Media (391)

 

Greetings from Davos

(Door Hugo Kijne te Hoboken USA)

Donald Trump went to the World Economic Forum to create a distraction from his impeachment trial, but it looks more like the trial created a distraction from his screw-ups in Davos.  After a book came out that told the story of how the president called ‘his’ generals ‘dopes and babies,’ adding ‘I’m not going to war with you’ – something they knew already because they were all in Vietnam, as Bill Maher observed – and reported that Trump didn’t know what exactly happened at Pearl Harbor and got stuck trying to read the Constitution because ‘it’s written like a foreign language,’ the US President apparently expected to meet with his Iranian counterpart in Davos, something that was never in the works.  Instead he met with the leader of the semi-autonomous Kurdish region in Iraq, whom he mistook for the leader of the Syrian Kurds and thanked for his cooperation after the departure of American troops, adding ‘we kept the oil.’ It was a reminder of the time Trump told India’s Prime Minister Modi that his country doesn’t border on China, and showed how he is struggling with geographic information and thinks all Kurds are the same.

In Davos the president took sole credit for the state of the US economy, which he assessed by just referring to the stock market and the unemployment rate, ignoring the damage his tariffs have done to farmers and how they caused a decline in manufacturing employment, as well as the fact that wages are barely rising and the gap between rich and poor is widening.  Avoiding the topic of climate change directly Trump bragged that America has the cleanest air and water in the world, although research shows the air is becoming more polluted and just this week the administration rolled back clean water protections Obama had put in place.  On the bright side, the president promised to join an effort to plant one trillion trees, which finally gave his audience reason to modestly applaud him.  Trump’s presentation was followed by the usual ludicrous statements: he said that the brain damage US servicemen had suffered during the recent Iranian rocket attacks was not serious enough to be considered an injury and claimed that an American had invented the wheel.  Leaving Davos he announced future cuts in Social Security and Medicare.

Since he had kept an eye on the trial in DC the president could report that his team of lawyers and the ‘I did it, so what’ defense were doing very well, primarily because ‘we have all the documents, they have nothing,’ which once more illustrated the correctness of the second Article of Impeachment.  He added that he would have preferred a long trial with witnesses but that for national security reasons that was unfortunately not possible.  Calling his Democratic accusers ‘sleazebags’ Trump lied that he would have loved to attend the trial and face the House managers.

In spite of his stated satisfaction with the trial, which has to be taken with a grain of salt because his lawyers are not exactly performing up to snuff for a client who prefers actors over experts, the president cannot be all that happy with recent polling.  According to CNN and Pew Research polls a majority of Americans wants him to be removed from office, and a much larger majority – including a sizeable percentage of Republicans – wants a trial with witnesses and documents.

In what he probably still considers a good week Trump set two records that will never be broken:  during the first three years of his presidency he made 16,241 false statements, raising his daily average to 14.83, and on Wednesday alone he released 141 tweets.  And to prove what a spiteful miser he is the president reversed Michelle Obama’s healthy school lunch rules ‘unintentionally’ on her birthday.

 
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Lying On The Fly

(Door Hugo Kijne te Hoboken USA)

Record keepers at the Washington Post have documented that by December 16, 2019 Trump had made 15,413 false or misleading claims.  For the 1,055 days of his presidency that came down to 14.61 lies per day.  Apparently not satisfied with his performance the president added a considerable number of falsehoods when explaining why Soleimani had been assassinated.  First the general had posed an ‘imminent threat’ to US citizens and military, a legal term that would have justified the action but could not be specified by the White House or the Pentagon.  Second, Trump claimed that Soleimani was planning to blow up the US embassy in Baghdad.  Since one embassy apparently was not enough he added three more to the Iranian’s malicious intentions, but even Defense Secretary Esper could not confirm that information.  Then it was because GOP senators had urged Trump to take the action, followed by the news that the decision to go ahead with the assault was made seven months ago, in case one more US citizen would be killed by Iran’s proxies, and at a rally last week the president said it ‘doesn’t matter’ why he gave the order.

With regards to his impeachment trial in the Senate that starts today Trump has been exhibiting similar flexibility.  Initially he demanded a trial with witnesses like Nancy Pelosi, Adam Schiff, Joe & Hunter Biden and the whistleblower, to expose the ‘impeachment hoax,’ but not Mike Pompeo, Mick Mulvaney, John Bolton and others who could testify about the illegal withholding of military aid from Ukraine.  When Bolton threw a wrench in that design by making himself available to testify if subpoenaed the president shifted to a quick trial without any witnesses, but indicated that he would prefer to see the charges summarily dismissed.  With new information that has become available this week neither of those things is likely to happen.  The Russians started hacking into Burisma’s systems, looking for dirt on the Bidens on Trump’s behalf, with exactly the same electronic ‘signature’ they used in 2016, and one of Rudy Giuliani’s goons, Lev Parnas, handed over a trove of incriminating documents to the House Intelligence Committee and in a TV interview accused Trump of having supervised the Ukraine operation.

According to Parnas Giuliani, introducing himself as the lawyer representing the president as a private citizen, ran a gang of hoodlums in Ukraine pressuring President Zelensky to announce an investigation into the Bidens and possibly keeping Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch under surveillance.  And even after this ploy exploded in his face last September Hizzoner was still trying to get on Trump’s defense team for the Senate trial.  When asked about it one of the president’s real lawyers indicated that they wouldn’t let Giuliani argue a traffic ticket.

Conscious of his record, even in these trying times Trump succeeded in adding some more lies to his collection, for instance by claiming that Saudi Arabia paid $1 billion for the troops he sent to that country, something the Pentagon immediately denied because it hates to see US troops reduced to mercenaries.  The president’s reporting on the new China deal exaggerates the benefits to the US, and to visualize his lying he tweeted a picture of Pelosi and Schumer in Muslim garb.

One pundit observed that Trump wants to be the bride at every wedding and the corps at every funeral, but the one place where he doesn’t want to be is at the center of a Senate trial.  In spite of his litigious past the president has never gone to trial but always settled his lawsuits, and in this case that is not an option.  It now depends on the senators how painful this new experience will be for him.

 

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The Dialectics of Trumpism

(Door Hugo Kijne te Hoboken USA)

Trumpism is full of contradictions, not as the gradual revelation of its Absolute Spirit, like in Hegel’s philosophy, but as a product of dishonesty, incompetence and ignorance.  During the crisis following the assassination of the Iranian general Soleimani Trump praised the excellent work of US intelligence services, whose opinions he often discarded in the past in favor of the misinformation Putin had whispered in his ear.  Subsequently he demanded that NATO play an active role in the upcoming confrontation with Iran in Iraq, after practically having declared the alliance obsolete a couple of years ago.  In 2012 he said that Obama would start a war with Iran in order to get re-elected, a scenario he himself seemed to follow a week ago.  And Trump always criticized Obama for playing too much golf when he was president, something he said he wouldn’t have time for.  By now Trump has played golf 248 times, 2.6 times as often as Obama during the first three years of his presidency.  The president has also spent 33% of his time on Trump properties, wasting and pocketing so much taxpayer money that the Treasury Department is refusing to reveal the exact amounts before next year’s elections.

In his White House address on Wednesday morning, to which Trump emerged from the light like Superman from Krypton, he said that Americans should be ‘extremely grateful and happy’ because nobody had died in the Iranian attack he had provoked with his reckless actions.  Subsequently military leaders, probably already regretting that they had ever presented Trump with the extreme option of liquidating Soleimani, had the impossible task of proving that there had been an ‘immediate threat’ caused by the general’s recent movements in the Middle East, on what knowledgeable commentators called a ‘normal day.’  After the Pentagon failed to make that point, Mike Pompeo and VP Pence picked up the slack and tentatively started broadcasting that the killing had been a reaction to Soleimani’s past transgressions.  With such convoluted messaging it was not surprising that the briefings of Congress by Pompeo, Defense Secretary Esper and CIA Director Haspel were a complete disaster, not convincing anybody except for Trump’s most devoted sychophants.  When on top of this Senators were told ‘not to talk about it’ Republican Mike Lee freaked out and called the whole process ‘insane.’

If the president had hoped that the threat of a war would put his impeachment trial on the backburner he miscalculated, because with the current standoff with Iran the trial is front and center again, not in the least because John Bolton has declared his willingness to testify after having been subpoenaed.  Mitch McConnell is still planning to hold a quick bogus trial, but he will probably not be able to keep four or more GOP senators from wanting to call Bolton and possibly other witnesses, so that Nancy Pelosi can transfer the Articles of Impeachment in due time.

On Wednesday Trump lied that Iranian missiles were paid for by Obama, and during a presser on Thursday he blamed Nancy Pelosi for ‘defending’ Soleimani and emboldening Iran by discussing and holding a vote on a War Powers Resolution.  The president also blabbered that the General Secretary of NATO, Stoltenberg, was ‘excited’ about playing a role in Iraq, and proposed a new name for the alliance, NATOME, with ME standing for Middle East, if only because he is so ‘good at names.’

The delusional content of Trump’s teleprompter address was accompanied by his usual sniffing and a whining delivery, which makes him sound like a toddler who has barely overcome a stammer.  There is widespread speculation that the president is addicted to Adderall, an amphetamine-based medication for ADHD and narcolepsy.  It’s also an aphrodisiac, but that is tough with Melania’s bedroom door locked.


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A Not So Happy New Year

(Door Hugo Kijne te Hoboken USA)

During the holidays Nancy Pelosi lived rent-free at Mar-a-Lago, in Trump’s head, to be precise.  There wasn’t a day when the president didn’t tweet insults about the Speaker, and during a brief interaction with the press on the way to his New Year’s Eve party, side by side with Melania, who is looking more and more like a Stepford wife, he declared that he knows Pelosi really well and that she is ‘highly overrated.’  Most pundits disagree and believe that the Speaker is playing a masterful mind game with Trump, by all indications driving him bonkers and without yielding one inch.  Trump wants a speedy trial in the Senate, which he believes will totally exonerate him, but putting an extreme form of ‘whataboutism’ into practice he demands a subpoena for Joe Biden and his son Hunter to testify about activities in Ukraine that only in the president’s convoluted mind are related to his impeachment.  Mitch McConnell is willing to put on a bogus trial without any witnesses, once he receives the Articles of Impeachment Pelosi is still sitting on, but not the kind of carnival that Trump wants, for which he’ll never get approval from all Republican senators.

Criticism of the kind of trial McConnell is planning to stage is beginning to come from some of those senators, albeit very hesitantly.  Lisa Murkowski has stated that she is ‘disturbed’ by the Majority Leader’s announcement that he’ll work closely with the White House on the president’s impeachment defense, and Susan Collins, always the Democrats’ last hope in times of despair and usually failing to deliver, has declared that she wants to see the evidence before she decides whether witnesses should be called, a peculiar stance because witness testimony would be part of the evidence.  Minority Leader Chuck Schumer wants Mick Mulvaney, John Bolton and two White House aides who were involved in withholding military aid from Ukraine to testify, but that list may get longer since the New York Times revealed this week that in late August Bolton, Mike Pompeo and Secretary of Defense Mark Esper met with Trump in the Oval Office to try and convince him that releasing the aid would be in America’s national security interest, to which the president responded that he didn’t consider his Ukrainian counterpart Zelensky to be a genuine reformer.

It will be hard for Trump to keep Mulvaney, Pompeo and Esper from testifying in the Senate if and when they would be subpoenaed, and it will be impossible for him to block their testimony ànd demand that of the Bidens instead.  As for Bolton, he is a private citizen and not only can the president not keep him from testifying, but the lawsuit on which the former National Security Advisor said his willingness to testify depended was dismissed by a federal judge, so there is no excuse for him not to comply with a potential subpoena.

Meanwhile the damage of Trump’s isolationistic incompetence is becoming visible.  His ‘love diplomacy’ with Kim Jong-un, whom he still calls ‘a man of his word,’ has failed spectacularly, and may result in new nuclear testing and an IBM launch.  Iranian proxies have attacked the American embassy in Baghdad, with the US responding by having the head of the Quds Force killed, which will undoubtedly result in worldwide reprisals by Iran.

In Washington a panel of mostly Trump-appointed scientists issued draft letters not surprisingly stating that his administration’s environmental regulations are at odds with established science, and at the Mar-a-Lago New Year’s Eve party a seriously inebriated Rudy Giuliani seemed to suggest that he could prosecute  his client the president for racketeering.

 
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How Nancy Stole Christmas

(Door Hugo Kijne te Hoboken USA)

Under stress caused by his impeachment Trump took another big step into his alternate reality of ludicrous imaginations.  After earlier having given us his deep insights into toilets and dishwashers, at a Florida rally this week he revisited one of his favorite topics, windmills.  Although, in his own words, the president never understood wind, he studied windmills better than anybody he knows: ‘They’re noisy.  They kill the birds.  You want to see a bird graveyard? Go under a windmill someday.  You’ll see more birds than you’ve ever seen in your life.’  Also, according to Trump, enormous amounts of fumes are blown from the ‘world we have,’ which is tiny compared to the universe.  That promising thought was never finished, and the president didn’t revisit an earlier statement that windmills cause cancer either, probably protecting us from too much depressing information at once, as a responsible leader should.  After thus having enlightened the general public Trump withdrew to Mar-a-Lago, where he didn’t immediately play golf but first conferred with Rudy Giuliani, who probably showed up with his fly open, drooling and bouncing against the walls.

The president’s concern about the impeachment process is understandable because Nancy Pelosi has him by the proverbial balls.  As long as she refuses to send the Articles of Impeachment over to the Senate Trump is in limbo and it’s eating at him.  He and his enforcer Mitch McConnell imagined that they could stage a quick bogus trial without witnesses and with immediate exoneration, but the Speaker wants to have rules established that prevent a whitewashing of the president’s high crimes and misdemeanors.   It drives Trump nuts and it also creates a conflict between him and the Senate Majority Leader, who is in no hurry to have a trial and wouldn’t mind if Pelosi sat on the Articles until kingdom come.  In his anger over this predicament the president is lashing out on all cylinders, claiming that the Democrats are demanding privileges that he was denied during the impeachment inquiry, namely witnesses and legal representation.  Conveniently or because of age-related amnesia Trump forgets that he prohibited key witnesses, who could conceivably have cleared him, from testifying, and that his lawyers refused to participate in the hearings in the House.

A term that’s being thrown around by both parties is ‘due process,’ and it’s obvious that they mean different things.  The Constitution contains two due process clauses, in the 5th and the 14th Amendments.  In general the term refers to fair treatment through the normal judicial system, but like everything else in that system, what is ‘fair’ is open to interpretation, and even more complicated because the impeachment trial will take place in the US Senate, which according to Stuart Chase commonly presents a spectacle of bad language and can become the last refuge of scoundrels.

Looking forward at year’s end one has to worry about the mess Trump will leave behind even if he’s voted out of office next year.  It’s impossible to rank its elements by importance: political pollution of the American legal system for decennia to come, environmental destruction that may not be redeemable, irreparable mental damage to children of asylum seekers, and a modern fascist segment of the population that will remain a cult as long as Trump is fanning the flames of racism and discontent.

Responding to a question about a present Kim Jong-un promised to give him for Christmas, possibly the launch of an intercontinental ballistic missile, the president speculated that Little Rocket Man might send him a beautiful vase.  When asked on Christmas Day about the present he gave Melania Trump said it was ‘a difficult question’ and mentioned a card and lots of love, while he was still ‘working on a gift.’

 

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