Media (445)

 

Cliffhanger Time

(Door Hugo Kijne te Hoboken USA)

Before the presidential election there were three questions, (1) who will win, (2) if Biden wins, what will Trump do, and (3) in that case, what will the president’s most devoted followers do?  There is no answer to the first question yet, but there is a partial answer to the second question.  Last night Trump said that all ‘voting’ should stop because of the risk that thousands of votes could be ‘found’ somewhere, suggesting foul play on the part of the Democrats, declared himself the winner and added that the Supreme Court would seal his victory.  The president also stated that the people who want ‘to count every last vote’ intend to ‘disenfranchise’ his voters, which is a rather unique perspective on losing an election. He said those things off the cuff when votes were still being counted in Georgia, Nevada, North Carolina, Arizona and Pennsylvania – where absentee ballots won’t be counted until later this week – and Biden had more pathways to winning the White House than Trump.  Pundits expect that the president will send in lawyers to delegitimize mail-in votes and demand recounts where the tallies are close.

Nothing Trump said last night was new.  Since the start of the pandemic he has been maligning mail-in voting and saying that if he doesn’t win the election must be rigged.  His claiming ‘we won already’ last night is a message to the current and future domestic terrorists in his cult to come into action if Biden is declared the winner.  The president is too much of a pussy to call them to arms directly but he hopes this foghorn will do the trick, although it is unclear what such action would accomplish.  Democrats are confident that they can fight off any legal challenges, even if they end up in the Supreme Court.  At some point in time historians will debate what was Trump’s most shameless attempt to affect the outcome of the election in his favor: appointing a Postmaster General who seriously crippled the United States Postal Service, making voting by mail a risky endeavor while a pandemic is raging, or soliciting voter intimidation by calling upon his armed goons to ‘keep an eye’ on polling stations.  But it didn’t work.  As I write this, Biden is leading in Nevada, Michigan and Wisconsin.  If he wins those states he is the next president.

Meanwhile COVID is wreaking havoc across the US.  Daily infection rates are now approaching 100,000 and the death toll is rising steadily.  At his superspreader rallies, often held in pandemic hot spots, Trump changed his message from ‘we have turned the corner’ to ‘we are turning the corner,’ indicating that even he understands that the end of the road is not in sight.  Meanwhile at his own campaign meetings Mike Pence consistently proclaimed that ‘it will get a lot worse,’ as a last reminder that he once headed the now defunct Corona Task Force.

After he dropped Scott Atlas into the task force like a cuckoo’s egg, with the assignment to hatch and push the real scientists out, Trump is now threatening to fire Dr. Anthony Fauci, even though he doesn’t have the authority to do that, while Dr. Birx went rogue and her memo that criticizes the administration’s current approach of the pandemic was leaked to the press.  The president meanwhile falsely claimed that doctors receive extra pay for COVID deaths.

In a discussion among pundits this morning it was said that initially everybody thought that the Republican Party would have to reinvent itself after this election, but that whether Biden wins or not the Democratic Party will also have to do a lot of soul searching before the 2024 election.  Nobody mentioned that if Trump would win there most likely won’t be an election in 2024.


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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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Trump’s Mass Manslaughter

(Door Hugo Kijne te Hoboken USA)

The last four years, when an issue became too toxic for Trump he came up with something out of left field and changed the topic.  Most recently he tried to leave COVID and the economy behind him by only talking about riots and law and order, but this week his tactics backfired.  First Bob Woodward brought back COVID with his book ‘Rage,’ revealing that in early February 2020 the president knew how dangerous the corona virus is and that it can be airborne, in March calling it ‘a killer.’ Meanwhile in public Trump called it ‘a Democratic hoax,’ said that it would ‘just go away in April,‘ urged his armed goons to ‘liberate’ states under lockdown, criticized the wearing of masks, organized superspreader events and pushed for schools to fully reopen, potentially putting millions of children at risk.  The president’s response to Woodward’s revelations was a classic doubling down.  He had not wanted to create a panic by ‘jumping up and down’ yelling ‘this is a disaster.’  Apparently either that or lying to the American people were the only options he saw, and the idea that he could have managed the crisis and saved lives never entered his mind.

This week nature put climate change on top of the agenda, with the largest wildfires in known history raging in the western states and another major hurricane hitting the gulf coast.  Visiting California Trump repeated his earlier opinion, expressed during the 2018 Paradise fire, that climate change is a fable and that the fires are caused by dead leaves and underbrush that haven’t been removed, conveniently forgetting that 57% of the California forests are owned by the federal government.  He told environmental scientists he met with that it ‘would get colder,’ and that he ‘doesn’t think science knows’ anything about climate change, before he flew off to another indoors rally in Nevada, violating that state’s Governor’s orders.  When asked if he didn’t worry about getting infected because only few attendees wore masks the US President said ‘no, because I’m on a podium, far enough removed from the crowd.’  Before attending such events Trump’s followers still have to sign a waiver stating that they won’t sue the Trump campaign if they get infected, which may absolve the president legally but not morally from the carnage he causes.

The Russian front was also full of action.  A whistleblower revealed that DHS had been directed to no longer focus on Russian election interference, ‘because it could embarrass the president,’ after oral reporting to Congress had been halted.  Simultaneously the monitoring of white supremacist groups, according to official intelligence reports the number one internal security threat in the US, would have to be toned down.  It turned out that Giuliani worked with a Russian agent to smear Biden, and John Durham’s main associate quit for fear of DOJ pressure on his probe.

Other than by threatening to selectively and prematurely bring out information about Durham’s investigation of the FBI’s surveillance of the Trump campaign in 2016, Bill Barr is helping Trump by having his department substitute for the president in the defamation suit of E. Jean Carroll, who accuses Trump of rape.  And to top it off the Justice Department opened a criminal investigation into John Bolton’s book ‘The Room Where it Happened’ for possibly having revealed state secrets.

It’s now obvious that Trump is not trying to regularly win the election but that he’s just trying to consolidate power.  ‘If I don’t win it’s rigged,’ is his mantra, and made men of his mafia family like Michael Caputo, who freaked out in his misinformation job at DHSS and will soon check into a funny farm, and Roger Stone, are urging his followers to stack up on ammo respectively for Trump to institute martial law.


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Trump is a One Trick Pony

(Door Hugo Kijne te Hoboken USA)

The US is facing three major crises, but the president is addressing only one, and not by trying to solve it but by trying to make it worse.  First there is the COVID pandemic.  Trump has made it clear that the administration will just wait for a vaccine that according to him might be available by Election Day.  This is his wettest dream, but both the executive in charge of operation Warp Speed and nine pharmaceutical companies have already promised that there will be no shortcuts in getting a vaccine approved, and a majority of Americans doesn’t trust anything the president says about vaccines anymore.  Secondly there is the economy.  Trump is taking credit for its pre-pandemic strength, which was really created by Obama and the Fed, while its partial collapse due to the pandemic the product was of his ineptitude.  The refusal of senate Republicans to pass an adequate second relief package means that the recession will intensify and well over 10 million mostly low income workers and their families will continue to suffer.  And then there is the crisis in race relations, caused by numerous police killings of black Americans, the one crisis Trump has decided to take care of.

Violence in the streets is a necessary condition for the president’s law and order strategy, his Hail Mary pass to save his re-election chances, so he’s doing everything he can to stoke the flames in ‘Democrat’ cities, attacking both Mayors and demonstrators and urging his own armed goons to confront the latter, even defending a murderer who shot two BLM activists.   It isn’t working all that well, because in Wisconsin, which had the latest riots in Kenosha, Trump’s poll numbers went down while Biden’s went up.  To complement his strategy with a fitting insult to America’s minorities the president ordered an end to all diversity training within the government, calling it ‘anti-American.’  A fourth crisis Trump faces is entirely of his own making.  The Atlantic reported that the president, who had refused to visit a cemetery in France where 1,800 US Marines are buried because his hair might get wet, had referred to the fallen soldiers as ‘losers,’ and on another occasion had said that only ‘suckers’ went to Vietnam.  It was nothing new, in light of Trump’s earlier remarks about John McCain and George H.W. Bush, but it sounded harsher than ever before.  

The article came out a few days after a poll showed that the president is no longer supported by a majority of service members, and a good rule says that when you’re in a hole you should stop digging, but Trump doubled down.  Simultaneously he posed as a champion of the military’s rank and file by pretending that he wants to bring them home while top generals want to keep going to war, so that weapons producers can continue to profit.  It was a peculiar statement from a president who prides himself in having significantly raised the Pentagon’s procurement budget.

A budget that wasn’t managed too well was that of the Trump campaign, where $800 million of $1.1 billion disappeared without much to show for it.  Of the spent money $60 million went to Trump’s lawyers, $38 million to Brad Parscale’s digital business, and an unknown amount to the Trump Organization for space rentals, lodging and catering.  The new campaign manager, Bill Stepien, who replaced Parscale, halted advertising in a number of states and now operates on a shoestring.

With all this going on there are the books.  First Mary Trump’s about her uncle, then a book about Melania by her former BFF, now Michael Cohen’s farewell to the Trump mafia family and soon Bob Woodward’s ‘Rage,’ for which the president was interviewed multiple times but that he’s already attacking.  With those titles and a number of earlier publications Trump can have quite a library after his presidency.

 

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