January 16, 2019

Posted by orrinj at 7:24 PM


Unintended Consequences: In an excerpt from a new history of 20th-century Iran, the neglected story of the Jewish revolutionaries who participated in--or adapted to--the sweeping changes of 1979 (Lior B. Sternfeld, January 14, 2019, tHE tABLET)

[i]n late 1978 a delegation of the Jewish community went to Paris to meet the leader of the revolution, Ayatollah Khomeini. The tacit purpose of this trip was to ensure that Jews would not be regarded as enemies of the revolution but rather as its supporters. This meeting was the first of many between the Jewish leadership and Khomeini. Shortly after, the hospital received its first recognition from Khomeini: "For this reason [the humanitarian help] Imam Khomeini, before his return to Iran, had sent a letter of gratitude to the director of the hospital, recognizing his help and support for the wounded revolutionaries," said Dr. Siamak Moreh-Sedeq, one of the hospital's leaders and the current Jewish deputy in the Majlis in an interview. He described the assistance given to the revolutionaries and confirmed, once again, the story of the Shah's army siege in 1978. Receiving Khomeini's recognition is not a small feat. In many ways it secured the future of the Jews under the leadership of the revolution.

Throughout the revolutionary events, there was a continuing attempt by both revolutionary factions and the Jews to draw a clear distinction between Jews and Zionists. This would be a theme well into the early revolutionary period, but even from the time of the protest there were multiple occasions on which revolutionaries and nonrevolutionaries provided ways to tell the difference.

On Sept. 1, 1978, a few days before the escalation of Black Friday, Yousef Kohan, then the Jewish representative in the Majlis, and another member of the parliament, Ahmad Bani-Ahmad, met the Grand Ayatollah Muhammad Kazim Shari'atmadari. The purpose of this meeting was to have the respected ayatollah stopped the incitement against Jews, which was becoming a problem in some of the provinces in Iran. In his memoir, Kohan described the efforts:

At 1:30 in the afternoon of that September 1st, Bani-Ahmad called me and said, "Kohan! Put on your clothes and come to me immediately. Bring your documents with you." Those days, Bani- Ahmad was in danger, because he was seriously opposing the Shah's regime. I took the address of his secret location, which was the home of one of his fellow Azeris, and took off immediately. Outside the house, a group of tough Azerbaijanis were standing and I could tell they were armed. I asked Bani-Ahmad what was going on. "We want to go visit His Eminence Ayatollah Shari'atmadari," he answered.

In any case, all the issues were humbly reported to him on that day in Qum. The Ayatollah was inclined to proclaim that the lives of Jews were protected unless if they were agents of Israel. Bani-Ahmad recommended that "even though this is correct, but mentioning it will cause the malefactors to take the life of any Jew they want and then claim that he had been an Israeli agent. It would be better if His Eminence issued a general, unconditional and unambiguous command." Many reporters and correspondents from major international news agencies were constantly on the alert at Shari'atmadari's house with their cameras, because that location was the epicenter of Iranian politics, which was of interest to the whole world. That evening, the Iranian radio and television broadcasted this proclamation of the great Source of Emuluation of Iranian Muslims:

"Reports are reaching us that a series of written threats against religious minorities who are recognized by the Constitution and respected by the Iranian Nation, have begun under the name of the Clergy and the banner of Islam. Iranian minorities, have all the liberties and the rights imaginable for the people of Iran. On the other hand, according to the ruling of Islamic commandments, personal rights of all the people of the world and even the human rights of our enemies have been recognized. Religious Minorities, which have been identified in the Constitution, have been shoulder to shoulder with the struggle of the Iranian nation as far as I remember. They accompanied the people in every step of the momentous events of the Constitutional Revolution. I shall never accept the smallest threat or intimidation against them under the name of Islam. In fact I consider such actions as an anti-Iranian and anti Islamic conspiracy. We must know that irresponsible people with missions of sabotage are on the prowl and are hoping to spread the seeds of hate and disunity."

Such a proclamation from a prominent religious leader like Ayatollah Shari'atmadari was a major achievement for the Jewish leadership and in fact was crucial at a moment when Israel was brought up more often as part of the anti-Shah slogans and some Iranians could not tell the difference between Jews, Zionists, and Israelis.

Later that month, during the events of Black Friday it was rumored that the Shah deployed Israeli soldiers to confront the protesters. This rumor, of course, had no basis, but it promptly became an issue demanding attention on behalf of the Jewish leadership.

In the 2013 documentary Before the Revolution: The Untold Story of the Israeli Paradise in Iran, Nissim Levy, one of the Israeli embassy's security officers, recalls that as he drove through the streets of Tehran right before the ultimate victory of the revolution, he saw graffiti that read, "Kill Every Israeli--But Do Not Harm the Jews."

Shortly after the 'Ashura events, the revolution took a dramatic turn when on Jan. 15, 1979, Mohammad Reza Pahlavi left Iran for good. "Shah Raft" (The Shah left), announced the newspapers the next day to the overjoyed crowds, and about two weeks later they announced that the Imam had arrived (Imam amad). All major minority groups came to the airport to welcome Ayatollah Khomeini back to Iran. The Jewish delegation coordinated their participation with another prominent leader of the revolutionary movement, Ayatollah Mohammad Bihishti.

After the installation of the new regime, the hospital encountered controversy. Jalali states, "One night after the revolution they called me to tell that a group of people from the regime came and changed the name of the hospital to 'Khusraw Golisurkhi Hospital.' A member of the left, Gol-isurkhi had been executed by the Shah.It took us a long time, together with Parviz Yesha'ya to change it to Dr. Sapir Hospital." Simin, Sapir's relative, explained how they petitioned the government to have the name changed to Dr. Sapir: "I collected evidence from people that got treatment in the hospital, collected newspaper stories, letters from clerics about the hospital during the revolution, and gave it to them in a big box. After a short discussion they pronounced him a shahid, a martyr of the revolution, and ordered to have the name changed to Dr. Sapir Hospital."

This episode of the name change became significant as the Jewish community retained management of the hospital and the government acknowledged the role the hospital had played during the revolution. Still today, at the entrance to the hospital, there is a sign welcoming patients, staff, and visitors. The sign reads, in Hebrew and Persian, "Love thy neighbor as yourself " (Hebrew: Ve'ahavta le're'acha kamocha; Persian: Hamnow'at ra mesl-i khodet dust bedar), and this essentially captures the philosophy of this hospital from the days it was established by Sapir and onward.

Posted by orrinj at 7:02 PM


Why Harris And O'Rourke May Have More Upside Than Sanders And Biden (Nate Silver, Jan. 14, 2019, 538)

Last week, we introduced a method for evaluating Democratic presidential contenders, which focused on their ability to build a coalition among key constituencies within the party. In particular, our method claims there are five essential groups of Democratic voters, which we describe as:

Party Loyalists, who are mostly older, lifelong Democrats who care about experience and electability.

The Left.

Millennials and Friends, who are young, cosmopolitan and social-media-savvy.

Black voters.

And Hispanic voters, who for some purposes can be grouped together with Asian voters.

The goal is for candidates to form a coalition consisting of at least three of the five groups.

I certainly wouldn't claim that this is the only way to evaluate the field; rather, it's part of what we hope will be a fairly broad toolkit of approaches that we'll be applying as we cover the Democratic candidates at FiveThirtyEight over the course of the next 18(!!) months.1 Furthermore, in reality, the various ideological and demographic constituencies within the Democratic Party are more fluid than this analysis implies. Nonetheless, it has influenced my thinking -- the coalition-building model has made me more skeptical about the chances for Bernie Sanders, Joe Biden and Amy Klobuchar, for instance, but more bullish about Kamala Harris, Beto O'Rourke and Cory Booker. In this article, I'll go through a set of 10 leading contenders and map out their potential winning coalitions; we'll tackle some of the long-shot candidates later on this week. [...]

The candidate who looks best according to the coalition-building model is probably not O'Rourke, however. Instead, it's California Sen. Kamala Harris, who potentially has strength with all five groups.

Harris, who is of mixed Jamaican (black) and Indian descent, was easily the top choice in the survey of influential women of color that I mentioned earlier. So while I don't automatically want to assume that nonwhite candidates will necessarily win over voters who share their racial background -- it took Obama some time to persuade African-Americans to vote for him in 2008 -- Harris seems to be off to a pretty good head start. And her coalition not only includes black voters, but also potentially Asian and Hispanic voters. Harris did narrowly lose Hispanic voters to Sanchez, a Hispanic Democrat, in 2016 (while winning handily among Asian voters). But her approval ratings among Hispanic voters are high in California, a state where the group makes up around a third of the electorate.

If black voters and the Hispanic/Asian group constitute Harris's first two building blocks, she'd then be able to decide which of the three remaining (predominately white) Democratic groups to target to complete her trifecta. And you could make the case for any of the three. Harris polls better among well-informed voters, which could suggest strength among Party Loyalists. She's young-ish (54 years old) and has over 1 million Instagram followers, which implies potential strength among millennials. (And remember, Democratic millennials highly value racial diversity.) Harris's worst group -- despite a highly liberal, anti-Trump voting record -- might actually be The Left, the whitest and most male group, from which she's drawn occasional criticism for her decisions as a prosecutor and a district attorney.

Posted by orrinj at 6:11 PM


Revolution in Ruins: The Hugo Chávez Story review - essential, chilling viewing (Chitra Ramaswamy, 16 Jan 2019, The Guardian)

Six years after his death, we get Revolution in Ruins: The Hugo Chávez Story (BBC Two), a dense and deeply depressing precis of his 14-year rule of Venezuela: a country with the largest proven oil preserves on the planet where 90% of the population live in poverty. Why this, now? Probably because of the rise in populism and the cult of personality in politics, which collide with such magnetic force in the polarising figure of Chávez.

Of course there's a world of difference between the populism of the left and the right, which is what we're seeing in Brazil, Hungary, the US and the endless chaos of Brexit. What's so appalling is the outcome is often the same: the slippery slope to authoritarianism, corruption and abject poverty. Venezuela is now a country in freefall. Inflation is said to be more than 1,000,000%. People are starving to death. Childhood friend Rafael Simon Jimenez says of the president's death from cancer at the age of 58, "[it] spared him from dealing with the disaster that began under his rule".

Chavismo can't have been that bad if a rag like The Guardian disapproves....

Posted by orrinj at 6:02 PM


In Praise of Trump! No, Really. (JONATHAN V. LAST  JANUARY 16, 2019, The Bulwark)

[N]ow that Nancy Pelosi has asked Trump to postpone this year's SOTU, he could do America a real service by declining to give an address at all. Instead, he could send a written version to Congress--which is how the SOTU was delivered by all presidents from Thomas Jefferson through William Taft. And then in 1913 Woodrow Wilson--a self-aggrandizing blow-hard if there ever was one--decided he wanted to give the speech in person. Like Washington had done.

Returning the SOTU to its proper place of (minimal) importance would be a small achievement. But a real one. It's the kind of disruption Trump's biggest cheerleaders once promised.

If America has to deal with all of Trump's pernicious norm-destroying, we might as well break one of the norms that deserves to die, too.

Shutting Down the State of the Union (RAMESH PONNURU, January 16, 2019, National Review)

If the shutdown results in the end of this tradition begun by Woodrow Wilson, something good will have come of it.

Posted by orrinj at 5:49 PM


John Bogle, Vanguard Founder Who Advocated Low Fees, Dies at 89 (Christopher Condon, January 16, 2019, Bloomberg)

By word and example, Bogle proselytized on behalf of patient, long-term investing in a diversified group of well-run companies. He focused his advocacy on index funds, those that buy and hold the broadest mixes of stocks. He cautioned that the pursuit of quick trades and short-term profits typically helped investment advisers more than investors.

"The way to wealth for those in the business is to persuade their clients, 'Don't just stand there. Do something," he wrote in "The Little Book of Common Sense Investing" (2007). "But the way to wealth for their clients in the aggregate is to follow the opposite maxim: 'Don't do something. Just stand there."

Bogle's formula turned Vanguard into the largest U.S. manager of stock and bond funds.

"He was a towering figure," Burton Malkiel, a Princeton University economics professor and Vanguard board member since 1977, said in an interview. "The mutual-funds industry is infinitely better because of Jack Bogle." [...]

Billionaire investor Warren Buffett praised Bogle in his annual letter to Berkshire Hathaway Inc. shareholders in early 2017.

"If a statue is ever erected to honor the person who has done the most for American investors, the hands down choice should be Jack Bogle," Buffett wrote. "He has the satisfaction of knowing that he helped millions of investors realize far better returns on their savings than they otherwise would have earned. He is a hero to them and to me."

Posted by orrinj at 4:27 PM


Trump and Putin Have Met Five Times. What Was Said Is a Mystery. (Peter Baker, Jan. 15, 2019, NY Times)

Mr. Trump's meeting with Mr. Putin that day lasted more than two hours. Afterward, Mr. Trump took his interpreter's notes and instructed the interpreter not to brief anyone. Mr. Tillerson told reporters that the leaders discussed everything from Syria to Ukraine, but he also described "a very robust and lengthy exchange" on the election hacking.

A few hours later, Mr. Trump sought out Mr. Putin again during a dinner for all the leaders. Videotape later made public showed Mr. Trump pointing at Mr. Putin, who was seated across and down a long table, then pointing at himself and then making a pumping motion with his fist.

Mr. Trump later told The Times that he went over to see his wife, Melania Trump, who was sitting next to Mr. Putin, and the two leaders then talked, with Mr. Putin's interpreter translating. No American officials were present, and the White House did not confirm the encounter until more than 10 days later, after it was independently reported.

The day after the two meetings, as Mr. Trump was on Air Force One taking off from Germany heading back to Washington, he telephoned a Times reporter and argued that the Russians were falsely accused of election interference. 

Posted by orrinj at 4:03 PM


Daily Presidential Tracking Poll (Rasmussen Reports, January 16, 2019)

The Rasmussen Reports daily Presidential Tracking Poll for Wednesday shows that 43% of Likely U.S. Voters approve of President Trump's job performance. Fifty-five percent (55%) disapprove.

The latest figures include 32% who Strongly Approve of the job Trump is doing and 46% who Strongly Disapprove. This gives him a Presidential Approval Index rating of -14.

Which has to make the real number closer to -20.

Posted by orrinj at 3:56 PM


Clemson QB Praises Trump's Fast Food Banquet: 'It Was Awesome' (PAUL BOIS, January 15, 2019, Daily Wire)

According to TMZ Sports, Clemson QB Trevor Lawrence couldn't get enough of President Trump's offering of Big Macs, Wendy's hamburgers, pizza, and fries. In fact, he wants to do it again.

"It was awesome," Lawrence told TMZ while taking pictures with Clemson fans. "We had McDonalds and everything. It was good!"

When a fan asked Lawrence on how many times he plans on returning to the White House, the champion QB enthusiastically replied, "Hopefully, a few more!"

You really don't have to have experienced the purgatory that is the "rubber-chicken, mashed potatoes and peas" circuit to understand how preferable legit fast food is to the stuff you generally get at these events.

Posted by orrinj at 1:07 PM


Omar Fuels Conspiracy Theory: Graham Is 'Compromised!' (Mikhael Smits, January 16, 2019, Free Beacon)

Rep. Ilhan Omar (D., Minn.) accused a Republican lawmaker without evidence of being "compromised" Tuesday.

The Right always favored this rumor until he switched to being a Trumpbot.

Posted by orrinj at 12:57 PM


Pelosi calls on Trump to reschedule the State of the Union or deliver it in writing (Brendan Morrow, 1/16/19, The Week)

Pelosi suggests she and Trump work together to come up with a new date for the State of the Union that would be after the government re-opens. Alternatively, she suggests Trump simply deliver his address in writing instead of in person, as presidents did before former President Woodrow Wilson's administration.

One of the many, but hardly worst, damages from 9-11 was that W planned to scrap the speech and just submit written reports going forward.

Posted by orrinj at 12:51 PM


Iran satellite Payam fails to reach orbit (Deutsche-welle, 1/16/19)

Telecommunications Minister Mohammed Javad Jahromi told Iranian state television that the rocket carrying the satellite had passed the first and second launch stage, but that it had developed problems in the third phase.

"Payam satellite was successfully launched this morning with the Basir satellite carrier. But the satellite unfortunately failed to be placed in the orbit in the last phase," said Jahromi.

The country had plans to send two satellites, Payam, meaning "message," and Doosti, meaning "peace" into orbit.

State television said the two satellites would be used to gather information on the country's environment. 

Posted by orrinj at 12:41 PM


A judge has stopped the Trump administration from asking about citizenship in the census (Dara Lind, Jan 15, 2019, Vox)

Judge Jesse M. Furman of the Southern District of New York found that Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross violated federal law by misleading the public -- and his own department -- about the reasons for adding the question, which would have forced everyone taking the census to answer whether or not they and others in their household are US citizens. [...]

The Trump administration claimed it needed better citizenship data to enforce the Voting Rights Act and that the Department of Justice had asked Ross to add a citizenship question to the census for this reason. But emails and records uncovered as part of the lawsuit showed that Ross had been asking his staffers and other agencies to find reasons to add a citizenship question months before he received a letter from DOJ.

Furman also declared that Ross's decision violated the federal Administrative Procedure Act, which governs how federal agencies make regulations and other decisions. Ross had ignored and in some cases lied about evidence from his own officials that found asking people about citizenship would decrease participation and increase cost. The ruling also finds that Ross and the Department of Commerce violated two specific provisions in the federal Census Act -- one that seeks to limit the number of questions people are asked directly in the census and one regarding reports to Congress as the census is being planned.

Posted by orrinj at 4:17 AM


New court filing indicates prosecutors have extensive details on Manafort actions not yet made public (Spencer S. Hsu January 15, 2019, Washington Post)

Prosecutors working for special counsel Robert S. Mueller III have intensively scrutinized Paul Manafort's activities after President Trump's election -- including after Manafort was criminally charged -- and indicated they have extensive details not yet made public about Manafort's interactions with former Russian aide Konstantin Kilimnik and others, a Tuesday court filing showed.

Although heavily redacted, the documents state that Manafort, Trump's former campaign chairman, claimed he was trying to get people appointed in the new presidential administration. The filing also states that in another Justice Department investigation, Manafort provided information that appears related to an event while he was with the campaign in August 2016.

Posted by orrinj at 4:01 AM


Donald Trump's Pattern of Deference to the Kremlin Is Clear (DAVID A. GRAHAM, 1/15/19, THE ATLANTIC)

During the campaign, Trump repeatedly praised Putin, and downplayed objections to Russia's seizure of Crimea. In one extraordinary campaign rally, he called on Russia to hack emails from the former U.S. secretary of state, who happened to be his rival for the presidency. (Russian hackers made their first attempt to do so that very day.) He hired Paul Manafort as his campaign manager despite copious warning signs, including his work as a lobbyist for foreign dictators and his offer to work for free. Manafort was one of several aides who in June 2016 met with Russians who, the aides believed, were bringing damaging info about Clinton. (Trump would later dictate a misleading statement about the meeting.)

Several Trump advisers, especially George Papadopoulos and Carter Page, had extensive contacts with Russians, which they have attempted to downplay. The Trump Organization also claimed it had cut off discussions about building a tower in Russia, when in fact it remained in close contact with Russian government officials about the project.

Before and after the election, Trump dismissed the judgment of the U.S. intelligence community that Russia was interfering in U.S. politics. During the presidential transition, Trump's son-in-law Jared Kushner (who attended the June 2016 meeting) sought to set up a secret backchannel with Russia that would bypass the federal government. Meanwhile, National-Security Adviser-designate Michael Flynn had conversations with the Russian ambassador, about which he lied to FBI agents and Vice President Mike Pence. Trump only fired Flynn when his lying was revealed in the press.

During a February 2017 interview with Bill O'Reilly, Trump dismissed concerns about Putin killing dissidents and journalists. In May 2017, he abruptly fired FBI Director James Comey, citing the Russia investigation as his motivation. The day after he fired Comey, he welcomed Russia's U.S. and ambassador and foreign minister to the White House--an arrangement that rattled some intelligence experts on its own--where he told them that firing that "nutjob" Comey had relieved "great pressure because of Russia" on him. Trump also disclosed sensitive classified information to the Russians.

During the summer of 2017, Trump continued to deny that Russia had interfered in the presidential election, despite a growing body of evidence. In July 2017, he met with Putin in Hamburg, with a tiny team of advisers; Trump greeted Putin warmly, and according to the Russians, Trump "accepted" Putin's denials of interference in the election.

That meeting turned out to be only a warm-up for a disastrous meeting with Putin in Helsinki the following summer, in which Trump kowtowed to the Russian leader; openly took Putin's side over U.S. intelligence on the interference issue; suggested allowing Russia to take part in the inquiry; and entertaining allowing the Russians to question a former U.S. ambassador to Moscow.

More recently, Trump regurgitated a strange and bogus Russian assertion that the Soviet Union entered Afghanistan in 1979 to fight terrorists. According to TheTimes, the president has also discussed the idea of withdrawing the U.S. from NATO, which would effectively destroy the organization and fulfill one of Putin's greatest desires in geopolitics.

Any of these specific incidents, and many others that I have omitted, might be individually explained away fairly easily. As a pattern, they're too weird to dismiss with a shrug or cobbled together explanations.

Posted by orrinj at 3:58 AM


The red state that loves free college: How Tennessee is making Bernie Sanders' favorite education idea a reality. (BENJAMIN WERMUND, 01/16/2019, Politico)

From the beginning, free college in Tennessee was framed not as a form of personal betterment, or social welfare, but in terms of economic development. State leaders found that companies considering locating in Tennessee wanted a broad base of skilled workers more than just about any financial incentive they could offer.

"I can't emphasize enough to anybody who's not in the middle of these economic development conversations how much it has changed - literally it is all about workforce development," Haslam said. "You could look out and say, 'We're really close to having a big mismatch and jobs are going to go somewhere else and we're going to have a lot of people here who won't have jobs.' So that's the primary emphasis, that was the primary motivating factor."

Increasingly, that means workers with some form of postsecondary education. For Tennessee, this was a problem: The percentage of Tennessee residents with a degree beyond high school was in the low 30s - nearly 10 points below the national average at the time. Haslam created a statewide initiative to bring that up to 55 percent by 2025.

The centerpiece of that initiative was free college. Haslam saw it as the quickest, most surefire way to get people - especially those who had never considered college - talking about it. It had to make a splash - even if it meant running up against political resistance from his own party.

"We wanted it to be an easy thing to sell and describe," Haslam said. "If I say, 'Well, it's free unless your income's above this level,' or, 'it's free unless you make a 2.5 GPA' ... Free was an easy discussion so we could say, 'If you walk across that high school stage, then you could go to college free.' And that was a conversation we wanted people to have around their dinner tables."

But "free" wasn't an automatic sell to the Republican lawmakers who would have to sign off. "There were people, particularly on my side of the aisle, who had an issue around, like, 'free - free? - so you don't have to do anything to qualify for it?'" Haslam said. "There was a sense in which this is going to be another entitlement program. That was one of the issues. Mainly from Republicans."

Haslam enlisted Mark Norris, the Senate majority leader and one of the state Legislature's most conservative members, to draft free college legislation and get their Republican colleagues on board. The plan would be funded from a lottery reserve - meaning no new taxes - and it would require students do community service to qualify, so it wouldn't be seen as a handout.

Norris, now a district judge after he was tapped by Trump to a federal bench in western Tennessee, was quickly faced with "concern this was, quote unquote, just another entitlement program that was costing taxpayers money," Norris said. But "when people came to learn it wasn't costing taxpayers money unless they play the lottery, it gave them pause."

In retrospect, Tennessee Republicans came up with a remarkably effective strategy for how free-market politicians could talk about free college to their donors, voters and national colleagues. First Tennessee Promise is billed as an economic-growth program, a way to boost the workforce and lure companies - and jobs - to the state. It focuses on community colleges and technical colleges where students train for those jobs, rather than more elite universities that serve better-off students and come with what critics see as a liberal political culture.

Second, the program is open to everyone, not just low-income students. That sends a signal that it's not a "poverty" program or an "entitlement," and gets buy-in from wealthier families who have their own concerns about the growing cost of college. And importantly, Tennessee's programs are state-based, not a federal mandate or "just another entitlement check from Washington," as Sen. Lamar Alexander, a Tennessee Republican and former state governor, put it.

"It's different than the Bernie Sanders, 'We'll just send you a check from Washington," said Alexander, who also served as president of the University of Tennessee and U.S. secretary of Education. "That's why Republicans are very comfortable with it, conservatives are very comfortable with it ... We don't think of it as an entitlement, we think of it as a ladder to the middle class."

To make it affordable for a non-wealthy state, Tennessee's program is "last dollar" - meaning the state pays only what isn't covered by Pell Grants, the federal aid program for low-income students. It costs the state about $45 million a year, an amount covered entirely by the lottery reserve fund.

"We did it without raising taxes. We didn't add any debt or add to the deficit," said Michael Sullivan, executive director of the state's Republican Party and a supporter of the program. "We took the fiscally responsible steps."

Posted by orrinj at 12:22 AM


The Soviet Experience in Afghanistan: Getting History Right (Seth G. Jones, January 13, 2019, LawFare)

To understand Soviet concerns about Afghanistan, it is helpful to go back to 1973, six years before the Soviet invasion. On July 16, 1973, Muhammad Daoud Khan overthrew King Zahir Shah, who had ruled the country since 1933, in a coup d'état. Moscow, which had been providing military aid to Afghanistan since at least 1955, grew increasingly alarmed about instability in Afghanistan. In April 1978, Daoud was assassinated during a coup led by Nur Mohammad Taraki, further increasing Soviet fears about their southern flank.

The next year, it was Washington's turn to become alarmed after its ambassador to Afghanistan, Adolf Dubs, was kidnapped by armed extremists posing as police. When Afghan security forces attempted to rescue him, Dubs was shot and killed. President Jimmy Carter's national security adviser, Zbigniew Brzezinski, blamed the incident on "either Soviet ineptitude or collusion."

Afghanistan headed toward the abyss. Demonstrations erupted in cities like Herat, and, as one top-secret Soviet assessment concluded, key parts of the Afghan Army "essentially collapsed." In June 1979, there was yet another coup, as Taraki was replaced by Hafizullah Amin. This was the last straw for Moscow. As the Soviet archives indicate, Moscow's leaders believed that Amin was growing too close to Washington. A top-secret report to Soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev warned: "It is known, in particular, that representatives of the USA, on the basis of their contacts with the Afghans, are coming to a conclusion about the possibility of a change in the political line of Afghanistan in a direction which is pleasing to Washington." The KGB came to similar conclusions and assessed that Amin would likely turn to Washington for aid.

On December 8, 1979, Brezhnev hosted a meeting with several trusted Politburo members, including ideologist Mikhail Suslov, KGB head Yuri Andropov, Defense Minister Dmitriy Ustinov, and Foreign Minister Andrei Gromyko. Andropov and Ustinov argued that Washington was trying to expand its influence in Afghanistan. The group tentatively agreed to direct the KGB to remove Amin and replace him with the Babrak Karmal. They also deliberated about sending Soviet troops to Afghanistan. On December 12, Brezhnev, Suslov, Andropov, Ustinov, and Gromyko met again. The group assessed that the deteriorating situation in Afghanistan threatened the security of the Soviet Union's southern borders, which the United States and other countries could take advantage of by aiding the Afghan regime. In addition, Afghanistan could become a future U.S. forward operating base situated in the Soviet Union's "soft underbelly" in Central Asia.

On Christmas Eve 1979, elite Soviet forces began flying into Kabul airport and the military airbase at Bagram. The 357th and 66th Motorized Rifle Divisions of the Soviet army invaded Afghanistan from Turkmenistan and began advancing south along the main highway. The 360th and 201st Motorized Rifle Divisions crossed the Amu Darya River from Uzbekistan.

The Soviet invasion created an immediate global uproar. In response, over five dozen countries--including the United States--boycotted the 1980 Summer Olympics, which were held in Moscow. The Soviet invasion increased already-high tensions between Washington and Moscow.

Terrorism had nothing to do with all this. While Soviet leaders were concerned about "religious fanatics" that were involved in Afghan protests, the Soviets were overwhelmingly worried about U.S. power and influence. To argue that the Soviets were "right to be there," as President Trump remarked, is either to misunderstand Cold War history or, even worse, to legitimize Brezhnev's cold-blooded, anti-U.S. strategic rationale for invading Afghanistan.

In response to the Soviet invasion, the United States conducted one of its most successful covert action programs during the Cold War. 

Posted by orrinj at 12:07 AM


US must stand with Congo's voters and its civil society (K. RIVA LEVINSON, 01/14/19, The Hill)

"Congo opposition leader Felix Tshisekedi clinches surprise win in presidential election," reported Reuters. The BBC announced "Felix Tshisekedi steps out of his father's shadow to lead DR Congo," and the United Nations extolled the country's "first peaceful transfer of power." [...]

On Sunday 30 December 2018, millions of Congolese went to the polls to elect a new president and national lawmakers. Despite a two-year delay, a chaotic process, and the exclusion of four percent of the electorate because of the on-going Ebola health emergency, the vote came off with relative calm.

The presidential contest was fought between Emmanuel Ramazani Shadary, the choice of the country's president Joseph Kabila (who is under EU sanctions for human rights crimes), Felix Tshiekedi, the son of the country's veteran opposition leader who founded the Union for Democracy and Social Progress in 1982 and died in 2017, and Martin Fayulu, a former executive of Mobil Oil who was backed two political leaders the government barred from standing.

Just getting to this point of electoral uncertainty was a struggle of epic proportion for Congo's 85 million people -- and why the final certified result must be just, and evidence-based.

Posted by orrinj at 12:04 AM


Confessions of a Recovering Libertarian (Charlie Sykes, January 15th, 2019, The Bulwark)

On today's Daily Bulwark Podcast, Jerry Taylor of the Niskanen Center joins host Charlie Sykes to discuss Jerry's confessions as a recovering libertarian, virtue signalling in the GOP, how the decline of broad political knowledge is fueling excessive partisanship, and the future of moderation in our hyper-partisan times.

As per below, this is a great conversation about what partisanship does to the mind.

Posted by orrinj at 12:02 AM


Steve King's Fall Offers Three Lessons for Conservatives (Ramesh Ponnuru, January 15, 2019, Bloomberg)

[C]onservatives themselves need to be better at policing that distinction. Too often conservatives react to unjustified charges of racism by discounting all such charges. Conservatives ought to be realistic, too, about the unsavory supporters that even defensible causes can draw.

The third is that the frequency and offensiveness of King's provocations have grown as Donald Trump has become the dominant force in the Republican Party. That is probably not a coincidence.

During his presidential campaign, Trump barely and belatedly disavowed the white nationalist David Duke, attacked a judge for having Mexican ancestry, and urged the banning of all adherents of a global faith. And he won.

Maybe King felt liberated by his example to be less politic about his views. 

The thing that has really surprised conservatives about this time is the revelation of just how racist the Right, which we've often made common cause with, is. It's quite salutary.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Trump's Attempt to Bypass Democratic Leaders on Wall Falls Flat (Justin Sink  and Sahil Kapur, January 15, 2019, Bloomberg)

President Donald Trump's attempt to bypass Democratic congressional leaders to break open negotiations on the government shutdown fell flat as he failed to persuade any of the party's rank-and-file members to attend a hastily arranged White House meeting Tuesday.

Could have at least gone and scored some burgers...

January 15, 2019

Posted by orrinj at 6:55 PM


Defying Trump, U.S. Senate advances measure critical of easing Russia sanctions (Patricia Zengerle, 1/15/19, Reuters) 

The U.S. Senate voted on Tuesday to move ahead with a resolution disapproving of a Trump administration plan to ease sanctions on Russian companies tied to Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska, clearing the way for debate and a vote on the plan.

Posted by orrinj at 6:49 PM


Why Conservative Media and the Far Right Love Tulsi Gabbard for President: The enigmatic congresswoman has earned substantial praise from many across the right--from Fox News star Tucker Carlson to white nationalists like David Duke. (Maxwell Tani,  Kelly Weill, 01.15.19, Daily Beast)

In a Monday evening segment, featuring anti-war leftist journalist Glenn Greenwald, the Fox News host argued that Gabbard had been unfairly maligned because of her deep skepticism about intervention in Syria and willingness to talk to Assad.

"There's something so stealthy and feline and dishonest about the way they're attacking her," Tucker said. "If you don't like her foreign policy views, let's just say so. But no one ever really wants to debate what our foreign policy should be. They just attack anyone who deviates from their own dumb ideas."

Gabbard first became an in-demand Fox News guest in 2015 after she criticized Barack Obama's unwillingness to use the label "radical Islamic terrorism." Her media tour explaining that position earned her positively-tilted coverage in right-wing outlets like Breitbart and The Daily Caller--a trend that continued when she later expressed skepticism of Obama's Iran nuclear deal. [...]

Steve Bannon, Trump's former White House chief strategist, reportedly admired Gabbard's foreign policy, and arranged a meeting with her and Trump shortly after his election. Bannon was reportedly considering Gabbard for an administration role, although no such job ever materialized.

"He loves Tulsi Gabbard. Loves her," a person close to Bannon told The Hill at the time. "Wants to work with her on everything." The person added that Gabbard "would fit perfectly too [inside the administration] ... She gets the foreign policy stuff, the Islamic terrorism stuff."

Richard Spencer, a white nationalist and alleged domestic abuser who has called for "peaceful ethnic cleansing," has tweeted multiple times in support of Gabbard. David Duke, a former Ku Klux Klan leader and current racist, has also heaped praise upon her.

"Tulsi Gabbard is brave and the kind of person we need in the diplomatic corps," Spencer tweeted in January 2017. "Tulsi Gabbard 2020," he tweeted later that year.

In a November 2016 tweet, Duke said Gabbard was representative of a "political realignment" he hoped to see in the U.S., and called for Donald Trump to appoint her secretary of state. Duke ran a favorable blog post about Gabbard on his website.

Gabbard hit back at Duke. "U didn't know I'm Polynesian/Cauc?" she tweeted at the former KKK leader. "Dad couldn't use 'whites only' water fountain. No thanks. Ur white nationalism is pure evil." But he continued to laud her, writing "God bless Tulsi Gabbard" later that year.

Spencer and Duke credited their Gabbard support to her stance on Syria, where civil war has resulted in an estimated half-million deaths. (Some on the far right view Assad as a hero. The Intercept reported that fascists in the U.S. and abroad see Assad as creating an ideal "homogeneous" authoritarian state, free of political dissent. And James Fields Jr., the neo-Nazi who murdered a woman with a car at a 2017 white nationalist rally in Virginia in 2017, posted a meme of Assad on Facebook, alongside pictures of swastikas and Hitler.)

Gabbard has billed herself as an anti-interventionist in Syria, but she's gone further than many pacifists--most famously by meeting with Assad on the trip organized by members of a far-right group in early 2017.

Posted by orrinj at 5:24 PM


The Supreme Court Just Handed a Big, Unanimous Victory to Workers. Wait, What?   (MARK JOSEPH STERN, JAN 15, 2019, Slate)

Tuesday's case, New Prime v. Oliveira, involves a dispute between a trucking company (New Prime) and one of its drivers, Dominic Oliveira. When he began work, Oliveira was required to complete 10,000 miles hauling freight for New Prime--for free, as an "apprentice." He was then compelled to complete another 30,000 miles as a "trainee," for which he was paid about $4 an hour. Once he became a full-fledged driver, Oliveira was designated as a contractor rather than an employee. He was forced to lease his own truck (from a company owned by the owners of New Prime), buy his own equipment (from the New Prime store), and pay for his own gas, often from New Prime gas pumps.

Typically, New Prime would have to pay all these expenses. But because it classified Oliveira as a contractor, it deducted the costs from his paycheck. Sometimes, that paycheck wound up negative due to these deductions, meaning New Prime essentially charged Oliveira to work for the company.

In 2015, Oliveira filed a class-action lawsuit on behalf of himself and tens of thousands of other "contractors." He alleged that New Prime had misclassified him as a contractor to underpay him, a violation of federal labor law. But Oliveira's contract with the company declared that all disputes must be resolved through individual arbitration, a process that is costly, time-consuming, and often unjust, favoring employers over workers. New Prime asserted that, under the Federal Arbitration Act, courts must enforce this "agreement" and dismiss Oliveira's claims. That's no surprise: In recent years, SCOTUS has repeatedly used the FAA to crush labor lawsuits, deploying the 1925 law to throw class actions and labor disputes out of court.

But New Prime had a problem. The FAA generally obligates courts to enforce arbitration clauses. But it expressly excludes "contracts of employment of ... workers engaged in ... interstate commerce," such as "seamen" and "railroad employees." Everyone agrees that truckers qualify for this exception. New Prime, however, asserted that truckers who work as contractors do not have "contracts of employment" and thus do not qualify. And by classifying so many workers as contractors, the company believed it had worked around the FAA's exemption.

Not so, Justice Neil Gorsuch wrote for the court on Tuesday. We may see a formal distinction between "employment" and contractor work today. But when Congress passed the FAA in 1925, Gorsuch explained, "Dictionaries tended to treat 'employment' more or less as a synonym for 'work.' " Indeed, "all work was treated as employment," whether or not "a formal employer-employee or master-servant relationship" existed. Citing six dictionaries from the era, as well as contemporaneous statutes and rulings, Gorsuch concluded that "contract of employment" was understood to encompass "work agreements involving independent contractors." As a result, Oliveira, along with other truckers and transportation contractors, qualify for the FAA's exemption. His class-action lawsuit may proceed in court.

Posted by orrinj at 5:20 PM


Trump once dismissed Pat Buchanan's politics as for the 'right-wacko vote.' Now he's quoting him. (The Week, 1/15/19)

In 1999, President Trump briefly ran against paleo-conservative Patrick Buchanan for the Reform Party presidential nomination, and before dropping out of the race, Trump told NBC's Tim Russert that Buchanan is "a Hitler lover" and apparent "anti-Semite," and "it's just incredible that anybody could embrace this guy. And maybe he'll get 4 or 5 percent of the vote and it'll be a really staunch, right-wacko vote. I'm not even sure if it's right. It's just a wacko vote." Upon dropping out, Trump wrote in The New York Times: "I leave the Reform Party to David Duke, Pat Buchanan, and Lenora Fulani. That is not company I wish to keep."

On Sunday night, Trump tweet-quoted approvingly from a recent Buchanan column about militarizing the border to preserve white male America.

He went further than that: "The Reform Party now includes a Klansman, Mr. Duke, a neo-Nazi, Mr. Buchanan, and a communist, Ms. Fulani." 

Posted by orrinj at 2:22 PM


Alabama judge overturns law protecting Confederate monuments (Gina Cherelus, 1/15/19, Reuters)

An Alabama judge has voided a 2017 state law preventing the removal or alteration of historic memorials, saying it infringed citizens' free-speech rights and effectively enshrined a pro-Confederacy message in the southern U.S. state.

The ruling was the latest blow in an ongoing national fight over memorials to the pro-slavery Confederacy, which lost in the 1861-1865 U.S. Civil War. Backers of the monuments call them a tribute to history and heritage, while opponents decry them as powerful tributes to institutionalized racism.

Posted by orrinj at 2:14 PM


Posted by orrinj at 2:09 PM


Chris Christie accuses Jared Kushner of political 'hit job' in explosive new book (Ed Pilkington and Martin Pengelly in New York,  15 Jan 2019, The Guardian)

As Bannon was carrying out the firing, at Trump Tower in New York, Christie forced him to tell him who was really behind the dismissal by threatening to go to the media and point the finger at Bannon instead.

"Steve Bannon ... made clear to me that one person and one person only was responsible for the faceless execution that Steve was now attempting to carry out. Jared Kushner, still apparently seething over events that had occurred a decade ago."

The political assassination was carried out by Kushner as a personal vendetta, Christie writes, that had its roots in his prosecution, as a then federal attorney, of Charles Kushner in 2005. The real estate tycoon was charged with witness tampering and tax evasion and served more than a year in federal prison. [...]

The elder Kushner hired a sex worker to seduce his brother-in-law Bill Schulder, then filmed them having sex in a motel and sent the tape to his own sister, Esther. The bizarre plot was an attempt to blackmail the Schulders into keeping their silence about Bill's knowledge of Charles's fraudulent activities.

Charles Kushner pleaded guilty to 18 charges and served 14 months in a federal prison in Alabama.

In one of the most visceral passages of the book, Christie recounts for the first time how Jared Kushner badmouthed him to Trump in April 2016, pleading with his father-in-law not to make Christie transition chairman. Remarkably, he did so while Christie was in the room.

"He implied I had acted unethically and inappropriately but didn't state one fact to back that up," Christie writes. "Just a lot of feelings - very raw feelings that had been simmering for a dozen years."

Kushner went on to tell Trump that it wasn't fair his father spent so long in prison. He insisted the sex tape and blackmailing was a family matter that should have been kept away from federal authorities: "This was a family matter, a matter to be handled by the family or by the rabbis."

Posted by orrinj at 2:03 PM


NBC News Tells Staffers Not To Directly Call Steve King's Racist Remarks Racist (Yashar Ali, 1/15/19, Huffington Post)

NBC News' standards department sent an email to staffers Tuesday telling them not to directly refer to Rep. Steve King's recent comments about white supremacy as "racist."

"Be careful to avoid characterizing [King's] remarks as racist," reads the email, which two NBC News staffers shared with HuffPost. "It is ok to attribute to others as in 'what many are calling racist' or something like that."

It speaks well of the American people that we're reluctant to say that racists are racist, but, on the other hand,  it strips words of their meaning.
Posted by orrinj at 4:19 AM


When America Stared Into the Abyss (John Lawrence, Jan. 7th, 2019, The Atlantic)

The commission appointed by Congress in 2009 to investigate the causes of the meltdown concluded that it "was the result of human action and inaction, not of Mother Nature or computer models gone haywire." A "combination of excessive borrowing, risky investments, and lack of transparency put the financial system on a collision course with crisis." And perhaps most tellingly, the commissioners determined, the crisis had been "avoidable."

In the leadership meeting Pelosi convened after her phone calls with Bernanke and Paulson, the Federal Reserve chairman described a "very severe financial crisis--hundreds of billions in losses." The administration was forced to turn to Congress, Bernanke declared, because the Fed was "no longer able to use the tools we have to maintain stability. It is a matter of days," the chairman warned, before "a major meltdown [would occur] in the United States and globally." Paulson agreed. "I've never seen anything like it," he said. "Once in 100 years."

Congress would have to authorize the Treasury to purchase the toxic assets. "If we don't deal with it by next week, the country could collapse," Paulson warned. The alternative, Bernanke predicted, was a "deep, long recession." Congressional leaders, many of whom considered the two financial managers politically naive and partly responsible for the unfolding catastrophe, were stunned. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid asked how much the purchase would cost. "Hundreds of billions," Paulson admitted, and even then, it was inevitable that widespread foreclosures would cost millions of Americans their homes.

Democratic leaders immediately seized on the strategy of using Wall Street's crisis to benefit millions of Americans on "Main Street" who were seeing their homes, savings, and jobs evaporate without generating any comparable urgent response. Congress had negotiated with Paulson and the Bush administration a meager $168 billion stimulus bill in February, but the law had minimal impact on the worsening recession. Pelosi and Senator Chuck Schumer of New York insisted that something like Paulson and Bernanke's audacious proposal could only secure Democratic votes if it included billions of dollars in anti-recessionary spending to promote job creation, extend unemployment assistance, and fund other initiatives to reduce the "perception the bill is a [corporate] bailout." Barney Frank, the chair of the House Financial Services Committee, also demanded restrictions on the exorbitant executive-compensation packages of financial-services companies to help secure the needed votes.

The administration and congressional Republicans reacted negatively to these efforts to expand the scope of the legislation. "We won't get there if you take that approach," Paulson admonished. The House Republican leader, John Boehner, agreed, advising the Democrats, "Don't play politics." Other Republicans raised their own concerns. Dick Shelby, the senior Republican on the Senate Banking Committee, skeptically described the administration's proposal as "a blank check." Reid explained that Democrats would also face challenges rounding up votes without incentives. "It's political reality," Reid declared in defense of the additional spending. Without the anti-recessionary provisions, Frank advised, "I can't tell you the bill will pass." After a tense moment, Paulson glumly responded, "Then God help us." [...]

Administration negotiators were also exasperated by a plethora of conservative-generated TARP alternatives, including one from Chief Deputy Whip Eric Cantor that would have substituted a federal insurance plan for the bailout. Paulson dismissed these alternatives as "pretty ridiculous" and focused on crafting the legislation with Democrats. Meanwhile, on the Senate side of the Capitol, Paulson was "laying an egg" with the Senate Finance Committee, a top Boehner aide confided in me. White House Chief of Staff Josh Bolten told Democratic leaders their Republican counterparts were "horrid," according to Reid, and Obama quoted Bush as having declared, "My problem is House Republicans." According to a senior White House staffer, neither Senator Shelby nor the ranking member Spencer Bachus of Alabama was being helpful. The obstinacy of Bachus, said Paulson, was "disgraceful."

Reid was flabbergasted to hear that even McCain was leaning against the bill. "We can't pass a bill unless 80 percent of Republicans vote for it," he told Pelosi, who called McCain's opposition "just pathetic." When McCain called Pelosi on September 24 to complain about the pace of the discussions, Pelosi sharply rebuked him. "We are making progress," she said. "It is not accurate to say otherwise." McCain then proposed a suspension of the presidential campaign and the convening of a bipartisan White House summit to hash out a legislative agreement. Pelosi was concerned that a White House meeting would cause delays. When Bolten called to invite her to attend the meeting, the speaker reproached him for capitulating to McCain's "political stunt." She instructed Paulson, "Tell the president to lead! ... I will not allow Congress to look like it's in disarray!" Later in the meeting, she reminded him, "The president never listened to us on Iraq ... He never broaches disagreement." Unless Bush embraced the TARP design they had fashioned together, she told the Treasury secretary, "we have wasted our time, and it is an insult to you." Sardonically, Paulson noted, "I'm beyond that point."

Schumer thought McCain's suggestion was "just weird," especially coming from someone who had offered little "except for an occasional, unhelpful statement, sort of thrown [in] from far away." The Democratic presidential nominee, Barack Obama, was similarly skeptical of the meeting, which might force the postponement of his first debate with McCain, but he was also wary of rejecting the kind of invitation he might soon as president extend to congressional leaders. "We've got him boxed in ... We have him on the ropes," Obama said. "If we didn't go, it would be a bad precedent," he told Reid and Pelosi. They unenthusiastically decided to participate, and decided Obama would serve as their leader. However, they agreed, there would be no deal-making at the meeting, and the exit statement to the press would emphasize that it was the Republicans who needed to "get their ducks in a row."

"We've got a serious economic crisis," Bush declared to the participants around the enormous oval table in the Cabinet Room. "This meeting is an attempt to reach agreement quickly. I can't tell you how important it is to get something done." He cautioned against loading up the bailout with controversial provisions that could jeopardize passage, but he also signaled flexibility, adding that if Paulson and Bernanke signed off, "we're for it. You damn sure don't want to be the people who see it crater." He made, I recall, a point of singling out Pelosi for her collaboration with administration officials.

Obama's opening statement focused on the proposal under negotiation, while Boehner and Bachus again floated alternative approaches. Their ideas, like the insurance scheme, drew sharp rebukes from Frank and Reid, who accused the Republicans of leading negotiators "down a primrose path" only to throw up obstacles at the last minute. As the parties parried, Bush became increasingly restless. "It's easy for smart guys to sit around," he said, but "if money isn't loosened up, this sucker could go down." Although he had proposed the meeting, McCain remained silent for nearly an hour. A CNN reporter confidentially disclosed to me later that McCain's campaign staff had feared that his presence in the meeting could be "political dynamite," and a Boehner staff person privately expressed to me deep concern at the nominee's lack of preparation, admitting he had requested staff assistance from Boehner only the day before the meeting.

After nearly every other principal had spoken, Obama turned to his rival. "We need to hear from John," he declared, and all heads turned to the silent senator. McCain awkwardly stumbled through a rambling statement, thanking Bush for convening the meeting and declaring his support for the concerns expressed by other Republicans. Puzzled looks flew around the Cabinet Room.  [...]

Afterward, Nowakowski told me the Republican leader was displeased with the outcome of the White House meeting and furious with Paulson for seemingly siding with Democrats against the GOP proposals. Perhaps, she mused, Pelosi should "start thinking" about a bill that could pass with only Democratic votes. Confidentially, a top White House aide admitted that Boehner's conference was filled with "hardheads" and that the meeting had been awful, "chaos ... typical of McCain world," allowing others to "outmaneuver him." I recall one Republican aide telling me, "The only person in the room who looked presidential was your guy," Obama. [...]

Unease hung over the House chamber as the debate began on September 29. Blunt advised Pelosi, "Don't count on the Republicans," while Nowakowski advised that some Republicans would undoubtedly "beat their chests" in opposition. Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney, Paulson, and Bernanke continued to call House members, the White House liaison Dan Meyer reported, but there might be only 75 Republican votes for the bill. He asked for additional time to convince recalcitrant Republicans, but Pelosi, worried that her own members might begin to drift away, insisted that the vote go forward.

In a leadership meeting, Democratic Whip Jim Clyburn confidentially predicted that only half of the Democrats' 235 members would support the bill, but far fewer if the Republicans produced only 75 of their own. Pelosi dispatched Barney Frank to meet with skeptical Democratic factions, including the liberal Hispanic and Black Caucuses, and the conservative Blue Dogs. Steeling himself for the onslaught of complaints, Frank asked, "When is the Asshole Caucus, and do I have to address them?"

Shortly after the New York stock market had opened that morning, Citigroup announced it was taking over the failing Wachovia Bank, and several central banks announced plans to shore up the credit markets. Neither action prevented the Dow from beginning a precipitous decline, a worrisome backdrop to the debate. In her statement in support of the bill on the House floor, Pelosi acknowledged, "We have a situation where on Wall Street, people are flying high. They are making unconscionable amounts of money. They make a lot of money. They privatize the gain. The minute things go tough, they nationalize the risk ... they drive their firm into the ground, and the American people have to pick up the tab. Something is very, very wrong with this picture."

She castigated Bush for squandering the $5.6 trillion surplus bequeathed him by President Bill Clinton on unpaid wars, tax cuts, and a Medicare expansion. "No regulation" and "fiscal irresponsibility, combined with an 'anything goes' economic policy, has taken us to where we are today," she asserted. Now, she assured the skeptics in her caucus, "the party is over." She promised that "before long, we will have a new Congress, a new president of the United States, and we will be able to take our country in a new direction."

In his floor speech, Jerry Lewis, a well-respected Southern California Republican, offered a rationale for his recalcitrant fellow conservatives to support the bill. "Frankly, I'm furious," he admitted. "The idea of spending taxpayer dollars to prop up risky investments keeps me awake at night. It goes against all the principles I have lived by." But there was little choice. "Doing nothing will cause a potential catastrophe."

The toughest selling job fell to Boehner, who had privately described the bill to Republicans as a "crap sandwich, but I'm going to eat it anyway." His voice cracking as he spoke in the well of the House chamber, his cheeks streaked with the tears, he acknowledged, "Nobody wants to vote for this, nobody wants to be anywhere around it ... I didn't come here to vote for bills like this. But let me tell you this, I believe Congress has to act." He pleaded with members on both sides of the aisle: "What's in the best interest of our country? Not what's in the best interest of our party [or] our own reelection." His earnest plea received tepid applause, and then it was time to vote.

As the seconds ticked down on the 15-minute clocks flanking the chamber, it became evident that the bipartisan entreaties and White House pressure had failed. The bill was defeated by a vote of 205-228, a rare loss on the floor for Pelosi. Nearly 60 percent of Democrats (140 out of 235) voted "yea," compared with just 33 percent of Republicans (65 of 198). Bush, who had called all 19 Republican members of his Texas delegation, had persuaded just four to support the bill. One of the Texas dissenters, Jeb Hensarling, denounced TARP as the first step "on the slippery slope to socialism."

Anxiety over the fast-approaching election played a significant role in the defeat. Of 18 members in "toss-up" races, 15 voted against the bill, including all six freshman Democrats facing tight campaigns. Some voiced skepticism about the accuracy of the administration's description of the crisis, recalling the misleading information provided Congress about weapons of mass destruction that was used to justify the war in Iraq. Many in the Hispanic and Black Caucuses proved unwilling to explain to their economically suffering constituents the massive spending for Wall Street, particularly since the bill contained little of what Democrats had sought for the jobless and those at risk of losing their homes.

In the cloakroom, stunned members watched the Dow Jones average plunge sharply lower. When the final vote was announced, the bottom fell out. Within minutes, the market had lost nearly 700 points off its opening, ending 778 points lower for the day, a record one-day point loss. By day's end, $1.2 trillion in IRAs, pension funds, and savings was gone--nearly twice the size of the bailout package itself. The VIX index that chronicled market volatility, the so-called fear index, closed at the highest level in its 28-year history.

Reality always trumps ideology, but not often as quickly as that week.

Posted by orrinj at 4:12 AM


Pelosi learned the art of "no" from working with Bush. Trump is a whole new test. (Ella Nilsen,   Jan 15, 2019, Vox)

[I]n the fall of 2008, Pelosi still wrangled the votes for a massive bank bailout proposed by Bush's administration, in part because of a willingness to give Democrats some key demands in exchange.

Admitting his party had taken a "thumping" in the 2006 midterms, Bush pledged to work with Pelosi. And he did; in 2007 and 2008, Pelosi and Bush partnered on a fiscal stimulus bill and a large energy bill that raised fuel efficiency standards, among other things.

"We had good lines of communication, we had regular meetings down at the White House," remembered John Lawrence, Pelosi's chief of staff from 2005 to 2011.

Pelosi is an old-school politician who sees the role of speaker of the House as standing up for the institution, ensuring it fulfills its constitutional responsibilities, and making deals on bills. Even with a powerful position in the majority, she has had to compromise with the Senate and the White House; for example, agreeing to cut a public option from the final version of the 2010 Affordable Care Act. But she still has a strong record working with both Democratic and Republican presidents.

"She makes it very clear going into negotiations with the executive branch that she is not there to simply follow the dictates of any other branch," Lawrence told me recently.

Go behind the scenes. Chat with creators. Support Vox video. Become a member of the Vox Video Lab today.

As Pelosi begins her second tenure as speaker of the House -- this time, amid a government shutdown -- Trump would be wise to look back at her working relationship with Bush. The 43rd president learned that when he came to the table willing to truly engage, he could get a deal with Democrats. When he wasn't, Pelosi wouldn't cave.

She's earned respect from her Republican opponents. "I don't think there's any question that she's a very accomplished legislator," said Michael Steel, who served as a spokesperson for former Republican House Speaker John Boehner.

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