// 100 days under President Trump //
(in a freak accident, I deleted the remaining entries – now I wanna cry, but will try to rewrite them one after another from what’s left in my drafts soon…)
80. (Sun, 09 Apr 2017) – THE BANNON-KUSHNER COMPLEX
When, a few weeks into his presidency, the President had enough of his critics, he lashed out at the media in a memorable press conference (16 Feb) and defended his administration as a “fine-tuned machine”.
If that is the case, this fine-tuned machine is up against a well-oiled machine, commonly known as Washington, D.C.
This city, regardless of the current administration, has a modus operandi far beyond mere party lines. Everyone in this town has an agenda, very few of them are altruistic.
Two powerful people right now trying to play that modus to their own advantage are Steve Bannon and Jared Kushner. From what you hear coming out of the White House: not the best of buddies, these two. A few days ago, Roger Stone, the Republican political svengali, spread the rumour that Kushner was leaking information about Bannon to the liberal media. One day later, this past Wednesday to be precise, it was announced that Steve Bannon was removed from his controversial role at the National Security Council.
Even these two, while on the same team inside the White House, each seem to have their own agendas. Bannon doesn’t just want to shake up the system, he is set on destroying the old order. Kushner, on the other end, is seemingly just trying to find his place within Washington’s established ways of running things to further his riches – in status, influence, and wealth.
And so, according to White House chatter, these two men, who are as close as it gets to Donald Trump, have been locking horns over policy substance and style. Bannon is the President’s Chief Strategist. In other words: in the White House food chain very damn close to the top. Kushner is the President’s Senior Advisor. In its own right pretty high up there, in other words. But a simple fact puts him in front of Bannon when it comes to the feast of the hounds: he is married to Ivanka Trump, which makes him family in the President’s eyes.
If these two aren’t getting along, their infighting dominates the headlines over the week. To bury the hatchet, the two men sat down this weekend at Mar-a-Lago at the behest of the President to talk things over to end their distracting political warfare. Once and for all. Trump, according to reports, told them to cut the arguments: “We gotta work this out.”
When Paul McCartney came to John Lennon with the music and part of the first verse for “We can work it out”, his musical partner added a darker twist to McCartney’s optimistic lyrics: “Life is very short, and there’s no time / For fussing and fighting, my friend.”
It was a symbiosis of styles that got the thing done. But, even as an example for a true Lennon/McCartney collaboration, George Harrison actually perfected the form of the song by coming up with the idea to use 3/4 time for the middle of the bridge. A twist that whipped that quirky 2:17min into its perfect shape.
No, the Three Vice Men in the White House have nothing to do with the three Beatles. Comparing them would never occur to me. However, this might just act as a reminder: when three geniuses work together, their minds can create something beautiful.
What if three self-serving stooges eventually agree on an agenda?
–> SONG SUGGESTION for the day: Cliff Richard, “We don’t talk anymore”
79. (Sat, 08 Apr 2017) – A LETTER FROM THE PRESIDENT
Normally more prone on a Saturday to be knocking a few balls on the golf course, the President opted to do something else instead today: a bit of paperwork.
After Thursday’s strike, Donald Trump today officially notified Congress about taking military action against a Syrian air base. He sent his letter in accordance with the War Powers Resolution, which requires the President to notify Congress withing 48 hours of committing armed forces to military action.
In the letter, Trump explained the decision to attack the air base in three handy paragraphs, justifying the action to promote “the stability of the region and averting a worsening of the region’s current humanitarian catastrophe”:
"I acted in the vital national security and foreign policy interests of the United States, pursuant to my constitutional authority to conduct foreign relations and as Commander in Chief and Chief Executive. The United States will take additional action, as necessary and appropriate, to further its important national interests." – Donald Trump, 8 April 2017
Legal scholars will have to wrangle over the procedure and timing, whether notifying Congress after the attack was legitimate or not. The hypocrisy of Trump calling out President Obama in a tweet years ago for not consulting Congress in the Syrian question aside, the most intriguing thing about Trump’s move on Thursday is how he will carve throwing bricks at the enemy into a strategic vision for the U.S. and the region as a whole.
He might just start doing that tomorrow. Because today (JK earlier, you guys) he was on the golf course. Of course.
–> SONG SUGGESTION for the day: The Box Tops, “The letter”
78. (Fri, 07 Apr 2017) – SIMPLE MAJORITY
He died in his sleep just to wake a thousand barking pit bulls: When U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia was found dead in his bed on a visit in Texas in February 2016, it didn’t take long for the living to disrupt the silence of his wake.
With the unexpected death of the 79-year-old conservative voice on the high court, a highly partisan skirmish immediately ensued that would last for over a year as Republicans and Democrats fought over the timing and procedure of nominating as well as the name of Scalia’s successor. Until today, that is.
Because today, finally, Judge Neil McGill Gorsuch was confirmed by the Senate to become the 113th justice of the U.S. Supreme Court. This day, funnily enough, marks an important occasion for no other than Donald Trump, who pledged during the campaign to appoint a conservative judge, thereby potentially shaping the Supreme Court for years to come. No small feat for some of his more reluctant voters before 8 November.
Gorsuch, only 49 years old, could help uphold a conservative majority on the bench for quite some time. So getting him confirmed was paramount for Trump, having to fulfil a quintessential campaign promise. In the end, Gorsuch was confirmed with a 54-45 vote along party lines. Three Democrats veered, however: Joe Donnelly, Heidi Heitkamp, and Joe Manchin voted for Trump’s nominee. With might seem rather odd to some, given the fact that Senate Republicans shielded the vacant seat all summer long by outright refusing to even give Judge Merrick Garland, President Barack Obama’s pick, the chance of a hearing.
And because polarisation is now the accepted norm in D.C., Democrats didn’t buckle and waged a filibuster against Gorsuch on Thursday, after dangling his feet over the fire for a bit during his confirmation hearings. It’s a political tit-for-tat, of course. Predictable, and ultimately just more tiresome, gimmicky shenanigans played out on the back of a democratic institution.
With the filibuster broken by Republicans invoking the so-called nuclear option, a simple majority was sufficient to confirm him instead of the 60 votes normally required for confirmation.
Sure, call it a naive view but it’s the Supreme Court that has taken a hit here: even if it’s the U.S. Senate that once again had its ugly partisan face on display after months and months of bickering between the two parties, now the court itself will have to come up with a solution how it intends to convince the public of its independence in any future decision-making process.
–> SONG SUGGESTION for the day: The Clash, “I fought the law”
77. (Thu, 06 Apr 2017) – LAUNCHING: A FOREIGN POLICY (SORT OF)
It took graphic images and a few days until the President made an executive decision: bomb Syria.
In a direct response to the suspected chemical attack in northwestern Syria that killed scores of civilians, Donald Trump authorised a military strike on a Syrian government airbase this evening. US warships launched 59 Tomahawk cruise missiles at the airbase that was home to the warplanes that carried out the chemical attacks, CNN reports.
For Trump, the chemical attack made a lasting, gruesome impression. “It was a slow and brutal death for so many,” Trump said. “Even beautiful babies were cruelly murdered in this very barbaric attack. No child of God should ever suffer such horror.”
After Barack Obama had drawn red lines in the windy Middle Eastern sand for a number of years, Trump’s response to the latest horrific incident in Syria was exactly the kind of strongman response you may expect from him. It is, and it isn’t. First and foremost, it is one with various consequences.
Trump’s move to act swiftly on foreign soil undermines his campaign rhetoric of putting America first, to begin with. In a briefing on the day of the attack on Tuesday, the possible military options were represented to the President, according to a senior administration official, Politico writes. The day after, at a National Security Council meeting, “broad agreement” was reached “that something had to be done and that the option selected was the right one,” the official told Politico.
In a final meeting at Mar-a-Lago, where Trump had welcomed China’s President Xi Jinping earlier, the decision was made to go ahead with the attack. At around 8:40 p.m. ET tonight, the U.S. launched 59 Tomahawk missiles from two U.S. destroyers in the eastern Mediterranean Sea, the USS Porter and the USS Ross, according to Pentagon spokesperson Jeff Davis.
And with that strike, Trump is suddenly dipping his foreign policy toe into a territory where the U.S. could potentially be pulled into a complicated, messy conflict. Long before the campaign last year, the businessman Trump criticised, if not outright derided, how the U.S. under Barack Obama conducted its Middle East policy.
AGAIN, TO OUR VERY FOOLISH LEADER, DO NOT ATTACK SYRIA – IF YOU DO MANY VERY BAD THINGS WILL HAPPEN & FROM THAT FIGHT THE U.S. GETS NOTHING!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 5, 2013
Obama must now start focusing on OUR COUNTRY, jobs, healthcare and all of our many problems. Forget Syria and make America great again!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 11, 2013
That was in 2013. Was it Trump, the inevitable hawk, speaking today? Opinions can change, no doubt. Trump seemed to have used the last couple of days to rethink his previous statements.
“I will tell you that attack on children yesterday had a big impact on me — big impact,” Trump said in the White House Rose Garden yesterday after his meeting with King Abdullah of Jordan. “My attitude toward Syria and Assad has changed very much. You’re now talking about a whole different level.”
If emotions have stirred the President to take the decision, why didn’t he support attacking the Bashar al-Assad regime when similar attacks occurred and similar pictures were sent around the airwaves? If he wanted to prove a point domestically and appear as a strongman, what steps will he take if there is another chemical attack, or if North Korea comes knocking on his door with a foolish provocation?
–> SONG SUGGESTION for the day: Wild Beasts, “The devil’s crayon”
76. (Wed, 05 Apr 2017) – BILL’S BOYS CLUB
Donald Trump knows a thing or two about ratings. Or so he says anyway. At least, he can’t pipe down about how he did on The Apprentice, and how Arnold Schwarzenegger has messed up since taking over hosting the show. And even during and after the campaign, Trump wouldn’t shut up about how good he was for ratings.
Which is probably fair to say for him. He did pull in a crowd for a lot of networks, outlets, and publications. One of them has been and is Bill O’Reilly on Fox News. If you don’t know who O’Reilly is, you have to imagine him as the archetypical white old man, bar the fact that he wraps the characteristical rage for this particularly despicable species of men in a condescending form of Honey, let me tell you how it really is-ness.
At Fox News, O’Reilly is part of a group of anchors who don’t bother in any way to mask their verbal rubble as unbiased news reporting. The likes of Sean Hannity, Tucker Carlson, and O’Reilly openly support a conservative, reactionary agenda, often garnished with a pretentious smirk to underline their sublimity.
O’Reilly’s evening show The O’Reilly Factor is often among the most watched on the cable networks during the week with around four millions viewers. His musings are undoubtedly pro-Trump, which helped O’Reilly on many occasions to win the ratings war, not least due to his long-established access to Trump and his campaign. Right before the Super Bowl in February, for instance, O’Reilly got an exclusive interview with the President. He had done countless prior to that. In these, O’Reilly often makes a point of feeding Trump the keywords on which he then expands as he sees fit. Watching these two men interact, you would think they are inherently allergic to critical thinking.
Both men, fully grown-up by the way, also have their fair share of problems with adequate manners: Trump, otherwise widely known as an advocate of women’s rights (JK — he has an abysmal track record), has been attracting attention in the past as a casual pussy grabber, while O’Reilly has… hmn, how do we best describe this? He is currently embroiled in a mounting sexual harassment scandal.
The New York Times wrote on Saturday that roughly $13 million have been paid in settlements to women who had accused O’Reilly of sexual harassment and inappropriate behaviour. Sparing you the ugly details of those cases, but allegedly O’Reilly abused his power as the star of the show. According to the women the Times talked to, he would phone women while apparently masturbating or try to lure them to his hotel rooms, among other things.
As a direct consequence, amid the continuing reports on these settlements, more than 20 companies have pulled their adverts from the O’Reilly slot during the last couple of days.
O’Reilly has defended himself with the smarmiest of tricks: hiding behind his family. “Just like other prominent and controversial people, I’m vulnerable to lawsuits from individuals who want me to pay them to avoid negative publicity,” he said in a statement. “I’m a father who cares deeply for my children and who would do anything to avoid hurting them in any way. And so I have put to rest any controversies to spare my children.”
Heartbreaking stuff. So what better to get your spirits lifted than receiving a nice pat on the back from the President himself? “I think he’s a person I know well. He is a good person,” Trump told the New York Times in an interview today. “I think he shouldn’t have settled; personally, I think he shouldn’t have settled. Because you should have taken it all the way. I don’t think Bill did anything wrong.”
Now, isn’t that rich? Two cheeky boys backing each other up, and all of that mere days after the President himself declared April to be “sexual assault and awareness month”.
–> SONG SUGGESTION for the day: The Cribs, “Men’s needs”
75. (Tue, 04 Apr 2017) – FALLING DOWN
Power, in many cases, is all about perception: people just have to believe you will do it. And so, without a single inch of his “big, beautiful wall” being built, the numbers of apprehensions at the southern border have fallen again since Donald Trump has taken office.
In total, about 12.000 apprehensions were made at the US-Mexican border in March, according to newly released numbers from Customs and Border Protection. That number constitutes a 35 percent drop from February and a 63 percent drop from March 2016.
74. (Mon, 03 Apr 2017) – BLACKWATER BACK CHANNEL
Maybe, just maybe, all the pieces of the puzzle are long sitting on the table — it’s just that we can’t see when I’m pretty sure we all would want to see.
Today, the Washington Post broke a story that depicts “a secret meeting in January between Blackwater founder Erik Prince and a Russian close to President Vladimir Putin” in the Seychelles, arranged by the United Arab Emirates in “an apparent effort to establish a back-channel line of communication between Moscow and President-elect Donald Trump, according to U.S., European and Arab officials.”
“The meeting took place around Jan. 11 — nine days before Trump’s inauguration — in the Seychelles islands in the Indian Ocean, officials said. Though the full agenda remains unclear, the UAE agreed to broker the meeting in part to explore whether Russia could be persuaded to curtail its relationship with Iran, including in Syria, a Trump administration objective that would be likely to require major concessions to Moscow on U.S. sanctions.”
In the detective story that is the election of Donald Trump, this revelation is just another mosaic, one that could fit here or there. And like most mosaics, picking it up and looking at it gives off a little reflection — of oneself or the times.
Perhaps we shouldn’t pick it up. Could it be we’re looking for something where there is nothing, desperately trying to see anything? Perhaps this little episode in the ever-developing Trump and the Russians story tells us more about the state of affairs within the Washington establishment:
“Though Prince had no formal role with the Trump campaign or transition team, he presented himself as an unofficial envoy for Trump to high-ranking Emiratis involved in setting up his meeting with the Putin confidant, according to the officials, who did not identify the Russian.
Prince was an avid supporter of Trump. After the Republican convention, he contributed $250,000 to Trump’s campaign, the national party and a pro-Trump super PAC led by GOP mega-donor Rebekah Mercer, records show. He has ties to people in Trump’s circle, including Stephen K. Bannon, now serving as the president’s chief strategist and senior counselor. Prince’s sister Betsy DeVos serves as education secretary in the Trump administration. And Prince was seen in the Trump transition offices in New York in December.”
In politics, especially in D.C., you have to do a simple thing: follow the money. Campaign contributions, super PAC donations, the Mercers: all these ingredients give you a glimpse into the entanglements that this town creates. Bannon, via the financial leg-up from the Mercer family, might have in mind “to bring everything crashing down, and destroy all of today’s establishment”, but what the Trump administration really is doing is keeping up with the sleaze, trading money for favours and positions, just like countless people in D.C. have done before them.
Letting the Russia connection in this story rest for a moment, that mosaic here confirms all but one thing: the structure firmly remains in place; the dark money around Trump is simply replacing the pawns on the establishment’s chessboard.
–> SONG SUGGESTION for the day: Weezer, “Island in the sun”
73. (Sun, 02 Apr 2017) – TERMS & CONDITIONS APPLY
When you interview someone you can ask him or her the tough questions, keep pressing on a certain issue, corner the person to get specific information. Or you can go and ask a bunch of questions, a bit of this, a bit of that. Sometimes the fluffy approach lets out as much air out of that person as the grilling method — if you are lucky and the interviewee is doing the unmasking for the interviewer.
The Financial Times seems to have gone for the latter one in their interview with Donald Trump published today. The paper sat down with the President in the Oval Office and talked… everything and nothing.
Good on them for managing to nick some of his time. Together the three FT journalists race through various questions with Trump (get the transcript here), ranging from health care to Congress, Democrats, trade and China, the EU and Brexit, and (but of course) twitter.
Trump gets the chance to elaborate on his as of yet still unproven tweet about Barack Obama allegedly ordering to wiretap him during the campaign: “Now my last tweet … the one about being — in quotes — wiretapped, meaning surveilled. Guess what, it is turning out to be true,” he said, without elaborating.
The President didn’t give proof. Just another line bending the facts on his behalf. “I don’t regret anything,” he continues, “because there is nothing you can do about it. You know if you issue hundreds of tweets, and every once in a while you have a clinker, that’s not so bad.”
Not bad at all, sure. Only that he doesn’t seem to be referring to a tweet or two that is somewhat bending the facts a little bit (happens to the best of us etc.) but to one or two among a few hundred that is not tremendous, the best, just tremendous. He knows about the power he has within the palm of his hand:
“Without the tweets, I wouldn’t be here . . . I have over 100 million followers between Facebook, Twitter [and] Instagram,” Mr Trump says proudly. “Over 100 million. I don’t have to go to the fake media.”
Just like Rihanna or Beyoncé, why bother giving an interview or doing an annoying TV show to announce your latest product when you can bypass all of the ballyhoo with one tweet to all your followers, exceeding any possible audience with the push of a button.
Thereby, if you want to take only one thing out of this interview, Trump has confirmed between the lines how he successfully co-opted the term fake news (or fake media, in this instance) to adopt a different meaning. During the campaign, fake news was a liberal battle cry for right-wing outlets jazzing up kooky conspiracy theories around Hillary Clinton and the Democrats.
With Trump pushing his agenda, and the term, on social media, he flipped the terms and conditions by 180. Nowadays, fake news is a term for liberal media supposedly spreading inaccurate stories about Trump, his administration, and the President’s policies.
There is a line in The Jam’s single “Going underground” that also flips an old phrase on its head: “And the public gets what the public wants / But I don’t get what this society wants.”
More than 70 days into Trump’s presidency, you might still be baffled how he got there. In short: he won an election. (The extent as to how much the Russians had a say in this is still unclear). But you travel up and down the country, go to some of the more remote places, and you find exactly that old phrase being flipped: the public has been manipulated into the belief that they have desired what they have received when it wasn’t necessarily what they wanted.
The consequence of that is Donald Trump, the President of the United States of America.
What you see is what you get
You’ve made your bed, you better lie in it
You choose your leaders and place your trust
As their lies wash you down and their promises rust
–> SONG SUGGESTION for the day, of course: The Jam, “Going underground”
72. (Sat, 01 Apr 2017) – FOR WHAT IT’S WORTH
The White House announced yesterday it would release up to 180 people’s financial disclosures of its staffers, detailing their income and holdings at the time of arrival at the White House. Bearing in mind, therefore, they let us gain merely a restricted insight into the financial dealings of some of Trump’s closest members of staff and advisors.
First of all, the White House made the process of looking into these documents extra difficult, requiring a request for each staffer’s disclosure, as ProPublica writes, who shared the forms in cooperation with the New York Times and Associated Press.
The White House “didn’t give the names of the staffers, leaving us to guess who had filed disclosures, a kind of Transparency Bingo.
Since the White House wasn’t going to post the documents publicly, we did.
We teamed up with The New York Times and The Associated Press, requested docs for every staffer we know and put them in this public Google Drive folder.”
What do we gather from these disclosures? It seems that we’re talking about the absolute banality of politics. With a pool full of precious koi carps, you amass an incredible sum of money. Take Donald Trump’s four top advisors, for example: Chief Strategist Steve Bannon, Chief of Staff Reince Priebus, National Economic Council Director Gary Cohn, and senior adviser Jared Kushner alone held assets collectively worth between $757 million and $1.9 billion, according to a Wall Street Journal calculation.
We don’t know the exact number because aides disclose their income and assets largely in ranges, rather than specific dollar figures.
The documents are, as one might expect with that amount of money involved, convoluted and somewhat complicated. Jared Kushner, for instance, resigned his positions in 266 different business entities and sold his stake in more than 60 businesses or investments to comply with federal ethics rules, according to the documents.
Potential conflicts of interest will require a deeper analysis of the disclosures for the individual players involved. Yet, looking at these documents, the one thing that becomes clear is that the President, who proclaimed himself the protector of the American working-class, clearly feels more comfortable being surrounded by people who possess a specific form of power currency: wealth and status.
–> SONG SUGGESTION for the day: Pink Floyd, “Money”
71. (Fri, 31 Mar 2017) – NOT IMMUNE TO THE… TRUTH?
At the end of the day, D.C. is really nothing more than one big cattle auction: very few people are really calling the shots, and everyone else wants to shine in the brightest light to sell his (in most cases) or her skin for the highest price.
Yesterday evening, a rather unexpected statement got passed around. The opening line? A quick wink towards the highest bidder: “General Flynn certainly has a story to tell, and he very much wants to tell it, should the circumstances permit.”
Speaking, or writing, on Michael Flynn’s behalf was Robert K. Kelner, the sacked National Security Advisor’s Washington attorney, and with that he outlined Fynn’s willingness to testify before the House and Senate Intelligence Committees as part of an immunity deal with both the FBI and the House and Senate intelligence committees (just after the WSJ broke the story). In exchange, the article suggested, the ousted White House advisor would testify before the investigations into the Trump campaign’s potential ties to Russia, which Kelner indirectly confirmed with his statement.
It seems like a sweet deal for Flynn, who is currently under FBI investigation on counterintelligence charges after his communication with the Russian ambassador to the U.S. became public. The catch: granting this kind of deal benefits him but doesn’t actually tell us if he truly knows anything regarding the Trump campaign and the Russians.
So, don’t hold your breath till he’ll be granted immunity. After all, the cattle can’t auction themselves off. Not even in D.C.
–> SONG SUGGESTION for the day: Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers, “It’ll all work out”
70. (Thu, 30 Mar 2017) – GOING ROUND, TAKING NAMES
Me Tarzan, you Jane: In another chest-pumping move to establish who’s boss, Donald Trump fired off a friendly reminder today that he is prepared to wage civil war within its own party:
The Freedom Caucus will hurt the entire Republican agenda if they don’t get on the team, & fast. We must fight them, & Dems, in 2018!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 30, 2017
Straight after the vote to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act fell through last week, the President was quick to pass the blame: “We were very close, it was a very tight margin. We had no Democrat support, no votes from the Democrats,” Trump said in the Oval Office. “I think the losers are Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer because now they own Obamacare.”
Behind the scenes, dishing out the blame must’ve sounded somewhat different. Paul Ryan, by many made out to be the Karl Lagerfeld of policy-making in D.C. (handsome, elegant, smart, turns anything into gold), didn’t deliver on the reputation that precedes him. His replacement bill, the American Health Care Act, made a rattling sound when it came crashing down last Friday. It turned out to be more tinplate than golden.
Trump, in turn, gave a lofty shout-out on Twitter for people not to miss a Fox News programme in which host Jeanine Pirro later called on Ryan to step down for failing to deliver enough votes to pass the AHCA. (Ryan claimed, the President had apologised to him: “He said, ‘I had no idea she was going to talk about that. I thought she was going to talk about something else.'”)
Now entering Trump’s crosshairs: the Freedom Caucus. As the debacle became apparent last week, the New York Times wrote Bannon kept on pushing Trump to make an “enemies list” with all those who voted against Ryan’s bill.
And it was Ryan who tried to convince the President to do otherwise since Trump would almost certainly need to rely on fellow Republicans in Congress to help him pass other legislation later on. According to the article, Trump went with Ryan’s idea, not Bannon’s.
The President throwing down the gauntlet to the Freedom Caucus now seems like a sudden change of mind after the GreNegOfAT (Greatest Negotiator Of All Time) was caught with his pants down by this bunch of hardline conservatives.
The burn the Freedom Caucus seems to have left on Donald Trump: most definitely not covered by the AHCA.
–> SONG SUGGESTION for the day: Emil Germ, “Tease and burn”
69. (Wed, 29 Mar 2017) – A SEAT AT THE TABLE
Quick update from the family that has us all at the edge of our seats and sanity: After reports that she would get her own office in the West Wing, it was announced today that Ivanka Trump, feminism’s very own Apprentice and first daughter, will officially become a White House staffer.
“I have heard the concerns some have with my advising the President in my personal capacity while voluntarily complying with all ethics rules, and I will instead serve as an unpaid employee in the White House Office, subject to all of the same rules as other federal employees,” Ivanka Trump said in a statement. “Throughout this process, I have been working closely and in good faith with the White House counsel and my personal counsel to address the unprecedented nature of my role.”
There is no official title attached to her role inside the White House, but she has begun the process of obtaining a security clearance and government-issued communications devices.
How serious she means all of this we don’t know. Does she just want to watch and learn? No! When things got heated in Congress, she stepped up and stood her ground for American women:
Breaking: Ivanka Trump releases statement demanding #FreedomCaucus cover maternity care
(just kidding she’s skiing)
— Sarah Cooper (@sarahcpr) March 23, 2017
Yeah, I know. All just a joke, innit?
–> SONG SUGGESTION for the day: Paul Simon, “Father and daughter”
68. (Tue, 28 Mar 2017) – COAL GETTING FIRED UP
It doesn’t take an environmentalist to see that coal mining is a dying industry. Yet, Donald Trump did what he promised during the campaign and signed an executive order today that looks to slash regulations implemented by Barack Obama’s administration to battle climate change.
The move, in effect, is designed to revive the coal industry. The President, accompanied by miners and company executive, signed the order at the Environmental Protection Agency. He had long promised to undo some of the EPA regulations put in place during the Obama years that put America at the forefront in the global campaign against greenhouse pollution.
By signing the order, Trump directed the EPA to start “the complex and lengthy legal process of withdrawing and rewriting the Obama-era Clean Power Plan, which would have closed hundreds of coal-fired power plants, frozen construction of new plants and replaced them with vast new wind and solar farms”, as the New York Times writes. The CPP was said to cut carbon pollution from the power sector by 32 percent by the year 2030.
For Trump, this step is a commitment to job creation over environmental protection. For the coal industry, this is a gift — one that will probably benefit the corporations, not the coal miners.
Robert Murray, founder and chief executive of Murray Energy, the largest privately held coal miner in the US, is hopeful that his industry “will soon be freed of ‘fraudulent’ green legislation that has hampered his industry,” he said in an interview with the Guardian.
Murray blames the CPP for shuttering coal-fired power plants and freezing new constructions during the Obama presidency: “We do not have a climate change or global warming problem, we have an energy cost problem,” Murray told the Guardian.
It was at a rally in Kentucky two weeks ago that Trump said, “we are preparing new executive actions to save our coal industry and to save our wonderful coal miners from continuing to be put out of work. The miners are coming back.”
While he said that President’s election has been a boon to coal, funnily enough, it’s the same Robert Murray that warned Trump he should “temper” expectations for jobs growth in the industry. “I would not say it’s a good time in the coal industry. It’s a better time,” Murray said. “I suggested that he temper his expectations. Those are my exact words. He can’t bring them back.”
Trump has vowed to bring back jobs to the mining industry. However, a number of jobs have been lost due to technological advances, less to regulation, and to competition from renewable energy sources. Trump’s call for deregulation will make the coal executives and their companies happy, though the prospect for significant job creation in the coal industry still seems rather unlikely.
And so the ink under Donald Trump’s latest executive order has dried — just like the industry benefitting from it, which eventually will also run dry.
–> SONG SUGGESTION for the day: Earth, Wind & Fire, “Boogie Wonderland”
67. (Mon, 27 Mar 2017) – PUT IT ON KUSHNER’S PLATE
For us, who are merely looking in from the outside, the current White House holds the strangest job opportunities for the strangest kind of people. (Im not just talking about making the former executive chairman of Breitbart News your top advisor and putting him on the National Security Council.)
Dissect the reasons for some of the more curious choices made to fill positions within the administration (and their dubious qualifications to run education, housing, the EPA, etc) as much as you want, most interesting remains one thing: guessing if we’re talking about a pro- or demotion here.
Take, for example, Jared Kushner: Good-looking guy, investor and developer by trade, and also husband to Ivanka Trump. Being married to her makes him obvious White House material (but of course!), and so he’s become the West Wing’s serial title collector. It all started when Donald Trump came into office. Kushner was named “senior advisor to the President” by the President.
“Jared has been a tremendous asset and trusted adviser throughout the campaign and transition and I am proud to have him in a leadership role in my administration,” Donald Trump said in a statement. That was January.
Since then, Kushner has been given one task after another as part of his role in the White House:
Most people I know would have their fair share with brokering a deal to end the ongoing crisis in the Middle East. So, why not put some more on that man’s plate?
The last two tasks listed above are part of his brand new responsibility that was announced just today: Kushner is poised to head the so-called White House Office of American Innovation, a superhero-style “SWAT team of strategic consultants” that “will be staffed by former business executives and is designed to infuse fresh thinking into Washington, float above the daily political grind and create a lasting legacy for a president still searching for signature achievement,” as the Washington Post put it that broke the story.
The idea is to run the government more business-like in its operations, thus overhauling federal bureaucracy to deliver key campaign promises, such as taking care of veterans, and ending the opioid epidemic that is taking its toll on American society.
All of this then begs the question: Why are all these important issues placed in the lap of one man who previously dealt in real estate and tried his hand at publishing? Is he the one-eyed among the blind? Or is someone trying to busy Kushner out from exerting influence in other places?
On top of that, it was announced today that Kushner is said to appear before the Senate Intelligence Committee to shed some light on possible ties between Trump associates and Russian operatives.
Anything this guy is not asked to do? Yes. Giving nepotism a good name.
–> SONG SUGGESTION for the day: Brother Beyond, “The harder I try”
66. (Sun, 26 Mar 2017) – CANCEL YOUR REQUESTED RIDE
A lot of theory is outnumbering the facts in the never-ending question whether the Trump campaign actively colluded with the Russians. Could this story, a lot of people in D.C. wonder, turn out to be Trump’s very own Watergate?
With Watergate, is was less the crime than the cover-up that brought Richard Nixon to his knees in what essentially amounted to a constitutional crisis. Trump’s Russia conundrum is, so far, still only a detective story. We know of a few people who have spoken with Russian delegates during the campaign (Flynn, Sessions), but it’s not enough to get a clear idea of what actually has been going on between the two sides.
Especially, as fresh pieces get added to the puzzle on a nearly daily basis. Cue Devin Nunes. The Republican chairman of the House Intelligence Committee investigating the alleged links with Moscow is, just to reiterate, also a former Trump advisor. In a surprise press briefing on Wednesday, he pulled an oversized white rabbit out of the hat.
Nunes alleged that members of Donald Trump’s transition team were under inadvertent surveillance, possibly even the President himself, following November’s presidential election: “The intelligence community incidentally collected information about U.S. citizens involved in the Trump transition,” Nunes told reporters, but didn’t inform his Democratic counterpart on the Intelligence Committee, Rep. Adam Schiff of California, who subsequently challenged Nunes’ claims in a statement in which he also criticised the Republican for not sharing the information with him or other committee members after Nunes had “reviewed dozens of reports”.
Nunes didn’t name his source, but added that “this information was legally brought to me by sources who thought that we should know it.” Straight after the press conference, Nunes left for the White House to brief the President, making a mockery of the idea of separation of powers between the executive and legislative branches of government.
Today, The Daily Beast writes that “hours before the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee announced his shocking claims about surveillance of the Trump transition team on Wednesday morning, he practically disappeared.”
“Rep. Devin Nunes was traveling with a senior committee staffer in an Uber on Tuesday evening when he received a communication on his phone, three committee officials and a former national security official with ties to the committee told The Daily Beast. After the message, Nunes left the car abruptly, leaving his own staffer in the dark about his whereabouts.”
The morning after said incident Nunes held his press conference.
One theory is that it must’ve been the White House that acted as Nunes source, thereby throwing a welcomed smoke grenade into the continuing investigation to divert from Monday’s revelation made by Director James Comey before the intelligence committee that the FBI is indeed investigating whether members of Trump’s campaign colluded with Russia.
Nunes mysterious nightly foray, his failure to share those documents with the committee, and his decision to brief the president instead add yet more speculation and certainly don’t contribute much to an independent investigation regarding Trump’s Russia ties.
–> SONG SUGGESTION for the day: The Strokes, “Last night”
65. (Sat, 25 Mar 2017) – A LESSON IN D.C. MASCULINITY
It’s the day after the failed attempt by Republicans to repeal and replace Obamacare with what Erin Gloria Ryan coined “Trumpcare, or Ryancare, or, perhaps more aptly, TheyDontCare”. Washington is still busy sweeping up the shattered porcelain that the different factions hurled at each other in an effort to divert the blame.
Much has been made of Donald Trump’s apparent lack of dealmaking instinct. Where was the orange Mozart of Signing the Dotted Line when his obviously incapable Congressmen needed him to get everyone in line? Busy honking the horn in big ass truck, thanks for asking.
But these discussions are missing a crucial point. Yes, maybe this red-letter day in D.C. yesterday did indeed hamper the reputation for the closer as being a skilled negotiator. Most of all, though, the tale of Trump, Paul Ryan, and House Republicans trying to pass legislation provided us with one thing: a valuable lesson in masculinity.
Go through the media coverage leading up to the days before the scheduled vote on Thursday, revel in the hot takes from Friday as much as you like: you won’t come across a single female name (with one notable exception, which we will reveal in a minute) mentioned in the process of shaping the American Health Care Act or whipping votes to get it passed.
Which is odd, given how much the AHCA’s policy details would have affected women. The first draft Congress was supposed to vote on sought to defund Planned Parenthood (by blocking Medicaid reimbursements to PP clinics), restrict access to abortions, and cut back on Obamacare’s essential health benefits, including maternity care and preventative services like birth control.
When it became clear that Republicans would struggle to find the required number of votes to pass the bill, the so-called “manager’s amendment” was introduced to sway the ultra-conservatives. This amendment was designed to restrict women’s access to lifesaving care, particularly if they’re unemployed. A Medicaid work requirement that would’ve allowed states to revoke coverage from new mothers who haven’t had found a job within 60 days after going into labour. Essentially, instead of allowing the mothers to care for their babies and recover from giving birth, Republicans wanted them to go job hunting.
And who might have come up with such punishing legislation? Believe it or not, a bunch of men who won’t shut up about family values come election time, yet make it a living hell for most Americans but the wealthiest to have children in the first place.
That was the outset of getting the bill to pass in order to finally repeal and replace Obamacare, something Republicans verbally jerked off to for years and years and years. Sure, Obama’s Affordable Care Act is by no means perfect. However, it introduced essential health benefits to beef up insurance coverage and make one’s plan more transparent. By design, this leads to an inflation of costs: certain consumers pay for a number of included essentials they may not need.
If you ever put any thought into what the benefits are for a society to raise healthy children, revoking the rights from women to do so wouldn’t strike you as the most plausible option. Right? Maybe we just let a D.C. legislator explain the notion behind such a move, why don’t we:
I asked Sen. Roberts if he supports scrapping Essential Health Benefits. “I wouldn’t want to lose my mammograms,” he snarked. #AHCA
— Alice Ollstein (@AliceOllstein) March 23, 2017
Senator Roberts later apologised for the remark in a statement. “I deeply regret my comments on such an important topic,” Roberts said. “I know several individuals whose lives have been saved by mammograms, and I recognise how essential they are to women’s health. I never intended to indicate otherwise, and I apologise for my comments.”
All well and good. But, if he claims lawmakers know how important these essentials are, why aren’t more women involved in shaping legislation? There is an argument that invokes the old case of the American double standard: When perplexed Congressmen looked into the angry faces of their constituents at town halls across the country in February, they saw a lot of white angry faces that feared to repeal Obamacare without a viable replacement might pull the plug on grandma. As a consequence, so the argument goes, Ryan’s bill was D.U.A. and was never meant to pass anyway at a time when Obamacare hit its highest approval rating ever recorded.
All of which doesn’t change the fact that Washington was still engaged in its usual masculine power play before the AHCA dropped dead on Friday. Just take the example of Mark Meadows: One of the biggest obstacles in getting the right number of votes to pass the new bill was apparently the so-called Freedom Caucus. Meadows, as the chairman for the “rambunctious, ideologically charged collection of GOP legislators”, acted as the buffer between Trump and the hesitant Freedom Caucus, as Tim Alberta writes in his extensive Politico story analysing yesterday’s happenings:
“Meadows campaigned extensively with Trump last fall and struck up a relationship with White House chief strategist Steve Bannon, who communicates with him almost daily by text. Meadows knew the health care fight would be viewed as a test of his independence from Trump, and the moment the president called him out, he was boxed in.
‘That was the biggest mistake the president could have made,’ one Freedom Caucus member told me. ‘Mark desperately wanted to get to yes, and Trump made it impossible for him. If he flipped after that he would look incredibly weak.'”
And with that last sentence, we have the process of law-making in D.C. in a nutshell. Trump, according to Alberta, barged into the meetings with the Freedom Caucus flexing his muscles as the chief negotiator with the reputation of striking up any deal.
— Cliff Sims (@CSims45) March 23, 2017
It seemed as if the one muscle that needs the most delicate training was not deployed here much: the brain. Because if the legislative process becomes a mere matter of not flinching and not showing weakness, we’re talking about just another example of the self-congratulatory caste of white men in generic black suits living a cosy life within the realm of the well-established Washington system, shaping the world according to their fancy. Or as a Trump voter from Wyoming told me this week: “If these politicians had to sign up to the same programs as we do, they would’ve sorted out that mess in no time…”
When the whole plan to repeal and replace Obamacare finally collapsed Friday afternoon, President Trump was quick to offer his take on the failed attempt: “We had no Democrat support. Obamacare is exploding — with no Democratic support we couldn’t quite get there,” he said. “I think the losers are Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer because now they own Obamacare.”
And there we have it: Nancy Pelosi, the House Minority Leader, is the only women mentioned in our tale of how Republicans failed to get rid of Obamacare.
Her role in this? Getting the blame.
–> SONG SUGGESTION for the day: Eleanor Friedberger, “My mistakes”
64. (Fri, 24 Mar 2017) – THE ART OF THE REPEAL
As the sun is setting on this turbulent day, we are no closer to answering the question if this administration is set for a Greek tragedy, a Shakespearean drama, or a soap opera.
“Hello, Bob,” Trump began. “So, we just pulled it.”
That’s how Robert Costa begins his story in the Washington Post to explain how the President called him to pass his view on the failed attempt today by Republicans to repeal the Affordable Care Act.
“President Trump called me on my cellphone Friday afternoon at 3:31 p.m. At first I thought it was a reader with a complaint since it was a blocked number.
Instead, it was the president calling from the Oval Office. His voice was even, his tone muted. He did not bury the lead.
‘Hello, Bob,’ Trump began. ‘So, we just pulled it.’
Trump was speaking, of course, of the Republican plan to overhaul the Affordable Care Act, a plan that had been languishing for days amid unrest throughout the party as the president and his allies courted members and pushed for a vote.
Before I could ask a question, Trump plunged into his explanation of the politics of deciding to call off a vote on a bill he had been touting.
The Democrats, he said, were to blame.
‘We couldn’t get one Democratic vote, and we were a little bit shy, very little, but it was still a little bit shy, so we pulled it,’ Trump said.”
– Robert Costa, Washington Post, 24 March 2017
There were a lot of clever, insightful hot takes being written this afternoon that tried to fathom what went wrong – the scope of the Republicans’ inability to repeal and replace Obamacare, and the political implications for the personnel involved.
But Costa’s story was probably the most telling account of what had happened in Washington today. Not necessarily just because the President had called him personally.
The American Health Care Act fiasco had originated some days ago. Actually, that’s not true: Barack Obama had signed the ACA into law on 23 March 2010. On the eve of its seventh anniversary, Republicans failed not only to repeal it (they had to postpone yesterday’s vote until today, when they failed once more, to get the numbers). They outright failed, over the course of those seven years, to come up with a viable alternative that they could comfortably pass, now that they had a lock on the White House and both houses of Congress.
AHCA left in place many of the ACA’s regulations but cut back the subsidies and gutted its Medicaid expansion. Had it been enacted, twenty-four million people fewer than now would have been insured over ten years, according to an estimate by the Congressional Budget Office.
What Republicans did come up with, the New York Times called “a cruel flimflam, a huge tax cut for the rich disguised as a health care bill.”
So, instead of fixing what they had been lamenting about all those years, what did Republicans actually do? Take the first hurdle like a blind man — stumble and fall. Republicans couldn’t even drag themselves over the finish line.
Enter Trump: “Hello, Bob.” – The President told Costa he would “not put the bill on the floor in the coming weeks,” Costa wrote in the Post. “He is willing to wait and watch the current law continue and, in his view, encounter problems. And he believes that Democrats will eventually want to work with him on some kind of legislative fix to Obamacare, although he did not say when that would be.”
“Hey, we could have done this,” Trump said. “But we couldn’t get one Democrat vote, not one. So that means they own Obamacare and when that explodes, they will come to us wanting to save whatever is left, and we’ll make a real deal.”
Essentially, the President said, he wants Obamacare running into the ground with the Democrats’ name attached to it, yet assumes that they’d be willing to then get on board with him after letting them go down in flames with the remainder of the ACA.
We couldn’t get one Democrat vote. Trump acted surprised when he made no serious effort to reach out to Democrats, nor did House Republicans. All the more revealing about the President’s call to the Washington Post reporter is the apparent lack of detail showcased by Trump. At no point did he exert a deeper knowledge of the AHCA. Without a clear understanding of the AHCA’s policy technicalities, the self-proclaimed dealmaker had little chance to convince the different factions to work out a solution. Maybe Trump got played by the Freedom Caucus, maybe he played them, maybe he played Paul Ryan. One way or another, “the closer” has what he made out as a sure deal during the campaign to forfeit.
In Washington, in the meantime, the blame game has already started. Democrats on one, Ryan and the House GOP on the other hand, President Trump somewhere down the middle. The finger pointing will take some time, all at the expense of the American people and a messed-up health system.
Curious detail after all the chest-beating GOP talk of finally repealing the much-maligned Obamacare, especially during the run-up to the election: When Republicans had the chance to freeze hell over, they went in armed with nothing but a flamethrower.
–> SONG SUGGESTION for the day: Talking Heads, “Burning down the house”
63. (Thu, 23 Mar 2017) – ROARING ENGINES
Washington was still busy preparing for Friday’s big showdown on the Hill after the President issued an ultimatum to Republicans today to get behind American Health Care Act. It became clear throughout the day that there would be no majority for Paul Ryan’s health plan, so the President demanded a vote on the bill on Friday to deliver on the opportunity to finally repeal the Affordable Care Act. As of now, it appeared to lack a majority to pass.
White House staff told Republicans that the President was done negotiating over legislative details –– either the House of Representatives would vote on the bill tomorrow or he would leave the Affordable Care Act in place.
And then something else happened amid all the political tug-of-war-ing: Donald Trump let out his inner child for everyone to see. After an industry meeting, he hopped onto a truck with the joy of boy that had been given his toy back.
For your pleasure, after all that earnestness of the last few days, without comment:
–> SONG SUGGESTION for the day: Morrissey, “The last of the famous international playboys”
62. (Wed, 22 Mar 2017) – AN ACT OF LOVE FOR THE NATION
He looked perfectly happy and content. The right hand raised, the left resting on no other than the book of books (the bible, not The Art of the Deal), ready to take the oath of office. Moments before that, his boss had said, “this is where you were meant to be, right here today, at this crossroads in history… May god bless you in this journey.”
In hindsight, the burden must’ve been unbelievable. What is a man to do, other than put on a very brave face in these circumstances? I feel bad putting a question mark there. After all, it’s a rhetorical question we all know the answer to: pretend, just pretend. Wing it as long as you can. Breaking down now is not an option. Maybe it’s an on-the-job learning experience. Give it a try, see if you like it.
Is Rex Tillerson the weakest secretary of state of all time? I am not asking this, but The Guardian is. After all, they argue, “Donald Trump has been moving America’s foreign policy decision-making power away from the state department, and into the hands of a coterie of advisers, including Jared Kushner and Steve Bannon; and the national security council and the Department of Defense.”
When he was sworn in, he didn’t look pressured. In fact, he looked ready. That’s why it’s a little surprising to see then that Tillerson, a man President Trump called “much more than a business executive, he’s a world-class player”, seems to be forgoing the unique chance of becoming employee of the month by saying this about his role as secretary of state in the Trump administration: “I didn’t want this job. I didn’t seek this job.”
Come again? You didn’t want homework. You don’t seek a job. And yet, you still turned up at school. Why? Well, he didn’t have a choice, did he? Poor soul.
Jokes aside, there is obviously a very serious matter behind his words. What dark sorcery is responsible for all of this then? Simple, very simple. “My wife told me I’m supposed to do this,” Tillerson said in an interview today. As this is a diary about Trump’s presidency, I can only provide words, not tissues for your laughter-induced tears.
He has given an excuse. Nevertheless, she persisted.
–> SONG SUGGESTION for the day: ELO, “Sweet talkin’ woman”
61. (Tue, 21 Mar 2017) – WORDS DO MATTER, SURPRISINGLY
The idea was to give Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch a smooth rollout for his hearing before Congress. FBI Director James Comey must’ve thought otherwise. A day after he confirmed at his own hearing before the House Intelligence Committee that there is an active investigation into possible ties between Team Trump and the Russians during the campaign, the new administration found itself navigating in unchartered waters: the shallow ends in politics of being responsible for your words.
Comey hadn’t just confirmed the existence of the investigation. On live TV, he refuted the President’s unsubstantiated claims that President Barack Obama had ordered a wiretap of Trump Tower phones. In the past, his loose twitter tongue hadn’t hurt Trump much. A certain discrepancy between candidate Trump and President Trump has only become apparent in recent weeks.
It was press secretary Sean Spicer who called on Congress to investigate the case after Trump’s twitter outburst. The consequence: Both, the House and Senate Intelligence Committees, concluded last week that they couldn’t find any evidence supporting Trump’s allegations. “Based on the information available to us,” they said in a joint statement, “we see no indications that Trump Tower was the subject of surveillance by any element of the United States government either before or after Election Day 2016.”
By not letting go of the issue, we know now, the Trump administration managed to anger one of their closest allies. Spicer, in one of his briefings, insisted that Trump “stands by” the wiretapping allegations. He cited Fox News’ Andrew Napolitano comments that President Obama had asked the British intelligence agency G.C.H.Q. to wiretap Trump Tower to cover his tracks. Another claim without evidence.
G.C.H.Q came out of its usual shell feeling compelled to issue a rare statement in which is said that Napolitano’s statements were “utterly ridiculous and should be ignored”. A spokesman for Theresa May, the British Prime Minister, repeated the word “nonsense”. “We have made this clear to the administration, and have received assurances that these allegations will not be repeated.”
The consequence: Napolitano lost his job, and the Trump administration was embarrassed for having dragged the UK, historically one of the United States’ closest allies, into the mud with them.
This was only one example of why words do matter for President Trump and his White House staff. Take the revised travel ban: the judge that halted it just hours before it was going into effect, cited the administration’s public record “includes significant and unrebutted evidence of religious animus driving the promulgation of the Executive Order.”
What we get from this is simple: words do matter, and consequences are real. Also, holding the administration’s feet to the fire is not entirely in vain.
–> SONG SUGGESTION for the day: Eddie & the Hot Rods, “Do anything you wanna do”
60. (Mon, 20 Mar 2017) – A DAY OF RUSSIAN DOLLS
Recent moments to illustrate the absurdity of U.S. politics are aplenty. Equating the size of one’s hands with the size of the Trump Tower down one’s pants? The Podesta treasure trove? Mocking a disabled reporter and pretending it never happened? Showing Hispanic voters your love by posting a picture of a taco bowl? It goes on and on. Be my guest, take your pick.
Today, however, was somewhat special. It was a day in Washington that had you reeling in a warm bath of farce while blowing soap-bubbles of insanity. In the end, once you pulled the plug, no swamp was drained. Of course. All that was left at the bottom of this bathtub of revelations was a headline that nearly got overshadowed by all the day’s craziness: “It’s official: The FBI Is Investigating Trump’s Links to Russia“.
It was a mere two sentences that could ultimately turn out to be this election’s coup de grâce once all the cards are on the table. But for now, the lines that FBI Director James Comey read from a prepared statement before the House Intelligence Committee simply were unsettling news for the Trump campaign: “I have been authorised by the Department of Justice to confirm that the FBI, as part of our counterintelligence mission, is investigating the Russian government’s efforts to interfere in the 2016 presidential election,” Comey said in this testimony. And with a spellbinding pause to pack an extra punch he added: “That includes investigating the nature of any links between individuals associated with the Trump campaign and the Russian government, and whether there was any coordination between the campaign and Russia’s efforts.”
There you have it, it’s official then: the FBI is probing Trump’s involvement with the Russians. Comey said the start of the investigation dates back to late July 2016. He failed to mention why he chose to “publicly discuss the bureau’s inquiry into Hillary Clinton’s emails during the closing days of the 2016 election but did not reveal it was also investigating the Trump campaign and Russian meddling”, which is a fair point The Atlantic makes about Comey’s remarks before the Committee.
With that statement, on the other hand, Comey also denied any knowledge of President Obama wiretapping Trump during the election, a claim that the current President spread via Twitter a couple of weeks ago without giving any evidence.
“I have no information that supports those tweets,” Comey said and explained that he had surveyed his entire department and was told that the answer was “the same for the Department of Justice and all its components: The department has no information that supports those tweets.”
Of course, there is a big BUT. But that’s not all, not nearly.
Much like a Russian doll, this day unpacked itself with more and more surprises. As the Comey hearing went on over the stretch of five hours, broadcasted live on TV, the President once again displayed his shrewdness on social media: Trump live-tweeted the event to his 16 million followers under the @POTUS handle, bending the facts as much as he could in the process.
The NSA and FBI tell Congress that Russia did not influence electoral process. pic.twitter.com/d9HqkxYBt5
— President Trump (@POTUS) March 20, 2017
FBI Director Comey admits Obama’s White House had ability to “unmask” American citizens. https://t.co/gIo6it9NcQ
— President Trump (@POTUS) March 20, 2017
And still, this wasn’t the extraordinary part. While the President gave the testimony his own spin as it unfolded, things took a turn for the surreal as Comey was then asked to fact-check Trump in real time.
What he made of the tweets by the President, Rep. Jim Himes of Connecticut wanted to know from Comey. “I’m sorry,” he said, visibly baffled. “I haven’t been following anyone on twitter while I’ve been sitting here,” he said. Himes read the tweet out for him. “This tweet has gone out to millions of Americans, 16.1 million to be exact,” he said. “Is the tweet, as I read it to you, is that accurate?”
“It’s hard for me to react to that. Let me just tell you what we understand,” Comey said. “What we’ve said is, we’ve offered no opinion, have no view, have no information on potential impact because it’s never something that we looked at.”
Himes then asked Comey: “So, it’s not too far of a logical leap to conclude that the assertion that you’ve told the Congress that there was no influence on the electoral process is not quite right.”
“It certainly wasn’t our intention to say that today,” he said, contradicting the president. “We don’t have any information on that subject. That’s not something that was looked at.”
Here’s the video of the conversation:
Comey on Trump tweet that he testified Russia “did not influence electoral process”: “It certainly wasn’t our intention to say that today.” pic.twitter.com/21ASPvFzh1
— ABC News Politics (@ABCPolitics) March 20, 2017
As is has become custom, the man to pull out Trump’s accuracy-popping chestnuts out of the fire is Sean Spicer. Shortly after the hearing, the White House press secretary had to show another masterclass of his tactical relationship with the truth.
It wasn’t just that he tried to make out that Hillary Clinton’s Russia ties were significantly more important than Trump’s. No, he also tried to convince the press that “General Flynn was a volunteer of the campaign.”
As in, Michael Flynn, the man who was a top adviser during the campaign, the man who, at one point, was vetted to become Trump’s running mate, the man who later accepted the job as national security adviser with top security clearing, but was also the man who had to resign 24 days into the new administration, after it was revealed that he had lied about meeting Sergey Kislyak, the Russian ambassador to the U.S.
Had enough yet? There is more. Remember Paul Manafort? Trump’s former campaign manager, replacing Corey Lewandowski to turn Trump into a more presidential general election candidate? That guy, according to Spicer’s alternative universe, “played a very limited role for a very limited amount of time”, the press secretary insisted during the White House briefing.
Incidentally, this Paul Manafort, who once worked for a pro-Russian political party in Ukraine, is right now sought for questioning by the House Intelligence Committee to help them with their ongoing investigation of Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election.
But someone who only “played a very limited role for a very limited amount of time”, what use is he? “Of all of the characters in and around the Trump campaign and administration, Paul Manafort’s relationships with Russians are by far the longest-standing and the deepest,” Rep. Jim Himes, who is a member of the committee and who we heard earlier questioning Director Comey, told Politico. “And he has some pretty unsavoury contacts.”
This all happened today, don’t you know –– #exhausting, indeed. Lastly, bear with me, there was this small matter: Ivanka Trump, Donald Trump’s daughter, has secured her own office in the West Wing. She is also in the process of obtaining a security clearance and is set to receive government-issued communications devices. What she doesn’t have, though, is an official title justifying her being here.
And so this eventful day in D.C. draws to an end. The Russian dolls we unpacked are all lined up. Some are small, some are way bigger than others. But are we closer to the core? Hardly, it seems.
–> SONG SUGGESTION for the day: Alexander Ebert, “Truth”
59. (Sun, 19 Mar 2017) – BEING TOLD OFF
Donald Trump kept a low profile after spending the weekend at this Palm Beach golf club. Across the Atlantic, however, someone hit him with an iron 4.
“Anyone with any knowledge of the intelligence world knew the suggestion was absurd,” Peter Westmacott, Britain’s former ambassador to the US writes in today’s Observer regarding new accusations that the British intelligence agency GCHQ assisted then president Barack Obama in tapping Trump’s New York phones. This theory was first spread by Andrew Napolitano, a Fox News, judicial analyst, and then got repeated by press secretary Sean Spicer during a briefing.
“First, the president of the United States does not have the power to order the tapping of anyone’s phone,” Westmacott wrote. “Second, the idea of the British foreign secretary signing a warrant authorising such an intrusion into domestic US politics was unthinkable.”
“Gratuitously damaging the unique and precious intelligence relationship between Britain and America by peddling falsehoods and then doing nothing to set the record straight would be a gift to our enemies they could only dream of,” Westmacott, who left the British embassy in D.C. in January 2016, continued in his op-ed.
On Thursday, the Republican and Democratic leaders of the Senate intelligence committee joined the House intelligence committee in the conclusion that they had seen no evidence to support the president’s accusation that President Obama had wiretapped Trump’s phone during the campaign. Westmacott’s scathing putdown of the President’s so far unsubstantiated claim indicates a growing anger on the British side for being dragged into the mud.
“I think you’re going to find some very interesting items coming to the forefront over the next two weeks,” Donald Trump told Fox News’ Tucker Carlson in an interview on Wednesday. The President, having access to intelligence like no other, could end this story by releasing his evidence. Instead, he finds himself increasingly alone in his defence of his wiretapping claims.
–> SONG SUGGESTION for the day: Tiffany, “I think we’re alone now”
58. (Sat, 18 Mar 2017) – SPEAK NO EVIL, HEAR NO EVIL
As it has become ritual, eventually someone had to throw him- or herself on the grenade. That Sean Spicer had the honour and ruin his Saturday by adding yet more ridiculous excuses to his treasure trove of dubious statements, came as no real surprise.
“I don’t think he heard the question,” the Press Secretary told Der Spiegel.
So, while was taking the hit by having to cover for the childishness his boss exudes, Trump made sure he had more fires for Spicer to put out when he tweeted that “Despite what you have heard from the FAKE NEWS, I had a GREAT meeting with German Chancellor Angela Merkel. Nevertheless, Germany owes vast sums of money to NATO & the United States must be paid more for the powerful, and very expensive, defense it provides to Germany!”
Of course members contribute to Nato, not to other member states. Spicer has yet to comment on that fact.
–> SONG SUGGESTION for the day: The Rolling Stones, “Almost hear you sigh”
57. (Fri, 17 Mar 2017) – NOT TOUCHED BY ZE HAND OF GOD
She’s not quite Elizabeth II, who so far has seen 13 U.S. Presidents during her reign as Queen of England. But Angela I, the current Queen of Europe, has already met two of them during her time as the German Chancellor before Merkel headed to the White House today to be greeted by Donald Trump.
They sat in the Oval Office, the hungry sound of cameras clicking away at every gesture the two politicians made, drowning out some of the light chatter between the two. If Donald Trump requested from the attending photographers to “send a good picture back to Germany”, he certainly made sure they got their shot when he daydreamt (possibly) about a worthwhile pussygrabshake during the moment Angela Merkel asked if he wanted to shake hands for the cameras.
The photos of the snub, fully intentional or not, went around the world. Japan’s Prime Minister Abe, a few weeks ago, got the full 19 seconds of awkward handshaking during his meeting at the Oval Office. Merkel got all but a cold whiff of disregard.
On the other hand, no one expected an exact meeting of minds when a woman who earned a doctorate in physical chemistry met the man who ran his own university seemingly just to make a quick buck for himself. A little chemistry of the personal kind would’ve still not been too unusual.
Merkel remained her wonderfully stoic, cool-as-a-cucumber self, and let the moment pass by without a fuss like a subway train that you hear approaching while you are still at the turnstile but simply can’t be bothered to run after. If you handled and outlived the petty machismo of someone like Silvio Berlusconi, and even survived a shock back massage from W., then not getting too up-close-and-personal with the notorious women’s advocate is obviously a bit of a bummer.
Maybe sitting next to Ivanka Trump made up for the unfortunate incident. What, wait a minute: Ivanka Trump? Why was the President’s princess daughter sitting at the desk right next to the German Chancellor when the American and German delegations talked world politics?
Like the past 57 days, it was another ‘Bring your kid to work’-day at the White House.
–> SONG SUGGESTION for the day: The Music, “Ghost hands”
56. (Thu, 16 Mar 2017) – PUZZLING MOVE
It’s a simple calculation: Melania Trump staying at Trump Tower instead of the White House apparently amounts to the cost of $182,500,000 per year. The Budget for the National Endowment for the Arts is a mere $149,849,000 per year. If the First Lady moved to Washington instead of residing in New York, the thinking goes, the National Endowment could be saved.
Saved because Donald Trump’s first federal budget plan, released earlier today, proposed eliminating the National Endowment for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Humanities. At the same time, President Trump also proposed scrapping the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, which helps to fund PBS and National Public Radio stations, as well as the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars.
To make up for the increase in defence spending, the budget proposal is looking at $54 billion in cuts to large parts of the federal government, such as the State Department and Environmental Protection Agency. Only Defense, Homeland Security and Veterans Affairs are spared, in fact their budgets are set to be increasing.
Typically, budgets are wishful thinking. The final say over these proposals lies with Congress. It seemed unlikely, even in a Republican-led Congress, that all these cuts will go through in the end, and some lawmakers have already voiced concerns over some of these cuts.
In the grand scheme of things, it makes perfect sense though. That the cost estimate for Melania Trump staying in New York with her son is dubious, at best, is a whole other discussion. But she was never meant to save the arts anyway. This budget is the missing piece of the puzzle to an old Steve Bannon quote: “I am a Leninist,” he once proclaimed, “Lenin wanted to destroy the state and that’s my goal too. I want to bring everything crashing down and destroy all of today’s establishment.”
Now, how do you break the establishment, albeit slowly? Decimate the sciences, take away indulgent, gratuitous things like arts and culture, and you are certainly one step closer.
–> SONG SUGGESTION for the day: Cat Stevens, “The first cut is the deepest”
55. (Wed, 15 Mar 2017) – BANNING THE BAN, AGAIN
Here is a question for you: Was it meant as a running gag, was it pure incompetence, or was it grossly negligent from the judge to go ahead with his decision?
Whichever option you may pick, a federal judge in Hawaii issued a nationwide order tonight blocking President Trump’s revised ban on immigration for citizens of six Muslim-majority countries, just hours before it was set to go into effect.
Judge Derrick K. Watson, of Federal District Court in Honolulu, wrote that a “reasonable, objective observer” would view even the new order as “issued with a purpose to disfavour a particular religion, in spite of its stated, religiously neutral purpose.”
Donald Trump promptly reacted to the decision at a campaign-style rally in Nashville. The President said the judge’s ruling was made “for political reasons”. “This ruling makes us look weak, which by the way we no longer are, believe me,” Trump said.
Is this incompetence on behalf of the administration, or why can’t they get it right, not even the second time around?
Maybe it all happened on purpose. God forbid, but after the slightest incident, the cries of “hate to say I toldcha so” would only ring louder, possibly calling for an even more hard-line approach.
This juridically not very tight travel ban could turn out to be their Reichstag fire: we don’t know who did it or why, but we sure know who benefitted from it in the end.
Stabbing freedom in the back and front? Beware the ides of March.
–> SONG SUGGESTION for the day: Grover Washington Jr., “Just the two of us”
54. (Tue, 14 Mar 2017) – CRUNCHING NUMBERS
It was supposed to be the day that Angela Merkel touched down in Washington D.C. to talk to the President. Their meeting was rescheduled Monday afternoon for later on this week as the capital was said to be bracing itself for a winter storm today. But instead of being covered in snow, two numbers were laid bare. At around 7:35 p.m. ET MSNBC host Rachel Maddow dropped a supposed bombshell on twitter:
BREAKING: We’ve got Trump tax returns. Tonight, 9pm ET. MSNBC.
— Rachel Maddow MSNBC (@maddow) March 14, 2017
It took almost two more hours until, 20 minutes into the show, Maddow finally let the cat out of the bag. The numbers stripped down to their glorious nakedness looked rather unimpressive, in fact, they seemed pretty favourable for Donald Trump: According to the 2005 tax document that was leaked to a reporter, President Trump earned $153 million and paid $36.5 million in income taxes, which amounts to paying a roughly 25 percent effective tax rate.
Bottom line here: he earned money, paid taxes, and there was no Russia connection to be found in the disclosed documents. The bigger the build-up, the heavier the let-down, it seemed. On the other hand, seeing these numbers and how they came into the world reveal quite a bit in what they mask to make sense of the bigger picture (well, hopefully, eventually, anyway):
a) If the numbers are so unspectacular, why did Trump never release them himself? (well, actually, he did release them just minutes before Maddow and MSNBC had come to it –– but why not earlier, why not months ago?) He is the first presidential candidate since the Watergate era to withhold his tax returns.
b) On the document, it said “Client Copy” – did Trump himself leak the document to David Cay Johnston, a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, who has been reporting on Trump for over twenty years? If so, why? What was he trying to distract us from? What was he trying to point out by that?
c) The sources of income are not listed, as Trump’s 1040 form is not business return. So the question that remains is: where does the money come from?
Donald Trump Jr. tweeted shortly after the scoop that “watching the media aka #fakenews implode on tv now because they got what they wanted is simply awesome. #thankyoumaddow #TrumpTaxReturns”.
Well, DTJ, what we would’ve wanted was to see Trump’s return from 2008, the year you said business dealings in Russia “make up a disproportionate cross-section of our assets.”
–> SONG SUGGESTION for the day: Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds, “More news from nowhere”
53. (Mon, 13 Mar 2017) – FAMILIAR TO MILLIONS
On the campaign trail last year, it wasn’t just the wall that got frantic applause from supporters at Trump rallies. His promise to “repeal and replace Obamacare” was often just as much of a crowd pleaser. “The worst thing that has happened to this country in years,” said one man at a Trump event in Illinois to me. After all, mind you, he could’ve picked from a wide range of classics there: the endemic spread of opiate addiction, the Iran deal, NATO, NAFTA, TPP.
That man’s choice is by no means representative. Still, Obamacare is certainly something most Americans have a strong opinion about. I didn’t get the man’s contact details, but I’d interested to hear is take on the CBO’s estimate that came out today.
The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office finally published its analysis, according to which as much as 24 million more people would be uninsured by 2026 if the House Republican Obamacare repeal bill gets enacted in its current draft form. According to the CBO calculations, 14 million more would be uninsured by next year alone.
These numbers make it all but certain that the bill will pass, as even a number of Republicans take issues with the proposed American Health Care Act. For the GOP and Paul Ryan, who already bears the brunt from Conservatives and right-wing media outlets dubbing it Ryancare, quickly repealing Obamacare will almost definitely have a say in deciding their political future.
–> SONG SUGGESTION for the day: The Traveling Wilburys, “Handle with care”
52. (Sun, 12 Mar 2017) – WISHING WELL
A chain of unfortunate misunderstandings, it seems, has been broken. Finally. It took the White House quite some time, but here it is: the unlikeliest subterfuge rabbit to be pulled out of a hat since Eddie Murphy kindly invented Uber for transsexual prostitutes.
“The president reached out to Preet Bharara on Thursday to thank him for his service and to wish him good luck,” Sarah Huckabee Sanders, a White House spokeswoman, said in an email to the New York Times today.
That of course was meant to clear up the speculation behind Donald Trump’s call to the former attorney for the Southern District of New York, a mere 24 hours before the President’s order to dismiss Bharara and 45 colleagues from their job as federal attorneys.
It’s perfectly logical statement from the White House: First, they promise someone to let him stay on, then they ask him to resign. That happens. So, thanking that person and wishing him well is only the decent thing to do. Right? That move, however earnest it was meant by Trump, merely constitutes a gesture, not an explanation.
One thing it completely blanks out: the political masquerade behind the decision to oust the attorneys. No surprise, given what’s at stake as we discussed yesterday.
And so, once more, politics proves to remain the dirtiest of trades.
–> SONG SUGGESTION for the day: Terence Trent D’Arby, “Wishing well”
51. (Sat, 11 Mar 2017) – NO KIDDING, GOTTA GO
If you are an attorney and possess this thing called spine, then you don’t tend to go down without a fight. There is no need to place Preet Bharara on a podium for heroic deeds (for all I know he might have just wanted to save his career), but shining a bit of spotlight on the U.S. attorney
What’s so special about Bharara? His tough guy reputation somewhat precedes him: The attorney is known for aggressively going after public figures in corruption cases as well as investigating insider trading. After the election, Donald Trump set up a meeting with Bharara at Trump Tower. Afterwards, he told reporters that both the then president-elect and Jeff Sessions, who later became attorney general, “had asked him about staying on, which the prosecutor said he expected to do,” as the New York Times writes.
At the time that statement in front of the cameras was seen as a very public concession to Democrats. Being a former counsel to him, Bharara was seen as a close associate to Senator Chuck Schumer, the current Senate minority leader. Which makes the firing all the more surprising. If it weren’t for the aforementioned twist to this story.
After refusing to tender his resignation, Bharara was effectively kicked out. “I did not resign. Moments ago I was fired,” Bharara wrote on Twitter this afternoon. “Being the US Attorney in SDNY will forever be the greatest honour of my professional life.”
Now, wait for it, here comes the catch: On Wednesday, two days prior to the mass resignation, three government accountability groups asked Bharara to investigate whether Trump was illegally receiving benefits from foreign governments.
On Thursday, Trump demands to speak to Bharara in person. This office, however, refused to put the President through to the attorney. Bharara then let the White House and the Justice Department know that speaking to the President would be a breach of protocol, according to the New York Times. The next day, on Friday, Sessions asks for the attorneys’ resignations.
And if all that wasn’t enough, Bharara may have been investigating Fox News Channel’s parent company for not reporting settlements related to sexual harassment cases to the Securities and Exchange Commission, an attorney representing a former Fox News host said in open court on Wednesday, as Politico reports. The lawyer, Judd Burstein, said that he had received a federal grand jury subpoena from the office of Preet Bharara.
Burstein is representing former Fox News host Andrea Tantaros, who is suing Fox News executives for sexual harassment. At the hearing, Burstein suggested “that the subpoena appeared to be related to the company’s efforts to discreetly handle sexual harassment allegations,” Politico writes.
Who is the acting CEO of Fox News? Rupert Murdoch, the man New York Magazine described as someone who “throughout his six-decade career working on three continents, has used his media properties to advance the prospects of politicians whose policies help his business interests”.
Murdoch has been close to Trump on a number of occasions, he even secretly sat in on Michael Gove’s recent interview with the President at Trump Tower. Any potential legal action against the cash cow that is Fox News may have serious consequences. The last laugh in the Bharara saga could be Murdoch’s.
In other news: today’s morning headline “Intruder arrested on White House grounds” after an incident last night is a serious story, and yet a joke that is obviously on us.
–> SONG SUGGESTION for the day: Charli XCX, “Break the rules”
50. (Fri, 10 Mar 2017) – RESIGN, PLEASE
San Francisco’s tech industry may be as far away from D.C. as can be, but if we’re honest Donald Trump didn’t make a name for himself during the campaign for not shaking up the system anyway. So the magic word on Friday in Washington was a Silicon Valley favourite: disruption.
On Trump’s 50th day in office, he got the broomstick out to sweep up the remaining crumbs left by the Obama administration and asked a total of 46 holdover U.S. attorneys to tender their resignations immediately. To be precise, the call came from Jeff Sessions, the attorney general, and even if U.S. attorneys are political appointees, which makes the process of replacing them nothing too unusual, the President’s message was clear: I’m the king of my castle.
The fact that Trump confidant Sean Hannity, less than 24 hours before Sessions’ move, had called on his Thursday evening show for a “purge” of “deep-state Obama holdovers embedded like barnacles in the federal bureaucracy” apparently “hell-bent on destroying President Trump” (“it’s time for the Trump administration to purge these saboteurs,” he said), seems like a minor cutting room floor-type coincidence, probably only a strange detail we will have forgotten about in a few days. Maybe hours, more likely minutes.
–> SONG SUGGESTION for the day: The Communards, “Don’t leave me this way”
49. (Thu, 09 Mar 2017) – “UH, NO.”
What to make of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell then?
Laughing in someone’s face as you admit that your president will not keep promise on one of his biggest campaign vows… I don’t know if the flat-out “Uh, no.” is all you need to know about him and the self-righteous bigotry his Republican party stands for.
–> SONG SUGGESTION for the day: Game feat. 50 Cent, “Hate it or love it”
48. (Wed, 08 Mar 2017) – NOT COMING ACROSS
Good news from across the border. Oh, no. Good news from the border. If you ask Donald Trump, at least. The administration had new figures to report: The number of undocumented immigrants caught along the southwest border fell significantly last month, Customs and Border Protection said in a statement today.
Usually, the number of people trying to cross the border increases in February as temperatures rise. In a reversal of a yearslong trend, the number went down by 39 percent as compared to January. Still, 23.589 people were caught entering the U.S. from Mexico last month, which equates to about 842 people per day.
Not surprisingly, the Trump administration is taking credit for the numbers after their hard line on illegal immigration. “The early results show that enforcement matters, deterrence matters, and that comprehensive immigration enforcement can make an impact,” John F. Kelly, the homeland security secretary, said in a statement.
Because that initial policy of deterrence might not hold up forever, the Trump administration is obviously still bent on building the wall. To finance it, they are looking into significantly cutting funds for the Coast Guard, the Transportation Security Administration and other agencies focused on national security threats, according to a draft plan.
The Coast Guard’s $9.1 billion budget in 2017 would be cut 14 percent to about $7.8 billion, while the TSA and FEMA budgets would be reduced about 11 percent each to $4.5 billion and $3.6 billion, respectively.
Or as one commentator said on the web, trying to finance the wall by cutting these budgets would be like paying for your new burglar alarm by selling off your front door.
–> SONG SUGGESTION for the day: Al Stewart, “On the border”
47. (Tue, 07 Mar 2017) – THE ASSURED INSURED
He vowed to fix it for months, then came the “Nobody knew health care could be so complicated” line, and now here it is: after weeks and weeks of talking without releasing any details, yesterday House Republicans finally unveiled their plan to replace President Obama’s Affordable Care Act.
It was the President’s big promise throughout the campaign, to big cheers and applause at his rallies, but the American Health Care Act was a joint effort, developed in conjunction with Senate Republicans and the White House. Just don’t call it Trumpcare (more on that later).
The plan is still lacking some details; so far, a number of questions remain in the open. An indispensable source to understand the indeed rather complicated subject matter that is American health care is Sarah Kliff of vox.com. “Two big questions — how many people it will cover and how much it will cost — are still unresolved,” Kliff writes in a good explainer on the plan. “It will likely cover fewer people than the Affordable Care Act currently does, but we don’t know how many. And the Congressional Budget Office has not yet scored the legislation, so its price tag is unknown.”
But what we can say for sure is this:
- Some of Obamacare’s signature features are gone immediately, such as the tax on people who don’t purchase health care. Other protections, including the ban on discriminating people with pre-existing conditions and the provision that allows young adults to stay on their parents’ plan through age 26, would survive.
- The plan maintains the Medicaid expansion — for now. The Affordable Care Act expanded Medicaid to cover millions of low-income Americans. And, in a big shift from previous drafts of the legislation, which ended Medicaid expansion immediately, this bill would continue to that coverage expansion through January 1, 2020. At that point, enrollment would “freeze,” and legislators expect enrollees would drop out of the program as their incomes change.
- The replacement plan benefits people who are healthy and high-income, and disadvantages those who are sicker and lower-income. The replacement plan would make several changes to what health insurers can charge enrollees who purchase insurance on the individual market, as well as changing what benefits their plans must cover. In aggregate, these changes could be advantageous to younger and healthier enrollees who want skimpier (and cheaper) benefit packages. But they could be costly for older and sicker Obamacare enrollees, who rely on the law’s current requirements.
- The bill looks a lot more like Obamacare than previous drafts. A curious thing has happened to the Republican replacement plan as it has evolved through multiple drafts: it has begun to look more and more like Obamacare itself. The bill keeps some key features of Obamacare, like giving more help to lower-income Americans and the Medicaid expansion, in a scaled-back form. This speaks to how entrenched the health care law has become since its enactment seven years ago, and how difficult it will be for the GOP to repeal it entirely.
– “The American Health Care Act: the Republicans’ bill to replace Obamacare, explained” –– Sarah Kliff, vox.com, Mar 6, 2017, 10:25pm EST
Health Care is about choices. In all likelihood, there will always be trade-offs, affordability versus availability, while keeping an eye on the coast. Even given the fact how unpopular the ACA seemed to be throughout the country, repealing and replacing it never meant it would be an easy task to pull off for Republicans. And so, shortly after the plan was unveiled, the backlash came in –– from Republicans. “It’s Obamacare in a different format,” Representative Jim Jordan of Ohio, a member of the hardline House Freedom Caucus, said in an interview with the Atlantic.
Two groups, Heritage Action and the Club for Growth, came out against the proposal. “Many Americans seeking health insurance on the individual market will notice no significant difference between the Affordable Care Act (i.e., Obamacare) and the American Health Care Act,” the group’s president, Michael Needham said. “That is bad politics and, more importantly, bad policy. Rather than accept the flawed premises of Obamacare, congressional Republicans should fully repeal the failed law and begin a genuine effort to deliver on longstanding campaign promises that create a free-market health-care system that empowers patients and doctors.”
The bill is up against angry conservative activists and advocacy groups. “Lawmakers that make up the hard right of the GOP caucus are building a wall of opposition against what they swiftly branded ‘Obamacare-lite’ and they are particularly fired up that the bill retains tax credits to subsidise insurance, although they are less expensive than Obamacare’s,” Politico pointed out in an article. “President Donald Trump, Vice President Mike Pence and the House GOP leadership joined to show support Tuesday. But without the hardball-playing Freedom Caucus on board, the odds the House can pass an Obamacare replacement plan are effectively nil.”
The President, who seems to be avoiding any kind of nominal association with the bill, might not be putting his favourite five letters in front of it (“It’s not Trumpcare,” a White House spokesperson said, “we will be calling it by its official name”) in case the policy backfires with voters. And yet, one thing is for sure: after keeping his fountain pen busy signing executive orders, Donald Trump will have to show his deal-making ability for the first time to get the American Health Care Act passed.
–> SONG SUGGESTION for the day: The Strokes, “Hard to explain”
46. (Mon, 06 Mar 2017) – TRAVEL BAN BACKDOOR
It was the line-up of the usual suspects, dressed in the common attire of white men with something important to announce. The dull shades of their dark suits reflected the sobering news: Donald Trump had signed a new executive order.
His second travel ban prevents immigration from six Muslim-majority countries, dropping Iraq from January’s previous order, and reinstates a temporary blanket ban on all refugees. But here to do the dirty deed and explain it was not the President himself but three middle-aged men: secretary of state Rex Tillerson, attorney general Jeff Sessions, and Department of Homeland Security secretary John Kelly took it into their hands to defending the revised version of the immigration ban.
“It is the president’s solemn duty to protect the American people,” Tillerson said on Monday morning at a press conference. “This order is part of our ongoing efforts to eliminate vulnerabilities that radical Islamists terrorists can and will exploit.”
Let’s not forget, since 9/11, about 400 individuals were charged with or credibly involved in jihad-inspired activity in the United States. Just under half (197) were U.S.-born citizens, according to research by the nonpartisan think tank New America Foundation. An additional 82 were naturalised citizens, and 44 were permanent residents.
“Far from being foreign infiltrators, the large majority of jihadist terrorists in the United States have been American citizens or legal residents. Moreover, while a range of citizenship statuses are represented, every jihadist who conducted a lethal attack inside the United States since 9/11 was a citizen or legal resident. In addition, about a quarter of the extremists are converts, further confirming that the challenge cannot be reduced to one of immigration,” the report continues.
“We do not make the law but are sworn to enforce it. We have no other option,” John Kelly said. “Our enemies often use our own freedoms and generosity against us.”
Who are these enemies? Well, according to the new executive order, they potentially come from anywhere: A part of the executive order actually calls for a review of U.S. visa relationships with every country, according to the original text of the executive order “Protecting the Nation from Foreign Terrorist entry into the United States”:
“The Secretary of Homeland Security, in consultation with the Secretary of State and the Director of National Intelligence, shall conduct a worldwide review to identify whether, and if so what, additional information will be needed from each foreign country to adjudicate an application by a national of that country for a visa, admission, or other benefit under the INA (adjudications) in order to determine that the individual is not a security or public-safety threat.
The Secretary of Homeland Security, in consultation with the Secretary of State and the Attorney General, may submit to the President the names of any additional countries recommended for similar treatment (…). “
So there is a little backdoor buried in the small print of this new order. If the Trump administration thinks that another country beyond the six specifically mentioned ones does not do enough to comply with U.S. visa regulations, it can ban citizens from these countries from entering the United States, too.
The President, seemingly preoccupied with assembling his evidence to prove Barack Obama’s involvement in Trump’s allegedly being wiretapped, let the three grey men announce the bleak outlook for diversity in American society.
–> SONG SUGGESTION for the day: Visage, “Fade to grey”
45. (Sun, 05 Mar 2017) – COME FOR THE TRUTH, STAY FOR THE COMEY
Ah, here it is, the inevitable update on yesterday’s revelations: In the great big saga that this election cycle has been so far, it seems certain that when just about everyone is involved, BOOM!, the F.B.I. comes along and reshuffles the cards.
“James B. Comey, asked the Justice Department this weekend to publicly reject President Trump’s assertion that President Barack Obama ordered the tapping of Mr Trump’s phones, senior American officials said on Sunday,” the New York Times reported today. “Mr Comey has argued that the highly charged claim is false and must be corrected, they said, but the department has not released any such statement.”
Comey’s request came just after Donald Trump levelled his allegation on Twitter, the article explains. The F.B.I. director “has been working to get the Justice Department to knock down the claim because it falsely insinuates that the F.B.I. broke the law”.
To reiterate, in other words: Donald Trump’s twitter outburst has woken a sleeping giant. Well, not exactly. Again, the F.B.I. always seems to pop up in this hive of intrigue, whether we’re talking Clinton emails, Priebus trying to rebut new leaks on Russia, or now in Trump’s wiretapping accusations. But anyhow, dragging the nation’s top law enforcement agency into this – so far – untenable claim can’t be good news.
And so, soon there will be even more fires to be put out.
–> SONG SUGGESTION for the day: The Rolling Stones, “Play with fire”
44. (Sat, 04 Mar 2017) – BOY IN DA CORNER
It was a funny old week in Washington. On Tuesday it rained applause that lasted till Wednesday, on Thursday clouds gathered, by Friday a storm was brewing that suddenly changed direction and unloaded itself on the lightning road called @realdonaldtrump.
At around 8:30 a.m. this morning Donald Trump unleashed a twitter tirade few would’ve predicted:
Terrible! Just found out that Obama had my “wires tapped” in Trump Tower just before the victory. Nothing found. This is McCarthyism!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 4, 2017
Is it legal for a sitting President to be “wire tapping” a race for president prior to an election? Turned down by court earlier. A NEW LOW!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 4, 2017
I’d bet a good lawyer could make a great case out of the fact that President Obama was tapping my phones in October, just prior to Election!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 4, 2017
How low has President Obama gone to tapp my phones during the very sacred election process. This is Nixon/Watergate. Bad (or sick) guy!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 4, 2017
In essence, Donald Trump accused Barack Obama, without providing any evidence, of tapping into his phone at Trump Tower. There was talk about Trump picking up the story from a Breitbart News article that circulated on the net yesterday, which might explain the lack of evidence he provided in his tweets. A lot of people were quick to point out that Obama’s denial statement merely said the White House under Obama didn’t order it:
“Neither President Obama nor any White House official ever ordered surveillance on any U.S. citizen. Any suggestion otherwise is simply false,” the statement read.
We are talking nuances here, obviously: normally, if there seems to be a case for it the order has to go through the DOJ, and they have to get it from FISC. So, Obama’s statement only states he or his administration didn’t order it.
On the other hand, however, it means that if Donald Trump is right and he was indeed wiretapped, the could be knee-deep in trouble. Again, supported by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act the court usually only grants these orders if there is substantial evidence, meaning something rather suspicious must have come up in the investigation if there was any collusion between the Trump campaign and the Russians.
We will hear more on this, for sure. After what was spun as a partial reboot of this still very young presidency, we went from that on-message speech before Congress on Tuesday to a restless twitter storm in a matter of a few days. As soon as Trump or his administration are criticised (in this case, Jeff Sessions was given the treatment for a number of days, reflecting badly on Trump’s government), Trump behaves like someone backed into a corner –– defensive, ready to lash out at any given moment.
What are we learning about his judgement then? Trump, it seems, is still very much his predictable, paranoid, thin-skinned, twitchy, impulsive self after all.
–> SONG SUGGESTION for the day: Blondie, “Hanging on the telephone”
43. (Fri, 03 Mar 2017) – THINGS ARE HEATING UP
It is easy to pick out the signal words from Donald Trump’s curiously much-lauded speech on Tuesday night. Just a few of the key mentions in the address that outlined the issues his administration will tackle in the following years of his presidency:
– United States / America: 90 mentions
– Russia: 0 mentions
– Mexico: 0 mentions
– the wall: 1 mention
– immigration: 8 mentions
– border: 6 mentions
– crime: 4 mentions
– security: 5 mentions
– trade: 5 mentions
– military: 6 mentions
– jobs: 14 mentions
– taxes: 12 mentions
– environment: 0 mentions
“Finally, the chorus became an earthquake — and the people turned out by the tens of millions,” Trump said in the speech, “and they were all united by one very simple, but crucial demand, that America must put its own citizens first … because only then, can we truly make America great again.”
The zero mentions for environment presumably go in line with the next sentence following from there: “Dying industries will come roaring back to life.” Trump promised his administration had “undertaken a historic effort to massively reduce job‑crushing regulations” and would stop “a regulation that threatens the future and livelihoods of our great coal miners.”
The environmental impact of fossil fuels has been widely discussed. Strengthening these industries will almost certainly be at the expense of the environment. Which brings us to today’s news: “White House proposes steep budget cut to leading climate science agency” read a Wahington Post headline this evening.
According to a four-page budget memo obtained by the Washington Post the White House is planning to cut the budget of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), a leading government agency on climate science, by 17 percent. NOAA is part of the Commerce Department, which would be hit by an overall 18 percent budget reduction from its current funding level.
“The proposed cuts to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration would also eliminate funding for a variety of smaller programs,” the article continues, “including external research, coastal management, estuary reserves and ‘coastal resilience,’ which seeks to bolster the ability of coastal areas to withstand major storms and rising seas. ”
During the campaign Donald Trump was very outspoken against increasing protective environmental measures, even vowing to get rid of the Environmental Protection Agency “in almost every form”. Since taking office President Donald Trump and his administration have repealed Clean Water Act protections for wetlands and proposed the expected cuts to the EPA.
In his address before Congress, the President spent a great deal of time to talk about the future, how he and the government would fight for Americans “to advance the common good, and to cooperate on behalf of every American child who deserves a brighter future.”
A couple of days ago, Antarctica hit record high temperature at a balmy 63.5°F. How bright that American future will be under those clouds of burned coal remains to be seen.
–> SONG SUGGESTION for the day: Martha Reeves & the Vandella, “Heat Wave”
42. (Thu, 02 Mar 2017) – WELL RECUSE ME, PLEASE
One can only imagine how that must’ve riled him: A day full of praise, plus those cute attempts at interpretation –– Is that the new Donald Trump?, the pundits wondered throughout the day after his performance at the Joint Address before Congress on Tuesday, and the following hours must have been exactly to his taste: all eyes were on Trump who bathed in the certitude that he landed a political masterstroke by accurately reading from a teleprompter.
And then along came Jeff Sessions and singlehandedly ruined Trump’s moment of triumph.
Attention is a big jewel in Trump’s crown of importance. But Sessions taking away the spotlight while Trump was basking in a rare moment of glory of those first weeks of his often tumultuous presidency wasn’t something the President will have liked much, presumably.
On the other hand, Trump owes Sessions. There is a template for a number of policies the Trump campaign has adopted, and that template comes right out of the Alabama Senator’s office. Sessions, if you will, is the ideological (and somewhat intellectual) godfather to Trump’s trade and immigration proposals, to name but a few.
But now this man finds himself in a political hot seat. Sessions did not disclose his meetings with the Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak during the campaign when he had his confirmation hearings as attorney general before Congress.
For a number of reasons Trump was quick to defend his AG:
“Jeff Sessions is an honest man. He did not say anything wrong. He could have stated his response more accurately, but it was clearly not intentional. This whole narrative is a way of saving face for Democrats losing an election that everyone thought they were supposed to win. The Democrats are overplaying their hand. They lost the election, and now they have lost their grip on reality. The real story is all of the illegal leaks of classified and other information. It is a total ‘witch hunt’!”
– Donald Trump, via twitter, 2 March, 6:22 pm
“It is, at best, very misleading testimony,” said Richard Painter, formerly the top ethics lawyer in President George W. Bush’s White House, in an interview with Politico. “I don’t go so far as to say that it’s perjury, but there is a lesser charge of failing to provide accurate information to Congress. A nominee at a confirmation hearing has an obligation to provide full and complete information to Congress,” Painter continued. “Conduct that might be just short of perjury in a deposition in a typical civil case is entirely inappropriate in front of Congress.”
At the confirmation hearing, Senator Al Franken (D–MN) asked Sessions: “If there is any evidence that anyone affiliated with the Trump campaign communicated with the Russian government in the course of this campaign, what will you do?”
Sessions replied: “Senator Franken, I’m not aware of any of those activities. I have been called a surrogate at a time or two in that campaign and I didn’t have — did not have communications with the Russians, and I’m unable to comment on it.”
Perjury is very hard to prove, and the fact that several grown men from the Trump campaign all lied (or tip-toed around) about meeting with the Russians during the run-up to the election, will not be enough of a straw to break the camel’s back.
Sessions took himself out of the line of fire by announcing in a press conference today that he will recuse himself from any investigations related to campaigns for president, including any probe into contacts between President Donald Trump’s campaign and Russian officials.
“I have recused myself in the matters that deal with the Trump campaign,” Sessions said at the Justice Department. Sessions said he consulted senior Justice Department staff for their “candid and honest opinion” about what he should do. “My staff recommended recusal,” he said. “They said that since I had involvement with the campaign, I should not be involved in any campaign investigation. I have studied the rules and considered their comments and evaluation. I believe those recommendations are right and just.”
So far so good. And yet, after proceedings that afternoon at Justice Department, in the evening another piece of the puzzle emerged: “Jeff Sessions used political funds for Republican Convention Expenses: Records show attorney general used his campaign account for travel expenses to Cleveland, where he met Russian envoy,” read a Wall Street Journal headline later tonight, suggesting but ultimately not proving that Sessions acted on behalf of Trump’s interests in this meeting.
Whatever the outcome, right now Sessions and the piece-by-piece revelations are blocking Trump’s sun.
–> SONG SUGGESTION for the day: a-ha, “The sun always shines on TV”
41. (Wed, 01 Mar 2017) – FAR FROM OVER
It might have been a thumbs-up all around from the pundits yesterday, but the positive reaction to Donald Trump’s speech on Tuesday could not topple the fact that a number of issues still remain widely unresolved.
There are policy matters that Donald Trump touched upon in his address, like immigration and health care, that the administration hasn’t tackled. “He was silent on the details that I think will be very, very important to legislative remedy,” said Mark Sanford (R-S.C.). “We need more definition and detail from the executive branch.”
Trump sat down with top lawmakers at the White House earlier today to talk about health care, and the President is expected to announce more details in the coming months as his team studies individual proposals, an administration official said.
And yet, one issue is looming large on the day after Trump speech. That issue is still the small matter of possible ties between Russia and Trump’s team during the campaign. How come? The Washington Post revealed today that Attorney General Jeff Sessions had also met with the Russian ambassador in the months leading up to the election.
What makes this an extra delicate affair: these were meetings Sessions did not disclose during his confirmation hearings when he said he knew of no contacts between Trump surrogates and the Russians. According to the article, Sessions, an early Trump supporter and regular surrogate during the campaign, met with ambassador Sergey Kislyak twice, “in July on the sidelines of the Republican convention”, and “in September in his office when Sessions was a member of the Senate Armed Services committee”.
Sessions was quick to respond, late Wednesday evening, when he issued a statement: “I never met with any Russian officials to discuss issues of the campaign,” he said. “I have no idea what this allegation is about. It is false.”
Donald Trump’s former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn talked to Kislyak, too. In the end it cost him his job. That statement raises more questions than it answers. If it turns out Sessions lied under oath, he is likely to get the sack.
To be continued, for sure.
–> SONG SUGGESTION for the day: Harry Nilsson, “Everybody’s talkin'”
40. (Tue, 28 Feb 2017) – RISING TO THE OCCASION
Tomorrow there will be a lot of talk about the p-word. After delivering what Politico called a speech “remarkable for how unremarkable it was” the word pivot seems inevitable to consider when deciphering Donald Trump’s remarks before both chambers of Congress tonight.
Some commentators called the scripted, subdued performance Donald Trump’s most presidential address yet, others even saw in it the making of a president: Van Jones, the outspoken Trump critic, found the bit in which the President spoke to Carryn Owens, the widow of slain US Navy SEAL William “Ryan” Owens, to be Trump’s deciding moment: “He became President of the United States in that moment, period.”
From the outset, the speech seemed like any other Trump speech from the campaign. It had all the important issues in it: the wall, illegal immigration, jobs for American workers, factories in China, the military. Two things were notably missing: Apart from a sly dig (“we are providing a voice to those who have been ignored by our media”) the press was ignored, and the term fake news didn’t even feature once. Also absent from the speech was the word Mexico. Trump only referred to the wall along “our Southern border”.
So, has the unlikeliest of presidents found his voice with this address and made a serious push towards being more presidential in the traditional sense? I wouldn’t exactly bet on it. His line “our children will grow up in a nation of miracles” was exemplary for the kind of president of miracles that he has showcased to be: if needs be, his tone is adjusted, less gloomy, less aggressive, more forthcoming. But that’s all.
The polarizing bits he left out, namely his vendetta with the press and Mexico’s apparent obligation to pay for his wall. And BOOM, all of a sudden he seemed presidential. Well, let’s face it: all he did was read from a teleprompter without any major incidents. The message, if at all intended, was simple: see, I can rise to the occasion.
Maybe he can, which counts for something. But even after that speech it is still hard to fathom what his real strategy is. Not just that he offered a lot without any details on how to achieve or pay for his promises, but in the end he remained the usual paradoxical president: earlier today he called House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi “incompetent”, during the speech he asked to work “past the differences of party”; he used a girl with Rare Disease as testimony to further his agenda after having mocked a disabled reporter on the campaign trail; he blamed his generals for the death of Navy SEAL Owens (“This was a mission that was started before I got here. This was something they wanted to do”), then he bathed in applause for remembering him during the speech; he declared that “the time for trivial fights is behind us” when all he does is pick petty fights –– be it with the media, politicians, or Arnold Schwarzenegger.
He has done it before. Changing his tone, appearing more appropriate to what his role as president asks of him. How long did it last? One tweet or one press conference, in most cases.
Trump does pivot. Usually by 360 degrees.
–> SONG SUGGESTION for the day: Bob Seger, “Still the same”
39. (Mon, 27 Feb 2017) – THE WINNER TAKES IT ALL
In line with keeping promises made during the campaign, the White House announced today that Donald Trump’s first budget proposal will look to increase defence and security spending by $54 billion. At the same time, non-defense programmes are expected to see cuts by roughly the same amount.
The budget blueprint, which was sent to government agencies on Monday, would increase defence spending to $603 billion and decrease non-defense discretionary spending to $462 billion, Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney said.
“This budget will be a public safety and national security budget,” Trump said at a bipartisan gathering of US governors at the White House. His promises for substantial increases in defence, law enforcement, and infrastructure spending signifies an expected shift away from the Obama administration, which acted as a champion of the arts and the environment.
Trump had promised during the campaign to strengthen the military and increase the defence budget. “We have to win. We have to start winning wars again,” Trump said at the White House address.
The budget proposal should come as no surprise, it is what he promised his supporters up and down the country before the election in November. And yet, if Trump says, it is time to win again, then just who will he be fighting?
–> SONG SUGGESTION for the day: Hot Chocolate, “Everyone’s a winner”
38. (Sun, 26 Feb 2017) – SO LAST SEASON
The recent so-called golden age of TV has taught us many things: about advertising and sexism, about cancer and crystal meth, about dragons and public shaming, about D.C. rib joints and revenge, and much more. And as these shows went on for a number of seasons, even the best scripts could not paint over the fact that there was always one character that had outstayed his or her welcome. At some point, that person had to go –– too annoying, too evil, or in a few cases not evil enough.
If you are not evil enough for modern television, you certainly are a character that lacks much-needed scheming skills. Without the ability to play two parties off each other you are a nobody. That sudden death will only be a couple of episodes away.
In politics, the dark art of persuasion and deception, now more than ever, is essential for your survival. If you don’t give things the right spin, your career can be over and done within the matter of an afternoon. If TV taught us another thing, it is the fact that the passive character gets the boot more often. Rarely is your destiny safe when put in the hands of someone else. That’s why in politics leaks were invented. Giving away information can be a direct or indirect exchange for wealth, publicity, or simply put the right spin on an issue that benefits you as the leaker.
No one in modern politics is without agenda. So if too much spin from the opposition gets you in a tumble you will have to do something, or else your political days are numbered.
For White House press secretary Sean Spicer, the plot development has not been looking all too promising: he has been ridiculed on SNL several times, he was responsible for telling “alternative facts”, and apparently Donald Trump even made him get a makeover.
So now, it seems, Spicer is trying to back out of a corner he has been put into for a number of weeks: the cue ball of the powerful. If the brutal politics on the Hill is nothing but resembling the in-fighting of House Targaryen, it should be time for Spicer to make his way out of the dragons’ den very soon before he gets roasted once more.
And there it was, the plot twist: “Press secretary Sean Spicer is cracking down on leaks coming out of the West Wing,” Politico reported today. According to the article increased security measures were implemented, including random phone checks for White House staffers.
“The push to snuff out leaks to the press comes after a week in which President Donald Trump strongly criticised the media for using unnamed sources in stories and expressed growing frustration with the unauthorised sharing of information by individuals in his administration,” the article continues.
How well Spicer’s proactive crackdown on leaks is working is highlighted by the next sentence from that Politico story: “Spicer, who consulted with White House counsel Don McGahn before calling the meeting, was accompanied by White House lawyers in the room, according to multiple sources.”
According to multiple sources. The fine irony in this will not have been lost to his boss, who happens to be the showrunner, too. The question for the unfortunate-acting Sean Spicer is now: is Donald Trump going the whole four seasons with him by his side?
–> SONG SUGGESTION for the day: The Music, “The truth is no words”
37. (Sat, 25 Feb 2017) – WHAT ELSE?
What else were we supposed to do? That is a very good question, and it would deserve a very good answer. That question, however, seems just a little thin for explaining why White House chief of staff Reince Priebus asked FBI Director James Comey to publicly dispute media reports that members of Donald Trump’s campaign team had been in touch with Russian intelligence agents.
In a little update after yesterday’s developments, press secretary Sean Spicer confirmed the contact between the White House and FBI, and argued that Priebus had little choice but to seek Comey’s help in denying what he claimed were “inaccurate reports”:
“I really am intrigued by I don’t know what else we were supposed to do. We were provided information. And this notion that I see on CNN about we pushed back or we applied pressure. Pressure, by definition, is applying force. So if we had said, ‘If you don’t do this, if you don’t do that,’ that’s pressure. And I get that. That would have been wrong. ‘We order you to do this. We require you to do that. We’re urging’ — we literally responded when presented with information and said, ‘Could you let the media know that, what you’re informing us of?’
And the answer was, well, we don’t want to get in the middle of starting a practice of doing this. So our answer is, well, why did you come to us with this information if not to elicit a response?
I don’t know what else you do except for say, gosh, could you clear the record up? That is a very different scenario than trying to exert influence on a situation. We literally responded to what they came to us with and said, okay, what are you going to do about it?”
So, all the White House wanted was some big boy help to get someone else to clean up their mess? Oh, quelle surpirse then that the FBI wasn’t much into the idea of flexing its muscle on behalf of the Trump campaign’s shady dealings with the Russians.
–> SONG SUGGESTION for the day: The Beatles, “With a little help from my friends”
36. (Fri, 24 Feb 2017) – ACCESS DENIED
The story broke late last night: “FBI refused White House request to knock down recent Trump-Russia stories” ran the CNN headline. In it, there is talk of how “the FBI rejected a recent White House request to publicly knock down media reports about communications between Donald Trump’s associates and Russians known to US intelligence during the 2016 presidential campaign”, and then the deciding line: “… multiple US officials briefed on the matter tell CNN.”
Twelve hours later, Donald Trump got on the podium at CPAC to deliver his speech as the newly elected President of the United States. What should’ve been remarks on his vision for Conservatism in 2017, got off to a different start. Trump, once again, attacked the free press for reporting on what is going on inside the White House:
“And I want you all to know we are fighting the fake news. It’s fake. Phony. Fake. A few days ago I called the fake news the ‘enemy of the people’, and they are. They are the ‘enemy of the people’. Because they have no sources, they just make them up when there are none. I saw one story recently where they said nine people have confirmed. There are no nine people. I don’t believe there was one or two people. Nine people. And I said, give me a break because I know the people. I know who they talked to. There were no nine people. But they say nine people. And somebody reads it and they say, oh, nine people, they have nine sources. They make up sources.”
Trump knows the business, in fact he knows it too well. During the campaign he and his staff went off the record on numerous occasions to give their agenda and their opinion on a number of topics a certain spin.
Now, in front of the conservative crowd at CPAC, he appeared as meek as a lamb, putting the blame for playing the game solely on the media: “They’re very dishonest people. In fact, in covering my comments, the dishonest media did not explain that I called the fake news the enemy of the people — the fake news. They dropped off the word ‘fake’. And all of a sudden the story became the media is the enemy. They take the word ‘fake’ out.”
We may agree that the outlets he named (The New York Times, NBC, ABC, CBS, CNN) are not contributing to fake news, quite the opposite. You might agree or disagree with their reporting, but they are holding Trump and his administration accountable. Anonymous sources can be a problem to an extent, yet these outlets should be tough on him, they should report everything that sounds fishy.
“I’m not against the media, I’m not against the press. I don’t mind bad stories if I deserve them,” Trump said at CPAC. A couple of hours later, the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, Politico, and CNN were told they were not on the White House list for today’s off-camera briefing.
Coincidently, these outlets, among others, had been reporting extensively on the FBI/White House story.
–> SONG SUGGESTION for the day: Arcade Fire, “Rebellion (Lies)”
35. (Thu, 23 Feb 2017) – THICK AS THIEVES
It was a rare public appearance for Steve Bannon when he sat in on a discussion at CPAC with White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus to assert fellow Conservatives that, in fact, all was going well at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. If you found the overt chumminess depicted by the two panellists was a bit much for your taste, the crowd seemed happy, and the host was certainly loving it: “You know, Steve you’re a really likeable guy. You should do this more often.”
Maybe he should. Then we could get a better gist of the guy the dub the actual President of the United States. Today, sitting next to the somewhat grovelling Priebus, we saw a man for 30 minutes that seemed assured in what he was saying, in how he was saying it, and why he was saying it.
“If you look at the opposition party and how they portray the campaign, how they portrayed the transition and now they’re portraying the administration, it’s always wrong,” he said. And by ‘the opposition’ he meant the media, of course.
Listening back to the conversation, you hardly come across a hate filled individual at work here. Bannon, in contrast to Trump’s public anti-media outbursts, showcased an unstressed character to his public perception, although he admitted to being more sultry than Priebus: “Yeah, you know, I can run a little hot on occasions.”
If it wasn’t a furious alt-right advocate that has a proven record of antisemitism, who then did we witness that CPAC? The concerned ideologue. The thinking conservative that cares for his country with deep conviction.
The double act with Priebus was to prove to sceptical Conservatives: we are getting along swimmingly, the White House is in good hands with us. And still, all the assertion cannot quite besmirch the fact that these two are from opposite ends.
Priebus is the technocrat, the GOP soldier, Washington’s political system has made him who he is. First party chairman, now chief of staff. Bannon, on the other hand, has made his money working in the industry before he helmed the flamethrowing, mainstream-kicking Breitbart News website. Then came the call from Trump to take care of his chaotic campaign.
While Priebus was eager to praise his new boss, Bannon explained where the real estate mogul was coming from: “The reason it worked is President Trump. I mean, Trump had those ideas, had that energy, had that vision that could galvanise a team around him … and we never had a doubt and Donald Trump never had a doubt that he was going to win.”
To the question what had been the most significant steps undertaken by President Trump, Bannon said: “I think one of the most pivotal moments in modern American history was his immediate withdraw from TPP. That got us out of a trade deal and let our sovereignty come back to ourselves, the people. The mainstream media don’t get this, but we’re already working in consultation with the Hill. People are starting to think through a whole raft of amazing and innovative, bilateral relationships — bilateral trading relationships with people that will reposition America in the world as a fair trading nation and start to bring high value-added, manufacturing jobs back to the United States of America.”
He also picked up on an old Leftist vision that the Right now seems to have appropriated into its own thinking: “These cabinet appointees were selected for a reason and that is the deconstruction of the administrative state.”
Deconstruction is not a new word in political thinking. Bannon, however, has incorporated it into his own agenda for the Trump administration: The state’s rules and regulations, its trade deals, and tax burdens are merely contributing to lower economic growth and one’s individual freedom.
Of course, on stage at CPAC we only got a snippet of Bannon’s way of thinking but after those 40 minutes, the notion that it has been Bannon who pours all that dark matter into the President’s head so that he can deliver it through his unique rhetoric filter does ring a little less hollow now.
–> SONG SUGGESTION for the day: The Libertines, “What became of the likely lads?”
34. (Wed, 22 Feb 2017) – REVOKING TRANSGENDER PROTECTION
If your political agenda follows a stone-cold opportunistic philosophy, then maybe the level of surprise is small when all of a sudden you take a step that will make life for trans kids more difficult.
It took the Trump administration a mere two-page letter to revoke an Obama landmark directive aimed at protecting the rights of transgender students, telling public schools today that the policy has caused a rash of lawsuits nationwide and needs to be reconsidered. Under the Obama guidance, transgender students were allowed to use bathrooms and locker rooms in alignment with their gender identity
According to the new letter sent out by the Justice and Education departments, the Obama administration’s interpretation of federal law did not “undergo any formal public process” prior to its release last year and “has given rise to significant litigation.”
Rescinding those guidelines at this point somewhat comes as a surprise, as a federal judge had put them on hold, arguing that states and public schools should have the authority to make their own decisions without federal interference. The Obama administration back then threatened to withhold funding for schools, colleges, and universities that did not comply with the guidance, which was legally non-binding.
That, in turn, led to a number of lawsuits over the issue in almost two dozen states, effectively contesting Title IX, a federal law that prohibits sex-based discrimination in educational programs. At the forefront of the legal challenge were Conservatives like Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton: “Our fight over the bathroom directive has always been about former President Obama’s attempt to bypass Congress and rewrite the laws to fit his political agenda for radical social change,” Paxton told Reuters.
This seems to be in line with Jeff Sessions, Donald Trump’s new Attorney General. Sessions said in a statement that “the Department of Justice has a duty to enforce the law. The prior guidance documents did not contain sufficient legal analysis or explain how the interpretation was consistent with the language of Title IX.”
A report by the New York Times suggested that the Trump administration’s plan to dismantle the Obama guidance sparked a disagreement between Sessions and Betsy DeVos. At least the new Education Secretary was quick to stress that “we have a responsibility to protect every student in America and ensure that they have the freedom to learn and thrive in a safe and trusted environment.” DeVos said in a statement, that “this is not merely a federal mandate, but a moral obligation no individual, school, district or state can abdicate.”
In the end, it may come down to the courts having their the final say over whether Title IX covers transgender students. And the President, what exactly does he have to say about the decision, which surely will not have been bypassed him today?
“Oh, I had a feeling that question was going to come up,” Trump said last April during a town hall event in Maryland on the issue that will now leave transgender students even more vulnerable to abuse and bullying. “There have been very few complaints the way it is. People go. They use the bathroom that they feel is appropriate.”
A change of heart he is yet to explain.
–> SONG SUGGESTION for the day: Badly Drawn Boy, “Pissing in the wind”
33. (Tue, 21 Feb 2017) – MINCING WORDS
Today was the day that Milo Yiannopoulos fell on its own sword: like him, someone didn’t mince words. That certain someone was the public, the internet, and a handsome number of his critics. On Monday, the American Conservative Union rescinded its invitation to speak at one of their events scheduled for later on during this week after a backlash over comments Yiannopoulos made that appeared to condone statutory rape and sexual relationships between boys and men.
Something that he strongly denied in a Facebook post after being disinvited and having lost a book deal with the publisher Simon & Schuster, and once again today in a press conference where he announced his resignation as a Breitbart News editor.
Yiannopoulos vowed not to let the haters get the better of him, instead he promised to “be back with details of my new publisher, my new media venture and my new tour.”
“This week, for political gain, the media and the Republican establishment accused a child abuse victim of enabling child abuse,” he stated. “It’s sick. But they have not killed me. They have only made me stronger.”
If that kind of vengeful rhetoric sounds familiar, it is because Donald Trump supporter Yiannopoulos might have taken notice what the President has said about getting a bloody nose from someone. During a speech in 2007, Donald Trump explained his first rule of business: “It’s called ‘Get Even.’ Get even (…) When you’re in business, you get even with people that screw you. And you screw them 15 times harder. And the reason is, the reason is, the reason is, not only, not only, because of the person that you’re after, but other people watch what’s happening. Other people see you or see you or see and they see how you react.”
To be clear, Yiannopoulos will have to deal with the aftermath of those uncovered tapes on his terms. It has nothing to do with Trump. Nothing whatsoever.
The two men share something in common, though. It is a certain mentality that enabled these two personalities to carve out a certain niche in conservatism.
Both are not particularly conservative, which seems surprising first of all. As a politician, Trump is a populist on an authoritarian trajectory, but foremost he is an opportunist. Someone who says what and when he needs to say it to achieve his objectives.
Milo Yiannopoulos, on the other hand, just last weekend, the day before these tapes surfaced in fact, rejected the term as being used for himself. He agreed, however, to be a Trump supporter. Yiannopoulos is a peacock for attention, someone who knows how to play the media, and use socio-economic codes to manipulate his audience.
Each in his own way, but both men have been able to forge their way into the Conservative mainstream –– not by being great thinkers that contributed original thoughts to a Republican discourse, but simply for representing outrageous views that managed to get under every Liberal’s skin.
For a lot of Republicans, knowing now to piss off Democrats was enough to get them a seat at the table.
–> SONG SUGGESTION for the day: Dire Straits, “Brothers in arms”
32. (Mon, 20 Feb 2017) – ABOARD THE OFF-COURSE SHIP
How could he let it rest? After all, Donald Trump created that mess himself with that botched line during Saturday’s rally about an apparent incident in Sweden at the end of last week. No source, no evidence, no nothing. Just him claiming things. And yet, President Trump clung onto his favourite tool when it comes to papering over the cracks: “Give the public a break – The FAKE NEWS media is trying to say that large-scale immigration in Sweden is working out just beautifully. NOT!” Trump tweeted today.
Well, that’s that settled then. Well. Maybe. Maybe not. Little evidence provided, again. But is that what Twitter is for? Ex-act-ly. And the President had bigger fish to fry than the Swedish anyway. After talks over the weekend, the presented Michael Flynn’s successor. The name reads well on a business card: Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster, National Security Advisor.
Flynn’s forced resignation, we remember, left the National Security Council in disarray and somewhat leaderless, especially that Trump initial first choice as Flynn replacement, retired Vice Admiral Robert Harward, turned down the offer on Thursday. Another candidate who was supposed to be in the running, Gen. David Petraeus, took himself out of consideration over concerns that he wouldn’t have full authority to hire his own staff.
If McMaster insisted on that feat is not known. We do know, though, that he is the thinking man’s general: McMaster “is considered one of the Army’s top intellectuals,” Politico writes. He is the author of a best-selling book about failed military leadership during the Vietnam War and later went on to help pioneer counterinsurgency operations in Iraq.
Even the GOP seemed content with Trump’s choice. One of his leading critics, Senator John McCain, said in a statement: “I give President Trump great credit for this decision, as well as his national security cabinet choices,” the Senate Armed Services Chairman wrote after the announcement. “I have had the honor of knowing [McMaster] for many years, and he is a man of genuine intellect, character, and ability. He knows how to succeed.”
“He’s a man of tremendous talent and tremendous experience,” Trump said of his new national security adviser. “I watched and read a lot over the last two days. He is highly respected by everyone in the military, and we’re very honored to have him.”
So plenty of praise for the new national security advisor. And yet, there are issues where Trump and McMaster are likely to lock horns: As of today, McMaster was director of the Army Capabilities Integration Center. This task there was to come up with a long-term strategy for the Army and focus specifically on how the U.S. can counter Russian tactics, including a heavy reliance on cyber attacks.
If the President (taking a more lenient approach) and the General will see eye-to-eye when it comes to squaring off to Russia, remains unknown.
Judging by the way they seem to be informed by Team Trump, the Russians might know before McMaster does.
–> SONG SUGGESTION for the day: Paul Weller, “Brand new start”
31. (Sun, 19 Feb 2017) – NOT TIED DOWN
While the Swedes are still snickering over an alleged incident in their country, and the President is enjoying a casual round of golf at Mar-a-Lago in Palm Beach maybe it’s a good time to hit the pause button for a minute and leave the madness for a day …
… and ask a simple question instead: has anyone else noticed how Trump without that dangling tie just looks like a long-retired pool boy from Florida on a night out?
–> SONG SUGGESTION for the day: %20SONG SUGGESTION for the day: John Lennon, “Mind games””>R.E.M., “Nightswimming”
30. (Sat, 18 Feb 2017) – SWEDE DREAMS
The cable news President is living in a bubble himself. Evidently, this is pure speculation. But what is one to do if he is surrounded by security and brown-nosers 24/7?
Uuuh, Mr President, can I this for you, can I that for you? Do you need anything?, and so forth.
You keep in touch with the world outside by talking to less-guarded, by, ahm, reading and watching the news, or you meet 9000 of your friends.
Which Donald Trump did today. While he spent his weekend in Florida, he extended an invitation to join him at an airport hangar in Melbourne, FL for a campaign rally, and around 9000 people turned up. All that noisy talk of him holding a rally so soon after being sworn in because he is a megalomaniac already back on the trail eyeing 2020 is a bit premature. It took President Obama 20 days after inauguration to hold his first rally; Trump let 29 days pass. In Obama’s incident, however, it was to pressure Congress to pass his stimulus bill. Trump, on the other hand, had no legislation to sell as he hasn’t sent any proposals to Congress yet.
Seemingly, he was just there to revel in applause and adulation. The rally possessed all of his trademarks: there were big crowds, a sweet playlist, media put-downs, that “I inherited a big mess” line, and an overall grim outlook on what is happening in the US and the rest of the world. Trump’s reference without reference to “what’s happening last night in Sweden” during the rally raised the question as to how the tie-less open shirt might have pumped too much blood in his head.
“We’ve got to keep our country safe,” he said. “You look at what’s happening in Germany. You look at what’s happening last night in Sweden. Sweden, who would believe this? Sweden. They took in large numbers. They’re having problems like they never thought possible. You look at what’s happening in Brussels. You look at what’s happening all over the world. Take a look at Nice. Take a look at Paris.”
You may look at Sweden as much as you like, but nothing of any major significance seemed to have happened there last night. The official Twitter of the Embassy of Sweden in the US has responded to those asking about what happened Friday night by saying: “Unclear to us what President Trump was referring to. Have asked US officials for explanation.”
Is the President caught in a bubble? Did he fall for fake news? We don’t know.
The standards he demands from the press don’t apply to him. Yesterday I tried to make sense of this tweets saying the “fake news media” were “the enemy of the American people”. Again, it is a game, both sides play it happily. Trump feeds off it, he needs and wants media attention. Without the press, he’d be nothing. But, cleverly, he also has a higher motive for proclaiming them the enemy, which became evident from that rally today where he repeated the fake news media accusation in front of his supporters: the media somewhat falls for it and talks about itself a lot, which turns off voters who view this self-adulation as narcissistic.
In the long run, it all plays into Trump’s hand.
–> SONG SUGGESTION for the day: John Lennon, “Mind games”
29. (Fri, 17 Feb 2017) – OUTRIGHT ENEMIES
Clearly, it took something for everyone to cool down a bit after Donald Trump’s press conference yesterday. The press was still, and rightly so, clenching its fist, while the President went for a full swing in overtime:
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) 17. Februar 2017
(the “original”, later deleted tweet included fewer outlets)
So far: a war of words, which is fine. Up to a point. Twitter is the thought train everyone can jump onto and rev up the engine by adding his or her 140-character charcoal to the fire.
It is a game both sides like to partake in: Trump, ever the bragger, doesn’t hold back; the press, defending itself, and more importantly its role in democracy, holds him accountable for his actions. Both side, arguably, are taking the bait every time from the other side, though. It goes in circles, it’s twitter.
The question, however, is now if that ludicrous rhetoric of the media being the enemy of the people sets Trump up for something bigger. It might be a rhetorical question. Of course on the one hand, there is a word of words, but the underlying issue here at stake is Trump undermining and discrediting someone who he should use as a guide to his administration. They watch what the President does. They do that for the people –– as in on their behalf. And the President, especially a new one and novice politician, can watch what they have say to potentially adjust his actions.
But not with Trump. He is scenting unfair treatment, only furthering his own selective perception of himself. After the end of the campaign, where he was sparring with the other candidates, the GOP, and Hillary Clinton, it very much seems that he is missing an opponent. So the press becomes the punchball.
–> SONG SUGGESTION for the day: The Rolling Stones, “Street Fighting Man”
28. (Thu, 16 Feb 2017) – “LEAKS ARE REAL, NEWS ARE FAKE”
In what must have been one of the more bizarre press conferences Donald Trump has given so far obviously lay a deeper truth. It was supposed to be a straight-forward affair. After Trump’s original choice for labour secretary, Andrew Puzder, pulled out of the nomination amid rumours his confirmation would fail to pass the Senate vote, less than 24 hours later the President presented a replacement candidate. The unveiling of Alexander Acosta (the only Latino in his cabinet should he be confirmed in the end) was to take place at the White House, followed by an impromptu press conference held by the President himself.
Right after some warm words for Acosta, Trump wasted no time with his latest, and frankly, extraordinary anti-media tirade, and launched his somewhat weak defence of the disarray the White House has found itself in since Trump has taken office in January. The simple question of a possible entanglement between his campaign and the Russians left Trump gasping for meaningful words.
“I have nothing to do with Russia. To the best of my knowledge, no person that I deal with does,” Trump tried to assure the media at present. “And I can tell you, speaking for myself, I own nothing in Russia. I have no loans in Russia. I don’t have any deals in Russia.”
Concerning the information coming out of the White House and different national security agencies, Trump offered that Orwellian take: “Well, the leaks are real. You’re the one that wrote about them and reported them. I mean the leaks are real. You know what they said. You saw it and the leaks are absolutely real. The news is fake because so much of the news is fake.”
Trump, throughout the press conference, tried to convey the feeling he was very much in control, telling reporters to “be quiet”, to “sit down”, and making jokes on their behalf. He even did the press the favour to anticipate the headlines: “But I’m having a good time. Tomorrow, they will say, Donald Trump rants and raves at the press. I’m not ranting and raving. I’m telling you you’re dishonest people, but I’m not ranting and raving. I love this. I’m having a good time doing it.”
And yet, despite the obvious grievances and anger at display, Trump did not strike a convincing figure in this game of intrigue between himself, the intelligence community, Russia, and the media. Venting his frustration in form of this very public therapy session leaves the conclusion that Trump’s attempt at demonstrating who’s in charge is only papering over the cracks his messy start to the Presidency has created.
True power still exerts itself in silence.
–> SONG SUGGESTION for the day: Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds, “Ballad of the mighty I”
27. (Wed, 15 Feb 2017) – ONE, TWO, ONE, TWO
It wasn’t exactly a meeting of the minds. But as far as the relationship between the US and Israel goes, Donald Trump’s exchange with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu must have felt like a breath of fresh air. During Barack Obama’s eight-year tenure things famously got frustrating for both sides on a number of occasions.
So the similarities both men share –– age, certain policies, and personal attitude –– seemed to resonate in a genuine mutual affection for another when they met today in Washington. And yet, when the two leaders talked politics, they still showed a significantly different outlook for the region.
For all the talk about Iran, which Trump and Netanyahu have easily singled-out as their common enemy, the question of settlement is not as clear-cut. Maybe Netanyahu liked what he saw in Trump the candidate, but Trump the President is somewhat different.
Apparently, he wants Netanyahu to have the final word on how to deal with the Palestinians but expects no further expansion when it comes to settlements. At the same time, Trump is seeking friendlier ties with Russia, which might not go down well in Tel Aviv. After all, Russia’s allies in the Middle East are not Israel’s allies in the Middle East. Israel is not going to bend over backwards in engaging with Russia when it comes to Syria just to please the US.
And then Trump performed a little diplomatic tap dance around the subject of the two-state solution. The President said he has no preference between one state and two states, as long as both sides agree.
“I’m looking at a two state and one state, and I like the one that both parties like. I’m very happy with the one that both parties like,” Trump said after the talks.” I could live with either one. I thought for a while the two state looked like it may be the easier of the two, but honestly, if Bibi [Netanyahu] and if the Palestinians, if Israel and the Palestinians are happy, I’m happy with the one they like the best.”
What is seen as the bedrock for a diplomatic solution in the region –– reduced by Trump to a mere whatever. One, two, one, two.
How reassuring that meeting went for Netanyahu, who didn’t really have a natural fit in President Obama, showed a little episode during their joint press conference. An Israeli reporter asked a simple question regarding a “sharp rise in anti-Semitic incidents across the United States” since the election in November. Trump, true to his natural style, boasted about the electoral college instead of answering the question:
Well, I just want to say that we are, you know, very honored by the victory that we had — 316 electoral college votes. We were not supposed to crack 220. You know that, right? There was no way to 221, but then they said there’s no way to 270. And there’s tremendous enthusiasm out there.
I will say that we are going to have peace in this country. We are going to stop crime in this country. We are going to do everything within our power to stop long simmering racism and every other thing that’s going on. There’s a lot of bad things that have been taking place over a long period of time.
I think one of the reasons I won the election is we have a very, very divided nation, very divided. And hopefully, I’ll be able to do something about that. And I, you know, it was something that was very important to me.
As far as people, Jewish people, so many friends; a daughter who happens to be here right now; a son-in-law, and three beautiful grandchildren. I think that you’re going to see a lot different United States of America over the next three, four or eight years. I think a lot of good things are happening.
And you’re going to see a lot of love. You’re going to see a lot of love.
Okay? Thank you.
Bizarrely, it was down to Netanyahu to convince the press –– and himself –– that the US are on Israel’s side when Trump side-stepped the issue entirely: “I’ve known President Trump for many years and to allude to him or his people … other people who I’ve known for a long time -– can I reveal Jared (Kushner), how long I’ve known you? -– there is no greater supporter of Israel or the Jewish State than President Donald Trump,” he said and added, “I think we can put that to rest.”
–> SONG SUGGESTION for the day: John Lennon, “Give peace a chance”
26. (Tue, 14 Feb 2017) – MOTHER RUSSIA
It seemed that this story wouldn’t simply evaporate just like facts have before our eyes during the past few weeks. And of course the ‘Flynn resigns’-case was not solved after the national security advisor packing it in yesterday.
It was a mere few hours before that when I watched a chat between Ed Rollins, the veteran Republican campaign strategist, and Judd Apatow, the Hollywood director and outspoken Trump critic. In it, Rollins pointed out that Trump, “with the possible exception of Bannon”, had no peer that he saw eye-to-eye with. Without a peer, Rollins feared, Trump had no one to talk to and make decisions with. “I feel like he runs the country,” Apatow pointed out, “like he ran ‘The Apprentice’, where the premise was: two teams, and then we would have his kids follow
“I feel like he runs the country,” Apatow pointed out, “like he ran ‘The Apprentice’, where the premise was: two teams, and then he would have his kids follow around the teams, he didn’t follow them, and then he would say, ‘Ivanka, how did Meat Loaf do?’ And now he’s going, ‘Ivanka, how did North Korea do’?”
Trump, they agreed, only trusts his family’s judgement when push comes to shove. Which, apparently, doesn’t mean that he likes to get parental advice from here and there on a number of subjects: While the stale scent of faux-romance on Valentine’s Day was still hanging in the air on Tuesday evening, the New York Times released a story that will have Washington talking for a number of days.
Less than 24 hours after Michael Flynn handed in his resignation after he became a liability having discussed US sanctions with the Russian ambassador to the United States, the paper reported tonight that a number of Donald Trump’s close associates, including members of his presidential campaign, were repeatedly in contact with Russian intelligence officials during the run-up to the election in November.
According to the story, four current and former intelligence American officials (all unnamed) told the New York Times they had “so far” seen no evidence in the intercepted phone communications that Trump campaign officials had cooperated with Russian intelligence in an efforts to skew the election in Trump’s favour: “American law enforcement and intelligence agencies intercepted the communications around the same time they were discovering evidence that Russia was trying to disrupt the presidential election by hacking into the Democratic National Committee, three of the officials said,” the paper writes in its article. “The intelligence agencies then sought to learn whether the Trump campaign was colluding with the Russians on the hacking or other efforts to influence the election.”
The story carries a few uncertainties, but regardless, this begs the question just how deep the ties are between Russia and the newly-elected President Trump. After the Flynn resignation, the unresolved issues was still whether he acted on behalf of Team Trump or entirely detached from the administration’s consignment. Now, as the lies and deceit about Mother Russia’s involvement in this election become more and more apparent, the Trump administration is plunging into deeper turmoil.
They will, of course, shake it off. Just like they always do. Let another smoke grenade go off somewhere else to distract and pretend like nothing had ever happened. Case in point: Paul Manafort. He was one as of the people named to be in contact with the Russians in that Times article. Manafort was Trump’s campaign chairman for several months last year. His ties to Easter Europe are far-reaching from the time when he worked as a political consultant in Ukraine.
“This is absurd,” Manafort told the New York Times. “I have never knowingly spoken to Russian intelligence officers, and I have never been involved with anything to do with the Russian government or the Putin administration or any other issues under investigation today.”
The world knowingly lets you do a lot of heavy lifting by the way when it comes to circumventing the truth. Manafort then bathed his hands in innocence by adding, “It’s not like these people wear badges that say, ‘I’m a Russian intelligence officer.'”
Just as the people from Team Trump would not have worn badges saying, ‘I’m trying to talk to you to steer the election in a certain direction.’
So far, it is only noisy winds that are blowing down the corridors of the powerful in Washington. Soon, though, we might have to be weathering a storm.
–> SONG SUGGESTION for the day: Buffalo Springfield, “For what it’s worth”
25. (Mon, 13 Feb 2017) – MAN DOWN
It was supposed to be the day of pictures in Washington. At first, the snapshots from Mar-a-Lago surfaced in the morning: During the state visit from Japan’s PM Shinzō Abe, who Trump hosted in his Palm Beach private golf club, the paying members were witness to the President turning the place into a place into an outdoor adventure park for global politics.
According to a CNN account, Trump and Abe, surprised by a ballistic missile launch in North Korea, sat on the estate’s terrace surrounded by club members as the two nation’s security apparatuses gathered around the dinner table to figure out a joint response. In full display for all guests to witness Trump handling his first breaking national security incident.
Not long after these images were passed around on social media, another baffling picture emerged on the scene: A member of Trump’s resort in Florida posted a Facebook photo with a person he claimed was responsible for carrying the black bag that contains the nuclear launch codes for the President. (the man later deleted the FB post)
If this embarrassing incident for the Pentagon wasn’t enough, there was more to come. But before the big bang in the evening, Washington got another glimpse of Trump at work. This time he welcomed the Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau at the White House. Trudeau provided the attending photographers with another opportunity to capture Trump performing one of his trademark grabbing handshakes.
It almost looked like this day of the pictures in Washington had reached its climax with this exchange. Were it not for a story that had been brewing for quite some time. News broke around midnight that Trump’s national security advisor Michael Flynn had handed in his resignation. A picture of the text circled around the web in no time.
“I inadvertently briefed the Vice President-elect and others with incomplete information regarding my phone calls with the Russian ambassador. I have sincerely apologized to the President and the Vice President, and they have accepted my apology,” Flynn wrote in his resignation letter, according to CNN.
Pence had vouched for Flynn on TV, denying that sanctions were discussed by Trump’s national security advisor and the ambassador. When a report surfaced showing the opposite, the VP was put in an uncomfortable position. Trust, of course, is crucial in the intelligence community. However, it seems that Flynn eventually was leaked out of his job by current and former national security officials. The question is: Does anyone think they’ll stop right there? Apparently, the knives are out.
“I wish to thank President Trump for his personal loyalty,” Flynn also said in his resignation, as the rug had already been pulled from under his feet.
–> SONG SUGGESTION for the day: The Stone Roses, “Bye Bye Badman”
24. (Sun, 12 Feb 2017) – STEVE MILLER BAND
If the current administration gives off the impression that these are chaotic, uncertain days, rest assured. It is only half as bad. In fact, it is all good. At least if we are to believe what Stephen Miller, the 31-year-old ultra-conservative firebrand and White House senior policy advisor, had to tell the nation.
When I say the nation, I am merely referring to Sunday morning’s political talk shows where Miller’s sweet-talking self was passed around today. Just to reiterate, Stephen Miller shot up the GOP ranks when he became communications director to the now-confirmed Attorney General Jeff Sessions, back when he was a Senator for Alabama. In January 2016 he was named senior policy advisor to Donald Trump. During the course of the campaign, he frequently spoke at rallies before Trump came onstage, and he also wrote a number of speeches with him, most famously the dark turn on American life at the RNC Convention in Cleveland in July.
Usually, Miller acts as a verbal flamethrower to Trump’s “big league”-rhetoric. As the warm-up act, he mows down the colourful, liberal consensus of the Left so that Trump can plant his muscle-flexing #MAGA seed afterwards.
On Sunday, however, Miller preferred to spit out the alarming signal fires lit by the media and kept aflame by the courts. “The powers of the president to protect our country are very substantial,” Miller said with a straight face and dead eyes on “The Week” (ABC), “and will not be questioned.”
So while the President put his feet up on the Lord’s day, he thought he could get Miller to do the dirty work and sweep some facts under the rug. During that appearance, Miller also went on to repeat a number of widely debunked claims about alleged voter fraud during the 2016 election “to advance President Trump’s narrative covering up for his loss of the popular vote,” as Salon put it in an article: “These included dishonestly claiming that Democratic voters were bused into New Hampshire to swing that state to Clinton, dishonestly claiming that noncitizen voters helped account for Clinton’s popular vote margin of victory, and dishonestly claiming that the White House has already provided proof of widespread voter fraud.”
His boss waited till lunchtime to thank him for his performance: “Congratulations Stephen Miller – on representing me this morning on the various Sunday morning shows,” Trump tweeted. “Great job!”
“I hope the president is talking about The Steve Miller Band and not that kid who embarrassed the White House this morning”, Joe Scarborough replied on Twitter.
Donald Trump, Stephen Miller, and a lot of lies –– what to make of it? The constant undermining of facts and spreading of falsehoods knows no day-off, and that one of the band’s biggest hits is still called “The Joker”.
–> SONG SUGGESTION for the day: Steve Miller Band, “The Joker”
23. (Sat, 11 Feb 2017) – TRUMP GRABS BACK
It is reassuring to know that Donald Trump doesn’t just grab gurlz but also boyz. Sure, true that you can’t grab most men by their pussies. With the ones you can, I am sure they won’t appreciate it either.
But more to the point, Donald Trump evidenced a wonderful sight of diplomatic vindication this weekend when he grabbed Japan’s Prime Minister –– by the hand. Plain old hand-grabbing. Very 20th century, when intercontinental deals were sealed with firm handshakes. In some Eastern European countries, mind you, a sassy peck on the cheek added a certain je ne sais quoi.
So, let’s check the anatomy: big D lets Shinzō Abe put his hand into the President’s, next thing he gives the Prime Minister a pat on the back of his hand. It’s the power equivalent of bringing a larger fountain pen when signing a bilateral trade agreement. Afterwards comes the crucial moment: Trump outright pulls the PM by his hand towards himself. Real close. Unbelievable. He doesn’t just grab pussy. He holds onto it what seems forever, just doesn’t let go, pats it again and again.
What we have to keep in mind: PM Abe is a mere 5’9. As compared to Trump’s elegant 6’3 frame those petit Japanese hands look real nice in the President’s bear claws. I would hold onto them forever, too.
In terms of diplomacy, this is of course just a fine showing of appreciation. Or as Donald Trump stated himself: “Played golf today with Prime Minister Abe of Japan and Ernie Els, and had a great time. Japan is very well represented!”
Gold, a sport where you need those hands in top shape. Where did they play that round of golf by the way, I hear you ask? There is this place called Mar-a-Lago in Palm Beach that the President himself likes to refer to as “the Winter White House”.
What’s the Winter White House? Depends on how you want to look at it: a) It’s either a made-up name by Donald Trump, or b) a cheeky disguise for a gold resort with a secret membership list in Palm Beach that acts as a presidential residence when in fact it is a business, for which Trump, who owns the place, pockets the biggest share of the expenditure (cost of staff, food, accommodation, etc.) and boosts the value of the place by hosting a foreign leader there.
Seems like Trump doesn’t just grab pussies or delicate hands, but also the taxpayer by its money.
–> SONG SUGGESTION for the day: Gregory Abbott, “Shake you down”
22. (Fri, 10 Feb 2017) – WHIPPED
Must be Valentine’s Day round the corner because Donald Trump is planning on summoning his usual 50 Shades of White behind his desk to draft another travel ban. Tough love from the White House for the American people, it seems. The style of prose they used last time was pretty much on a par with the SM novel by E.L. James. Eventually, that one got put down by the courts like a struck deer on the roadside.
On Thursday, a 9th Circuit Court of Appeals panel denied Trump’s request to resume enforcement of his travel ban executive order. That order prevented Syrian refugees from coming to the U.S. and halted visas from being issued to people from seven Muslim-majority countries.
Last Saturday Trump tweeted about “the so-called judge” that put a temporary stop to his travel ban, then yesterday the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals refused to allow the reinstatement of his original executive order.
For not too long Trump was licking his wounds after that whipping from the judges. Then today he went into offensive mode, suggesting that a redraft of his contested executive order is on the horizon: “We’ll be doing something very rapidly having to do with additional security for our country,” Trump said during a White House news conference with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. “You’ll be seeing that sometime in the next week. In addition, we will continue to go through the court process and, ultimately, I have no doubt that we’ll win that particular case.”
After his schedule departure to Florida, where Trump is spending the weekend with Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, the President said on board Air Force One to reporters that “we will win that battle. The unfortunate part is that it takes time statutorily, but we will win that battle. We also have a lot of other options, including just filing a brand new order.”
“Filing a brand new order”, “something in the next week” –– aha, you don’t say. So there is a Valentine’s gift underway. Send us some flowers and tough love on Tuesday, wouldcha?
–> SONG SUGGESTION for the day: Pulp, “This is hardcore”
21. (Thu, 9 Feb 2017) – LINE EXTENSION
The lion king will roar the loudest, we heard yesterday. Well, well, was I wrong. Of course, the last roar is reserved for mama bear. And so it came to be that Ivanka Trump, slightly let down by the department chain Nordstrom for discontinuing to stock her clothing line, got an unusual plug for her attire today:
“Go buy Ivanka’s stuff … I’m going to go get some myself today,” Kellyanne Conway told Fox News in an interview from the White House. “I’m going to give a free commercial here: Go buy it today, everybody.”
And that’s what it was: a free commercial. The senior White House advisor to the US President didn’t bother with the usual flim-flam. Just straight talk –– here, her gear, go and buy it. BOOM, goes the mic drop.
Actively encouraging Americans to buy from a company owned by a member of the first family is probably only a solid 4 on the totalitarian regime-scale. (when the average American won’t be able to afford it anyway, so rest assured)
The amusing bit in this non-saga? That the person who has vowed to continue looking into Hillary Clinton’s emails post-election, chairman of the House Oversight committee Representative Jason Chaffetz, has written a polite letter to the Office of Government Ethics complaining about Conway. Yet, when asked whether Trump appointing his son-in-law Jared Kushner as a senior advisor would constitute nepotism in the White House, Chaffetz said, “I have not looked at that at all. I can’t say one direction or another without looking at it.”
The best-known joke in Washington, D.C. these days goes like this:
“Wait, what? Can they even do that?” *rubs eyes*
“No. But it doesn’t matter –– they already did.”
–> SONG SUGGESTION for the day: Suede, “She’s in fashion”
20. (Wed, 8 Feb 2017) – LINE EXTINCTION
The lion king will roar the loudest. Nothing unusual about it. There is only one thing to consider: How usual, how ordinary are the times we’re living in right now? Exactly. Therefore we shouldn’t be too surprised that the President of the United States sides with his precious offspring.
My daughter Ivanka has been treated so unfairly by @Nordstrom. She is a great person — always pushing me to do the right thing! Terrible!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) 8. Februar 2017
What’s the deal? Apparently not a good one: Nordstrom, the department store chain, decided to stop selling Ivanka Trump’s clothing line. The news itself goes back to last Thursday. Today, however, Trump took to twitter to condemn the move, which was based on selling performance, the retailer said in a statement.
Nordstrom has faced calls to rid its selection of Ivanka Trump attire for a while. “We’ve said all along we make buying decisions based on performance,” a Nordstrom spokeswoman told Fortune magazine in an emailed statement. “In this case, based on the brand’s performance, we’ve decided not to buy it for this season.”
Whatever the reason for Trump’s delayed twitter wrath was, his two-liner is an expected reaction for someone who bragged about wanting to date his own daughter. He complained on behalf of a market-based decision to vent about life’s unfairness. Gotta give him that.
Is it right? Hmn. Is it ethical to mix family and business via Twitter? Probably not. Moreover, it tells you something about the man’s posture –– the self-proclaimed billionaire who can’t hold it together publicly when his daughter makes less rather than more money for once.
The funny thing about his whole episode is this one in fact: instead of destroying the company’s value with his online might, Nordstrom’s stock prize, after initially dipping by less than 1 percent, surged unexpectedly and settled on up more than 4 percent at the end of the day.
It might be complex economics at play, but the sheer numbers here make it seem like a stock market’s protest rally against Trump’s short fuse.
–> SONG SUGGESTION for the day: The Beatles, “Can’t buy me love”
19. (Tue, 7 Feb 2017) – POLICY OF TRUTH
A train rushed down the tracks. I stopped the car and waited. In Santa Barbara, right after the railway crossing gate on Olive Mill Road, you take two right turns to pull up on Channel Drive. The second estate on the right facing the beach is the Four Seasons Resort The Biltmore Santa Barbara. This is where I am expected.
My phone rang at 9 a.m.: I should come to room 209, the voice on the other end of the line said. “Martin is waiting for you.”
Martin Gore, the songwriter and sometime-singer in Depeche Mode, sat a long table in a suite at the Four Seasons to talk about the band’s new album. I was there to interview him for MUSIKEXPRESS. In the end, the musical details and production musings didn’t seem to bother him too much. He was adamant to talk politics. Gore grew up in the 70’s in an economically deprived Great Britain. In 1980 he founded Depeche Mode with two of his mates to escape the grey ennui of Essex.
While we sat there talking in the morning about how his youth shaped his political alertness, Washington D.C. was discussing an allegation made by Donald Trump on Monday. He accused the media of not reporting on a number of terrorist attacks: “You’ve seen what happened in Paris and Nice. All over Europe, it’s happening,” he said. “It’s gotten to a point where it’s not even being reported. And in many cases, the very, very dishonest press doesn’t want to report it,” he claimed, citing no evidence.
The White House released a list of 78 terror attacks around the world. Press secretary Sean Spicer later said the president was accusing the media of “under-reporting” rather than not reporting terrorist attacks. The list includes incidents like the truck massacre in Nice that killed dozens and received widespread attention.
Martin Gore, suffering from a mild cold, said the news were making him sick: “It is so depressing, every morning when I turn on my phone and look at the news –– more ridiculous stuff. Today they pushed through DeVos as education secretary. She doesn’t have a clue.”
Gore didn’t issue a call to arms, and I can’t see the millionaire sharpening his pitchfork in his cosy Santa Barbara home anytime soon to take the streets, but the musician seems genuinely agitated about what is going on.
So far, apart from the odd interview and Put-down at the Women’s March, and Meryl Streep’s speech at the Golden Globes there have not been an awful lot of impassionate reactions by the Hollywood clique.
The new Depeche Mode album is overtly political. It asks people to wake up, show their colours. It doesn’t, obviously, offer any radical views as to how one overthrows those in power, even if the lead single is called “Where’s the revolution”.
In an age where the US government lies, deceits, and regards facts as questionable, omitting the question mark in that song title can only mean that whatever we do about it, might need a !
–> SONG SUGGESTION for the day: Depeche Mode, “Policy of truth”
18. (Mon, 6 Feb 2017) – SOFT SKILLS
It’s the juicy details that make these days bearable at all. When the New York Times wrote up a piece on Trump’s first two weeks in the White House, they packed it with these little anecdotal snowballs that you can pick up, roll around in the dirt for a bit, and then throw once they increased in size.
The line that sticks to the back of your mind like dogshit to your sole are these ones:
Usually around 6:30 p.m., or sometimes later, Mr. Trump retires upstairs to the residence to recharge, vent and intermittently use Twitter. With his wife, Melania, and young son, Barron, staying in New York, he is almost always by himself, sometimes in the protective presence of his imposing longtime aide and former security chief, Keith Schiller. When Mr. Trump is not watching television in his bathrobe or on his phone reaching out to old campaign hands and advisers, he will sometimes set off to explore the unfamiliar surroundings of his new home.
The commander-in-chief drops the executive order pen at 6:30 p.m. –– well, well, how about that? But even better: like the triumphant wrestling champions after a tough match, he rests and puts on a bathrobe, then reaches for the remote, turns on the telly. (Probably watching himself, there is precious little else on at the moment. Trump, Trump, and The Bachelor. Which he is, too, we are informed. Melania and Barron in New York, Trump the lone D.C. wolf roaming the White House corridors like the little Danny in “The Shining” when he bumps into the twins –– curious at first, then confused and/or overwhelmed, and even fantasizing a little.
Instead of calming himself with his Twitter finger as Danny does in the Kubrick film, Trump seeks comfort by having Keith Schiller, his former bodyguard, by his side. Adorable details. So adorable that the chest-pumping Tarzans schmoozing up to Trump apparently can’t handle any of this. That’s why press secretary Sean Spicer descended from Mount Machismo and clarified: “That story was so riddled with inaccuracies and lies that they owe the President an apology for the way that thing was written,” he told reporters aboard Air Force One. “There were literally blatant factual errors, and it’s unacceptable to see that kind of reporting.”
To which is ask you kids: Just how does the press secretary actually know the President doesn’t own a bathrobe?
17. (Sun, 5 Feb 2017) – TOUCHDOWN
Super Bowl Sunday. Chickenwingsfingertips are not typing these lines. Vegan forever. Just kidding, I don’t care.
Before kickoff in Houston, Bill O’Reilly had no other than President Trump on his Fox News show. The pre-game interview is a loose tradition introduced by Trump’s predecessor Barack Obama: the new US President talks to the channel showing the Super Bowl.
Oh boy, did they have a ball. O’Reilly fed a few lines, Trump happily went for it. Two men who know each other, meeting for a casual an afternoon chat. Only that they happen to be sitting in White House.
The bit that got most attention goes as follows:
Bill O’Reilly: Do you respect Putin?
Donald Trump: I do respect him. I respect a lot of people. But that doesn’t mean I get along with them. He’s a leader of his country. I say it’s better to get along with Russia than not. Will I get along with them? I have no idea.
O’Reilly: But he’s a killer. Putin’s a killer.
Trump: There are a lot of killers. You think our country’s so innocent?
With that last question, which is of course totally okay to ask, Trump manages to insert a moral relativism into the conversation that sounds like a propaganda talking point from the other side – yes, we were bad but not as bad as the U.S. …
Is he defending Putin with that statement? Is he giving America a guilty conscience? All very unclear at this point.
One thing’s for sure, however: last night the Patriots won. And under Trump, the patriots certainly will, too.
–> SONG SUGGESTION for the day: Enigma, “Return to innocence”
16. (Sat, 4 Feb 2017) – “SO-CALLED”
Since the White House has become a test lab for authoritarian boundary-shifts, we have witnessed a number of incidents that beggars belief. Personal insults, made-up stuff, a de facto Muslim ban, and more made up stuff.
But behold, after the action-packed first two weeks – BAMM, BAMM, BAMM, one executive order after another – the slow and often rather boring process of judicial review starts to weigh in on several issues. Boring if you are not an attorney or law student that like to get lost in constitutional articles and their interpretation.
Thank God, there are a lot of people out there that are immaculate with the law as Trump is with his hair. And so it came to be that Friday night, or early evening on the West coast, a federal judge in Seattle, Washington ruled against Trump’s immigration order that banned visa holders from several Muslim-majority countries from entering the US.
Of course, Trump reacted angrily to this humbling defeat. First White House issued a statement that, in its initial draft, called the ruling by James Robart, a judge at the Federal District Court for the Western District of Washington, “outrageous” and that it would challenge “at the earliest possible time”. “The Department of Justice intends to file an emergency stay of this order and defend the executive order of the President, which we believe is lawful and appropriate,” press secretary Sean Spicer said in a statement released Friday. “The president’s order is intended to protect the homeland and he has the constitutional authority and responsibility to protect the American people.”
“The Department of Justice intends to file an emergency stay of this order and defend the executive order of the President, which we believe is lawful and appropriate,” press secretary Sean Spicer said in a statement released Friday. “The president’s order is intended to protect the homeland and he has the constitutional authority and responsibility to protect the American people.”
I hear beautiful violins squeaking bittersweet melodies when I read the words of Spicer. Of course, “the homeland”, the place where everyone has equal opportunity – as long as you’re not black or Muslim.
And then Trump himself weighed in. In a serious of, you guessed it, tweets he let the guillotine of righteousness come crashing down on the separation of powers:
The opinion of this so-called judge, which essentially takes law-enforcement away from our country, is ridiculous and will be overturned!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) 4. Februar 2017
His so-called interference here is a shining example of disregard for the judiciary branch of government. The “so-called judge”, an appointee of President George W. Bush by the way, didn’t reserve five-star suites for incoming terrorists, he merely upheld the rule of law.
Trump throw an online hissy fit anyway and spewed more miffed 140-character gold:
Because the ban was lifted by a judge, many very bad and dangerous people may be pouring into our country. A terrible decision
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) 4. Februar 2017
After Trump’s two action-action-action weeks, the courts are catching up on the filed paperwork. It is fair to say: to be continued.
In the meantime, it took an ordinary citizen, a so-called average Joe named Dean Falvy from Seattle, Washington to sum up what had been happening today when he tweeted: “The New Washington, with all its power and might, steps forth to the rescue and the liberation of the Old.”
–> SONG SUGGESTION for the day: ELO, “Calling America”
15. (Fri, 3 Feb 2017) – AMPLIFIED EMOTIONS
Listening in on the megaphone that is Twitter for Donald Trump, you pick up a pattern that has been emerging for a while: you prick the new President a lil, and he swings back atcha, full throttle if needs to be.
That on its own is not a new observation. He has insulted and angered a lot of people since he announced to run for office. Yet, one thing that has become apparent after the first two weeks: Being President of the United States hasn’t reined him in (so far). There is no calm demeanour in his online footprint that might come with the habitual. His tweets are angry, defiant, often dividing.
The acerbic ones are almost all retaliatory in their nature. There are several examples, all from today. It begins with the petty. Arnold Schwarzenegger reacts in good humour to Trump belittling Arnie’s ratings on The Apprentice. Then Trump, obviously not occupied with other things, blasts him again, but this time you can sense his wounded pride:
Yes, Arnold Schwarzenegger did a really bad job as Governor of California and even worse on the Apprentice…but at least he tried hard!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 3, 2017
Telling your opponent that “at least he tried hard” might just be the biggest insult there is. Again, it was probably all in good nature. But when it comes to bigger things, this short-fused temper is something to behold.
Iran carefully joins in with the international muscle-flexing, and what does Trump do? He puts them on notice like you would with an angry schoolkid:
Iran is playing with fire – they don’t appreciate how “kind” President Obama was to them. Not me!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 3, 2017
Global power play, for sure. Old white men are good at that. Making sure how’s boss, with added chest-pumping. Classic. But when facts and your own agenda collide, which is the easiest thing on Twitter, then something like this is churned out:
A new radical Islamic terrorist has just attacked in Louvre Museum in Paris. Tourists were locked down. France on edge again. GET SMART U.S.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 3, 2017
Justifying his de-facto Muslim ban with an incident in France and giving it a fearmongering spin (at that point it wasn’t even sure who the person was, let alone if it had been “a new radical”) is old-fashioned autocratic gaslighting.
In the end, of course, it is not about whether Trump expresses these things on Twitter or elsewhere. The worry lies in him expressing a behaviour as if he was still fighting to be president. Even after his inauguration, it still seems that the administration’s every move is purely one thing: campaign.
–> SONG SUGGESTION for the day: Lisa Lisa & Cult Jam, “Lost in emotion”
14. (Thu, 2 Feb 2017) – TALKIN’ LOUD AND CLEAR
It was a busy day today, all sorts of things were happening – Trump’s dumb call with the Australian PM, Kellyanne Conway makes up a “massacre” that wasn’t one, and I, for one, got side-eyed by the new German Secretary of State, Sigmar Gabriel, who visited Washington to talk with VP Mike Pence and his US equivalent Rex Tillerson, when I asked him a simple domestic policy question regarding the upcoming general election. In these circles, rarah ladida, asking about domestic policies at a foreign policy meeting –– total no-go, so wrong, unheard of, F for effort.
Anyway, Gabriel did have something to say to all my woke colleagues. He was speaking at a press briefing at the German embassy after his talks with the US administration. The rules of this informal talk ask for confidentiality. So if I ever want a free dinner in this town again, I better not spill the beans. Lunch will do, so I’ll say this: Gabriel, slightly miffed and tired from catching a fever from his sick daughter, seemed a little concerned about where the US is heading when it comes to Europe and the EU.
“I will tell my colleagues back home,” he said during that briefing, “fly over to the US and talk to these people here.” – Between the lines, he tried to say, establishing relations with the new administration is paramount. Talking to each other, in his view, would be a key to understanding what has been going on here.
It is early stages, but the pace of Trump and his elitist, Malfoy-esque footsoldiers suggests that there is something brewing beneath the surface. We can sit and wait, maybe it’s not half as bad. On the other hand, showing some resistance never did any harm.
The shape and form of this resistance could be key. After Trump’s inauguration two weeks ago, shop windows in downtown D.C. got smashed, cars were burning, rocks were hurled by a few hundred protesters. A day later thousands help up signs at the Women’s March. Which is more effective? Is it the action being taken, so smashed windows vs. feminist cardboard signs? Or is it the political platform on which political protest is established? Can words ever be bigger than action?
Yesterday a somewhat sidelined debate got underway. It was about acceptance of other voices in what seems to be unfolding as the great American drama. The seriousness of it got drowned out by the usual Trump media ballyhoo, and yet the repercussions could be immense: Milo Yiannopoulos, the Breitbart editor and all-round agitator, had been invited to speak on the UC Berkeley campus on Wednesday night. The event got canceled after protests erupted against Yiannopoulos speaking on campus.
In the end, $100.000 worth of damage was caused by “150 masked agitators”, as the public school announced today. Which is an important point: Berkeley is a public school, it needs federal money. Protesting against a right-wing peacock in that fashion doesn’t help Berkeley, which is home to the freedom of speech movement by the way. But still, one wonders, can you let the undermining of democratic values in Breitbart-style just happen without showing any kind of resistance? (Trump, incidentally, mused on twitter if revoking federal funds could be an option in this case)
Two questions to take away from this: a) Is smashing windows the answer to Trump? Maybe. Is it an answer to society’s racial, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic problems that helped put Trump in power? Certainly not. b) Must we tolerate someone like Yiannopoulos? We should, to an extent. Must we swallow everything being shoved down our throats? Never.
–> SONG SUGGESTION for the day: Kings of Convenience, “Peacetime Resistance”
13. (Wed, 1 Feb 2017) – JUDGE DREAD
Looking back upon the past two weeks, it seems fair to say that public trust in government right now has raised the expectation for impartiality and independence of the judiciary. If we can’t trust the work of the courts, then who is going to right the wrong?
Cue dramatic music for there’s a new man in town. Well, not really, but at least he is now on people’s agenda: Donald Trump finally picked his nominee for the Supreme Court of the United States to fill the vacant seat of the late Justice Antonin Scalia who passed away eleven months ago.
President Obama had already picked a nominee in Merrick B. Garland soon after Scalia’s sudden death in February 2016. Senate Republicans, in an effort to snatch the seat for the right wing, chose to obstruct this choice until Trump came up with his candidate, a certain Neil Gorsuch.
Gorsuch, 49, is currently a judge on the United States Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit in Denver (appointed by George W. Bush in 2008, by the way). He is a bona fide Conservative with a path seemingly destined for higher duties: he is the son of a Reagan Cabinet member, a graduate of Oxford and Harvard, and a clerk for two Supreme Court justices.
The father of two is said to be an originalist, which means he tries to interpret the Constitution consistently along the lines of those who drafted and adopted it. “This approach leads him,” the New York Times wrote, “to generally but not uniformly conservative results.”
Or in his own words: “Ours is the job of interpreting the Constitution, and that document isn’t some inkblot on which litigants may project their hopes and dreams.”
Time and again during the campaign, Republican voters told me how important the constitution and therefore the next Supreme Court appointment were for them. People voted for Trump chiefly on the grounds of his promise to find a hard-line judge for Scalia’s seat.
So by replacing the ultra-conservative Antonin Scalia, it seems unlikely that Gorsuch will upset the balance of power on most issues at the Supreme Court. But he would still have to handle a number of hot topics of the Trump administration, like reproductive rights, such as abortions, as well as environmental issues.
Therefore, the pressing question that remains is whether Gorsuch will have enough spine to stand up against someone who put him on the Supreme Court in the first place should they, be it Trump or Senate, test the boundaries of the rule of law or the constitution.
If he is confirmed, however, Gorsuch will take the oath to “administer justice without respect to persons, and do equal right to the poor and to the rich.”
–> SONG SUGGESTION for the day: Robbie Williams, “Love Supreme”
12. (Tue, 31 Jan 2017) – YOU’RE HIRED
Easy to lose track with all that’s happening during Trump’s first week and a half as – are you sitting down? – the 45th President of the United States. (that’s his title, yes, still unbelievable, right?)
Anyway, that’s probably how it was meant to be. We lose track. Miss the bigger picture. And so all the fury surrounding Trump’s immigration ban somewhat drowned out the most important news of the day. That day was Saturday, to be sure: Donald Trump, in another executive order, rearranged the National Security Council by ousting the country’s most senior intelligence and military officials as regular members of the Principals Committee. Instead, he installed one of his top political advisers, namely Stephen Bannon.
Now, even if White House spokesman Sean Spicer announced that Trump will reinstate the director of the CIA as a regular Principals Committee member, he will keep Bannon, his chief strategist, as a regular committee member, “while the director of national intelligence and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff will not be regular attendees”, as CNN reports.
Let me reiterate quickly: within a few months, Bannon rose from relative obscurity as a dark lord of the alt-right, Breitbart News clique to one of the most influential policy advisor of the US President. As everyone focused on the protests at the airports, Trump slipped this little detail, that Bannon now is part of the select few that considers national security and foreign policy matters with the President, past a lot of people.
“Mr. Bannon is positioning himself not merely as a Svengali but as the de facto president”, the New York Times wrote in their Opinion Pages today. Not sure if that is a reassuring thought: what if Donald Trump is merely a puppet on a string?
–> SONG SUGGESTION for the day: Barry White, “You see the trouble with me”
11. (Mon, 30 Jan 2017) – YOU’RE FIRED
Kindergarten is a German word that knows no equivalent in English. Funnily enough, the White House has become somewhat of a synonym for it. You wouldn’t think that travel ban could have caused any more bizarre moments than it already did.
But here is another one.
Donald Trump outdid himself today and falsely said Delta Airlines and protesters were to blame for the chaos and confusion at airports nationwide over the weekend, when the actual reason was his executive order temporarily banning citizens from seven countries traveling to the US and suspending the refugee program for 120 days.
And here is another one.
Trump fired acting Attorney General Sally Yates, a Democratic appointee appointed by Barack Obama, after she told Justice Department attorneys not to defend his executive order.
The White House statement reads like someone trying to settle a Kindergarten fight:
“The acting Attorney General, Sally Yates, has betrayed the Department of Justice by refusing to enforce a legal order designed to protect the citizens of the United States. This order was approved as to form and legality by the Department of Justice Office of Legal Counsel.
Ms. Yates is an Obama Administration appointee who is weak on borders and very weak on illegal immigration.
It is time to get serious about protecting our country. Calling for tougher vetting for individuals travelling from seven dangerous places is not extreme. It is reasonable and necessary to protect our country.”
“Well, what do you expect? She didn’t do her job,” I hear you say. To which I say: “Well done.” Glad she didn’t.
–> SONG SUGGESTION for the day: Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds, “O Children”
10. (Sun, 29 Jan 2017) – PAPERING OVER THE CRACKS
As the mess that is Donald Trump’s executive order suspending people coming to America from seven mostly-Muslim majority countries gathered steam in the form of chaos and protests at several US airports, there is still one question that remains in this: Who is he doing it for?
Americans. The American people, everyone. That is the obvious answer out of the Trump corner. Protecting the whole country from the dangers that people from these singled-out countries (supposedly) pose. The people out at American airports protesting beg to differ that this executive order is in their interest. “This is not about religion,” Donald Trump said in a statement, “this is about terror and keeping our country safe.”
Name me one American who doesn’t want to be safe. Exactly. This action taken by Trump was more playing into the hands of his supporters than pleasing all Americans who feel unsafe. It is, after all, like this: Whether the protesters at the airports are a majority in this country is hard to tell, but there are millions of racist, xenophobic, islamophobic, and sexist, homophobic people out there in this country.
For all the blaming of Trump and his dark lords pulling the ideological strings, it is exactly those people he is doing it for. They are not racist, xenophobic, islamophobic since November 9th. They didn’t wake up the morning after the election opening their local paper to the news of a president Trump and thought: “Look, honey, it’s that young lad from Manhattan, might as well see what he’s got to say for himself. Maybe he has a few brilliant ideas up his sleeve…”
Go out there and you see all these stress fractures throughout American society –– people blaming immigrants for their woes, people condemning a whole religion on the base of pure fear-mongering. Long before Trump came along.
Calling out Donald Trump on his lies is important, it should not stop. Yet, we’re somewhat papering over the cracks if we blame it all on him. He is the vessel for society’s anger and fear. There is something inherently wrong with society in this country.
Has Trump caused this division? Partly, maybe. Has he exposed its ugly face – and is using it more and more to his advantage? Certainly.
–> SONG SUGGESTION for the day: Pulp, “The Fear”
9. (Sat, 28 Jan 2017) – #MUSLIMBAN
Several hashtags were trending on twitter: #muslimban, #JFKprotest, and #Terminal4 amongst others, which was a clear sign of public outrage and solidarity by enlightened citizens over what seems like an obvious bigotry campaign by the Trump administration. Thousands went to JFK airport (and later other airports in different cities) to protest against the executive order signed by the US President in a conscious effort to disunite the country even further.
People with legal visas and dual citizenships were held at airports all over the country on the basis of a legal framework seemingly put together by the White House without serious thought on the implications of this action or the necessary consultation of government agencies, as this blog post worth reading explains in great detail.
Out of all people offering insight into the simple, somewhat despicable thought process of Donald Trump’s executive order to ban refugees and other people from seven, mostly-Muslim majority nations was Rudy Giuliani, the former mayor of New York and Trump’s henchman for on-camera explanations on what outrage the business man had now said or tweeted during the campaign.
“When he first announced it, he said ‘Muslim ban,’” Giuliani said in a Fox News interview. “He called me up and said, ‘Put a commission together, show me the right way to do it legally.’”
Giuliani said he did indeed form a commission, with former Attorney General Michael Mukasey, Rep. Michael McCaul (R-Texas), Rep. Pete King (R-New York) and other lawyers. The order suspends refugee resettlement entirely for 120 days, bars Syrian refugees indefinitely and individuals from seven countries (Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen) temporarily.
“What we did was we focused on ― instead of religion ― danger!,” Giuliani added, “the areas of the world that create danger for us, which is a factual basis, not a religious basis. Perfectly legal, perfectly sensible, and that’s what the ban is based on. It’s not based on religion. It’s based on places where there is substantial evidence that people are sending terrorists into our country.”
So, bottom line, Trump confidant Giuliani admits the thin veil over the term Muslim ban is simply a rhetorical gimmick: “areas of the world that create danger for us”.
–> SONG SUGGESTION for the day: The Strokes, “Hard to explain”
8. (Fri, 27 Jan 2017) – “WE DON’T WANT THEM HERE,” HE SAID
The notion that an office so powerful as the President of the United States would make one a more humble person is obviously nonsense. Not obviously, but clearly. At least after what Donald Trump did today.
He came good on the awful campaign promise to use “extreme vetting” of immigrants and signed an executive order that limits the flow of refugees from seven nations and indefinitely suspends admissions for Syrian refugees into the United States.
“I hereby proclaim that the entry of nationals of Syria as refugees is detrimental to the interests of the United States and thus suspend any such entry,” the order reads. The countries affected by it are Iran, Iraq, Syria, Sudan, Libya, Yemen, and Somalia, according to a White House official.
“I am establishing new vetting measures to keep radical Islamic terrorists out of the United States of America,” Trump said during the signing at the Pentagon. “We don’t want them here.”
No one wants terrorists in their country. Invading Afghanistan and Iraq, and leaving behind a region in chaos, is one thing. To then equate whole nations with a minority of radicalized terrorist offsprings is a whole different bag. Terrorists, by the way, the US as a nation indirectly played a hand in creating. With their intervention and subsequent turmoil in some of these regions, the radicalization process was only sped up.
It’s very simple: Banning people from these countries on the premise of their supposedly radical faith is not a political issue. It’s called racism.
–> SONG SUGGESTION for the day: Kanye West, “All falls down”
7. (Thu, 26 Jan 2017) – ALL QUIET ON THE WESTERN COAST
Outside snow-covered mountains went past the window. It was surprisingly silent and calm. Occasionally you could hear someone cough and sneeze. The plane was half empty. I had rushed to get my connection – arriving at Gate A34, leaving from B05 with 20 minutes to spare.
When I showed my boarding pass, the women at the counter in the blue uniform said: “Oh, you made it.” – She closed the gate behind me. Inside the plane, the stewardess closed the door behind me. I heard the engine rev up. The few passengers on board who looked up from their phones and books and magazines gave me a “you look tired, sit down, let’s do”-look.
I had thought about taking a different route, but then a 30-minute layover seemed more plausible than having to wait three and a half hours for the connection.
The plane had reached its cruising altitude. Looking outside of the window (I sat in 21A) we were hanging above the clouds, every now and then you could make out the vast corn fields covering the mid-West.
The women next to me leaned in: “Can you see anything?”
I told her that from here it looked like America was all peaceful and quiet. She laughed. It wasn’t a loud laugh, more a surprised one.
“Two Gin & Tonics,” the woman told the stewardess when she asked for drinks. I poured some more tonic water, but that tiny piece of lemon would not sink. It would always come back to the icy surface.
The woman and I didn’t toast. We just raised the plastic cups and looked across the middle seat between us. She had a haircut like Bowie in 1987, only a bit longer at the sides. She told me about her family, who was from Oregon, her three children, who were “living all over the place, one is a doctor in Chicago, the other a teacher near Detroit, and my youngest is still at college in Nashville”, she told me about her two adorable grandchildren, showed me pictures, said that one of them had fallen ill recently, but “Mary is a doctor, so I’m sure the little one will be all right”, she told me about her husband, Mitch, a “dashing soldier in the army when we met”, who had retired some time ago, always watching the football, never too worried about eating healthy food, still active though, she said with the hint of a smile.
“I am Sue, by the way,” she said and offered me her hand to shake. She told me about how she had left Oregon, how she grew up an only child with conservative parents that had knack for Jazz, what life was like on the West Coast, how she struggled with her first husband, that she never worries about the kids too much, because “life sorts itself out, believe me”, and that the bills were a bit much sometimes, but that she lived a happy life.
The plane touched down, I put my unread book back into my bag. While putting on my jacket, Sue said: “Safe travels, it was nice meeting you… And you know what? We didn’t even talk about Trump.”
–> SONG SUGGESTION for the day: All Saints, “Pure Shores”
6. (Wed, 25 Jan 2017) – PROMISES COME TUMBLING DOWN
During the campaign last year I met a voter who said –– in this OTT way you only get when the person opposite is speaking into a mic or a notepad (and is a Trump supporter) –– that he would “lay the first brick” himself it that’s what it took.
If it were up to Donald Trump, he would have you believe this voter had to get started mixing concrete very, very soon. “Trump orders construction of border wall”, ran the headlines after the President seemingly kept one of his main campaign promises by issuing an executive order for the construction of a wall along the Southern US-Mexican border.
It is, quelle surprise, only a smoke screen. A mere gesture to his supporters, and a nice photo opportunity on top. Along the border, which is about 1900 miles (3000 kilometres) long, there already exists a “wall”: roughly 700 intermittent miles of barriers, fences, and barb wire. According to CNN “any promise to build more wall will fail mostly because of geography. You cannot build a wall on the Rio Grande. And in other border areas vast mountain ranges make an ocean-to-gulf wall simply impossible, if not ridiculous, to build.”
Good thing Trump didn’t specify a date or any other information as to where, how, and when all of this is ought to happen. This way you can’t pin him down on any details in the future, yet he can claim to have kept his promise.
Here is one detail on the border for you: Mexicans make up the majority of unauthorized immigrants, though their numbers actually had been declining in recent years.
–> SONG SUGGESTION for the day: Style Council, “Walls came tumbling down”
5. (Tue, 24 Jan 2017) – THE SEASONS THEY ARE A-CHANGIN’
It was little over a year ago. The skinny guy at the car rental desk said he had no economy car left for me. “I know you requested something else, but if you want you can have this one.”
He pointed at a white Dodge. “Just take that. Much safer when it starts to snow in the afternoon..” I can’t even remember the name of the car, only that it was way too big for me and my small bag that I had filled for the days leading up to the New Hampshire primary.
I drove off. The sun had long gone. A chilly wind was sweeping across the car park when I stopped the engine. I had never seen Marco Rubio, the Senator from Florida, before. He was running to become President of the United States. It was early February, the field of contenders was still wide open.
20 minutes after my arrival, a young, fresh-faced guy entered the local school gym in Salem, New Hampshire. He looked friendly, enthusiastic, down to earth, approachable. But it didn’t take long to figure: Marco Rubio was just as unelectable as the rest of the Republican candidates.
“Climate change, what climate change? The climate has always been changing,” he said in front of a packed audience of mums, dads, and children. “… and anyway, it’s snowing outside, isn’t?”
Rubio’s punchline rings even more hollow now that 2016 has officially been named earth’s hottest year on record yesterday. And today, it became known, Donald Trump apparently had ordered the Environmental Protection Agency to freeze its grant programs, anonymous sources told the Huffington Post.
That would include funding for research, redevelopment of former industrial sites, air quality monitoring, and education, among other things, the report read. True or not, the environment has certainly not gained a powerful ally in Donald Trump who claimed that “environmentalism is out of control” just today. Instead, he was sending a message to the American automobile industry. If it is up to him they would build and sell their cars in the US again on a large scale to create a number of jobs.
This time last year, by the way, a blizzard hit the East Coast. In D.C. it snowed for 36 hours straight. Almost 365 days later, just as he went up to the podium to address the nation after taking the oath of office, Trump stood out in the open at the Capitol. That instant it started to rain.
–> SONG SUGGESTION for the day: The Jesus and Mary Chain, “April Skies”
4. (Mon, 23 Jan 2017) – 21st CENTURY MAN
America’s worst invention (and there are so many terrible ones) is the so-called bro. Obviously. Boys behaving every day like they are on shore leave, pretending to own the world that they have hardly seen –– stone me, what a life. That is just so dull.
“It takes guts to be gentle and kind,” Morrissey once sang on “I know it’s over”, and with that sad howl ringing in my ear, I wrapped a scarf around my neck, and walked out the house into the stormy afternoon to catch a dose of this world view. I found it at the cinema: “20th Century Women” is a funny, sad, smart, fresh meditation on what it means to grow up, to raise a child, to be a couple, and most of all what it takes to be a good man.
“Men always feel like they have to fix things for women, but they’re not doing anything,” Dorothea, played by Annette Bening, tells her son Jamie in the film. “Just be there. Somehow that’s hard for all of you.”
That might work, sometimes. Poor Barron Trump, Donald Trump’s 10-year-old son, is doing just that of course: he’s simply there. And yet for him being a good man is a bigger task than for his dad to be a good president. He got mocked the other day, basically for being the son of a populist, sexist, racist man. On Twitter, of course. By an SNL writer, who later apologised. She got suspended from working on the show for making fun of a kid who will be shredded to bits soon enough for carrying that surname alone.
That Trump gives boys a bad name is unfortunate for his youngest son. Being a projection of your dad’s misdeeds must suck royally. Bros, on the other hand, will hopefully benefit greatly from being schooled even more now by 21st century women.
–> SONG SUGGESTION for the day: Talking Heads, “And She Was”
3. (Sun, 22 Jan 2017) – FAKE NEWS? OLD. NEW IN: ALTERNATIVE FACTS.
After the rain had stopped late in the afternoon I took a stroll down to White House. In the front builders were still busy dismantling the stage set up for Donald Trump’s inauguration, while the back side conveyed an aura of peace and quiet –– the building was lit up sitting there all bright and shiny, ready for dusk to swallow up its silhouette.
Just outside South Lawn, someone had arranged a graveyard of signs from yesterday’s Women’s March. A few put-downs, self-empowering words, and funny lines lined up for people to read even days after the event. An event that must have gotten under Trump’s skin real bad, by the way. His inauguration smaller than Obama’s? Smaller than a bunch of women marching against King Midas from Manhattan? Not possible, just impossible.
The US media for its part spent much of Sunday revelling in the confrontational, yet defensive words of Sean Spicer. Trump’s new Press Secretary claimed on Saturday that “it was the largest audience to ever witness an inauguration. Period. Both in person and around the globe.”
If those lines might just be a blatant lie, NBC’s Chuck Todd wanted to know from Trump’s top adviser Kellyanne Conway on Sunday morning (I’m only paraphrasing, he used falsehood, but he might as well have said lie).
“You’re saying it’s a falsehood. And they’re giving — Sean Spicer, our press secretary — gave alternative facts,” Conway replied.
Propaganda, fake news, alternative facts. If one willingly breaks from the truth, what are you left with? A coercive force of opinion.
–> SONG SUGGESTION for the day: Depeche Mode, “Policy Of Truth”
2. (Sat, 21 Jan 2017) – SIZE DOES MATTER (TO HIM)
So you made it and survived the first day (somehow), you are unpacking all those boxes (a lotta books), you try to memorise the new address in case someone asks you where to send a good deal (White House, 1600 Pennsylvania Ave NW, Washington, DC), you log onto Twitter (obviously), you see two crowd sizes compared (yuuuge, and not so yuuuge), you wonder what is going on (with these women), you look at the two pictures (tremendous eyesight), you cover one eye, you cover the other to verify (you believe in science), you call your friends (so many), you don’t listen to their advice (why woulcha), you visit the CIA (the stuff you know now), you give a speech afterwards (much to talk about), you contemplate playing it cool (hot topic tho), you do mention those two crowd sizes again (yuuuge, and not so yuuuge, APPARENTLY!), you hear numbers in your head (0 till ∞), you say the words “I’m like, wait a minute. I made a speech. I looked out, the field was, it looked like a million, million and a half people” (normally dealing in billions, okay, okay), you feel no shame in trying to belittle buncha fun and harmless gals (most a 4 by the way, if at all), you feel great (you are).
–> SONG SUGGESTION for the day: Donna Summer, “Bad Girls”
1. (Fri, 20 Jan 2017) – THE BEGINNING OF THE END
And so the knives are out. Only that they are shinier than the bronze complexion of that guy who thinks we are all living in Nazi Germany. It really happened, Donald Trump is officially the 45th President of the United States. The only question that remains is: who will be the first backstabber to put it in and twist it?
It seems fair game. I mean, the guy is leaving his business in charge of his two sons, Uday und Qusay. There is bound to be trouble. But then what do we know? Is any of you a billionaire? I am certainly not. I know how to tie a tie though, which is absolutely no qualification for being president.
The protests today in D.C. during inauguration (where rubbish bins were up in flames and a lot of glass was shattered) were not about any ridiculous style-blablah by the way. (let him wear that red necktie as long or short as he wants it to be) No, it was about tough shit like women’s issues, LGBTQ rights, labour laws. There was a lot of anger on the streets today, which in a way is surprising –– had people not talked about him and his supporters being so furious that it was scary? On the other hand, he won the election, his supporters must be super happy. And after they felt disenfranchised for so long, the rage boomerang suddenly comes back in from the left. Why, out of all places, it had to land in the windows of a lot of D.C. shops is another question. (what do we know about running a business?)
Anyway, back to the shiny knives Trump will have to fear now that he has insulted women, Mexicans, Jeb Bush, “Hamilton”, Nazi Germany, and so on. As the main course for his inauguration lunch he chose Maine Lobster, have you heard? And that, we all know as sons and daughters of billionaires, is best eaten with no silverware at all but with your fingers.
–> SONG SUGGESTION for the day: John Lennon, “Nobody Told Me”