Media (424)

 

Running against Dr. Fauci

(Door Hugo Kijne te Hoboken USA)

The last couple of days Trump has served up a primer for emerging dictators.  First he joined the chant ’lock her up’ for the Michigan governor who had just escaped being kidnapped and most likely killed by domestic terrorists, expanding it to ‘lock them all up’ to include Joe and Hunter Biden, whom he called criminals. When asked by a reporter exactly what crime they might have committed the president yelled ‘you’re a criminal too, for not reporting about it.’  That reporting would have been about a cockamamie NY Post story involving Hunter’s broken laptop that allegedly showed improper contact between his father and Ukrainians.  This fable almost certainly originated with a Russian intelligence agent, who used Rudy Giuliani to get it to the US media, and was so suspect that the NY Post reporter would not sign his name to it.  Trump had been warned by US intelligence agencies that the Russians were using Hizzoner to peddle horseshit to the Oval Office, but ignored the warning because he wanted the shit. After the Ukraine story failed a similar China story popped up, but by then the source, Giuliani, had become totally unbelievable.     

Although the president keeps spewing disparaging remarks about Biden and demands that he be indicted it appears that he really is running against those who maintain that COVID-19 is a dangerous threat, like Dr. Anthony Fauci and 99.9% of medical professionals.  In spite of an alarming increase in the number of COVID cases Trump maintains that the US is ‘turning the corner’ and continues with a super-spreader tour that takes him to some of the most affected parts of the country.  Growing more aggressive by the day the president called Dr. Fauci ‘a disaster’ and referred to the medical community as ‘idiots.’  His opinion is formed by MRI-expert Scott Atlas, who is not bothered by any knowledge about infectious diseases and whispers dangerous nonsense in Trump’s ear, like that only 25% of the population needs to be infected to achieve ‘herd immunity’ and that 85% of the people who wear masks get infected, information that the president gladly repeats.  Since it is clear that there won’t be a vaccine before the upcoming election the president’s strongest argument for his approach is that people are tired of the virus, although most Americans seem not to be tired of living.  

Trump claims that he doesn’t remember if he was tested for COVID before the first debate with Joe Biden, and instead of a second, virtual, debate there were two competing town halls where a nervous president made the usual ass of himself while Biden, who attracted more viewers, did quite well.  At this point it is not even certain that Trump is no longer infectious, and the Biden campaign will demand irrefutable proof before they let the third debate on Thursday proceed.  Certain is that during the two minutes the participants have to respond to a first question the microphone of their opponent will be shut off, so that the president cannot repeat his disruptive behavior of the last debate.  The Trump campaign first objected to this new rule but eventually figured that he really needs the air time.

Initially the president also refused to give financial assistance to California to deal with the devastating effect of the wildfires, but a public outcry and one call from the governor made him change his mind.  A second stimulus package has been hanging in the balance until now, because Trump didn’t want to pay for testing, but negotiations are ongoing, although McConnell won’t let anything pass the Senate. It was revealed that the 2020 budget deficit was $3.1 trillion, and that the national debt grew to $21 trillion.  In his town hall the president confirmed that he owes someone $400 million in debt, with a personal guarantee that indicates a lack of assets, but he called it ‘peanuts’ and started bragging about his formidable wealth.

To his campaign routine Trump has added a silly dance to the tune of ‘YMCA,’ one of the few songs he is allowed to play at his rallies.  Although he is belligerent he also acknowledges the chance that he’ll lose the election, telling states that he’ll ‘never come back’ if he doesn’t win there and even contemplating leaving the US altogether.  Pundits observe that although in 2016 Trump had a relatively coherent economic message and showed some discipline in the last couple of weeks before the election this time his only message is one of hatred and rage, delivered by an unhinged candidate who doesn’t have anything else left in the tank.


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Superman and -spreader

(Door Hugo Kijne te Hoboken USA)

On Saturday Trump resumed his campaigning with a small event on the South Lawn where he spoke for 18 minutes with a raspy voice, a band aid from a recent IV, probably for the steroid he’s taking, on his right hand.  Until the election the president wants to hold at least one rally every day, because his campaign is almost broke and it’s one way for him to get free TV coverage.  Before his next rally in Florida on Monday, where very few in the large crowd wore masks and there was no social distancing, Trump’s physician issued the statement that he had tested negative twice on consecutive days and was no longer contagious.  The president took that one step further and declared himself ‘maybe immune,’ still sounding hoarse and threatening to kiss every man and ‘beautiful’ woman in the crowd.  According to experts the tests Trump took, of which the dates were not mentioned in the statement, are cheap and unreliable because they show a high percentage of false negative results.  The only explanation why an available much more accurate test was not used is that the president is still spreading the virus and the tests are meant to cover that up.

Over the weekend the news broke that when he left the hospital Trump had wanted to wear a Superman tee shirt under his dress shirt, first looking frail but then ripping his shirt off.  He was persuaded not to do that, probably because he didn’t look all that super to begin with, but it is a sign of how desperate he is becoming with Biden’s lead in the polls growing every day.  Another sign of desperation was his demand that Obama, Biden and yes, Hillary Clinton, be arrested and indicted, although John Durham’s investigation of ‘Obamagate’ is unlikely to yield any results.  AG Barr’s inaction earned him the wrath of the president, who was also angry with Mike Pompeo for not  producing Hillary’s emails although he is at the State Department, which made Pompeo promise to try and find them before the election.  Trump was happier with VP Pence, who during the vice-presidential debate refused to commit to a peaceful transition of power.  The steroid is making the president more erratic than normal, so first he canceled all stimulus negotiations, then he wanted a large stimulus, and finally he demanded a $1.8 trillion stimulus that he could allocate.

Democrats don’t want to give Trump money that he can distribute at his discretion three weeks before the election and most Republicans don’t want a second stimulus at all, so possibly nothing will happen until January, leaving the unemployed and small business owners suffering.  Equally impulsive was the president’s decision to cancel the second debate with Biden after the format had been changed into virtual because of his COVID infection, denying himself an audience of eighty million, although it’s quite possible that Trump benefits more from not being heard and seen than from public exposure. The president doesn’t feel that way and wants to campaign like it’s still 2016 in spite of COVID, last night in Pennsylvania.

On the day that the plan of a white terrorist group to kidnap and possibly kill the Governor of Michigan, Gretchen Whitmer, was revealed Trump attacked the governor for not having profusely thanked him for the FBI’s preventing the plot.  At a court hearing yesterday FBI agents testified that kidnapping the Governor of Virginia, Ralph Northam, had been discussed by the same group, which goes to show how dangerous the president’s calling for ‘liberating’ states and undermining ‘Democrat’ authorities has become, with gangs of heavily armed hoodlums standing by to act upon any squeek from Trump that they can interpret as a call to arms.

This week the New York Times revealed how the Trump family developed routines to transfer millions of government dollars into its private coffers and built a network of national and international ‘customers’ of its businesses who only pay the Trump Organization because they expect some kind of benefit only the White House can provide.  Having rivals arrested and indicted on fake charges and illegally enriching oneself is what autocrats like Putin excel at, and in what hopefully are the last convulsions of his corrupt presidency Trump now operates on that level.

 

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Trump’s Biggest Gamble

(Door Hugo Kijne te Hoboken USA)

On September 3rd The Atlantic published an article revealing that Trump had called US marines who died in France in WWI ‘losers’ and American veterans ‘suckers.’  We have since learned that already in February the president told Bob Woodward that COVID is a serious threat, although he kept playing it down for months.  Then we found out that most of the last twenty years Trump didn’t pay taxes, and during each of his first two years in the White House paid exactly $750, and finally the president called upon white supremacists to ‘stand by’ during his first debate with Joe Biden.  There were enough scandals in one month to fill a whole presidency, but last week the president tested positive for COVID and most of those scandals now seem to have been forgotten.  At a presser Trump’s physician initially said that his patient tested positive on Wednesday September 30th, but he had to make that 36 hours later because on that day the president traveled to Minnesota for a rally and the next day to New Jersey for a fundraiser.  From Trump’s being fatigued after the rally and lethargic at the fundraiser observers derive that he had already been infected then.

The announcement was the beginning of a shadow play during which the president’s doctors gradually lost all credibility.  On Friday October 2nd it became clear that Trump had been given oxygen at least twice and was being treated with a mix of antiviral drugs – including a steroid – that no other patient has ever been treated with.  That evening he was transported to Walter Reed hospital where on Sunday a video was produced with the president saying that he was feeling much better, although his coughing had clearly been edited out.  Sunday evening he went on a joy ride to great well wishers outside the hospital, exposing two secret service agents to his COVID droplets, and Monday morning Trump defecated with a tweetstorm of propaganda, after which he apparently demanded to be released.  His doctors, whose Commander in Chief he is, complied, again giving a presser where information about the president’s condition was completely obfuscated, except for the statement that he’s not out of the woods yet.  Trump seems to think differently, because upon his arrival at the White House he announced that he would soon be back on the campaign trail.

As things stand now, nobody knows exactly how the president is doing.  A Tuesday statement from his doctors says that he has ‘not reported any symptoms,’ but taking Trump’s word for anything is dimwitted, to put it mildly.  According to Dr. Vin Gupta, a pulmonary critical care physician, the cocktail of medications Trump consumes can only point at COVID pneumonia, which comes with debris in the lungs and difficulty breathing, something the president was clearly experiencing upon his return from Walter Reed.  Many patients show improvement after two or three days of treatment but relapse later, so Trump’s critical time is still coming.  He should be lying low, but cannot as his re-election chances slip away.

It’s obvious how the president will be campaigning from now on.  He’ll say that COVID is a bitch but he has shown that it can be beaten, so there is no reason for the masks, the lockdowns, the quarantining and the contact tracing.  All that one needs is a helicopter and immediate access to the best healthcare in the world.  In a video that was shot after he came back to the petri dish that the White House has become Trump urged Americans not be ‘dominated by the virus and not to be afraid of it.’  That message alone will kill thousands who don’t have access to experimental medications and Marine One, but as always the president only cares about himself.

People who have experience with steroid treatments know that they can cause manic episodes that make patients believe they’re brilliant and create heavy mood swings, while they also temporarily make them feel physically stronger.  In his tweets and statements Trump is clearly displaying these symptoms, and his decision to stop negotiating further COVID relief has all the trademarks. Even if his lungs turn out to be healthy he’ll come crashing down from his steroid high at some point and there is no telling how hard he’ll fall.  The nuclear codes should have been removed by then.

 

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A Billion Dollar Terrorist

(Door Hugo Kijne te Hoboken USA)

So Donald Trump is a billionaire after all, but only in debt.  The New York Times’ reporting about the president’s tax returns shows that he owes $1.1 billion in loans and mortgages, all coming due in the next five years, and it explains why Trump cannot afford not to be president anymore.  Suddenly it makes sense why Trump downplayed the COVID pandemic and pushed hard for schools to reopen, so that parents can go back to work, why the White House edited CDC documents, and why the president brought in Dr. Scott Atlas, who promotes herd immunity that would kill millions but keep the economy functioning.  Trump needs money, and since his assets are in real estate, hotels and golf courses, businesses that cannot operate on-line, his pipe dream is a ‘miraculously strong’ third quarter, followed by an even stronger fourth, as unlikely as that is to occur.  Part of his problem is that he believes in his self-created myth of being a successful businessman, but properties that have been losing money for years won’t suddenly turn a profit, not even with a strong economy, and as much as the president may fantasize about revenues most of his assets remain negative.       

If Trump cannot make money the old-fashioned way, running successful businesses – something he has never done in his life – the presidency offers him a lifeline.  As long as he is in the White House banks and other lenders won’t foreclose on him, and foreign countries will consider him a good investment as long as he actively or passively wields US power in their interest.  The tax returns do not divulge the amount of foreign money already planted in the Trump Organization, legally or illegally, but going by Trump’s sons’ past statements the Russian contribution alone is enormous.  Hence the president’s refusal to accept the outcome of the election and to guarantee a peaceful transition of power if he loses.  He will fight tooth and nail to hold on to the Oval Office, assisted by the criminal mastermind who runs the Department of Justice.  Upcoming election litigation is the reason why an ultra-conservative Justice must be confirmed before November 3rd, and as much as getting rid of the ACA and taking health care away from 23 million Americans would be a nice side effect, it is not the primary reason why Amy Coney Barrett was nominated a week after RBG’S passing.

In Tuesday night’s ‘debate’ Trump made it perfectly clear that he not only is sabotaging the election, but also that he’ll completely disturb the process leading up to it. He knows that he’s losing, with Biden’s poll numbers in most battleground states already well outside of the margin of error, and realizes that he cannot expand his base. So his only option is to try and keep Democratic voters away from the polls or the mailboxes, and if that doesn’t work, discredit and challenge the election results in a drawn out court battle. The best he can hope for is that we’ll never know who won.

If Putin put a lot of money in Trump’s pockets it was well spent. All of his career the Russian leader has tried to undermine American democracy, but until Trump he didn’t have the tool to do it. And Trump’s dire financial situation gives him, or any other foreign despot, more options. He can buy Trump’s debt, and hold it as leverage over the president, or he can offer to pay off the debt when it’s due in return for certain favors. Either way, the president would be a foreign asset as long as he’s in the White House.

The scariest part of the debate was when Trump failed to disavow white supremacists, according to the FBI the number one domestic terror threat, even asking for the name of a specific group – as if it makes a difference – and then telling the ‘Proud Boys’ to stand by. Together with Don Trump Jr.’s calling for ‘an army’ to show up on November 3rd we witnessed the US President threatening with a terrorist attack on the election, let that sink in.

 

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Trump’s Pyrrhic Strategy

(Door Hugo Kijne te Hoboken USA)

One day after the US had passed the number of 200,000 COVID deaths Trump proclaimed that the virus ‘affects virtually nobody,’ at a rally without social distancing and with very few people wearing masks, except in the stand behind the president, so that he would not get infected.  It capped a week in which CDC guidelines about testing (not needed if there are no symptoms) and the virus being airborne (under consideration) were re-written respectively pulled by the White House.  The CDC Director was scolded for emphasizing the importance of masks and giving a realistic timeline for when a vaccine might be available, and Trump pointed out that masks are dangerous because waiters might touch them before touching your food.  The president argued that the number of American deaths is not too bad ‘if you leave the blue states out,’ and seemed to consider ‘herd mentality’ an acceptable alternative for a vaccine.  A former task force aide revealed that Trump considers it a benefit of the virus that he doesn’t have to shake hands with ‘disgusting people,’ and his goons booed the Lt. Gov. of Ohio for urging them to wear masks.  

Maybe the president got carried away by the thought that the death of RBG would push his deliberate mishandling of the pandemic off the front pages, but this is a part of reality he cannot change with wishful thinking.  Because the ACA is on the Supreme Court’s docket in November the replacement of Justice Ginzberg is inextricably linked to the access to healthcare of millions of Americans, the coverage of pre-existing conditions, of which there will be many more due to COVID-19, and the future of Roe v. Wade, which 70% of the population wants to keep in place. Considering the amount of money flowing to Democratic Senate candidates voters realize what’s at stake, and even if the Republicans succeed in getting a sixth conservative on the court – going against the final wish of RBG that she be replaced by the newly elected president, a wish with which 8 in 10 Democrats and 5 in 10 Republicans agree – the increased chance that Democrats will win both the Senate and the White House while holding on to the House gives them plenty of options, blowing up the filibuster and expanding SCOTUS to 11 or 13 members being only one.

Like a suicidal sperm whale approaching a beach at maximum speed Trump announced that he was going to appoint a replacement for RBG while she was not even lying in state yet, en passant effectively calling her granddaughter, who had conveyed the final wish, a liar, and like a parade of lemmings ready to jump off the cliff GOP senators who in 2016 swore that they would never do such a thing announced that they would vote for the appointee.  Obviously it’s altogether fitting and proper that Trump’s shamelessness and Republicans’ hypocrisy peak at the end of his term.

In spite of his busy agenda the president found time to attack FBI Director Chris Ray for flagging a Russian threat to the elections, and to send $13 billion in belated aid to Puerto Rico for a hurricane that hit the island in 2017, hoping to buy its refugees’ votes in Florida.  He also announced the creation of a Commission for Patriotic Education, with the task of developing a ‘pro-American’ curriculum from which presumably all references to black history would be effectively removed.

Never one to stay far behind when there are norms to be violated and opponents to be roughed up Attorney General Barr announced that he was considering sedition charges against mayors of and demonstrators in ‘Democrat’ cities, even though the government is trying as hard as it can to overthrow itself and will most likely be successful long before the first demonstrators would get a court date.


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