The Pumpkin – issue 109: The steady trickle of body bags… I know what you’re going to say… And deliver us from the 21st century… GW: Baby light my fire…

 

The steady trickle of body bags

I was disturbed, when I’m normally complicit in our mutual liberal-lefty echo-bubble, by last Friday’s edition of the Rachel Maddow hour on MSNBC. Rachel is a cool-headed analyst not normally given to hyperbole, but her rundown of all the terrible things that are going to happen to America as a result of the assassination of Iran’s General Suleimani played straight into the hands of Trump and his gang.

Autocrats – dictators and tyrants of whatever stripe – thrive on popular fear, and Trump set the tone right from his inaugural address three years ago, ramping up fears of immigrant crime and imminent social disintegration in a broken nation, that only he could put a stop to.

Americans are the most fearful people on the planet, as he well knew. Everything terrifies them, from supposedly foreign ideological constructs like the British National Health Service, to their own government.

But for some unfathomable reason, the majority of voters seem to have no fear of real things that are being done to them:

  • being stripped of their already limited opportunities for subsidized healthcare: 27 million Americans had no health insurance in 2019
  • seeing billionaires receive huge tax concessions when their own taxes are in some cases increasing and their modest wages remain stagnant
  • being supplied with polluted water and carcinogenic or climate-changing chemical emissions to benefit private corporations and corrupt public officials
  • watching the president play golf three days a week at a cost of, now, $120 million to the public purse while he and his family benefit to the tune of millions of dollars from clear abuses of his office
  • the deaths of 60 thousand Americans a year from opioid abuse promoted by rapacious pharmaceutical companies; 33 thousand more from gun-related crime and accidents
  • the egregious corruption of executives of institutions like the National Rifle Association and the department for agriculture, with its well-funded refusal to ban teratogenic chemical poisons
  • mass shootings in schools, churches and synagogues, mostly by white supremacists
  • the opening up of protected monument lands and popular hunting grounds to extractive industries in whose pockets their politicians sit stuffing their faces
  • the refusal to acknowledge scientific facts regarding dangerous shifts in weather patterns caused by climate breakdown, for the benefit of political funders in the extractive industries
  • the packing of courts with judges whose only qualification is loyalty to the president and his henchmen, the subversion of the Justice Department and attacks on law enforcement agencies
  • appalling patriarchal laws limiting women’s rights and criminalizing even natural abortion
  • the emergence into daylight of the influence of organized crime hand-in-glove with extreme fundamentalist Christianity going right to the top in national life
  • the rolling back of environmental protections and planning laws; the poisoning of their water supplies
  • the introduction of dangerous instability, bullying, extortion and brinkmanship in international relations
  • the lack of an effective opposition in Congress.

None of these public abuses and more seems to create anything like the terror in Americans as does the absurd implausibility of the suggestion that Iran might somehow invade or fire nuclear missiles which they don’t yet have at the United States in retribution for the extrajudicial killing of one of their leaders.

Certainly, if hijacked airliners were to crash into Trump Tower now, we all know who would be getting the blame, regardless of any and all evidence to the contrary.

Mr Trump’s – and by extension, America’s – rambunctious imperialist bullying only works with such smaller, less lethally armed and invasively inclined nations as are incapable of inflicting any real and lasting damage to the homeland.

Beware, however, the ability of ideologically motivated peasants in flip-flops to conduct asymmetrical warfare for years in their own lands.

The steady trickle of body bags.

 

Speaking of which, have you seen what that drone did to Suleimani’s car? He wasn’t alone – wasn’t driving. There were others in there, including the senior commander of Iraq’s Shi’a militias, a PR man and the driver.

I see the funerals taking place, the coffins – but I’m not convinced anyone knows who, what or how much is really inside them.

And, yes, okay, he was a bad guy. Was the poor bloody driver a bad guy too?

 

A tale of two shitties

Amid speculation on US TV about the decision to whack Suleimani, two stories may be true.

One, that Trump was going around for days telling everyone, including his higher-echelon ($200k a year) private members at Mar-a-Lago, with a conspiratorial smirk, that something really big was about to blow over Iran and they should keep an eye on Fox News.

So much for a rapid response to a threat of imminent attack. But it seems to have allowed his golfing buddies to get their lucrative bets down on the stock market.

The other, that the option of whacking Suleimani was just one on a list of a dozen ideas the Pentagon had sent over at his request. Apparently it was on the list only because they thought it was the last thing he would be dumb enough to do. Pompeo and Pence persuaded him otherwise.

The only press that has come out in full favor of Trump’s action has been Murdoch’s Wall Street Journal.

I wonder why. What could their readers possibly have to gain?

And a third shitty:

“A 2009 study conducted by researchers at Harvard Medical School found 45,000 Americans die every year as a direct result of not having any health insurance coverage. In 2018, 27.8 million Americans went without any health insurance for the entire year.”

The Guardian America story reports workers being fired purely over a medical diagnosis – Walmart imposes a strict limit on the number of days you can take off work – voluntarily giving up treatment and dying because their savings have run out.

Welcome to Trumpland, Brexit idiots.

 

I know what you’re going to say

Ha ha! After three days living with Alexa, I just called: “Alexa, please play…” and as I hesitated for one brief moment, she jumped in: “Here’s a station you might like – vocal jazz.”

It wasn’t exactly what I was going to say, Norah Jones is good if a bit C&W oriented, but a valiant first attempt at mind-reading. Also, it was a song about rain. It’s teeming down outside.

And rain is an anagram of…. Iran!

How spooky is that? 😉

 

And deliver us from the 21st century

I’m just now listening to some of my old vinyl records on my new £99 transcription turntable. You know, with the five-star reviews.

It took only about 40 minutes of working with the inexplicably small and useless diagrams I can barely see through my elderly vision impairments, using a torch, to figure out how to build the flimsy plastic Sony turntable from scratch, using matchsticks, an old cocoa tin and a skinny rubber band.

Surely to God they can sell these things in one readymade piece? Without nasty, crunchy little push-buttons? Maybe with a bit of hydraulic damping of the tone-arm? A spare stylus? And would a little LED light to show it’s operating really have broken the bank?

But I didn’t spot until I had already hanged myself in the garage, the little switch right at the back that frees the output phono plugs to talk to the phono plug inputs on my active speakers. I’d feared for a while there, I might have had to go back online to buy a separate amplifier and wait in another day for Hermes to deliver it.

As you can gather, rather like my old vinyl records I’m a bit scratchy today.

It’s partly because I’m being relentlessly pursued by a cheery email from Amazon, apologizing that they hadn’t been able to deliver my turntable because I was out when the courier called, only don’t bother replying to this email because it won’t be read. So I can’t tell them it’s already here.

The last time this happened,  they sent me another whatever it was in the post the following day. If I end up with two turntables, I thought, I shall take it as a sign to become a DJ, whatever, as I can’t see to drive to the recycling center.

I’d already determined in fact that the turntable hadn’t been delivered, because after I risked taking Hunzi out for 15 minutes to uncross his legs at lunchtime I checked the tracking information just in case, and it told me that the driver had called at 1.30 pm, a time when I know we were in, only apparently we were out and he hadn’t delivered it.

I could check the non-delivery note or go to their website and do ‘x’ or ‘y’ if I wanted more information. I would be allowed two more chances to be in when he called again.

I’d already determined that there was no non-delivery note, and going to the website I was unable to find an address for ‘x’ or a link to ‘y’ anywhere visible. So I gave up, trusting that they might just try again the following day, and began composing one of the worst one-star rancorous Trustpilot reviews that my spleen could manage.

At precisely 2.00 pm there was a knock at the door; whereon opening it, a courier presented me with a Sony-branded box containing a flimsy plastic £99 transcription turntable. ‘Did you try delivering that earlier?’ I enquired. ‘No, mate’, was the reply. ‘It’s only just arrived at the depot.’ He declared himself mystified, accepted my scrawled signature and left.

As I said at the start, I’m listening to a slightly collectible vinyl album recording of Mark Murphy’s Brazil Song on my new, flimsy plastic £99 transcription turntable. You know, the one they haven’t yet delivered. That took 40 minutes to put together and get working from the terrible tiny instructions after I found the tiny switch at the back.

But I now have a new record – as being someone who cannot be relied on to be at home when the courier doesn’t call, who needs to be pursued with more instructions that don’t make sense.

Anyway, it works, and the sound quality is not too bad, surprisingly.

Clever old me.

Except that, a few days after I’d ordered the thing, an Alexa Echo spy-in-your-home unexpectedly arrived, a Christmas present-cum-disability aid from my ex-family. ‘Alexa, play album, Brazil Song’, Mark Murphy….

Anybody want some old vinyl albums? Transcription turntable, almost new? Ready assembled?

(Aren’t vinyl albums annoying? You get only 20 minutes a side before you have to turn them over. No bonus tracks. No time for a snooze.)

 

GW: Baby light my fire

Israel: “At least 4 people have lost their lives after flooding swamped parts of the country following heavy rains on 04 and 05 Jan., 2020. 2 people drowned in an elevator. Dozens of rescues were carried out. 74mm of rain fell on Tel Aviv in 2 hours, around 20% of its annual rainfall.” (Floodlist)

Australia: may be grateful for a change for a tropical cyclone, Cat 1 Cyclone Blake is the first of the season for Western Australia and will bring heavy rain and strong winds to the Kimberley region, having made landfall near Broome, 5 Jan before moving briefly back out to sea and reintensifying to Cat 2. (Severe-weather.eu)

Angola: 1 person died in flash flooding after a continuous 12-hour downpour in Luanda province. Several hundred are homeless. (Floodlist)

Turkey: Floodlist reports, 8 Jan., “Severe weather including strong winds, rain and snow has affected wide areas of Turkey over the last few days.” 2 people died after heavy rain triggered landslides and flooding in the southern province of Mersin, where 165mm of rain reportedly fell in 24 hours.

Israel: “A second severe storm in 4 days brought more heavy rain and flash flooding to parts of northern Israel. 1 person died in floodwaters as he tried to rescue passengers trapped in their car. Emergency services rescued people from flooded homes and trapped vehicles.” (Floodlist)

USA: Accuweather is reporting on the potential for yet more storms coming out of the Gulf into  southern states later in the week. In Texas, Oklahoma and Louisiana, “millions of Americans are under threat for severe thunderstorms, including the potential for tornadoes.”

In South America once again, parts of both Peru and Colombia are under quite severe flood threat as rivers overflow after heavy rain, with many hundreds displaced.

UK: Thanks to the winter of 2010 when your Old Granny froze her skinny ass off in an unheated building undergoing refurbishment, despite a record number of heat records being set last year the Met Office has declared that the decade 2009/19 was only the second warmest in the temperature record, the honours going by a whisker to 1999 to 2009.

Observed over a gap of 100 years, during the period 1910 to 1920 as many cold records were set in the UK as heat records were set last year; the exact reverse was true too, with only one hot year record broken in the 1910s as opposed to 8 in the 2010s. The 10 warmest years – 2019 wasn’t even one of them, apparently – have all occurred since 2002.

Faroe Islands: 7/8 Jan., and it’s a rough old night in the North Sea. A very large, twin-core cyclone with hurricane-style low pressure – 940 mb and deepening – is centered over Iceland, bringing winds gusting over 140 mph and 50-foot waves to the Faroe Islands and the northern isles of Scotland.

Arctic: measured over Iceland in the past few days, the polar vortex high up in the stratosphere has recorded its coldest temperature in five decades of measurements, 600 km/h winds cooling the top at about 25 km altitude to minus 96 Celsius. Not sure what it means, but the clouds over Finland sure look pretty:

View image on Twitter

Photo: Thomas Kast. Story: Severe-weather.eu

Tunnel approaching….

China: “Health authorities in Wuhan first reported 27 cases of an unidentified pneumonia-like illness at the end of December, a figure that jumped to 59 as of Sunday. The patients, seven of whom are in critical condition, have been quarantined. There have been no reported deaths. Symptoms of the mysterious virus include fevers, problems breathing and invasive lesions to both lungs.” (Guardian)

Yellowstone: Newsweek reports, “In its monthly update of activity, the Yellowstone Volcano Observatory (YVO) confirmed there were 48 eruptions last year (2019). That’s 16 more than the previous record set in 2018, when there were 32 eruptions at Steamboat.” Up to then, the average activity at the world’s tallest geyser had been 2 to 3 eruptions a year, although 1964 set the previous record, with 29. At one time, 50 years passed without any activity at all.

Bushfires: An old Comment thread I found from October 2018 under a Guardian story on the great Australian drought has numerous contributions from ordinary citizens expressing profound concerns for a devastating season of wildfires that year. ‘Kickthismobout’, for instance, contributed:

“Between 1900 and 1970 there were 13 Major bush fires, which is 1.85 per decade.

  • 1970 – 1980 – 4 Major bush fires
  • 1980 – 1990 – 3 Major bush fires
  • 1990 – 2000 – 7 Major bush fires
  • 2000 – 2010 – 16 Major bush fires
  • 2010 – 2016 – 25 Major bush fires (15 Major bush fires in total, averaged out over projected decade, could be more).”

So let’s not pretend Canberra was not warned.

The 2019/20 season is about halfway through and already more than 800 fires – many merging together along fronts measured in hundreds of Km, to make calculating the numbers of ‘Major’ fires pretty well impossible – have burned uncontrollably through 6.3m ha – 15.5m acres – across four states, much of it forest rather than scrub. Around 2,400 properties so far, and 28 lives have been lost.

Tens of thousands of internally displaced refugees, mass evacuations, clogged roads and beaches, the military called out – toxic air quality in five cities…. It’s already the worst fire season in the country’s entire white history.

Presciently, ‘Kickthismobout’ asked: “What kind of disaster will it take to wake our bloody leaders up?”

Well, now we know. No kind of disaster at all. After days of inaction and gladhanding, reviled PM, Scott Morrison has eventually pledged Aus $2bn for ‘reconstruction’, and has gone on Facebook (along with the other fake news merchants) to advertize what a great job he’s doing.

Many other ‘bloody leaders’ have continued to deny that climate change even exists, let alone has any responsibility for the seemingly endless, lethal drought and are refusing calls to limit the burning and export of coal.

Whenever devastating wildfires are mentioned, with their huge contribution to the CO2 burden, almost nobody seems to have noticed that 16m Ha, 35 million acres of Siberia’s vast boreal forests also burned through between April and August 2019.

Perhaps it’s because not many people live there.

And it’s an interesting question, isn’t it. Are we causing these wildfires, or are they merely a perennial problem in nature?

Well, some are obviously the result of arson, or of carelessness while camping, or of accidents to man-made power lines and overheating compost heaps. But many more are set off by lightning, a natural phenomenon. And aren’t wildfires contributing to the CO2 burden, and therefore a principal natural cause of a warmer world – not us?

But if droughts in parts of the world are getting longer and deeper and average temperatures are increasing, leading to greater extremes, then there’s a pretty good connection with changing overall climatic conditions that are the predicted result of adding 37 billion tonnes of CO2 annually into an increasingly carbon-rich atmosphere.

And it is an unfortunate fact that the more CO2 is added to the atmosphere the warmer it gets, leading to further increases in the emissions of CO2 and 39 other warming gases.

The added CO2 emissions from wildfires are therefore part of a vicious circle, that begins with us.

 

 

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.

 

 

 

 

Special Holiday edition: “Boy, what day is this?”… обманутыми… The Great Escape… The Operator of Last Resort… GW: ‘Tis the season to carry a brolly.

Happy Holiday!

Special Holiday edition to celebrate Winterval.

 

Australian politicians celebrate Summerval, 25th December, when a traditional meal of roast koala is barbecued on the beach.

 

“Boy, what day is this?”

I can’t help observing how, each year, the media seems to become evermore besotted with portraying the Christmas festival in a nostalgic, Victorian warm glow, replete with all the seasonal “tropings”:

…festive robins, mince pies, presents, Dickens, carol singers, cards, good cheer, turkey, Santa, pudding, holly, presents, the whole family glowing around the fire, tinsel, baubles, presents, trees, recipes, more turkey, the Queen, presents, Morecambe and Wise’s 1979 Christmas Special, lights, Lappland, elves, brandy butter, candles, mistletoe, children laughing, sleigh bells, reindeer, icing the cake, wise men, one too many Bailey’s, baby in the manger, more presents, cards, oxen, turkey sandwiches, shepherds, skating on ponds, people greeting each other warmly in the streets, supernovae in the East, woolly hats and scarves, more presents, marzipan, turkey curry…. the first Easter eggs in the shops.

Why, it’s almost as though the EU never happened. “Boy, what day is this?”

It doesn’t feel like that at all. Perhaps we should change the name Christmas to “Mythology mashup”? While, of course, Holiday wouldn’t be Winterval without… snow. Lots of snow.

Beyond the snug warmth of the radio or TV studio, the Lifestyle section of The Guardian with its tips for handy gifts costing only £400 and budget wine selections at £18 a bottle, women’s magazines and their endless recipe ideas, as we know the reality is somewhat different.

I shan’t depress you with images of working mums queuing at food banks between office cleaning jobs; the 130 thousand children in temporary accommodation, looking forward to going back to school hungry in two weeks; Leavers punching themselves in the head; the hundreds of Syrian orphans we promised years ago to take in, still being trafficked into sex slavery from the Calais jungle because the Daily Mail doesn’t think they’re deserving enough to be let in; mass turkey orgies in drafty church halls for the homeless and the elderly lonely; publicity-hungry World Leaders flying across the globe on First-class sleighs to bring photo-op cheer to the forgotten troops stationed wherever the enemy is poised to invade – nothing much on TV, no real news until there’s the usual Boxing Day disaster somewhere, pine needles all over the carpet, exploding tree lights, drifts of shredded wrapping-paper and the washing-up still to do – that terrible sense of anti-climax on the 27th – but I ought perhaps to bring you back to reality where snow is concerned.

I used to enjoy visiting my stepfather’s family home, a 15th-century Cotswolds manor house with its own village (houses were built to last in those days), as you could be pretty much guaranteed every year to get snowed in, and there was a Hawaiian-themed bar upstairs. Snow is not really a feature of Holiday UK these days, even at northerly latitudes. Indeed, to ensure the misery of hundreds of households whose Christmas trees will be sloshing around the living-room this year, some for the second time, there are something like 100 flood warnings out for the east and north-east of England this morning, where it has barely stopped raining for the past three months; while yet another storm is barrelling across the Bay of Biscay towards the south.

Back in 2017, my old boglposts remind me, the Met Office warned us that rain and floods would become a more regular feature as the region warms. The average British winter day is 2 degrees warmer now than it was back in the 1970s, when Christmas was Christmas and your Old Uncle still used to indulge happily in all the seasonal imagery, especially whichever trope contained the most alcohol, and there was often real snow on the ground. Remember 1982? I remember 1962! (Now I have just an artificial twig with LED lights on the windowsill as a nod to my childhood. It’s not the same after your mum’s gone.)

Indeed, the Old Bogler still clings nostalgically to memories of childhood Christmases: like the time he and his mother and her parents were ordered out of my other grandmother’s house, the wealthy one, midway through lunch, when “Ben”, my step-grandfather, City gent and unreconstructed Edwardian thug, learned that Grandpa Tomlinson – a career RAF officer – had voted Labour in 1946.

Being the only-child of two only-children who didn’t get on, either with one another or with their own parents, has its advantages. Where other kids hung a stocking filled with sparse hope on the mantelpiece, above the stuttering coal-gas fire – yes, great-grandchildren, we used to do that – anticipating perhaps a tin-toy train and an orange if they were lucky, I would cheekily pin up two pillowcases, anticipating correctly that parental guilt would ensure they were full in the morning, of space ray-guns and joke blackface soap from Ellisdon’s magic shop, a cowboy outfit and the Beezer annual.

I made no connection between my satisfaction with their parenting and the income they would have obtained as two struggling actors working in weekly rep. My own two children were brought up in deep poverty in the wake of my business failure in the mid-1990s without TV or the internet, deep in the countryside alongside our sheep, goats, pigs, cats, dogs, ponies and varieties of edible poultry. They were no strangers to death. As well as our own Christmas decorations, we made our own electricity with a clattery, 40-year-old generator and pumped our own well-water, until one day we discovered the increasingly foul taste was because the well was full of drowned rats.

I hope someday they will recall with a warm glow of nostalgia – rather than in the warm glow of a planet on fire – how we inculcated in them, values of thrift, self-reliance and a deep appreciation of what that first Christmas must have been like, two thousand years ago, when families lived in caves and your firstborn were traditionally slaughtered.

 

Winner of the Year

Denise Coats, the grasping, rat-faced female who founded online money factory Bet365, paid herself £323 million this year.

Fifty-five thousand children under 16 in Britain are reported to have an addictive gambling habit.

Postscriptum

Iain Duncan Cunt, the architect of Britain’s failed Universal Credit experiment that has killed hundreds of people and driven many thousands more into dire poverty owing to the sheer cruelty and incompetence of its execution, has been knighted in the Queen’s New Year’s Honours list.

It just shows that it doesn’t matter how evil you are in life, honors always come to the dishonorable.

I for one will be delighted if she accidentally removes his tortoise-like head from his shoulders with her ceremonial sword, or if the ribbon tightens around his scrawny throat and he can’t get it off until his lungs burst, or if he finds it easier with his knighthood to book a table in a restaurant and he chokes to death on a bit of something expensive.

Otherwise, just a normal death in 2019 will do. Perhaps his black heart will rot, emanating a foul stench.

 

Boris Johnson served turkey and Yorkshire puddings to British troops stationed in Estonia.

If only Victoria Wood had lived to see this.

On the front line in Estonia, Baris doles out oven-ready poussin with more than a slice of ham to one of our 600 brave British boys facing down a million Russians across the Baltic.

обманутыми - ?

Meanwhile, as the heavily redacted MI5 report on Russian money pouring into the Conservative party continues vitally to prop up one wonky leg of the cabinet table at Number 10, questions are being asked about the Prime Minister’s more-than cozy relations with Putinist mini-oligarchs Alexander and Evgeny Lebedev, father-and-son owners of the Evening Standard (editor: former Conservative chancellor, George Osborne).

Reports allude to the bunga-bunga parties Baris has attended on their hospitality, both here and at their sprawling Italian villa (where “anything goes”, with “mountains of caviar” to follow) – even while he was Foreign Secretary, making him, one would have thought, more than a security risk – and a lavish, celebrity-spangled dinner held in London the weekend before last to celebrate his election victory the previous day.

Attention has been drawn to one especially notable dinner Baris hosted for Evgeny at his  Islington home in February 2016, with guest guest Michael Gove, where the three men reportedly discussed in private how they were going to handle the EU referendum.

Have we possibly been betrayed to a hostile power, like our American cousins?

By the Conservatives? Perish the thought.

 

The Great Escape

The Duke of Edinburgh, 98, has been admitted to hospital again, his doctors say as a routine precaution.

It seems to this old cynic that he’s more likely to have had himself admitted to avoid having to spend Christmas with his ghastly family, trying to coax Andrew out of the bathroom where he’s locked himself in, having to separate the Cambridge woman from Meghan Sussex as they roll around, kohl-eyed on the Aubusson carpet, pulling their hair and scratching one anothers’ eyes out.

(“You bitch!” “You slag!” “You tosser!” “One is an absolute Muppet!”)

Instead, he is reportedly sitting up in bed, cracking jokes with the nurses. Let’s hope they’re not too racially inappropriate.

I too am spending Winterval on my own*, unable to contemplate being without Hunzi and Cats, which – owing to difficult travel arrangements – I should have had to be, were I to have accepted an invitation from my ex-family to join them in London for three days of jollity comparing medical notes.

Oh well, as the song goes, we’ll catch up some other time.

*Except to spoil a good story I was just writing this when a kindly fairy godmother appeared on the doorstep and invited Hunzi and me to lunch with her family. Sigh, more shopping. I’m sure she just felt sorry for the dog….

 

Quote of the hour

“I should avoid reading the Culture sections from now on, I no longer have any idea who anyone is, or what it is they’re doing.” – Uncle Bogler

 

The Operator of Last Resort

As Southerners and Nor-folk wade through thigh-deep floodwater to do their final bits and bobs of shopping – festive wet suits are going well – spare a thought for Northerners whose Christmas train services have been hit by “unprecedented levels of sickness” among train drivers already scheduled for extended holiday breaks.

(Note; In his last posting as a domestic caretaker, your hardy Uncle B. took only one day off sick in six-and-a-half years, having had surgery under general anaesthetic. He still remained on-call. These so-called working-class people nowadays, with their 60-inch TVs and DFS “pay nothing now” sale-bargain sofas don’t know they’re born.)

The operator, Northern Rail, has managed to get only 56% of services running on time so far this year, consumer protests tipped over into the popular Northern vote to Get Brexit Done, hoping Baris is such a big fascist he can make the trains run on time, and Department for Transport is taking the matter quite seriously, promising:

“We are developing contingency plans for the replacement of the current franchise with either a new short-term management contract with Northern or The Operator of Last Resort.”

The what? That sounds ominous, in an increasingly secular society. Who in God’s Holy Name is The Operator of Last Resort? It’s like calling in the Grand Inquisitor, the Witchfinder-General, the guy with the nuclear football or Sir John Humphrys*. What if The Operator fails in his task? What then? No more railways?

Or maybe it’s Sir Rod Stewart?

A quick check with Wikipedia reveals the fascinating information that, despite its doctrinaire opposition to renationalizing the rail network, since 2012 the government has in fact had a plan for doing exactly that, on a franchise-by-franchise basis, with Department for Transport poised at a moment’s notice to take the running of the railways back in-house, operated by a consortium of engineers and accountants – and the French government.

Sneering Tory warnings therefore that Corbyn was planning to bring back the bad old British Rail days we remember from films like Brief Encounter, all clouds of sooty steam, desultory affairs and sad farewells over curly sandwiches, were – as one might have expected – totally hypocritical.

They’ve been planning it all along.

*You wait. New Year’s honours…. first broadcaster K’d since Sir Trevor McDonald. Listen for the sound of gritting teeth.

(Original reporting: Guardian)

 

Have a great whatever and a suitably bereft of hope New Year!

UB, carolling in concert with The Pumpkin and your old Granny Weatherwax (Global Warmed). Christmas greetings too, from our excellent editorial team: Political editor, Laura Facebook, @laurasweeplace.sco; Football correspondent and Brazil’s retired midfield supremo, Boglinho; and, of course, Economics editor, Sterling Pound, @longliquidlunch.urg. Greetings, one and all.

Look, they’re waving.

 

GW: ‘Tis the season to carry a brolly

Indonesia: At least 6 people have died after heavy rain triggered flash floods and landslides over the last few days. Days of heavy rain caused several rivers to overflow. Almost 9,000 houses in over 200 villages have been damaged and over 60,000 people have been affected. (Floodlist)

Philippines: Yet another typhoon,  “potentially dangerous” Ursula (Phanfone) has intensified to upper Cat 1 and is expected to make landfall on Christmas Day. Warm waters may support further development before it hits. (Severe-weather.eu)

Update: 110 mph winds as Phanfone hits the coast at Cat 2 causing extensive damage, power outages and travel disruption. No reports of casualties.

USA: “Much of the North American continent will experience unusually high temperatures into early January. At the same time, an intense cold outbreak will affect much of Alaska and the Yukon into New Year. Extremely low temperatures are expected – well below -40°C, locally more than 30°C colder than normal for this time of the year.” (from Severe-weather.eu)

Europe: Storm Elsa brought 100 mph winds and heavy rain across parts of northern Portugal and Spain on 19 Dec. 4 weather related fatalities were reported. Flooding also affected parts of Andalusia in southern Spain and strong winds caused power outages in southern France. 12 crew were rescued after a cargo ship was driven ashore in a fierce storm on the island of Sardinia, 21 Dec. Parts of the south and east of England have been battling extensive flooding after days of heavy rain. Houses have been flooded-out, whole villages underwater, farmland inundated and transport affected. More is forecast, with over 80 warnings out currently – although Xmas Day is expected to be dry.

Australia; A new heatwave with localised pockets of extreme heat will bring a return to dangerous fire conditions across South Australia on Saturday and Sunday, reaching NSW and Victoria on Monday. Temperatures may reach 45C in Penrith, 37C in Sydney and 35C along much of the NSW south coast on Monday. Thousands of Queenslanders are without power, Christmas Day, after severe thundersorms.

Tunnel Approaching…

Canada: Three shallow <M5s followed by a M6.0 earthquake struck in the Pacific northwest, 23 Dec., off the coast of Vancouver Island; since when there has been an M4.8 and another M6.2 on the 24th. No damage is being reported. The quakes are at the northernmost end of the Cascadia subduction fault, on the edge of the Juan de Fuca plate. Simultaneously, southern Mexico going into Guatemala had an upper M5, maybe M6.0. (Dutchsinse)

Lebanon: After 30 years of corruption, squabbling and incompetence following the civil war, the “economy is disintegrating at an alarming rate, sparking a currency devaluation, a mass flight of money, restrictions on withdrawals, a grave threat to the country’s banking system and a guarantee that – without a foreign bailout – the country will default on its enormous debts by March at the latest.” (Guardian)

Space: One of the biggest stars in the Orion constellation, Betelgeuse is about to explode as a supernova, say astronomers, ending a tradition of jokes about “beetle juice”. It’s expected to happen sometime in the next 100 thousand years.

Happy New Year: The 17 Dec. post of Arctic News website offers the enticing prospect of human extinction by the end of 2020. Yes, next year.

There are a few “If”s involved, obviously.

Basically the blue line on their graph goes on rising incrementally, based on 1880-2019 data and current rates of emissions, and hits 3 degrees by the end of the decade – which is bad enough.

The red line factors in things like an El Niño, rising ocean temperatures, a methane ‘burp’ from the warming Arctic and a more logical way of measuring things that makes allowances for historically missing data and a 1750 startline. It’s based on the faster rate of increase since 2009.

From today, roughly, the red line takes off like a startled grouse and disappears off the chart at 3 degrees by the end of next year.

Now, humans are pretty resilient. Let’s recall that in the 20th century, two world wars killed around 120 million people. Inbetween there was an influenza pandemic in which 80 million died around the world. Famines in India, Russia and China accounted for perhaps another 140 million people. Plus there’s always a natural rate of attrition – about 57 million people die around the world each year, 0.8% of the total. Yet the population bounces back and goes on rising. We’re at about 7.6 billion now.

So it’s debatable how long it might take to get down to the last human at only 3 degrees. Probably decades, it’s hard to kill us. But from 3 it’s a short step to 5, or even 10, and that really is curtains. And there’s a clue in that word “bounceback”.

There’s no bouncing back when the planet can’t sustain us anymore.

Happy New Year!

 

The Pumpkin – Issue 106: Truth and lies – a postscript… An article of faith… Editing history… Deep Heat… GW: More climate death and disaster…… Tunnel approaching: special report.

A note from the Editor: Readers new to this, muh bogl, may not realize that each new Post will be several days in the making and subject to frequent updates, revisions, additions and corrections, so you may wish to come back later for a second helping of pudding. The conceit being, that it makes the editorial process more fully transparent. Actually it just means I have second thoughts when I’ve sobered up in the morning. The incorporated Pumpkin, by the way, concerns itself mainly with American politics. Look away now.

 

Maxwell (in green dress) at Royal Ascot in 2000, with Prince Andrew (second from left) and Jeffrey Epstein (far right).

Abuse of power: Maxwell, centre, and Andrew, dolled-up at Royal Ascot races

Truth and lies – a postscript

On the very day after House Judiciary Committee chairman, Jerrold Nadler read out the articles of impeachment against Trump, alleging that he’d abused his powers of office for personal electoral gain and attempted to obstruct Congress, Mad King Donald – still insistently protesting that Ukraine, not Russia, interfered in 2016 to get his opponent elected – met at the White House with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov.

The effrontery! The chutzpah! Doubtless, Putin sent him over to commiserate.

A report in The Guardian goes on: “The press were barred from the meeting, and were handed a White House statement saying that, among other topics: “President Trump warned against any Russian attempts to interfere in United States elections.”

Now, why would he have done that if he hadn’t prior knowledge based on experience that Russia, rather than Ukraine, might interfere, we wonder? After all, he has said on TV he would welcome interference from wherever, and who wouldn’t

Asked about the statement at a press conference in the Russian embassy later the same afternoon, however, Lavrov claimed: “No, we haven’t even actually discussed elections.”

“Lie la lie, lie la lie lie, lie la lie….” – Paul Simon, The Boxer.

 

An article of faith

The Pumpkin noted while listening to the articles of impeachment being read out by the diminutive Nadler, that the wording has been very, very carefully constructed to accord with what the founders and framers were trying to say about the possibility of the nation electing a corrupt and filthy autocrat as president.

“High Crimes and Misdemeanors” is a peculiar expression, that doesn’t necessarily require the incumbent to have committed a crime in statute law. It’s not about robbing a bank, or murdering the First Lady – not about unpaid parking fines. It’s more about letting the people down; failing to live up to your oath of office. In the indictment you will find keywords like “duty”, which refers to the “fiduciary duty” which Alexander Hamilton thought a president should owe to the people. A duty of keeping faith; of governing wisely and responsibly.

Character – unlike anything this superannuated playboy, this cardboard mock-up mob boss, this made-for-TV charlatan, President Cheato has ever displayed in his rotten life.

Both articles also make clear that the expectation is that Trump won’t stop doing what he’s doing, even if he’s impeached but not removed from office. The possibility of continued offending is what the framers argued should lead from impeachment to removal. You have to get that one out of the way too, as incredibly, he’s still doin’ it.

Schiff and Nadler haven’t missed a trick. Framing the constitution was all about ensuring that no “King George” would ever again sit on the American throne.

Sadly, though, it’s all a waste. He’s not going to be removed. Not by the Senate, where he has gained a vise-like grip over the Republican caucus. No-one seems to know how or why, but a peek inside David Pecker’s old safe at the National Enquirer might yield some talking points.

It cannot be a coincidence, can it, that both of the Republican Congressmen who first endorsed Trump’s candidacy are facing gaol time on corruption charges. Others, such as the Leader, “Moscow” Mitch McConnell, will be in the frame.

America can still fight back.

 

“The fact that he phoned Zelenskiy and asked for “no” quid pro quo doesn’t really alter the fact that he had previously phoned him and asked for “yes” quid pro quo, except in the terraformed nature of Trump’s interior planet, where September is the new July.”

This piece has been relocated for editorial reasons. So there.

Editing history

We seem to be moving steadily from the age of “alternative facts” to the idea of redemptive alibis and the re-engineering of Time itself.

As we know, no sooner did Trump go on camera to claim, wildly, that he had not asked President Zelinskiy of Ukraine for a “quid pro quo”, that in fact he had said the very opposite, that he wanted nothing from him, than his loyal lieutenant, Rudy Giuliani took off for a week out in Ukraine and other European countries trying to recruit discredited former Ukrainian officials to falsify evidence to support the mad monarch’s attempts to rig the 2020 election.

The fact that he phoned Zelenskiy and asked for “no” quid pro quo can never really alter the well-documented fact that he did previously phone him and asked for “yes” quid pro quo, except in the terraformed nature of Trump’s interior planet, where September is the new July.

The point being, that these actions appear to amount to a deliberate conspiracy to construct an alibi for the president. An alibi based on retrospective actions taken and statements made sometime after the facts of the case were notified to the Justice department, prompting him only then to release the $391 million in Congressionally approved cash and military aid he claims he had not been illegally holding up since April.

It’s as if the bank robber were to protest, but look, officer, I’ve just made a large deposit into my account! How could I possibly have robbed the bank?

In a tweet last week, Trump also claimed that the aid had been delivered “in full”, so there could have been no quid pro quo in the first place. This is a common Republican talking point, that the blackmail failed to work, so it can’t be a crime. Well yes, or rather no, but there clearly was a prior qpq, as the aid was not released until the day AFTER it was revealed that the Orange Leader may have committed impeachable offences by threatening to go on witholding it.

And it was witheld on his order, no-one else’s.

How stupid do they think people are? Clearly, very stupid, as the polls have not moved significantly after two months of transcripts and open hearings confirming massive criminality on the part of the occupant of the White House, said to be far worse than anything Nixon had to resign over.

Amazingly, 49% of Americans still don’t agree he needs to be removed. It’s quite incredible. It’s like people voting for Boris Johnson, or paying Nigel Farage £100 for the privilege of being told they can’t stand as a Brexit “party” candidate after all, yet continuing slavishly to support him.

Should we be breathing this much CO2?

Nor is it true, as Trump claims, that Ukrainian officials did not expect the aid to arrive before September. This is all so much bullshit: they queried with the State Department not having received it, back in July. With the border war raging, they were desperate for it.

Nor indeed has the aid been delivered “in full” as he says. There is still $35 million of the package outstanding. No-one seems to know where it is.

Let’s hope it doesn’t turn up in a Trump 2020 PAC.

 

Deep Heat

The Barr faction in the Justice Department was quick to rush out statements disagreeing with the very clear findings of the Inspector General’s 400-page report into the oranges… sorry, erringes… no, sorry, oregons of the FBI investigations into Russian interference with the 2016 election, and the collusion Mueller so clearly found with Trump’s campaign staff, that he issued some 37 indictments. None to Ukrainians.

Just as Attorney-General Barr had pre-trashed the Mueller report in March – 488 pages, $24 million-worth of damning, if cautious, testimony – within only 48 hours of receiving it, and then sat on it for another month while people digested only his inadequate, highly selective 4-page summary and found the president might not have been so guilty after all; despite Barr’s official duty to hand it over to Congress, and the president’s absurd claims of “exoneration”, he has now done something very similar with his own department’s internal inquiry.

And as a predictable result the demented president, who is reported to have fired off no fewer than 105 tweets last Sunday alone, clearly in a state of nervous collapse, has been tweeting excitedly that the report proves beyond a shadow of a doubt that the Deep State set out to destroy his presidency, and has penetrated the deepest levels of government and the justice system.

Conveniently forgetting that the FBI investigation began in August, 2016, three months before he was even elected.

No need to add that he won’t have read a word of it.

Eventually when they’ve familiarized themselves with its contents – I was going to write “read it”, but, you know… – Mad King Donald and his pet Attorney-General (who looks like Elton John’s evil older twin) will figure out that the report is not without its criticisms of the procedures followed, by one individual in particular, and use those to discredit the entire investigation and, by extension, the entire FBI and, by further extension, any other part of the law enforcement apparatus that threatens Trump.

Is he a complete moron? Is he a would-be Great Dictator? His defense against the dark articles of impeachment is to argue that no-one could possibly want to impeach probably the greatest and most successful president in American history, architect of their booming economy. No, that’s not a joke, he tweeted it. He is insane, but there’s always a method in his madness.

He must surely know that not a single Republican in the Senate is going to send him to the Big House, which is where he will undoubtedly end up if he is booted out of office before 2024. The triumphal tone of his flapdoodle is purely to support his enablers in their own electoral races, giving them a great talking point: vote for my opponent, and you’re voting to destroy the greatest president this country has ever known.

All together: “Heil Trump!”

 

On the wings of a prayer

Following hot on the heels of KFC chicken-sponsored wedding ceremonies in Australia, with free buckets, comes news that Walmart is selling KFC branded, fried chicken-scented fire logs for Christmas.

Of course they’d never go as far as Gregg’s bakeries in the UK, a popular high-street chain of size-enhancing snackeries, who promoted themselves last year with a nativity scene made from sausage rolls. I guess you call them pigs-in-blankets. Yes, even the infant Jesus was portrayed as a pork product.

And nobody breathed the word “anti-semitism”.

But it’s a great public service Walmart is doing. There are plenty of American families with no more food stamps, courtesy of Trump, for whom the smell of fried chicken this Christmas may be the nearest their kids get to eating anything.

 

Donald Trump and the other pigfaced gammons in the Senate don’t mind making endlessly insulting remarks about the 16-year-old Greta Thunberg, still technically a child, voices The Pumpkin with disquiet. But the minute anyone even mentions the name of the 14-year-old, haunted-looking vampire-boy Barron Trump, even in fond jest, Melania, Fox and the enablers go apeshit.

And the Russian-flavored vomit spewed by the NRA and little creeps like Marco Rubio over the Parkland school shooting survivors who organized against them  was unspeakable.

Politics? Nah.

 

GW: More climate death and disaster

Time magazine cover with Greta ThunbergHurrah! Greta Thunberg has been nominated by Time Magazine as their “Person of the Year, 2019”. Let’s ignore that she joins Josef Stalin, Adolf Hitler and Ayatollah Khomeini in that select company. Maybe even Donald Trump, who knows? It’s not what you do, it’s how famous you make yourself that counts. (PS – she’s not really standing on that rock, is she? It looks awfully dangerous.)

Iceland: You can’t technically call it a hurricane, but a huge winter cyclone is continuing to undergo intense bombogenesis over the island with wind gusts of 160 mph, and barometric pressure as deep as 940 mb continuing to fall. Extreme blizzard conditions and intensifying rates of snowfall, with the possibility of even greater windspeeds, have led to red “danger to life” warnings in the northeast. Most of the island is in lockdown, with all roads closed. (Severe-weather.eu)

The Guide to Iceland website treats the storm with good humor, pointing out that it’s the third already this month – but the first ever to be given a name, Diddú, after an Icelandic opera singer. No casualties have been reported, and so far fairly minimal damage. The storm’s track is taking it up into the high Arctic, where it will no doubt make winter sea ice formation problematic.

The rotation of the storm, which has developed an eye, is sucking strong southerly winds up over the British Isles. “Heavy rain and strong winds have been battering Scotland, causing disruption on the roads, railways and ferries.” (BBC Weather, although curiously they’re not mentioning the Icelandic hurricane. We’ve noticed that despite being an official source Severe-weather.eu does have a habit of exaggerating, in an effort we guess to live up to their name.)

Great Britain: “Election Day 2019 (12 Dec.) dawned bright and sunny…” Er, no, actually here in Boglington-on-Sea it’s a filthy day, dark and heavy with rain. By 9.30 I had all the lights on, and walking with Hunzi we schlepped miserably through the teeming rain, me in my leaky wellies, puddles expanding everywhere. Now I have to go out to vote, the symbolism hasn’t escaped me. This is the most depressing election I can remember since Thatcher in ’79. The only hopeful thing I can say is, the older you get, the more you know from experience that in another few years’ time “the people” might wake up and reverse the result.

Greece: A cyclonic system in the Aegean is causing “torrential and locally excessive rainfall across eastern Greece, with a good amount of snow further NNW into the higher terrain of North Macedonia and surroundings. Excessive rainfall could bring dangerous flash floods through the next 24 hours.” (Severe-weather.eu)

Madagascar: Weakening Cat 1 Cyclone Belna has been crossing the East African island, with 2 confirmed dead and 3 missing. “Houses, public buildings and a hospital in Soalala all suffered damage from the strong winds and flooding. Coastal areas were flooded after waves and storm surge damaged a protective dyke.” (Floodlist) On the other side of the ocean there’ve been floods and hundreds of evacuations in eastern Malaysia/Borneo, as up to 200 mm of rain fell in two days.

Colombia: and Venezuela have been affected by flooding for the second time this year, with over 6 thousand people displaced. (Floodlist) We missed an end-November event in Brazil: “Heavy rain in Salvador de Bahia City caused floods and landslides with widespread damage sustained to roads and more than 100 houses. 170 mm of rain fell in 3 hours – the monthly average for November is 100mm.” (Reliefweb)

Arctic: Sea ice cover in summer 2019 was the second lowest on record, the lowest 13 years having occurred in the past – 13 years. And it’s thinner than ever. The thickest 4-year ice has been reduced by a 1.9 deg annual warming trend from 33% in 1985 to just 1.2% today. (NOAA)

Tunnel approaching…

Your Old Gran is no scientist so she’s struggling through many acronyms and unfamiliar abbreviations to interpret a new report by leading Australian climate scientist, Andrew Glikson, published on Arctic News today, so you don’t have to.

Mr Glikson’s literacy leaves a little to be desired, but what she takes from it thus far is that ‘fings ain’t looking good.

We need to take into account that although soundly based both in observation and theory, much of the future science is speculative. Which doesn’t make the outlook necessarily any better, it only allows for the possibility of some climatic effects tending to mitigate further warming. How could it allow for any human efforts to reduce carbon outputs?

For instance, the last period when the CO2 concentration was high (1700 ppm) and the planet up to 8C hotter, the Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum (55 million years ago), it doesn’t appear to have rendered the planet permanently uninhabitable, and only 35-50% of life forms became extinct. Good news! Except that the PETM took around 100 thousand years and we’re doing it in 350, giving species no time to adapt. The coming extinction will be rapid.

If we burn just 5% more of existing fossil fuel reserves, Glikson calculates, it will raise atmospheric CO2 by another 325 parts per million, or on the Meinshausen scale, “applying a climate sensitivity of 3°C per doubling of CO₂ would result by 2100 in a temperature rise of between 1.5°C to 4.5°C relative to pre-industrial levels”. Clearly, it would help to stop burning stuff.

That huge gap of uncertainty is because you can’t really predict the transient effects on the graph of things like forest fires (CO2 concentrations over Siberia hit 1060 ppm this summer) and permafrost thawing. Methane is now the main threat, but in all there’s about 30 Teratonnes of carbon locked up in exploitable fuel reserves and retained in carbon sinks just waiting to be released as warming increases. A tiny percentage of that could be enough to knock the climate sideways.

And the predictions tend to be linear. The “boiling the frog” scenario doesn’t take into account the likelihood of tipping points being crossed, the frog, as it were, suffering an unexpected heart attack – most scary of which is the Venus effect, of runaway transpiration of water vapor from warming oceans. There’s an outside chance of this threshold being crossed in the next few years, according to the Arctic News team (“Sam Carana”).

A bit of good news, then: water absorbs less CO2 the more it warms. The melting ice caps are creating huge cold pools, enabling the oceans to absorb more CO2. That’ll help for a while, although it isn’t good for marine life, for coastal communities or for people in the path of hurricanes. Also, you have to allow for the “global dimming” effect – pollution reflecting sunlight. (Only, as champion doomster Dr Guy McPherson has struggled to point out, as soon as we stop burning stuff, then….)

Your Gran does not understand why Glikson continues to use the mean CO2 concentration figure at the lowest point in the cycle? It might be a chilly 408 ppm in October, but it’s a roasting 415 ppm by April, and rising at 3 ppm a year. By the end of 2019, it’s estimated, we shall have added another 43 billion tonnes of carbon to the air and sea, with no sign of human activity being curtailed as it was meant to be under the doomed Paris accord.

In fact, it’s increasing – in The Pumpkin’s jaded view, a clear indication that rapacious gangster-capitalism in the end-time of the Energy markets is having success at persuading us all to use more.

Glikson ends with a veiled swipe at the international order: “As Australia burns, the IPCC maintains there is time left to consume a carbon budget and to keep handing out offsets and carbon credits…” He doesn’t complete the thought, but I think he’s implying that there isn’t.

Siberia: Residents of the city of of Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky on the Kamchatka peninsula are being warned that the giant Avachinsky volcano, just 18 miles away, has begun an eruption. Locals and tourists are being advised to stay away. (Siberian Times) Police have begun an operation to recover what they say are six bodies they can see on New Zealand‘s White Island after the sudden eruption which killed or seriously injured over 40 tourists last week.

Siberian Times also reports: 56 hungry polar bears have laid seige to Ryrkaipiy, a remote village in Chukotka, easten Siberia. Villagers using flares are fearful of leaving their houses at night and children told to stay indoors. The bears still have some food from abandoned carcasses at a seal colony nearby but “abnormally warm weather” has prevented them from moving to more northerly hunting grounds.

 

Births, deaths and mirages…

RIP Popular TV naturalist and actual scientific botanist, Dr David Bellamy, 86. Big beardy guy, climate-change denier (“poppycock”), weird slushy voice redolent of fermented fruit. You hadn’t been on TV for a while, I don’t expect you’ll be missed by many people under 45.

RIP Global media: A check of the website of the widely influential South China Morning Post today, 11 Dec., for any news of extreme weather events throughout China and the whole of Asia turns up only one Environment story, about plastic pollution, despite the UN conference on climate change in Madrid, the fires in Australia, the cyclone in the Philippines….. We might as well not be here.

 

Pumpkin 100 inflates like a speech bubble on GroMore: Can’t you hear that whistle blow… Faster-moving news… Even faster-moving news… Aid memoir… GW: several turns for the worse.

Boris Johnson meets the Queen

“You’re absolutely right, your Majesty, it does seem to be coming from my shoe.”

(Question: why does the Queen carry her handbag indoors? Is it for self-defense, or does she expect an incoming Conservative Prime Minister to walk off with it, like an unregistered plumber?)

 

Can’t you hear that whistle blow

In a spellbinding display of the measured reporting she is famous for, MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow today (24 Sept.) pulls apart with forensic clarity, from many sources, the tangled threads of what connects Trump and Giuliani with Ukraine.

And it isn’t enirely what people are being conned by the president and his apparently demented, self-contradicting mouthpiece into believing it is. For that’s the simple, easily reversible story they are happy for the media to run with. Whether it’s a deliberate diversion or just a happy accident, no doubt we shall never be told.

It’s easy for everyone to swallow a story about Trump strongarming the young and inexperienced TV comedian president of Ukraine – who is in New York for the UN convention and due to meet him this week – by holding back $390 million of military aid, to dig up some absurd dirt on Democratic candidate Joe Biden and his son.

That’s the kind of thing the dumbfuck base will be happy with. Here’s their hero, fighting for his political life. But see, there’s his feared opponent, how guilty is he?

And the Bidens are not helped by the facts.

Hunter Biden was unwisely on the board of a Ukrainian energy company, whose CEO was accused of corruption. Biden Sr, then Vice President to Obama, persuaded then-president Poroschenko to replace a state prosecutor who was failing to investigate the case properly.

Trump has tried to spin the story around so that it was the Bidens who were corrupt and had unethically used US power to remove an honest prosecutor in order to protect the son of the Vice President.

He has admitted, yes, I did pressure President Zelenskiy, because I wanted to get to the bottom of Joe Biden’s corruption and Hillary Clinton’s role in it. But he denies witholding aid, the missing “quid pro quo” the summary leaves out.

The threat was there – the aid had been suspended, the order was given to the offie of budget management just 91 minutes after the phone call – but it remained unspoken. Which is a perfect echo of something Trump’s bagman, Michael Cohen, told the court: Trump never gives a direct order to do something criminal, but you always know exactly what he means.

All this, just to discredit a political opponent who might not even gain the Democratic nomination, as his poll numbers were already slipping behind those of the prim schoolmarm, Elizabeth Warren; who even at 70 seems about 73 years younger than whatever Sleepy Joe is.

Frankly, the Bidens should have had nothing to do with Ukrainian politics and business. The country is or at least was one of the most deeply corrupt states in Europe, and everyone knew it.

But not, perhaps, as corrupt as Trump’s USA.

Digging a little beneath the surface, Maddow raises the disturbing prospect that Russian organized crime is once again interfering in the US election, perhaps sanctioned by Putin – although he has his own electoral problems.

For Trump’s intention in his dealings with the new Ukrainian president, according to official sources in Kiev, has also been to persuade him to open another inquiry, to raise doubts about the guilt of Trump’s former associate and campaign chairman, Paul Manafort.

He wants to claim that Manafort – who is serving 7 years in a federal penitentiary for money laundering, tax evasion and failing to declare a foreign interest – was in some way framed by the Bidens…. and Hillary Clinton.

He has cleverly put in the hours of groundwork, turning Clinton into his personal Steinberg, the “two-minutes of hate” figure in Orwell’s 1984 – convincing his base of gullible, adoring morons that she must be guilty of any crime he can point to, of which he is almost certainly himself culpable.

After several years of lucrative lobbying and image-work on behalf of the thuggish, profoundly kleptocratic former president and Putin crony, Viktor Yanukovych, Manafort, we are reminded, was deeply in debt to two immensely wealthy and dangerous oligarchs: Oleg Deripaska, Russia’s “Aluminum King”, who (according to Wikipedia) had murdered his way to the throne; and the handsome and urbane-looking Ukrainian, Dmytro Firtash – both of whom are regarded by the FBI as top-echelon Moscow mafiosi.

Yet somehow, Manafort managed to get himself appointed by, and vocally supported by, Trump as his election campaign chairman. As the Pumpkin has asked several times before, what did he bring to the party? Apart, obviously, from his handy connections to the Russian mafia? An organization to which substantial evidence connects Trump himself in the 1970s and ’80s.

Profoundly compromised – he’d offered to invest $17 million of Deripaska’s money in offshore blind trusts but the money mysteriously disappeared – Manafort was accused in the Mueller report of supplying confidential voter data to the St Petersburg troll factory implementing the Putin-sanctioned disinformation campaign to get Trump elected.

Data that related to voters specifically in the three most heavily gerrymandered states – Michigan, Wisconsin and Idaho – whose Electoral College delegates swung the election, which he had not won on the popular vote nationally, to Trump.

States where voter suppression by Republican legislatures – the rigging of qualification criteria to exclude tens of thousands of black and ethnic minority voters who always vote Democrat – was known to be rife.

Manafort was a plant.

Firtash, who benefits (on Putin’s orders) from a percentage cut of the sales of all the gas Russia pipes through Ukraine to western Europe, an income running into the $billions annually, has been fighting extradition to the USA from Austria on corruption charges for several years. Allegedly, he’d bribed Indian officials for a license to supply titanium for airframes to Trump’s favorite military contracting firm, Boeing. He also faced money laundering charges. (Bloomberg)

“In 2008, Manafort was part of an $850 million plan involving Firtash and Russian billionaire Oleg Deripaska to purchase the Drake Hotel in Manhattan and convert it into a luxury property.” (Bloomberg)

The deal never finalized, while the FBI regarded it askance as a classic money laundering operation. But it places Trump’s campaign chairman right in the orbit of Russian organized crime. Was Manafort put there by these influential men, to be a senior informant on the inside?

Now, despite having a huge team of the best lawyers his bottomless pockets can buy, Firtash (who personally posted $137 million bail to the Austrian court!) has reportedly just hired a couple of deadbeat lawyers, Trumpsucking TV pundits off of Fox News.

Why? Well, assumes Maddow, because they’re the same two lawyers Trump almost hired in 2017, a husband-and-wife act, only to change his mind later because they didn’t look as smart as they had on TV. It’s a move that’s sure to get Trump’s fleeting attention. But for what?

Deripaska, formerly on the US’s no-entry sanctions list, was removed from that list last December at the bidding of Trump’s principal enabler in the Senate, Republican leader Mitch McConnell; whose wife, Transport Secretary Elaine Chao, is now under investigation by a Congressional committee for illegally channelling shipping contracts to her father’s company.

Contracts that some media speculation suggests may have included the supply of narcotics, such as the addictive opioid, fentanyl – a poison that is killing over 60 thousand Americans a year.

Deripaska, Maddow points out, seems to have either persuaded or rewarded McConnell with a pledge to build a massive new aluminum smelting plant in his home state of Kentucky; while as previously reported, McConnell may have benefitted to the tune of more than $70 million from campaign donations from firms to which Chao has awarded contracts in her husband’s Senate constituency, ahead of the 2020 elections.

(And according to The Guardian, he’s also receiving campaign donations from two Brazilian companies involved in the burning of the Amazon rainforest; both part-owned by the $300bn US private equity management firm, Blackstone.)

Who is there to investigate all this criminality? The FBI is stretched to the limit. But I digress.

Maddow’s not improbable conclusion, therefore, is that Putin oligarchs free to come and go are once again bankrolling efforts to get Trump elected, in a rerun of 2016. And he seems perfectly happy to let it be known that he welcomes foreign interference.

Tonight, it’s reported, House speaker Nancy Pelosi may have finally cracked and is about to call for impeachment proceedings, after weeks of stonewalling her own party in the belief that an inquiry would only give Trump a hostage to Fortune.

It now seems she may have accepted the alternative argument: that letting him continually get away with breaking the law and acting in contempt of Congress is setting a dangerous precedent.

Possibly encouraged by our own landmark Supreme Court ruling today, that the Executive does not have primacy over the elected Parliament, and that the law permits neither an arbitrary prorogation nor barefaced lying to the Queen for electoral advantage, Ms Pelosi may be embarking on a perilous but ultimately decisive journey.

While the normally supine Senator Graham has jokingly suggested that if Biden’s son is to be investigated, so too should Trump’s sons, it seems unlikely that impeachment will reach the bar of 60% of both houses, whatever treachery, perjury and lies Trump may have committed.

The Pumpkin doubts that he will respect for one moment, the verdict of any inquiry; nor will he allow witnesses to obey subpoenas to testify. Ultimately he may even carry out his threat not to accept the result of next year’s general election if it goes against him.

He said that last time, too.

With the Justice department and the Attorney General in his pocket, there seems little to be done but to wait for the real God’s Executive Order to drag this horrible man with his Faustian pact down to the fires of hell.

Although, sadly, as the Pope has admitted, death is final. No such fiery fate awaits him: only the verdict of history, that this was surely the worst, most corrupt president America ever elected.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dcT5gMPUR_w

 

Fast-moving news

A couple of hours after posting the above, news broke that speaker Pelosi has indeed shifted her ground and declared an “impeachment investigation” by the six House committees she controls. It’s not the same as an actual impeachment, but already Trump has hit back with his signature “It’s all a plot against me” whinge.

Which, actually, it is. Only a perfectly open and legitimate one. And you fucking asked for it.

Your Pumpkin was moved to tears by the reaction of the normally annoying and whooping Late Show audience when Stephen Colbert announced the news. They rose as one to their feet and gave it a standing ovation lasting well over a minute. We tend to disregard how much Trump is hated in many parts of America. We liberals deserve a break.

First, however, you need to catch your hare. And Trump is neither going to appear before any committees nor allow any of his people to testify. We feel sure he will simply ignore any subpoenas and go on the attack against Pelosi in person, appealing to his heavily armed dumbfucks for support.

One hope, Intel committee chair, Adam Schiff has announced that the Ukraine “whistleblower” has agreed to appear before the committee in private on Thursday to repeat the statement they gave to the Inspector General, evidence of Trump wrongdoing that “acting” Director of National Intelligence, Joseph Maguire is illegally witholding from Congress on the orders of Trump’s lapdog in the Justice Department, AG Bill Barr.

Let’s hope they make it through the door alive.

 

Even faster-moving news

Hi again. 18.01, local British Summertime…. You remember back in March, when Trump’s Attorney General, Bill Barr released a three-and-a-half page “summary” of the conclusions of the Mueller report over a weekend, a month before he allowed the full 480-page report out, with redactions?

And how people then thought the real report must also have exonerated the president of collusion and obstruction when it absolutely had not?

But by then they were sick of hearing about it and couldn’t be bothered to read it and so we all moved on?

No, of course you don’t remember. But it happened Just So, Best Beloved!

Well, Trumpy has gone and done it again, releasing a 4-page copywritten summary which the White House is calling an actual transcript of the 35-minute phone call in which Trump and Ukrainian president Zelenskiy discussed digging dirt on the Bidens, father and son.

The release, which seems to show that the callow, ex-TV comedian Zelenskiy was happy to go along with it, and to prove that Trump never threatened to withold $390 million of US aid unless he did, is nevertheless bound to satisfy numerous wavering Trump supporters that, as the Republicans in the Senate are saying, there’s nothing to see here.

It might also have the effect of taking the wind out of the sails of the “whistleblower”, who is due to testify to the Intelligence Committee on Thursday (Trump says he is a spy who should be executed. He is cracking up.) . Why bother with the whole cloth, when you can make a pocket out of a sardine, as the Russians say?

(Actually, I made that bit up. So what? Prove it!)

Now, the law is absolutely clear: a matter of national security concern brought to the attention of the Inspector General by a whistleblower SHALL, within 7 days, be brought before the Congressional Intelligence Committee.

But I suspect it says nothing about a hastily concocted summary produced by the legal team advising the suspect, leaving out all the relevant bits we all want to know about and sounding disconcertingly fluent in the English language.

With yet another bound, he was free.

Senile as he appears to be, this Mafia-trained ex-property developer and conman from Queen’s is slipperier than an eel; more difficult to shackle and drown in a tank of water than Harry Houdini.

Don’t expect much, or anything really, from the impeachment proceedings, except more bullshit; more evasions and distractions and lies.

 

Aid memoir

Justifying his witholding of military aid from Ukraine to force them to “investigate” Joe and Hunter Biden, a connection his random mouthpiece, Giuliani has both denied and admitted, Trump was yesterday saying he was right to do it because Ukraine was a “corrupt” country and you shouldn’t give aid to a corrupt country.

(That’s regardless of the fact that Congress, not the President, technically controls the military aid budget.)

Today, however, he is saying he witheld US aid because other countries, especially Europe, were not sending aid and it was unfair the US should have the entire burden.

Fact-checkers immediately turned up an OECD chart, showing that European institutions (eg NATO) and countries, plus Japan, had on the latest figures (2016-17) together contributed five times as much in aid to Ukraine as the US had.

Yet again Trump will say just about anything, tell any lie, to justify his erratic foreign affairs policy and thuggish criminal behavior, for which impeachment hearings are finally grinding into gear.

The problem being, that despite his record low poll ratings that have consistently refused to climb much above 40%, and polling showing every single declared Democrat candidate to date, however unlikely to win the nomination, is considered more electable than Trump, there are 60 million voters who still refuse to understand – or to much care – what they elected in 2016.

Sixty million voters who support whatever he does, whatever it is, who believe anything he says, because they trust someone they see on TV pretending to be a business tycoon to know how to run the country, more than they trust experienced political administrators.

And they may yet be enough to see him through.

 

GW: several turns for the worse

Europe: “The disturbance everyone was watching out of Africa, Lorenzo is now a hurricane and is gradually moving into favorable environmental conditions, with low wind shear and warm 26-28 °C SSTs. Both will likely lead to a significant intensification after tomorrow. Lorenzo should become a category 3 storm on Friday” before its forecast track takes a turn north-eastwards, to – The Azores. They’re technically Europe. It could end up in Portugal thereafter, the Bay of Biscay, or the English Channel. (Severe-weather.eu)

Middle East: Tropical Cyclone Hikaa – now downgraded to TS – made landfall in Oman on 24 Sept., bringing strong winds, heavy rains, some flooding and coastal waves of 3 to 4 metres. Schools were closed, some transportation disrupted and around 750 people evacuated to shelters. (Floodlist)

Sri Lanka: At least 1 person has died and almost 80,000 affected by heavy rain, landslides and floods after a storm swept across the country from the evening of 23 September, 2019. 124 mm of rain was recorded in 24 hours over the capital, Colombo. The highest rainfall was recorded the following day in a suburb of Negombo city in Western Province, where 272.3 mm (11-in.) fell in 24 hours. Many rivers are well above flood stage and further heavy rain is forecast. (Floodlist)

Puerto Rico: Over 5-in of rain fell on the already stricken island, still recovering from Hurricane Maria in 2017, as TS Karen passed over on its way out into the Atlantic. The storm impacted Puerto Rico just as the island dealt with several earthquakes and numerous aftershocks. A 4.9-magnitude earthquake struck on Tuesday night, close to where a M6 had earlier been recorded offshore. More than 50 tremors have rattled the area within 24 hours. No major damage was reported.

Wunderground added that as the storm’s wetter southern edge passes over on the 25th: “Localized rains could top 8” across eastern Puerto Rico, Vieques and Culebra, and the Virgin Islands.” The NHC is forecasting Karen could reintensify at the end of the week with possibly Cuba or an east-coast US mainland hit in view.

Trinidad: After last weekend’s floods, officials in Trinidad and Tobago are urging locals in the village of Piparo to be prepared to evacuate. A mud volcano over a subduction zone under the village is showing signs of an impending eruption, which will threaten many homes. The Piparo mud volcano’s last eruption, in 1997, displaced 31 families.

USA: Remnant hurricane, now Tropical Storm Lorena, has been pounding Arizona with rain, floods, landslides and even a rare tornado for the time of year, after passing over Baja California out of the Eastern Pacific. Accuweather reports on downed power lines and scattered debris from damaged buildings in the capital, Phoenix.

Tens of thousands of Southern Californians have been put on alert that their power may be shut off as hot air and strong winds have led to a warning of more wildfires. Meanwhile, the Dehesa Fire outside of San Diego has grown to about 200 acres in size and is only 10% contained with evacuation orders and warnings issued for nearby neighborhoods, as of 24 Sept.  (Accuweather)

Imelda made it to Number 5 in the shit parade of the wettest tropical storms ever recorded on the US mainland. “The peak of 43.39″ at North Fork Taylors Bayou, Texas puts Imelda fifth among the heaviest single-point rain producers”, as noted by Capital Weather Gang. (Wunderground)

Switzerland: “Italian authorities have closed off roads and evacuated homes after experts warned that a portion of a Mont Blanc glacier is at risk of collapse.” The mayor of the town of Courmayeur blamed ‘strong change due to climatic factors’ after “experts said up to 250,000 cubic metres of ice was in danger of sliding off the Planpincieux glacier on the Grandes Jorasses peak.” The movement of the glacier has speeded up following successive annual heatwaves. (Guardian)

Tunnel approaching….

UN: One slightly hopeful sign that came out of the UN conference on climate change was a pledge by a number of large corporations to take up to two years to come up with some ideas for reducing their carbon footprint by 2050.

Actually, that’s not really hopeful at all, is it. In fact, it’s pants.

Especially when, as the New York Times records: “According to data from CDP, a British-based nonprofit group that collects environmental data from companies around the world and is one of the organizers of the pledge, emissions reported by some signatories have increased by 50 percent or more since the Paris Agreement was signed in 2015.”

Start as you mean to go on, I always say.

 

The Madness of King Donald…. Depression news, #1,#2,#3… Schools for scandal… GW: under my umbrella, ella… “Tunnel approaching”… The sheer irrelevance of political journalism – a short essay.

 

“Come November you’ll all be eating my snot. Its fingerpickin’ good!” (with apologies to Getty Images for nicking their stuff. I don’t get paid for this.)

Details of Operation Yellowhammer, the full horror story of the UK Government’s own predictions, released under duress from the Johnson Dark House (except that they were leaked in The Times two weeks ago) predict that within 24 hours of a No-Deal Brexit, there’ll be a 1.5-day-long backlog for goods to clear customs at Calais; and within another 24 hours we’ll be waiting so long that all the goods will have perished, supermarket shelves will be emptying, prices rocketing, and people reliant on insulin will have died.

Things can only get better.

 

The Madness of King Donald….

“A lot of people want the job. It’s a great job. It’s great because it’s a lot of fun to work for Donald Trump.”

Er…. yes. That was – Donald Trump speaking, in what’s become known as a “chopper talk” press gaggle on the WH lawn, posing in front of his airforce helicopter (that doesn’t work in the rain), explaining that he will have no trouble finding a replacement for John Bolton, the mad neocon armchair warmonger he hired last year as his third National Security advisor, and fired the other night as they appeared to agree on absolutely nothing and besides, he always hated that yellowing signature soup-strainer Bolton sports on his horsey upper lip, as it got him so much publicity.

Defending his attempt to rollback the phazing-out of energy-intensive tungsten lightbulbs, something we did in Europe about 20 years ago, Trump told a gathering it was because eco-friendlier low-energy bulbs “Always make me look orange”. This, in a speech to the Congressional Institute?

The guy has absolutely no self-awareness. The world is just an invention of his own diseased brain. A world through which he walks alone, troubled only by the shadows of the rest of us.

And then – this is the President who told another gathering this week that his wife Melania has a son – in wrapping up a rambling, delusionary and disorienting impromptu speech, he called Vice President Mike Pence: “Mike Pounds”, and then looked momentarily confused.

For God’s sake, Republican party, what the hell is wrong with you? You’re headed for oblivion with this demented old fraud in charge.

(Based on actual news clips satirized on The Late Show, 13 Sept.)

Thompson said: ‘I mean, I did get fired, but apart from that it was all smooth running.’

Double mammy: Al Johnson, as the PM might look in the age of color.

Depression news

Despite warnings from medical professionals and a number of deaths associated with the trials, Donald Trump has told his Health Department to order a vast quantity of a new, expensive, ketamine-based drug to be supplied to the Veterans Administration, for treating cases of PTSD in the military; where doctors have already advised, antidepressants can do more harm than good.

Are we to assume then that Trump “knows more about medicine than many doctors”, as he once met a doctor, or perhaps is it a case of another anonymous million-dollar donation quietly appearing in his re-election campaign war chest?

And make no mistake. Muh good friend, The Pumpkin is betting his jazz collection on Trump getting re-elected next year, if he has not been carted off with his arms folded in the meantime.

Just as, after ten years of vicious “austerity” warfare against the poorer two-thirds of the country, and as we head into a recession, the mendacious and incompetent Conservative government led by a bumbling and entitled unelected oaf, a careerist dilettante, a serial shagger and amateur racist who proposes to destroy the economy by dragging us in chaos out of the EU with nothing settled, and who has been branded a liar and a chancer by no less than former PM, David Cameron; the party selling places in the lifeboats for the rich while the rest of us drown in a sea of bubbling-hot shit, has a 12 per cent lead in the public opinion polls.

On both sides of the Atlantic, populist lunacy reigns.

 

“More than 60% of US adults hold at least one “new age” belief, such as placing faith in astrology or the power of psychics, and 42% think spiritual energy can be located in physical objects such as crystals” – Guardian report. The International Labor Organization estimates about 85,000 children work in Madagascar’s unregulated crystal mines, for the benefit of cretins like Gwyneth Paltrow and her tribe of emaciated airheads.

Depression News #2

It’s an ill-wind… “Shares in oil companies have jumped this morning, following the jump in crude prices.” (Guardian, jumping twice). Oil companies and armaments manufacturers are giving off the only signs that we’re not heading into a global recession, accompanied by a mooted US-led retaliatory strike on Iranian refineries, as all other market indices were showing red this morning.

If you were hoping to avoid a 5p rise in the unleaded price at the pumps today, you’re probably too late – althugh Trump is pumping ever harder. Aramco is now predicting it may take months to get back to full production after the drone strikes on the Abqaiq processing facility, which have interdicted half of Saudi Barbaria’s refinery output – 5% of the world’s oil supply.

Strikes for which the US has now managed to cobble together enough “intel” to suggest must have come from Iran or its proxies in Iraq, rather than from the Yemeni rebels who have claimed them.

Pundits now fear rising oil prices could be just the thing to kick off a global recession; while US banks – free once again to trade in dodgy debt-swaps with shareholder immunity risking only their depositors’ savings – could be even more just the thing to trigger another 2007-style lending crisis and a consequent depression, from which there might be no escape this time. The ECB and the Fed have already got the printing presses smoking hot and interest rates set below zero, but will it be enough?

Buckle up.

I keep saying that, don’t I? Yawn.

 

Depression News #3: “We can’t be sure…” etc.

“…if anything is masked by dimming, it’s the BBC”.

In an online story today, the good ole BBC carries a series of interviews with climate scientists including former UK chief scientist, David King.

All of them admit straight away, they’re scared. It’s all getting out of hand. Extreme weather events are coming thick and fast. They’re becoming more extreme, at an unpredicted rate.

But… we can’t be sure that any one event is linked to climate change!

Why does the BBC keep on parroting this sanitizing mantra? What actual relevance does making individual connections have, when joining the dots is scaring the pants off the people who know?

“Dr Friederike Otto from Oxford University is an expert in the attribution of extreme events to climate change. (So’s your Old Gran. It just comes natural, like…) She told us that in a pre-climate change world, a heatwave like this (France, June and July 2019, 46 and 43 deg. C) might strike once in 1,000 years. ‘In a post-warming world, the heatwave was a one-in-a-100 year phenomenon.’ (I know, that’s twice in one year! and they had Lucifer in 2017, and another one last year, 15 thousand heat deaths in 2003. But carry on, Dr Expert.) ‘In other words, natural variability is amplifying human-induced climate heating. (No, it’s the other way around!) With European heatwaves, we have realised that climate change is a total game-changer,’ she said.” Indeed. Good experting there, Dr Otto. I’m sure you know, it’s not a game.

But…  “it was impossible to be sure that the slow progress of Dorian was caused by climate change”. Oh, really? We know what the meteorological mechanisms are for the slowing forward progress, the more rapid intensification and increasing moisture-content of hurricanes. And it’s not just Dorian, it’s pretty well all of them now. Harvey? Florence? Michael? Idai? Kenneth? The Terrible Twins, Lekima and Krosa?

The Terrible Twins: Lekima and Krosa.

We know the climate is warming. And we know that all weather events are (and were always) the product of Earth’s climate.

Where’s the difficulty then in assuming that events that are more unusual and more extreme and more frequent than the norm are the obvious products of a changing climate – an overheating world?

Oh, but, says the top UN climate science guy, we don’t want to frighten the children!

Why the fuck do you think the children are striking and marching and demonstrating? It’s because they’re trying to frighten you! Why not listen to them?

And do stop telling us the world has warmed by “1 degree”! When you start from pre-industrial 1750 rather than 1880 you’re looking at 1.85 degrees already. Adjusting other variables as the scientists at Arctic News have been doing (admittedly controversially) brings us to nearer 3 degrees, but masked by the aerosol effect known as “global dimming” we can go on pretending if you like.

Your Old Gran has made the point many times before: if anything is masked by dimming, it’s the BBC.

 

“Two climate crisis protesters who removed Emmanuel Macron’s portrait from an official building were justified in doing so because of the severity of the environmental emergency, a judge has said. ​The ​judge in Lyon acquitted the pair of theft in a ruling hailed as historic by campaigners.” (Guardian)

And we want to leave the European Union?

Schools for scandal

“Each time a school becomes an academy the council must hand over the title deeds for the school if it has them (avg value £5m per school). As over 2,000 schools have been forced to become academies that is £10 billion (min) state assets (of which) Michael Gove has demanded the title deeds be handed to him.”

Legal fees involved in this incredible scam, uncovered five years ago by Michael Rosen, the “Childrens’ Laureate” at the time, amounted to another £50 million – all funded by the taxpayer.

Rosen’s attempts in 2014 to discover who now owned the title deeds make for even more shocking reading: a FOI request backed, in the face of unlawful prevarication, by a court order eventually revealed, there were no paper records or any form of traceable audit of the transfers of £10 billion in titles to formerly public buildings and land to the governors of the new schools, many of them Conservative party notables.

Gove, he adds, secretly set up a private company to process the deeds. But the money itself could not be traced. He later changed the law so that academies – unlike every other charity in the land – don’t have to publish accounts. Anyone “associated with the school” can now own the deeds, and even trade or sell them on; while the Government funds the payment of extortionate rents on the school properties to the new private “owners”.

The deeds have, in effect, been converted to a traded bond currency with no IFA oversight: “dark money”. While the “shareholders” of these new private school companies are indemnified at the public expense. THese are valuable public assets that have in effect been stolen by the state, and the money redistributed to private individuals.

Thus much of the money has ended up invested in offshore tax shelters and has been denied to the rest of our crumbling education system. As indeed, the schools were formerly in local authority ownership; while, as we know, local services – libraries, social care, housing, children’s services, “meals-on-wheels”, policing – pothole filling – have all been slashed to the marrow, thanks to the austerity measures imposed on us by this sickening bunch of rentier prostitutes, the Conservative party and its successive, failed governments.

Why this scandal is not better known, why the public has not burned down Parliament, I do not know. It is exactly the same system as was exploited by Vladimir Putin to vastly enrich his coterie of thuggish “oligarchs” in the new Russia, through the supra-legal disposals of holdings in formerly public companies; making himself probably the richest man in the world in the process. (He is believed to be worth twice as much as Amazon’s Jeff Bezos.)

I learned about the scandal only today, from a link provided in a Comment on a Guardian piece reminding us how terrible Gove was as Education Secretary: principally, as evidenced by his cynical removal of classes covering civics, politics, contemporary history – and any mention of the EU – from the national curriculum, thus possibly explaining why there is so little resistance to Tory propaganda; so little interest in politics, or the EU, that the people can be easily bullied and manipulated into voting 180 degrees against their own interest.

It turns out, therefore, that in addition to being a duplicitous little shit, Gove is also very probably a criminal.

Would somebody please move for the arrest and trial of this mendacious little pox-doctor, on charges of conspiracy to defraud the public purse, and of misconduct while in office? Throw open the windows and let a little light and air in on his furtive activities? Whatever else by way of treacherous deception he might have engineered while nobody was looking?

And please Sir, can we have our education system back? No Tory government should be allowed within a mile of the school gates, they’re nothing but a bunch of economic perverts and ignorance pushers.

Thanks.

http://michaelrosenblog.blogspot.com/2014/03/gove-nicked-our-schools-and-handed-them.html

 

GW: under my umbrella, ella

Parts of eastern Spain received what in some places was their heaviest rainfall on record on Thursday, 12 Sept., with severe flash-flooding, as storms wreaked (wrought?) widespread destruction and killed at least 4 people. The regional emergency service said a 51-year-old woman and her 61-year-old brother had been found dead in an overturned car in Caudete. 2 other motorists drowned in Almeria and Granada. The town of Ontinyent in Valencia had recorded more than 400mm (16-in.) rainfall by Thursday afternoon. The Clariano river rose 9 meters (30ft) in 2 hours. Regional airports were closed. (Guardian)

Bahamas: Tropical storm warnings have been issued for the northwestern Bahamas, including Grand Bahama Island. Disturbance 95L became Potential Tropical Cyclone 9 on Thursday afternoon and follows Cat. 5 Hurricane Dorian, which devastated the northern Bahamas last week (1,300 still recorded as missing.) If this system were to become a tropical storm, it would be called Humberto. As of 2 a.m. EDT Friday (13 Sept.), the center of the system was about 210 miles southeast of Great Abaco Island with maximum sustained winds of 30 mph. and potential to bring 300mm (15-in.) of rain (Accuweather) Behind it, a second disturbance has formed a disorganized system moving westwards out of the Cape Verde islands towards the Lesser Antilles, and stands a good chance of developing, monitors report.

Monday update: Strengthening hurricane, Humberto brushed by the Bahamas and then took a huge swing northeastwards, away from the Americas and out into the Atlantic. Bermuda is on standby. Watch out Portugal, or us, next week.

Brazil: Coffee lovers should consider stocking up on beans. Accuweather reports on market jitters, as: “the key coffee-growing region of Minas Gerais in Brazil has not had significant rain in three months. Average temperatures have been a whopping 7 degrees Fahrenheit above normal, and average precipitation has been 57% below normal since June 1.” No rain is in the forecast for the next three weeks.

USA: As powerful storms continue to batter the Midwest, September 2018 to August 2019 was again the wettest 12-month stretch on record for the contiguous United States as a whole. March and July were the only months that were slightly drier than average, but still maintained the year-on-year record. The top five wettest Jan-Aug periods have all occurred since 1979. (Wunderground, from where the NOAA graph below, showing rapid intensification, is also taken.)

Precipitation totals for 12-month spans from September to the following August, going back to 1895

The floppy jetstream is once again plunging southwards, as far as southern California – 100F degree temperatures around Sacramento are likely to be in the 60s by early this week, a new storm system is moving in and there’s a snow forecast for higher elevations. Tropical Storm Humberto has triggered storm warnings for Florida’s east coast. (Accuweather) Behind Humberto, “Imelda” (as yet only an unnamed depression) is forming off the Cape Verde islands.

Accuweather reports, Monday 16th: “Residents (in South Dakota) are facing record-breaking flooding as the Big Sioux River continues to rise. The National Weather Service said recently, that almost a foot of rain fell near Sioux Falls, South Dakota, over the course of two days. Multiple rivers and creeks surpassed previous water level records.”

Arctic: Prof. Beckwith’s latest podcast causes some puzzlement. While it’s clear from satellite scans that practically all the multi-year thick ice north of 60 deg. is gone, and there are still millions of square km of clear water around the outer edges of the ocean that weren’t there in Augusts past, it appears that the overall extent of sea ice that had been falling all summer in line with 2012’s record collapse had begun by mid-August to level off; although it’s thin and mushy. Despite record air temperatures, as the sun’s obliquity grows with the onset of winter, surface melting appeared to slow down early, although sub-surface melting continues for some weeks after, as the water beneath remains warm. No-one is quite sure why: aerosol masking from fires is one theory, fresh meltwater from Greenland another. So it looks like we won’t be getting the dreaded “blue water” event this year; but we’re still skating on thin ice.

UK – Wales: A Google search reveals the factoid that the average daily September temperature in the UK is 16.8C, with an average high of 18C. Happily then, in the shade of the enormous Photinia in my front garden, we hit 23.2 degrees at about 2 p.m. this fine, sunny – if still somewhat hazy – afternoon (13 Sept.); and 23.5 the next day. Truly, these are the Fortunate Isles!

World’s largest permafrost river, the Lena at Yakutsk dries to a record low, preventing winter supplies reaching outlying settlements. (Siberian Times)

Tunnel approaching….

“40% of the UK’s food is imported,” notes a parliamentary report. In the very near future, the Environmental Audit Committee says, “people would be at risk from sudden lurches in food prices if a no-deal Brexit resulted in trouble with imports, including higher costs, delays and shortages. Beyond the immediate effects of Brexit, the climate emergency and changing trade relationships may put the British diet in jeopardy.” The committee has called for urgent action to improve resilience, including water rationing, greater diversity in farming and a campaign against food waste.

Mary Creagh, the chair of the committee, said: “We are facing a food security crisis.”

http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2019/sep/17/uk-fresh-food-imports-areas-at-risk-climate-crisis-mps-warn

Meanwhile, the Department for Farming and Rural Affairs, DEFRA, has confirmed we are expecting the first case of African Swine Fever in Britain “within 12 months”. It’s already prevalent in eastern Europe. China has had to slaughter over a million pigs already and has dropped its tariffs against US pork producers to guarantee supply. China consumes half the world’s production, but the country expects to have to cull another 250 million pigs to try to contain the outbreak of what is being described as potentially the world’s worst ever animal disease pandemic. World prices are rising.

…a short essay

“Denialism comes riding on My Little Pony.”

The sheer irrelevance of political journalism

I keep abandoning halfway through, long, thoughtful, worried articles in the kind of liberal press I tend to read, giving tendentious political analysis – Brexit, the Farage party, Johnson, Cummings, shutting down Parliament, whither democracy and the political system?, civil discourse, globalism, Orban, Salvini, street violence, treason, hedge funds, Nazis, Twitter rants, Trump’s chaotic foreign policy, left, right – the rule of law.

Not one of them betrays the slightest awareness of the parallel climate crisis that is hurling itself upon us with ever-increasing velocity, violence – and expense. Not one appears to be aware that an extinction event is already far advanced, of mammalian species, that unfortunately now includes the human race; and that this is a political, as well as a scientific and geophysical conundrum: not, can we now prevent?, but how are we going to manage our own extinction?

Not one journalist seems to understand the connection: that, whatever political systems are in place five years from now, our “leaders” will have to grapple with issues humanity has not had to face in the last 13 thousand years, at least since the cosmic collision event that extincted the northern megafauna – and nearly us too; nor are the “leaders” seemingly capable of factoring those issues into their self-obsessed, narrow-minded, anachronistic ideologies.

It is as if politics and the environment are entirely separate issues proceeding on parallel tracks, with a high wall between.

The author and New York Times contributor, Jonathan Franzen – an expert amateur ornithologist, by the way, who travels the world in search of rare birds, has written a polemic in which he concludes, there is no way out of the situation we have gotten ourselves into.

And a silly little girl claiming to be a “climate scientist”, Kate Marvel writes a reply in the Scientific American, telling Franzen to “shut up”.

After several paragraphs describing the situation exactly as it is: fossil fuel overdependency, feedbacks kicking in, non-linear warming, ice vanishing, levels of CO2 in the amosphere unknown during the 2 million years humans have existed, environmental degradation, etcetera, etcetera, she writes – believe it or not: “I am a scientist, which means I believe in miracles.”

It is gobsmacking stuff. Denialism comes riding on My Little Pony.

That’s the childish, panic-stricken, self-censoring level to which – I won’t call it a debate – scientific discourse has sunk. Franzen’s view is soundly supported by numerous serious scientists, many of whom are being “shut up” by the vested interests for whom truth is an elastic polymer. None, so far as I know, is offering us a “miracle”.

Even where mainstream media journalists do crossover from their political navel-gazing into quasi-scientific environmentalism, not one seems fully apprised of the depth of the hot shit we are now swimming in, or prepared to peer into the abyss. Twelve years, according to the IPCC? Don’t be so fucking naive, we were given 12 years by the UN in 1989!

I could name you all, you sober and sensible political journalists with your furrowed concern for the future of democracy, but why bother? You know who you are. Just wake up and look around, you self-absorbed, incurious boobies.

The totalitarianism and exclusionary nativism you see rising all around us are the direct consequence of a universal but unspoken consciousness that we are fast approaching the end time. We face a fascist-style, dictatorial future, only because kleptocratic authoritarianism is the natural political response to looming dystopian chaos, the collapse of the civilized postwar consensus in which some – for a time – will win, and the rest of us will unfortunately be left to perish.

Populist totalitarianism and exclusionary nativism are – literally – the zeitgeist.

Is it the answer you want?

Then try asking the question. Earn your money.

And now I’ll shut up.

So, Farewell then, Jeff… Still crazier after all these years… Has He Shot his Fox?… It’s just a silly phase we’re going through… Arse Attacks #2… GW: And the beast goes on… Issue 94 of The Pumpkin extends its tendrils.

Other Quote of the Week

“Every photo of Cummings going into Downing Street sees him shiftily meeting the camera’s gaze with the same defensive sneer you’d see on the proprietor of a holiday caravan park who has just been released on police bail after a fatal gas explosion thought to have been caused by poor maintenance. Britain really is the land of crap Rasputins….”

– Marina Hyde, in The Guardian, 9 Aug.

 

So, Farewell then, Jeff

Let’s not get too cynical, shall we, about the timing of society pimp Jeffrey Epstein’s “apparent suicide” (Guardian), following an earlier apparent attempt on his own life last week, while “on suicide watch” in the Metropolitan Correctional Center in New York. (“The facility is widely considered to be one of the most secure in the country.” – BBC)

We feel sure it must have had everything to do with feelings of personal shame and remorse, the certain loss of his privileged millionaire lifestyle; the prospect of spending the rest of his life behind bars, where his status as a bit of a celebrity nonce might make things uncomfortable for him. And as we know, careless is generally the middle name of whichever private contractor runs these facilities.

It surely had nothing to do with the 2,000 pages of evidence, naming names, in the trial on a charge of slander against Epstein’s mistress and alleged procurer of underage girls, Ghislaine Maxwell, released last week by a New York court; Ms Maxwell having unwisely accused one of the witnesses in Epstein’s trial, Virginia Giuffre (15 at the time) of lying.

(As Oscar Wilde said, “Don’t ever go there”!)

After all, why would Epstein have wanted the opportunity to defend himself in court, having bothered to plead not guilty to all the charges? Unnecessarily inconveniencing all his wealthy and powerful friends, some with extensive connections, I should imagine, in the criminal underworld.

Having been tried once before, and agreed to serve 13 months, most of it on the outside, where he allegedly continued his unsavory pastime of importing underage girls to entertain his rich and famous clients, I expect he just didn’t want to have to go through all that again.

And look, there’s the story, obviously denied, in the overnight British press, “Prince Andrew touched my breasts….” From another young witness, Joanna Sjoberg:

“I just remember someone suggesting a photo, and they told us to go get on the couch. And so Andrew and Virginia sat on the couch, and they put the puppet, the puppet on her lap. And so then I sat on Andrew’s lap, and I believe on my own volition, and they took the puppet’s hands and put it on Virginia’s breast, and so Andrew put his on mine.”

So, British royalty. May as well just get it all over with, eh? Puppets. What was that about?

Water under the bridge.

(As you may imagine, the Twittersphere is atweet with this story, the consensus seeming to be that this will be one for the conspiracy theorists for all Eternity. More sober commenters point out that all may not yet be lost as more civil actions are pending, that may rely on the same evidence coming out.

Unfortunately for her, Ms Maxwell is now the one most likely to bear the entire brunt of public opprobrium that had been reserved for her “boyfriend”.)

 

A police patrol car on its way to an incident was struck by a falling bear in northern California last weekend, causing the vehicle to crash and explode. The bear made its escape. (Various sources)

 

“who will dare to tell the king he’s crazy?.”

Still crazier after all these years

I imagine it’s almost certainly illegal to wish that someone would just take the shot and end this. Although I expect in their waking moments, most compassionate, rational people do.

Trump and the Third Lady pitched up at a hospital in El Paso on Tuesday, the Old Mexican border town where 22 people died in a mass shooting last week at a Walmart store, carried out by a 21-year-old white man armed with an assault rifle. The unrepentant suspect, Patrick Crusius had just posted a lengthy manifesto on the 8Chan race haters’ website, dedicating his desire to end immigration and prevent the “replacement” of the white race to the president’s deliberately inflammatory statements of previous weeks.

Was the presidential party there to commiserate with and support the survivors and the medical teams working round the clock to save the wounded? Would the president make a statement admitting that his attacks on migrants and people of color, his strident demands that they go back to where they came from, his encouragement of racially hateful chanting had gone too far? Would he apologize, and announce immediate action on lax gun ownership rules?

Well, we wouldn’t really know, as the media was barred from going in the building.

To rub the point in, Trump had brought along with him a White House camera crew. He, and he alone, would control the news agenda. “Mine is the only light in the room.” Thus he had himself filmed, grinning broadly, making a thumbs-up gesture, while Melania diffidently poses with the newsworthy baby whose young parents were shot dead trying to protect it. Their deaths meant nothing more to the First Family than an opportunity to exploit a half-Mexican baby.

They are not looking at the baby. They are looking away, possibly at another camera. Don’t look at the baby, they are saying, look at us! Don’t make the baby the center of attention, the headline news, we’re the ones who matter here!

This man is as sick in the mind as any human being can possibly get. But also as mean, and ruthless.

As the unwelcome and embarrassing visit wore on, drawing the media’s attention, across Texas ICE – the immigration police – on Trump’s order launched a series of raids, netting hundreds of supposedly undocumented Latino migrant workers, many resident for decades, leaving their bewildered children stuck at home or at school – or themselves rounded up and disappeared into containment facilities not fit for slaughtering cattle.

Later reporting suggests that one raid, in Mississippi, may have been connected with unwanted union activity at a chicken plant. You see, it’s not all about the race thing. Never was.

Back at the hospital, private cameraphone footage revealed the First Oaf, Trump grinning and bragging to appalled and embarrassed medical staff that his crowd size outside was bigger than the “400 or so” who had greeted losing 2018 Congressional candidate, Beto O’Rourke, at his most recent rally in El Paso – his home town. It was the most important thing he had to tell them, as he never stops telling everyone, that he still can’t believe he’s really the president.

Police estimated O’Rourke had drawn a crowd in excess of ten thousand. But that would have meant nothing to Trump, as he was furious that O’Rourke had dared to question the ethics of his visit to the survivors and grieving relatives; who had requested that he not come. My crowd being bigger than yours, obviously because I say it is, makes me a winner and you a loser. So – “Be quiet!”, he imperiously tweeted the younger presidential hopeful, after a fusillade of insults.

It was yet another vindictive attack on a perceived enemy by the paranoid narcissist with the nuclear codes. For Trump, life is a zero-sum game: I win, you lose – and “Trump” (it’s how he refers to himself, in the third person) never loses. With his little thumbs on the tweeter, he will always have the last word. And it will always be the nastiest.

In much the same way as he publicly crowed on the night of 9/11, with nearly three thousand office workers and aircraft passengers dead or dying, that his tower block would now be the tallest in Manhattan; or as he claimed last month to an audience of chronically sick firefighters, police and paramedics, who really had been there, that he was down there with them at Ground Zero, “helping people” and “moving rubble” (actually he was giving a radio interview), it was another fantasy born of a total deficit of human empathy and understanding; making every crisis all about himself and his own tragic feelings of victimhood.

Reportedly, on the way back from Dayton, Ohio, where he visited a second hospital containing nine more victims of white nationalism, shot up within hours of El Paso, Trump had another one of his meltdowns, and has been screaming abuse at hapless staffers who had “allowed” him to visit the hospitals without the media present, as he is now being widely accused of hypocrisy and insensitivity and has no witnesses to prove otherwise.

We wonder why.

No normally sane person says and does those things; let alone someone with the power and responsibility of the office of president. Congress has to understand what hundreds of mental health professionals have been saying since he took office: Trump is crazy, and getting crazier.

It’s not supposed to be funny, it’s not a joke – it’s not a criticism, a put-down, anti-Americanism, Antifa-antics, snobbish lefty-liberal horseshit, “Doctor internet” theorizing or lazy late-night satire:

It’s exactly what mental illness looks like.

Someone has to act on it, to end the nightmare.

Besides the criminality of which he is widely and evidentially accused, the cronyism, it is simply inconceivable that a man who is so profoundly limited – on top of the psychological damage from which he already suffers as a result of his parental rejection issues – a man whose perceived reality is 360-degrees self-invented, who can view the world only through the flattering prism of his own ego, his own wants; who continually lies to aggrandize himself when it doesn’t matter, and denies his actions have consequences; who has an insatiable craving for approval, a man in any case so poorly structured and incompetent, how should such a person be allowed to continue in the highest office, to which he was inadvertently elected?

For his own sake he has to be taken into care, at the very least for a period of psychiatric assessment. He is a clear and present danger to himself and to the country; his assaults on scientific research alone should indicate that he inhabits a separate reality; never mind the damaging trade wars, the tearing-up of treaties, the unwanted interference with foreign governments and the fights he picks with his country’s allies. The idea that he should be permitted a second four-year term is unconscionable.

It is criminal of the Republican party to insist that such a person should remain trapped in the very situation that is making his illness so much worse. He was never fit for the job. A humane constitutional mechanism to suspend him from office exists in the form of the 25th amendment.

But who will dare to tell the king he’s crazy?

How would he even have the mental capacity to agree?

 

Angela Merkel has been caught on vacation in the Tyrol, reading a book called “Tyrant: Shakespeare on Politics”, by Harvard Professor Stephen Greenblatt. The book purports to draw parallels between tyrants in Shakespeare’s plays, and Donald Trump.

(“A rather simplistic, naive narrative.” – Bloomberg)

 

Has He Shot his Fox?

David Pakman is reporting that Trump has abandoned Murdoch’s Fox News, after months of increasingly rancorous tweets aimed at presenters like Shepard Smith and Chris Wallace, who have honorably attempted to retain some measure of editorial objectivity on this, one of the most rightwing of networks.

Trump’s real obsession has been with the daytime show, Fox & Friends, which falls into the Features category, rather than news. It’s said that numerous policy decisions and reversals have been announced from the Oval Office within minutes of rabid frothers like Laura Ingraham, Judge Jeanine Pirro and Brian Kilmeade commenting in characteristically over-the-top ways on the issues of the day.

Some of Trump’s staff appointments have been of totally unqualified people who just happened to have worked or guested in ways he approves of, on Fox & Friends. He feels some panellists have turned against him, particularly legal pundit Judge Napoletano, who has sometimes declared Trump’s initiatives to be illegal. Of course, one of his closest confidants is the overemotional motormouth presenter and millionaire slum landlord, Sean Hannity.

But of late, even Fox & Friends has been critical, for instance of his backing away from military confrontation with Iran. Now, reports Pakman, Trump is endorsing an even more rabidly rightwing and conspiratorial media outlet, the One America News Network, OAN – an amateurish cable network with fewer than 400 thousand subscribers – although with his support, that looks set to rise.

He recently tweeted that he would rather watch “fake news CNN” than Shepard Smith, but that “whenever possible, I turn to OANN!”

The station has promoted as real news, most of the usual online conspiracy theories cooked up by swivel-eyed Trump supporters like Alex Jones of InfoWars on the fringes of his campaign during the 2016 election; for instance, that Democrat intern Seth Rich, who died in a street mugging, was murdered on the orders of Clinton campaign chairman, John Podesta – himself at the helm of an international pedophile ring based in the (non-existent) basement of the Comet Ping-Pong cafe in Washington.

According to Wikipedia, OAN – or OANN – is owned by Robert Herring Sr, mildly crazed President of Herring Networks, a millionaire who made his fortune printing circuit boards:

“Originally launched with the intention of targeting a conservative and center-right audience, OAN states a goal of delivering credible national and international news coverage throughout the day while its prime time political talk shows illustrate a conservative perspective. The channel is pro-Trump (and pro-Russia). Both Vanity Fair and The Independent in London have accused the channel of promoting falsehoods and conspiracy theories.”

Herring is currently hoping to acquire Al Jazeera’s US operation to improve OANN’s standing. (We recall, do we gnotte, Trump’s support for Saudi Barbaria’s boycott of Qatar, one of which’s objectives was to get Qatar-owned Al Jazeera closed down, which might well have helped Herring’s ambition along some.)

Suspecting that by supporting OAN, Trump might just have been hoping to move Fox’s coverage back to the far-right, from which he believes it has drifted, and to continue its slavish approval of him, The Guardian reported scathingly in June:

“The obscure One America News Network (OAN) makes up for its lack of clout or viewers by covering every Trump utterance, recycling conspiracy theories, downplaying Russian threats, bashing the mainstream media and championing the ‘Make America Great Again’ agenda.”

Former OAN employees confirmed to the Daily Beast, basically that the network is a crock of shit, and a terrible place to work, being in effect the personal mouthpiece of the Herrings, father and son.

If Pakman is correct, and OAN has won, watch out for even more bonkers initiatives and dangerously illiberal policies emerging from the biddable gogglebox president’s TV room, where he spends hours a day in “executive time”, communing with the little yammering faces in the ether. It seems they have indeed won, as on 8 August Herring tweeted:

“COMING SOON! You will be able to watch the president’s favorite news network by becoming a supporter on Facebook. One America News is launching a LIVE 24/7 feed — you will be able to tune in anywhere in the world. More details to come!”

Which prompted a frantic “Do not send money!” disclaimer from a company called OAN, whose URL Herring had declined to register as OANN was several thousand dollars cheaper, hence the extra N for Network – even though it barely is one yet.

What Rupert will have to say is anyone’s guess. He and Trump haven’t been friends for some time.

Media monster

The 45th President of the United States of America, probably the most petty and vindictive one ever, went ballistic last week and began tweeting furiously when he heard a Fox interview with a former Google employee, who “confirmed” a rumor (believed by Trump) that the online search monster was deliberately suppressing conservative websites – untrue, as it happens, the guy had just been fired and was feeling sore.

Under his savvy campaign director, Brad Parscale – formerly of Cambridge Analytica – Trump’s digital effort has already spent $9.3 million dollars on over 2,000 Facebook ads for 2020, including creating improbable support organizations, such as “Latinos for Trump!”, using brownish actors.

Techniques learned, obviously, from the Russians.

 

It’s just a silly phase we’re going through

As things in Britain and the USA slide gently out of kilter, with the rise of authoritarian gangster-capitalist juntas run by crazed, unelected rightwing ideologues in hock to a gruesome coalition of insane tech billionaires, hedge funds, Russian mobsters and the evangelical churches – practically the whole of southern England and Wales was without electricity yesterday, for no obvious reason, while there have been rolling blackouts across New York – and the numbers in poverty continue rising as fast as the rich can bank the money, spare a thought for the people of Zimbabwe.

Eighteen months ago they were freed from the malign rule of one half-insane, senile dictator, Mugabe, 94, only to fall into the hands of another reptilian incompetent, his former bush colleague and war criminal, Nelson Mnangagwa, age 77 and three-quarters. One look at his face tells you exactly how much mercy to expect from this former warlord.

Why on earth Africans always seem to imagine that these now elderly men who once fought brutal guerrilla wars, first against colonial rule and then against one another, committing endless rapes and massacres, are competent to run modern democracies, I have no idea, but they always seem to end up getting themselves elected, swanking around in black Mercedes, stuffing their Swiss bank accounts and grinding the faces of the voters.

Reports from Harare say people outside the city, where the rich still dine out, are literally going hungry, scraping by on a handful of meal and a few leaves a day. The UN says 4 million will need aid. Children are reported to be collapsing in school from hunger. There’s no power twelve hours a day, rampant unemployment, hospitals bare of medical supplies and the currency is virtually worthless.

This in a country Mnangagwa promised would be a haven for foreign investment – only to find himself hamstrung by the IMF and Mugabe’s vast debts, facing an almost perpetual state of austerity and drought punctuated by cyclones and floods.

Which makes this statement from a government minister all the more ironic, considering how things are going on the streets of their former colonial masters’ home country, Britain, where schools are on short time, begging for donations to buy teachers and having to feed 50 thousand children through the summer holidays – where homelessness has gone beyond the power of government to fix, and where, in a couple of months’ time, we may be begging the EU for emergency supplies of food and medicines, with the army on the streets:

“These are temporary issues as the market adjusts,” said Energy Mutodi, the deputy information minister. “This is an economy that is transforming into a more robust and innovative one … it shouldn’t be mistaken for a crisis. We expect prices to stabilise. We are going through a phase where we need to sacrifice and make some savings.”

Ring any bells, George Osborne? Philip Hammond? Boris Johnson – Lord Wolfson – anyone of the brightly optimistic school of Western socio-economic disintegration? Because, whatever befalls us in November – don’t mistake it for a crisis, it’s just a transformation into something worse.

 

Arse Attacks #2

Tonight, The Observer is reporting:

An Observer analysis of Land Registry documents and EU subsidy databases reveals that a farm in Durham, which Cummings jointly owns with his parents and another person, has received roughly €20,000 a year for most of the last two decades.

That’s the Dominic Cummings, archBrexiteer and Iago to Boris’ Othello, Asterix to Boris’ Obelix, who has frequently attacked farming subsidies because they allow us to compete unfairly with African producers.

 

GW: And the beast goes on… 

China: “At least 18 people have been killed and more than a million forced from their homes as Typhoon Lekima hit. 14 people were also missing after a landslide was triggered by the storm, state media reported. Lekima made landfall between Taiwan and China’s financial capital Shanghai. The storm was initially designated a “super typhoon”, but weakened slightly before landfall – when it still had winds of 187km/h (116mph). Lekima is now slowly winding its way north through Zhejiang province, and is expected to hit Shanghai, which has a population of more than 20 million. Fallen trees and power cuts are widespread.” (BBC)

Sunday 11 Aug: now 28 dead, 20 missing.

USA: “A broad area of the central United States will be at risk for violent thunderstorms and flooding downpours this weekend …with the worst of the thunderstorms focused on South Dakota. A brief tornado was reported in Lyman County, South Dakota, on Friday, with many more thunderstorms producing damaging winds and large hail in the state. The greatest threats from the storms are likely to be be high winds, which can gust to 70 mph, as well as hail and flash flooding.” (Accuweather)

Australia: The land of sun downunder is having a tough winter. “Strong winds continued to lash parts of New South Wales on Saturday, with snow hitting the Blue Mountains and stranding some drivers on the Great Western highway before it was reopened. And in Victoria, where a woman died (and 2 children were injured, one gravely) after a tree fell on a car, the cold, rain and strong winds were forecast to stick around for the weekend. Winds topped 113km/h on the south coast’s Montague Island on Friday. (Guardian) Emergency workers have dealt with hundreds of calls for help. At Stockton, in Newcastle, the wind ripped the roof off an old people’s care center, forcing the evacuation of about 30 people.

Meanwhile… More than 60 bushfires are burning in New South Wales, two months before the start of the fire season. How this is happening at the same time as the state is affected by rain and snow, your Gran fails to comprehend, but this is being reported today, 10 Aug., by News.com.au. I guess it’s a big place.

UK: Rail passengers endured a second day of disruption, this time caused by severe winds and flooding rather than power outages. After travellers recovered from delays of up to 12 hours on Friday following the National Grid failure, weather caused chaos in the national rail network, ports and roads. (BBC)