Friday News Dump – Leak Edition and Open Thread

The Washington Post and Wall Street Journal have stories on the CIA finding that Mohammed bin Salman ordered the murder of Jamal Khashoggi. As in other apparent intelligence community leaks, two major newspapers got the information pretty much simultaneously.

The assessment is said to be of “high confidence,” which means that the CIA would bet a lot of money on it. Or as someone wisecracked on Twitter, it means “we have tapes.”

That makes things complicated for Donald Trump and John Bolton, who have been hoping everyone would forget it.

*****

In another leak, the heroic Daniel Dale, the head of the Toronto Star’s Washington Bureau and indefatigable fact-checker of Trump’s words, tweets about Melania Trump’s trip to Toronto last year.

Do you think this had anything to do with Melania’s trashing Mira Ricardel over her trip to Africa?

Inquiring minds want to know.








Iconoclasts

Give those crafty Europeans credit for knowing their symbols:

“We will put tariffs on Harley-Davidson, on bourbon and on blue jeans – Levis,” European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker told German television.”

It is worth noting that not only are these the stereotypical (one might almost say, caricature) emblems of Americana, Harley’s are made in Wisconsin, just north of Paul Ryan’s district and, as we all know, McTurtle is from the great corn-mash state of Kentucky.

Funny how a policy conceived in ignorant petulance has obvious, immediate, and hugely stupid consequences.

You may consider this both a proof-of-life post and an open thread.

(Truly astonishing NSFW the-world-was-sure-different-then image below the fold)

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Open Thread: A Scorpion Among Them, Taking Notes

Because they’re all scorpions in the Oval Office, these days! The Guardian, to its credit, seems to have broken the Wolff story first, and NYMag has a gripping authorized you-are-there excerpt (possibly bumped up, after the the firestorm started). But The Hollywood Reporter scored an excerpt made by Wolff himself, and it is jaw-dropping. He seems to have invited himself into the Oval Office, not just for an afternoon, but repeatedly. The Trump family didn’t pay any attention to the guy on the couch, taking notes (recordings!), because they’re used to treating all random strangers in their quarters as The Help (i.e., invisible to their exalted attention). And all the other operators hanging around — Bannon, Priebus, Spicer, et al — were afraid to challenge Wolff, for fear that he might have more clout than they did… or, at least, that drawing attention to him might draw unwanted attention to them. “”You Can’t Make This S— Up”: My Year Inside Trump’s Insane White House”:

I interviewed Donald Trump for The Hollywood Reporter in June 2016, and he seemed to have liked — or not disliked — the piece I wrote. “Great cover!” his press assistant, Hope Hicks, emailed me after it came out (it was a picture of a belligerent Trump in mirrored sunglasses). After the election, I proposed to him that I come to the White House and report an inside story for later publication — journalistically, as a fly on the wall — which he seemed to misconstrue as a request for a job. No, I said. I’d like to just watch and write a book. “A book?” he responded, losing interest. “I hear a lot of people want to write books,” he added, clearly not understanding why anybody would. “Do you know Ed Klein?”— author of several virulently anti-Hillary books. “Great guy. I think he should write a book about me.” But sure, Trump seemed to say, knock yourself out.

Since the new White House was often uncertain about what the president meant or did not mean in any given utterance, his non-disapproval became a kind of passport for me to hang around — checking in each week at the Hay-Adams hotel, making appointments with various senior staffers who put my name in the “system,” and then wandering across the street to the White House and plunking myself down, day after day, on a West Wing couch…

The nature of the comedy, it was soon clear, was that here was a group of ambitious men and women who had reached the pinnacle of power, a high-ranking White House appointment — with the punchline that Donald Trump was president. Their estimable accomplishment of getting to the West Wing risked at any moment becoming farce.
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The Party of Immiseration

The Republican Party is phenomenon that Tony Soprano would have recognized instantly:  a bust-out operation, by individuals (looking at you, Bob Corker), and collectively, as the tool by which the hyper-wealthy secure yet more at the expense of everyone else, including the merely rich.

I think this crowd of jackals understands, but it hasn’t yet fully penetrated even that part of the media that does, more or less, get what’s going on, that the tax heist is merely the most obvious of scams.  Everything the GOP does, every policy choice and hidden little adminstrative manouver is another swing of the pick in the most American of extractive industries — the one that treats most Americans as ore to be mined.

This, on the coming elder crisis, is what brought this notion to the fore for me:

Why did women’s rush into the work force stop? …

Caring for children is, to be sure, a formidable barrier to women’s work. In developed countries where parental leave is guaranteed by law and governments ensure free child care, women work at a much higher rate than in the United States.

Still, the consensus is incomplete. It misses perhaps the most significant impediment to women’s continued engagement in the labor market, one that is getting tougher with each passing year: aging. Focused laserlike on child care, we haven’t noticed that the United States is walking into an elder-care crisis.

What are the consequences of this combination of demography and a gendered burden of care?

About a quarter of women 45 to 64 years old and one in seven of those 35 to 44 are caring for an older relative, according to the American Time Use Survey.

A 2015 survey by the insurer Genworth Financial found that caregivers spend about 20 hours a week providing care — about half what a full-time worker would spend at work. Almost four in five said they had missed work, and about one in 10 lost a job. One in six reported losing around one-third of income because of caring responsibilities.

Sean Fahle of the State University of New York at Buffalo and Kathleen McGarry of the University of California, Los Angeles, tracked women in their early 50s to their early 60s for 20 years. Those who provided care, they found, were 8 percent less likely to work. Those at work cut their hours and had lower wage growth. Over time, Professor McGarry told me, caregivers risked lower incomes and a higher risk of poverty in old age.

And the kicker:

Older Americans may be healthier than ever. Still, as they age, they will inevitably develop disabilities and chronic conditions like dementia. “If you are superwealthy and can afford all sorts of things, this is not an issue,” noted Lawrence F. Katz, a professor of economics at Harvard. “But if you are middle class, this tends to end with your relatives’ losing all of their assets and relying on Medicaid or family care.”

Which is to say: the combination of improvements in what medicine can do, the lack of a basic and humane social insurance system and safety net in the United States, and persistent gender roles means that women face disproportionate costs and constraints on their lives; are more likely to be poor as they age; and face the loss of their parents’ assets and ultimately their own to the extractive industry known as elder care.

This is the nub of Republican governing philosophy.  Those of us who are not oligarchs both pay more in our lifetimes and must leave our children and grandchildren with less cash, and hence chance, to make their own lives better.

It’s a system based on the continued extraction of capital from the bottom and middle to the top. The Republican Party’s stock in trade is immiseration, and it will continue to be as long as it is a wholly owned subsidiary of a small handful of those on top for whom the rest of us resemble nothing so much as West Virginia mountain tops.

Mere election annihilation is too good for them.  I’d take it though, though.

Thomas Cole, The Voyage of Life: Old Age, 1839-40.



If Corporations Are People…

Uber plays as a shitty, shitty version of the Snidely Whiplash of corporate persons:

The next step:* A letter from a former Uber security employee, accusing the company of secretly surveilling competitors, is expected to be released, in a redacted form, by the court on Friday.

(From The New York Times Dealbook newsletter.)

What’s the crappiest/dumbest thing you’ve ever seen management do where you worked?

And now, for a moment’s amusement and/or devant le revolution tumbrel reservation list, here’s the tea room at Claridges, in the West End, which I had the pleasure of visiting. And that’s it.  I didn’t stay.  Don’t even know where it is.  Really.  Don’t warm up the guillotine…please…

I was actually just across the pond for a quick trip, centered on a memorial trip for a beloved aunt, who is one of my models/mentors in the art of living a life with intention.  But I did get to do some publishing/broadcasting work while I was there (hence, Claridges) and, as always, had a chance to drop in on some old friends.

So, in a post that is intended to offer a little change of pace from our usual chronicling of the end of the American century, I’ll just sign off with a nod to some of my all-time favorite bovines. (Excuse the reproduction — that’s me with an iPhone.)

I should note — these are cattle ever ready for their closeup:

How now, Brown Cow?

And with a mite of randomness thus inserted into the day….

Open Thread.

*That’s the next step in the trade-secrets case being fought between Uber and Alphabet (Google).

Image: Aelbert Cuyp, The Large Dortaka A Distant View of Dordrecht, with a Milkmaid and Four Cows, and Other Figures c. 1650.

It’s in the newly opened (reopened?) Gallery A in the basement level of the National Gallery in Trafalgar Square.  The room is a hoot.  It’s huge, and it’s populated by a sample of the Nat’s collection across the full range of periods, medieval  to 20th c., one space with hundreds of paintings taking you on a wild journey.  The pictures are all good, and the room, on its own, would make a hell of a regional museum for almost any city around the world — and yet most of the work is stuff that didn’t quite make the cut for inclusion upstairs.  Totally worth a look.