Advertisement
271 posts
  • Trump
A security officer in 2006 at Marina Centre in Singapore, the country where President Trump plans to meet North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.
A security officer in 2006 at Marina Centre in Singapore, the country where President Trump plans to meet North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. (Wong Maye-E / Associated Press)

The meeting place that President Trump and North Korean strongman Kim Jong Un choose for their historic summit isn’t what you would describe as a citadel of freedom.

The island nation of Singapore has been a one-party state since it gained self-rule in 1959. The governing People’s Action Party effectively controls the election process, the press is censored and individuals’ right to speak is circumscribed. It’s a law-and-order state with infamously harsh punishments for even minor behavioral offenses, best known perhaps for its practice of caning minor law-breakers and executing drug traffickers.

Its longtime prime minister, the late Lee Kuan Yew, jailed political opponents yet was widely regarded as a “benevolent dictator.” His eldest son is the country’s current prime minister. Granted, the United States has seen a few political dynasties of its own, but none wielding the singular power of Singapore’s leader.

Advertisement

President Trump probably wouldn’t appreciate the comparison, but his nominee to head the CIA seemed to be channeling Barack Obama in some of her testimony at her Senate confirmation hearings.

Advertisement
  • Rule of Law
  • The Swamp
Gina Haspel, President Trump's nominee for CIA director, testifies at her Senate confirmation hearing in Washington on Wednesday.
Gina Haspel, President Trump's nominee for CIA director, testifies at her Senate confirmation hearing in Washington on Wednesday. (J. Scott Applewhite/Associated Press)

Before Gina Haspel testified at the long-awaited hearing on her nomination to be director of the CIA, I was willing to give her the benefit of the doubt. From all accounts — including her own Wednesday morning — she’s been the consummate spy, having clandestinely collected intelligence in back alleys and dead drops in unspecified countries, then rising up the ladder at CIA headquarters in Langley, Va. If in the course of her career she ran a black site in Thailand where terror suspects were tortured, maybe there was a way she could convincingly disavow what she did. 

Instead, I was offended by her refusal to answer Sen. Kamala Harris’ straightforward, crucial question: Did Haspel think what happened at those black sites was immoral? You could hear Haspel winding up the pitch for the long, meandering non-answer (an infuriating tradition among candidates for jobs at their confirmation hearings) when Harris (D-Calif.) cut her off with a blunt, “I’d like a yes or no answer.” Harris tried again, and Haspel dodged until finally saying she thought she had answered the question and Harris reminded her that she hadn’t.

We know that, as of this moment, it’s against the law for the CIA to run those kinds of interrogations and subject people to torture.  And Haspel did say at her hearing that it wouldn’t happen again on her watch. Well, sure, that’s the least she needed to say. 

New vehicles line the lot at Day Ford in Monroeville, Penn., in April.
New vehicles line the lot at Day Ford in Monroeville, Penn., in April. (Nate Guidry / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette)

Numerous Democrats and media outlets have accused Republicans of making it easier for car dealers to discriminate against racial minorities by pushing a resolution through Congress to disapprove a guidance document issued in 2013 by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

But the CFPB under the Obama administration picked a fight with Congress on this issue, and it’s not really surprising that it lost. Yet the move doesn’t give lenders a green light to charge minorities more for car loans.

When Congress created the bureau in the 2010 Dodd-Frank act, it specifically exempted conventional auto dealers from the bureau’s jurisdiction. Nevertheless, the CFPB sought to work around that restriction by holding the lenders that finance car sales liable for dealers’ decisions to mark up or discount loan rates for individual customers.

  • L.A.
Chief Charlie Beck conducts his final inspection of LAPD officers on May 7.
Chief Charlie Beck conducts his final inspection of LAPD officers on May 7. (Al Seib / Los Angeles Times)

Thanks to diligent reporting by Times reporters, we now know the names on the list of finalists to replace Los Angeles police Chief Charlie Beck when he retires next month. And while I’m sure all of the three men on the list are talented law enforcement professionals, it’s still a great disappointment that all of them are men.

The next LAPD chief, it seems, will definitely not be a woman.

Too bad. I thought it was high time a woman take charge of one of the largest and most storied police departments in the nation, if not the world. Not just as a sop to gender diversity, but because a woman would probably manage the department differently. And, yeah, if that meant putting the finger on the scale for a woman in this case, so what? The scale has been unfairly tipped toward male police chiefs for as long as the job title has existed.

Advertisement
  • Trump
  • The Swamp
Michael Cohen, one of President Trump's lawyers, leaves federal court in New York on April 26.
Michael Cohen, one of President Trump's lawyers, leaves federal court in New York on April 26. (Seth Wenig / Associated Press)

As if there weren’t enough Russia-related stories about Team Trump already, another one emerged Tuesday: According to CNN and the Daily Beast, Michael Cohen — Trump’s personal attorney and self-described fixer — allegedly took half a million dollars from a Russian oligarch over the first nine months of 2017.

The source of the allegations is Michael Avenatti, the lawyer representing porn star Stormy Daniels (nee Stephanie Clifford) in her dispute with Cohen and Trump. So preserve your skepticism. Nevertheless, CNN and the New York Times have both reported that the oligarch, Viktor Vekselberg, has been questioned by investigators for special counsel Robert S. Mueller III, who is probing alleged Russian interference in the 2016 presidential campaign.

Bloomberg ranks Vekselberg as the 75th-richest man in the world, with $15.5 billion in assets. He chairs a multinational investment company whose holdings include a stake in Russia’s biggest aluminum company, according to Bloomberg. Notably, the Trump administration slapped him with sanctions last month along with other oligarchs accused of “malign activities,” including meddling in the 2016 election.

  • Trump
  • We're All Doomed
President Trump pulled the U.S. out of the nuclear deal with Iran Tuesday; Iranian President Hassan Rouhani faulted the U.S.
President Trump pulled the U.S. out of the nuclear deal with Iran Tuesday; Iranian President Hassan Rouhani faulted the U.S. (Jim Lo Scalzo / EPA. Iranian Presidency Office)

If there was any doubt that President Trump intended to repudiate the international agreement that placed limits on Iran’s nuclear program, he dispelled it on Tuesday.

As expected, Trump announced that he would not waive economic sanctions as the United States is required to do under the 2015 agreement, rejecting the advice of America’s closest allies and turning a blind eye to his own defense secretary’s conclusion that the agreement has allowed for robust monitoring of Iran’s activities.

But as alarming as the action the president took was, so was the deceitful and demagogic speech in which he attempted to justify it. It was virtually indistinguishable from the sort of rant he delivered a year and ago on the campaign trail, utterly uninformed by the sort of wisdom and appreciation of complexity that experience confers on most occupants of the Oval Office. 

  • #MeToo
New York Atty. Gen. Eric Schneiderman
New York Atty. Gen. Eric Schneiderman (Drew Angerer / Getty Images)

The Twitterverse has been reveling in the delicious reversal of fortune for newly former New York Atty. Gen. Eric Schneiderman, who resigned Monday just hours after the New Yorker published a story in which four women accused him of verbal and physical abuse during romantic relationships.

Oh, the hypocrisy. The self-styled feminist hero who was suing Harvey Weinstein’s company and professed disgust at the alleged mistreatment of women by the movie producer is having a #MeToo moment himself.

But is he?

It’s a reasonable question that I’m sure is on many people’s minds. Isn’t the movement a response to sexual harassment in the workplace? The answer is yes, of course, but it’s also a whole lot more.

Advertisement
Then-Gov. Eliot Spitzer of New York, with his wife, Silda, apologizes to the public on March 10, 2008, in New York City.
Then-Gov. Eliot Spitzer of New York, with his wife, Silda, apologizes to the public on March 10, 2008, in New York City. (Mario Tama / Getty Images)

You might think that New York Democrats would have learned something from the Eliot Spitzer fiasco. Ten years ago, then-Gov. Spitzer, who’d made his name as a federal prosecutor assailing Wall Street corruption, resigned in disgrace two days after the New York Times revealed that he’d been caught on a wiretap arranging a liaison with a high-end prostitute.

Evidently not. New York Atty. Gen. Eric Schneiderman, who’d also made his name bringing splashy cases against corporate defendants — and, lately, the Trump administration — resigned in disgrace three hours after the New Yorker reported accusations by four women that he’d violently abused them.

In both cases, the revelations were shocking in large part because they contrasted so sharply with the images they’d cultivated — “Jekyll and Schneid,” as the New York Post put it after the New Yorker story broke. 

  • The Swamp
First Lady Melania Trump announces her initiatives.
First Lady Melania Trump announces her initiatives. (Michael Reynolds / EPA/Shutterstock)

First ladies have got to have something to do besides greeting foreign dignitaries and gazing lovingly at their spouses. So they typically find an issue to own that’s topical, fairly uncontroversial and involves kids or women. (Because apparently it’s still the 1950s in the White House and ladies may not have strong opinions except when it comes to raising kids and being female.)

Michelle Obama focused on fitness and nutrition. Laura Bush pushed education and literacy. Hillary Clinton focused on international trade. (Haha. Just kidding — women’s health and equality.)

Now Melania Trump has unveiled her own agenda, and it’s as perplexing as her relationship with The Donald. It’s called the “Be Best” campaign. The idea is to improve the social and emotional health of kids. There are three main pillars of Be Best: well being, social media use and … opioid abuse.