22 October 2017

John Kelly Lied for Trump and No One Dared To Call It A Lie

You already know about Trump's racist remarks while calling the wife of a slain soldier.

He couldn't remember his name. He told her, well, he knew what he signed up for, and the following day she became the wife and the woman, still no names.

Moreover, he categorically denied the entire conversation and claimed that John Kelly was in the room and he could corroborate his account.

Enter John Kelly, a four star Marine Corps general and Trump's chief of staff.

He never denied what the conversation entailed, instead he attacked viciously the South Florida Congresswoman Frederica Wilson, who went public with the content of the call.

He first savaged her for eavesdropping on a private conversation. He said that she violated the sanctity of a private phone call. The problem is that, she was in the car and the call was on speakerphone.

And Kelly was also doing the same violating himself at the other end.

He then maintained that she was a self-aggrandizing empty barrel who took credit for the funding of an FBI building while she was in Congress. Here is what he actually said:
A congresswoman stood up, and in the long tradition of empty barrels making the most noise, stood up there and all of that and talked about how she was instrumental in getting the funding for that building, and how she took care of her constituents because she got the money, and she just called up President Obama, and on that phone call he gave the money—the twenty million dollars— to build the building. And she sat down, and we were stunned. Stunned that she had done it. Even for someone that is that empty a barrel, we were stunned. But, you know, none of us went to the press and criticized. None of us stood up and were appalled. We just said, “O.K., fine.”
It turns out she never said any of these things and she praised John Boehner and other colleagues for shepherding the legislation in record time. And she spend the bulk of her speech praising FBI agents.

You can see it for yourself.

This is a shorter version, here is a link to the full 9 minutes.

Not only did she not claim credit for the funding, the authorization took place in 2009 when she was not even in Congress.

Kelly also added that he was so shaken by Representative Wilson's remarks he had to stroll through Arlington Cemetery for an hour to get over his anger.

In other words, as one journalist put it "he metaphorically dug up every body in Arlington National Cemetery to use them as human shields for Trump."

In short, the four-star Marine Corps general lied through his teeth. Nothing he claimed in his brief address was true.

And you know the funny thing, nobody dared to call him a liar. The Intercept is the only media outlet that I could find to use the L word.

Rachel Maddow at MSNBC did use the word as well.

In the New Yorker, Ryan Lizza presented it as one of the moral dangers of working for Trump.

NBC stated that Wilson said Kelly lied. It was a case of she said, he said.

Sun Sentinel that uploaded the video used "Kelly got it wrong" as its headline.

CNN reported that "Kelly erroneously claimed congresswoman took credit for building funding, video shows."

New York Times: After Video Refutes Kelly’s Charges, Congresswoman Raises Issue of Race.

Washington Post: What John Kelly got wrong about Rep. Frederica Wilson and the Johnson family.

And the White House stood by his account, video clips be damned.

Moreover, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, the White House Press Secretary made a veiled threat about the advisability of questioning a general.

When asked about Kelly's inaccurate claims she said:
“If you want to go after General Kelly, that’s up to you,” she said. “But I think that that—if you want to get into a debate with a four-star Marine general, I think that that’s something highly inappropriate.”
That's the kind of threat one used to hear in Turkey, Egypt, Iraq or South America.

Add this to the media's reluctance to call a lying general a liar and you see the level of militarization of civilian discourse in America.

19 October 2017

Has Trump's Insensitive Condolence Call Harmed His Popularity?

If you read mainstream media and leading blogs on the Internet you might get the impression that Trump is finally losing the support of Trumpistas.

The idea is that his base might not care about his legislative agenda but they wouldn't stand for him insulting a grieving widow.

I am referring, of course, to the infamous "he knew what he was signing up for, but I guess it hurts anyway" call to Myeshia Jackson, the widow of the slain Sargeant La David Jackson.

Trump also referred to Jackson as "your guy" throughout the conversation.

And the following day, when he denied this conversation, Myeshia became "the wife" and "the woman."
“I had a very nice conversation with the woman, with the wife who was — sounded like a lovely woman. Did not say what the congresswoman said, and most people aren’t too surprised to hear that.”
In other words, he did not acknowledge either the soldier or his wife by name.

That got the corporate media in a tizzy. There were speculations how this would be seen by Trump supporters. After all, he insulted a fallen soldier and they are a conservative bunch etc. They rehashed his pre-election insults to a Gold Star family and to John McCain.

All of this is utter rubbish.

Trump's base would not disapprove his insulting demeanor towards Sgt. Jackson's widow. On the contrary, they would appreciate it very much.

Are you a mind reader, you say.

Well, yes I am.

Trump waited 12 days before making any calls, which is very unusual. In fact, the whole thing happened because a journalist asked why he never called the families.

As you know, he first claimed that his predecessors never bothered calling anyone. Which was a boldface lie.

Then he proceeded to call them. His call to David Johnson's family you already heard about.

This is the reaction of the brother of one of the soldiers who died in Niger.
[T]he brother of one of the fallen soldiers, Staff Sgt. Dustin Wright, 29, said he and his family have not been bothered by Trump’s comments. 
William Wright said Tuesday afternoon in an interview that his parents were expecting a phone call from the president soon and that his family would consider it a “great honor” to speak with him. If Trump had called earlier, Wright said, the family would not have been ready for it.
This is Dustin Wright.

Trump earlier called Eddie Lee, the father of First Lt. Weston C. Lee who was killed in Iraq in the Spring.
“The president was just so nice and caring, you could hear it in his voice, you could tell what a caring family man he is,” said Mr. Lee, who volunteered, “I voted for Trump and I’d vote for him again.”
This is Weston Lee.

Did you notice the similarity between the two men?

Can you guess what Sgt La David Johnson might look like?

Yes, "that woman's" "guy" is black.

For Trump's base, his family didn't even deserve a call because they are African American.

And Trump's derisive and demeaning tone in dealing with them was exactly how "them people" should be treated.

As you saw, one of the families defended Trump's decision to call them almost two weeks after their brother died, claiming that an earlier call would not have been timely.

Next time you need to offer your condolences to a white American person remember to wait at least twelve days, as is the custom. And see how they will react to your thoughtful timing.

Incidentally, this is Trump's approval rating for this period. And it looks exactly like before. His rock solid 42 percent is with him.

Until the Democrats start to understand that Trump's racism is a feature not a bug they will not win any elections.

The man and his base are white supremacists and Democrats should stop trying to please them.

They will never get their votes.

14 October 2017

The Ironies Surrounding UNESCO's DG Election

Unless you are a news junkie like me, you are probably not aware that UNESCO, the Paris-based UN agency dealing with education and culture, elected its new Director General (DG) yesterday.

Normally, this is a humdrum affair to which no one really pays any attention, save perhaps the personnel of the organization. But this time it was interesting enough to lure journalist from all around the world.

I will not bore you with the details. But I thought that there were a couple of ironic twists that you might find interesting.

First funny bit was the French candidacy.

"She is a good girl" Criterion

There is an unwritten rule that stipulates that UN agency host countries do not field candidates.

UNCTAD, based in Geneva, never had a Swiss Secretary General or Officer in Charge. Or no Austrian ever helmed UNIDO, which is headquartered in Vienna.

True, a Frenchman named René Maheu had a stint as Director General of UNESCO in the early 60s but he more or less fell into the job after becoming Acting Director General in 1961.

Now, if brushing aside this unwritten rule was done on the basis of some outstanding merit I would be in favor of it. In fact, I believe no such tacit understandings should block deserving candidates.

But in this instance, it was just a whim of the departing President Francois Hollande. And the candidate had no discernable qualities other than being well connected.

You see, Arab states had claimed that it was their turn at the head of UNESCO as no one from the Arab Group had ever served as DG. And for the most part, Quai d'Orsay lent its support to that claim.

But things changed when Francois Hollande's then mistress (and current girlfriend), actress Julie Gayet told him about her good friend Audrey Azoulay who badly needed a job.

(You will remember Gayet from Hollande's picture on his bodyguard's scooter on his way to her appartment for an illicit rendezvous)

In 2014, Azoulay met François Hollande when he was on a presidential trip to Mexico. The then president was impressed by what he saw as Azoulay’s competence and energy. “She's a good girl – we’ve got to find a job for her,” Hollande said after meeting her, according to the French weekly L’Express.
I will leave it to you to discuss how demeaning this moniker is and how he managed to determine her "competence and energy" in one meeting.

Hollande first gave her a job at Elysees, then promoted her as his Minister of Culture. At that point, Azoulay had never been elected to any office and she had had a checkered career.

Before the presidential election last May, he tried to make her a candidate for Assemblée Nationale from the Paris region but apparently, Annie Hidalgo, the mayor of Paris said "non."

Possibly with more prodding pillow talk, the upcoming vacancy at the top of UNESCO looked like the perfect solution to Azoulay's unemployment problem.

He announced her candidacy three days before the deadline to the dismay of Quai d'Orsay diplomats and howling protests from the Arab world who accused France of last minute betrayal.

In short, Francois Hollande, unburdened by re-election worries, scrapped an unwritten rule of international diplomacy, just to please his mistress.

When you remember the depth and frequency of Western derision for nepotistic appointments in the developing world, the irony quotient here is quite extraordinary.

Initially, people assumed that French Foreign Ministry was not going to push her too hard and for a long time, she was not seen as a front runner. But in recent weeks, Jean-Yves Le Drian lobbied vigorously on her behalf.

But the bulk of the credit goes to the world's Wahhabi countries. And there are just two of them.

Wahhabis for Jews

(That subtitle is for Mel Brooks fans)

Of the seven initial candidates, the remaining three were Qatar's former Minister of Culture Hamad bin Abdulaziz al-Kawari, Egypt's former Minister of Population and Family Moushira Khattab and France's former Minister of Culture and all around "good girl" Audrey Azoulay.

Calling them lackluster is being charitable.

Al-Kawari's only credential to lead UNESCO was embedded in his campaign slogan: "I am not coming empty handed." I took it as a reminder of how Qatar bribed FIFA folks to get the 2022 World Cup to be played in 45 degree heat.

"Elect me and I'll get you more money that you need" was his promise to a badly cash-strapped organization.

Moushira Khattab, a respected human rights activist, was hampered by her association to former President Hosni Mubarak, under whom she served as a State Minister.

Moreover, her candidacy was bankrolled by Saudi Arabia and UAE, raising questions about her independence as UNESCO's future DG.

As for Azoulay, well, we already know she was a good friend of Julie Gayet. And as far as I am concerned, that's good enough for the job.

UNESCO's DG elections are fairly simple.

There is a body called Executive Board composed of 58 member states (out of a total of 195). They start voting on a Monday and continue to do so every day until Friday. Any time a candidate gets 30 votes s/he is elected. Otherwise, come Friday, the highest two vote-getters face off and whoever gets more than the other is elected.

On Thursday, al-Kawari received 22 votes and the next two candidates, Moushira Khattab and Audrey Azoulay both got 18 votes each.

That necessitated an extra round of voting on Friday morning to eliminate one of the two women candidates. Khattab lost that round.

Apparently, the rest of the day, the Egyptian, Saudi and UAE delegations went on an intensive campaign to get Azoulay elected.

There were reports of protesters marching outside UNESCO building with banners denouncing Qatar's support for terrorism.

I have seen similar protests in New York during the General Assembly in September and they are typically people who are paid by Saudi Arabia to make some noise for media outlets.

After Khattab was eliminated, the Saudi Ambassador to UNESCO told delegates that, if al-Kawari was elected, his country would withdraw from UNESCO adding to its financial woes.

In the end, the winner was Audrey Azoulay.

This all well and good you may say, but where is the irony?

Well, Audrey Azoulay is hailing from a Sephardic Jewish family.

In other words, Qatar and Saudi Arabia worked hard to get a Jewish woman elected. Knowing the deeply ingrained anti-Semitism in these countries and the Arab world in general, I relished the irony.

Indeed, while other media outlets avoided the Jewish qualifier, Israeli media highlighted it to emphasize that irony.

Times of Israel's headline was "French Jewish Candidate Defeats Qatari to Win UNESCO Leadership."

Ha'aretz intoned: "Jewish-French Candidate Defeats Qatari Runner-up in UNESCO Director-general Election."

We live in interesting times.

08 October 2017

How the Media Handled Clinton and Javanka Email Servers

My piece about why people hate Hillary Clinton was one of the most popular posts in this humble blog's history.

(The popular posts in the right margin is compiled by Blogger according to the number of hits)

I maintained that Hillary was vilified so often, so relentlessly and for so long that it was a miracle that she won the popular vote. The one story that cost her the election was the so-called emailgate.
As studies of the coverage of the campaign confirmed, the Clinton email story got more coverage than any issue — more than the economy, or health care, or immigration, or climate change or anything else. Throughout the general election, as Gallup found, the word Americans were most likely to mention when they were asked what they had heard about Clinton was “email.”
It was a no story but the media covered it like it was the crime of the century: 560,397 news items in a period of 18 months.

Compare that, as I did, with an actual email crime committed by Bush fils: During his presidency, White House officials purged millions of emails to cover up their search for a pretext for the Iraq War and the mass firing of Attorney Generals to replace them with wingnuts.

Moreover, 95 percent of senior Bush advisers' emails were stored on RNC mail servers in direct contravention of 1978 Presidential Record Act.

They were huge scandals involving real criminal behavior but the corporate media could not be bothered.

The pattern continues.

When it was revealed that Mike Pence had used a private email account, the same people who attacked Clinton viciously claimed that it wasn't the same thing since she had a server and he did not.

So no hypocrisy there, they said. If there was a server, yeah, maybe we might have looked into it.

The same thing happened when Politico reported that Boy Blunder had a private mail account and he had been conducting some White House business on that. The media that excoriated Clinton was fine with that. It was just an account, they said. Nothing more.

His lawyer, happy for the assist, concurred. There were less than 100 emails about the White House he said and Jared forwarded them all to his White House address to make sure he complied with the law.

So, no hypocrisy there either.

Then came the news that, most White House staffers, including Steve Bannon, Gary Cohn, Reince Priebus, Stephen Miller and Ivanka and Jared Kushner conducted official White House business using private email accounts. As I noted, in the case of White House (unlike the State Department) doing so and not preserving those emails is a crime.

Reaction: Nothing outside the narrow circle of news junkies.

Finally, it has just been disclosed that Ivana and Jared had an email server set up under the domain name ijkfamily.com.

And both Ivanka and Jared conducted official White House business on that server involving thousands of email messages.

Corporate media reaction?

Nary a peep.

The same setup that warranted hundreds of thousands of front page stories for Clinton, was mentioned by a few media outlets once or twice. And that was it.

Recently, Paul Waldman made a very astute observation. He argued that the whole Hillary emailgate was the product of a deliberate set of decisions by editors, reporters and producers to cover it obsessively.
Why did they make those decisions? I’d argue that they had long operated on the assumption that Bill and Hillary Clinton were deeply corrupt, and it was their responsibility to find evidence for that assumption and then disseminate it. If a particular allegation turned out to be baseless and didn’t actually support the assumption of corruption, they would say that it was still worth extended discussion, because it “raised questions.” In the end, the public is essentially unable to distinguish between a thousand stories about something that shows Hillary Clinton being corrupt and a thousand stories about something that “raises questions” about Clinton being corrupt but doesn’t actually demonstrate any corruption.
The amazing part is that they were doing this while she was running against the most corrupt politician in modern American history.
In hindsight, those editorial decisions look positively deranged. On one side, you had a candidate who had a long history as a con artist — just before assuming the presidency, he was forced to pay $25 million to the victims of one of his schemes — and a career full of shady deals, broken promises and associations with grifters, swindlers and mobsters. On the other side, you had a candidate who used the wrong email.
The contrast between how a different media narrative was created for each candidate was the key to Trump's success.
The problem wasn’t so much that the copious examples of Trump’s personal corruption weren’t covered individually. It was that most of the time, each scam, fleeced vendor or questionable real estate deal was covered briefly and then seldom revisited. It didn’t add up to a coherent, sustained media narrative about Trump in the same way that the press created a narrative about Clinton’s supposed corruption.
After the November elections, I blamed the corporate media for her defeat.

Not Russian hackers, not Facebook but the New York Times, the Washington Post, Wall Street Journal and the rest of them.

Sure, Facebook is as guilty as any one of them but at least they can blame their algorithms or point the finger to clickbait trols in Eastern Europe.

But the hypocritical and biased reporting of mainstream media was what made President Donald J Trump possible.

And their lenient approach to Trump Administration's email setups proves this one more time.

IOKIYAR exists because of the corporate media.

01 October 2017

Spain Violently Suppressing Catalonia Referendum

When I ended my previous post with a prediction for momentous consequences for Spain (and the EU), some readers might have thought I was exaggerating.

After all, this is Spain, part of the civilized West, what could happen? Right?

It is indeed Spain. What we easily forget that Spain is a traumatized country by its recent history. The transition from the Franco regime and its decades long brutality was done quickly with no accountability for the perpetrators or closure for the victims.

Such elements in a society's history do not disappear that easily. Look at the rise of German nationalism. And that, despite utmost sensitivity shown to the issue and many decades of active intervention.

Today, it is being reported that the Guardia Civil injured hundreds of protesters in Barcelona. According to the BBC, thus far 337 people were injured.

Here is a clip of what they did in and around one polling station.

This is a link to BBC showing large crowds being attacked by baton wielding officers.

There are some graphic scenes of violence being broadcast to the world. Officers firing rubber bullets.

People bleeding from open head wounds.

People thrown to the ground forcibly pulled by their legs.

And people being beaten mercilessly.

Here is a longer clip, if you want to see the Guardia Civil in action.

I have no idea how this will end but I am sure it is not going to end well.

I am also curious how the EU's Commission will handle this show of illiberal democracy in the West.

In any event, mark 1 October in your calendars. You will hear about it in the coming months and years.

This is the beginning of tribal politics in Spain.

Trump's Tax Plan and How Corporate Media Reported It

If you wonder why the "basket of deplorables" will not abandon Donald Trump, one of the answers is lack of correct information.

Take the proposed tax reform.

It is a massive giveaway to the One Percenters.

According to Tax Policy Center, a nonpartisan think tank these are the effects of the proposed reforms:
We find they would reduce federal revenue by $2.4 trillion over ten years and $3.2 trillion over the second decade (not including any dynamic feedback). In 2018, all income groups would see their average taxes fall, but some taxpayers in each group would face tax increases. Those with the very highest incomes would receive the biggest tax cuts.
In fact, 
Taxpayers in the top 1 percent, with incomes above $730,000 a year, would gain half of the overall benefits in 2018, with their average post-tax incomes jumping almost 9 percent. More than 97 percent of filers in the top 0.1 percent would see a tax cut due to the Trump plan—and a very large one, worth an average of $747,580—compared with about 70 percent of the poorest households.
All of this is to be expected. Reagan did it, Bush II did it. It is a classic Republican tactic. Make the deficit huge again by giving freebies to the richest and become a deficit-scold when there is a Democrat in the White House.

What irks me is the fact that the corporate media goes along with the Republican narrative every single time.

For this cycle, the GOP talking points focused on how their reform would benefit the middle classes. They claimed that the standard tax deductions would nearly double under their new plan and it was breathlessly repeated by the corporate media.

CNBCBBC , CNN, New York Times, Washington PostWall Street Journal, Forbes, Axios and many more reported that the standard deduction would double under Trump's plan, as it would go to $12,000 up from the current $6,350 (and 24,000 for married couple).

The problem is that this is not true at all. 
Here's how that math works. Let's say you are single with no dependents, and you have a moderate income. Currently, you get to take the standard deduction ($6,350) and one personal exemption ($4,050). If you are 65 or older, you also get to take an additional standard deduction ($1,250). That adds up to $10,400, or $11,650 if you're over 65.

The Republican plan would replace all these provisions with a single deduction of $12,000 ($24,000 for married couples.) That's a 15% increase — except for seniors, who get a 3% increase.
But that modest break will be swallowed almost entirely because the GOP plan calls for the lowest income bracket to be taxed at 12 percent instead of the current 10 percent.

What that means that everyone will pay 12 percent tax on the $9,325 part of their income, which works out to be $1,119.

At the other end, the top tax bracket (which currently stands at 39.6 percent) will be brought down to 35 percent.

In other words, Trump's plan is increasing taxes for the lower income folks and massively reducing taxes for the richest households in the US.

And this is sold as "doubling the standard deduction" to the basket of deplorables.

Sure some media outlets questioned the math behind it. But, for the most part, in the mainstream media, the language was so timid that you couldn't be sure whether it was a good thing or a boldface lie.

Instead of pushing Russia meddling in election stories, corporate media should look into how they report the news.

21 September 2017

Catalonia On My Mind

With a major earthquake in Mexico, a devastating hurricane in the Caribbean and, of course, "Rocket Man" at the UN, it is hard to pay attention to what is happening in Spain.

But trust me, something interesting is taking place.

Catalonia, the richest region in the country, has been clamoring for independence for some time now. A framework for more autonomy was worked out in 2006 and it was agreed upon by both Catalan and Spanish authorities.

That agreement was struck down by the Constitutional Court in 2010 fuelling independence calls.

Most observers believe that Catalans are not very serious about full independence. They just want to get a bigger share out of the national budget and/or some acknowledgement that they contribute disproportionately to the union.

The regional government decided to hold a second referendum (the first one in 2014 was non-binding) with the proviso that if pro-independent proposition passes, they would declare it within 48 hours.

It sounds ominous but in reality polls indicated that this was fairly unlikely.

Yet Spanish government reacted with very heavy-handed and brutal tactics.

They started with police raiding printing companies to confiscate ballots.
Armed police in Spain have raided several print works and newspaper offices in Catalonia in recent days in a hunt for voting papers, ballot boxes and leaflets to be used in an Oct. 1 independence referendum which Madrid vehemently opposes. 
They also passed measure to control the regional government's spending to block any referendum related expenditure.
And earlier this week Madrid summoned over 700 Catalan mayors for questioning over their support for the vote. 
Catalonia's president Carles Puigdemont is facing criminal charges.

On Friday, police confiscated 100,000 campaign leaflets in a raid in Catalonia, the Interior Ministry said, without saying where. Catalonia’s top court issued a warning on Friday to seven newspapers, many of them online, not to publish campaign notices for the referendum, a court spokesman said on Saturday.
The police conducted searched in various media outlets and confiscated documents and equipment. They seized up to 10 million ballots. And the Guardia Civil blocked the official referendum Web site (which you can see here if you are not in Spain)

When this was met with protests in Catalonia, Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy massively escalated the crisis.
Spanish police have detained 14 Catalan officials and raided regional government ministries involved in organising an independence vote declared illegal by Spain's government. 
Tensions were already high before Josep Maria Jové, number two in the Catalan vice-presidency, and others were held.
The police (which included the beloved Mossos d‘Esquadra) raided forty ministries and offices and arrested important political figures.
Several ministries in Barcelona were raided on Wednesday, including the economy, foreign affairs, telecoms, social affairs and presidency buildings. Among those detained were officials from the economy ministry, run by Catalan Vice-President Oriol Junqueras, as well as figures from other departments.
So what happened after this crackdown?

Well, the 700+ mayors who were questioned by the police defied Madrid's orders:
The mayors met with Catalonia’s regional head Carles Puigdemont in a show of defiance, following Spanish prosecutors warning earlier this week that officials engaging in any preparations for the vote could be charged with civil disobedience, abuse of office and misuse of public funds.
Meeting in downtown Barcelona in front of hundreds of flag waving pro-independence protesters, the mayors gave speeches in which they promised continued support for the referendum amid chants of “we will vote” and “independence.” 
The soccer club Barcelona, one of the most important global brands in sports, threw its weight behind the Catalonian government and the referendum.
The centre of Barcelona soon became a sea of Catalan flags and the city's renowned football club threw its weight behind the protests, condemning any act that threatened freedom of speech and self-determination.

The puzzling question is this: Why did Rajoy hugely overreact to a referendum that was likely to come back with a No result?

Before the crackdown, there was strong evidence that most Catalans were happy with a regional autonomy arrangement. And the population was trending away from independence.
Just 2.2 million voters out of a potential 5.4 million turned out for the 2014 ballot. (...)
Then in 2015 a coalition of separatist parties won regional elections. Between them, Junts pel Si (Together for Yes), with the support of a radical left-wing party, the CUP, won 48% of the vote.
More worryingly for the secessionists, a public survey commissioned by the Catalan government in July suggested 49% of Catalans opposed independence, while 41% were in favour. 
Turnout at the annual Catalan national day event in Barcelona on 11 September was impressive - around a million people according to local police - but in 2014 it was estimated at 1.8 million. 
Now with Catalan officials under arrest and a brutal oppression reminiscent of the Franco era, a prolonged and violent confrontation is inevitable.

My guess is that Rajoy, the guy who shepherded unpopular austerity measures is doing it for personal political reasons.

He is aware that his party will never get much of the vote in Catalonia (they got 8.5 percent in 2015). So alienating Catalan electorate is not a big deal for him. On the other hand, cracking down on Catalan independence is likely to make him popular elsewhere in the country.

The political theatre is also taking away from the devastation his austerity measures brought to Spain.

In other words, this is what Erdogan or Duterte has been doing and what I predicted Trump will soon be doing.

The problem is that with this escalation he ensured that, next time a referendum is held, Catalans will vote for independence. And in between, there will be more protests, social unrest and violence.

He essentially reversed the current trend.

It is not a winning hand for Rajoy since, at some point, the EU will have to break its rather surprising silence and sanction the Spanish government. It is hard to criticize the illiberal democracies of the East without saying anything about similar tactics in Spain.

Then what?

My guess is that this will have momentous consequences for both Spain and the EU.