Media (287)

 

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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De Omroepstaking en De Afspraak

Het was woensdag 17 april 1985. De afspraak was al weken tevoren gemaakt. Ik zou naar Genève vliegen om Jan Pronk te interviewen voor de VPRO-Radio. Hij was toen adjunct secretaris-generaal van de Unctad, de United Nations Conference on Trade and Development.
      Een organisatie van de Verenigde Naties ter bevordering van handel en economische ontwikkeling. Pronk was daar in 1980 begonnen. Hij zou er in 1986 weer vertrekken.
      Maar er ontstond een dilemma. Er was die dag een omroepstaking. Onvrede bij omroepmedewerkers, die werd gesteund door de bonden. 
Ik had van mijn leven nog nooit gestaakt, maar besloot om me te laten registreren als staker. En dat terwijl ik in feite gewoon moest werken.

Maar ja.
Ga je dan die afspraak voor dat interview afzeggen?
Ge je die vlucht cancelen?

Ik deed dat niet. Ging ’s ochtends nog even naar een bijeenkomst op het Mediapark, die werd verstoord door Jan van Veen. Een omroepmedewerker, die een programma had onder de naam Candlelight.
      Hij las op de late avond gedichtjes voor, gemaakt door luisteraars. Amateur poëzie, die vrijwel altijd over liefde en liefdesverdriet ging.
Meestal erbarmelijk slechte en genante versjes, die op een zalvende manier door deze Van Veen werden voorgedragen.    

Hij was volledig overstuur, ging geweldig tekeer en begon de verzamelde groep stakers op een grove manier uit te schelden. Het was potsierlijk en bizar.   

’s Middags arriveerde ik in Genève en kreeg de volgende dag ondermeer een rondleiding per auto van Jan Pronk. Er bleek zelfs een wijkje te zijn, waar een paar huizen waren gekraakt.
       ’s Avonds maakte ik een wandelingetje langs het meer en zag plotseling een paar ratten wegduiken.
Het interview was plezierig en werd vrijdag nog uitgezonden in het programma Het Gebouw.   
      De staking was toen al weer voorbij.

 

 

Comforter-in-Chief

(Door Hugo Kijne te Hoboken USA)

In the beginning of the week the White House could not get its story about Rob Porter straight.  John Kelly stuck with his lie that he had acted immediately after finding out that Porter had beaten up two ex-wives, and Sarah Sanders pontificated about ‘the process’ that had taken so long.  It got worse when FBI Director Wray testified in Congress that the Porter file had been closed in July 2017 and that the White House had been informed no later than November 2017.  Even Sarah Sanders could not stick with Kelly’s story, and there are strong rumors that she has demanded that from now on he’ll tell his own lies.  On top of this it was revealed that by November 2017 130 White House staffers did not yet have the appropriate security clearing, including 10 of 30 Assistants to the President, among them Ivanka Trump, Jared Kushner and even White House Counsel McGahn.  Considering that many of these assistants handle classified material – Jared even the president’s daily security briefing that Trump doesn’t read – this situation contains high security risks and makes anything Hillary Clinton ever did with her emails pale by comparison.

The heads of all the intelligence services who testified before Congress confirmed that Russia had interfered with the 2016 election and was preparing to do so again in 2018.  Trump had not imposed the sanctions a large majority in Congress requested and did not take any other action, only strengthening the impression that he is in Putin’s pocket.  He could not remain entirely silent about Porter though, and after one week forcefully declared that he is opposed to all domestic violence.  The High School shooting in the middle of the week gave Trump an opportunity to play the comforting role that is reserved for the president in these situations, but he failed miserably by giving a speech that probably caused more nightmares for the children he addressed than they had before.  Trump did not mention the word ‘gun’ once, making clear to the NRA that he wasn’t going to do anything about gun control and instead picturing the shooting as a mental health issue.  Subsequently the main stream media did their duty and reminded us that the only gun law Trump has signed made it easier for mental patients to acquire assault weapons.

In the wake of the shooting NRA-backed Republican rhetoric reached a new low.  Paul Ryan called the requests to finally do something about gun control a ‘knee jerk reaction,’ and senator Grassley had totally forgotten that he sponsored the aforementioned bill, but both offered their thoughts and prayers like so many Republicans, including senator Rubio, who pocketed more than $3 million from the NRA.  We can only hope that the GOP’s gutless hypocrisy will be remembered in November.

Next, Trump’s personal lawyer Michael Cohen surprised the world with the announcement that he had ‘facilitated’ a $130,000 payment to Stormy Daniels, without revealing where the money came from.  It brought Trump’s philandering back in the limelight and was followed by the bombshell revelation that concurrently with Stormy he had conducted an affair with a former Playmate.

To top it all off, Steve Bannon spent 20 hours with Mueller’s investigators, after he had promised to tell the Special Counsel everything, and former campaign adviser Rick Gates was finalizing a plea deal.  It looks like the indictment of 13 Russians that was announced today is only the beginning.

 

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Everybody loves a Parade

(Door Hugo Kijne te Hoboken USA)

It was to be expected that becoming the most powerful man in the world would take Trump’s narcissistic personality into so far unknown territory.  Halfway another week during which things didn’t go well for the president he asked the Pentagon for a parade, remembering how watching the July 14th parade in Paris had cheered him up.  Of course there is little to celebrate for the US military these days.  They were outplayed by Russia and Iran in Syria and are at best stuck in a stalemate with the Taliban in Afghanistan that could easily last another sixteen years, but that doesn’t bother Trump.  The purpose of the parade is not to celebrate the military, one of Trump’s major loves, according to Defense Secretary Mattis, but to celebrate Trump, whom the president happens to love a little more.  So we should brace ourselves for the images of Trump, more pompous than ever, with Ted Nugent and Chuck Norris as his guests of honor, watching tanks rolling down Pennsylvania Avenue cracking the asphalt and making a unique contribution to the Swiss cheese that American roads look like because of the potholes that are no longer repaired.

Early in the week Trump declared that the Democrats had been ‘caught’ by the Nunes memo and accused them of treason for not applauding during the State of the Union.  Republicans who can read, however, realized that the timeline in the memo contradicted its conclusions, and the backlash about the president’s treason remark was such that he had to pretend that it had been a joke.  In spite of Trump’s firm commitment to testify under oath for Robert Mueller his lawyers pulled that promise back, knowing that their client cannot tell the truth and that if he could tell the truth it would incriminate him, creating a unique dilemma that probably will make the president take the 5th.  Nunes’s attack on the FBI was complemented by senators Grassley and Graham, who asked the Department of Justice to investigate Christopher Steele, in spite of the fact that a Washington Post article detailed how highly respected by American security services Steele had been throughout his MI6 career.  Senator Johnson accused Obama of having tried to influence the FBI investigation into Hillary Clinton’s emails, but it turned out that he had focused on Russian interference, which was actually his job.

The extent to which Trump is aiding and abetting the Russians became clear when he decided not to impose the new sanctions a large majority in Congress had requested.  Meanwhile Secretary of State Tillerson announced that the Kremlin is planning large scale interventions in the 2018 elections, and a director at the Department of Homeland Security revealed that the Russians had already hacked into election systems in 6 states, and made attempts in many more.

Trump’s treason joke was followed by another attempt at comedy, when he declared that he would ‘love a shutdown.’ The shutdown came and went while Trump was sleeping.  After waking up he had to consider making the Democratic memo that contradicts the Nunes memo public and what, if any, redactions to make.  Instead of reading the memo Trump will have it read to him.

In the White House Chief of Staff John Kelly continues to show his racist and misogynist sides.  He suggested that many Dreamers are too lazy to get off their asses and tried to hold on to a staffer who had beaten up two ex-wives.  It may not cost him his job, because that’s just how Trump likes it.

 

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State of the Union

(Door Hugo Kijne te Hoboken USA)

The State of the United States is poor and rapidly getting poorer.  President Trump, who  according to a thorough analysis of fascism as provided in Rob Riemen’s recently published book ‘To Fight against this Age’ is a prime example of its current rise, is taking his project to the next level.  After having introduced the politics of resentment, the incitement of anger and fear and xenophobia, as well as having demonstrated his need for scapegoats and his hatred of the life of the mind, all features of modern fascism, he is now attacking the foundations of democracy, by trying to turn the FBI into his private secret police and demanding loyalty to his person, rather than to the US Constitution, of leaders of the Department of Justice and the FBI.  It already started almost a year ago, when Trump asked FBI Director Comey for his loyalty and subsequently fired him, by his own admission to thwart the Russia investigation.  Recently FBI Deputy Director McCabe was asked by Trump how he had voted in 2016 and his wife was subsequently insulted, and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein had to tell Trump if he was ‘on his team.’

Firing Comey backfired for Trump, because it resulted in the appointment of Special Counsel Mueller by Rosenstein.  Today, his second major attempt to derail the Russia investigation was the declassification of a memo written by Devin Nunes, the GOP Chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, who had been enlisted for dirty tricks earlier by the White House and therefore had to recluse himself from his committee’s own investigation.  The purpose of the memo is to discredit the Mueller investigation, and it was published in spite of the fact that both the Department of Justice and the FBI called its release ‘extraordinarily reckless’ and said that it contained ‘material omissions of fact.’ There is abundant speculation that Trump wants to use the memo to fire Rosenstein, who supervises Mueller, and possibly Mueller as well, but now that the memo is in the public sphere it turns out to be a combination of inaccurate allegations and innuendo that discredits the author more than those who are accused of violating legal procedures in the context of the Mueller probe, and it does not at all serve Trump’s purpose because it contradicts his main assertion.

Firing Rosenstein would give Trump the opportunity to appoint a different supervisor for Mueller, who could limit the scope of the investigation or even fire Mueller, which under normal circumstances would lead to a constitutional crisis.  With a few exceptions, however, the Republicans have become Trump’s silent majority in Congress, and seem to be more interested in destructive laws they may still put in front of Trump for his signature than in the continued health of American democracy.

The big winners in Trump’s and Nunes’s shady play are the enemies of the United States, first and foremost Vladimir Putin.  The memo reveals some intelligence sources, and in combination with tweets from Trump it must have a demoralizing effect on the FBI, which will weaken security in the US at a time when Russia is already preparing a massive intervention in the 2018 election.

If the whole episode shows one thing, it is that Trump is scared to death what Mueller may find or already has found, and dead set on using the full power of the presidency to obstruct justice.  This too will backfire, because a majority of US citizens is not ready to trade democracy for fascism.

 

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