Media (369)

 

The White House of Horrors

(Door Hugo Kijne te Hoboken USA)
 
The week started with very disturbing reporting by the New York Times and other media about the abysmal conditions in child detention centers, more aptly named torture camps, managed by the US Border Patrol.  Diseases spreading among hungry, scared children in dirty clothes, who don’t have enough room to sleep and can’t take a shower. Retaliation against little boys who complained about water with a chlorine taste, by taking their sleeping mats away, and at least one case of sexual assault of a teenage girl by a Border Patrol agent.  Although some of this information came directly from Border Patrol agents, true to form Trump called the NY Times reporting ‘a hoax’ and acting Homeland Security Secretary Kevin McAleenan said the reports were ‘not substantiated,’ while his subordinate Ken Cuccinelli called the facilities ‘safe.’  Abuse of minors became the theme of the week with the arrest at Teterboro Airport of hedge fund manager Jeffrey Epstein, someone Trump once called a ‘terrific guy,’ who was ‘a lot of fun to be with,’ but with whom he claims to have had a falling out ‘a long time ago,’ allowing him now to say that he is ‘not a fan.’

Over the years Epstein molested and raped possibly hundreds of teenage girls.  In 2008 he was convicted in Florida for a reduced charge of ‘soliciting a 14-year-old girl for prostitution.’  He got a sweetheart deal of 13 months in ‘custody with work release,’ in return for which no federal charges would be filed, and had to register as a sex offender.  This week the Southern District of New York filed charges against Epstein for sex trafficking of minors in Florida and New York.  The US Attorney who originally let Epstein off the hook is Alex Acosta, now Trump’s Secretary of Labor, who among other things is in charge of combating human trafficking.  Epstein’s deal was struck in secret meetings between his high-powered lawyers and Acosta, who was ordered by Trump to defend himself in a press conference on Wednesday.  There were no apologies from the Labor Secretary, not even an acknowledgement that the deal he struck was illegal because Epstein’s victims had not been informed about it.  The Florida prosecutor whom Acosta blamed for the deal immediately issued a scathing statement saying that Acosta ‘doesn’t get to rewrite history.’

Trump doesn’t like people who admit mistakes and apologize, so he was pleased with Acosta’s performance and said that he feels ‘very bad’ for his Secretary, who according to him is doing a ‘terrific job.’  In spite of Trump’s support Acosta announced his resignation today.  Almost as peculiar as Trump’s connections to Epstein and Acosta is Attorney General William Barr’s situation.  Barr is obviously Acosta’s colleague, but he also knew Epstein because his father gave Epstein his first job.  Initially Barr recused himself, but then he unrecused himself for what is still to come in this case.

In legal matters Trump had wins and losses.  He is no longer allowed to block followers on Twitter, but a lawsuit filed by Maryland and DC about his violating the emoluments clause won’t go forward.  A lawsuit filed by the House on this issue is still in the courts, and probably this week an Appeals Court will rule on the future of Obamacare, and may very well take health insurance away from 21 million Americans and protection from pre-existing conditions from 133 million others.

Both Barr and Trump have said that they have no problem with Robert Mueller’s testifying in Congress on July 17th, but panic is apparently setting in.  Barr now speaks of a ‘public spectacle’ and is trying to keep members of Mueller’s team from also testifying.  Finally, yesterday Trump took a big loss  and had to acknowledge that he cannot have a citizenship question inserted in the 2020 Census.

 

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Trump’s Gettysburg Address

(Door Hugo Kijne te Hoboken USA)

Donald Trump got his parade, albeit not on Pennsylvania Avenue but in the air above it.  Yesterday, on the Fourth of July, he tried to shine at a made for television event that was all about him, while he pretended that  it was about the US military.  Flanked by two tanks Trump initially mistook for Shermans, a model that was retired in 1957, he gave a speech that was partly a half-baked State of the Union address and partly an 8th grade history lesson, obviously written for him by others.  For once the president didn’t ad-lib to what he read from the teleprompter, but that didn’t salvage his presentation, because he is who and what he is.  When he tries to be solemn Donald Trump becomes slightly amusing, especially when he turns his head like a peacock after successfully finishing a whole sentence.  When he tries to be inclusive he reminds the thinking part of his audience of his racism, and his attempts to share a halo with American heroes serve as a reminder that he’s a draft-dodger.  The president may even have done some damage to himself, because his disingenuous remarks about Martin Luther King, Harriet Tubman and the Civil War probably shocked and angered the overtly fascist part of his base.

The flyovers of aircraft used by the different branches of the military and the renditions of their songs were meant to be the highlight of a week that started with an impromptu visit to Korea’s demilitarized zone, where Trump shook hands with Kim Jong-un and took a couple of steps into North Korea, calling it ‘an honor.’  The two leaders agreed to resume negotiations about denuclearization, but the next day the NY Times reported that the administration would consider accepting just a ‘freeze’ of North Korea’s program, effectively allowing it to remain a nuclear power.   The White House denied this news, but from Mongolia, where Trump had sent him instead of taking him to the G20, John Bolton demanded that the ‘reprehensible’ leaker be found.  It appears that Bolton is not the only Trump advisor who has fallen out of grace, because instead of Sean Hannity Tucker Carlson advised the president on whether to bomb Iran or not and accompanied him to the Far East.  Both at the G20 and in the aftermath of the meeting with Kim Jong-un that she called ‘surreal’ Ivanka Trump made a complete ass of herself, which may be why it was considered better for her not to attend the July 4th celebration.

In spite of the careful choreography Trump slipped in his speech when he claimed that the Continental Army had taken airports from the British in the 18th century, and that was not his only gaffe of the week.  Asked for his opinion about Western Liberalism he started talking about Democratic mayors in California, and in response to a question about bussing as a desegregation tool the president said: “There are only so many ways to get to school and people have been taking the bus for ages.”  He also called homelessness a two year old problem caused by liberals.

Worse than the ignorance evidenced by those remarks was Trump’s assessment of the humanitarian crisis at the southern border.  He claimed that the asylum seekers in his torture camps are living in much better conditions than where they came from, and said that it’s ‘too bad’ if they don’t like those conditions, but that then they shouldn’t have come.  It proved once more that cruelty is not a bi-product of the policy, but that cruelty serving as a deterrent for potential future migrants is the policy.

And although the Commerce and Justice Departments had already decided to comply with a Surpreme Court ruling and not to include a citizenship question in the 2020 Census the president instructed them to find a justification for inserting  such a question that would persuade the Court to change its position.  Government lawyers have until this afternoon to come up with something, so stay tuned.


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Countdown to Mueller

(Door Hugo Kijne te Hoboken USA)

It’s not entirely clear if Trump lied about being informed in the last minute that there might be 150 casualties as a result of bombing military installations in Iran, and only because he asked ‘his very smart generals.’  Since these kinds of determinations are made in the earliest stages of the planning process it’s more likely that the president was briefed but simply forgot, or that he decided to put on an act that allowed him to draw out the following teaser: “Am I going to bomb the shit out of Iran?  Who knows, maybe we’ll find out next week, stay tuned folks.”  For Trump it’s all show business.  Be that as it may, the president is now 3 for 3 in calling off threats he made earlier.  First the tariffs on Mexican products, then the bombing of Iranian targets, and most recently the rounding up and expelling of ‘millions’ of undocumented immigrants, a number that upon verification turned out to be two thousand.  The threat of mass deportations was made as the debate about the president’s immigration policies intensified because of recent revelations about the revolting conditions in which migrant children are being kept in Border Patrol facilities.

Human rights lawyers who visited these torture camps told horror stories of overcrowding, teenagers caring for babies, children sleeping on concrete floors without blankets,  unsanitary conditions, diseases, unhealthy food and no soap and toothbrushes.  When asked about these reports Trump blamed it all on the Democrats, who had not made enough funding available to solve these problems.  The modern fascism that’s being practiced on the southern border was really exposed when a picture of a Guatemalan father with his almost two year old daughter, drowned in the Rio Grande while holding each other, hit the television screens and front pages.  Again Trump blamed the Democrats and said that everything was now much better than under Barack Obama, which may be the most blatant lie of his presidency so far.  It’s true that deportations increased significantly under Obama, but illegal border crossings were at an all time low because Obama didn’t shut down points of entry trying to force asylum seekers to stay in Mexico, and families were not separated unless children were considered at risk of being abused.

As a reminder that the US President is a sexual harasser and a rapist the writer E. Jean Carroll published a segment of her latest book that describes how in 1996 she was attacked and penetrated by Donald J. Trump in the dressing room of Bergdorf Goodman.  Apart from the fact that Ms. Carroll told two friends of the assault at the time, the pattern of Trump’s behavior exactly followed the scenario he laid out in the ‘Access Hollywood’ tape.   Trump’s response was classic: the victim was ‘not his type’ or, in other words, not worth raping.

After lengthy negotiations and two subpoenas it was announced that on July 17th Robert Mueller will testify to the House Judiciary and Intelligence Committees and that most of his testimony will be public.  It is expected that Democrats will ask the former Special Counsel to read, and on occasion explain, passages of his report describing collusion and obstruction of justice.  In anticipation Trump accused Mueller of the crime of having ‘eliminated’ 19,000 text messages.

On his way to the G20 meeting in Japan the president succeeded in insulting pretty much every American ally before he joked with Putin about Russia’s interference in upcoming  US elections.  Back home the Supreme Court established that Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross had lied about a citizenship question in the census, but it also allowed gerrymandering of districs by the states.


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Elvis is in the House

(Door Hugo Kijne te Hoboken USA)

On Tuesday Trump launched his re-election campaign at a rally in Florida and it was déjà-vu all over again.  Pundits compared the president’s performance to Elvis Presley’s staggering on stage in 1977 – the year the King died from a drug overdose – trying to sing his greatest hits.  For Trump those were the Wall and Hillary Clinton’s emails.  He lied to his crowd that a beautiful wall, designed by him, was being built, while in reality only 45 miles of already existing wall have been replaced, and if you didn’t know better you’d think that he was still running against Hillary, which begs the question if the president knows better.  Clearly the ‘lock her up’ chants were music to his ears.  The rally also served as a reminder of broken promises Trump didn’t mention, such as a new system of great, affordable health care for all Americans that never materialized, but that didn’t keep the president from launching the slogan ‘Keep America Great,’ with KAG-hats, undoubtedly already copyrighted by the Trump organization, available on-line and soon on the misguided heads of Trump’s favorite, under-educated segment of the American electorate.

During the week Trump was in full denial mode on issues that were leaked out of his campaign and administration.  Three pollsters who had apparently leaked internal polls showing him losing to Democratic candidates in key states were fired, and the president denied that the US had placed malware in the Russian power grid.  The data the pollsters revealed didn’t exist according to Trump, but were later confirmed by multiple sources. The president accused the New York Times of ‘treason’ for publishing the malware story that parts of his administration clearly had wanted in the public domain but without telling Trump about it, for fear that he would axe the project or give the details to Putin.   More negative polls for the president came out during the week, but experts warned that there might be a reversed ‘Bradley-effect,’ where voters who are planning to vote for Trump won’t tell the pollsters and Democrats are lulled into the belief that the president will be a push-over in 2020.  And eventually it’s not beyond Trump to use the current tense situation with Iran in a ‘Wag the Dog’ scenario, with John Bolton in Robert de Niro’s part.

Apart from tasting like three days old micro-waved Chinese food there were also luscious moments at Trump’s rally.  At some point he told his followers that ‘the Democrats want to destroy you,’ and among the attendees was the African-American man to whom the president once shouted out ‘look at my black guy’ at a different rally.  This token of diversity came into the arena with Sean Hannity, who must have figured that it would counterbalance racist statements about the Central Park Five Trump repeated earlier in the day.

In DC acting Defense Secretary Shanahan withdrew his candidacy for the permanent position to spend more time with his family, something he should have done ten years ago, and Sarah Sanders decided to take her lies back to Arkansas.  Hope Hicks testified in the House, but didn’t say much because the White House claimed ‘absolute immunity’ for the period after Trump’s election, a non-existing bullshit concept that will be challenged in court.

Thursday night the US military was ready to strike Iranian targets because of Iran’s shooting down an American drone, but Trump says that he called the attack off when he was told in the last minute that there could be 150 casualties.  If true, this means that the president was kept out of the planning process and that hawks in his administration tried to start a war.

 
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Trump and the Zodiac Killer

(Door Hugo Kijne te Hoboken USA)

On Friday, August 1, 1969, the Zodiac killer announced that 12 people would be killed before the end of the weekend unless certain demands were met.  He or she (the Zodiac killer was never caught) is on a long list of villains who announced their crimes before committing them, to which now Donald J. Trump’s name can be added.  In an ABC News interview the president said ‘if a foreign country offered information on an opponent, I think I’d take it.’  When informed that accepting what Trump called ‘oppo research’ from a foreign entity is illegal, and that FBI Director Wray had said such an offer should be reported to his agency, the president responded ‘the FBI Director is wrong,’  and that he would not consider the offer interference in the election, just ‘information.’  In his report Robert Mueller wrote that he had not been able to establish that the June 9, 2016, Trump tower meeting with Russians had constituted a crime, because he could not prove that the participants knew they were doing something illegal, but by now every American should know that a campaign’s accepting ‘something of value’ from a foreign individual or government is a criminal offense.  Every American except Trump, that is.

The president’s revealing that he’d break a federal law to be re-elected – on the same day that the Department of Justice announced its investigation of CIA agents involved in the early stages of what would become the Mueller probe – signals to Russia, China and other countries (Trump mentioned Norway) that the Trump campaign is open for business.  It was the low point of a week that started with the announcement that tariffs on Mexican imports were suspended because Mexico had met US demands regarding the reduction of the number of asylum seekers at the southern border, something Mexico’s foreign minister immediately denied.  On the South Lawn of the White House the president pulled a single sheet of paper out of his pocket that allegedly contained ‘the agreement,’ but said he could not show the content because Mexico was supposed to announce it first.  Trump watchers were reminded of the pile of manila folders with information about Trump’s business holdings that nobody was allowed to see, or of ‘Trump steaks’ bought at a local butcher store.  The president also proudly mentioned a ‘beautiful love letter’ from North Korea’s dictator Kim Jong-un he had just received.

Asked about a series of polls, both national and by state (including internal polls from his own campaign), that showed significant weakness for Trump against Democratic candidates, the president said that the internal polls didn’t exist and that the polling numbers were ‘fake news.’ His attacks this week were exclusively directed at Joe Biden, whose mental ability he questioned.  Many pundits saw this as a case of projection, because there is plenty of speculation that Trump is not playing with a full deck anymore, as was evidenced by his mistaking Mueller for Barr in one of his rants.

With regards to impeachment the president appears to be limping upon two opinions:  politically he might benefit from being impeached, because it would allow him to play his favorite part, that of the victim, and after an acquittal in the senate he could claim to be exonerated, but his fragile personality would most likely be hurt beyond repair by being mentioned in one breath with Andrew Johnson and Bill Clinton until the end of times.  Since for Trump everything is about ego he will fight impeachment tooth and nail.

Trump’s remarks about oppo research received from a foreign country were triggered by a question about his son Don Jr.’s testimony in Congress.   Political commentators are eagerly awaiting his comments following the testimony of Hope Hicks next week.  After Ivanka she, and not Melania or Stormy, has arguably been the most important woman in the president’s life during the last ten years, and new, shocking statements are expected.


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