Media (337)


Mob Rule

(Door Hugo Kijne te Hoboken USA)

The week started with a shamelessly partisan White House ceremony where for the second time Brett Kavanaugh was sworn in as Supreme Court Justice and Trump declared that the judge had been ‘proven innocent’ by the scam investigation that had been micro-managed by Don McGahn, Kavanaugh’s biggest fan.  To give the event an air of neutrality the whole Supreme Court had been summoned to appear, which meant that Ruth Bader-Ginsberg had to be woken up from her power nap and that Clarence Thomas had to be pulled out of his porn collection.  At a rally the next day Trump tried to fire up the troops with faked indignation about the actions of Democratic senators and protesters at the Capitol, claiming that the Democrats would bring ‘mob rule’ to Washington if they win one or both chambers of Congress.   Encouraged by a closing motivation gap and a boost in the polls the Republican strategy is to keep their base disgruntled about the Kavanaugh confirmation process until the elections, which may be hard to do because Kavanaugh was eventually confirmed, and even in the Trump-era it’s difficult if not impossible to keep the side that won upset about its victory.

In the middle of the week DC was surprised by the announcement that Nikki Haley had submitted her resignation as US Ambassador to the United Nations and would leave her office by the end of the year.  At a joint press event Trump was all smiles, saying that he had known about the ambassador’s plans for a while, and Haley promised not to primary Trump in 2020, but there was ample speculation about a rift between her, John Bolton and Mike Pompeo that might have brought about her decision to resign.  Timing is everything, and if the GOP gets clobbered in the upcoming elections Haley can point at the date of her resignation letter, absolve herself from any culpability, and still be a formidable candidate for any office in 2024.  Trump displayed his reality show superficiality by praising Haley for making her job ‘glamorous,’ and she did him one better by heaping praise on Jared Kushner, even calling him a ‘hidden genius,’ which could have been tongue in cheek because Kushner’s plan for peace between Israel and the Palestinians is still in hiding.  Apparently Kushner is waiting for his friend, Crown Prince Muhamed bin Salman of Saudi Arabia, to endorse the plan before he releases it.

Since Trump’s visit to Saudi Arabia, where the president was a sucker for the cunning adoration bestowed upon him, Kushner and the Crown Prince have been thick as thieves, but their relationship will be tested by the disappearance and probable murder of Washington Post columnist and Saudi regime critic Jamal Khashoggi, apparently at Muhamed’s orders.  Of course one more murdered journalist doesn’t count if you’re friends with Putin and in love with Kim Jong-un, so Trump’s declaration that the US wants to get to the bottom of it deserves a grain of salt.  Since the Saudis are among the best customers of Trump properties and US weapons manufacturers sanctions are unlikely.

Trump’s total disregard for his presidential duties was on display when hurricane Michael hit the Florida panhandle on Wednesday.  Instead of being on the phone all day with governors, the Secretary of Homeland Security and the FEMA Director, as previous presidents have done in similar situations, Trump attended a campaign rally, ‘because he didn’t want to disappoint the people who showed up.’  Catering to the same audience he had USA Today publish an Op-Ed of which every sentence contained at least one lie, most notably the statement that ‘Medicare for All’ would destroy Medicare for seniors.

The president could have gotten into a celebrity pissing contest with Taylor Swift, who urged her Instagram followers to register to vote and support the Democratic candidate for the US Senate in Tennessee.   But Taylor Swift has twice as many Instagram followers as Trump has followers on Twitter, so he only declared that he now likes her 25% less.  Trump could gripe about it with Swift’s old nemesis, Superman Kanye West, who was clearly off his medication when he came to the White House to discuss prison reform.

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Here Comes the Judge

(Door Hugo Kijne te Hoboken USA)

The week started with in retrospect almost routine issues.  In the days after Trump fired James Comey at his recommendation Rod Rosenstein apparently had seller’s remorse and discussed secretly taping the president and the possibility of invoking the 25th Amendment with some of his colleagues.  Last week the New York Times reported on those conversations, and the expectation was that the Deputy AG would resign or that Trump would fire him, in spite of Rosenstein’s statement that it had just been his wry sense of humor in action.  Trump could not immediately discuss the matter with Rosenstein because he was in New York to address the General Assembly of the United Nations on Tuesday morning.  With one of the most bizarre speeches ever delivered by an American president from that podium Trump got the whole world laughing when he boasted about the accomplishments of his administration.  Slightly surprised the president eventually started laughing too, as if deep down inside he realizes what a bullshit artist he is.  It gave him the opportunity to declare at a press conference later in the day that the UN delegates had not been laughing at him but with him, and that the whole incident had been a sign that America is respected by the rest of the world again. 

A meeting of Trump with Rosenstein was scheduled for Thursday, but it had to wait because that day the Senate Judiciary Committee held a hearing with Dr. Christine Blasey-Ford and Judge Brett Kavanaugh about Dr. Ford’s accusation that Kavanaugh had tried to rape her as a teenager, and Trump wanted to watch.  First Dr. Ford shared that painful experience and the damage it had done to her with the committee in an emotional, dignified and compelling way, and then it was Kavanaugh’s turn.  The judge came out of the gate swinging.  Screaming and crying he declared his innocence and accused the Democrats of being on a ‘search and destroy’ mission, in an attempt to avenge Hillary Clinton’s loss in the 2016 election.  It soon became clear that Kavanaugh was performing for an audience of one, the president who had nominated him for the Supreme Court, but even Fox News estimated that Trump would not be pleased, because although he likes denials and fighting back the president is not a big fan of crybabies.   Eventually though the solidarity between two sexual assaulters was stronger than Trump’s disdain for weakness, and he expressed his appreciation for Kavanaugh’s failed attempt to present himself as a mini-Trump, promising him his continued support. 

In spite of many unanswered questions and Kavanaugh’s stubborn rejection of invitations to ask the White House for a further investigation of the allegations against him - as an innocent man would have done - Republicans were planning to plow ahead.  Chairman Grassley scheduled a committee vote on Friday morning and Mitch McConnell wanted to have a floor vote on Kavanaugh’s confirmation in the senate next Tuesday.   And then Jeff Flake threw a wrench into the Majority Leader’s machine.  Before the committee vote he asked for a one week delay of a floor vote to allow the FBI to re-open its background investigation into Kavanaugh, suggesting that otherwise the judge would not get his vote.

Because it soon became clear that without granting Flake’s request there would not be enough votes to get Kavanaugh confirmed McConnell caved, and the Republicans asked the White House to direct the FBI accordingly.  A continued investigation could sink Kavanaugh’s nomination, because the judge has refused to answer many critical questions, which will now be asked by FBI agents who won’t accept his refusals.  Most importantly, the FBI will question Mark Judge, per Dr. Ford’s testimony the only witness of the assault on her but possibly also Kavanaugh’s partner in other debaucheries.

Worried about the possible outcomes of a complete investigation the White House has restricted the FBI probe to only two accusations of sexual misconduct, and allows only a limited number of witnesses to be questioned.  This way the investigation will be a cover up rather than a search for the truth, and it’s up to Flake and other senators to make sure they’re not being bamboozled. Meanwhile Rod Rosenstein has to wait until next week, or maybe Trump has forgotten about him altogether, because the hearings made for fascinating television and that’s what the president lives for.


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Deny, Deny, Deny

(Door Hugo Kijne te Hoboken USA)

It is Trump’s response to any allegation of misconduct, whether commercial, legal, political or sexual.  Admitting it and apologizing would be a sign of weakness, and the president never shows weakness, except when he has to settle a hopeless case, like Trump University, or concede defeat, like to Stormy Daniels.  Of course it also became the mantra for Brett Kavanaugh’s response to Christine Blasey Ford’s accusation that he tried to rape her while in High School.  Kavanaugh could have said “I don’t remember it, but I was sometimes as drunk as a skunk when I was a teenager and if it happened I’m very sorry,” and that might have saved his nomination, but he decided to deny without any qualification.  It put the all male majority of Republicans on the Senate Judiciary Committee in a pickle, because in the #MeToo era they have to give Dr. Blasey an opportunity to be heard, but the prospect of having sexist octogenarians like Grassley and Hatch mistreat her like they mistreated Anita Hill 25 years ago was not very appealing.  So they made it as hard as possible for Dr. Blasey to testify, by refusing to let the FBI investigate her allegation and setting next Monday as the date for a hearing.

Trump needs Kavanaugh on the Supreme Court to protect him from being subpoenaed and/or indicted, but the White House also realizes that pushing the judge’s confirmation through by silencing his accuser will hurt the Republicans in the midterms and make the rest of Trump’s presidency a living hell.  GOP senators who often pretend to have a conscience, like Collins, Corker and Flake, had no problem with committee chairman Grassley’s squeezing Dr. Blasey, and for a while there was a standoff, which gave the Republicans hope that she would not testify and let Kavanaugh off the hook.  Grassley even lied that the FBI doesn’t do the kind of investigations Dr. Blasey asked for, which is verifiably untrue because the FBI did it in Anita Hill’s case.  According to him Kavanaugh was eager to testify at a hearing, but observers doubted that the judge would want to talk to the FBI, because lying to senators is an offense that usually goes unpunished – as he has already proven on multiple occasions – but lying to the FBI could not only cost him his nomination but also his current job.  The same observers wondered why Dr. Blasey would ask for an FBI investigation if she had been lying about the attempted rape.

Today Dr. Blasey’s lawyers made an offer with as the most important elements that she wants to testify next Thursday, she wants Kavanaugh to testify first, and she doesn’t want to be in the room with him.  The counteroffer from Grassley is to have the hearing on Wednesday and to have Dr. Blasey go first.  The order is important because if Kavanaugh goes second testifying is much easier for him, since he doesn’t have to tell his own story but Republicans will let him react to Dr. Blasey’s testimony.  In addition he would benefit from what is called ‘the recency effect.’  At this point negotiations are still ongoing.

On Thursday Trump visited the Carolinas, and declared hurricane Florence ‘one of the wettest from the standpoint of water.’  The president was especially interested in the area of Lake Norman, where he owns a golf course, and happy to hear that there was minimal damage.  Against the wishes of Rod Rosenstein and FBI Director Ray he also decided to declassify documents from the Mueller probe that could reveal sources and methods, and hurt FBI investigations and international intelligence gathering for years.

Continuing his attacks on the justice system Trump declared that ‘we don’t have an Attorney General,’ meaning that Jeff Sessions doesn’t act like his private lawyer, and he called the FBI ‘a cancer.’  Adding to the growing library of Trump-inspired literature Stormy Daniels published a book with her memories of Trump’s barely mid-size penis, of which the mushroom shape may explain his obsession with the use of nuclear weaponry.


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Een leven zonder nieuwe media

Mijn kleinzoon Camiel (15) moet voor school een werkstuk maken over de tijden van weleer, toen er nog geen nieuwe media waren. Geen computers dus. Geen Internet, geen mobiele telefoon, geen sociale media, geen videogames, digitale foto’s, virtual reality etc. Hij kwam ons daarover interviewen. Wij moeten met verhalen komen over die bizarre tijden.

We gaan terug naar september 1957. Ik ben twaalf jaar en zit in de eerste klas van het Lorentz Lyceum in Haarlem. Je moest daar in die tijd toelatingsexamen voor doen.
Wij hadden thuis nog veel meer dingen niet. Geen telefoon, geen ijskast, geen (af)-wasmachine, geen warm water, geen oven, geen auto en geen televisie om maar wat te noemen.     
      Camiel schrijft het allemaal op. Veel dingen wist hij natuurlijk wel, maar dat het zo erg was… Nee.

Wij keken wel eens naar de televisie bij de enige buren in ons huizenblok, die al zo’n ding hadden. Gezellig bij elkaar zitten met de gordijnen dicht
      En waar keken we dan naar?
Ik heb de VPRO-Gids erbij gehaald van 19 september 1957. Er was één net en de enige uitzending die dag duurde van acht uur tot tien uur ’s avonds. 

Het NTS-Journaal werd drie maal per week uitgezonden. Er was op 19 september nog geen presentator. Die zou aantreden op 1 oktober. Het was Coen van Hoewijk.
      Luipaard op Schoot zou worden uitgezonden tot 1 juni 1968.
Oudtshoorn ligt in het zuiden van Zuid-Afrika halverwege Port Elizabeth en Kaapstad.  Anno 2018 zijn er drie struisvogelfarms: Highgate Ostrich Show Farm, Safari Ostrich Farm en Congo Ostrich Farm. Ze trekken veel toeristen.
      Zululand ligt in het oosten van de provincie Kwazulu-Natal.vlakbij de Indische Oceaan. Zulu-dorpen zijn er nog vooral voor toeristen..  

En luister HIER naar het Cosmopolitan Orkest van Jos Cleber.
      En naar Mieke Telkamp met haar smartlap De drie klokken.




 It’s Mother Nature, Folks

(Door Hugo Kijne te Hoboken USA)

In their magnificent song ‘Head Full of Doubt/Road Full of Promise’ the Avett Brothers sing ‘your life doesn’t change by the man that’s elected.’  That line always gets the loudest cheers during their concerts, and although it was written well before 2016 it’s clear that the audiences think it refers to Trump.  Fed by Bob Woodward’s ‘Fear’ and by the anonymous New York Times Op-Ed it appears that Americans have finally reached a threshold.  Trump’s base was stable as long as the president was only a crook, a liar and potentially a traitor, but now that he’s been exposed by White House insiders as a madman who is endangering the country the numbers are moving.  The president’s approval rating is down to 36%, 50% of Americans support the Mueller investigation while only 30% oppose it, 61% believe Russian collusion is a serious matter, 70% believe Trump should testify and 50% already believe that he should be impeached.  Those numbers are extra significant because the president constantly trumpets his criticism of the Department of Justice, the FBI and the Russia investigation, while Mueller doesn’t defend himself and operates in absolute silence, with no leaks.

The 9/11 remembrance in Shanksville, PA gave Trump a chance to regain some goodwill, but he missed it by arriving with balled up fists in the air as if it concerned a campaign rally and giving a passionless speech in the whiny, moaning voice that he believes expresses empathy.  The anniversary of the attack on the Twin Towers also brought back memories of all the times Trump had abused it, like his bizarre statement that he now owned the tallest building in New York City, his false claims that he had lost many friends and had been searching for corpses in the rubble, and his blatant lie that he had seen thousands of Muslims across the river cheer when the towers fell.  And Trump’s assessment of the approaching hurricane Florence only made things worse.  He called it ‘tremendously large and wet,’ and announced that things could go wrong, in spite of the government’s preparedness, because ‘it’s mother nature.’ That preparedness became somewhat doubtful when news broke that $10 million had been moved out of FEMA’s budget to ICE, to build prisons for the 12,800 immigrant children who have now been detained by the US Government, up from 2,400 in May.

NBC’s Chuck Todd observed that Trump ‘sells a hurricane like a condo,’ but the embarrassment didn’t stop there.   Just before the threat of Florence became clear the EPA lifted restrictions on methane gas emissions, which will considerably contribute to the global warming of which ever stronger hurricanes are a symptom.  And the president inflicted the most damage on himself when he defended the government’s complete failure to help Puerto Rico after hurricane Maria, and called the effort an ‘unappreciated great job,’ in spite of between 2,975 and 5,000 deaths.

While the Carolinas were preparing for Florence’s landfall, Trump challenged these ‘excess mortality’ numbers of respectively George Washington University and Harvard University studies via Twitter, claiming that they resulted from a Democratic plot and that every elderly person that died in the wake of Maria had been added to the list.  Rather than acknowledging the inadequacy of his administration’s response he chose to blame the victims, for living on an island with a failing infrastructure and power grid.

In the meantime even Trump’s closest associates are beginning to recognize his flaws.  In a speech that leaked out of a closed meeting Mick Mulvaney called Trump ‘divisive,’ and expressed fear that he would have a negative impact on the elections.  And in Virginia Paul Manafort finally decided to throw in the towel and struck a deal with Robert Mueller to start cooperating with his investigation.  In the White House Trump must be fuming.

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