May 3, 2019

Posted by orrinj at 8:37 PM


Here's Why ISIS And Al-Qaida Will Lose Their War Of Attrition (AKI PERITZ, 5/03/19, NPR)

In an exceedingly rare video that came to light this week, its leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, shows his face and renews his call for jihad against the terrorist group's adversaries by calling for, among other efforts, a "battle of attrition."

This is a classic insurgent strategy of bleeding a better-resourced adversary using a blend of regular and irregular forces to harass and degrade. Over time, the theory goes, the enemy becomes exhausted, frustrated, and loses the will to fight. It's "winning by not losing" or "the war of the flea." George Washington employed this strategy to varying degrees; Mao Zedong and others codified it; Gen. Vo Nguyen Giap deployed it against U.S. forces in Vietnam. Today, the Taliban use it against allied forces in Afghanistan.

But the Islamic State's and al-Qaida's strategy is likely doomed to fail. Why? Because the U.S. has shown itself willing to expend essentially infinite resources on warring with these terrorist groups. The Stimson Center in 2018 indicated the U.S. spent 16 percent of its discretionary budget on broadly defined counter-terrorism efforts and war-fighting -- some $2.8 trillion between fiscal years 2002 and 2017. America sees this as an existential fight -- a battle to the death -- which strengthens its resolve to wage this battle for the foreseeable future.

It's not a war of attrition when your side is the only one suffering losses.

Posted by orrinj at 8:35 PM


The Case for Free Trade: It is both economic and moral (SCOTT LINCICOME, May 2, 2019, National Review)

Trade and globalization have provided undeniable economic benefits for the vast majority of American families, businesses, and workers. Most obvious are the consumer gains. Several recent studies have found that freer trade with China, for example, has generated, through increased competition and lower prices, hundreds of billions of dollars in U.S. consumer benefits -- benefits that, according to economists Xavier Jaravel and Erick Sager, are the equivalent of giving every American "$260 of extra spending per year for the rest of their lives." Consumer gains from imports, in general tilted toward the poor and the middle class, are especially tilted toward them when it comes to goods that are made in China and sold at stores like Walmart. The magnitude of such benefits also debunks the well-worn myth that free trade is mainly about cheap T-shirts. Indeed, trade's consumer surplus is a big reason that Americans today work far fewer hours to own far better essentials than at any prior time in U.S. history.

Then there are trade's overall benefits for the economy. A 2017 Peterson Institute paper calculated the payoff to the United States from expanded trade between 1950 and 2016 to be $2.1 trillion, increasing U.S. GDP per capita and per household by around $7,000 and $18,000 -- with benefits, again, disproportionately accruing to households in the bottom income decile. The U.S. International Trade Commission, moreover, found in 2016 that U.S. bilateral and regional trade agreements such as NAFTA generated small but significant annual increases in GDP, as well as in employment and real wages among highly skilled and less skilled American workers. As the American Enterprise Institute's Michael Strain has noted, trade-skeptical populists who downplay this impressive macroeconomic boost ignore that, as our current economic moment attests, a small bit of extra GDP growth can mean big things for lower-wage, lower-skill workers in terms of employment and possible government assistance.

Trade and globalization also support American companies and workers, even in manufacturing. The Commerce Department, for example, has estimated that almost 11 million jobs depended on exports of U.S. goods and services in 2016, and foreign direct investment in the United States -- the necessary flip side of our oft-maligned trade deficit -- supported millions more. Meanwhile, American companies that adapt and thrive in today's economy most often do so by making use of imports and global supply chains. The San Francisco Fed, for instance, recently estimated that almost half of U.S. imports are intermediate products purchased by American manufacturers to make globally competitive finished goods; the country's biggest exporters, therefore, are also its biggest importers. Numerous other studies have found that the vast majority of the value of an American company's assembled-abroad product (such as an iPhone, assembled in China) accrues to the U.S. company, including its workers and shareholders -- not to the place of final assembly (despite what a gross bilateral trade balance, which attributes an import's full cost to its final export source, might say).

These supply chains not only deliver modern marvels at amazing prices but also allow American companies and workers to focus on our high-value comparative advantages, such as professional services and advanced manufacturing, and leave the lower-value stuff to other countries and workers who lack such skills. Imports, the San Francisco Fed study found, also support millions of other American jobs in transportation, logistics, and wholesale and retail trade -- indeed, almost half of all U.S. consumption dollars spent on items not "made in the USA" go to these Americans, not to foreigners.

Finally, there are the immense, unseen benefits of import competition on American economic dynamism (a market's rate of change and innovation) and living standards. "When we find ways to get more from less, that means more resources available to expand opportunities elsewhere in the economy," George Mason's Russ Roberts recently noted. "That expansion is unseen. . . . But it's hugely important." Whether this creative destruction comes from trade or technology is irrelevant: The outcome is not just cheaper stuff but better (and once unimaginable) stuff, better jobs, better companies, and better lives. And it can occur only by letting consumers and their capital seek more-productive ends.

Posted by orrinj at 8:31 PM


Trump: Putin 'Not Looking at All to Get Involved in Venezuela' (MAIREAD MCARDLE, May 3, 2019, National Review)

President Donald Trump said Friday after a phone call with Russian president Vladimir Putin that Putin has no desire to involve Russia in the spiraling political crisis in Venezuela.

"We talked about many things. Venezuela was one of the topics. And he is not looking at all to get involved in Venezuela other than he'd like to see something positive happen for Venezuela, and I feel the same way," Trump told reporters at the White House.

People gave Donald the benefit of the doubt and assumed Vlad was blackmailing him.  But they're soulmates.

Posted by orrinj at 8:26 PM


Robert Mueller told us everything we need to know (Sarah Longwell, May 2, 2019, usa tODAY)

The government draws its power from the people, and if the people acquiesce to government corruption, then all the judges, juries and prosecutors in the country won't make a difference.

That's why it was so important that Mueller wrote his report so clearly and comprehensively, and that the report was released to the public. He explained in clear, detailed prose exactly how unpatriotic, irresponsible and immoral the White House has become.

The special counsel did so despite the Justice Department policies that prevented him from formally accusing the president of a crime. By strictly adhering to the rules, Mueller ensured that his report was above legal reproach. Its legitimacy under the law is without question. So are the facts.

And these facts set a choice squarely before the American people and their representatives in Congress: Is this the government the American people want? Is this the best we can do?

The special counsel's report tells us everything we need to know. The answer isn't good.

Posted by orrinj at 8:17 PM


Posted by orrinj at 8:14 PM


John Kelly joins board of company operating largest shelter for unaccompanied migrant children (GRAHAM KATES, MAY 3, 2019, CBS NEWS)

In April, protesters outside the nation's largest facility for unaccompanied migrant children noticed a familiar face enter the massive, fenced site in Homestead, Florida: former White House chief of staff John Kelly. Soon after, a local television station recorded footage of him riding on the back of a golf cart as he toured the grounds.

It wasn't clear why he was there, but Friday, Caliburn International confirmed to CBS News that Kelly had joined its board of directors. Caliburn is the parent company of Comprehensive Health Services, which operates Homestead and three other shelters for unaccompanied migrant children in Texas. 

Posted by orrinj at 7:34 PM


Carbon Taxes: What Can We Learn From International Experience? (Gilbert Metcalf,·May 3, 2019, Econofact)

Pollution is a textbook example of how government intervention can correct a problem of a "missing market." Burning fossil fuels when we use gasoline to power our vehicles, coal to produce electricity, and natural gas to cook our meals and warm our homes during winter, generates pollution. While this imposes a cost on society, those who pollute do not bear that cost. Economists call this a "negative externality" because the costs are external (not borne by) those engaged in the activity. There is, from a societal viewpoint, an undesirably high level of production and consumption of goods that have negative externalities, since the prices charged for such goods do not reflect their true social cost, which is higher than the market cost. This market failure justifies government intervention. One possible intervention is a tax that raises the price of these goods and activities, and thus lowers their consumption.

Carbon taxes are a practical way to have consumers and producers take account of the social cost of pollution that increases greenhouse gases. Carbon dioxide, CO2, is a greenhouse gas, and there is scientific consensus that greenhouse gases emitted from human activity are an important source of global warming. The amount of CO2 associated with burning a ton of coal or a gallon of gasoline, or producing a therm of energy from natural gas, is a physical constant. Carbon taxes can therefore be accurately assessed in terms of how the reduction in the use of coal, gasoline or natural gas leads to a reduction in the emission of carbon dioxide. [...]

As the British Columbia case shows, the additional revenues generated by a carbon tax can be used by governments to reduce their potential negative impacts. The more than $1 billion that have been collected each year by BC's local government, have been returned to households and businesses through different mechanisms. Low-income families and small businesses are receiving tax credits, and their tax rates have been reduced. A one-time dividend was also given to every BC resident, a measure that is highly progressive since a cash rebate has a larger impact on the disposable income of lower-income families. I have also found that, thanks to these counter-measures, BC's overall economic activity has not been adversely affected by the carbon tax. Additionally, while carbon taxes have stimulated employment (although modestly) across all industries, jobs have shifted from carbon and trade sensitive sectors, such as chemical manufacturing, to cleaner service industries, such as health care.

After Supreme Court ruling, Texas bills would bring in $850 million in online sales tax: Lawmakers moved to apply the state's sales tax to goods sold by remote vendors who don't have physical operations in Texas. (EDGAR WALTERS MAY 3, 2019, Texas Tribune)

Texans who shop online could soon see purchase prices go up -- filling the state treasury by roughly a half-billion dollars over the next two years -- thanks to a proposed new sales tax levy on out-of-state sellers.

A pair of bills unanimously advanced by the Texas Senate on Friday would allow the state to collect sales tax on items sold by vendors who do not have a physical presence in Texas. A 2018 U.S. Supreme Court ruling in the case South Dakota v. Wayfair Inc. held that such taxes were constitutional.

One bill allows for the Texas Comptroller to identify a single tax rate to apply to remote sellers and is expected to generate $300 million over the next two years. Because local taxing jurisdictions in Texas have varying sales tax rates, ranging from 6.25 to 8.25 percent, lawmakers say the bill is intended to simplify online vendors' sales tax calculations.

Lawmakers already assumed they would have the additional $300 million available to them after the Supreme Court ruling, so the bill would have no effect on the 2020-2021 budget that lawmakers are currently deliberating. That bill was agreed to by both chambers and heads next to Gov. Greg Abbott.

But another bill would apply the state sales tax to remote sellers who use online, third-party marketplaces such as Etsy, Ebay and Amazon, and is expected to yield more than half a billion dollars for the state. If a Texan purchases an item online from a seller in another state using a "marketplace," a definition that includes websites and software applications, the marketplace would be responsible for collecting and paying sales tax on those transactions. Officials estimate the bill would yield an additional $550 million in 2020 and 2021 above what lawmakers included in their budget assumptions.

Posted by orrinj at 7:32 PM


Some U.S. Fed officials are more worried by weak inflation (Johan Ahlander, Ann Saphir, 5/03/19, Reuters) 

Two Federal Reserve policymakers on Friday said they were increasingly worried about weak inflation, an indication that some U.S. central bankers see a growing case for a future interest rate cut even as others push for continued patience.

Posted by orrinj at 7:25 PM


A Century Ago, America Built Another Kind of Wall: There was a time when even Ivy League scientists supported racial restrictions at the border. (Daniel Okrent, May 3, 2019, NY Times)

The anti-immigrant fervor at the heart of current White House policymaking is not a new phenomenon, nor is the xenophobia that has infected the political mainstream. In fact, race-based nativism comes with an exalted pedigree -- and that pedigree is something we all should remember as the Trump administration continues its assault on immigrants of specific nationalities. The scientific arguments Coolidge invoked were advanced by men bearing imposing credentials. Some were highly regarded scholars from Harvard, Princeton, Yale and Stanford. One ran the nation's foremost genetics laboratory. Another was America's leading environmentalist at the time. Yet another was the director of the country's most respected natural history museum.

Together, they popularized "racial eugenics," a junk science that made ethnically based racism respectable. "The day of the sociologist is passing," said the Harvard professor Robert DeCourcy Ward, "and the day of the biologist has come." The biologists and their publicists achieved what their political allies had failed to accomplish for 30 years: enactment of a law stemming the influx of Jews, Italians, Greeks and other eastern and southern Europeans. "The need of restriction is manifest," The New York Times declared in an editorial, for "American institutions are menaced" by "swarms of aliens."

Keeping people out of the country because of their nationality was hardly a novel idea. The Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 was avowedly racist. In 1923 a unanimous Supreme Court declared that immigrants from India could be barred from citizenship strictly on racial grounds.

What was different about the new, putatively scientific campaign was that even whiteness was no ticket to entry.

Writing about Slavic immigrants, the sociologist Edward A. Ross of the University of Wisconsin -- later the national chairman of the American Civil Liberties Union -- declared, they "are immune to certain kinds of dirt. They can stand what would kill a white man." The president of Massachusetts Institute of Technology said newcomers from eastern and southern Europe were "vast masses of filth" who were "living like swine."

The Washington Post editorialized that 90 percent of Italians coming to the United States were "the degenerate spawn" of "Asiatic hordes." A Boston philanthropist, Joseph Lee, his city's leading supporter of progressive causes, explained to friends why he became the single largest financial backer of the anti-immigrant campaign: His concern, he wrote, was that without a restriction law, Europe would be "drained of Jews -- to its benefit no doubt but not to ours."

The "biological" justifications for this nativism were first developed in Cold Spring Harbor, on Long Island, in laboratories financed by the widow of the railroad baron E.H. Harriman. (One of her goals, Mary Harriman said, was preventing "the decay of the American race.") The laboratory's head, the zoologist Charles B. Davenport, took the ideas of the British gentleman scientist Francis Galton -- who had coined the word "eugenics" in 1883 -- welded them to a gross misunderstanding of the genetic discoveries of Gregor Mendel, and concluded that the makeup of the nation's population could be improved by the careful control of human breeding. One of the first steps, he believed, was to impose new controls on open immigration.

Posted by orrinj at 7:17 PM


Two Days After Declaring 'It's Over,' Lindsey Graham Invites Mueller to Provide Testimony (Matt Naham, May 3rd, 2019, Law & Crime)

After U.S. Attorney General William Barr was grilled before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Wednesday, Committee Chairman Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) declared "it's over" and said he had no plans to invite Special Counsel Robert Mueller to testify. Now it's Friday and Graham has sent Mueller a letter inviting him to testify.

He couldn't let Mueller only testify to the House without a chance to obstruct.

Posted by orrinj at 3:52 PM


Trump Says He Discussed the 'Russian Hoax' in Phone Call With Putin (Mark Landler, May 3, 2019, NY Times)

President Trump said on Friday that he discussed the "Russian Hoax" with President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia, in their first conversation since the release of the special counsel's report, which found that "the Russian government interfered in the 2016 presidential election in sweeping and systematic fashion."

Now they have to pretend that Vlad wasn't either?

Posted by orrinj at 8:48 AM


How the Iron Lady became a progressive icon: Margaret Thatcher's legacy has found some surprising supporters (Ian Birrell, 03 MAY 2019, Array)

There is a supreme irony in the fact that Thatcher is now a progressive icon on some of the most important issues of our age - especially as Right-wingers tear apart her party and torture the nation while claiming to be devout followers of her creed. Few people would admit this, of course, since six years after her death she still divides opinion sharply: loved by conservatives, loathed by liberals and the Left. Yet like it or not, she was largely on the correct side of critical issues that still plague politics today, amid the rise of nationalism and populism: on Britain's place in Europe, on climate change and on globalisation.

Climate change is perhaps the least controversial of these areas. Her passionate rallying calls towards the end of the Eighties in key speeches to the Royal Society and United Nations were clear, concise and absolutely critical in pushing this vital cause onto the global stage. Her message was later underscored in speeches both at home and abroad. She took the issue away from the fringe and - as smarter green activists admit - planted it firmly in the political mainstream.

Thatcher saw that Conservatism should embrace the environment. Aided by her scientific expertise - which enabled her to appreciate and assess evidence emerging from forests, polar regions and pollution hotspots - she understood that real Conservatives could not be climate change deniers. She argued for the urgent need for concerted international action, endorsing smart state policies allied with private sector innovation, rather than simply crass attacks on capitalism.

"The danger of global warning is as yet unseen but real enough for us to make changes and sacrifices so that we do not live at the expense of future generations," she told a Geneva climate conference in 1990. "Our ability to come together to stop or limit damage to the world's environment will be perhaps the greatest test of how far we can act as a world community."

Despite her intuitive nationalism, Thatcher stood also for economic globalisation as part of her energetic mission to open markets and roll back state intervention, alongside her Washington soulmate Ronald Reagan. Among the early acts of 1979 was the abolition of foreign exchange controls - a significant breach with the past that played a critical role in rebuilding the economy and proved vital to London's revival after grim years of decline and population loss. This was followed by the 'big bang' financial reforms that led the UK capital to blossom as a global city - with one-third of its population now born abroad - and helped fuel national resurgence (along with more corrosive issues such as inequality and tax avoidance).

So successful was this revival that by the time the euro was launched at the end of last century, the City dominated trading in the new currency despite British refusal to adopt it - the perfect symbol of how opening up trade, importing talent and tearing down walls can restore national fortunes.

Thatcher also became personally involved in luring foreign owners to create Canary Wharf on the ramshackle old docklands of east London and to invest in Britain's moribund motor manufacturing industry. She enticed Nissan to Sunderland by selling the idea of Britain as an unfettered 'gateway' into the European Union, helping spark revival of a sector so emblematic of decline in the Seventies.

Then there is the vexed issue of Europe. Yet even here, where both sides angrily feud over Thatcher's legacy, there should be no doubt that her finest acts included her leadership in the creation of single market freedoms. "We must get this right - too often in the past Britain has missed opportunities," she said in a landmark 1988 speech, continuing:

Just think for a moment what a prospect that is. A single market without barriers - visible or invisible - giving you direct and unhindered access to the purchasing power of over 300 million of the world's wealthiest and most prosperous people. Bigger than Japan. Bigger than the United States. On your doorstep. And with the Channel Tunnel to give you direct access to it.

She was right. This was a superb achievement, which her successor Sir John Major called her "greatest triumph" - except that today this market that accounts for almost half our exports and helped foster our renaissance is much bigger, with another 215 million customers. "When you read her papers for 1988, you see her sheer level of enthusiasm for the single market," said historian Chris Collins of the Margaret Thatcher Foundation last year.

All successful modern Anglospheric (and allied) politicians have followed the same Pinochet/Thatcher/Reagan model of economic liberalization. 

Posted by orrinj at 8:36 AM


Biden's Key: Pennsylvania: The former vice president places electoral hopes on his boyhood home state. (Charles F. McElwee, May 2, 2019, City Journal)

Now a free agent, Biden hopes to establish himself as the frontrunner, one capable of returning Pennsylvania, along with Michigan and Wisconsin, to the Democratic fold.  [...]

In Pennsylvania, though, such establishment support, combined with the Democrats' 900,000-voter advantage, creates an opening for Biden. His statewide base, historically working class, now resides mostly in Philadelphia's suburbs. According to the Philadelphia Inquirer, the number of registered Democrats in the city's four "collar counties" surrounding Philadelphia increased by 75 percent since 1998. In last year's midterms, Senator Bob Casey won reelection, and the party picked up five House seats--four from Montgomery County and Delaware County, both former Republican strongholds. At the state level, incumbent Governor Tom Wolf prevailed, and in Greater Philadelphia, statehouse Democrats flipped 14 seats--the most since 1974. An affluent suburban population--fiscally conservative, socially liberal, and formerly Republican--carried the night. 

Republicans understand that the state party is in critical condition--last week, the Trump campaign's senior advisers met with top GOP officials in Harrisburg. In 2016, the party benefitted from disaffected Democrats in the state's northeast, southwest, northwest, and Lehigh Valley. Trump won Luzerne County by 20 points, and he barely lost neighboring Lackawanna County, home to Biden's Scranton. (In 2012, Barack Obama won the county by over 27 points.) The region's voters, while loyal to Trump, still vote Democratic at the state and local level, as a recent special House election showed. This working-class, semi-urban population--fiscally liberal, socially conservative, and still Democratic--constitutes an unreliable voting base. Biden aims to win them back.

These states won't even be in play if Donald is the nominee.  The GOP will be pumping resources into safe states, like Texas.

The 2019 governor's race that has Trump's team sweating (ALEX ISENSTADT, 05/03/2019, Politico)

Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin is a presidential phone-buddy and White House regular who's become one of President Donald Trump's loudest surrogates.

He's also one of the most unpopular governors in the country, facing a treacherous reelection in November. And the White House, fearing that an embarrassing loss in a deep-red state would stoke doubts about the president's own ability to win another term, is preparing to go all-in to save him. [...]

The Trump team has watched with growing concern as Bevin's approval ratings have plummeted to the low 30s. With the presidential campaign kicking into gear, the Kentucky governor's race is likely to be the most closely-watched contest in the run-up to 2020, and Trump aides acknowledge alarm bells will go off if one of the president's closest allies loses in a state that Trump won by nearly 30 percentage points.

"You want to be winning and not losing in red states ahead of your reelection bid," said Scott Jennings, a Louisville-based Republican strategist who served as a top political aide in the George W. Bush White House. "I think having the president come and remind everyone what's at stake is important."

Bevin has visited the White House so frequently that his presence in the West Wing has become a running joke among some Trump aides. Since Jan. 2018, the Kentucky governor has visited the White House 10 times, according to a count provided by an administration official. Over the past year, the White House has dispatched at least nine cabinet heads and top officials to Kentucky to promote the Trump agenda with the governor. First daughter Ivanka Trump has gone twice.

The Kentucky governor is on the president's speed-dial. In March, Trump called Bevin while the governor was announcing the construction a new steel plant. Bevin held his iPhone and put Trump on speakerphone so he could address the gathering.

And when Trump kicked off a post-2016 election victory tour with a Cincinnati rally, Bevin was onstage.

Posted by orrinj at 8:28 AM


Watergate had the Nixon tapes. Mueller had Annie Donaldson's notes. (Carol D. Leonnig, May 3, 2019, wASHINGTON pOST)

The notes, scribbled rapidly on a legal pad, captured the fear inside the White House when President Trump raged over the Russia investigation and decreed he was firing the FBI director who led it: "Is this the beginning of the end?"

The angst-filled entry is part of a shorthand diary that chronicled the chaotic days in Trump's West Wing, a trove that the special counsel report cited more than 65 times as part of the evidence that the president sought to blunt a criminal investigation bearing down on him.

The public airing of the notes -- which document then-White House counsel Donald McGahn's contemporaneous account of events and his fear that the president was engaged in legally risky conduct -- has infuriated Trump.

Only one type of person opposes record keeping.

Posted by orrinj at 8:21 AM


Trump, Wrecker of Reputations: On Attorney General William Barr's testimony and the coming constitutional crisis. (Susan B. GlasserMay 2, 2019, The New Yorker)

In his short time in politics, President Trump has shred the careers, professional integrity, and dignity of many who have worked for him. Attorney General William Barr is no exception.Photograph by Evan Vucci / AP

In the first year of the Trump Presidency, White House advisers often promised reporters that this would be the week when they would unveil Trump's plans for a massive investment in American infrastructure. On the campaign trail, Donald Trump had vowed to spend a trillion dollars rebuilding roads, bridges, and airports. He said that he would work with Democrats to do it. For a time, it seemed to be the only bipartisan project that might actually go somewhere. But, of course, Infrastructure Week never happened. There was always some distraction, some P.R. disaster that overwhelmed it--a chief of staff to be fired, an errant tweet upending foreign policy. Infrastructure Week lived on as an Internet meme, a Twitter hashtag, a joke; it became shorthand for the Administration's inability to stay on message or organize itself to promote a legislative agenda it claimed to support.

Trump never fully gave up on the infrastructure idea, though, and this week he resurrected it in a rare meeting with congressional Democratic leaders, who emerged from the White House on Tuesday morning, smiling and apparently excited. The President, they explained, had decided to double the price tag of his proposal, from a trillion to two trillion dollars, because it sounded more impressive. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, to whom the President reportedly offered Tic Tacs at the meeting in a friendly gesture, praised his vision for a "big and bold" plan. The meeting, Senator Chuck Schumer added, had been a "very, very good start."

But it was all just a form of Washington performance art. There are no Republican votes for such an expensive package, as the Democrats well knew, and there is no way that the President's allies on Capitol Hill, nor his own penny-pinching White House chief of staff, would agree to such a budget-busting deal. Trump's "extreme and aspirational" idea, as Senator Kevin Cramer, of North Dakota, put it, had Republicans "rolling their eyes," Politico reported. The ranking member of the House committee that would have to approve any measure had offered a simple answer to the question of whether Trump's idea could ever be passed. "No," he said. It would not be Infrastructure Week, or even Infrastructure Day. The new era of bipartisan dealmaking was over before it began.

By late Tuesday, the news cycle had moved on. Trump's Attorney General, William Barr, was refusing to testify before the Democratic-controlled House Judiciary Committee and would not turn over the unredacted Mueller report or its underlying evidence. The Administration, in fact, was refusing to comply with more or less any congressional demands for information and testimony on an array of investigations of the President, from his business-related conflicts of interest to his family-separation policy at the border. Then came more news: Barr had a behind-the-scenes dispute with the special counsel about his characterization of the report. Robert Mueller, it turned out, had sent a letter to Barr (who later called the missive "snitty") weeks earlier, but it was only now being revealed. In the letter, Mueller suggested that Barr had minimized and deflected the serious questions about the President that Mueller's investigation had turned up. The next day, the whole mess was fought over in excruciating detail when Barr appeared before the Republican-controlled Senate Judiciary Committee to testify for the first time since the release of the Mueller report.

By Thursday, House Democrats were holding a hearing, with an empty chair where Barr would have been seated, had he shown up, and threatening to take the Attorney General to court. One of the Democrats had brought fried chicken, which some of his fellow-representatives ate during the hearing, to mock Barr--he's a chicken, get it? It was all a "stunt," a "circus," and a "travesty," Representative Doug Collins, the panel's top Republican, complained. But Representative Jerry Nadler, the Judiciary Committee's Democratic chairman, said that nothing less than the "integrity of this chamber," the Constitution, and the American system of "not having a President as a dictator" was at stake in Barr's refusal to comply with the Judiciary Committee's subpoena. "There is no way forward for this country that does not include a reckoning with this clear and present danger to our constitutional order," Nadler added. Soon after, Pelosi, at a press conference, told reporters that the Administration's refusal to coöperate with Congress on so many matters was itself obstruction. As for Barr, she said, he had lied under oath to Congress about his dealings with Mueller and "disgraced" his office. "We are in a very, very, very challenging place," she said. So much for Infrastructure Week. The constitutional crisis was back on.

The Trump Presidency has been a great wrecker of reputations. In his short time in politics, Trump has managed to shred the careers, professional integrity, and dignity of many of those who worked for him.

His Beltway and Commentariat backers come off even worse; they aren't being paid.  Better a hooker...

Posted by orrinj at 8:15 AM


Machiavelli: Still Shocking after 5 Centuries: His distinction between the public and private sphere of morality remains jarring. (Stewart Patrick, 11/20/14, National Interest)

Of all the writers in the "realist" canon--from Thucydides and Hobbes to Morgenthau and Mearsheimer--it is Niccolo Machiavelli who retains the greatest capacity to shock. In 1513, banished from his beloved Florence, Machiavelli drafted his masterwork, The Prince. Five centuries later his primer on statecraft remains required if unsettling reading for practitioners and students of politics. Machiavelli's originality--and the source of his enduring, if notorious, reputation--was his blatant rejection of traditional morality as a guide to political action, and his insistence that statecraft be based on a realistic view of corrupted human nature.

Although frequently damned as an amoral cynic--author of "a handbook for gangsters", in Bertrand Russell's words--Machiavelli in fact occupies a more complicated ethical terrain. His central claim is that politics has a moral logic of its own, at times requiring actions to preserve the state that might be regarded as reprehensible within polite society. There are times, in other words, when conventional ethics must be set aside for the pragmatic and expedient dictates of (what would later become known as) raison d'etat or "reasons of state".

Those who oppose democracy will always counsel caution in saving the republic and couch it in moral terms hoping to restore dictatorship.

Posted by orrinj at 8:02 AM


Democrats Are Stifling Their Liberal Wing's Biggest Ideas (Perry Bacon Jr., 4/30/19, 538)

Here's a short list of the progressive wing's defeats since Democrats took control of the House in January:

The Green New Deal. Of the 235 Democratic members in the House, 91 have signed on to Ocasio-Cortez's signature resolution that calls for aggressive action to combat climate change but also includes other liberal priorities such as guaranteeing jobs for all Americans who want them. There is no indication, however, that House Democratic leaders are trying to write a version that would unify the party and be approved in a vote.

"Medicare for all." Nearly half (107) of House Democrats support the single-payer health care bill written by Rep. Pramila Jayapal of Washington, a leader of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, a bloc of the most liberal figures on Capitol Hill. But there is virtually no chance that Pelosi (who has not embraced the legislation) will put it up for a vote in the full House any time soon.

Primary challenges. The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, the House Democrats' campaign arm, confirmed last month that it would not work with any campaign consultant or firm that helped Democratic candidates mount primary challenges against the party's incumbents. Remember that influential progressives like Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts and Ocasio-Cortez got to Congress by first defeating Democratic incumbents. The liberal wing protested the policy, but Democratic leaders have said that it will remain in place.

A resolution condemning Ilhan Omar. Veteran House Democrats pushed for a resolution condemning Rep. Omar of Minnesota in the wake of comments she made that some in the party felt were anti-Semitic.2 Pelosi brought the resolution up for a vote, although the version that the House adopted was a broad condemnation of bigotry that addressed Islamophobia and other kinds of hate, in addition to anti-Semitism. News coverage still reflected the fact that Democrats initially came up with the resolution as a way to chastise Omar.

In all, the newly elected progressive members have made a lot of news but less legislative impact -- a fact not lost on the members themselves.

Republicans have likewise quashed Donald's extreme Right agenda except for what he can do by fiat.  the consensus that obtains for 60%+ of Americans is Republican.