“…gold is your God; which of you have not barter’d your conscience for bribes?”
The Bartered Bribe
By: Our Chief North America Correspondent, John Sopoor. ©2017 @support_us.gov
You know, I keep going back to a Post of The Pumpkin on 21 April which began with Oliver Cromwell’s famous 1653 speech dissolving the Long Parliament, and finding more and more resonances with Trump’s White House.
Once again I am indebted to Rachel Maddow at MSNBC for exhaustively explaining (her explanations can be pretty exhausting, and then you don’t get the meat of the story because she’s gone to a commercial break and the rest hasn’t been uploaded, but we’ll persevere) the background to yet another potential shitstorm, this time involving the plastic toy, Special Advisor and general US Government, Jared Kushner.
I have often exclaimed in mock despair that there appears to be no end to the stories and allegations of dodgy dealings surrounding Trump and his family, going back into the mists of time and before; and it seems into the future, with no reprehension; no clarity, no remorse. I guess some families are just like that. The Borgias spring to mind.
But the Pumpkin’s famed despair is beginning to lose its mockiness. I read on the hot-news ‘crawler’ unspooling beneath Ms Maddow as she outlined the latest Trump family financial plans that, for instance, Ivanka Trump’s lovely face is now to be found on billboards announcing the opening of the Trump Tower in Manila, capital of the Philippines.
Now, Mrs Kushner – Ms Trump – Ivanka has an official position in the US government. She was appointed three weeks ago as a special advisor, given a title: ‘First Daughter’ (her wicked stepmom remains a prisoner in the gilded Manhattan tower), her own office and a brief in the White House – and a top-level security clearance.
Under the Emoluments clause of the constitution it’s illegal for public officials to profit from foreign business transactions, but here she is, advertising Orange Daddy’s hotel business, that she and her brothers Donny Jr and the Little Nazi, Eric, are supposed to have been put in charge of precisely so he isn’t compromised by his ownership of said businesses while he abuses the Office of President of the United States.
Well, fuck that for a game of soldiers.
Not only that, but Trump has invited Rodrigo Duterte, the President of the Philippines, to the White House – Duterte, a squalid little pockmarked thug who publicly called President Obama a ‘fucking son of a whore’, makes salty jokes about personally raping the women his soldiers have missed and has operated an open policy of paying police death squads and vigilantes to hunt down and murder anyone suspected of involvement in the drugs trade, the number of his victims now at 7,000 and rising; has compared himself favourably to Hitler, and who has boasted that he has personally murdered people, is considered by Trump a fit person to enjoy his chocolate-cake hospitality at the expense of the US government.
Could there be a connection? Is the US taxpayer, of whom The Pumpkin is one, paying for a private Trump Tower Manila-flavoured thank-you gift to Duterte? I don’t suppose in the midst of everything else we shall ever know.
Kushner is in fact all over the press today, it is necessary only to Google ‘Kushner, Guinea’ to get the story from several newspapers behind Maddow’s exposé of his business relationship with Beny Steinmetz, an Israeli businessman whose companies are in the New York South District Court dock right now, charged with paying massive illegal bribes to the government of Equatorial Guinea for iron ore mining rights, following an FBI wiretap operation involving the widow of the late President, Sekou Touré.
Israel-based Steinmetz is alleged to have invested almost $200 million in Kushner’s properties, including a Trump Tower project, since his firm was indicted under the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act. That in itself would be prima facie evidence of corruption.
Yet nothing seems to touch the Trump family. The recent piece of brilliant investigative reporting by Adam Davidson in the New Yorker magazine linking Trump Organization via Ivanka to a deal over a Trump Tower in Azerbaijan that appears to have been part-financed with laundered money from the Iranian Revolutionary Guard (a proscribed terror organization) in breach of international sanctions, through the profoundly corrupt Mammadov family, seems to have attracted barely more than a yawn, and a ‘well, he’s Trump, what do you expect?’ from the authorities. (The Trump lawyer who carried out the apparently innocent ‘due diligence’ search and greenlighted the illegal project in Baku has been given a key post in the administration.)
These kinds of deals are going to be increasingly difficult to uncover, as one of Trump’s earliest executive orders rescinded an Obama rule that companies involved in the energy and mining industries have to declare payments to foreign officials for extraction rights.
No prizes for speculating why he passed that particular Trump Turd, then.
Meanwhile details are emerging from the Wall Street Journal of some more of ‘Mr Kushner’s’ financial arrangements, including the news that he is indebted to more than 20 banks for a total of over $1 billion, part-guaranteed by Machiavellian billionaire speculator George Soros. Unfortunately he forgot to declare it when accepting his multitasking role as a White House advisor to his equally deeply indebted father-in-law, President Donald Trump.
There’s one world for them, and fuck the rest of us.
Sayings of the Week:
“Money is no longer a measure of value; for most people in the West it is merely a form of energy, like gas and electricity. The new currency of capitalism is data.” – Uncle Bogler
100 Days of Sod ’em
The problem, it seems to The Pumpkin, that the world’s media is having in presenting the mad, ugly, dysfunctional face of Trump to the public is that the appalling things he is doing – or trying to do – and the bizarre way he is going about doing them are so bewilderingly stratified as to be almost incapable of coherent rationalization in policy terms.
(A mock-presidential cum-face that, excuse me, rather resembles the late comedian Frankie Howerd being sodomised by a camel.)
Instead of grasping the bull by the horns and campaigning full-out to get the President removed from office urgently as a threat to national security, so clearly mentally unhinged is he, the media is salami-slicing Trump’s grotesque first 100 days, spinning out a catalogue of monstrosities as a disconnected series of odd events, and thus failing to present a holistic picture; presumably for considerations of space, as a comprehensive blow-by-blow critique is going to take a fair-sized tome.
Can The Pumpkin do better? Well, not a lot, but he’ll try.
For instance, we appear to have forgotten already that only a little over a week ago Trump had sent V-P Mike Pence, a weirdly smirking snow-capped tailor’s dummy, to South Korea, where he was threatening all-out nuclear war against tiny North Korea, until his boss realised that the nuclear-tipped ‘armada’ he thought someone had despatched to the southwestern Pacific to threaten President Kim was in fact 3,500 miles away in the Indian Ocean on exercises with the Australian navy.
Yes, within his first 100 days, the Commander-in-Chief of the most powerful force on earth had managed to lose an aircraft carrier, two destroyers, a frigate and some supply ships.
Today, instead, he is lauding Kim Jong-un as ‘a smart cookie’ whom he would be ‘honoured to meet’ – this is the 33-year-old mass murderer and personality-cult leader in charge of the most repressive, over-militarized regime on earth. The Daily Mail reported, not without relish:
“North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un executed his uncle by having him stripped naked and eaten alive by starving dogs while he watched, a report claimed yesterday.”
Honoured? Fuck’s sake. Make America great again, kowtow to a teenage psychopath who starves dogs. It’s pretty demeaning, but you can understand the envy with which the fragile ego constrained by civilized values contemplates the possibilities of absolute power. MSNBC’s ‘Morning Joe’ Scarborough, thrown to starving women….
It’s only a few other days since Trump made a snide comment about how Kim had been involved in ‘failed’ negotiations with President Bill Clinton, not realizing that it was so long ago it would have had to be his father, Kim Jong-il. (Indeed, according to Prof Chomsky, North Korea has several times tried to make peace with the US by giving up its nuclear ambitions and been rebuffed.)
However, it does seem the strategy has been working, inasmuch as President Xi has been so alarmed by Trump’s aggressive irrationality, his ignorance of affairs in the western Pacific and charmed by the chocolate cake dessert at Mar-a-Lago, that he appears to be co-operating in cramming a lid at least for now on his chubby Korean ally’s more provocative nuclear flag-waving.
Nor, it was demonstrated in another weird appearance before the press last week, could Trump recall who his oyster-eyed acolyte, the Speaker of the House, Paul Ryan is. Instead, he kept confusing him with former Senator Ron Paul, founder and practically the sole member of the Libertarian Party.
He continues to obsess like a dog at a bone about the election result, in which he failed by 2.8 million votes to win a popular majority; and about the poor turnout at his inauguration, holding more and more rallies of the faithful to convince himself that he really won, that he is really loved by the people.
He isn’t loved by the CIA, however; as, at a memorial service in January for their Cold War dead, he delivered an atrocious speech in the poorest possible taste, praising himself, his election victory and his record turnout.
You see, he’s too old for this. He’s still not in the mental space labelled President of the United States, and may never be.
Since taking office, Trump has not ameliorated his habit of reacting petulantly to every perceived criticism; continuing to Tweet out bilious, misspelled vengeful messages in the early hours in response to anything he half-remembers seeing on TV news. It got him into serious trouble early in March when, at 06.30 on the 4th, this appeared:
“Terrible! Just found out that Obama had my ‘wires tapped’ in Trump Tower just before the victory. Nothing found. This is McCarthyism!”
The story is cloudy. Trump’s grasp of the history of McCarthyism is tenuous, to say the least. He later amended the analogy to ‘Watergate’, as he has a habit of self-incrimination by subconscious blurting, but it appears he was jumping to conclusions after seeing a story from Breitbart News among his morning briefs, that was subsequently traced to a so-called ‘alt-right’ website, InfoWars, run by the demented shock-jock Alex Jones; and thence to other obscure rightwing sources; and may ultimately have had its origins in a manufactured leak back in the White House.
The story broke just as the FBI investigation into connections between team Trump and Russian intelligence was getting interesting. When FBI director Comey dismissed the wiretap allegations as unproven and absurd, Trump proceeded via Fox News to an even wilder allegation against the British intelligence monitoring service, GCHQ, that provides the NSA with all the latest European and Russian scuttlebut, plus of course weekly copies of this, muh bogl.
Two weeks later, however, there appeared to be some tangential truth in Trump’s madness when it became clear that GCHQ was the source of the original allegations against Trump staffers, in particular one Carter Page, a ‘deniable’ self-deluding international fixer, as the British had intercepted conversations in 2015 with Russian agents who were already under routine monitoring and the FBI had obtained a FISA order to surveille Page.
The story thus dissolved into the normal smoke-and-mirrors of friendly clandestine spying operations between nations and took the heat off the President and what if any role he may have played in allowing or encouraging Russian military intelligence to hack his competitors’ servers to dig up dirt he could use against Clinton.
Trump thus felt totally vindicated, until on the 20th FBI Director James Comey confirmed to a Congressional hearing that Obama was innocent but he was still investigating the Russian connection. The hearings were abruptly halted by Republican chairman Devin Nunes when it became clear that the next key witness was going to be Sally Yates, the former Acting Attorney-General, who had been abruptly fired by Trump over ‘what she knew’ about National Security Advisor, General Mike T Flynn – who had himself been fired after lying about his Russian connections.
So bizarre and clearly panic-stricken was Chairman Nunes’ behaviour in attempting to suppress his own investigation – fed another anonymous ‘intelligence dossier’ via the back door of the White House ‘proving’ Obama’s treachery, he subsequently pretended to hand it in to the Presidemt and then claimed that the hearings were continuing in secret at his home without any of the committee members being invited – he was eventually forced to recuse himself and would do well to book himself into rehab.
But the hearings have not been resumed as the matter has since proceeded up to the Senate, where there’s again a small Republican majority. It seems unlikely to get any further; there is talk of Grand Juries already sitting, but the Justice Department is being packed with Trump appointees who will surely not dare to challenge him. There is as yet no sign of the kind of dogged Special Prosecutor who did for Nixon or Clinton.
This astonishing kerfuffle was so irregular that it seems almost to have been forgotten about, but it clearly illustrates the disturbing nature of the administration and the smokescreen of chaos with which it has deliberately surrounded itself.
The fact that Trump had instantly Tweeted out his total belief in a phoney claim made in a most dubious publication without bothering to check the facts with his security advisors and the FBI surely indicates either that he is temperamentally unfit to be the President, or that he rightly has no faith in his security advisors.
Nevertheless he is still there, and may be until January, 2021 at least. It is hard to see who or what will remove him, other than if he were to make a determined sexual assault on Nancy Pelosi on the floor of the House.
“…no sooner has the liberal establishment expressed amazement and concern over one bizarre interview or scandal brewing than there will come another, and another to confound everyone.”
Meanwhile, the ‘Golden Showergate’ dossier, a 35-page report compiled by former British MI6 Russia-desk officer Chris Steele from Russian intelligence sources indicating that Trump might have been the victim of a kompromat operation by Putin’s spies, and that he was a potential security threat, remained in the background, parts of it being confirmed occasionally by Congressional investigators, the FBI and the CIA, to no apparent overall effect.
The story of Teflon Donald’s first 100 days, about the historically unprecedented success of which he has already begun making promotional TV commercials, complete with paranoid attacks on the ‘fake news’ media, also reveals the unprecedentedly shambolic nature of his fumbling maladministration, his incredibly poor and uninformed capacity for rational thought or judgement; and ignores his past criminal associations, his doubtful financial record, his compulsive lying, his boasting, his ungrammatical confusions, his ignorance of detail, his ‘flip-flopping’ (We prefer the more grown-up ‘bewilderment’. Ed.) on so many key issues.
This week, for instance, we had more of his rambling, incoherent, self-contradictory assertions – the latest of which is that former President Andrew Jackson, a brutal slavemaster and genocide of Native Americans whom Trump greatly admires for his ‘big heart’, was so concerned about the issues surrounding the origins of the Civil War that he might have prevented it had it not been for Abraham Lincoln invading the South.
Never mind that he died sixteen years before the first shot was fired by the Confederacy at Fort Sumter.
Now, detailed examination of this rubbish – Trump also speculated that, had he been there at the time, he would personally have prevented the war, and complained that ‘nobody (but him) ever asks’ about the causes of the war – the purpose of possibly several hundred books on the subject he will never have heard of – which were much misunderstood, would lead one to the conclusion that the President a) has no knowledge whatever of American history, yet is perfectly prepared to pose for his Dumbfucks as an expert; and b) is so mentally unstable and narcissistic as to constitute a danger to the free world.
For it must be obvious to anyone with eyes to see, that he is also posing as a President.
But there is no time for such detailed examination, because no sooner has the liberal establishment expressed amazement and concern over one bizarre interview or scandal brewing than there will come another, and another to confound everyone.
The media is never going to convince his supporters that they made a stupid decision, even when it is clearly shown that his American Healthcare bill, that failed abysmally at its first hurdle and was withdrawn without a vote, sneaking back this week in a barely revised form, will not only disqualify millions of poorer Americans – including themselves – from holding adequate health insurance, but will penalize many with pre-existing conditions so severely that they will simply be left to die.
That is actually Republican Party policy, to get the sick and the State-dependant off the books as fast as possible; while at the same time gerrymandering constituencies by the simple expedient of disenfranchising black and Latino voters likely to be Democrats, and passing laws preventing Democratic party politicians from passing laws.
Numerous other of Trump’s huge and generalized campaign promises, seemingly made on the hoof, have turned out to be bullshit. But not all. And advantage is being taken of the abrasive tone of his campaign speeches by other sections of his party.
Among some of the extraordinary laws Republican States administrations have been trying to pass since the election is, for instance, the formal exoneration of motorists who kill demonstrators by running them over if they obstruct the highway. The Pumpkin hopes that was fake news. States that had liberalized personal marijuana possession are being forced to recriminalize it. Masked and well-armed State police have threatened they will be out early, kicking down doors. Oklahoma has been racing to execute more prisoners before they run out of drugs to do the job.
A kind of licensed brutality is in the air, but so little is comprehensively reported that it doesn’t look like a takeover by the authoritarian far-right, which it plainly is.
First Amendment freedom of the press to criticise the President is also becoming an issue.
The coverage by the mainstream media that reaches most Americans is disturbingly supine and respectful, as if they are dealing with a normal person, a normal administration that is perhaps just a little wayward in its early days, but which will straighten up and fly right eventually.
Any actual criticism is shrugged off by the Trump propagandists as ‘fake news’; but like Nanki-poo, they’ve ‘got a little list’. The ‘enemies of the people’, as he continually calls them, aware of corporate financial pressures on their editorial staff and the ongoing loss of advertising to the internet, the rise of so-called ‘citizen media’ making the cost of investigative reporting prohibitive, the ‘failing media’ is conspiring to prevent Trump making America great again, and that’s what his supporters will believe until their dying day.
In fact, many Americans have met their dying days since Trump took office: not only the service personnel unnecessarily sacrificed to his vanity and military incompetence. The toll of record floods, raging wildfires, supercell storms and tornados, droughts, record temperatures and big-freeze ice storms is running into the hundreds, just this year. Sixteen more, including several children, died in floods and tornados only yesterday in Texas and the midwest – Trumpland. The climate is running rapidly out of control; and so is the oil-fuelled, coal-burning President, in hock to the denial industry.
And nobody cares, nobody apparently wants to see that their hero is just the extreme manifestation of the elitism of the rich and powerful, the very embodiment of ‘the swamp’ he promised them he would drain; that he has not the slightest interest in helping people he calls ‘the losers’ but, with his history of bankruptcies and lawsuits, his tax avoidance and huge unpaid debts to foreign banks, is out only to enrich himself and his already obscenely wealthy friends, driven mad by money; and, if the allegations prove true, his Russian paymaster.
The Pumpkin could enumerate literally dozens of horrible, awful things Trump has either initiated or agreed to.
What human being but a complete sadist or the crazed ‘supermom’ Sarah Palin, with her Tea Party morality and her sexually incontinent children would readily agree to sign an order licensing hunters to shoot hibernating she-bears with cubs?
It is incomprehensible that such a minute detail of administration should occupy any President in his first 100 days, yet there he was, his camel-fucked Presidential cum-face glowing like an amber traffic light next to his ridiculous squiggle on a document licensing many such horrors, a gurning crew of sycophantic macho hunting loby poltroons lined up proudly behind him for the photo-op.
This is surely one monstrous old poser, a cretin bereft of most human values, who is bound straight for Hell by express delivery.
The man is wittingly or otherwise an ecocide, a world criminal, having attempted to push through more than fifty such orders removing protections and precautions for the environment, for the climate, for wildlife in a frenzied onslaught on our fragile ecology, with no comprehension, no compassion, no vision – no belief in anything other than the power of money; as if we can eat money, drink it, breathe it – survive it.
He has been obsessive in his vindictive, childish determination to remove every trace of his more popular predecessor, Obama; to trash his reputation and to exceed his excesses with barbaric enthusiasm.
Federal agency budgets have been cut savagely*, NASA has been told to drop its satellite weather monitoring program; the National Monuments lands are under threat of development, permits being granted for aggressive pipeline projects and unrestricted drilling in formerly protected wilderness areas, the Arctic, all in the name of creating ‘thousands and thousands’ of jobs that will in fact disappear as US energy production goes into overdrive for no commercial reason – global demand is already far exceeded, the oil price has collapsed.
Energy industry transparency is being shut down; coal revived and dishonestly or foolishly promoted by Trump as ‘the cleanest energy ever’. Government scientists are being barred from publishing climate research, federal agencies barred from carrying out their duty of issuing public information on environmental matters, their administrations hollowed-out, gone. Climate change? ‘It’s a hoax’. (Has been since the 1880s when CO2 was first outed as a greenhouse gas. A long time to maintain a hoax involving tens of thousands of trained postgraduate scientists, possibly.)
The problem is, you see, once Trump has to get to grips with a little basic science, he becomes the greatest atmospheric physicist the world has ever known. Who better then to declare global warming a hoax?
Then there are his financial dealings; the dealings of the smartest negotiator, possibly ever; the smartest businessman. Simply Google: ‘Trump’, plus the name of any Russian bank – Alfabank, Sberbank, Deutsche Bank; ‘Trump’ plus Azerbaijan; ‘Trump’ plus Rybolovlev; ‘Trump’ plus Moscow, plus Mafia…. Even the rightwing Daily Mail was shocked by that last one. The evidence of money-laundering, of association with criminal enterprises at home and abroad is everywhere you look. Every day throws up the name of another oligarch with alleged connections to Trump and his gang.
For The Pumpkin, Trump’s most unique attribute is this: a man born into wealth, who need never have done any work in his life, something in his upbringing, some Trump family gene, some parental abuse has caused him to live his life like a ragged-arsed immigrant clawing his way out of the Bowery in about 1910, willing to do anything at all, whatever it takes to survive.
The gold of Trump is just leaf, the swagger and smarm a veneer. Underneath he is pure Charlie Chaplin; pure Bugsy Siegel, pure Clyde Barrow: a poor bastard who has turned himself through the desperate desire to prove himself good enough for his father, but who can only measure his progress in money, into a deceitful, facile thug.
His closest associates in the White House, his campaign team, his transition team… many of them are tarnished by similar allegations, financial dealings with corrupt foreign oligarchs and governments; attempts to thwart FBI investigations; billionaire ‘disruptors’ pursuing obscure rightwing and Christian fundamentalist causes, using their vast wealth to influence the outcome of elections, to undermine democratic institutions and cause profitable chaos in order to grasp more.
Wall Street sharks are filling the administration – we should understand that, while on the campaign trail Mr Trump admonished Goldman Sachs in particular, they are the financial advisor that made most of his connections to lenders such as Deutsche Bank and Bank of China, lenders to whom he owes more than a billion dollars; and to whose former executives he has in return entrusted all of the major financial arms of the State.
These are not conspiracy theories, those people are quite open, even boastful about their objectives and methods. They believe, apparently not without good reason, that they are at last untouchable: the Masters of the Universe, back in overwhelming numbers and in reach of real political power at last.
Trump’s immigration policy has been wild, insane, sickening. He has encouraged dreadful divisions in US society, turning people against foreigners and Muslims; branding all migrants in this land of migrants as criminals, drug dealers, rapists.
Families that have been settled in America for decades are being torn apart as thuggish border goons interpret their remit, unopposed by Congress, to drag hardworking fathers and mothers in handcuffs, even from hospital beds, away from their American children to detention centres from where after a perfunctory hearing they are bundled out, having committed no crime other than to exist, to countries where they have no homes, no connections, no work.
Extra judges are being press-ganged to sit on 24-hour immigration tribunals; punitive funding cuts threatened against ‘sanctuary cities’ whose mayors refuse to impose draconian rules against useful and productive ‘illegals’. It is an onslaught that invites comparisons with Nazi Germany.
Yet immigration is vital: the native American birthrate is well below replacement, the population – as elsewhere in the Western world, is ageing.
Trump’s boneheaded and valueless attempts on ‘security’ grounds to ban temporarily, people traveling from countries from where no actual terrorist threats have ever emanated, the so-called Muslim travel ban, that absurdly has not been applied to prolific terror-sponsoring nations like Saudi Arabia and Pakistan, ended twice in chaos and confusion, leading to face-offs with the courts and those he reviled as ‘so-called judges’, risking in his ignorance of the workings of Government a major confrontation between the Executive, Judicial and Congressional branches of the State.
Even a former Norwegian Prime Minister, Kjell Magne Bondevik, on his way to a prayer breakfast (don’t ask me. Ed.) was detained for two hours of questioning at Dulles airport, an incriminating Iranian visa stamp in his passport. And there’s talk of more and more oppressive Homeland Security – the compulsory surrender of personal media passwords, for instance; while Trump has readily signed over to internet service providers the automatic right to sell subscriber data – both measures in fact reducing the national cybersecurity.
He seems to do whatever anybody tells him, provided they are rich enough.
Trump’s much-vaunted promises to build a grandiose and ineffectual wall between the US and Mexico, that Mexico would pay for, that would divide border communities and hinder normal commercial flows worth $billions, have so far thankfully remained unfunded, despite his unfounded belief that it would totally halt the flow of drugs and illegal migrants into the USA.
His vain threats to impose punitive trade tariffs on Mexican goods, it has been shown, would have a negative effect on American consumers, while his promise to scrap the North American Free Trade Agreement, NAFTA, that he has now abandoned, merely showed him up as being ignorant of its real economic benefits and the costs of ending it. He persists in the hubris that isolationism is the way to restore the stagnant incomes of Americans, while the Federal Reserve continues to print money to lubricate the banks and holds interest rates at zero.
In his first 100 days, so many of his spontaneously generated campaign chickens have come home to roost. Being President is more complicated than he thought. So, Donald, go?
Likewise, another ‘ten-minute briefing’ at the White House with NATO chief Lars Stoltenburg caused another 180-degree turn in policy: ‘failing’ and ‘irrelevant’, NATO is now important once again; although one cannot be sure that he has been cured of his erroneous belief that NATO pays the USA money in exchange for a defence umbrella, and that many member States are not paying what they owe. Hence his $390 billion ‘invoice’ to Angela Merkel.
No, Donald, that’s not how it works! It’s a treaty organization guaranteeing mutual defense. NATO members are independent nations. They commit to keeping their defence budgets at a certain level, but they all have different GDP to begin with! Different defence requirements. And the treaty obliges them to come to your aid too, if the USA is attacked. NATO is not, as he hoped, some kind of standing army, that will take on ISIS terrorists on its own initiative.
This is a man almost entirely ignorant of the affairs of State, of how the world works, of the history of international relations, who is undergoing a learning-curve that seems almost entirely beyond his capabilities to negotiate. Is that not a serious enough failing in a President, in the Commander-in-Chief of the most powerful armed force in world history, by whom one mistake could end human civilization?
Earlier in April, while at dinner with the Chinese President at his vulgar golf resort in Florida, Mar-a-Lago, from which he continues to profit while in office, Trump theatrically left the table to sanction a strike by 59 cruise missiles on an airbase in Syria, thereby overturning his own non-intervention policy. It appeared to be an emergency, but by a strange coincidence, his entire security team were already there, waiting in another room.
The strike was ineffectual and although justified as a show of force to tell President Assad he couldn’t use chemical weapons on civilians, and to tell President Xi the US has a tough guy in charge who means business, it was widely seen as a convenient distraction from the FBI’s investigations into Trump’s Russian connections.
Mr Trump later expressed awe at his own military power and suggested he had just realized you had to be careful with this stuff as missiles could kill people. Nine civilians, including four children, died so that he could discover the principle. It was reminiscent of Mr Trump’s revelations regarding uranium, that could be used to make ‘bad things’, who knew?; and his naive query as to why, if we have nuclear weapons, we don’t use them more? Was he joking?
No, his budget provided for billions of dollars to increase the nuclear capability, that is already sufficient to eradicate all life on the planet several times over.
But a strong military is essential for the defence of the nation – and good for share prices.
Soon afterwards his airforce dropped an 11,000-lb MOAB air burst bomb on a cave complex in Afghanistan, killing – it’s thought – 36 ISIS guerrillas, a piece of theatrical sabre-rattling designed to intimidate the North Koreans, against whom Trump began fulminating the next day. His record of drone strikes has far exceeded even that of his predecessor, Obama; ‘collateral’, civilian casualties have quadrupled as his military has been told there will be no criticism, no comebacks, whatever they have to do to get the job done. (The ‘job’ is to eradicate the so-called Islamic State by saturation bombing, another futile policy.)
Since Trump took office, US troops have been sent by the thousand in secret to several more potential theatres of war. He has placed a blanket ban on announcing military operations. He has previously said that the objective of US military policy should be to ‘seize the oil’. He was persuaded not to do that in Iraq, only when it was pointed out to him which side the US was fighting on.
The corrupt appointments: his family members, friends of the family, his financial backers, the party’s financial backers, the backers and staff of Breitbart News, gimlet-eyed military hawks, demonstrably stupid, venal and incompetent local political hicks, all rewarded with key government posts they are not remotely qualified to fill; other, many other posts left vacant – key ambassadorships, heads of department – all are indicative of his inexperience, his isolation as CEO of his own business.
His proposed tax reforms, for instance, all one page of them (in easy to read bullet points), benefitting corporations and the top point two percent of the most wealthy to the tune of, literally, trillions of dollars; gouging the poor and the middle-class, will scarcely pass with no-one in the Treasury in charge of the country’s tax planning; but that post remains unfilled too, another empty department.
Under the toxic Attorney-General, Jefferson Beauregard ‘Jeff’ Sessions 111, who lied about his meetings with the Russian ambassador and had to recuse himself from any investigation of Trump’s team and its unexplained connections with Russia, the Justice Department is filling up with Trump appointees, after he fired all the circuit judges in January without any replacements lined up. The southern racialist, anti-civil rights, anti-abortion advocate and avowed Confederate supporter, Sessions has been busy removing any legal constraints on the actions of the police nationwide.
General Flynn, the first National Security Advisor, waved through by the Trump administration on the basis of an old security clearance that should have been revoked after he was fired by Obama as head of the Defense Intelligence Agency, lasted 24 days in post before having to stand down after being caught lying about connections with Russia. They began to emerge in 2016, and have still not stopped emerging, as he took substantial sums of money as an undeclared ‘foreign agent’ for obscure PR efforts on behalf of Russia, and of Turkey – financed by the Russians.
Trump’s son-in-law, the 36-year-old property speculator Jared Kushner, too, who is wearing a bewildering array of ‘hats’ in the White House, including a brief to re-engineer the entire administrative machinery in Washington, was caught lying about contacts he had with Russian Ambassador Kislyak; while since the inauguration a number of prominent Russian diplomats, bankers and business ‘contacts’ based in Washington (and one or two in Moscow) have unexpectedly died, including the Ambassador to the UN, Vitaly Churkin – whose autopsy results have been Classified.
The Russian connection extended to apparent attempts to influence the election through the hacking of Democratic party servers and the release via the ever-useful Wikileaks of what the FBI found were non-incriminating emails sent and received by Hillary Clinton and her campaign manager John Podesta. In March Mr Trump seems to have employed a British politician, Nigel Farage, as a go-between to Wikileaks founder, Julian Assange – but Sessions has since had a new warrant issued for Assange’s arrest on old charges of leaking classified documents.
(Beware of Assange’s revenge!)
Farage is an associate of Raheem Kassam, the UK editor of Steve Bannon’s Breitbart News website, and a ‘friend’ of ultra-rightwing billionaire fund manager, Robert Mercer, who with his daughter Rebekah funds Breitbart. Other Breitbart writers and section editors have received posts in the administration, including ‘Dr’ Sebastian Gorka, a British-Hungarian security analyst with suspected connections to a secretive neo-Nazi movement in Hungary (he has now left the administration). Mercer’s company, Cambridge Analytica, is alleged to have been behind computer ‘botnet’ attacks on the British EU referendum, in which Farage campaigned prominently for ‘Brexit’.
Bannon and other wealthy disruptors are linked in a tenuous network with Republican funders and Russian oligarchs promoting religious and racial ‘purity’ and an Islamophobic, antisemitic agenda. They seem in the early days at least to have ‘captured the castle’ as far as Trump and his administration were concerned, giving rise to the suggestion that the President is merely a ‘useful idiot’ in a plot to undermine Western democratic institutions and to destroy the US government in its present form – as Bannon boasted was his intention in a speech to the Conservative CPAC conference in January, at which young, wealthy male delegates notoriously gave a Nazi salute, shouting Heil Trump!, apparently without irony – a plot in which the Russian president Putin is suspected of having a disruptive hand.
Trump seems to have an unhealthy regard for ‘strongman’ dictators: in addition to his expressed admiration for Duterte and North Korea’s Kim, he has happily received at the White House such humanitarians as General al-Sisi of Egypt, Binyamin Netanyahu of Israel and Viktor Orban of Hungary – an old friend of Gorka’s – and has refused to criticise either Putin or the increasingly paranoid Erdogan of Turkey, to whom he Tweeted congratulations on scraping through a referendum giving him absolute powers for life (Following which, Erdogan proceeded to arrest or suspend another ten thousand government officials as ‘plotters’ supposedly supporting his nemesis, the US-exiled cleric Fetullah Gulen).
Indeed, Trump has praised both of them lavishly; and it seems General Flynn’s missions may have helped to bring about a rapprochement between the two countries – as indeed did those of Russian oligarch Aleksandr Dugin – and, perhaps, advanced a lucrative undersea gas pipeline deal bypassing Syria for Noble Energy – a company drilling in collaboration with the Israeli energy sector, in which Trump has shares; one of whose former directors, George Papadopoulos is an Energy Advisor appointee in the Trump administration.
Yet he pretty much cold-shouldered Angela Merkel and Japanese Prime Minister Abe, appearing to fall asleep standing up and noticeably refusing to wear his translation earpiece at their joint press conferences, so he had no idea what they were saying.
As a result, his foreign policy is a total muddle that no-one can clearly follow. As is his administration.
His Foreign Policy pointman, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson – former boss of America’s biggest oil company – has no diplomatic experience, and virtually no diplomatic or administrative support at the State Department, which has been hollowed-out with over 500 appointments still vacant; there are 34 ambassadors yet to be hired, many to key countries around the world – South Korea, Japan, Singapore. Entire foreign desks, including China, are missing. Is it deliberate? It feels like a Bannon policy.
The Commerce Secretary – an old ‘consigliere’ to the Trump family, billionaire Wilbur Ross was until this March a major investor in and vice-chair of Bank of Cyprus, a known conduit to the west for sanctioned Russian money. His fellow directors included the former head of Deutsche Bank, another money-laundering bank that lent Trump hundreds of millions of dollars, much of which he was unable to pay back. Who owns those debts now? Trump connection Dmitry Rybolovlev owns 10 per cent of the bank. Trump was reported to have benefited from a property deal they did in Florida, to the tune of $60 million. The property was subsequently pulled down as being unfit for habitation.
The former Attorney General of Oklahoma, the climate-change-denying baboon Scott Pruitt, equally has no-one running the key departments at the Environment Protection Agency, that he has vowed in any case to destroy as it conflicts with the demands of his benefactors, the energy companies. He has sued the EPA on behalf of fracking interests on 14 separate occasions. Pruitt fought for years to prevent the release of emails subpoena’d by environmentalists expected to show his connection to the fabulously wealthy mining and energy extractors, the Koch Brothers; America’s third biggest polluters of all three carbon ‘sinks’.
Trump’s appointment as Education Secretary, Betsy DeVos, had no public administration experience in the Education field, other than co-owning a business pursuing student debtors. A Christian fundamentalist, she’s the wife of Amway pyramid-selling multi-billionaire and friend of Trump’s, Dick DeVos – who as the owner of healthcare corporations stands potentially to benefit from the new American Healthcare Act if it ever passes.
DeVos’ Spectrum Healthcare was revealed in February to be one of only two users sharing a mysterious email server in a small town in Pennsylvania, traced to the Trump Organization. The other user was the Russian Alfabank, owned by Mikhail Fridman, an oligarch who, Fortune magazine reported, was planning to divest his oil holdings in Rosneft and go into ‘US healthcare’.
Other, lesser appointments reveal a catalogue of incompetents promoted above their capabilities, with woeful CVs, suggesting that no-one in their right mind would want to work for this failing administration.
One success Trump can claim is the appointment of a far-right Supreme Court judge, Neil S Gorsuch, 49, who has an unblemished record of finding against individuals in cases involving corporations and whose career has been bankrolled by oil, sports and leisure industry magnate, Philip Anschutz (net worth $11 bn). To get him appointed, the Republicans on the Approvals committee had to get Congress to change the rules, having filibustered furiously for over a year to keep President Obama from filling the vacant position with a Democrat, but hey, it was a triumph. Of sorts.
Mr Gorsuch’s first act in office was to use his casting vote in favour of executing another black man.
Trump’s relationship with the press has been a disaster of epic proportions, thanks to his hapless, blustering, bullying dimwit of a Press Secretary, Sean Spicer, and his lunatic PR flack Kellyanne Conway – inventor of the ‘alternative truth’.
While there may be humour in the situation, less humorous have been the threats issued against journalists by Trump’s senior policy advisor, Stephen K Bannon; and now, hollow threats by the pathetic Reince Priebus, the White House’s sidelined ‘Chief of Staff’, to rewrite the First Amendment to the constitution in order to modify the concept of free speech for the press. Even to think that might be possible is to countenance the kind of authoritarian administration that characterized Germany in the 1930s; yet Trump’s compulsive, illiterate 3 a.m. Tweeting accusing minor female celebrities of being too fat makes him a pretty comic, second-rate Hitler.
Can we just laugh him out of office? Well, no. He wouldn’t even attend the annual dinner last weekend of the White House Press Corps he despises, after being insulted with humour last year. His only eye on the world is Fox News.
And it just goes on. The refusal to release his tax returns; the leaks, both intentional and not; the illegal profiting from foreign government money funnelled through his hotel in Washington, subsidised by the government estates department that owns the freehold of the building; the threats to sue anyone who writes the sort of things I am writing here; the smell of cover-up and national decay, the permanent smokescreen of confusion and chaos – the primacy of money above humanity.
Indeed, the only question one can ask is, in Trump’s own notorious words, just what the Hell is going on?
To say Trump’s presidency has thus far been a cataclysm and promises only to get worse is an understatement. His military men are still looking for some excuse to go to war, probably with Iran unless North Korea runs another nuclear test or Assad gasses some more civilians or China blockades the South China Sea. Maybe even with Russia, if they step out of line. He seems to have no moral compass when it comes to discussing pre-emptive strikes.
The energy industry with its vast power to lobby governments and to buy politicians like you’d buy a pound of bananas is clearly in charge now of both domestic and foreign policy, regardless of the increasingly alarming, adverse climate data Trump is rushing to suppress; in fact, you could describe it as a global coup unfolding, a grab for the last of our fossil fuel reserves. And the Pentagon is right there with them, Trump’s office is stiff with retired generals – he looks up to strict, authoritative men, like his Dad presumably. He’s a mess of post-parental conflicts and complexes.
Even now, teaching packs are being sent out to schools, telling children climate change is a hoax, there’s nothing to worry about. Will Mrs DeVos stop them? Well, she wants schools to teach Creationism and abstention rather than birth control, she’s homophobic too, so the Pumpkin doubts it. Obama’s liberal edict permitting transgender students to pee in whichever bathroom they prefer has also been rescinded.
Women’s rights too have come under ferocious attack, especially since the four-million march outnumbered Trump’s inauguration crowd; family planning clinics around the world have been defunded from government aid programs. Consumer protections, pollution controls, vehicle emissions limits are being trashed as ‘business-unfriendly’ – and to hell with children’s developing brains.
One hopeful sign, Trump himself has acknowledged in his 100-days interviews that the task of playing at being President is beyond him, telling the world how happy he was just running his family property business and franchising his name and Ivanka’s decorative schemes out to developers of Trump this-and-that around the world; her Chinese sweat-shop-made clothing ranges that he continues to promote on her behalf despite his hypocritical and economically disastrous demands that US businesses buy and sell and manufacture only in the USA; his Canute-like attempts to rollback globalization.
Healthcare? More complicated than expected. The role and purpose of opposition parties? Unexpectedly obstructive. Syria? Complicated. North Korea? His new friend Mr Xi, who executes more prisoners than Arkansas, has explained: it’s complicated.
The man demonstrates it with every breath: an arrogant, thin-skinned, spoiled, narcissistic, childish buffoon; ignorant, unlettered and not in control of his thoughts: he has no mental discipline, no ordered mind; he is observably barely literate: ‘Some of my best friends, contractors, good friends, can’t read or write.’ he told a campaign rally. ‘That doesn’t mean they’re not smart.’ He has stupid ideas, but reverences them as a toddler might proudly present its mother with a nappy full of shit: look ma, see what I just made!
His aides, alarmed, reported that he has the attention span of a four-year-old with ADHD and does not take briefings or read papers of state, he just watches TV all day between signing stuff he doesn’t appear to read. He spends three days a week golfing at Mar-a-Lago, at a projected cost to the taxpayer of $30 million a year; it’s another business, as well as his other golf courses around the world, that he continues to plug mercilessly for profit despite the clear conflict of interest.
He doesn’t care. The theft, the kleptomania are blatant, and his supporters don’t care as long as he allows the mentally ill to own guns – another of his early edicts. His sucking-up to the National Rifle Association has been craven and disturbing: especially from a former gun-control advocate, he now wants to arm the nation three times over, it’s great for jobs. Never mind the thirty thousand gunshot fatalities every year, against which ‘terrorism’, which he equates purely with Islam, white racist attacks don’t count, pales into complete insignificance.
Trump supporters are a kind of death cult.
It’s understandable they felt left behind, he was a symbol of change – only not in the way they expected. Many indeed hope he will bring about the End Times, when they shall see God, get to meet Jesus.
When he promised to ‘drain the swamp’ and has instead appointed lobbyists and Goldman Sachs executives and promised to let Tillerson’s buddies drill on open range in national parks and on monument land that is pretty much sacred to those people, when he cheats on his healthcare promises so their mothers and children are going to die prematurely from cancers, and stinking-rich corrupt Republican politicians tell them Jesus will take care of them if they live right, when he proposes to blow another $50 billion on the military, and they still think he’s great, that he’s cleaning out the stable and raising the stars and stripes, well, who are we to deny them this extraordinary fantasy world they’re living in?
It’s been 100 days that shook our world, and The Pumpkin can’t see the shaking is going to stop until Vice-President Pence exercises his constitutional right and duty under the 25th Amendment to have the senile President carted off with his arms folded, like that’s ever going to happen; or until Mr Comey and the FBI get their finger out and arrest him; or Congress impeaches him.
Like that’s ever going to happen.
The best the USA can hope for is that he will eventually come to and realize, he’s too old and tired and befuddled to run again. Let Jared have the job; let Ivanka.
In the meantime, although the Democrats have also become flaccid tools of the corporate overlords, at least a Democrat victory in the mid-term elections next year might wrest control of the Congress out of the hands of the Republicans, many of whom are as batshit crazy, dumb, actually evil and corrupt as any of the swamp-monsters, billionaire Christian fundamentalists and fuel-fossils in the White House.
And hope for President Elizabeth Warren in 2020.
*Not so, we hear. Voting on the budget, following the global March for Science, Congress has inserted modest increases for federal science programs this year. Not all is rosy: Trump’s orders are for cuts to bite in 2018.
My admiration for President Duterte of the Philippines just went up a notch.
Trump, whose new American Healthcare bill passed the House and if ratified in the Senate (unlikely) would see hundreds and thousands of Americans condemned to an early death for lack of medical care while the money goes to tax breaks for the wealthy, invited the self-confessed murderer to the White House.
And Duterte told him no thanks, he’s far too busy.