Media (267)


The Imperial Presidency

(Door Hugo Kijne te Hoboken USA)

There is a video lecture from the 1970s in which the late, great Russell Ackoff speaks about democracy and Iran, at the time a hot topic: “In most countries of the world you have God at the top, then the Constitution, and then the Head of State. But in Iran you have God, then the Shah, and then the Constitution. So when the Shah has made a decision the only appeal is prayer, and that is not very effective.” Trump must have had something similar in mind when he had his lawyer declare that the president cannot obstruct justice, because he is the chief executive of the country and therefore ultimately in charge of law enforcement.  Other sources of inspiration may have been Papal infallibility and Richard Nixon’s ‘when the president does it that means that it’s not illegal,’ but Iran seems an appropriate model because Trump also expressed a desire to have his own, presidential secret service, operating independently from the CIA, FBI and NSA.  Hitler of course had the Gestapo and Stalin the NKVD, and considering Trump’s habit to only compare himself with the truly historic greats and to try and outdo them they may have been on his mind too.

The issue came up when Trump released a tweet saying that he knew Michael Flynn had lied to both the vice-president and the FBI when he fired him.  Since Flynn was fired one day before Trump asked James Comey ‘whether he could see his way to letting Flynn go,’ the president’s attempt to obstruct justice was fairly obvious.  The White House’s defense was as old as it was lame.  In a new version of ‘the butler did it’ Trump’s personal lawyer fell on the sword with a public statement that he had written the tweet, and mistakenly mentioned Flynn’s lying to the FBI. Not even a dimwit like Sarah Palin would believe that a lawyer would write a tweet like that, and things got worse when Paul Manafort violated the terms of his bail by contacting one of his Russian associates and was put back on house arrest, while Billy Bush wrote in an Op-Ed that the voice on the ‘Access Hollywood’ tape was indeed Trump’s.  The president tried to regain his mental balance by opening up two national parks in Utah for industrial destruction and going all in for Alabama child molester Roy Moore, forcing the Republican National Committee to follow suit.

Subsequently, by way of an early Hanukkah present, Trump gave a speech announcing that the US was recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and would start preparations to move the embassy there.  This was as much a gesture towards Evangelicals in the bible belt as towards Israel, but Trump probably doesn’t know that the former support Israel only because its existence is a condition of the prophesy that all Jews must ultimately convert to Christianity or else perish.

During the speech Trump began slurring his words, which led to speculation about his mental health. Answering questions from reporters Sarah Huckabee Sanders said that Trump had just been thirsty, but also that he would have a complete physical at Walter Reed Hospital early next year.  The good news for Trump is that commercial real estate is the industry that benefits the most from the new tax bill.

The low point of the week came when Sarah Sanders lectured Congressman John Lewis, who had his skull broken when he marched with Dr. King in Selma, for not honoring the sacrifice of civil rights leaders by not attending an event in Mississippi where Trump will also be present.  For that alone she’ll go to hell, if there is one.


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Trump Unmoored

(Door Hugo Kijne te Hoboken USA)

The president started his week with an attack on CNN that was almost an invitation to foreign governments to obstruct American journalists in doing their job, and coincided with Putin’s decision to have foreign journalists register as ‘foreign agents.’ Subsequently Trump produced an ethnic slur during a celebration of Navajo ‘code talkers,’ by once again referring to Senator Warren as ‘Pocahontas.’ Then he started the day on which there was supposed to be an urgent White House meeting between Republican and Democratic leadership about keeping the government funded with a tweet stating that ‘no deal’ could be made with ‘Chuck and Nancy,’ causing the Democrats  to stay away and a government shutdown to become much more likely. Later in the week leaks from the White House revealed that Trump now believes that the ‘Access Hollywood’ tape, of which he had previously recognized the authenticity and for which he had apologized, was a forgery, and that he is also revisiting the idea that Obama was not born in the US. To cap it all off the president re-tweeted three anti-Muslim videos from a British fascist account.

When confronted with the origins of the videos Sarah Huckabee Sanders said that it didn’t matter if the content was true, but that the president had wanted to focus the attention on ‘the issues’ and tried to ‘elevate the debate.’ Those intentions escaped England’s prime minister, who publicly criticized Trump, and by that time some prominent journalists, based on contacts with White House staffers, started speculating that the president had entered a ‘pre-dementia’ stage. The cause of Trump’s mental confusion became clear when first it turned out that he had tried to derail the Senate investigation into Russian collusion and the next day it was announced that Michael Flynn had reached an agreement with Robert Mueller, and in exchange for a single indictment for lying to the FBI started cooperating with the Special Counsel. Considering that Flynn could have been indicted for far more serious crimes the information he will bring to the table must be of high value, and almost certainly pertains to instructions he received from either Trump or Jared Kushner to deal with the Russians on sanctions while Obama was still president.

And the week was supposed to end in such a glorious way. Republicans in the Senate were about to pass a tax bill that by 2027 will have families making between $40,000 and $50,000 annually pay $5.3 billion more in taxes, while those who make over $1 million will pay $5.8 billion less, and 13 million Americans will lose their healthcare. Trump called this a ‘beautiful Christmas gift’ for the middle class, denying that his family, which stands to make $1 billion, would benefit.

Because the bill was pushed through the Senate without due process it became only accidentally known that a ‘dynamic scoring’ analysis – the new term for ‘trickle down’ economics – which was supposed to show that the tax cuts would pay for themselves, was never made by the Treasury Department, in spite of promises by Secretary Mnuchin that go six months back.

Tax cuts have never paid for themselves, and as a result of the new legislation the national debt will increase with at least $1 trillion and probably more. When this becomes visible Republicans will start screaming that the debt is too high and demand cuts in Medicare and Social Security.


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Flipping Flynn

(Door Hugo Kijne te Hoboken USA)

At the beginning of Trump’s week Roy Moore was the problem.  White House representatives could not say that they believed the women accusing Moore of active pedophilia, because they would immediately get the question if the women accusing Trump of sexual assault shouldn’t also be believed.  So a lot of smokescreens were set up, for instance that Moore’s past behavior had been litigated because the voters in Alabama had elected him, and the fact that Trump had not campaigned for Moore was presented as proof of at least passive disapproval.  Only Ivanka Trump issued a statement that could be interpreted as critical of Moore.  But apparently Steve Bannon tried to convince Trump that Moore’s voice is needed to pass a tax bill, ignoring the Republican establishment’s conviction that if Moore is elected he’ll be a ball and chain on the leg of every Republican running for office in 2018, as well as a royal pain in Mitch McConnell’s ass.  In the end Bannon prevailed.  Kellyanne Conway, violating the Hatch Act, in effect declared that a pedophile is better than a Democrat, and Trump emphasized that Moore has denied all allegations.

With regards to the tax bill the attitude of both Republicans in Congress and the White House is that passing something, anything, even a very unpopular bill, is better than not passing one.  So at a time when social and economic inequality is at a longtime high in the US the country faces a redistribution of wealth on behalf of corporations and the richest Americans at the expense of the middle class.  The lopsidedness of the GOP tax plan is only matched by its viciousness.  Citizens of ‘blue’ states are punished for voting Democratic, and for inexplicable reasons graduate students are being targeted by taking away their tuition deduction,  which will force many of them to break off their studies.  After all, who needs doctors and engineers?  One of the selling points of the plan, most forcefully brought forward by Gary Cohn, is that tax cuts for corporations will result in job creation.  Cohn, however, got a cold shower when he asked an audience of CEOs for a raise of hands by those who expected to invest in jobs as a result of the tax cuts and saw only a few.  Even more bizarre is the assumption that the tax cuts will result in an average $4,000 raise for workers.

With all this going on the president somehow found the time to engage in a number of digital altercations via his Twitter account.  Of the NFL he demanded a suspension of football player Marshawn Lynch for kneeling during the national anthem, he blasted LaVar Ball, the father of a college basketball player who had been detained in China, for not showing enough gratitude after his son’s release, and he predicted that Senator Flake, spelled Flake(y), would vote against the tax bill.

Towards the end of the week Trump got bad news concerning his current and his former National Security Advisor.  According to multiple sources McMaster called Trump an ‘idiot’ and a ‘dope,’ echoing Tillerson’s ‘fucking moron,’ and Mike Flynn’s lawyers stopped communicating with Trump’s defense team, a strong indication that Flynn is now collaborating with Mueller.

And then there were the expulsions.  Trump considered it time that 59,000 Haitians, admitted after a devastating earthquake, go back to homes that don’t exist anymore, and the latest rumor is that he wants Ivanka and Jared to quit their White House jobs and move back to New York City.


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The Pinnacle of Hypocrisy

(Door Hugo Kijne te Hoboken USA)

Before Donald Trump went out of town he promised that America’s standing in the world would reach a new height during his trip to Asia, which by the way was the longest ever taken by a US President, as he didn’t stop reminding us.  During Veterans Day weekend he sided with Putin against his own intelligence services, telling the press pool that he believes Putin when he says that Russia didn’t interfere in the American elections and is very hurt by the accusation, rather than believing the ‘political hacks’ that had been appointed by Obama.  When someone alerted him that the CIA, FBI and NSA would also be very hurt Trump walked his original statement back, now saying that Putin believes himself and the US intelligence services believe something else.  It was a good illustration of Trump’s attitude towards the truth.  Subsequently the president called Kim Jong-un ‘short and fat,’ in response to the North Korean leader calling him ‘old,’ but he declared that they could still be friends. When this schoolyard brawl was over Trump walked the biggest red carpets ever seen in Japan, China, South-Korea, Vietnam and the Philippines.

Back in the US the president gave a speech about his trip that was supposed to contain a ‘major announcement.’  As it turned out, the announcement was that Trump had made a lot of friends, and the speech will mostly be remembered for his inability to locate a water bottle. There were no new trade agreements, no promises from either China or Russia to put more pressure on North Korea, and the South Asian countries were left fending for themselves in a region now completely dominated by China. Meanwhile at home Trump’s former National Security Adviser Mike Flynn had landed deeper in the mud when it was revealed that for $15 million he had been willing to kidnap a Turkish cleric, Fethullah Gülen, the number one enemy of president Erdogan, and smuggle him out of the country, increasing the chance that Flynn will start ‘singing’ to Mueller. In 2016 Don Jr. had maintained contacts with Wikileaks, which now came to light, and Jared Kushner had failed to report his contacts about a Russian ‘backdoor channel,’ adding to a long list of events and communications the president’s son-in-law had failed to remember when he filled out the forms to report them.

Desperate to give Trump more to show for than the reversal of an Obama policy that prohibited the import of elephant heads by wild game hunters, something Don Jr. and Eric Trump are dying to do, the House passed a bill containing major tax cuts for corporations and the ultra-rich, pretending that it is a tax cut for the middle class and that the trickle-down effect will produce both salary raises and jobs.  The Senate is still working on its own version of a similar bill.

If a Reconciliation Committee can somehow merge the two bills into one, the US population will be stuck with policies that give millionaires thousands of dollars in tax cuts while people earning up to $75,000 will pay more.  There will immediately be significant cuts in Medicaid and Medicare funding and 13 million Americans will lose their health care, but the Trump family stands to make $1 billion.

And then there is the pedophile and US Senate candidate Roy Moore. Trump has not yet spoken out about Moore, but he has tweeted critically about a picture showing Al Franken pretending to assault a female colleague in 2006.  In doing so the Pussygrabber-in-Chief has reached the pinnacle of hypocrisy.

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Flip-Flop in China

(Door Hugo Kijne te Hoboken USA)

Those who thought that with Trump in Asia for twelve days things would slow down a bit in DC had it wrong.  There was a slew of news that ranged from the bad to the bizarre for the president.  It turned out that Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, who can easily perform as Yoda at a Star Wars convention and is not the billionaire he claims to be, has not completely divested himself, but is still involved in a company that does regular business with Putin’s son in law.  Before the House Intelligence Committee Carter Page gave a performance that would have qualified as stand-up comedy but for the fact that he was sitting down.  It revealed multiple contacts with Russian dignitaries in 2016 about which he had reported back to the Trump campaign.  Trump’s former bodyman Keith Schiller testified before the same committee that in 2013, when Trump was in Moscow for the Miss Universe Pageant, a Russian associate offered to send five women up to Trump’s room.  Schiller declined the offer but couldn’t tell if Trump had hosted nightly visitors anyway, making the least believable part of the Steele dossier a lot more plausible.

In Virginia and New Jersey Democratic candidates for Governor soundly defeated their GOP opponents, with in Virginia a surprising margin of victory and unexpected success in down ballot races.  It was obvious that these elections had been a referendum on the president’s performance, and that Trumpism had been rejected by a new coalition that brought especially young and female voters to the polls.  The Maine electorate voted for expanding Medicare, and the enrollment in Obamacare that the Trump administration had tried to sabotage by cutting almost all funding for outreach exceeded even the most optimistic expectations.  During the week we were also painfully reminded of Trump’s darkest side:  the president had personally pushed CIA Director Pompeo to investigate the theory that the Democrats had hacked themselves, thus abusing US intelligence resources to absolve the Russians, and there were strong indications that via the Department of Justice Trump was trying to get revenge on CNN for what he perceived as ‘fake news,’ by making CNN’s sale a condition of the merger of AT&T and Time Warner.

Meanwhile in Asia Trump first played golf with the Japanese prime minister, then peddled one of his golf courses in a speech to the South Korean parliament, and finally declared in China that he no longer blames that country for taking advantage of the US, possibly remembering that he himself is taking advantage of China by having his neckties and Ivanka’s pumps produced there.  He now blamed previous US administrations and complimented the Chinese with their smarts.

Back in the US Republicans in Congress with help from the White House produced a tax bill that raises taxes for the working poor and cuts taxes for the non-working stinking rich.  According to Paul Ryan’s convoluted logic passing anything, even a bill that a large majority of Americans rejects, is better than passing nothing, and there will be a high price to pay for that mistake.

The upcoming election for Jeff Sessions’s former senate seat in Alabama became a lot more interesting when the news broke that holy man Roy Moore, the GOP candidate, has a history of pedophile adventures, although this disclosure may go the way of the ‘Access Hollywood’ tape.

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