somewhat jaundiced eye, sadly, and wonders how much additional sea-level rise might be occasioned by the vast volume of CO2 emissions that would be created in the production of enough concrete to build a wall 120 meters high by 635 kilometers long by, probably, 40 meters thick, given that concrete is a major known source of greenhouse gas emissions. (The 3.05 billion cu. m. needed is 9 months’ worth of total global cement production. A cubic meter of concrete weighs roughly three tonnes. 907 kg of CO2 is emitted per tonne of cement produced.)

Thanks to China’s race to modernize, concrete – made from finely ground Portland stone, a finite resource –  is also in quite short supply. We would also need to remove, grind, transport and tip, literally, whole mountains of granulated stone just for ballast. Billions of tonnes of fresh water would be needed for the mix – salt water would corrode the reinforcing bars. Perhaps desalination plants could be constructed near the sites, requiring further materials, along with the service bases and personnel housing and transport facilities. Steel reinforcement would require a major manufacturing effort, again pouring vast quantities of CO2 into the atmosphere from the furnaces, as steel-making is majorly energy-intensive. Again, we would be competing with China, the world’s Number One steel-making country, for supply.

So, to avoid busting the UK and EU’s 2030 target to achieve zero emissions, project-wide carbon capture and storage would have to be designed first, assuming the bedrock will take it. Nothing on this scale has been tested before.

Shipping traffic would need to be channeled through, somehow, during and after construction, one of the busiest shipping lanes in the world, traversed by ever-larger container ships. An environmental impact survey might show, such a project might not be too conducive to the happiness of marine life. The barrier would have possibly unknown effects in transferring tidal and wave energy to other contiguous coastlines, for instance the Baltic sea, even possibly affecting the weather.

I suppose we should consider, too, the possibility that, like the Mediterranean has at times in the past, without throughflow such an enclosed body of water might eventually dry up, creating miles of festering, malaria-ridden swamplands. And then the sheer weight of the thing – what would be the geomorphic effects? On the plus side, we might, I suppose, incorporate tidal energy generation as a bonus.

It would, frankly, be easier and cheaper to move London to the Chilterns, and Amsterdam to the Caucasus.

So, who is going to build this supermassive project?

It’s, er, projected to run on for 20 years, from 2030 up to 2050. By that time, constructors will be battling with half a meter of sea level rise and may need to divert resources to other, short-term flood protection measures, such as raising the height of the Thames barrier. They will be competing on price and supply for raw materials with other parts of the world equally or more affected by rising sea level, where skilled labor will be in great demand; but where violent nativism may erupt against the import of foreign labor. It’s already being predicted, probably conservatively, that barring socio-economic collapse, demand for concrete will have increased by 2 billion tonnes annually by 2050. It would, frankly, be easier and cheaper to move London to the Chilterns, and Amsterdam to the Caucasus.

What will the period of construction look like?

If this winter’s activity in the North Atlantic is anything to go by, in the 20 years after 2030 an immigrant labor force (for such it will have to be) of maybe 20 to 30 thousand workers, especially on the more difficult northern phase, will have to contend with frequent cyclonic storms: 180 mph sustained winds, with gusts over 240 mph and 90-ft waves (windspeeds in the Faroe Islands reached 140 mph during one storm this January). Daytime temperatures might veer by as much as 100 degrees Celsius, from plus 50 in summer on the southerly phase, to minus 50 in dark winter in the north. Additional resources will have to be devoted to healthcare, as the workforce are likely to be riddled with tropical diseases; and to the production of artificial, nutrient-rich foods.

Of course, human labor is unlikely to be the solution by then. The bulk of the work will have to be undertaken by robots, armed with at least some degree of expensive, autonomous AI requiring a large number of skilled programmers, operators and maintenance crews; the advantage being, these specialists could work from anywhere in the world.

Is it worth all that, just to protect a couple of hundred miles of vulnerable coastline? I suppose the infrastructure along those coasts is economically very valuable, but what might its role be, by the time we find ourselves in the Mad Max, dog-eat-cat, scarcity-driven geopolitics of the late 2030s? Will the project be sustainable by then? We are not going to stop global heating this century, if ever.

Anyway, it certainly dwarfs Donald Trump’s manic obsession with his wall to keep out a few drug mules and abused children from crossing along the entire 2,000-mile southern frontier of the USA.

Plus, we have nothing much else to think about. (Insert Orange Mussolini face.)

But for God’s sake, don’t suggest it to Baris. He’s a sucker for big, shiny toys.

(Original reporting: Guardian)

Conservatism Today (#bluecheckbook)… Today, I’m not an appy bunny… Optimist prime… All aglow again… GW: Life gets teejus, don’t it?

QotW

“I tried to get taller, but I couldn’t grow any taller, and so I tried to get younger, but I couldn’t get younger. But I could grow a mustache, so I did that”. – Harry Harris, US ambassador to South Korea. Former naval officer, Harris has come under attack because as a Japanese-American by birth he reminds older Koreans of the brutal occupation of the country by Japanese who sported mustaches. Koreans prefer to be clean-shaven. Another triumph for the Trumpian international order.

 

Conservatism Today (#bluecheckbook)

The Guardian reports, 15 Jan.: “Five thousand people died before they could be reimbursed for a government error that left chronically ill and disabled benefit claimants thousands of pounds out of pocket. … Approximately 70,000 claimants were originally estimated to have been underpaid about £340m between 2011 and 2014” – as a result of benefits office staff not being required to check that people were getting the full benefits they qualified for.

Presiding over this fiasco at the time? No, not the Yorkshire Ripper. Not even Rheinhardt Heydrich, the Butcher of Prague, whose depradations now look comparatively modest. Take a bow, arch-CUNT (Conservative and Unionist, Neo-Thatcherite) ‘sir’ Iain Duncan Smith, newly ennobled nose-picker and snot-eater par excellence; glib apologist and smooth operator for the self-enriching ERG Leave tendency.

We should perhaps add to the toll of his victims, those disabled and chronically sick individuals who were dying off at the rate of 500 a month on his watch, having been denied benefits designed to support them into work on grounds that they had been assessed by incompetent outsourced contractors as being perfectly healthy and fit for work; many dying while waiting months for their appeals to be heard.

Meanwhile, a coroner’s report into the death of 57-year-old Erroll Graham in 2018 found that his disability benefit had been stopped after he missed two appointments. “When he was found, starved to death and weighing just four stone, his Nottingham flat had no gas or electricity supply. There was no food in the property apart from two tins of fish that were four years out of date.”

A spokesmouth for the Department of Work and Pensions said it had referred Graham’s case to a panel to see what if any lessons could be learned. Presumably, the lessons they didn’t learn from the death by multiple causes including starvation in 2017 of Stephen Smith, from Liverpool, when they “followed policy”. “Smith, who could barely walk, was deemed fit for work after a capability assessment in 2017, an appointment he was taken from his hospital bed to keep, which meant his employment support allowance (ESA) payments were stopped.” (Guardian)

The architect of this grotesque charade, what ‘Sir’ Duncan Cunt has done to deserve his knighthood, other than rid the country of a lot of useless disadvantaged old scroungers, no-one can really say. It sounds more like an indictable crime against humanity. He was for a time Leader of the party, in a bland and undistinguished sort of way – did he lose an election? I can’t honestly remember, but that’s about all.

In other Conservative Party news, party megadonors, the billionaire Done brothers (£375k last year) Fred and Pete have been found to own a number of companies that have been awarded way north of £5 million-worth of Government and NHS contracts broadly in the field of mental health and employee counselling. It looks like a serious conflict of interest, which an NHS spokesmouth explained as being due to its farming-out of due diligence to a third party that didn’t appear to have checked on what else prospective contractors got up to in their spare time.

What’s this? The Done who? A 1970s country rock band, maybe?

The name Fred might give the game away. ‘Betfred’ is a widely advertised, £750+ million turnover, high-street and online/appy betting operation, sponsor of many a sport shirt, that was recently taken to task by the Regulator for substituting more instant-access online games for the fixed-odds, no-limit, in-shop betting terminals – in more innocent times we used to call them fruit machines – that were sucking the life out of poor communities, wrecking families, destroying lives, and which have now been severely capped. Perhaps less severely than they might have been without the £375 grand, who knows.

Fingers are also being pointed at how the firm ‘forgot’ to tell its own employees they’d been underpaid their statutory holiday pay, in what some suggest was a deliberate act of penny-pinching meanness.

Among services the Done ghouls, resembling a pair of cadaverous old money-grubbers out of a Victorian vampire novel, are supplying on contract via a company satirically named Health Assured, the Guardian reports, is counselling to the betting addicts the greasy chute they operate so profitably creates. In addition, another company called Angel Advance – they must have such laughs around the dinner table thinking up these names before repairing to their coffins for the day – sells advice, for a fee, on managing debt.

You could look at it in one of two ways.

Well, no, one actually. Because if the Dones were paying for them, then when all’s said and, er, done these services might count as a philanthropic gesture, sort of.

But they’re not. We are.

 

Today, I’m not an appy bunny

Once or twice a year I send a few pounds to help support Adblock-Plus, a program, or ‘app’ as they call them now, that reduces the annoyance factor of being multiply advertized to by commercial parties in whose products I have not the slightest interest, who insist on interrupting serious editorial content with GIF-like messages that wobble and waggle in my face, like the waggling, wobbling tits-and-ass merchants of the Babestation platform.

I realize the operators of websites need to make a living, I do too, although despite devoting years of my life to it, I can’t really monetize an entertaining and informative bogl – one that frequently beats the professional news sites to the real meat and import of stories, and the connections between – with an average of only 7 readers a day. I know, I should take to Twitter, whatever.

But I’m genuinely not interested in receiving ads and don’t see why I should be forced to. I get enough unwanted commercial content as it is on Google mail.

The news and weather platforms I visit now frequently demand that I turn the Adblock off, when I really only need to check a fact or steal a quote, and have no intention of wading through the other 99.9 per cent of their adrich content. And they should know that, as I have no intention of buying the stuff, they’re conning the advertisers into paying good money for my eyeballs, that aren’t looking with persuadable intent at their ads. The clients should be pleased that my disinclination to buy their products could actually save them wasting time and money obliging me to ignore their irrelevant messages.

Today, however, despite having the Adblock app switched On, every site I’ve visited has been pumping ads at me like they’re going out of fashion – which I wish they would. They seem to have found a way past the block, or the block seems no longer to be working, and, try as I might, I can’t turn them off. It’s an assault on my privacy – a form of blackmail.

What’s so cynical is, they very often offer you a way to pay them not to show you ads in the first place.

Failing the bulk erasure of all the ads on a page, Adblock-Plus enables you to turn off offending ads one by one, using quite a complicated routine that asks technical questions I can’t answer. But if the site has somehow found a way to bypass the app, and there are ten ads on a page, there’s nothing I can do but just try to ignore them, and fume

Chief among the miscreants today is The Guardian, whose persistent importunate demands for money are already attached at length to every article, and who – there seems to have been a shakeup managerially in the past week and some respected contributors appear to have gone – have taken to including as a regular feature, an item of what we used to call ‘advertorial’: an extended, paid-for product puff that is not labelled as such, in the actual News section.

Given that the Scott Trust, owner and publisher of The Guardian and the Sunday Observer, is sitting on a huge pile of cash, over a billion pounds, it’s frankly disgusting and a betrayal of their values that they are doing this. The sheer hypocrisy of an organization that constantly harps on about its environmental responsibility and eco-sustaining political stance, while continuing to promote long-haul holidays, fashion trends, celebrity culture and consumer bling in their Lifestyle section, is bewildering. There has to be a point where you can no longer justify holding both positions, surely?

If the onslaught continues, is there any point in keeping Adblock-Plus on my system? This valuable resource is possibly the last bastion of freedom we poor, battered consumers have been relying on to maintain sanity, as the real world disintegrates around us under the pressure of unsustainable economic growth. I read now that a developer has created a multi-functional, active contact lens with a built-in computer you can stick in your eye and use voiceware to have your eyeball talk with your phone, and get a heads-up data display direct to your retina, even with your eyes shut. Night-vision is also an option, for nocturnal warriors on terror, presumably.

For fuck’s sake!

These sites probably already monetize me as a content-user, selling my data to various third-party agencies. Every item selection, every keystroke, every Google lookup and pensive hover of the mouse is monitored for signs of exploitable behavioral characteristics commercial interests can buy into. Being forced to view their ads, my eyelids glued open by blackmail, is merely adding insult to injury.

Just bloody go away.

 

Optimist prime

I’m cute, please buy me! The ‘Chiquita’.

And while we’re about it, Reverb is a web platform for musicians, on which I have latterly posted in the Classified section an opportunity to buy my collectable little handbuilt Fibonacci archtop guitar, ’03 of 03′, going cheep. I’m short of money. (Just put Fibonacci in their search bar.)

That connection seems to have encouraged them to send me a Googlemail ad at least five times a week inviting me to buy a Gibson Super 400, of which there is apparently only one such fancily inlaid version in the world. There seems to be no way to tell them that, even if I sold my house and went to starve in a tent, after paying off the mortgage there is no chance whatever that I could afford the £120 thousand the owner is asking for it.

Please, just stop, okay? You’re taking up headspace. But I have to say, the past few years do seem to have created a race to find the world’s most expensive guitars.

 

All aglow again

4.40 pm sunset… in the eastern sky!

What’s strange about this sunset, Followers, Likers and Spammers of this, muh li’l bogl (that needs only 9 more Posts to reach 850 by the 26th of February, marking the 8th anniversary of its miraculous conception)?

No, sorry, that’s wrong! It’s the sky in the East.

Over in the West where suns generally set, it went down behind the hill about 20 minutes before I took this photo on my crappy Samsung Galaxy A3, which doesn’t really show how bright the clouds were, and there’s only a golden glow to mark its passing.

On the opposite side of the sky, however, where I’ve previously photographed interesting sunrises over the river that looked very similar, the clouds were turning livid red. Is the world in a hurry to get to tomorrow, I wondered? I stepped out in front of a passing local schoolteacher lady on her bicycle. “Tell me I’m not going mad…” I began.

“Lovely sunset”, she replied.

“Yes,” I said. “But the sun just went down over there….” And pointed in the opposite direction. “That is West. This is East.”

As the deep red fiery glow began to infect the sky between, until all the clouds were glowing embers, we agreed to be amazed.

 

“Is the southeastern quadrant of the island continent destined to become the first supposedly settled region of the planet to be made uninhabitable by climate change in the modern era?”

GW: Life gets teejus, don’t it?

Australia:

16 Jan. Heavy rain has come to the rescue of firefighters in parts of the southeast worst affected by fires, although authorities in New South Wales and Victoria fear more dry weather on the way could reignite still smoldering embers, while the severe thunderstorms are creating problems of their own, lightning starting several new blazes (CNN). Nine News reported parts of Melbourne hit by a month’s worth of rain in a few hours, though not (to date) East Gippsland, where some of the worst fires in the state are raging, producing a pall of smoke over the city, where playing conditions for the Australian Open tennis are still causing controversy.

17 Jan. The heavy rain, in some places 3 months’ worth fell overnight, has caused localized flooding. There are reports of hundreds of thousands of fish killed when ash from the fires turns to toxic sludge and gets washed into rivers. An eyewitness was quoted as saying: “The stench (along the McLeay river) was overwhelming – it stank that much it made you heave.” The river has become anoxic along a 100 km stretch and could take decades to recover, if ever. (Reporting: Guardian Australia)

20 Jan. Vast dust storms propelled by winds rising to 100 k/h have been sweeping across New South Wales from the interior over the weekend, followed within hours by a battering of the city of Canberra by golfball-sized hailstones. Many animals, especially birds, were killed and injured as people ran for cover. CNN reports: “The hailstorm is now headed east toward the coastal cities of Sydney, Wollongong, and Newcastle, according to the Australia Bureau of Meteorology. The bureau warned that the cities could see ‘damaging winds (possibly destructive), large hailstones (possibly giant) and heavy rainfall.’ More storms are forecast early in the week.

Coming on top of record long drought, forest and bush fires, damaging thunderstorms and the run-off pollution and death of rivers, all within the past three months, as a huge hotspot continues to linger offshore in the Tasman Sea, the question must surely be, is the southeastern quadrant of the island continent destined to become the first supposedly settled region of the planet to be made uninhabitable by climate change in the modern era?

North Atlantic: In the wake of Storm Brendan last Monday, “another quite rapidly deepening cyclone has formed just west of the UK today, 16 Jan., moving towards the Faroe Islands and the Shetlands. Its central pressure is currently around 975 mbar and deepening, expected to deliver severe dangerous winds into the far NW tip of Scotland.” Meanwhile, yet another powerful cyclone brewing over north America is expected to undergo ‘bombogenesis’ – a rapid drop in pressure – in mid-ocean, the fourth in two weeks. Severe-weather.eu reports: “Hurricane-force winds will develop while the system will be moving along far eastern Canada into the open waters of the northwest Atlantic ocean.” The forecast track is to the north of the British isles, with Iceland once again bearing the brunt.

Canada: widely reported, St John’s, the capital of Newfoundland, was digging itself out this morning, 19 Jan., after an 80mph blizzard deposited 750 mm of snow over the city, bring normal life to a halt. Thousands were left without power and a search is underway for a missing man. The governor has called for military assistance. (NB: St John’s is on roughly the same latitude as Boglington-on-Sea, where the sun is shining mercilessly out of a cloudless sky and we’ve just had the coldest night since last winter, dropping to a terrifying minus 3C.)

Europe: a huge temperature difference occurred over Finland at the weekend, 18 to 20 Jan. The extreme north of Lapland reported -36 °C while the capital Helsinki in far south Finland reported +5 °C – that is 41 °C difference! (Extreme-weather.eu)

Maximum pressure: remains of a sunset over Boglington, 19 Jan., that lasted almost 1 hour.

As high pressure continues to sit over southern Europe, several cities have been enduring dangerous air pollution. BBC reports, “Sarajevo is among the cities to record some of the worst levels in recent days, along with the capital cities of neighboring Serbia, Kosovo and North Macedonia. …Temporary bans on diesel vehicles have been ordered in Italian cities, including the capital, Rome. In Bosnia-Herzegovina, protesters have taken to the streets in gas masks demanding action. Environmentalists have described the situation as a smog emergency.” (NB Said high pressure system will move northward over the UK in coming days.)

20 Jan. pressure has been building over northern Europe, an exceptionally high 1050 mb being recorded over the UK following last week’s powerful Storm Brendan which brought flooding, building damage and transport disruption to many parts.

Fiji: Intensifying tropical depression Invest 93P is expected to reach cyclone force overnight, 15 Jan. as it heads for Fiji, where it will come close to the main town of Labasa as a Cat 1 storm named Tino. Its next port of call is likely to be Tonga, where it should arrive as a high-end Cat 2 over the weekend. Heavy wind, rain and surf warnings are out everywhere. (RNZ) It’s the second major storm to affect Fiji in less than a month.

Thousands of people in Tonga have been evacuated from their homes as Tino hit at Cat 3, with potentially destructive winds, 18 Jan. The cyclone is weakening as it moves southwards, but still big enough to send 3-meter waves all the way to northern coasts of New Zealand.

Bolivia: at least 6 people have died in floods, building collapses and lightning strikes in a week of powerful storms and record rainfall. Many rivers have broken their banks and a state of emergency has been declared in the capital, La Paz. (from Floodlist)

Zambia: “More flooding has been reported, this time in Southern Province where crops have been destroyed in areas already facing food shortages after severe drought. … the Meteorological Department reported 109mm of rain fell in Gwembe on 15 Jan.” (Floodlist) Heavy rainfall in northern Mozambique continues to cause havoc in the province of Cabo Delgado. 1 person died and five are missing after a bridge was washed out.

Tunnel approaching….

Puerto Rico: NASA reports, satellite observations have shown the entire SE corner of Puerto Rico sinking by 5.5 inches since hundreds of earthquakes up to M6.8 shook the island through New Year (Mary Greeley). There was another big M6.8 quake followed by a M5.2 aftershock on 7 Jan. in which 1 person was killed. The island sits on the boundary of the North American plate atop three major faults and is highly prone to quakes, but this is the worst for many years. Around 500 homes have been damaged, powerlines and phone communications downed, while thousands of people are staying put in public shelters. A Federal state of emergency has been declared, with losses estimated so far at $110 million. (Time/AP)

Puerto Rico is yet to recover fully from the shellacking it took from Hurricanes Irma and Maria in 2017, when around 3 thousand people died while president Trump was demanding the island first repay money he claimed it owed to Goldman Sachs if it wanted to receive federal aid, and criticizing islanders for being too lazy to help themselves.

Fish ‘flu: British epidemiologists have claimed the numbers of cases of the new SARS-like coronavirus traced to a fish market in Wuhan, China, could be as high as 2 thousand. To date 50 cases have been confirmed, with the deaths of 2 elderly patients. Cases have been reported in Japan and Thailand and US immigration officials are screening arrivals from China as the Chinese New Year travel rush approaches. The USA is already dealing with a larger than usual outbreak of winter ‘flu, possibly brought about by the early cold weather across much of the country.

Update: another 139 cases have been reported in China over the weekend of 18-20 Jan., including some in the capital, Beijing. A third patient has died. A case has turned up in South Korea. Temperature checks at airports and stations are said to be pointless as by the time a patient develops a temperature they will already have been spreading the virus.

Treefall: 28 of the largest ‘Monarch’ Sequoia gigantea trees have so far been confirmed dead in the Yosemite National Park as drought and an infestation of bark beetles whose populations are moving northward as the climate heats have overturned the long-held theory that such trees, which grow to a height of 300 feet and can live for 3,000 years, were immune. Altogether, millions of trees have died in the park, probably owing to climate-related factors, although changes in forest management have led to hotter, less survivable fires. (Guardian Green Light)

Slipsliding away: 20 residents of the small seaside community of Skipsea in East Yorkshire have been warned that their homes could fall into the sea within the year. Stronger storms and rising sea level combined last year to erode the coast at a fast-accelerating rate of a meter a month. It’s the fastest eroding coastline in northern Europe.

USA again: meteorologists at Severe-weather.eu – a Copernicus service – are all in a whirl this morning, 18 Jan., over a) a ‘textbook’ series of satellite images showing a huge cyclone forming with hurricane-force winds over the north Atlantic, heading straight for Iceland, being only one of b) FOUR huge cyclones simultaneously visible right across north America from the Pacific coast in the west to the central north Atlantic in the east.

It should be noted possibly that this seemingly unending chain of big storms we have seen emerging from the eastern seaboard for many months runs on up into the high Arctic, bringing warmer air and sea conditions and big waves to break up whatever thin winter ice may be forming. Mean surface temperature in the region is 2.5C above pre-industrial, twice the global average change. Paradoxically, while this leads to more open water, reducing the ability of the ocean to reflect sunlight (there being little sunlight at this time of year) it also allows heat to escape from the surface, reducing the risk of methane eruptions from deeper on the seabed.

Global dimming: the Taal volcano that has been erupting in the Philippines, displacing 125 thousand people, could create some extra global dimming as the initial ash plume at 9.5 miles was high enough to reach the stratosphere, where it would be spread around the globe. Dimming from industrial pollutants reflecting sunlight in the upper atmosphere is believed to be suppressing global heating by about 1 deg. C. A very interesting piece is available at Accuweather: http://www.accuweather.com/en/severe-weather/was-the-taal-eruption-large-enough-to-influence-the-climate/663984

Hello 2020 and probably goodbye: When’s a good day to start a war?… Only connect!… Steve Bannon’s foreskin… GW: how do you like your planet, fried or boiled?… Death of a nation… The greatest horror story rarely told.

 

Quote of the Week

“It is easy to feel like a minimalist when you can order food, summon a car or rent a room using a single brick of steel and silicon. But in reality, it is the opposite. We are taking advantage of a maximalist assemblage. Just because something looks simple does not mean it is; the aesthetics of simplicity cloak artifice, or even unsustainable excess.” – Kyle Chayka, The Longing for Less: Living with Minimalism (excerpted as a Guardian Long Read).

To back-up this point, that behind every coolly miniaturized Smart device is a vast infrastructure, we learn from another Guardian piece that Ireland’s burgeoning data processing industry has bust their carbon target wide open. “It is estimated that when the music video Despacito reached 5bn streamed YouTube views in 2018, the energy consumption was equivalent to powering 40,000 US homes a year (it has now exceeded 6.5bn views)”.

We’re not going to win this.

 

Donald Trump participates in a prayer before speaking at an Evangelicals for Trump Coalition Launch at the King Jesus International Ministry in Miami, 3 January 2020.

The blind leading the blind. Evangelicals praise God for sending them Orange Satan.

When’s a good day to start a war?

Maybe on a day when:

1 More documentary evidence emerged from the Office of Management and Budget about Trump’s illegal order to hold up aid to Ukraine, officials confirming in emails that the aid was a quid pro quo for dirt on Joe Biden.

2 An investigation opened into Trump Organization officials including his three older children conspiring to illegally manipulate stock futures on the Chicago Mercantile exchange.

3 Documentary evidence emerged to support an old allegation that Trump’s $2 billion loans from Deutsche Bank were underwritten by a Russian state-owned bank, VTB, a Putin vehicle, in the wake of his Atlantic City casino bankruptcies.

(PS the bank executive who signed-off the loans – and also lent to Jeffrey Epstein – was found similarly hanged at his home in Malibu on 19 November. Verdict: suicide, lol.)

(Reporting: Thom Hartmann, citing press sources.)

Trump’s chief item of furniture, the worshipful succubus Mike Pence, that snow-capped walking ad for Anusol, has already begun a campaign of lies in support of the war, asserting without a shred of evidence or even likelihood that Gen. Suleimani helped the 9/11 attackers – he says there were 12, I say with some degree of confidence that there were 19 – to travel for training to Afghanistan and thus killed thousands of ‘Americans’.

This manufactured myth is completely to ignore the signal fact that Iran is a Shi’a Islamic country, or at least a brutal medieval theocracy ruled by those old shits, and Saudi Arabia, which funded the operation planned by the Saudi bin-Laden’s Egyptian lieutenant al-Zawahiri and provided 15 of the attackers, is Sunni; in the case of the 9/11 mob, of the extreme Wahabbi sect. Deadly enemies of Iran, at a military scale.

Not for the first time is a lying cunt of a neocon US politician absolutely sure Americans are so fucking dumb, they won’t know the difference when he drags them into another unwinnable war to ‘take the oil’. (Reporting: Guardian)

People are also wondering if Trump had been planning Suleimani’s assassination as a counter to the impeachment proceedings for some time, as various things were said a few days ago, little tweety hints from him and his daft son, Eric, the Little Nazi, who has no security clearance but sent and then hurriedly deleted a tweet implying that his dad was planning a ‘spectacular’ operation of some kind to get even with the Democrats. Or, as the slack-jawed, dull-witted, infantilized moron called it, a ‘big old can of whoop-ass. USA, USA, USA!’

Threatening ’52 targets’ inside Iran should the regime retaliate, including cultural centers, Trump has ordered another 14 thousand troops on standby to fly to the region. 750 of the 82nd Airborne are already on their way, to add to the 5,200 he already has there. You know, Trump who promised his dumbfucks, no more overseas deployments, and they believed him.

As for our own Prime Minister, you know, the one who promised us real leadership, Baris is slowly wending his way back from an agreeable holiday dallying with Carrie on Mustique and thus far has not mentioned the war; while his teenage vampire-squid Foreign Secretary, Raaaab, has announced from Washington that we are on ‘the same page’ as the Americans. (Well, somebody has to read it to Trump.)

My friend Pumpkin wonders if Raaaaab has been fully briefed on Secretary of State ‘two lunches’ Pompeo’s extreme anti-Islamic, Evangelical religious beliefs?

That is to say, is he familiar with Mr Pompeo’s speeches to the faithful urging them to be patient and hold on for The Rapture, a version of the End Time when, following Armaggeddon and the smiting of the enemies, the righteous will shed their earthly clothing and rise up bodily to Heaven, an event he has assured them is coming down the pike?

Be slightly afraid.

 

In brief

I receive a news briefing from The Washington Post most nights. I take it, although I can’t afford to vault Mr Bezos’ $90 a year paywall to be allowed to read the full-length version.

Tonight’s briefing, however, caused me a sharp intake of breath: there was not one mention of the assassination of Iran’s supreme military leader and Mr Trump’s impending war.

 

Only connect!

Hi. It’s a beautiful, warm and sunny Spring day in early January, here on the west coast of the UK.

I’m expecting a freelance techie bloke round any minute (naturally, he’s already half-an-hour late) at a cost comparable to the purchase price of the machine itself, to try to get my new Alexa spy-in-your-living-room ‘Echo Dot’ device working.

The one I didn’t ask for, but which my ex-family clubbed together to buy me for Christmas. Probably out of concern for my recent near-blindness, when a greater degree of voice-controlled environment would have been useful – I can see to operate most things now, thanks. Besides, I have no Bluetooth-enabled appliances that might switch the lights on for me.

But I haven’t entirely dismissed the possibility that it was out of spite, as they know I fear Smart technology, but I had decided not to drag poor Hunzi, my stinky piss-bag and my perpetually aching sit-upon (the catheter cuts into my prostate) to their Christmas Day reunion Dinner of All the Aunts, 250 agonizing and complicated miles away.

Several of us have already tried to get the Alexa working. There seems to be some problem connecting with the WiFi router that’s working perfectly well with this, muh li’l laptop, and with my new bigger TV, that just set itself up automatically and connected to the winternet when I switched it on.

No such facility with Alexa. It probably never crossed the minds of the beanbags at Amazon who designed this curious little device that elderly people with visual acuity problems might welcome not having to find their way through the system to download an App on their phone, that they can barely see, and start reliably entering more pointless passwords and obscure setup parameters using the tiny and inaccessible keypad.

Especially when they are already account-holders with Amazon, who could perfectly well get all the ID data they need from their own database.

Or having to decipher the tiny password on the base of their BT router and enter it when requested, only to find that the Alexa App didn’t mean ‘password’ at all, but ‘wireless key’ code: a mistake resulting in the total failure of the setting up operation and a requirement to begin over again.

Surely, engaging with your router is a procedure that so-called Smart technology ought to be able to manage all by itself.

Too many systems designers seem blissfully unaware of the anguish they cause, and the sheer waste of one’s life, when creating setup routines and other forms that automatically delete all the data you have already entered if you have to go back a page for any reason.

I have long argued that these thoughtless idiots should be forced to live with their own products for one full year before releasing them onto a befuddled public. But I do have to confess, from what the tiny box has managed to produce vocally so far – the greetings part of the process at least seems to work without connection – the sound quality is, as many have said, remarkable.

(Aha. After an hour and half going around in circles, we establish that there is a Smart function on the router that, when on, interferes with the setup process by imposing Parental Control…. But only when connecting to the Alexa. £20 later, my new friend in the corner is now happily playing selections from an Amazon jazz streaming service. Bliss.)

Dominic Cummings

Photo: Leon Neal/Getty Images, with apologies)

Steve Bannon’s foreskin

  • Data scientists and software developers
  • Economists
  • Policy experts
  • Project managers
  • Communication experts
  • Junior researchers one of whom will also be my personal assistant
  • Weirdos and misfits with odd skills

Thus runs part of a lengthy and rambling but largely obscure and possibly pretentious technocratic blogpost from Downing Street’s head SPAD Dominic Cummings, pictured above leaving a spike for itinerants somewhere underneath the arches at Waterloo Bridge, where he has spent the night regretfully draining blood from the homeless.

Employment experts are treating it as an actual advertisement for staff to join the team at Number 10 and are exercised over the legality of his demand that the weird misfits he needs to run the country should be aged under 21 years old.

This latter on the basis of age discrimination…. Probably the very least of our worries.

These are the people Cummings, who appears to suffer from arrested development issues, believes should be running the country. Sure, Sajid Javid will be thrilled to have the Treasury department’s decisions overruled by a 19-year-old undergraduate economist.

Just who the hell does this bizarre, self-appointed apparatchik think he is? I seriously doubt the poor deluded nitwits who voted to ‘Get Brexit done’ ever imagined they were really voting for someone other than Good Old Baris to run the country, someone they have never heard of; a sociopathic, attention-seeking narcissist planning to turn Britain into his private dystopian version of Scientology.

But that’s exactly what the lazy and feckless wastrel they did vote for, ‘Invisible’ Johnson is allowing him to do, from the sanctuary of his fridge.

If he had the guts of a nematode worm he would put himself up for election. But he knows he would never get into Parliament. Few weird misfits ever do; only cranky bores. In any case, Steve Bannon’s foreskin, Cummings has nothing but contempt for our creaky old institutions. His aim is to blow it all up in the air and see what comes down.

Precisely Mr Putin’s agenda.

Go, Dom.

 

GW: how do you like your planet, fried or boiled?

Australia: Amid many anxious world media reports, severe-weather.eu has: “A significant increase in extremely dry northwesterly winds and intensifying heatwave (mid-40s again) through the next 48 hours will create ingredients for a catastrophic increase in fire danger tonight (3 Jan.) and tomorrow. Chances are rising fires will merge into large firezones that wouldn’t have much room or chances to stop until they burn to the coast, prompting unprecedented evacuation of 60,000+ residents in coastal Victoria and New South Wales. At least 18 fatalities* have been reported so far and more are missing. Catastrophic death toll among animals.”

*4 Jan: now 23, 6 missing.

Conservationists estimate as many as half a billion casualties in the animal kingdom from the fires so far. The iconic koala was already functionally extinct, with fewer than 30 thousand individuals scattered throughout the vast island continent at dangerously low densities for breeding.

Death of a nation

Former australian PM, Tony Abbott has told an Israeli radio interviewer that ‘belief’ in CO2-driven man-made climate change is a ‘cult’. He on the other hand is a cunt, of the scientifically pig-ignorant variety. His distinctive jug-ears, folded forward, betray the unmistakeable signs of Fragile-X syndrome, a chromosomal disorder betokening ‘learning difficulties and cognitive impairment’ (Wikipedia).

Another Australian parliamentary nematode has branded the 100% of world climate scientists who agree (on the basis of 11.6 thousand peer-reviewed papers) that climate change is real, man-made, carbon-based and life-threatening, as ‘lunatics’.

The time has surely come for the UN to make denial an international criminal offence and lock these filthy money-breathing ecocides away for life.

4 Jan: Sydney suburb, Penrith has hit 48.9C, Canberra 44.0C, both new local records in the annals of the death of a nation.

Indonesia: The death toll in the Jakarta floods is approaching 60, with more than 400 thousand displaced. “Search and rescue teams continue to rescue dozens of people trapped in flooded buildings.” (Floodlist) Waters in some of the worst affected places are beginning to subside. Up to 4 people are thought to have died in landslips caused by heavy rain in North Sulawesi. Guardian reports, the government is desperately seeding clouds to try to get them to drop their rain before reaching land.

Mozambique: Heavy rain and flooding since 26 Dec. has left 5 people dead in Cabo Delgado Province, with 2,000 homes affected, bridges washed out and schools closed as rivers burst their banks, leaving many of the province’s northern districts isolated. Several hundred people have been driven from their homes in neighboring Zambia. (Floodlist) “Dozens of houses have been damaged or destroyed and hundreds of people displaced after heavy rain and flooding in Morogoro Region, Tanzania.

Iceland: a rapidly intensifying cyclone is bringing hurricane-force winds to the north of the country, causing Keflavik airport to shut down, while normal temperatures of – 8 to -10c have risen overnight to + 3c or more, snow turning to heavy rain. (severe-weather.eu)

USA: More storms. Accuweather reports, “the first major storm of the New Year swept across the Southern states on (2 Dec.) into the evening hours, bringing (record-breaking) flooding rainfall and severe thunderstorms. Heavy rainfall across Jackson, Mississippi, inundated roads and stranded cars in high waters, lifting manhole covers, water coming up and into the streets. Closer to the border of Louisiana, 5.15 in. of rain fell over Natchez.” In the Northwest, 75 mph storms over Washington State and Idaho are expected to produce heavy rain and snow over the weekend.

Tunnel approaching….

The greatest horror story rarely told

en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Environmental_policy_of_the_Donald_Trump_administration

This astonishing document charts the appalling history of Donald Trump’s disastrously – one should use the word criminally – inappropriate appointments to key posts in his administration, as they relate to the mismanagement of the environment in the USA – by extension, to the rest of us – and the lies he has told to cover-up his ecocidal crimes, which seem to be the product of a demented personal crusade to bring about the collapse of civilization.

No other conclusion is possible than that this embittered and self-deluding old grifter so hates America, and by extension the world; is so bitterly resentful of the human race, a group that he is unable to be part of, as his parents determined he should not be, that he is determined to take us all down with him.

His legacy will be our extinction.

Productivity rising: Despite patting ourselves on the back for exceeding 50% of our energy output from renewables in 2019, with 61% polled agreeing the government needs to do more, it appears our carbon productivity still has some way to fall on the road to zero by 2050. According to Oxfam, the average British person will have emitted more carbon dioxide in the first two weeks of this year than a citizen of any one of seven African nations does in an entire year.

 

 

 

 

The Pumpkin – Issue 105 now taking form: Lock ’em up!… Starve ’em?… Or just string ’em up?… Janus… GW: slipslidin’ away

Quote of the Week

“So, if you’re poor, you’re dead?” – British passer-by vox-popped on US medical costs.

 

Too much information corner…

According to a new Washington Post report on the Orange President’s presumably indictable labor practices, the undocumented Latina maids at Trump’s Bedminster golf club complained of having to continually provide him with fresh shirts as his makeup would rub off on the collars.

“Imagine his sheets”, exclaims Stephen Colbert. “It’d be like the Shroud of Turin every morning. A miracle!”

 

Lock ’em up!

In 1832 the radical English parliamentarian, William Cobbett, made a lengthy progress on horseback around the country and declared it to have become “A land fit only for stockbrokers”. This was a reference to the growing wealth of land-grabbing rentiers and their financial advisors, at the expense of the landless poor.

Trump’s America – and by extension much of the rest of the world – is turning into a land fit only for gangster capitalists, hell-bent on cornering the global market for energy and any other saleable goods in the twilight of civilization. It’s a bit like Musk’s plans for terraforming Mars, only in reverse. It’s fast becoming an alien landscape modeled on the strange terrain inside the warped mind of one man.

Take one solipsistic sociopath, a malignant narcissist with paranoid fantasies, a Dunning-Kruger graduate summa-cum-quid-pro-quo, with added pre-dementia; an elderly, spoiled man-child with severe developmental issues and a complete lack of empathy or moral boundaries – whatever psychobabble you want to employ – make him the most powerful man in the world, and watch him go!

I’m going to have to insert a bit of backstory here, concerning Paul Manafort. This is the 70-year-old guy with the ostrich-skin jackets, Trump’s former campaign chairman (for only four months, so of course Trump hardly knew the guy) who is serving a 7-year stretch in a Federal penitentiary for a range of crimes, including tax fraud, failure to declare himself as a foreign agent and spectacularly trying to out-con the FBI.

Having worked for some of the most brutal and corrupt dictators in the world, Manafort had been operating in Ukraine for many years as a PR advisor to some of the local oligarchs, and with wealthy Russians working on Putin’s behalf to, essentially, terraform the political landscape there. One of the things he did was to help Viktor Yanukovych get elected as President.

Yanukovych’s main rival was a not-unattractive, youngish woman called Yulia Timoshenko who, thanks to her high-level family connections, had been the Prime Minister. Manafort and his sidekick Rick Gates, also facing stir time, manufactured a corruption case against her, the charges stuck and she was locked up. Yanukovych got in, and started doing what Putin wanted, which was to push Ukraine out of the orbital influences of NATO and the neighboring EU, where the younger majority of the population preferred the country to go, towards Russia.

He also started looting the coffers of the state, ultimately getting away with almost $30 billion. But in 2014 he was overthrown in a mostly peaceful revolution, escaping in a dawn convoy over the border into Russia; whereupon, claiming that fascists were taking over, Putin sent his little green men to “protect” the mainly Russian-speaking secessionist population of the eastern coalmining region of Donbass, and, of course, illegally annexed the formerly Russian province of Crimea, reversing a post-WW2 settlement.

A low-level war has been going on ever since, with, now, more than 13 thousand casualties – mainly civilians on both sides.

One of Manafort’s connections was an oligarch named Oleg Deripaska. This fabulously wealthy friend of Putin’s had cornered the entire post-Soviet market in Russia’s aluminum mining and smelting industry after a bitter struggle that ended with the unexplained murders of several of his business rivals (Wikipedia). Be that as it may, he set about cultivating well-placed global influencers. British and EU politicians alike have enjoyed the hospitality aboard his yacht in the Aegean.

In 2009, however, a Russian accountant called Sergei Magnitsky was found dead in his prison cell in Moscow, having been brutally beaten shortly before his trial. (Official cause: heart failure.)  An American financial intermediary, Bill Browder had employed Magnitsky, and was now accused of murdering him. He started campaigning for justice for the murdered man, pointing out that Magnitsky had uncovered a huge tax fraud involving people in high places, only to be arrested and held in custody on trumped-up charges. Outraged, the US Congress then passed a law, the Magnitsky Act, among whose provisions were the imposition of travel bans and freezing the finances of implicated oligarchs.

Among them was Deripaska.

Manafort also dabbled in low finance, and we gather that at some stage he must have offered to invest, or otherwise purify, about $17 million of Deripaska’s fortune via offshore tax-free vehicles he registered, that never received the money. He appears to have spent it on buying apartments in New York, and those ostrich-skin jackets. Ooops.

The “Aluminum King” then deputed one of his lieutenants, Konstantin Kilimnik, who’d been involved with Manafort in skulduggery in Ukraine, to ensure that Manafort would repay the money in kind, if not in blood. The two men set off for Michigan to begin the process of filching confidential voter data and sending it to a GRU troll farm in St Petersburg, to fuel the campaign of disruption and disinformation through which Mr Putin thought to get his useful idiot, a sort of global “bull in the china shop”, Trump, elected.

By an amazing coincidence, the three states in which they did this stuff were the very states that got Trump elected by a margin of just 77 thousand votes when the matter was decided in the Electoral College – an institution designed to level the representational playing-field between more and less populous states by, essentially, rigging elections. Without this thoroughly undemocratic jiggery-pokery, as we know, Trump would have lost on the popular scale by 2.8 million votes; nor would Dubya Bush ever have been elected.

For some reason, in July of 2016, Mr Trump – who of course did not know Mr Manafort – fired his campaign chairman, the vapid little Trumpsucker Corey Lewandowski*, and installed Manafort in his place.

No-one knows why, for sure. Does it look like he came clutching a reference hot from the Kremlin? Surely gnotte.

Yes, okay, he liked dictators because they were desperate to be liked, and he could make that happen in exchange for large sums of dirty money; yes, he had experience of rigging elections in Ukraine and elsewhere; yes he worked for and was profoundly obligated to a close associate of Putin’s who wanted a man on the inside to persuade Congress to lift the Magnitsky sanctions. (In December, 2018 sanctions on Deripaska were lifted, at the behest of Senate leader, “Moscow” Mitch McConnell. The grateful oligarch then offered to build an aluminum plant in McConnell’s home state of Kentucky. There is naturally no suggestion of a quid pro quo, a status quo ante, a canis canem edit, a casus belli nor indeed even collusio gravis.)

Yes, being on the inside of the campaign would prove useful to all sorts of people; yes, Manafort was in a position to provide high-level Ukraine contacts to Trump, Pompeo and Giuliani, who immediately began on Inauguration Day, 2017 to start work on removing the incorruptible US Ambassador in Kyiv, Marie Yovanovych, in preparation for another, probably Manafort inspired, campaign involving oligarchs, extortion, political favors – and gas. (Because, you see, it’s all about the Energy, stoopid!)

And, yes, he’d successfully nobbled Tymoshenko with a manufactured accusation of corruption, via a corrupt state prosecutor much in the latest news of the impeachment inquiry, which is exactly what Trump set out to do to his rival candidate, Hillary Clinton, to “Lock her up!” Where did he get that idea from? Because four separate investigations, even by his own terraformed Justice and State departments, over three-and-a-half years, have found no evidence of serious malfeasance on her part.

And that’s the synchronicity!

With the help of the corrupted Republicans in Congress, up to their necks in his filthy business and unable to escape, or to wash away the stain of their association, Trump is now frantically trying to forestall his impeachment by gaslighting America into believing that Ukraine, not Russia, was responsible for interfering with his election, to try to get Clinton elected instead; thereby justifying the attempt he denies having made, to force the Ukrainian president Zelinskiy to produce evidence of Putin’s innocence – and to help smear his own rivals for the next election.

To achieve his aims, it was also necessary to persuade Zelenskiy’s predecessor, Petro Poroshenko, to assist in doctoring the “little black book” evidence of large payments to Manafort for his services to Yanukovych, so that Ukraine could more convincingly be made the scapegoat for the 2016 election “interference” and thus justify Trump’s bullying. Unfortunately, Poroshenko lost the election last April, so the conspirators had to start again with his successor.

That there is absolutely no possibility that this Ukraine “stolen Clinton server” scenario was ever feasible, or even likely, without means, motive or opportunity and no smoking gun; that the mass of evidence and his own past inadvertencies point straight at the Kremlin, does not occur to Trump’s excusers and enablers, nor to his cult followers in the crazy community. In Trump’s terraforned world, anything he likes can be true; every shape can be shifted.

How like the former Soviet Union is that?

The way he has gone about doing Putin’s business and bidding emerges from such stories with devastating clarity. There is no doubt whatever in my mind, nor in most anybody else’s who is following the shenanigans in Washington, that he is a compromized Russian asset. He might not even realize it, not fully – perhaps he is just struggling to find in Putin another authoritarian father figure to replace his monstrous dad, Fred, who bankrolled Donald’s failures to make tax losses while findng nothing but tragic disappointment in his younger son. Or to find another successful homosexual mobster like his old mentor, the ruthless Mafia lawyer Roy Cohn, whose alarmingly direct methods of management he strives sometimes comically to emulate.

Increasingly, through his social and political terraforming, America and the world are coming to resemble the inner landscape of Trump: the original Lost Boy. A useful allegory is provided by the current BBC adaptation of Wells’ The War of the Worlds, where starving survivors stumble through a barren, dustblown, rusty-red Martian landscape the alien invaders have been creating for themselves on planet Earth.

Most Americans now realize that the man they thought was a bit of a joke, a buffoon with no manners, taste or education; a typically brash, upwardly mobile NooYawk real estate developer who would “get things done” in managerial style, is nothing of the kind. In addition to being an inept old fraud, a third-rate “mom and pop” businessman who succeeds by actualizing his mental confusion, he’s a monster, a mythical Balog dredged from the bowels of Hell by the wishful thinking of millions of disaffected voters dying for a savior to let loose their worst, most feral instincts on an unforgiving world they long to end.

Britain, beware. Under Trump mini-me Johnson, another devious, rotten and hubristic character winning on sheer media presence, entertainment value for the bored and fraxctious masses, we are going down the same path to perdition. Not for nothing did those Martians with their terrible machines first fall to earth in Woking, Surrey; home of The Spice Girls.

As Religion fades away, Politics is becoming the opium of the masses.

*I have since watched with growing admiration as Lewandowski, supposedly a former assistant DA, put on an utterly disingenuous performance under questioning by a Congressional committee, rolllng his eyes and wriggling in his chair, unable to remember anything, but no, he never suspected the president might have been ordering him to do anything illegal, whining that as he never went to Harvard law school the questions were too difficult…. You’ll recognize the scene where the detective finds the money under the bed and the punk goes, “Gee, officer, I wonder how that got there?” It’s true, Trump does pick only the best people. Especially for bungling criminal enterprises.

 

Starve ’em?

A vox pop on Britain’s streets went viral last week as passers-by gasped in horror when, asked to guess what everyday pharmaceuticals cost in the US, that are available free on the NHS, they learned of the vast numbers of ordinary Americans bankrupted and even made homeless by the cost of uninsured medical care.

One young woman in particular was asked how much an epipen, that can save a life when someone goes into anaphylactic shock owing to an allergic reaction, costs in America, to be told it was $600. In Britain, pharmacists hand them out on free prescription. “Man”, she exclaimed. “So, if you’re poor, you’re dead!”

The elimination of poverty through economic cleansing looks like becoming the central plank of the 2020 election for Republicans. The Trump administration has just tightened the rules so that another three-quarters of a million low-income Americans are to be removed from the food stamps program. If they don’t qualify for it, their ragged-assed kids will no longer be eligible for free school meals.

Deaths will inevitably result.

The money is instead to go toward padding out the already $16 billion compensation package Trump signed last summer for farmers affected by export shortfalls and rising domestic prices created by his pointless trade war against China, that he says the US is winning but has bankrupted thousands.

But don’t imagine farmers are immune from the Republicans’ extermination policy against the working class. The bulk of the money has gone to bolstering the profits of large-scale agribusiness, mainly in the recidivist South, home of the former Confederacy, where rumbling discontent over issues like Civil Rights and Northern prosperity requires placating.

 

Or just string ’em up?

Mainstream media have been a little reluctant to report that Mr Thomas Bowers, 55, a wealthy former senior vice-president in the Wealth Management division of Deutsche Bank, was found hanged at his Malibu, Ca. home on 19 November.

Well, at least he won’t have to testify at any impeachment harings.

Inquistr reports that Bowers was the direct supervisor of a staffer called Rosemary Vrablic, who had been introduced to Trump with a recommendation from the equally indigent Jared Kushner as his “favorite banker”. Now, why was that?

“The bank’s investigation of Trump’s finances found that he reported values of his real estate assets that were too high by 70 percent in many cases.” (Something confirmed in court by Trump’s former bag man, Michael Cohen.) “Nonetheless, Vrablic and Bowers approved a $100 million loan for the president to buy the Doral Golf Resort and Spa near Miami, according to a New York Times report.”

My Gosh, I wish I’d met them sooner!

Deutsche reportedly continued to lend more than $1 billion to Trump over a ten-year period, at a time when no US bank would touch him, and despite being aware that Trump was red-flagged as a possible money-launderer. He was certainly a serial loan-defaulter – according to Mother Jones, he still owes Deutsche Bank $345 million. This period may have overlapped with a similar decade in which Trump Organization allegedly declared $100 million annual LOSSES to obtain tax benefits.

Deutsche was recently hit with an injunction to hand over their records of dealings with Trump Org. to Congress, which they have apparently done. We understand that the New York Attorney’s Office also has the records. Let’s see who’s the faster speed-reader.

Another client of Bowers/Vrablic was, we understand, his fellow suicide-by-hanging, Jeffrey Epstein.

So now, for some unaccountable reason, Mr Cohen, who had been due to give further testimony against Mr Trump – “Individual 1” – in February, is reportedly getting cold feet in the relative comfort of his cell at the medium-security Otisville, NY prison, and it ain’t becuz the heating brunk down.

As they say, everything Trump touches, dies.

 

“In 2018, 58 people were killed in crashes during Uber trips; nine people were murdered, and 3,045 people were sexually assaulted. The numbers represented a fraction — just 0.0003 percent — of Uber’s 1.3 billion rides in the U.S. last year.” – New York Times

 

Drain the swamp!

Pumpkin followers may recall, we bogld ages ago about a certain Dr Joseph Ackermann, who is connected to the Trump saga in the following way:

Dr Ackermann is the former CEO of Deutsche Bank, a global organization that has in recent years been fined billions of dollars for money-laundering – essentially, failing to check where the money has come from, that has flowed endlessly through their coffers, mainly from Russian oligarchical sources.

Dr Ackermann then went on to found Bank of Cyprus, that has also been accused of money-laundering, to the extent that some wit described it as “the global laundromat”.

The quip is quite amusing, as in the 1970s the late President Nixon, in order to hide the secret campaign funding he was getting from the Los Angeles Mafia, literally “laundered” it through a fake cleaning business created for him in Florida. (The state where Messrs Giuliani, Parnas and Frumin allegedly created a phony “gas” company, to launder funds from Ukraine into Trump re-election accounts. It’s not only swamps and alligators there.)

The two vice-chairmen of Bank of Cyprus were a sanctioned Russian oligarch, “The Fertilizer King”, Dmitry Rybolovlev, who “overpaid” $95 million for a worthless Trump property in Florida, netting Trump a $50 million windfall; and Mr Wilbur Ross, a “family consiglieri” described by the not-exactly leftish business journal, Forbes, as possibly: “One of the biggest grifters in American history”, who after almost four years of the presidency somehow remains America’s Commerce Secretary.

The Cambridge dictionary describes a grifter as: “Someone who gets money dishonestly by tricking people.” Which Mr Ross certainly appeared to have done, when Forbes had to downgrade his public estimate of his fortune from $3.5 billion to just a few hundred million. Among which was, presumably, the $120 million he’s alleged to have swindled from his former business partners.

And, look, I keep telling you, “It’s the Energy, stoopid!”

Because here, yet again, that word pops up in a report, this time from The Guardian, back in November 2017:

“Leaked documents and public filings show Ross holds a stake in a shipping company, Navigator, through a chain of offshore investments. Navigator operates a lucrative partnership with Sibur, a Russian gas company part-owned by Kirill Shamalov, the husband of Putin’s daughter Katerina Tikhonova.”

See if you can “gas” which one!

Janus

In case anyone should think that Trump is really so thin-skinned as to have been genuinely upset by Justin Trudeau’s overheard comment at the NATO summit in leafy Watford, home of the football team whose faded fortunes were turned around in the 1980s thanks to the lucrative ownership of Sir Elton John, The Pumpkin can only say, BS.

Trump never fails to rush to grab the headlines with some outrageous tweet, crass comment or cackhanded military decision when there’s something more important going on, that concerns him and his criminal tendencies. If nothing else, he’s a master self-publicist who for decades has played the “fake news” media for all he’s worth, largely because he’s never been worth all that much.

I mean, who would want the world and its wife reading about a devastating, 300-page Congressional indictment of his attempts to cover-up the true story of his murky interventions in Ukraine, listing the entirely believable testimonies of 17 witnesses – supported by a sheaf of White House call logs – to his naked acts of unpresidential thuggery, when they could be reading instead about how funny he thinks was his riposte that Trudeau is “two-faced” – an obvious reference to the scandal of the Canadian Prime Minister having years ago unimaginatively attended three student parties in blackface?

After all, does Trump not lurk behind a curiously mottled orange mask? What race, I wonder, is he trying to insult with that?

 

“Ronnie played fantastic but it’s a really big win for me.” – Ding Jinhui

Gnyaah! Stuff the apostrophe, bring back the adverb, is all I can say.

 

Dry cliffs at Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe

Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe last week.

(Photo by Mike Hutchings/Reuters/Guardian, with apologies)

GW: slipslidin’ away

Indian Ocean: Yesterday, Severe-weather.eu reported on a very rare occurrence, twin tropical storms intensifying to hurricane strength in the western Indian ocean, on either side of the equator – rotating as per theory in opposite directions. Today it seems the rarity of such an event is being eclipsed as three more tropical storms are forming in the same region. One is threatening the coast of Somalia, another aiming for Madagascar and Tanzania. Those of you who recall the film, The Day After Tomorrow, may not be so impressed.

Update: One of the cyclones, Invest 93, now named Ambali, has intensified in under 24 hours from a 30 mph tropical storm to a “monster” Cat. 3 typhoon with windspeeds up to 130 mph. Some forecasts were predicting it could reach a maximum 160 mph Cat. 5 within another 18 hours. (Update update: it did! Maybe fastest-ever!) No land areas are currently in its path.

Philippines: Typhoon Kammuri has killed at least 13 people, while 345 thousand are in evacuation centers, reports Aljazeera. “Kammuri, the 20th to hit the country this year, crossed the coast on Monday night, forcing hundreds of thousands of residents to evacuate and the cancellation of hundreds of flights.” Coastal communities south of the capital have been devastated.  Kammuri had intensified from a tropical storm to a Cat. 4 hurricane in just 18 hours.

Madagascar: “Yet another potentially monster cyclone is developing in the West Indian Ocean – Tropical cyclone Belna. The system is currently packing maximum sustained winds of 100 mph and strengthening. Rapid intensification is expected to begin soon. Belna will likely reach at least a strong Cat. 3 strength, possibly even Cat. 4 late tomorrow prior to landfall in NW Madagascar on Monday 9 Dec.” (Severe-weather.eu)

Uganda: Floodlist cites, a little confusingly, Red Cross reports that at least 10 people may have died in landslides and flooding in two separate provinces; 5 in each, with a fairly large number still missing. “The tragedy hit after hours of heavy rain on 03 Dec.”

Southern Africa: By contrast to the months of flooding and landslides in northern and eastern Africa, in the south the long drought is worsening. There are reports of the mighty Zambezi river drying up, causing power outages in Zimbabwe and Zambia, which are dependent on hydropower from the Kabila dam. The famous Victoria Falls, a major tourism revenue earner, has slowed to a “disappointing” trickle. (Guardian)

New Zealand: An estimated 1,000 foreign tourists are trapped after a weekend of severe storms dumping large hail and up to 40 mm of rain per hour triggered landslides and flooding that have cut off towns in South Island. Officials say it could take months to clear access roads. Most are stuck on the west coast in the towns of Fox Glacier and Franz Josef. Some have been forced to sleep in their cars, and are said to be scared and tired. Emergency supplies are being helicoptered in. There’s a warning out for tornadoes. (From Guardian, 8 Dec.)

USA: If you’re dreaming of a White Christmas, take cover! The polar vortex has split again owing to a heat anomaly in the stratosphere and a large part is drifting southwards. “Brutally cold Arctic air will flow down into the north-central US mid-next week. Current forecast indicates that air temperature could drop as low as -25°C, in some places even down to -40°C! Over the border in Canada, temperatures will be even lower. This is an unusually strong cold air outbreak for early December.” (Severe-weather.eu) The US’s Weather Company however is not predicting such low temperatures, meanwhile there’s a “heatwave” over many states melting early snowpack, while more storms are bringing flooding and landslides to California.

Australia: Golfers “at the Australian Open have complained of stinging eyes as toxic smoke from (more than 100) bushfires around Sydney affected the opening round on Thursday. Sydney’s air quality index registered on a par with Beijing. More than 2,000 firefighters are battling the massive blazes, which escalated in intensity on Thursday evening, 6 Dec. More than 1.6 million hectares of land in NSW have been burnt already. Fires have also raged across Queensland, Victoria, South Australia, Western Australia and Tasmania..” (edited from BBC reports)

Update: Fri 7 Dec. 5 large fires raging outside Sydney have merged into one, covering 365 thousand ha. on a 37-mile front. Fire service says the whole NSW coast is burning, mostly out of control. Reinforcements are arriving from the USA. More than 10% of the area covered by national parks has been burned, including 20% of the Blue Mountains “Gondwana rainforest” world heritage area. Worse conditions are forecast for next week. (Guardian reports)

Spain: “A storm has caused flash flooding in parts of Murcia,  prompting high water rescues and some evacuations. Emergency services said they received 534 calls for assistance, including around 30 people rescued from vehicles trapped in flood water.” (Floodlist). Up to 390 mm (15-in) rain fell in 24 hours (on La Vita), coastal Valencia being battered by 4 meter waves and 80 mph winds. Storm conditions are expected across the South of France and into northern Italy.

Ireland: Storm Atiyah is bringing 80 mph winds across the west of the British Isles on 8 Dec. as the Atlantic cyclone season swings into action. Warnings of “risk to life” have gone out in SW Britain as travel disruption and heavy seas with up to 40 ft waves are expected in the Irish Sea. (BBC/Mirror)

Tunnel approaching….

Planet: “Oxygen in the oceans is being lost at an unprecedented rate, with “dead zones” proliferating and hundreds more areas showing oxygen dangerously depleted. Sharks, tuna, marlin and other large fish species were at particular risk, with many vital ecosystems in danger of collapse.” (Guardian, citing International Union for the Conservation of Nature presentation at COP25 in Madrid). Warming oceans, acidification, agricultural runoff and overfishing are blamed.

No shit: President Trump is considering rolling back water conservation measures, which he is blaming for an increase in the number of times people flush the toilet – thus actually increasing water usage. “We’re looking very strongly at sinks and showers,” said the president, opaquely. Currently embroiled in a major constitutional crisis, Mr Trump has already revoked 85 other environmental protections, claiming they are damaging his economy. (From Guardian)

 

A new BogPo emerging: Trapped in the work ethic… “Appointments Co-Ordinator”: The Angel of Death… Trump’s weird weather balloon continues to inflate… GW: It’s a hard rain’s gonna fall

Revolting Quote of the Week (Look away now…)

“Perhaps Iain Duncan Smith would be caught scraping wax out of his own ears and spreading it on a Jacob’s Cracker; or licking his own belly-button fluff off a stick as if it were fairground candyfloss; or sprinkling dried smegma flakes from beneath his foreskin on to a strawberry ice cream and saying: ‘Yum! Yum! I love eating smegma!’ Everyone will have the food they need.” – Stewart Lee in The Observer, 8 Sept., after former Tory leader and chief architect of the New Poverty, Smarmy Duncan Cunt was caught on camera in the Commons, picking his nose and eating the bogeys.

 

Trapped in the work ethic

There’s an excellent dissection of modern-day society on Open Democracy today (pub. 5 Sept.). Phil Jones writes on Millennials’ obsession with “Brand You” – the neurotic pursuit of “employability” that occupies so much of people’s leisure time – and, indeed, of their working time, as they concentrate on finding the next job, and the next.

“If work/life balance feels like a bad joke, the need to market oneself is even worse – a joke that goes on forever, never to deliver. Needless to say, the joke is on us as we spend our lives working ever-more to receive ever less.”

Jones regards it as a mental health crisis.

Actually, I’ve always thought that the universal activity of looking around for better opportunities is one of the more agreeable diversions from work, and probably one of the primary causes of our woeful lack of productivity in Britain: an economy shivering through an unending winter of employee discontent.

Your Uncle Bogler is no millennial, except in the sense that sometimes he feels like a thousand years old. But he regards himself as having often been years ahead of the game. He thinks back to his last job, and the one before that, and the ones even before those, as times of obsessively reinventing himself through successive redraftings of his CV – this was mostly before lInkedIn and Instagram and all the rest of it. “Brand You” was always “Brand Me”.

So maybe it’s not such a new thing. Because 30, even 40 years ago I always felt the need to move on was the ideal form of progress. And, having milked every employer I ever had of more and more responsibility, always working silly hours way beyond my job description, never feeling sufficiently rewarded for it, it wasn’t long before I would start looking around for something more interesting to do.

Every so often I would go off for a while and employ myself, although I was my own worst manager and employer, always hopeless at structuring my time, doing accounts, finding business, networking and the social politics of being preferred for jobs I could do standing on my head, over reassuring Yes-men. It was always a great relief to get off that merry-go-round horse and hop onto a passing ride; a dodgem car, or the ghost train.

Indeed, after what? seven years! of retirement, I still wake up every day wondering where my next career move is going to come from.

Seventy, as they say, is the new 50, and finding work at 50 was hard enough. Nobody wants to hire someone afresh at the peak of their powers, there’s always a suspicion, isn’t there, that if you’re looking to get hired at 50 there must be something wrong with you; and, if hired, you’re probably thinking you can run the place a lot better than the insecure twenty-somethings blundering about in charge, which of course they won’t appreciate.

I didn’t. But having been given my own department to run, a budget and a free hand with hiring and scheduling, even at the callow age of 24 I didn’t make the mistake of not hiring more experienced people than myself to deputize, more than to do the actual nuts and bolts work; making up for the gaps in my knowledge and providing reassurance to the directors.

I made sure some of them got paid more than I did. Some of them were even women! And yet there was never any question who was running the show: it ran on my probably lunatic ideas (it’s called “innovation”), my energy, my hours, my creative imagination, my (well-regarded) precocious, professional input. I endeavored to induce a sense of co-operation – collegialism, rather than the tired cliche of “teamwork”, that absurd militaristic or sporting trope, the fallback of too many workplaces run by managers trained, rather than educated.

It’s an attitude I can pride myself on, and with me free to concentrate on my own contributions to the end-product, rather than constantly having to keep an eye on the personnel (except in one egregious case, of one serial responsibility-evader – he was the annoying baby of the team), we rapidly earned the envy and hatred of our competitors, as well as higher ratings, which I regarded then as the mark of success.

Few people, I imagine, get the chance to do that sort of thing nowadays. I won’t go shelf-stacking in Morrison’s because of it. Five minutes into the job and I’d almost certainly be thinking of the Manager much as one might contemplate the promising intellect of a primate in a zoo, adept at winkling its earwax out with a stick, wondering why Head Office was so willing to put up with the glaring inefficiencies and sheer gutlessness of its regional systems, its risk-aversion, and – privately seething with discontent at the massive discrepancy in our relative rewards – itching to move on.

It’s not a good look, as we corporatists say nowadays.

http://www.opendemocracy.net/en/oureconomy/brand-you-how-employability-came-dominate-our-lives/?utm_source=Daily+Newsletter&utm_campaign=92c44be1e6-DAILY_NEWSLETTER_MAILCHIMP&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_717bc5d86d-92c44be1e6-408090269

 

Trump’s weird weather balloon continues to inflate

The bizarre story of how Trump has been defending, like an oversexed terrier clamped to your leg, his mistaken warning that Alabama was going to be hit by Hurricane Dorian, took an even weirder turn tonight when someone at NOAA, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric  Administration, issued a statement confirming that Trump had been correct, and that Alabama had been on the track list – albeit briefly – for 12 hours.

The Trump-affirming statement appeared to contradict the opinions of NOAA’s own scientists.

Trump called the press to the Oval Office on Wenesday and showed them a map that had obviously been doctored by someone, a person widely believed to be the 4-year-old child calling itself the 45th President of the United States of America, Commander-in-Chief of US forces and Leader of the Free World, by drawing an erratic extra bulge on a very early Hurricane Center track forecast with a black marker pen, to include Alabama, after the National Weather Service had tried to correct him.

Hurricane Dorian was going, they said, nowhere near Alabama. His claim, defended in a series of vindictive tweets savaging the media for trying to make him look bad, led to some panic buying in the state, while critics have argued that it may also have led to potentially lethal complacency in the Carolinas, far to the east, where the Category 3 storm did in fact track after killing hundreds of people in the Bahamas.

Certainly, there’s a law against promulgating false weather forecasts.

The point being, that Trump’s mental condition is now under serious scrutiny, as he had clearly made a simple mistake and it wasn’t, to begin with, of any importance; nobody would have cared, and he could just have brushed it off with a disarming apology, if he had an ounce of charm or good manners. Instead he is still doubling and tripling down on it with a series of increasingly disturbing lies, and what appear to be increasingly intimidatory tactics.

Now there’s a major rift between the nation’s various weather bureaux, with a spokesman for the National Weather Service’s employees calling the NOAA statement “disgusting and disingenuous” and accusing the NOAA of “managerial malpractise”, perpetrated for political reasons.

A quick call to Granny Weatherwax confirms, after delaying an appointment for many months, late in 2017 Trump nominated for the head of the NOAA, the former CEO of a private forecasting service, Accuweather, one Barry Lee Myers, a non-scientist.

Myers had previusly made a substantial donation to the campaign fund of a leading Republican senatorial candidate, the ghastly Rick Santorum, in an attempt to get Congress to sideline the National Weather Service and benefit Accuweather’s commercial interests by effectively outlawing free public weather forecasts.

He was not confirmed in post. So, according to Wikipedia, “since February 2019, NOAA has been headed by Neil Jacobs, as acting Under Secretary of Commerce for Oceans and Atmosphere and NOAA interim administrator. NOAA has not had a confirmed leader since January of 2017.”

Neil has a somewhat more impressive CV than Barry:

“Previously as the Chief Atmospheric Scientist at Panasonic Avionics Corporation, he directed the research and development of both the aviation weather observing platform and weather forecast model programs. He was previously the Chair of the American Meteorological Society’s Forecast Improvement Group, and also served on the World Meteorological Organization’s aircraft-based observing systems expert team. Dr. Jacobs holds a bachelor degree in mathematics and physics from the University of South Carolina and masters and doctoral degrees in atmospheric science from North Carolina State University.” (NOAA website)

Now all he needed to do was to tell Mad King Donald to just drop it, but sadly being only yet another “acting” head of department among many, he can’t. Because his position is unconfirmed by the Senate and still in the gift of the President, he just has to do what the demented orange infant – whose uncle, let us remember, lectured in electrical engineering at MIT, qualifying Trump as a scientist summa cum laude – tells him to do.

Just get him out. Forget who he is, concentrate on what he is, which is certifiably bonkers. It’s cruel to keep him there. Just send in the men in white coats, stick an anti-spit bag on his head in case it’s catching, the megalomania – and cart him off with his arms folded.

How hard can it be?

 

“Appointments Co-Ordinator”: The Angel of Death

The NHS over in England is instructing area health trusts to write to London’s GPs, telling them not to refer patients to specialist consultants unless it’s a matter of life or death. “A spokeswoman” is quoted as saying:

“Some ideas will affect clinical services and in putting forward our plans we want to emphasise that the safety of our patients and the quality of our services will always come first.”

The spokeswoman added that they would ensure no patient waited more than 52 weeks for treatment.” (Guardian)

52 weeks is, as my Likers, Spammers, etc. all kno, a year.  No patient will wait MORE THAN A YEAR for treatment. Some idea… Some quality, first. Is this a health service or a national extermination program? Statisticians have been reporting for some time now that life expectancy in Britain is no longer increasing. This looks like one possible reason, you might agree.

Commented Health Secretary, Matt Hancock: “zzzzzzz. Wake me up when we’ve Brexited”.

My own local health board in Wales has adverted instead to a different method of imposing the death penalty on patients. Someone naming but not signing themselves “Appointments Co-Ordinator” will write to you, telling you you need to make an appointment – whether you do or not.

Failure to respond by telephone within 14 days will result in them assuming you no longer want or need treatment, or you are no longer living in the area, or you’ve died, and unpersoning you. Telephoning will produce a recorded message, telling you there is a half-hour wait to speak to someone.

Last March, for instance, I ignored – well, I tried phoning first, and then I ignored the letter because I already had a consultant appointment, made directly through his office. But you can no longer do that. And in early May I had another letter, informing me that, as I had obviously died or gone away, I no longer had a consultant. Although I had been to see him, and had various procedures in the meantime.

So, I was forced to waste the time of my GP and my consultant getting myself put back on the list. I’ve since had another letter, demanding I make an appointment – for what sounds very much like a preliminary assessment to begin receiving the consultant support I’ve already been getting for my prostate condition for the past five years.

And, of course, if I don’t phone within 14 days, I’ll be struck off again. Which rather makes a nonsense of the huge expense of the various scans, tests, surgical investigations and clinical procedures I’ve already had, since they’ll need to be repeated.

“Appointments Co-Ordinator” is not, obvious to say, a clinician, but a bureaucrat. (That’s if they really exist and are not simply an algorithm.) “Appointments Co-Ordinator” has no idea if my condition requires treatment or not; or what treatment it requires. But it certainly requires treatment.

And in writing to people in late August, “Appointments Co-Ordinator” clearly runs the risk of encountering recipients who are away on holiday, as I was when the letter arrived.

I replied immediately by letter – it’s written evidence – asking “Appointments Co-Ordinator” to check with my consultant to see if the appointment was relevant or not, before wasting everyone’s time making it.

Needless to say, after 14 days I’ve had no reply. “Appointments Co-Ordinator” can dish it out, but she can’t take it.

Which you might understand fills me with anger. Striking patients off consultants’ lists while they are receiving treatment (I have never missed an appointment) without reference to the consultant or further investigation of the circumstances in which a patient has failed to respond in time – a follow-up letter, perhaps – is a gross breach of medical ethics and saves no money at all.

All it does is close cases on open files, when they may need to remain open – thus artificially and, in many cases, one suspects temporarily – shortening overburdened consultants’ waiting lists (and the lives of the patients) to comply with official quotas.

 

GW: It’s a hard rain’s gonna fall

Bahamas: “Health minister Duane Sands has warned of the probability of a very high death toll in Abaco and Grand Bahama as the catastrophe continues to unfold. He told people to brace for a ‘staggering’ final count, when speaking to local radio late Thursday. ‘The public needs to prepare for unimaginable information about the death toll and the human suffering,’ he said.” Grand Abaco is said to be virtually uninhabitable. The UN has called for aid for up to 70 thousand homeless survivors. (Guardian and others)

Chuntering up the coast, Dorian has been bumping into the Carolinas, back at Cat 3, bringing severe flooding to coastal regions, and is set to make landfall in a third country, Canada, over the weekend before spinning out across the Atlantic in pursuit of weakening Tropical Storm Gabrielle, heading for the British Isles later next week. Several other Tropical disturbances are reported in the Atlantic, although none is as yet favored to intensify – Dorian will have churned up a lot of cold water in its wake and left a turbulent atmosphere that should discourage more hurricanes for a while at least. One meteorologist is suggesting remnant Dorian could trigger a UK heatwave. (Express)

Vietnam: Tropical Depression Kajiki, which closely followed Tropical Cyclone Podul, has brought heavy rain to parts of Vietnam and Laos, causing further flooding and landslides. Authorities report at least 2 people have died and 2 are missing in Laos, while 5 fatalities were reported in Vietnam with 3 people still missing. Heavy rain in catchment areas has also increased levels of the Mekong River, which has reached flood stage in parts of Thailand, Laos and Cambodia.” (Floodlist)

Africa: Over 40 people have died and 70 thousand are affected by flooding in Niger, West Africa, where rivers have far exceeded Red level flood stage. Other countries of the region have also seen major flooding and casualties over the last few weeks, including Nigeria and Mauritania, along with Central African Republic and further north, Algeria and Morocco. (Floodlist)

India: Flooding caused major disruption to road and rail transport in Mumbai and areas of the surrounding state of Maharashtra. 214.4 mm (8.5-in.) of rainfall was recorded in 12 hours on 4 Sept. India’s public service broadcaster, said that out of 150 weather stations in Mumbai and Maharashtra, 100 weather stations received 200mm of rainfall within 24 hours. The rain cause massive urban flooding, clogging streets, damaging homes and causing transport disruption including bus, train and flight cancellations. (Floodlist)

Japan: Tropical Storm Faxai intensified rapidly Saturday (7 Sept.) to become, now, a Cat 3 supertyphoon, with 130 mph winds, heading straight for the main island. “Destructive winds are likely across southeastern Honshu, and destructive waves are possible on Japan’s southern and eastern shores. In addition, 3 to 8 inches of rain is likely in southeastern Honshu, with isolated amounts up to a foot possible. Flooding is possible in the Tokyo metropolitan area.” (The Weather Channel) The storm has delayed the arrival of teams for the Rugby World Cup.

Previously: Supertyphoon Lingling “skyrocketed from a CAT2-equivalent to CAT4-equivalent system in only 6 hours late on September 5th. Indeed, satellite imagery showed impressive structure, with a well-developed, extensive central dense overcast and an impressive, well-defined eye. Peak sustained winds increased from 105 mph (169 km/h) to 130 mph (209 km/h). It tracked directly across Japan’s Miyakojima island”, and will “track north over the East China Sea into the Yellow Sea in the next two days, likely retaining significant strength. Possible landfall in North Korea early on Saturday, although track is somewhat uncertain.” (Severe-weather.eu)

Update, 7 Sept.: 3 killed as 155mph Typhoon Lingling bumps first along the South’s coast, then smashes into North Korea. 8 injured. Flights grounded, and thousands without power. (London Evening Standard)

USA: “Record-challenging heat will make it feel like the middle of summer across the southern United States through the weekend. Dry conditions and plenty of sunshine will stretch from eastern Texas to Georgia on Friday as an area of high pressure settles over the region. Temperatures across much of this area will climb into the middle to upper 90s F, while farther west in Louisiana and eastern Texas, highs are expected to peak near 100 F.” (Accuweather)

“A raging wildfire near Quincy in Plumas County erupted to 24,000 acres on Saturday, forcing evacuations in the area, the U.S. Forest Service reported. The Walker Fire broke out Wednesday inside the Plumas National Forest about 11 miles east of Taylorsville. The blaze was at 2,000 acres on Friday morning, before strong winds in the area rapidly caused the fire to grow, burning over 17,000 acres by Friday night. As of Saturday morning, the fire had covered 24,040 acres and was zero percent containment (sic). (Sacramento Bee)

After the storm… Just where do you start?

Mexico: The Weather Channel reports “Tropical Storm Fernand is closing in on landfall in northeast Mexico where it will bring a threat of heavy rain and flooding. Tropical Storm Gabrielle has also formed in the eastern tropical Atlantic Ocean”, and is on a track that may see it spin nor’eastwards towards the northern British Isles later in the week, where remnant Dorian is also heading after passing over Nova Scotia with 75mph sustained winds… “But that’s not all: The National Hurricane Center (NHC) is watching two other areas in the Atlantic for possible tropical development as well.”

 

Tunnel approaching….

Yellowstone: The Blessed Mary Greeley reports, there’s been another swarm of more than 40 small ‘quakes up to M2.7 in the Mammoth Mountain volcanic area, to the north of the Long Valley supervolcano caldera in SE California, near where there was a series of major quakes 2 months ago, including a huge M7.1. The last “small” eruption, which created Mono Lake, was only 250 years ago; but the USGS says there’s only a one percent chance one of the volcanoes could erupt again in any one year. Which is to say, a one in a hundred years chance…. and it’s been 250 years since the last eruption? Ooops.

It’s believed the magma chamber – estimated at 240 cubic miles! – could be contiguous with that of the not far-away Yellowstone volcano in Montana (11.5 Grand Canyons’ worth), where there have also been swarms of quakes recently.

Australia: The government of New South Wales is evacuating fish from the lower Darling river – part of the country’s major Murray-Darling irrigation basin – ahead of predictions of another scorching, dry summer. Last year, millions of fish died and other river-dwellers were almost wiped out as the Lower Darling fell to record low levels, partly due to overextraction. Agriculture Minister, Adam Murray said: “We’re staring down the barrel of a potential fish Armageddon.” (Guardian Green Light)

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

How many wars can Trump sustain all at once?

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

And the conclusion is terrifying.

Spoiler alert: Thom’s verdict

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_lawsuits_involving_Donald_Trump

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

 

Collision

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

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

Talk about obstructing justice!

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

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

Pray for rain.

 

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

 

Trumpenfilth corner:

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

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

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

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

 

Bent crude

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Witness intimidation.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

 

The Man Who Would be King

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

A filthy, murderous little regime

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tunnel approaching….

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

 

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)

 

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.”

While 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 the 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 Johnson 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 with which 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 animal 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 racist 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 only 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

The Pumpkin – Issue 76: Wtf is Trump’s emergency about?… Her justice rewards #2… Is another financial crash coming?… Not with a bang, but with a fart… GW: Open the floodgates of Heaven

Theresa May

“Hahaha! Now I am invisible, you shall see my backstop wall has a frontstop fence!”

(Photo: apologies to Tolga Akmen/AFP/Getty)

Quote of the Week:

“Our campaign is about taking on the special interests that dominate our economic and political life. I’m talking about Wall Street, the health insurance companies, the drug companies, the fossil fuel industry, the military industrial complex, the private prison industry, and the large multinational corporations that exert such an enormous influence over our lives.” – Senator Bernie Sanders, announcing that he is running for the White House again.

And with that list, he expects to be around in 2020? Anyway, his campaign raised $1m in pledges in the first three hours, and the filthy rich Republicans are already screaming “Socialist!”, and “Tax!”, so that’s a start.

Meanwhile, on the subject of tax, Alabama newspaper editor Bedloe Sutton has been criticized for publishing an editorial calling on the Ku Klux Klan to rise up and ride to Washington armed with hemp ropes and lynch any tax-raising Democrats they find there. He says he’s absolutely serious.

Should be an exciting two years.

 

Wtf is Trump’s emergency about?

“The saying goes that in any authoritarian society ‘the leader can never be trusted, but he must always be believed’.”

The central enigma of Trump, The Pumpkin believes, commands us to decide: is he just a self-deluding minor-criminal buffoon; an inarticulate, narcissistic sociopath; an under-educated, incurious, made-for-TV business tycoon teetering on the fragile edge of sanity, or does some genuinely darker purpose lurk beneath that bullish exterior and his often brutal ‘zero-sum’ view of a transactional universe, in which you are either a winner or a loser – on his terms?

Mussolini, or Hitler?

In that rather blunt analogy, we always assume that Mussolini was the Opera Buffo character, the preening, preposterous, not-so scary spaghetti monster – and Hitler, the deadly, all-devouring snake. But we forget that it was Mussolini who is credited as the inventor of modern fascism. He at least had an -ism to work with! But what did Hitler have?

The sad death at 77 from colonic cancer of the Swiss actor Bruno Ganz, who played Hitler during his last days in the brilliant film “Downfall”, has brought to light a similar conundrum to that of the Trump phenomenon. After spending months researching the character, Ganz remarked, he had only the mannerisms. He still had no idea of what really made Hitler tick.

And that’s the problem with self-proclaimed “leaders”. There may well be nothing at all beneath the surface, a yawning space to be filled only by a terrible hunger for universal approbation and a mad belief, as in Louis 1Vth’s cracker motto: “L’État, c’est moi!” (“I am the State”), in one’s own historic inevitability. A void into which historians may pour whatever conclusions they like.

The process of transition from democracy to autocracy – and then tyranny – invariably proceeds through seeing, one stage at a time, how much one can get away with.

Whereas most politicians project their power, devoid of soul the true authoritarian – the psychopath – insatiably ingests his.

Writing on Open Democracy, Julian de Madeiros answers the question in rather starker terms than the usual parade of MSNBC pundits and late-show comedians imagining that Trump is merely off his rocker:

” …the Italian scholar Giorgio Agamben defines totalitarianism as ‘the establishment, by means of a State of Exception, of a legal civil war that allows for the elimination not only of political adversaries, but of entire categories of citizens who for some reason cannot be integrated into our political system.’ Only then, and for this purpose, can a genuine state of emergency be imposed. The state of exception functions to normalize and integrate the necessary legal framework to enact a wholesale reactionary conspiratorial politics. This is more than just mere scapegoating, it is the internalization of extra-legal processes into the legitimization of the regime itself.”

http://www.opendemocracy.net/julian-de-medeiros/wall-isn-t-state-of-emergency-but-state-of-exception?utm_source=Daily+Newsletter&utm_campaign=b414e839a5-DAILY_NEWSLETTER_MAILCHIMP&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_717bc5d86d-b414e839a5-408090269

And after havering and blustering for weeks, having tried and failed to achieve what everyone else sees as a vain and pointless project, even to the extent of trying out his powers to shut down government, careless of the suffering it caused to thousands, President Trump has moved to bypass the normal budgetary control vested in Congress through the declaration of a State of Exception to counter a so-called emergency which even he recognizes does not exist; is his own proud invention.

In a long, rambling and unscripted dissertation on Thursday night, a frequently snivelling Trump publicly admitted, whether by accident, design or an excess of self-confidence is hard to tell, that he had made up the story of an “invasion” of the southern border by criminal migrant elements – brown people – because if he were not allowed to fulfil his expedient campaign promise to “build the wall”, he would be less likely to win a second term in office.

It’s an admission that may well lose his case for him in courts up and down the land; until, as he has also said, it reaches a supreme court packed with his placemen, where he expects to win. For the legal basis on which he has declared an emergency is shaky; all the more so if there is clearly no emergency, which he has as good as admitted there isn’t.

And then he went off to Mar a Lago to cheat at golf for three days.

Is this his Reichstag moment?

To build his wall, or fence, or physical barrier, that he fantasizes he has already begun doing, he now proposes to take the money the democratically elected Congress is refusing him, whether they like it or not – whether 65% of disapproving American taxpayers like it or not – by assuming powers to override the legislature and to force the Pentagon – which is under the President’s control as Commander-in-Chief – to pay for it, and to provide the labor needed by diverting the Corps of Engineers from their normal duties of preventing floods and suchlike.

So, yet again, we are trapped in the same conundrum as before. Is he doing this just to get his silly wall built, this vanity project that nobody, not even he, believes will have the prophylactic effects on crime and illegal immigration he says it will? Just to get himself re-elected?

Or is he doing it because it sets a precedent that could lead to him assuming absolute powers to, for instance, fire Mueller, close down the mainstream media, suspend habeas corpus and inconvenient parts of the Constitution, dissolve Congress, put soldiers on the streets of American cities and lock-up his critics and political opponents?

And what would he gain from any of that? (The real question is, what would his billionaire backers, Evangelical so-called Christians, his disappointed Confederate supporters and President Putin gain?)

While America hovers in this climate of uncertainty, because – well, why would you want to believe your country was being taken over by an insane megalomaniac armed with the nuclear codes? – we tend to overlook that on the day he announced his State of Exception, new judicial decisions about several of his former henchmen were being handed down, that substantially increased the state of legal jeopardy in which Mr Trump has lived precariously for the past two years.

The President is noted for his adroitness at diverting accusations of malfeasance onto others, or simply bullying or, in the last resort, buying his way out of trouble. He has got away with it throughout his career, and nothing he has done since occupying the White House on a minority vote in the country suggests that his habits have changed one whit.

So it may be that his latest actions are neither those of a comic bull in a china shop, nor a big step towards achieving the simple-minded dictatorship he favors as a model of pain-free governance; but are yet another entertaining smokescreen among many he continues to generate, to divert the media’s attention away from the investigations which law enforcement officers are struggling to pull together into a coherent set of indictments against Trump and his family.

In passing, it was barely noticed too that his pick for the new Attorney-General of the United States, Mr William Barr, was confirmed yesterday in the Senate.

Mr Barr, a veteran of the Bush neo-con presidency, is reportedly an entirely reliable figure who will do nothing to impede the process of investigation by the Special Counsel – of whom he has charge – or of the FBI working at the behest of various District Courts looking into, for instance, Trump’s supersized inaugural fund: where it came from, and whatever happened to the spare change – reliably reported to be somewhere north of $60 million?

But danger-spotters will consider the many brutal remarks Trump tweeted about Barr’s hapless predecessor, the Georgia gnome, (my God, one has almost forgotten his name already!) Jefferson “Jeff” Beauregard Sessions 111 – and conclude that Mr Trump is hardly likely to nominate anyone whose personal loyalty is not assured: “L’État” being “lui”, as it were….

While Barr told the Senate hearing he believed it was “vitally important” that Robert Mueller be allowed to complete his investigation, it is less certain that once he has, Mr Barr – a noted Trump supporter who is not keen on the idea of locking-up sitting presidents – will not simply shut down debate about its findings by refusing to allow the final report to be published or sent to Congress, in full or in part.

There is, as has been said, more than one way to skin a cat; or for a rogue President, an outlier on the graph of bad hombres, to achieve an ambition to discredit and dismantle all the supposedly liberal, democratic institutions he perceives as impediments to his and his supporters’ crude, authoritarian tendencies.

What his actual ambition is, however, is still unclear to anyone other than his increasingly fanatical followers, the “Cult45” as they’ve been dubbed, who are in no doubt that he has been sent by God to make America white again. As De Medeiros writes, “The saying goes that in any authoritarian society ‘the leader can never be trusted, but he must always be believed’.”

And Mr Trump has been skilful in creating for his diehard base, a world of belief in which observable facts and rational propositions are subordinated to magical thinking and the will of the crowd.

More Hitler than Mussolini, possibly.

 

Let them out!

Mr Trump is nothing if not a hypocrite in a suit.

At the same time as he is insisting that European countries must take back their own self-exiled ISIS extremists from captivity in Syria and Iraq, he has obstinately refused for two and a half years to release the last five prisoners from Guantanamo Bay who have long been cleared for release by military tribunals.

Fat wanker.

 

Her justice rewards #2

Possibly the most abstruse legal case in recent history ended last year when – Politico reported – a judge threw out a slander claim against Hillary Clinton over her alleged use of a personal email server.

All through the Trump election campaign – all through, that is, AFTER the notorious 6 June, 2016 meeting at Trump Tower to obtain “dirt” on Clinton from the Russians – the orange candidate was exhorting his hysterical dumbfucks to “Lock her up!”. And they’re still doing it.

The Pumpkin was never quite sure why, but it seems to relate to this case.

It was because a tranche of thousands of deleted emails had been recovered, as we now know by a Russian intelligence hacking operation acting in (illegal) concert with the Wikileaks website. Among them were emails relating to statements made by President Obama and Secretary Clinton about the murders in Benghazi, Libya, in 2012 of the American ambassador and three of his staff.

The official line was that the murders were inadvertent and carried out by a mob inflamed by (as it happens, false) reports of a US-made movie trailer insulting the Prophet, that attacked the consulate, where the ambassador just happened to be at the time, visiting Libya’s second wartorn city.

Ultimately it turned out from CIA reports that the attack had been deliberately planned and carried out by a Jihadi militia under cover of the rioting. Had the State Department had advance warning but said nothing, as the Ambassador entered the trap?

Somehow, lawyers for the families of two of the dead Americans made a case that a) the emails were illegal, because of Clinton’s improper use of a non-official channel, and b) the change to the official story was communicated in such a way as to slander the dead men and defame their families.

It was said that the original storyline had been made up so as not to damage Obama’s chances in his campaign to get elected for a second term.

Imported by Trump’s organizers to testify onstage at a rally as victims of “Crooked Hillary” and her plain dishonesty, the parents had themselves launched an emotional attack on Clinton, alleging that as Secretary of State she had somehow failed to protect their “children” (grown men, State department security people).

They were demanding damages, claiming that Clinton had slandered them in response to their claims that she had acted irresponsibly or even illegally – something for which U.S. District Court Judge Amy Berman Jackson ruled that there was absolutely no evidence.

Judge Jackson’s ruling also discounted the use of the private email server as any sort of factor in the case. But her ruling in fact hinged on a technicality: that if the parents were going to demand financial compensation, they had failed to say so early enough in the case.

The appellants have reacted angrily, accusing Judge Jackson of political bias. Yet The Pumpkin might mildly observe, the bias appears to be all on the side of the appellants’ attorneys, who have a history of going after the Clintons in what has been said to be “thousands” of lawsuits since the 1990s.

In a possibly inflammatory and certainly contemptuous statement, attorney Larry Klayman claims that the judge:

“clearly put politics and ahead of her oath of office as a judge to administer to the law in a neutral unbiased way … Judge Jackson, who is an Obama appointee and a Democrat, was clearly protecting Mrs. Clinton and this intellectually dishonest decision will be appealed. My clients are confident of success,” Klayman said. (Politico report)

Described as “pathologically litigious”, and founder of a libertarian group known as the Freedom Foundation, Klayman is said to be a “birther” conspiracy theorist who once attempted to have President Obama deported as a non-citizen.

It seems tragic that the parents of the dead Americans should have allowed themselves to fall into the clutches of this obviously eccentric and grandstanding charlatan, who has been banned from a number of courtrooms around the country.

But despite last year’s ruling, Trump continues to conflate his attacks on Clinton and the FBI in tweet after tweet, claiming the entire law enforcement apparatus of the country and – whenever he loses a case – the judiciary are involved in a political conspiracy against him, funded by the official opposition.

This year-old ruling may come into play shortly, as it is Judge Berman Jackson who has tried the cases against Trump’s campaign chair, Paul Manafort, and is being asked to slap a 24-year sentence on the 70-year-old this week for decades of financial crimes and his attempts to dupe the Mueller investigation. Rumors of a Presidential pardon have been swirling. But Mr Bad Deeds is out of town, grandstanding with the avunculicide, the loveable roly-poly Kim Jong-un.

 

Is another financial crash coming?

Despite his claims of an economic miracle, the budget deficit of the USA has increased since Trump took office from 19.2 trillion dollars in 2016 to almost 23 trillion this year. He has himself in the past identified $24 trillion as the “point of no return”, i.e. the point at which the debt finally becomes unrepayable, ever, and so is to be defaulted on.

Although Trump’s past sayings are never a reliable guide to his future fantasies.

The six-times bankrupt loser does not care: massive deficits, the bigger the better, are how you run a business, and if anyone complains, or asks for their money back, you sue ’em. And in the case of entire countries, well, invade and take the oil seems to be the simple philosophy.

It’s never been a better time to be a lawyer in the USA. In addition to the – I’m taking these figures off the top of my head but they’re about right – 18 separate criminal investigations, Trump is also fighting over three THOUSAND civil suits, pro and con.

Nor, judging on the evidence of the things he has tweeted or spoken about in any of his famous “word salad” interviews, can Trump identify the technical differences between the budget deficit (i.e. government spending set against tax revenues), the trade gap (i.e. overall money-in, money-out in trade in goods and services with other countries), and the stockmarket (i.e. overall value of shares in a select number of traded public companies). To Trump, it’s all his money to spend as he likes.

So it may come as no surprise that increasing numbers of US economists are becoming alarmed.

Seven million Americans are reportedly at least three months behind on their car payments. Millions of those “sub-prime” borrowers of lease finance will also have credit-card debts and mortgages they can’t finance either, which is uncomfortably reminiscent of the situation in 2007 before the banks stopped lending to one another and several went belly-up, requiring $trillions in rescue funding.

For these folks, taxes have risen around 10 per cent this year, thanks to the Trump “reforms” they stupidly voted for, imagining (while billionaires trousered more billions) that a small, one-off reduction last year was for always.

Now why did they think that, we wonder?

Oh, could it be the President lied to them?

 

Not with a bang, but with a fart

“What we are now witnessing is extremely worrying,” said one of the paper’s lead authors, Professor Euan Nisbet of Royal Holloway, University of London. “It is particularly alarming because we are still not sure why atmospheric methane levels are rising across the planet.”

Duh!

The climate disruption story has been bedevilled by the lunacy of scientific silos; over-specialization leading to a crazy kind of reductionism that promotes separate, individual studies while occluding the much more alarming “big picture”.

Maybe the fact that the Arctic region especially has for several years been experiencing huge temperature anomalies, heat resulting in outgassing from thawing permafrost swamps, kaarst lakes and clumps of frozen methane on the shallow seabed of the East Arctic Siberian shelf, and the vast reserves that lie beneath, might have something to do with it?

Like the Arctic News blogspot scientists have been trying to say for the past four years?

But the report from the American Geophysical Union, at least those morsels mentioned in the press, signally fails to make any mention of this Arctic methane, or indeed fracking operations in Colorado, blaming instead cattle ranching and African swamps! Are these clever people idiots, or is there a fault with the reporting?

But at least the news of a methane crisis has finally come to the attention of scientists with access to mainstream media, as the story appears in today’s Observer newspaper, albeit on page 18; and a few people might start to take notice. CO2 buildup might well prove terminal by 2100, but a blowout of 500 gigatonnes of Arctic methane would mean curtains within months.

To date, only carbon dioxide has been seen as the villain, but it is carbon dioxide that is generating the warming that is freeing the methane, which is on average 60 times more potent a greenhouse gas and thus, the most important component of one of those rather important ‘feedback loops’ the recent IPCC report studiously ignored.

Deep breath, everybody….

http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2019/feb/17/methane-levels-sharp-rise-threaten-paris-climate-agreement

 

GW: Open the floodgates of Heaven

Greece: A search is still underway for 4 people missing, presumed drowned after their vehicle was swept away in flash flooding near Heraklion, Crete. “Heavy rain had affected the island over the last few days.  Some areas recorded around 400mm of rain between 12 and 17 February.” (Floodlist)

Zimbabwe: Many are thought to have drowned in a flooded mine after a dam wall collapsed near the town of Kidoma on 12 Feb. Elsewhere, 2 people were drowned in flooding in Masvingo province. The national weather service reported record rainfall of 203 mm in 24 hours, 13 to 14 February, breaking the previous high of 98 mm set in 1977. (Floodlist report)

USA: And the misery continues. Pulses of more prolonged, heavy rain are forecast for most of the week across the southern midwest, with widespread risk of flash- and river-flooding. Parts of Tennessee could see 7 to 10 inches of rain in the next few days. “The Storm Prediction Center has already issued a Day 6 outlook for potential severe weather on Saturday across this region, noting the possibility of tornado-favorable conditions. Long-range models are suggesting that at least one more round of heavy rain could affect the South early next week before February draws to a close.” (Wunderground)

Australia: “Tropical Cyclone Oma is tracking towards NE Australia after grazing New Caledonia. The Category 1 system currently packs peak sustained winds of 85 mph (137 km/h).” (Severe-weather.eu) A more recent update has Oma as a very wide, slow-moving Cat 3 Typhoon with a well-formed eye, one of the worst kind, although its track is uncertain. “Meteorologists can’t rule out the chance that Oma will cross the Queensland coast somewhere in the south-east, possibly on the weekend.” (MyGC.com.au) A 4-6 meter tidal surge is predicted. 2 tourists, one French, one British, have gone missing from a beach in Brisbane where sea conditions are already said to be treacherous.

UK: following last week’s warm spell, temperatures are set to dip a little but are expected to be as high as 20C, 68F in places by next weekend – possibly beating the 1998 record of 19.7C (Express). Certainly the official forecasts are for quite a warm weekend. Pinch yourself, it’s still February. Severe-weather.eu predicts that this plume of “incredibly warm” air coming up from western Europe will stretch all the way through Scandinavia into the Arctic and persist through next week.

Iceland: “A very intense cyclone (a so-called ‘bombogenesis’ cyclone or weather bomb) will develop across the North Atlantic later today and move towards Iceland and Greenland tomorrow and on Thursday (20-21 Feb.). A violent windstorm will result from this cyclone, bringing extremely severe winds in excess of 150 km/h as well as significant wave heights up to 15 metres.” (Severe-weather.eu)

Yellowstone: Steamboat geyser, biggest in the park, goes off for the 6th time this year (record 32 times last year). Selected seismometer data still being omitted from public records; magma still rising. A M3.2 earthquake was recorded inside the park, Sunday (Mary Greeley).