Media (402)


Trump Yells at the Data

(Door Hugo Kijne te Hoboken USA)

With the images still fresh of Donald and Melania Trump triumphantly holding a baby that had been shot, the way Don Jr. and Eric Trump hold a baby elephant they have just murdered, the expectation was that the president might be willing to make a gesture, however minimal, on gun control.  Initially he said ‘I want something done,’ but a couple of days later that had deflated to ‘I think Mitch McConnell wants to do something.’  Meanwhile Jeffrey Epstein hung himself in a New York federal penitentiary, or so it seems, and Trump re-tweeted the conspiracy theory that Bill Clinton had a hand in Epstein’s death.  A president accusing a predecessor of murder is so unheard of that under normal circumstances it would be considered shocking, but in the Trump era it is just one more thing.  More than by last week’s mass shootings Trump was upset that he had been branded a racist for inciting the violence in El Paso and wasn’t able to shake that label.  Although ‘white supremacist’ is more accurate it would be smart for the Democratic candidates to keep the ‘Racist Trump’ tag alive, because it drives him nuts and causes him to make mistakes.

Trump’s vision of a predominantly white America was verbalized by Ken Cuccinelli, Director of US Citizenship and Immigration Services, who rewrote Emma Lazarus’s poem on the Statue of Liberty ‘give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, the wretched refuse of your teeming shore,’ so that it now reads ‘give me your tired and your poor who can stand on their own two feet and who will not become a public charge.’  Just to prevent any misunderstandings Cuccinelli clarified that the poem had been written in a time when all immigrants were coming from Europe.  ‘Means-testing’ aspiring immigrants and admitting only self-reliant people will exclude the primarily colored transients who want to come to America to make a better life for themselves and are indispensable in many sectors of the US economy, and it will immediately face legal challenges.  Trump would have felt good about himself for driving more fear into the hearts of poor economic migrants and asylum seekers if the stock market had not lost 800 points, possibly foreboding a recession that would sink his re-election chances.

In spite of his often proclaimed business acumen the president knows nothing about economics and he doesn’t get much help in the White House.  His chief economic advisor only played an economist on TV, and his tariffs expert is considered a halfwit by real economists.  Parroting some words he just learned Trump tweeted ‘CRAZY inverted yield curve,’ as if he was yelling at the data, and blamed the Fed chairman, but he also finally acknowledged that his tariffs are hurting US consumers by putting new tariffs on Chinese imports off until after the holiday shopping season.

A normal president would have called China out on its threatening democracy in Hong Kong, according to pundits to honor the US tradition as guardian of freedom around the world, but  Trump didn’t get beyond a statement that the situation is ‘very tough’ and that he hopes ‘it works out for everybody, including China.’  In a tweet he later expressed his opinion that if Xi Jinping would only meet with the demonstrators a ‘beautiful solution’ would emerge almost immediately.

In an effort to distract attention from the economy and his tanking poll numbers Trump, in an unprecedented move, urged Israel not to admit two congresswomen, Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib, who happen to be dark-skinned Muslimas.  Netanyahu complied, but the president will get payback if New York City honors a petition signed by 290 thousand residents to rename the Trump Tower block on 5th Avenue to ‘Barack Obama Avenue.’


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A Rock Star in El Paso

(Door Hugo Kijne te Hoboken USA)

Last Friday Trump tweeted sarcastically about a burglary at the home of Congressman Elijah Cummings in Baltimore.  “Really bad news,” and “too bad,” were his words, and pundits thought that the president couldn’t go any lower but during the course of this week he proved them wrong.  In an eight-month period Trump had mentioned an ‘invasion’ of illegal immigrants on the southern border at least 21 times during public appearances, no less than 7 times at a rally in Melbourne, Florida, in May.  “What to do about it?” he asked the crowd, and someone yelled ‘shoot them,’ which made Trump smile and crack a joke.  Saturday night a white supremacist took a cue from the president’s rhetoric and drove 10 hours to El Paso to kill Mexicans, after posting a ‘manifesto’ on an extremist website parroting Trump’s words.  In a Walmart store he killed 22 people and injured 24 others before being arrested.  That massacre was followed by another shooting early Sunday morning in Dayton, Ohio, where 9 mostly black people lost their lives.  There was no clear political motive for the second shooting, but the country was in shock so the president had to act.

In a teleprompter speech on Monday morning that he read like a zombie under anesthesia Trump addressed the situation.  The speech was written by Stephen Miller, who had an easy time with it because he only had to write down everything that’s opposite to his convictions.  The president said “Now is the time to set destructive partisanship aside, so destructive, and find the courage to answer hatred with unity, devotion and love.” As causes for the violence in El Paso he mentioned video games, the Internet, the media and mental illness.  Omitted were the availability of assault weapons and his own xenophobic rants.  Trump didn’t stay in that conciliatory mood for long, because first he criticized the New York Times for having changed a dubious headline about his speech, presenting himself once again as a victim, and then he angrily attacked Beto O’Rourke, who used to represent El Paso in Congress and blamed the president for the shooting, with a tweet mocking O’Rourke’s Hispanic nickname and telling him to ‘be quiet.’ Before he traveled to Dayton and El Paso on Wednesday morning Trump declared on the South Lawn “my words bring people together.”

The president was going to meet with victims, their families, first responders and caregivers, to offer his condolences and support, so what could possibly go wrong?  In Dayton apparently all went well, at least according to Senator Sherrod Brown and Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley, who told the press that Trump had ‘done the right things’ and that the victims were glad that he came.  Inexplicably though, during his flight from Dayton to El Paso Trump tweeted that Senator Brown and Mayor Whaley had ‘totally misrepresented what took place inside of the hospital.’

In El Paso a large group of residents voiced their opinion that Trump shouldn’t have come, and as a result the president only huddled with Republican politicians and stayed out of sight.  After his visit to a local hospital he told the press pool that was not allowed to accompany him “everybody loves me here,” and his Director of Social Media and former golf caddie tweeted that Trump had been treated like a rock star.  However, the Washington Post reported that none of the victims had agreed to meet him.

Soon after the president’s visits it became clear why press and photographers had not been allowed in the hospitals when the White House started circulating videos of Trump surrounded by first responders and elated supporters.  It was unclear if he had paid most of them to be there, like he did when he announced his candidacy, or if his staff had been able to corral every Trumper in El Paso into the hospital.

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Of Mice and Men

(Door Hugo Kijne te Hoboken USA)

After his racist attacks on ‘the Squad’ Trump stayed on track by attacking House Oversight Committee Chairman Elijah Cummings, whose largely minority district in Baltimore the president called ‘disgusting’ and ‘a rat and rodent infested mess,’ suggesting that human beings cannot live there.  The attack was partly motivated by the fact that Cummings had subpoenaed the government related emails Ivanka and Jared sent from private accounts, and partly caused by the racism that is in Trump’s genes.  When Cummings responded and Al Sharpton supported him the president played ‘I know you are, but what am I,’ calling both men racists and himself ‘the least racist person anywhere in the world.’  Soon after Trump’s attack articles started circulating about New York City Health Inspectors who once found Trump Tower, in particular its restaurant ‘the Grille,’ infested with mice and roaches.  Simultaneously it became known that Jared Kushner is acting as a slumlord in Cummings’s district, where he owns thousands of apartments and town houses, many of which are almost uninhabitable because of mold, bedbugs, leaks and rodents.

On the foreign policy front Trump defended Mitch McConnell, who was very upset after having been called ‘Moscow Mitch’ for his refusal to bring election security measures to the senate floor.  ‘McConnell knows even less than I know about Russia,’ asserted the president, ‘and I know nothing.’  After thus reassuring the nation Trump created new panic by appointing Congressman John Ratcliffe as successor to Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats.  Other than half a year on the House Intelligence Committee Ratcliffe has no experience in national security policy, but he distinguished himself in Trump’s eyes with a shameless attack on Robert Mueller, whose report he claimed in an interview had really been written by Hillary Clinton.  The appointee tried to embellish his resumé by revealing that he had prosecuted terrorists, but that turned out to be a blatant lie.  The DNI is supposed to be the least partisan official in DC, because he or she has to give the president the best possible information available, and by appointing an ultra-partisan candidate Trump would have seriously undermined national security, but Friday afternoon Ratcliffe’s nomination was withdrawn.

On Wednesday the president called Putin to offer American assistance in fighting wildfires in Siberia, about which he apparently cares more than about California.  It’s unclear what other issues were discussed, but it’s always possible that Trump begged for the pee-pee tape.  In a brilliant move he put Lindsey Graham in charge of negotiations with Iran, while simultaneously sanctioning Iran’s Foreign Secretary so that Graham has nobody to talk to.  Dealing a heavy blow to America’s standing in the world the totally unqualified Kelly Craft was confirmed as US Ambassador to the UN.

Next to the report about rodents and roaches an impressive list was published of gangsters and crooks who once owned or still own condos in Trump Tower, the crimes they were sentenced or are prosecuted for, and the number of years they spent or might yet spend in the slammer.  And at a signing ceremony for the funding of health care for 9/11 first responders Trump, who has been spotted exactly once at Ground Zero, came awfully close to presenting himself as a first responder.

At a rally in Cincinnati last night  Trump didn’t mention the Squad, to avoid ‘Send her back’ chants, but instead blasted ‘inner cities,’ a dogwhistle for minority neigborhoods.  He singled out Baltimore,  where according to him there are more homicides than in Afghanistan.   Next to the fact that it’s in his blood Trump is running a racist campaign because with the economy slowing down he has nothing else to run on..

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No Nothing is Something

(Door Hugo Kijne te Hoboken USA)

On the eve of Robert Mueller’s testimony in the House Trump was clearly worried. ‘There was no collusion, no obstruction, no nothing,’ he trumpeted to the White House press corps on the South Lawn, calling Mueller ‘very conflicted,’ not only because he was Jim Comey’s best friend but also because he had a major conflict with Trump himself.  In a response Comey informed the media that he and Mueller are not friends and haven’t spoken each other in three years, and it is common knowledge that the ‘major’ conflict was about the membership fee of one of Trump’s golf courses that Mueller considered too high.  The former Special Counsel decided to cancel his membership and go play somewhere else, and has probably already forgotten about it, but since it is about money it is automatically major for Trump, whose father taught him to pick up nails at construction sites so that they could be re-used and whose greed and stinginess have no limits. The very first question from Chairman Nadler to Mueller was ‘was there obstruction?’ and the answer was ‘yes.’ The second question was ‘was there exoneration?’ and the answer was ‘no.’

Mueller’s testimony for the Judiciary Committee could have stopped there and then, but every member had to have his or her five minutes in the sun, and while the Democrats without much success tried to elicit useful information from Mueller, who stuck to the content of his report as he had announced in advance and often simply referred to it, the Republicans were engaged in a grandstanding competition of which one of the highlights was the statement that ‘collusion is largely synonymous with conspiracy,’ a line selectively quoted from the report which is correct according to most dictionaries but not according to criminal law, where conspiracy is defined but collusion is not.  Another gem was the observation that ‘deciding to exonerate or not is not a Department of Justice tradition,’ which was somewhat out of place because the report neither exonerated Trump nor accused him of a crime.  A low point was the attack on Mueller’s character by Freedom Caucus member Jim Jordan, a thug who knew about sexual abuse in a wrestling program he once coached for but said nothing about it.  The contrast with Mueller could not have been clearer.

Halfway Mueller’s testimony Trump was pretty happy about it and re-tweeted Fox News’ Chris Wallace’s assessment that Mueller’s performance was a disaster for the Democrats.  Of course the president can only process visual information, so the images of screaming Republicans left a positive impression with him while he didn’t register questions that were carefully crafted by Democrats.  However, chances are that by nighttime Trump was not as jolly as at 12 noon.

In response to Democratic questioning Mueller revealed that in answers to written questions the president had been less than truthful while under oath, and responding to a now deeply regretted Republican question Mueller confirmed that Trump can still be indicted after leaving office, meaning that he has to win in 2020 to run out the clock on the statute of limitations and stay out of jail.

In all the fuzz about Mueller’s testimony it almost escaped attention that on Monday Trump said that he could win the war in Afghanistan in a week by wiping the country off the face of the earth.  Meanwhile the president’s Doral property is in competition to host the G7 meeting, even though he’s still being sued for violating the emoluments clause.

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Send Her Back

(Door Hugo Kijne te Hoboken USA)

Donald Trump has always been a racist.  His father Fred, who was his role model, marched with the Ku Klux Klan in the 1930s, and when Donald joined him in the real estate business together they kept black tenants out of their apartments, until they were caught and had to settle and pay.  When Donald ran casinos in Atlantic City with daddy’s money and came visiting, black employees were rushed off the floor so that he wouldn’t have to see them.  He took out a full page advertisement to demand the death penalty for the Central Park Five, five black teenagers who were accused of raping a female jogger but later exonerated after DNA testing, and even after they were set free Trump still maintained that they were guilty.  Trump’s ‘birtherism’ claimed that Barack Obama had not been born in the USA, and that therefore Obama’s presidency was illegitimate, and as a presidential candidate he demanded that all Muslims be denied access to the US, something he tried to implement as president.  He called African countries ‘shitholes’, and this week he launched an attack on four female members of the House with a minority background.

Initially Trump said that the four radical members of the Democratic caucus, known as ‘the squad,’ who according to him ‘are trying to tear our country down,’ should go back to where they came from, but when he was informed that three of them were born in the USA he focused on Ilhan Omar, who was born in Somalia and immigrated when she was twelve years old.  At a campaign rally Wednesday night the president singled her out and got his crowd to chant ‘send her back,’ approvingly nodding his head for at least fifteen seconds.  On Thursday he falsely claimed that he had tried to stop the chanting and disapproved of it, but also suggested that Omar might at one point have been married to her brother.  It is still unclear what Trump is trying to achieve with his hate-spewing language.  He wants the squad to be the face of the Democratic Party, and achieved that the House condemned his racism while a motion to impeach him because of it was tabled, but if his strategy is to add every racist who has not yet voted for him to his base it is a monumentally stupid one, because he’ll lose more votes from moderates and independents than he gains.

Trump is a day-trader, so long term strategy is not exactly his thing and it’s likely that his prejudiced  instincts let him stumble into something that feels comfortable to him but that frightens both Republican strategists and House members.  The latter have so far given Trump coverage by collectively voting against the House motion that castigated his racism, but they also asked Vice President Pence in a closed meeting to make Trump distance himself from his recent rhetoric.  Meanwhile the president has united House Democrats who started the week with serious internal divisions.

In New York City child rapist Jeffrey Epstein was denied bail, but not before a video surfaced showing Trump and Epstein partying at Mar-a-Lago in 1992 with at least two dozen young female models.  Epstein is looking at 45 years in prison, and considering what he must know about his circle of friends – to which Trump once belonged – and business associates, chances are that he will start ‘singing’ to prosecutors as part of a plea deal, and many powerful men might be implicated.

Also in New York the Southern District declared the campaign finance law violation case that sent Michael Cohen to jail closed, but also revealed that contrary to Trump’s denials there had been intensive communications between Cohen and Trump, a non-indicted co-conspirator, all through the payoff of Stormy Daniels that followed the release of the Access Hollywood tape.

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