March 6, 2018

Posted by orrinj at 8:06 PM


Trump Confronted Cohn on Trade Hours Before Resignation, Sources Say (Bloomberg, March 6, 2018, Jennifer Jacobs)

President Donald Trump demanded economic adviser Gary Cohn's cooperation on tariffs in a meeting in the Oval Office Tuesday -- asking Cohn directly if he would support his decision to move forward with the plan.

Cohn would not offer his support, according to two people familiar with the episode -- and just hours later, the White House announced Cohn's resignation.

Posted by orrinj at 7:45 PM


Jerry Brown's Legacy: A $6.1 Billion Budget Surplus in California (Alejandro Lazo and  Nour Malas, Jan. 10, 2018, WSJ)

Buoyed by tax increases passed under his administration and a strong economy, Mr. Brown said Wednesday that the state is projecting a $6.1 billion surplus for the next fiscal year, which begins July 1.

The governor proposed socking most of the money away in a rainy-day fund whose creation he pushed for in 2014. Nearly 70% of the state's projected revenue of about $135 billion next fiscal year is derived from personal income taxes, according to the governor's office. [...]

As is his custom, the governor warned of an inevitable economic slowdown.

"California has faced 10 recessions since World War II, and we must prepare for the 11th," he said. "Let's not blow it now."

Mr. Brown has been preaching frugality for years--he kicked off one past budget talk with Aesop's fable about the thrifty ant and the lazy grasshopper.

Mr. Brown took office in 2011 with a $27 billion deficit and drastically slashed spending. In 2012, he staked his governorship on a tax increase that voters approved that year and reauthorized in 2016.

Posted by orrinj at 7:42 PM


Posted by orrinj at 7:19 PM


Posted by orrinj at 7:17 PM


Adviser to Emirates With Ties to Trump Aides Is Cooperating With Special Counsel (MARK MAZZETTI, DAVID D. KIRKPATRICK and ADAM GOLDMAN, MARCH 6, 2018, NY Times)

An adviser to the United Arab Emirates with ties to current and former aides to President Trump is cooperating with the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, and gave testimony last week to a grand jury, according to two people familiar with the matter.

Mr. Mueller appears to be examining the influence of foreign money on Mr. Trump's political activities and has asked witnesses about the possibility that the adviser, George Nader, funneled money from the Emirates to the president's political efforts. It is illegal for foreign entities to contribute to campaigns or for Americans to knowingly accept foreign money for political races.

Mr. Nader, a Lebanese-American businessman who advises Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed Al-Nahyan, the effective ruler of the Emirates, also attended a January 2017 meeting in the Seychelles that Mr. Mueller's investigators have examined. The meeting, convened by the crown prince, brought together a Russian investor close to President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia with Erik Prince, the founder of Blackwater and an informal adviser to Mr. Trump's team during the presidential transition, according to three people familiar with the meeting.

Posted by orrinj at 6:46 PM


Gary Cohn to Resign as Trump's Top Economic Adviser (KATE KELLY, MAGGIE HABERMAN and PETER BAKER, MARCH 6, 2018, NY Times)

Mr. Trump's announcement last week that he would levy tariffs on aluminum and steel imports was the most immediate catalyst for Mr. Cohn's departure, according to people familiar with his thinking. Mr. Cohn, a longtime proponent of free trade, believed the decision could jeopardize economic growth.

Posted by orrinj at 6:36 PM


White House: Trump did not have call with N. Koreans (Yonhap, 3/06/18)

U.S. President Donald Trump has not had a phone call with the North Korean regime, a White House official said Monday, commenting on his remarks that suggested such a possibility.

Trump said Saturday while talking about North Korea that "they, by the way, called up a couple of days ago." [...]

The official on the National Security Council told Yonhap Trump was referring to his March 1 phone call with South Korean President Moon Jae-in. 

Posted by orrinj at 4:39 PM


Stakes rise in Syria as Turkey clashes with pro-Assad militias (Metin Gurcan, March 6, 2018, Al Monitor)

After the loss of eight Turkish soldiers in Rajo clashes March 3, TSK and FSA elements captured central Rajo by launching a heavy assault supported by Turkish warplanes and T129 assault helicopters. Also, the TSK and militias supporting Syrian President Bashar al-Assad entered their first clash at Afrin. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, based in Coventry, England, reported that Turkish airstrikes in the area of Kafr Janna killed some 36 pro-Assad troops.

That first armed confrontation between the TSK and pro-Assad militias in northern Syria is cause for serious concern, especially for Moscow, because if the fight escalates to clashes between TSK and Assad's army -- rather than just supporting militias -- it could mean the collapse of de-escalation efforts west of the Euphrates. Moscow's vision for northern Syria is clear. On one side of the negotiation table, Assad will sit as the big brother under Russian wings with the Democratic Union Party as the younger brother representing the Syrian Kurds, who must be pro-Russia, staunchly secular and leftist. On the other side of the table facing them will be the Syrian opposition, under the tutelage and control of Ankara.

This is why Ankara will have to quickly extract the Sunni opposition from radical jihadist groups, to give the opposition a more moderate outlook. That, in turn, requires eliminating the resistance in Idlib and consolidating the Sunni opposition under a single political and military command controlled by Ankara. There is no place for the United States at this table Russia is setting. 

Posted by orrinj at 4:23 PM


Economics Was Invented to Refute Trump's Tariff Arguments: We've known tariffs are a bad idea since Adam Smith. (Tom Mullen, 3/05/18, FEE)

When Adam Smith wrote Wealth of Nations, it wasn't to refute the "godless socialists" 21st-century Republican voters believe are taking over the world. It was to refute the kinds of protectionist ideas championed by conservatives like Edmund Burke and Alexander Hamilton in Smith's day, Abraham Lincoln eighty years later, and Trump today.

Bastiat remade Smith's case in 1848. Henry Hazlitt did so again in 1946. Still, these economic fallacies persist because they offer the victims of other bad economic policies villains they can blame for largely self-inflicted wounds.

Every time a Trump supporter sees "Made in China" on a pair of sneakers, he throws up his hands and says, "Do you see that? They're stealing our manufacturing jobs."

Posted by orrinj at 3:37 PM


Trump Lawyer Michael Cohen Received Inside Info From Russia Probe: Closed-door testimony before the House Russia probe is supposed to stay behind closed doors. Somehow, it got into the hands of another witness--and key Trump confidante--instead. (BETSY WOODRUFF & SPENCER ACKERMAN, 03.06.18, Daily Beast)

On Dec. 19, 2017, a former staffer for Sen. John McCain named David Kramer testified before the House intelligence committee behind closed doors. He'd played a role in bringing the salacious and unverified Steele dossier to the FBI's attention, and members peppered him with questions about it.

Then something unusual happened. Word of Kramer's testimony got out--to the lawyer of another witness.

The following, based on conversations with multiple sources familiar with the matter, illuminates the extraordinary breakdown of trust between committee investigators and the witnesses they call. It also suggests that some people working on the committee investigation may be trying to covertly assist one of the president's closest allies--when the president's inner circle is ostensibly a focus of their probe.

A few days after Kramer's testimony, his lawyer, Larry Robbins, got a strange call. The call was from Stephen Ryan, a lawyer who represents Trump's longtime personal attorney Michael Cohen. Cohen is facing scrutiny from Special Counsel Robert Mueller and congressional investigators regarding potential coordination between Trump's team and the Kremlin. He featured prominently in the Steele dossier--the document that Kramer handled--and is currently suing Buzzfeed for publishing it.

Ryan told Robbins he reached out because someone from the House told him that Robbins' client, Kramer, had information about the Steele dossier that could help Cohen. only catches the Trumpbots.

Posted by orrinj at 3:34 PM


Progressives in Congress side with Trump on trade (Jason Margolis, 3/06/18, PRI The World)

DeLauro and other progressives want to see Mexican labor standards written into NAFTA. And just as importantly, enforced. When DeLauro and others first brought up these issues more than two decades ago, she said then-President Bill Clinton dismissed their concerns.  

"We were very concerned about real loss of jobs, and now we have evidence of that loss of jobs," DeLauro said.

DeLauro also clashed with President Barack Obama over the Trans-Pacific Partnership, or TPP, a proposed trade agreement to cover 12 Pacific Rim nations. (President Donald Trump pulled the plug on the TPP as one of his first acts in the White House.)

Today, DeLauro is putting her faith in an unlikely ally to renegotiate NAFTA: President Trump.


Posted by orrinj at 1:55 PM


Russian military transport plane crashes in Syria, killing all 39 people on board (Meduza, 6 march 2018)

While trying to land at Russia's Khmeimim airbase in Syria, an Antonov An-26 Russian transport plane crashed on Tuesday, killing all 33 passengers and six crew members aboard, the Defense Ministry confirmed.

Posted by orrinj at 3:53 AM


The world has tons of oil left (Ben Geman, 3/06/18, Axios)

The consultancy Rystad Energy has released new estimates of global oil resources that help underscore why the discussion in energy circles has transformed over the last decade from when supplies will peak to when demand will taper off, because there's lots of oil left and being discovered.

Posted by orrinj at 3:50 AM


McMaster caught in the middle as Mattis and Tillerson maneuver to constrain Trump on national security issues (Brian Bennett, MAR 04, 2018, LA Times)
As President Trump appears to lurch from crisis to crisis on the world stage, Defense Secretary James N. Mattis and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson have quietly maneuvered to constrain an impulsive commander in chief, the latest sign of a national security team that is increasingly challenging the president.

Officials say the two senior Cabinet officers have slow-rolled requests for options on a wide range of policy goals, including exiting the Iran nuclear disarmament deal, reacting to missile strikes into Saudi Arabia by Iran-backed rebels in Yemen, pressuring longtime ally Pakistan by cutting U.S. military aid, and possible limited airstrikes on North Korea's nuclear infrastructure. [...]

"They are going to hide the ball from the president to keep him from doing stupid [stuff], there's no doubt about it," said another former official, a national security expert who served in the Trump administration transition and asked not to be identified discussing internal deliberations.

Posted by orrinj at 3:43 AM


Shares recover as Trump tariff plan faces resistance (Marc Jones, 3/06/18, Reuters) 

Share markets in Asia and Europe regained ground on Tuesday after U.S. President Donald Trump faced growing pressure from political allies to pull back from proposed steel and aluminum tariffs and a potential global trade war.

Posted by orrinj at 3:39 AM


Trump's Tax on America (J. BRADFORD DELONG, 3/06/18, Project Syndicate)

It would seem that for the Republican Party, an incompetent, erratic kleptocracy might just be the best form of government.

Or at least it was until March 1, 2018, the day Trump signaled his intention to impose across-the-board import tariffs of 25% on steel and 10% on aluminum. That decision, notes Pat Roberts, a Republican senator from Kansas, "is not going to go down well in farm country."

As Roberts points out, Trump's move toward protectionism this year is at odds with his earlier policy achievements. "We have a tax reform package that's bringing a lot of benefits to the business community," Roberts told the Kansas City Star, "and this is a policy move that is contrary to that." His worry now is that Trump will pursue "a trade policy that will basically result in all the benefits of the tax reform being taken away by higher manufacturing costs being passed on to consumers."

He's right. In the end, American consumers will pay for Trump's tariffs. Such broad protectionist measures will affect every sector of US manufacturing in one way or another, and manufacturers certainly will not eat the full costs of higher-priced steel and aluminum inputs. At the same time, other countries will introduce tariffs of their own against US exports. The European Union, for example, is now planning to slap tariffs on such American staples as Harley-Davidson motorcycles, bourbon whiskey, and Levi's jeans.

So, Trump has essentially proposed a new tax on US consumers and export industries, the costs of which will be borne largely by his own supporters in the American heartland and Rust Belt. Moreover, Trump seems to have arrived at his decision almost out of the blue. Stock markets were caught off guard, and immediately fell by around 1.5%. And according to the Kansas City Star report, "[Roberts] and other Republican senators received no formal heads-up from the White House."

Posted by orrinj at 3:35 AM


Trump Aide Sheds Shocking New Light On Mueller Probe In Bombshell Interview (Caroline Orr, March 6, 2018, National Memo)

"If he had some deal -- we already know that [Trump attorney] Michael Cohen was trying to do Trump Tower Moscow," Nunberg said, referring to a deal then in the works for a Trump-branded property in Moscow.

That deal ultimately fell through just two weeks before the Iowa caucuses. Yet even though the project never came to fruition, it caught the attention of Mueller. And his investigators are reportedly scrutinizing the Trump Organization's efforts to secure the deal, among other business dealings before the election.

Minutes earlier, he told MSNBC's Katy Tur that he thinks Trump "may have done something during the election." And he claimed that Mueller's team may already have evidence of it.

He reiterated those statements in yet another interview on CNN Monday afternoon. "They know something on [Trump] ... I don't know what it is, and perhaps I'm wrong, but he did something," he told Jake Tapper.

The interview essentially became a complete meltdown on live TV. Nunberg told Tapper that former Trump aide Carter Page had "colluded with the Russians" during the campaign. He also said Mueller believes Trump ally Roger Stone colluded with Russia.

...that when one of the family speaks the truth he is assumed to be crazy.

Posted by orrinj at 3:27 AM


The relationship between gun ownership and death rates  (Stef W. Kight, 3/06/18, Axios)

Eleven of the top 15 states for firearm ownership are also in the top 15 states for gun deaths, according to data from a 2015 study on gun ownership rates in the states and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's mortality rates for gun-related deaths.