Media (281)


You’re Fired

(Door Hugo Kijne te Hoboken USA)

At the beginning of the week Trump was in a good mood, because he had finally fired Rex Tillerson, who had called him a fucking moron and pissed him off by having a conscience.  It was shocking to some people that the star of ‘The Apprentice’ didn’t have the balls to look someone in the eyes and say ‘You’re Fired,’ and therefore fired his Secretary of State with a tweet, but that goes to show that reality shows are not real.  It is clear that there will be significantly more changes in Trump’s cabinet, but there are contradictory rumors as to who might be next, with an abundance of candidates: Shulkin for taking his wife on vacation on the government’s dime, Carson for ordering a $31K table, Zinke for installing a $139K door, Betsy DeVos for being dumber than a brick, Sessions for having recused himself, McMaster for not always agreeing with Trump and Kelly for trying to impose some discipline on the president.  At this point Las Vegas is betting that McMaster will go first, and that John Bolton will be his successor, although Trump seems to think that Bolton’s mustache doesn’t look good on TV.

On Tuesday the Democrat Conner Lamb won an election in Pennsylvania’s 18thdistrict that Trump had carried by 19 points, after Trump had campaigned for Lamb’s opponent, and from there on things turned sour for the President.  Robert Mueller issued a subpoena to the Trump Organization to hand over all documents pertaining to contacts with Russia, crossing a  red line Trump had drawn and increasing the chance that Trump will fire Sessions to eventually fire Mueller.  In this scenario Pruitt is rumored to replace Sessions. It already turned out that the Trump Organization had tried to build a tower in Moscow working with a bank that was under US sanctions, and unless Mueller is stopped much more similar information will ultimately be revealed.  The Trump Organization was also in the news because one of its lawyers, next to Mickey Cohen, was involved in paying the $130K hush money to Stormy Daniels, tying the Russia probe and the Daniels affaire.  Stormy, in the meantime, is not going away.  In a 60 Minutes interview she will tell how she was threatened with physical violence to stay silent.

After Trump had succeeded in avoiding criticizing Putin for the longest time the attempt to murder a former Russian agent with nerve gas in England was the straw that broke the camel’s back, and the US imposed sanctions on those individuals and organizations that had already been indicted by Mueller.  Subsequently it turned out that the Russians had hacked into American energy systems, including nuclear reactors, and might very well be able to shut them down.

Trump has little to look forward to, other than surrounding himself with sycophants like Larry Kudlow, who is taking Gary Cohn’s former position.  Mueller will pursue every trace of money laundering by the Trump Organization, and Stormy Daniels is taking Trump to court to have the non-disclosure agreement voided that would allow him to demand $1 million for each violation.

As Stormy’s attorney says, it will be quite a spectacle if the US President demands $1 million from a US citizen for exercising her first amendment rights.  That might happen around the time when James Comey is gearing up for a tour promoting a book that will rip Trump to pieces.

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Little Rocket Man, I Presume

(Door Hugo Kijne te Hoboken USA)

The White House is beginning to look like an empty nest.  Since the beginning of the Trump administration there has been a 43% turnover of its original staff, but the president maintains that he can still recruit the best people for any position.  The latest to depart is Gary Cohn, who lost his appetite to stay on Trump’s team when Trump, against his advice, announced tariffs on steel and aluminum.  That announcement was apparently triggered by Trump’s being upset by the departure of Hope Hicks, but it was also a promise he had campaigned on.  The president is apparently not aware that the rust belt, where he won big in the election, is rapidly changing, and that a city like Pittsburg is now becoming a high tech hub.  He doesn’t hear those things from his remaining economic advisors: Peter Navarro, who is generally considered a loonie by the economic profession, and Wilbur Ross, who is best known for falling asleep during meetings.  Trump’s protectionism goes against both GOP free market orthodoxy and more liberal globalism, and in spite of the fact that he promised considerable flexibility in applying the tariffs there is fear of trade wars in both camps.

In the meantime the Mueller investigation is covering new territory.  It turns out that a meeting of Trump’s representative Eric Prince with a Russian oligarch on the Seychelles was engineered by UAE officials, with the intention to set up a backchannel with Moscow.  Prince lied about it under oath while testifying to Congress and will have to account for that.  Of an entirely different caliber is the battle between porn star Stormy Daniels and Trump’s legal team about a contract that would oblige Daniels not to talk about her relationship with Trump, in exchange for $130,000 paid to her by one of Trump’s lawyers, Mickey Cohen.  For Mueller the interesting question is where the money came from, Cohen or Trump.  If it came from Cohen it was an illegal campaign contribution, since its purpose was to eliminate a potential obstacle for Trump’s election, and if it came from Trump it was a campaign expense that has not been reported.  Daniels claims that the agreement is not valid because Trump never signed it and because Cohen broke it by talking about it to the press.  Trump’s lawyers try to keep her silent via a temporary restraining order issued by an arbitrator, which Daniels is challenging in court.

Things got worse for Trump when the news broke that he had spoken with Reince Priebus and White House Counsel McGahn about their interviews by Mueller, and in particular that he had put pressure on McGahn to lie about Trump’s attempts to fire Mueller, something McGahn had to report to Mueller.  Other than that he doesn’t pay his bills this is why prominent law firms didn’t take Trump on as a client.  He doesn’t listen to his lawyers and violates too many basic rules.

To save the week and to keep the Mueller proble off the front pages Trump came with a surprise of Wag the Dog caliber. Yesterday afternoon he walked into the White House press room and announced that a South Korean delegation visiting Washington would soon have important news.  On the White House grounds the South Koreans told the press that Kim Jong-un had invited Trump for a meeting, and that Trump had accepted.

It was a message that rocked Washington. For more than twenty years North Korean leaders have tried to get a meeting with a US President on equal footing and without preconditions, and Trump just gave it to them.  He has very few experts to advise him, but apparently trusts his instincts.  DC is holding its breath.

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The Chaos Presidency Revisited

(Door Hugo Kijne te Hoboken USA)

During the campaign Jeb Bush called Trump a ‘chaos candidate’ and predicted a ‘chaos presidency,’ and boy was he right.  The week started with the president proudly declaring, in a meeting with governors, that he would have run towards the shooter during a school shooting, even unarmed.  This came as a bit of a surprise for those who remember how he avoided the draft for the Vietnam war with five deferments, the last one because of bone spurs that never seemed to hurt his golf game, and how he subsequently declared that the struggle not to get a venereal disease in the New York City night club circuit was his personal Vietnam. The next day Jared Kushner, who was in charge of everything from the imaginary Israeli-Palestinian peace process – for which his only qualification according to Tom Friedman is that he went to Jewish summer camps – to US relations with Mexico and China, the opioid epidemic, veterans care, reforming the criminal justice system and reinventing the government, lost his security clearance because of multiple vulnerabilities, putting him on the same level as White House cooks and gardeners and making him equally effective.

Later in the week it became known that Kushner had had White House meetings with bankers who subsequently loaned his companies half a billion dollars.  Mysteriously, because according to Kushner those loans were never discussed.  In the meantime the Russia probe remained in the center of attention.  NSA Director Rogers, who is about to step down, testified that the US is not doing enough to prevent Russian intervention in the 2018 elections, because Trump has not ordered the security services to fully engage in a cyberwar.  Robert Mueller has now shifted his focus to the theft of DNC and Podesta e-mails, and is expected to shortly indict the Russian hackers who were responsible.  The crucial question here is who in the Trump campaign and in Trump’s circle of acquaintances knew about the theft before the e-mails were released, and if the president knew.  It is fairly obvious that at least some members of his entourage knew, which means that they can be charged with conspiracy, and in some of his campaign speeches Trump appeared to be referring to upcoming disclosures by Wikileaks, strongly suggesting that he could be a co-conspirator.

In the middle of the week the sky in Trump’s world lost a star when Hope Hicks resigned, after informing the House Intelligence Committee that occasionally she had been telling ‘white lies’ on behalf of Trump.  She was not only Communications Director but also Trump’s security blanket, and he decided to take his frustration out on Jeff Sessions, attacking the Attorney General for not properly having the FISA process investigated and calling him ‘Mr. Magoo,’ to which Sessions responded by defending his integrity.

During a bipartisan White House meeting Trump shocked Republican participants by declaring that he would want to take guns away from potential domestic terrorists and people with mental problems, and worry about due process afterwards.  Later that day, however, he had a meeting with NRA lobbyists who issued a statement that the president was in total agreement with them, leaving everybody confused about where he stands.

To cap it all off Trump announced that he would impose stiff tariffs on steel and aluminum imports, potentially starting a devastating trade war.  It might cost him the services of Gary Cohn, who can leave through the door that will still be open after National Security Advisor H.R. McMaster has been pushed out by Trump, Mattis and Kelly.

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Wereldwijd live naar de Radio luisteren

Ik schreef gisteren een stukje over Radio Forreá in Guinee-Bissau. Toen kreeg ik de vraag of we ook naar dat station kunnen luisteren.

Dat heb ik even voor u nagegaan.
      Je hebt bijvoorbeeld Radio Garden, een fantastische site, waarbij je wereldwijd live naar duizenden radiostations kunt luisteren. Je gaat de wereldkaart over en klikt op een groen stipje. Zo simpel is het.

Als je HIER naartoe gaat kom je bij Radio Bantaba di Djumba in Guinee Bissau. Er is in dat land nog een ander station te vinden,
      Ik moet u wel even waarschuwen: Als je eenmaal aan Radio Garden begint, kom je er niet zo makkelijk meer af. Een beetje verslavend.
Het is namelijk fascinerend wat er zoal in de wereld wordt uitgezonden.

Als je in Guinee Bissau begint en je gaat de West-Afrikaanse kust af, kom je bijvoorbeeld bij stations in Senegal, Guinee Conacry, Sierra Leone, Ghana, Togo, Benin en Nigeria.

Als je het dichter bij huis houdt, blijken er veel meer radiostations dan je ooit had kunnen vermoeden. Mijn god; wat zijn er veel mensen met radio bezig.
      Als we HIER beginnen bij Radio Hoeksche Waard in Puttershoek, vind je in de omgeving stations onder meer in Barendrecht, Steenbergen, Fijnaart, Tholen, Rilland, Zierikzee, Ouddorp, Vlaardingen, Middelharnis, Dordrecht en Rotterdam.  
      Maar ach. Je kunt ook naar Thimphu Bhutan, HIER




Cowardice and Insanity

(Door Hugo Kijne te Hoboken USA)
‘Cowardice and insanity’ were the words used by the father of a student who was killed in the Parkland shooting, referring to respectively Congress and the White House.  And Trump thought that the week started so well for him.  He embraced Robert Mueller’s indictment of 13 Russians, because the Special Counsel declared that nobody from the Trump campaign had ‘wittingly’ been in touch with them.  For Trump, who conveniently ignored that the indictment covers only a small part of the Russian activity, it was proof that there had been no collusion, and while he was at it he also stated that the outcome of the election had not been affected, blaming H.R. McMaster for not making the same unfounded claim at a conference in Munich. Watching the news shows, however, it gradually dawned on Trump that the indictment rebutted his characterization of Russian interference as a ‘hoax’ and at best made him look criminally naive, so he started lashing out via Twitter.  His most disingenuous tweet blamed the FBI for having spent too much time on the Russia investigation and therefore missing the warning signals regarding the Parkland shooter.

The shooting would dominate the news during the rest of the week.  On Wednesday, after a ‘listening session’ with victims of multiple school shootings, Trump showed willingness to have the age limit to buy an AR-15 raised to 21 years, next to banning bump stocks, investing in mental health care and improving background checks.  He never mentioned banning assault weapons or closing the gun show loophole that undermines background checks, but his comments still went too far for the NRA, which had supported Trump’s presidential campaign with $30 million, of which the bulk was spent on attacking Hillary Clinton.  After having been corrected by the ‘patriots’ of the NRA the next day Trump was singing off their sheet, blaming Hollywood and video games for the shooting and arguing that there should be more guns in schools to protect students and teachers.  After another night’s sleep he had refined his thinking and fulminated against gun free zones around schools, calling them an invitation for shooters, and settled on the idea to ‘harden’ schools by arming teachers, something that even the NRA had not fully endorsed.

That idea was not well received by experts, who argued that police officers fail to hit their target more often than not and that teachers would do considerably worse, making it inevitable that at some point a teacher would shoot a student.  Both national teachers unions spoke out against it, and many teachers said that they would rather quit than carry a gun.  But Trump doubled down, claiming that between 10% and 40% of teachers are ex-military and adept at handling guns.

Trump didn’t provide a source for those numbers, and his eventual position shows that he’s only willing to make small, marginal changes, next to pursuing a ‘solution’ that will never work.  That message was received by the teenagers of the ‘never again’ movement, who now know that Trump is a pinball that eventually always bounces into the wrong slot, and will act accordingly.

Meanwhile Mueller is on a steady course.  Today Paul Manafort’s former partner and former Trump campaign official Rick Gates pleaded guilty and started cooperating with the investigation.  It will put tremendous pressure on Manafort and soon bring Trump in Mueller’s sight.

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