Media (369)

 

A Rat in the House

(Door Hugo Kijne te Hoboken USA)

In business Trump had a reputation for paying off his last debt with his next loan, which most likely put him deeply in debt with Putin’s clique.  In politics the president is trying to do the same thing, taking attention away from the latest scandal by creating a new one.  There is no security crisis on the southern border, illegal crossings are at an 18 year low, but Trump manufactured a humanitarian crisis by making it all but impossible for asylum seekers to be processed and taking thousands of children away from their parents.  The next step would be to declare a national emergency and use his new autocratic powers to try and build his ludicrous wall, by taking money out of the Pentagon budget if an attempt to use emergency funding for victims of hurricanes in Puerto Rico and Texas and of wildfires in California fails.  Holding 800,000 government workers and a growing number of people and businesses depending on their services hostage, Trump now claims he never said Mexico would pay cash for the wall, in spite of videos showing the opposite.  Another video showed the results of a Home Depot saw cutting easily through the president’s preferred wall design.

As a true grifter, in a short speech from the Oval Office that resembled a hostage video but turned out to be a fundraising ploy for his campaign, for which the major networks were abused, Trump made his case to the American people.  The next day he gave candy to Nancy Pelosi and when she didn’t give him $5.7 billion for the wall in return he ran out of a meeting in the Situation Room, making the impasse complete.  Declaring a national emergency now appears to be his only way out of this mess, in spite of the fact that it will be immediately challenged in court and stayed, because even in Trump’s own words the crisis is not on the southern border but in DC.  The president can then tell his base that he tried as hard as he could and keep the wall alive as an issue for the next campaign.  Meanwhile his attempt to push other scandals off the front pages is failing.  It was revealed that Paul Manafort shared Trump campaign polling data with a Russian who is still connected with his country’s security services, and on February 7th Michael Cohen will publicly testify before the House Oversight Committee about the crimes Trump ordered him to commit.

There can be no doubt that the information Manafort provided to the Russians was used to interfere in the US elections, and if Trump knew anything about it it makes a conspiracy charge even more shut than the Trump Tower meeting with Natalia Vesilnitskaya, who last week was proven to be a Russian government agent, already does.   Cohen’s testimony can be even more damaging, because for the whole world to see and hear on live television he will implicate Trump in a campaign finance violation scheme that constitutes a felony he will go to jail for.

The fact that Trump in good mafia boss tradition called Cohen ‘a rat’ indicates how fearful he is of his former fixer’s testimony.  Cohen won’t be able to talk about things prosecutors are still investigating, like the Trump Organization, but he will have enough to say.  Anticipating the fall-out of these developments the White House has added seventeen new lawyers to its staff, and Rudy Giuliani demanded to see the Mueller report before the Department of Justice decides what to do with it.

Meanwhile furloughed government workers and those working without pay are suffering, unable to pay mortgages and the like.  The Coast Guard suggested to its members to hold yard sales or become dog walkers to make ends meet.  Because for Trump the only thing that matters is ‘the tallest’ or ‘the biggest,’ at some point he will boast about being responsible for the longest shutdown, which it will be by tomorrow.

 

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De stankgolf van een gedreven journalist

De Volkskrant heeft niet zoveel abonnees in Rotterdam. Het had daar lange tijd een klein kantoor aan de Nieuwe Binnenweg. 
      Op dat kantoor hing een soort oorkonde van de Dikke van Dale. Een pamflet, waarin vermeld werd dat het nieuwe woord stankgolf geijkt was en in een volgende editie zou worden opgenomen.
Uitvinder van dat woord was mijn collega Wim Phylipsen met wie ik van eind 1971  tot half 1977 op die Rotterdamse redactie heb samengewerkt.  Vanochtend stond in de Volkskrant dat Wim Phylipsen plotseling is overleden.
      Hij was tachtig jaar.

Ik was, toen ik bij de Volkskrant begon 26 jaar en keek nogal op tegen mijn nieuwe collega's. Ik had namelijk alleen nog maar bij regionale kranten als het Leidsch Dagblad en het Dagblad De Stem gewerkt.
      De werkwijze en de instelling van de Volkskrant moest ik nog leren. Wim Phylipsen was daarbij mijn leermeester. Hij las mijn verhalen hardop voor en liet dan op subtiele vaak humoristische wijze weten hoe het beter kon. 
      Maar hij wilde dat ik zijn verhalen ook voorlas en daarbij kritiek leverde. Dat vond ik in het begin ongehoord, maar na een paar maanden was het vanzelfsprekend geworden.

Een jaar of zes geleden reageerde hij plotseling op mijn blog. Een levendige correspondentie volgde.
      Wim Phylipsen was een geboren Rotterdammer, die er altijd moeite mee had als mensen in ''zijn stad'' ''zijn krant'' een Amsterdamse krant noemden.
Hij had waardering voor de Rotterdamse mentaliteit, kende de haven bewonderenswaardig goed, had contacten op alle niveaus en was verder een karakteristieke, innemende man.

      Ik ben hem veel dank verschuldigd... .  

 

 

 

The Kremlin in DC

(Door Hugo Kijne te Hoboken USA)

The brilliant movie ‘The Death of Stalin’ shows the members of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the USSR fawning over their leader, first when he’s still alive and kicking, then when he becomes unconscious after a brain hemorrhage, and even after his death.  They whisper the obligatory compliments and commendations, scared that Stalin may catch them uttering one wrong word, like the name of a former comrade who has been disposed of by the NKVD (People's Commissariat for Internal Affairs) , and fearful of what their colleagues might report to ‘the boss’ about them.  There must be a similar atmosphere in the White House, not only among staffers but also among cabinet members.  The latter was on full display yesterday, when Trump held one of those meetings where nothing of substance is being discussed but Department Secretaries are supposed to heap praise on him, after which he does them one better.  This time acting Attorney General Whitaker took the cake for effusively lauding the fact that Trump had stayed in DC over the holidays.  It was too much for Mike Pence, who chimed in that he, too, had stayed in Washington, hoping for some extra credit.

What Trump has in common with Stalin is megalomania and the inability to take responsibility for any failures, always blaming and blasting others for government actions that go awry.  Add to that the president’s pathological narcissism, and it leads to statements like: “I think I would have been a good general, but who knows,” in spite of a total lack of military experience, and “I could run for any office in Europe,” notwithstanding his extreme unpopularity in the Old World.  Sitting next to the acting Secretary of Defense Trump said that he ‘effectively’ fired Jim Mattis, something all attendees knew to be a lie, and praised the 1979 Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, all but inviting the Russians back there together with India, a move that would significantly boost Pakistan’s support of the Taliban and soon lead to their taking over the country.  The president, who received a bone spur deferment from serving in Vietnam thanks to a doctor who did his landlord, Trump’s father, a favor, also saw fit to make fun of ‘his’ generals, who are ‘better looking than Tom Cruise,’ and of the ‘extremely big’ guns of Secret Service members protecting him in the White House.

Fortunately, unlike Stalin Trump has a Congress to reckon with, which will probably be his downfall.  He says he won’t hesitate to force over 800,000 government workers to go without a paycheck for a prolonged period of time, half of them without a chance to ever recoup their salary, but Speaker Nancy Pelosi won’t give him a penny for a wall that is only a useless monument to his vanity, and that Mexico was supposed to pay for to begin with.  As this conflict drags on, the dire consequences of the shutdown will accumulate, and even the GOP will have to abandon Trump.

Yesterday former Homeland Security Secretary Jay Johnson pointed out that there is already 700 miles of fencing in places where it makes sense on the southern border that could be somewhat expanded and complemented with technologically more advanced security tools.  So there is a deal to be made, but Trump is too ignorant of the facts to see it.  His ignorance stretches from the southern border to Syria, which he characterized as ‘death and sand’ with no ‘real wealth’ that could be taken.

When asked by Chuck Schumer to give one argument for keeping large parts of the government closed instead of continuing to discuss border security under temporary funding, Trump said: “Because opening the government would make me look foolish.”  To give us a preview yesterday he looked really foolish when he showed up in the White House press room to take some attention away from Nancy Pelosi and had nothing to say.

 

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Road Trip

(Door Hugo Kijne te Hoboken USA)

Even when Donald Trump does the right thing he fucks up.  On Tuesday he finally made his first visit to US troops in a war zone, having traveled to Iraq overnight with Melania.  Apparently the president was very concerned about his personal security, so he picked a  country that’s now relatively safe and never left the base.  He met with only a small number of servicemen, some dressed in full battle fatigues who turned out to be members of the Navy Seals 5 team, which raised suspicion that the whole thing was staged as a reality show.  In his speech Trump lied to the troops that he was the first president to give them a pay raise in ten years, and got into his usual rant about ‘the wall,’ shamelessly using members of the military as props to promote his domestic policies.  The president defended his decision to withdraw all troops from Syria by characterizing Americans as the ‘suckers’ of the world, who always do other countries’ fighting without getting appropriately compensated, suggesting that he’s willing to pimp out US soldiers as mercenaries if the price is right.  The fact that Trump didn’t meet with any of Iraq’s leaders made some of them demand that all US troops leave their country.

The visit followed a couple of days when Trump was home alone in the White House, after acting like a high school student whose sweetheart broke up with him by forcing Jim Mattis out per January 1st and then closing the government.  The president complained about his loneliness, pretended to sign bills that don’t exist, and claimed to have signed a contract for the construction of 115 miles of the wall, something a US President typically doesn’t do.  In the process he shortened the wall from 2,000 to 515 miles and reduced it from a concrete contraption to a metal fence.  The fact that every entity Trump was ever involved with, from the Trump organization and foundation to his campaign, inaugural committee and administration, is now under investigation is taking its toll, and in an Oval Office meeting with the press pool the president fulminated about the Mueller probe and how the Democrats are out to get him, finishing with a heartfelt ‘Merry Christmas anyway.’  Trump also claimed to have received overwhelming encouragement from furloughed government workers to keep their departments closed, which is a miracle since the White House cannot be reached because of the shutdown.

During this week the background of Trump’s decision to pull the troops out of Syria came into focus.  The president seems to think that Saudi Arabia and Turkey have leverage over the US, the former because they ‘buy lots of stuff,’ and the latter for reasons nobody understands.   Records show that a phone call with Erdogan contributed to Trump’s decision, and pundits speculate that the Turkish president told Trump US troops would be in harm’s way when Turkey goes after the Syrian Kurds, who have been America’s most reliable allies, en passant promising that Turkey would also take care of ISIS.

Yesterday Rudy Giuliani opened his Pandora’s box of confused opinions in an interview with ‘The Hill,’ basically admitting that Trump is guilty of everything he has ever been accused of but that none of it is a crime.   Meanwhile McClatchy claims that there is hard evidence that places Michael Cohen in Prague in August 2016 coordinating interference in the elections with the Russians.  If this is true Robert Mueller knows it already, despite Cohen’s understandable denials, and the collusion, or rather conspiracy, case is closed.

Because of this latest information Mueller’s report, which might come out in February, is expected to be another bombshell, and we might even get to see the pee-pee tape before all is said and done.   It is questionable if Matt Whitaker, the acting Attorney General, will still be involved in the decision whether to release the report, after the news has broken  that he listed Academic All American honors which he never earned on his resumé.


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Distractions

(Door Hugo Kijne te Hoboken USA)

Whether you are still in the Trump administration or no longer part of it, your past can always come back to haunt you.  A video of Mick Mulvaney surfaced in which he called Trump ‘a terrible human being,’ and Michael Flynn tried to make a judge believe that he didn’t know you’re not supposed to lie to the FBI.  Mulvaney salvaged his appointment as acting  Chief of Staff by saying that at the time he didn’t know Donald Trump, but Flynn was not so lucky.  The judge threatened to throw the book at him, in spite of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s recommendation that Flynn get no jail time, and eventually forced Flynn to show that he really is a good boy by having him co-operate with Mueller three more months before being sentenced.  In contrast to his unwavering support for Flynn, who already met with Mueller’s staff nineteen times and apparently provided them with useful information, Trump called Michael Cohen ‘a rat,’ using a term out of the mafia lexicon that indicates the president justifiably sees himself as a mob boss.

As Mueller’s net tightens around the president the Attorney General of New York shut down the Trump Foundation for self-dealing and tax evasion, stating that the charity basically served as a checkbook for the Trumps.  The fraud goes back to the early years of the foundation, since one of the expenditures was a $7 enrollment fee for Don Jr. in the Boy Scouts of America.  Trump and his eldest children are no longer allowed to serve on the boards of other non-profits, which means that the US President cannot serve on the board of the Staten Island Little League.  Rudy Giuliani appeared to contribute to Trump’s woes by telling an interviewer that Trump was still engaged in discussions about a Trump Tower in Moscow in November of 2016.  Giuliani often fucks up, but it’s Hizzoner’s role to throw out stuff Trump has lied about that’s going to come out anyway, so this was probably intentional.  Giuliani also said that Trump would only sit down with Mueller over his dead body, but ominously added ‘I might be dead.’

On Wednesday Trump suddenly announced the complete withdrawal of US troops from Syria via Twitter, declaring that ISIS has been defeated.  His decision took the Pentagon, the State Department, Congress and US allies by surprise, but was praised by Putin, who said ‘Donald is right.’  ISIS still holds a small enclave in Syria, but the main beneficiaries will be Russia and Iran, whose positions in Syria are strengthened, while the Turks, who put strong pressure on Trump to withdraw the 2,000 servicemen, will start slaughtering Syrian Kurds – America’s main allies – as soon as the troops are gone.   For Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis it was the straw that broke the camel’s back, and he resigned with a scathing criticism of Trump’s betrayal of allies and undermining international alliances.

Trump was not done creating distractions, and on Thursday, bullied by Ann Coulter and Rush Limbaugh, declared that he would not sign a Continuing Resolution that would keep the government funded without allocating $5 billion for ‘The Wall.’  The president backpeddled on an earlier, bizarre statement that Mexico would pay for the wall via the USMCA agreement, and went as far as comparing the wall with ‘the wheel.’  In an act of desperation the lame duck House passed a funding bill that included the $5 billion but is bound to die in the US Senate, after which a cruel Trump shutdown becomes a reality.

At the Department of Justice the Mueller probe, the ultimate reason for Trump’s panic moves, is endangered by both the acting and the nominated Attorney General.  Matt Whitaker refused to recuse himself, and it turned out that Bill Barr has written a memo opposing the ‘obstruction of justice’ part of the investigation.  So far Robert Mueller has always been one step ahead of his distractors, and hopefully he will keep it that way.

 

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