Media (241)


All the President’s Men the Sequel

(Door Hugo Kijne te Hoboken USA)

When it rains it pours, and after the Obama administration apparently made sure that all information about contacts between the Trump campaign and Russians was preserved it is now leaking in DC as if Nixon’s amateurs had recently tried to do some real plumbing.  On the Russian side we are treated to exotic names like Kislyak, Kilimnik and Rybolovlev, while in Trump’s camp we find JD Gordon and Carter Page, next to more familiar names like Sessions, Flynn and Kushner. Lately most of the attention has been on Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who lied under oath during his confirmation hearing and had to recuse himself from further investigations into Russiagate, which pissed off the president because he lost his main tool to control the investigation.  It is very unlikely, however, that Sessions’s two meetings with Ambassador Kislyak are the key to understanding the case, if only because Sessions is too dumb to be useful and Kislyak too smart to use him exactly for that reason.  There are other people and two other moments that seem more important.

It is obvious that the American response to the annexation of Crimea and the Russian military activity in Ukraine are a key element in the developing probe.  Trump’s former campaign manager, Paul Manafort, was deeply embedded in pro-Russian circles in the Ukraine, with Kilimnik as his Russian handler.  Manafort managed Trump’s campaign through the GOP convention, where language about providing Ukraine with lethal weapons was removed from the party platform.  Trump said he had nothing to do with this, but according to JD Gordon, one of his advisors, the order came directly from him. The next crucial activities were National Security Advisor in-waiting Flynn’s phone calls with Kislyak about new sanctions on Russia the Obama administration had imposed after the election because of the hacking.  There was also a secret meeting between Kislyak, Flynn, and Jared Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law.  Since an otherwise unnecessary risk was taken by having this meeting in Trump Tower, it is likely that it was attended by Trump himself.

One day after the convention the Russians started distributing stolen DNC information via Wikileaks, and immediately after the contacts between Flynn and Kislyak Putin declared that he would not retaliate for the expulsion from the US of Russian spies dressed up as diplomats.  So it appears that there were at least two quid-pro-quos in the whole process, one of which helped get Trump elected.  So far it is unclear, however, if any laws were broken.

Precisely for that reason David Frum, Senior Editor at The Atlantic, argues that instead of a special prosecutor a bi-partisan investigative commission should be installed to conduct a comprehensive inquiry.  A prosecutor would only assess if laws were broken and charges can be filed, while a commission would focus on bringing out the whole truth.

Hidden in the background sits information about Russian (e.g. Rybolovlev’s) money in the Trump organization, which could provide a motive for the president’s behavior.  Obvious is that, with all the lies and denials, the Russians can blackmail Trump till kingdom comes.

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(Door Hugo Kijne te Hoboken USA)

If there is one lesson to be learned from the Watergate scandal, it is that the cover-up is almost always more serious than the crime.  Richard Nixon probably didn’t even know that a small group of ‘plumbers’ broke into the Democratic National Committee’s offices on behalf of his re-election campaign – although he was well aware of a number of other dirty tricks, such as bugging his opponents – but members of his staff knew, because they had orchestrated the burglary.  And when the investigation came too close to the Oval Office the president tried to use federal officials to deflect it, and abused his power to get a special prosecutor fired.  Facing impeachment because of his role in the cover-up he was forced to resign.  In 2016 there was another burglary.  Russian hackers broke into the computer files of the DNC and the email account of Hillary Clinton’s campaign chairman, John Podesta.  By subsequently leaking the stolen information to the press via Wikileaks Russian agents, apparently directed by Putin’s office, tried to influence the US election in Trump’s favor.

On February 14th the New York Times wrote that members of Donald Trump’s presidential campaign and other Trump associates had repeated contacts with senior Russian intelligence officials in the year before the election.  That information came from interviews with current and former American officials, who were familiar with communications intercepted by the intelligence agencies around the same time they were discovering that the Russians were disrupting the presidential election.  In spite of that correlation, at the time of the New York Times article the intelligence agencies had seen no evidence of collusion by the Trump campaign with the Russians, but they had not yet finished their investigation.  Assuming that there was nothing to be found, the White House could have left the issue alone until a final FBI report had been produced, and then triumphantly celebrate its proven innocence with attacks on those who had dared to question its integrity.  But that is not how this thing will go down.

Last week White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus asked the deputy FBI director to publicly dispute that Trump’s advisers had been in touch with Russian intelligence agents. The FBI refused, but the White House instead got the chairmen of the House and Senate intelligence committees to make phone calls to journalists with the same message, with the predictable result that journalists asked “who got you to make this call?”

Priebus’s attempt to make the FBI draw a conclusion before its investigation has been completed is totally inappropriate, but his involving the intelligence committees is no less than absurd.  They have to conduct a congressional investigation into the Russian contacts, and now are so compromised that an independent special committee or prosecutor becomes inevitable.

You have to wonder if it’s just stupidity on the part of the White House, resulting from Trump’s paranoia about everything that questions the legitimacy of his presidency, or if there is more to be discovered.  One way or the other, we’re bound to find out in due time.

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A Mole or a Useful Idiot

(Door Hugo Kijne te Hoboken USA)

Four weeks into the Trump presidency it’s reasonable to ask the question what has been the biggest scandal so far.  The dysfunctionality of the White House – with warring factions practically rolling over the South Lawn and taking casualties in spite of the many unfilled positions – immediately comes to mind, but also in competition are most of Trump’s cabinet appointments: A man with a checkered voting rights past as Attorney General, a woman who hates public schools as Secretary of Education, a doctor who wants to take health care away from millions of Americans at Health and Human Services, a warrior for the fossil fuel industry at the EPA, and two clowns at Housing and Urban Development and Energy.  As bad as that is, however, some would argue that the two bills Trump has signed so far are worse: One that lifts the restrictions on the sale of guns to people with serious mental disorders, and another that allows mining companies to again spill their waste in open waterways, creating the chance that we’ll see many more Flints in the future.

And there is more to come.  In a society where inequality is probably as high as it’s ever been every policy that’s being discussed by Republicans appears to be aimed at taking money away from the poor and giving it to the very rich: Deregulation of the financial industry, paving the way for the next collapse, massive tax cuts, offset by a border tax that every consumer has to pay, reducing Medicaid services and spending, and a health care system where everybody receives an equal subsidy to buy insurance, no matter how much money they have or make.  On top of that the mass deportations of undocumented immigrants that are now under way have the potential of disrupting whole branches of industry and creating an economic disaster.  And yet the biggest scandal is something that happened before the election, but came to light afterwards: the contacts between the Trump campaign and Russian agents, at a time when Russia was trying to influence the outcome of the election in Trump’s favor, which are currently being investigated by the FBI.

Last night intelligence expert Malcolm Nance explained on Bill Maher’s show that this is not only the biggest scandal of the Trump era, but in fact the biggest scandal in the history of US politics, because never before has a foreign, enemy power undermined the American political system, let alone doing so with help and guidance from a presidential campaign, and it’s telling that the public was informed about it via leaks by the intelligence community.

Nance pointed out that normally this information would remain secret and go to the president via the National Security Advisor, but the latter has been fired because of his Russian contacts and the intelligence services don’t trust the president, who might be a mole or at least a useful idiot, so their only recourse was to leak it to the American people.

It explains why Trump, during his bizarre press conference last Thursday, was fulminating about the leaks, and why he wants to appoint a billionaire friend to ‘review’ the intelligence services.  To the intelligence community, this will feel like a Russian takeover.

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The Chaos Presidency

(Door Hugo Kijne te Hoboken USA)

Next week Democratic congressman Ted Lieu will submit a bill that would require the full-time presence of a psychiatrist in the White House.  Lieu’s main argument for his proposal is that the stresses of the presidency can easily affect the incumbent’s mental health and require some form of counseling or therapy, but it is obvious that when conceiving it he had the current president in mind, whose mental health is questionable – to put it mildly – with or without stress.  Nobody summarizes his insanity better than Trump himself: “I was a very good student,” he said at a public event last week, “and I comprehend things very well, probably better than anybody else.”  In translation, this means: I know everything.  The effects of a primitive and ignorant man who believes that he knows everything better than anybody else were on full display last week, most demonstrably during the press conference Trump gave with the Japanese prime minister Abe, where Trump, without an earpiece, stood nodding and smiling while listening to a speech he could not possibly understand.

Equally telling are the images of the president signing executive orders, sometimes more than three a day, and then with a triumphant look holding them up for the press to see, his bold signature splattered over the paper like the drawing of a mountain range.  The optics are arranged to create the image of a can-do president, who is rapidly making good on campaign promises, but at least in one case – and probably many more – Trump had no idea what he was signing, which resulted in Steve Bannon getting a seat on the National Security Council.  Bannon and his junior accomplice Stephen Miller appear to have found the formula to address an empty head that’s full of itself.  Whatever mischief they are conniving, they make it sound to Trump as if he has thought of it first and it is a logical extension of his campaign.  That way they had him sign a poorly drafted, bigoted Muslim ban, which crash landed in two federal courts and could be hung up there for months.  Rewriting the ban would implicitly acknowledge that Trump made a mistake, which wouldn’t sit well with him.

The conflict with the judiciary that resulted from the executive order declaring the ban revealed something else about how Trump sees the presidency.  His representative on appeal tried to make the point that actions by the president are not reviewable, which would imply that he has a level of power not seen since the ayatollahs disposed of the Shah of Iran.  The argument was gutted by the Appeals Court, but Trump still believes it.

It is often said that it is of the utmost importance for a president to know what he doesn’t know.  At least on one occasion Trump indicated that he didn’t know something, when he called his National Security Advisor at 3 am to ask if the exchange rate of the dollar should go down or up.  Apparently he didn’t know that this is not a national security issue.

While the Trump White House keeps stumbling and a spectacularly unqualified group of cabinet secretaries is descending on the departments, civil servants in DC are contemplating their resistance options.  They may need a psychiatrist more than Trump.

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Craeybeckx en het publicatieverbod

Ik rij in Antwerpen door de Craeybeckxtunnel en merk dat de radio zonder storing gewoon doorgaat

      Craeybeckx. Lode Craeybeckx!
Burgemeester van Antwerpen van 1947 tot 1976.

Een niet geheel onomstreden vertegenwoordiger van de Socialistische partij.
Vlaams nationalist, doener, taalliefhebber, bouwer en afbreker.

We gaan terug naar april 1973. De havenarbeiders in Antwerpen, die daar dokkers genoemd worden, zijn al dagen in een verbeten stakingsstrijd gewikkeld.
      Ik ben daar bij voor De Volkskrant en word wegwijs gemaakt door een collega van De Volksgazet, de partijkrant van de Socialisten; enigszins te vergelijken met het Vrije Volk van Nederland in die dagen.
      Craeybeckx werkte daar ooit als buitenlandredacteur.
Het is een zogeheten wilde staking, die geïnitieerd is door de KPB, de Kommunistische Partij van België .
      De vakbonden, waaronder de grote BTB, de Belgische Transportarbeiders Bond, doen niet mee.

De collega neemt mij mee naar ‘t Kot het inschrijflokaal waar de dokkers zich iedere dag melden en maar moeten afwachten of ze diezelfde dag werk zullen hebben.
      Ik leer dat zij -vergeleken bijvoorbeeld met hun collega’s in Rotterdam- slecht verdienen, nauwelijks een rechtspositie hebben, veel te veel uren moeten maken en werken onder zeer onveilige omstandigheden.
      Ik ga ook mee naar kantoortjes waar alternatieve organisaties vergeefs proberen de arbeiders achter zich te krijgen.
Het zijn de maoïstische AMADA , Alle macht aan de Arbeiders en de Trotskistische RAL, Revolutionaire Arbeidersliga.

Na een tijdje loopt het in Antwerpen volledig uit de hand. Duizenden dokkers trekken door de straten en dan verschijnt daar ineens de Mobiele Eenheid.
      Er wordt hard ingehakt op de stakers.
Op straat liggen gewonden. Ambulances met luide sirenes rijden af en aan.
      Het is een volslagen chaos.

Ik doe uiteraard verslag en haal de volgende dag de opening van mijn krant.
      Vooral ook omdat ik daar één van de weinige Nederlandse journalisten ben.
Ik sla de Volksgazet van diezelfde dag op en ben benieuwd wat mijn vriendelijke en bereidwillige collega ervan gemaakt heeft.

En dan komt het:


Burgemeester Lode Craeybeckx had het verboden!

Walter Slosse en Radio Vrij België

Toen ik in mei 1977 bij de VPRO in dienst kwam werd ik uitgenodigd door Walter Slosse. Hij was een Belgisch journalist, die een wekelijks programma had onder de enigszins provocerende titel Radio Vrij België.
      Hij had een zelfgebouwde radiostudio in zijn huis te Gent. Het was gezellig. Mooi zacht muziekje. Er was van alles te drinken en er waren lekkere hapjes.
      Wij spraken toen onder meer over die staking en Walter raakte begeesterd. Hij was er zelf ook bij geweest. Dat was nou precies de reden waarom hij dat programma maakte.
      De Nationale omroep BRT deed volgens hem precies hetzelfde.

Vorig jaar is Walter plotseling overleden. Maar… er is een ‘’erfenis’’.

Ik ontving gisteren van mijn oud VPRO-collega Nienke Feis de volgende mededeling.
Met daarbij een werkelijk prachtig filmpje uit 1978 over de bezigheden van Walter.

Radio Vrij België en zijn maker

Kort na het overlijden van Walter Slosse kreeg ik een bericht van een voormalig student van een sociale academie.
       Hij heeft voor een studieproject in 1978 Walter gefilmd in zijn bezemkast, waar hij een complete radiostudio had opgebouwd. Daar vandaan zond hij zijn programma Radio Vrij België uit: via een kabeltje naar de telefooncentrale in het nabijgelegen postkantoor, een zogenaamde RF verbinding. Op de achtergrond hoor je omroeper Cor Galis met mede presentator Jan Lenferink.
      Je ziet Walter op reportage, tijdens de staking bij Volvo Cars in Gent in het voorjaar van 1978. Het soort onderwerpen waar de Vlaamse pers destijds nauwelijks aandacht aan besteedde. We zien het gebouw van de BRT: ´bolwerk van rechtse politieke macht´. Waar toen de makers van kritische programma’s problemen konden krijgen door controle van hogerhand.

Mooie radiogeschiedenis, gefilmd met Super 8 camera. Bekijk het filmpje hier:

En verder: 

Wat zijn dat voor archiefdozen?

Afgelopen weekend heb ik met vrienden van Walter Slosse diens nalatenschap opgehaald. Voormalig radiomaker Walter heeft altijd gewerkt vanuit zijn huis in Gent en was niet erg van het weggooien. De komende maanden gaan we uitzoeken wat gearchiveerd moet worden en wat weg kan.
       Walter Slosse overleed onverwachts in augustus vorig jaar, getroffen door een hartinfarct. Hij was werkzaam bij de VPRO radio vanaf 1972 tot zijn afscheid in 2007. Walter is 69 jaar geworden.
       Hij begon in 1972 als radiomaker bij het ´totaalprogramma´ VPRO Vrijdag. Van 1974-1978 maakte hij zijn eigen programma Radio Vrij België, ongecensureerde nieuwsgaring over onderwerpen die niet aan bod kwamen in de berichtgeving van de toenmalige Belgische staatsomroep BRT.
Vanaf 1984 maakte Walter zijn eigen legendarische VPRO-programma ´De Wandelende Tak´, met etnische muziek van over de hele wereld. Later kwamen daar het programma ´Het Witte Doek´, over filmmuziek, en het muziekdocumentaire programma ´Urubicha´ bij.