Lazy Saturday ReadsPosted: June 2, 2018
We’ve come to the end of another week in Trump world. Trump has gone to Camp David, bringing along Ivanka and Jared, Don Jr., and even Tiffany, but not his wife Melania and their son Barron.
Where are Melania and Barron? The Trump people claim Melania is in the White House and she just didn’t want to go to Camp David. But why didn’t Barron go? Eventually they are going to have to give an explanation of these disappearances to the American public. The media should be asking more questions about where Melania and Barron are.
Yesterday, I was reminded of how the media has been complicit in covering up presidential bad behavior in the past when I read this review of Seymour Hersh’s new book by Josephine Livingstone at The New Republic. Livingstone calls attention to the fact that the media world Hersh describes is almost entirely male and notes that Hersh knew of a violent episode in which Richard Nixon apparently badly beat his wife Pat.
Almost every person in Hersh’s memoir is a man—a sign of the time and the industry. But there’s an interesting moment that Hersh did not have to include. In 1974, he writes, Hersh heard that Nixon’s wife Pat was in hospital after being punched by her husband. It was not an isolated occasion. He did not report on the story, he told Nieman Foundation fellows in 1998, because it represented “a merging of private life and public life.” Nixon didn’t make policy decisions because of his bad marriage, went the argument. Hersh was “taken aback” by the response from women fellows, who pointed out that he had heard of a crime and not reported it. “All I could say,” Hersh writes, “is that at the time I did not—in my ignorance—view the incident as a crime.”
I don’t think reporters today would cover up something like that, but I’m pretty sure Trump staff would do it. We already know that John Kelly and others blew off the fact that Rob Porter couldn’t get a security clearance because he had a history of violence against two former wives. Trump has even talked about bringing Porter back in another position. How do we know that Trump himself didn’t put Melania in the hospital. We know that he was violent in his marriage to Ivanna.
So the summit with North Korea is back on for June 12, and yesterday Trump met with Kim Jong-un’s second in command Kim Jong-chol, formerly head of the North Korean version of the CIA. Trump even invited this guy into the Oval Office for a long meeting. Last night Rachel Maddow gave a long monologue about the former spy chief’s history. If you missed it, I hope you’ll go watch it. Here’s a bit of background from The Guardian: Kim Yong-chol: the ultimate North Korean regime insider.
Kim has been a border guard in the Korean demilitarised zone, a liaison officer with the United Nations, and a member of the team who held breakthrough negotiations with the South Koreans in the early 1990s. Over the past decade he was promoted to four-star general, and made head of the main North Korean intelligence service, known as the reconnaissance general bureau (RGB).
He has served three generations of the Kim dynasty and in recent months emerged one of the most powerful figures in Kim Jong-un’s regime, second only to the leader’s sister, Kim Yo-jong. He is vice-chair of the ruling Workers party and head of the section charged with dealing with the South. He was part of the North Korean delegation for the Winter Olympics closing ceremony, and he was at the leader’s side for meetings with the South Korean president Moon Jae-in and Pompeo.
“He wears several hats,” said Duyeon Kim, a visiting senior research fellow at the Korean Peninsula Future Forum thinktank. “He is extremely well versed in denuclearisation matters, and seems to have secured himself a spot in Kim Jong-un’s inner circle.”
To travel to the US, Kim had to be given a waiver from sanctions. He was head of the RGB from 2009 to 2016 during the time the spy agency is believed responsible for the 2010 torpedoing of a South Korean naval vessel, the Cheonan, in which 46 sailors were killed; and the 2014 hacking attack against Sony.
And Kim was in the Oval Office with President loose-lips and his insecure cell phone.
According to The Washington Post, the Trump administration is going to have U.S. taxpayers pick up the tab for the North Korean delegation’s stay in Singapore: The U.S. is trying to find a discreet way to pay for Kim Jong Un’s hotel during the summit.
SINGAPORE — At an island resort off the coast of Singapore, U.S. event planners are working day and night with their North Korean counterparts to set up a summit designed to bring an end to Pyongyang’s nuclear weapons program.
But a particularly awkward logistical issue remains unresolved, according to two people familiar with the talks. Who’s going to pay for Kim Jong Un’s hotel stay?
The prideful but cash-poor pariah state requires that a foreign country foot the bill at its preferred lodging: the Fullerton, a magnificent neoclassical hotel near the mouth of the Singapore River, where just one presidential suite costs more than $6,000 per night….
When it comes to paying for lodging at North Korea’s preferred five-star luxury hotel, the United States is open to covering the costs, the two people said, but it’s mindful that Pyongyang may view a U.S. payment as insulting. As a result, U.S. planners are considering asking the host country of Singapore to pay for the North Korean delegation’s bill.
So not only is Trump likely to give away the store to Kim Jong-un, we are going to pay for travel expenses for the dictator and his retinue.
We often talk about how Trump is turning the U.S. into a third world country, and now the U.N. has released a report about what’s happening here. The Guardian: Trump’s ‘cruel’ measures pushing US inequality to dangerous level, UN warns.
Donald Trump is deliberately forcing millions of Americans into financial ruin, cruelly depriving them of food and other basic protections while lavishing vast riches on the super-wealthy, the United Nations monitor on poverty has warned.
Philip Alston, the UN special rapporteur who acts as a watchdog on extreme poverty around the world, has issued a withering critique of the state of America today. Trump is steering the country towards a “dramatic change of direction” that is rewarding the rich and punishing the poor by blocking access even to the most meager necessities.
“This is a systematic attack on America’s welfare program that is undermining the social safety net for those who can’t cope on their own. Once you start removing any sense of government commitment, you quickly move into cruelty,” Alston told the Guardian.
Millions of Americans already struggling to make ends meet faced “ruination”, he warned. “If food stamps and access to Medicaid are removed, and housing subsidies cut, then the effect on people living on the margins will be drastic.”
Asked to define “ruination”, Alston said: “Severe deprivation of food and almost no access to healthcare.”
Alston sounds the alarm in the final report of his investigation into extreme poverty in the US that is published on Friday and will be presented to the UN human rights council in Geneva at the end of June. His findings are based on a tour he carried out in December through some of America’s most destitute communities, from Skid Row in Los Angeles, through poor African American areas in Alabama, and the stricken coal country of West Virginia, to hurricane-racked Puerto Rico.
And this isn’t even taking into consideration the results for many industries and states if Trump is able to carry through with his planned tariffs.
In the wake of new tariffs, car plants from Michigan to South Carolina and Alabama could pay more for the steel they use to make engines and auto parts. Whiskey from Kentucky and motorcycles made in Wisconsin, meanwhile, will shortly be subject to retaliatory tariffs from Europe.
The Trump administration on Thursday announced that it would impose steep tariffs on steel and aluminum from Canada, Mexico and the European Union. All three have pledged to swiftly fight back with tariffs of their own.
The President wants to impose the 25% tariff on steel and 10% tariff on aluminum in order to protect jobs in those industries. But the taxes will raise prices for downstream companies that use those materials in their products. Retaliatory tariffs from US trading partners, meanwhile, are devised to inflict maximum pain on Trump-supporting areas to encourage the President to back down….
“These tariffs will raise prices and destroy manufacturing jobs, especially auto jobs, which are one-third of all Tennessee manufacturing jobs,” Sen. Lamar Alexander, a Tennessee Republican, said Thursday. He called the new tariffs a “big mistake.”
Read the rest at CNN.
The New York Times: This Factory Was Ready to Expand. Then Came the Trump Trade Wars.
Andy Marsh’s New York factory is trapped in the Trump trade wars.
As Mr. Trump threatens tariffs on America’s economic allies and its adversaries, many of the domestic businesses that the president says his policies are meant to protect are finding themselves victims of his aggressive approach.
Prices are rising for imported goods, other nations are erecting retaliatory trade barriers, and companies like Plug Power, the manufacturing business that Mr. Marsh runs outside Albany, are facing crippling uncertainty from Mr. Trump’s fickle approach.
It is not the first time Mr. Marsh has felt firsthand the impact of decisions made hundreds of miles away in Washington.
In February, Congress and Mr. Trump gave Plug Power an injection of optimism, by extending a tax credit that was crucial to the manufacturer’s American expansion plans. The credit allowed Plug Power to reduce the price of its fuel cells for trucks and forklifts, and to forge ahead with new hiring.
By May, Mr. Marsh had slowed his efforts to fill more than 10 open positions in Plug Power’s factory as he began worrying that the tariffs on steel and some Chinese products crucial to its business would raise the costs of the components it imports to build fuel cells. So executives had raised the price on their fuel cells, and sales were slowing as a result.
United States Customs and Border Protection had also begun delaying some of those imported components for several days after they arrived from overseas, slowing their trip to Plug Power’s factory floor, Mr. Marsh said. The reason for the delay was unclear, but Mr. Marsh suspected that it could be related to the recent trade upheaval.
There’s much more at the NYT link.
I’ll end with this article from Vox on white people who get upset about black people doing ordinary stuff: I used to be a 911 dispatcher. I had to respond to racist calls every day.
It was the end of an 18-hour shift. My butt hurt from sitting in one place with only a couple of five-minute bathroom breaks. My brain hurt from staying awake that long, and my stomach ached from all the coffee I’d drunk to keep myself alert.
But the phones rarely stopped.
“911, what’s the address of your emergency?” I said into the headset.
The man gave me his address and then said, “There’s a woman pushing a shopping cart in front of my house.”
This one stumped me. I worked in a large metropolitan area. Yes, the city where I worked was affluent, and most people used their cars to get groceries. But surely he’d seen a person using a personal grocery cart before.
“I’m sorry, I’m not getting it. What’s the problem?” I waited for more clarification as I racked my brain for the correct penal code under which this infraction might fall.
“You need to get out here now.”
“Um.” A dispatcher has to be cautious about how she phrases things. Of all the jobs in emergency services — firefighters, police officers, nurses, doctors — dispatchers are the only ones who are recorded during every single thing they do. Everything they say — and their whole job is speaking — is part of public record. “I’m sorry, I don’t understand what you’re reporting.”
Please go read the rest.
So . . . what stories are you following today?