Media (263)

 

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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Mueller’s Web

(Door Hugo Kijne te Hoboken USA)

The first Trump associates to land in Mueller’s web were Paul Manafort, Rick Gates and George Papadopoulos.  Against Manafort the Special Counsel had built a solid money laundering case that could land him in jail for 20 years.  Considering that Manafort  is 70 years old he is looking at what effectively would be a life sentence, so the chance that he’ll start ‘singing’ to Mueller is considerable, especially since an ankle bracelet will keep him from fleeing the country, in spite of his three passports.  It turned out that Papadopoulos had already pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI and was collaborating with the investigation.  According to the White House his role in the campaign had been minimal and only consisted of once proposing a meeting between Trump and Putin, an idea that was rejected by Jeff Sessions, but a consequence of this information becoming available was that Sessions was caught for the fourth time having told a lie while under oath.  Not surprisingly it was obvious that Trump had been lying to the press as well.  As Papadopoulos’s first victim his handler Sam Clovis had to withdraw his candidacy for a position with the US Department of Agriculture.

Apparently Trump was freaking out after the arrests, not in the least because Papadopoulos might have been wired for months and provided Mueller with a trove of incriminating intelligence, and took it out on Jared Kushner, whose advice to fire Comey led to the appointment of the Special Counsel.  The rumors got so bad that Trump had to call the New York Times and tell the reporter on duty that he wasn’t angry with anybody and had never been happier in the White House.  The call was probably suggested by Chief of Staff John Kelly, who had gotten himself in hot water by calling Robert E. Lee an honorable man and declaring that the Civil War was caused by an inability on both sides to compromise.   After his attack on Congresswoman Wilson, for which he never apologized, this was the second exercise in racism by Kelly, and it created the impression that he and the president have more in common than anybody suspected.   In the meantime Trump continued to campaign against Hillary Clinton by accusing her of collusion with the Russians, a bizarre allegation considering that the Kremlin did everything it could to make her lose the election.

The terrorist attack in New York City gave Trump a chance to show the world his darkest and most ignorant side.  He immediately started tweeting that the suspect should be incarcerated at Gitmo, which is not allowed because he is already on American soil, and demanded the death penalty, creating a tainted jury pool that will make the prosecution much more difficult.  In his infinite wisdom Trump called the American criminal justice system a ‘joke’ and ‘a laughing stock.’

The revelation in Donna Brazile’s new book that the Democratic National Committee was deeply in Hillary Clinton’s pocket during the primaries and severely disadvantaged Bernie Sanders gave Trump new ammunition to demand an investigation of his former opponent, although it is pretty obvious that, however immoral the DNC may have operated, no crimes have been committed.

In an attempt to have at least one achievement in his first year in office Trump is pushing Republicans in Congress hard to pass a ‘tax reform’ package that amounts to a large give-away to US corporations.  If they fail, he could become the least accomplished US President ever.

 

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(Door Hugo Kijne te Hoboken USA) 

The week didn’t start well for Trump.  Fresh off speeches by George W. Bush and Obama, who blasted the brand of vulgarity he brought to the presidency, on Monday he got into a Twitter argument with the grieving, pregnant widow of a sergeant who was buried last Saturday.  It’s hard to imagine how a Commander in Chief can sink lower than that.  In later interviews Trump absolved himself from responsibility for the mistakes that got four servicemen killed because he had delegated all decisions to ‘his’ generals.  On Tuesday senator Corker continued his criticism of Trump, and senator Flake elegantly echoed the former presidents in a speech on the senate floor, in which he announced that he would leave the senate rather than run in 2018.  But then Trump’s fortunes seemed to change.  At a luncheon with Republican senators on Wednesday he received by his own accounting three standing ovations, and at an impromptu press conference that followed he declared himself to be a ‘very intelligent person,’ in possession of ‘one of the great memories of all times.’  It appeared that the president was peaking in his manic cycle.

In order to counter allegations of Trump’s campaign colluding with the Russians his media henchmen like Limbaugh and Hannity were blowing up a story about the seven year old sale of a company with control over 20% of US uranium to a Russian bidder, claiming that this is the real Russia scandal because it happened on Hillary Clinton’s watch as Secretary of State.  They got new ammo when it came out that the Clinton campaign had partly paid for the investigation that led to the Steele-dossier.  Trump used those stories to obfuscate his own vulnerabilities, until it turned out that the Trump campaign had asked Wikileaks’ Julian Assange to help them find Hillary Clinton’s emails, which was confirmed by Assange himself.  The Trump family was already under investigation for their willingness to receive information from the Russian government, and this only adds to their predicament.  By getting some Republican members of the House Intelligence Committee to start investigating the uranium deal Trump is trying to get ‘even’ with Clinton, apparently forgetting that he already has Robert Mueller on his case.

In the meantime Corker’s and Flake’s announcements that they’ll be leaving the senate are seen as a victory for Trump, which may still turn into a defeat if the most likely Republican candidates, Marsha Blackburn in Tennessee and Kelli Ward in Arizona, lose the election to their Democratic opponents.  If elected, Blackburn and Ward would measurably lower the level of debate in the senate by acting as the female counterparts of Blackburn’s former colleagues Louis Gohmert and Steve King.

Yesterday Trump declared the opioid crisis a ‘public health emergency,’ and succeeded in making it all about himself, not so much by invoking his late brother Fred’s alcoholism as by announcing that he had thought of something.  If we can convince people that they should not start taking drugs there is no problem, he said proudly, looking for applause for his brilliance.

In the meantime House and Senate passed a budget that paves the way for the swindle called ‘tax reform’ that will fork over enormous amounts of money to corporations and the ultra-rich, while cutting Medicaid by a trillion dollar, Medicare by $550 billion and significantly increasing the national debt.

 

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General Kelly Speaks

(Door Hugo Kijne te Hoboken USA)
It was another eventful week in DC. Donald Trump paraded Mitch McConnell out into the Rose Garden and said that he and the senate leader are closer than ever, not long after he called Steve Bannon, who is dead set on destroying McConnell, ‘a friend.’  John McCain, looking very frail, gave a speech about American values, which Trump took as an attack on him.  Therefore the president threatened to ‘hit back’ at an old man who is dying of brain cancer.  His intended drug czar, Marino, had to withdraw his candidacy because ’60 Minutes’ exposed him as a facilitator of massive opioid distribution, and it was revealed that Kirstjen Nielsen, Trump’s nominee for Secretary of Homeland Security, was in a key White House position when hurricane Katrina hit and at the heart of the screw-up that followed.  The president signed an executive order to end the Obamacare subsidies for low-income Americans, and subsequently endorsed the bi-partisan Alexander-Murray bill that would allow those subsidies to continue.  Later he changed his mind again, alledgedly because the insurance companies would benefit from the subsidies, and at this point his position on the bill is unclear.

But all that excitement was overshadowed by the events that followed the deaths of four Green Berets in Niger.  Asked why he had not yet contacted the families of the dead servicemen Trump suggested that he was the first president to make phone calls to the relatives, something that almost immediately proved to be untrue, and all hell broke loose after the president finally made a call to the widow of one of the deceased.  A Democratic congresswoman and friend of the family who listened in on the call mentioned publicly that Trump had said ‘he knew what he signed up for, although I guess it still hurts,’ which was considered insensitive and hurtful by both the widow and the mother of the soldier.  In his attempt to disparage the way Obama handled these situations Trump had dragged his Chief of Staff, John Kelly, whose son died in 2010 in Afghanistan, into the mud, and now Kelly had to absolve the president at a White House press briefing by remembering the words that were used when he was informed about his son’s death, and relaying how he had suggested to the president to use those very same words in his phone call to the widow.

As George Will puts it, Donald Trump is not on friendly footing with the English language, and the president garbled Kelly’s ‘he died doing what he loved to do, and was surrounded by the best people on earth, his friends’ into a sentence that could easily be misunderstood.  Unfortunately Kelly didn’t limit himself to his own experience and the good intentions of the president, but he also attacked the congresswoman for her behavior at an unrelated event, misstating facts that could easily be verified.

Next to his impressive personal story, his defense of Trump and his unwarranted attack on the congresswoman that had racist undertones, Kelly also made clear that he firmly believes the myth that every American soldier is serving out of the most noble motives, disregarding that many have enlisted because it is the only way they can make a living, buy a house or eventually go to college.

During this whole episode Trump’s pathological narcissism was on full display.  He succeeded in making the deaths of the servicemen about himself, by complaining that it is so ‘difficult’ for him to make these calls, and showed once again his inability to rate his own behavior as less than perfect.

 
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One Busy Week

(Door Hugo Kijne te Hoboken USA)
In the early nineteenth century Frank Gilbreth developed the Therbligs, an alphabet of human motions, with which he could visualize every operation that needed to be performed in industrial workplaces and train a workforce that at the time was mostly illiterate and didn’t speak English.  Something similar is going on with Trump.  His advisors have to visualize all the information they want to convey to him, because the president is too lazy to read.  In July Trump’s military advisors produced a slide that showed the decline in the number of US nuclear warheads since the height of the cold war.   When Trump saw the slide in a situation room meeting he was very upset, and told the attendees that he wanted to have at least ten times as many nuclear bombs at his disposal as he had now.  It had to be explained to him that the reductions were the result of treaties the US had entered into over time, and that carpet-bombing North Korea with nukes was not really an option.  For full disclosure Trump was also told that the world can be destroyed only once.  After the president left the meeting Secretary of State Rex Tillerson famously called him a fucking moron, for those still in the room to hear.

The news of Trump’s total lack of understanding of the size and the use of the nuclear arsenal broke just before a week in which the question whether he is too crazy for his job was frequently asked.  Senator Corker said in an interview that Defense Secretary Mattis, Chief of Staff Kelly and Tillerson kept the US from descending into chaos by engaging in a daily struggle to contain the president, and that if it wasn’t for them Trump could easily start WWIII.  When the president subsequently disparaged Corker with a series of tweets the senator was prepared, and responded how sad it is that the White House has become an adult day care center ‘where somebody has missed their shift.’ To create a distraction Trump sent his lapdog Pence to a football game in Indianapolis with the assignment to leave if only one player would not stand for the national anthem, something that was certain to happen.  Pence left the stadium within five minutes, at a $1 million cost to the US taxpayers.  Somewhat surprisingly Steve Bannon entered the conversation, stating that Trump had only a 30% chance to finish his first term because cabinet members might invoke the 25th amendment.

If it was Bannon’s intention to get Trump back to the level of insanity he had reached before Kelly kicked the Chief Strategist out of the White House he was successful.  Trump declared that Puerto Rico was already a mess before hurricane Maria hit, that financial aid would be provided in the form of loans, not grants, and that FEMA and the military could not stay on the island forever.  Images of Puerto Ricans clearing their own roads were deliberately cut out of a  propaganda video, with FEMA taking credit for the clean-up.

Now on a roll, Trump, who had apparently forgotten that he took an oath to defend the Constitution, including the first amendment, called the production of ‘fake news’ by the media ‘disgusting’ and said that ‘somebody’ should look into it and that licenses possibly should be revoked.  Unsurprisingly the president did not know that only stations, not broadcasting corporations, are licensed.

Capping off a busy week, today Trump signed an executive order further undermining Obamacare by eliminating subsidies that guarantee affordable premiums, making healthcare unreachable for at least one million low income Americans, and decertified the Iran deal while Iran is in compliance, turning the US into an unreliable international outcast and passing that problem on to congress.

 
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