The walls are crumbling

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It’s in the Enquirer.  It must be true.

Trump lawyer Michael Cohen’s sentencing got most of the attention yesterday, but this information released by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York might be even more significant:

The Office also announced today that it has previously reached a non-prosecution agreement with AMI, in connection with AMI’s role in making the above-described $150,000 payment before the 2016 presidential election.  As a part of the agreement, AMI admitted that it made the $150,000 payment in concert with a candidate’s presidential campaign, and in order to ensure that the woman did not publicize damaging allegations about the candidate before the 2016 presidential election.  AMI further admitted that its principal purpose in making the payment was to suppress the woman’s story so as to prevent it from influencing the election.

Assuming AMI’s continued compliance with the agreement, the Office has agreed not to prosecute AMI for its role in that payment.  The agreement also acknowledges, among other things, AMI’s acceptance of responsibility, its substantial and important assistance in this investigation, and its agreement to provide cooperation in the future and implement specific improvements to its internal compliance to prevent future violations of the federal campaign finance laws.  These improvements include distributing written standards regarding federal election laws to its employees and conducting annual training concerning these standards.

Emphasis added.  AMI, parent company of the National Enquirer, is free to support whichever candidate it wants.  But paying off someone to suppress a damaging story, with the express intent of helping that candidate, looks like a serious campaign-finance violation.

Trump-skeptical conservative Allahpundit explains how this could be big trouble for the President:

…It’s legal to pay people off to benefit political candidates; it’s not legal to do it without reporting it to the FEC and it’s not legal to exceed the federal cap on contributions. The key question in analyzing whether the payment qualified as a campaign contribution was whether it was made for the purpose of influencing an election, rather than, say, for the purpose of sparing an adulterer’s family from embarrassment. The latter is what got John Edwards off the hook from this same sort of problem a few years ago. In the end, the feds couldn’t prove that his mistress was being hushed up to protect his presidential candidacy rather than to protect Mrs. Edwards from some personal pain.

Which brings us to today’s news. “AMI has not paid people to kill damaging stories about Mr. Trump,” said the company to the WSJ in a statement for its original story about this in November 2016. Two years later, AMI’s now saying something different. And suddenly the president’s in real trouble.

[…]

AMI just shredded Trump’s “Edwards defense.” The payment wasn’t made to spare Melania Trump or the Trump children from the embarrassment of learning about the affair. It was made to influence the election — that is, it was a campaign contribution. And it wasn’t reported. And it exceeded the statutory cap. And it was made in concert with the campaign. The DOJ has crept right up to the point of accusing the president of conspiring with AMI to make an illegal contribution. This is why I thought it was silly on Monday for Republican senators to be shrugging off last Friday’s court filings about Cohen on grounds that he’s a sleazeball and a liar whom no one should take seriously. He is a sleazeball and a liar, to be sure, but the feds never would have gone as far as to implicate Trump unless they had evidence beyond Cohen’s say-so. Today it’s implied that they do have more: They have AMI, not just Cohen, confirming that the law was intentionally broken and that “the campaign” knew about it. What does AMI know about Trump’s personal involvement in this?

Trump’s defense now (and maybe it’s the only defense left) will be that he didn’t know….

Good luck with that, considering that Cohen made a recording of him discussing this very issue with Trump in 2016:

Presidential candidate Donald Trump is heard on tape discussing with his attorney Michael Cohen how they would buy the rights to a Playboy model’s story about an alleged affair Trump had with her years earlier, according to the audio recording of the conversation aired exclusively on CNN’s “Cuomo Prime Time.”

The recording offers the public a glimpse at the confidential discussions between Trump and Cohen, and it confirms the man who now occupies the Oval Office had contemporaneous knowledge of a proposal to buy the rights to the story of Karen McDougal, a woman who has alleged she had an extramarital affair with Trump about a decade ago.

Cohen told Trump about his plans to set up a company and finance the purchase of the rights from American Media, which publishes the National Enquirer. The recording captures what appears to be a routine business conversation of several matters on their agenda. The audio is muddled and the meaning of Trump’s use of the word “cash” is disputed by the two sides.

“I need to open up a company for the transfer of all of that info regarding our friend David,” Cohen said in the recording, likely a reference to American Media head David Pecker.

When financing comes up again later in the conversation, Trump interrupts Cohen asking, “What financing?” according to the recording. When Cohen tells Trump, “We’ll have to pay,” Trump is heard saying “pay with cash” but the audio is muddled and it’s unclear whether he suggests paying with cash or not paying. Cohen says, “no, no” but it is not clear what is said next.

It’s been a long two years since Trump’s shocking election, but it really feels like something has changed in the past few weeks.  I’m calling it now: Trump will not be running for re-election in 2020.  Assuming he isn’t removed from office before his term runs out, I think he’ll deem himself the most successful President in history, declare victory and avoid a humiliating defeat by choosing not to run again.

(Because my predictions are always so accurate, you know.)

It’s Trump, but not just Trump

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That’s not a MAGA hat.

Has President Trump contributed toward the mainstreaming of antisemitism and bigotry?  Put it this way: a GOP candidate in Connecticut had no qualms about sending out a mailer showing his Jewish opponent grasping for money.

I don’t know if Trump is himself antisemitic – as his defenders point out, his daughter is a convert to Judaism – but he’s certainly indifferent to it among his supporters.  And as we saw in Pittsburgh this past weekend, it’s a short journey from antisemitic hatred to the mass murder of Jews.

But it’s called “the oldest hatred” for a reason.  As Philip Klein points out, antisemitism was prevalent long before Trump ran for President, and unfortunately it likely won’t go away even after he’s perp-walked out of the White House.

The reality is that anti-Semitism is an evil that has been with us for thousands of years and, despite the great blessings of freedom and religious liberty enjoyed by Jews here, it existed in America long before Trump entered the political scene. If we only talk about anti-Semitism within the limited context of Trump, we will fail to understand and combat it.

Since the FBI started keeping data in 1996 and through 2016 (the most recent year for which statistics were available and the year prior to Trump’s presidency), there were 19,023 anti-Jewish hate crimes recorded. That represented about two-thirds of all religious hate crimes in the U.S. — a shocking statistic considering that Jews only make up about 2 percent of the population. Those crimes occurred under both Democratic and Republican presidents.

It’s common for Jews to navigate armed guards, police, and metal detectors when going to worship at synagogues, drop their children off at Jewish daycare centers, or attend activities at local Jewish community centers.

The Pittsburgh shooting was the worst anti-Semitic attack in American history, but for many of us, something like it has felt inevitable for a long time. There were were shootings at a JCC in Los Angeles in 1999; at the Seattle Jewish Federation in 2006; at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in 2009; and the Overland Park, Kan., JCC in 2014. Bomb plots have also been thwarted. Those were fortunately less successful for various reasons, including heroic efforts of security and law enforcement personnel.

As somebody who has spent a long time raising alarms about anti-Semitism, it’s frustrating to see that people who have ignored the festering problem for so long only care about it when they can weaponize it against Trump.

Anti-Semitism comes in many shapes and is not confined to Right or Left, either in the U.S. or throughout the world. It thrives among those who are completely ignorant and among educated elites. In recent decades, it’s often been cloaked as opposition to Israel.

Even as the bodies of Jews murdered at prayer were being removed from the Tree of Life Synagogue, serial plagiarist C.J. Werleman was ensuring his Twitter followers that Hamas, whose Charter  cites The Protocols of the Elders of Zion to justify a war against the Jews, isn’t really antisemitic because something something Israel:

It is remarkable, how antisemitism ceases to be antisemitism when you substitute the word “Zionist” for “Jew.”  And also how people who insist Israel doesn’t really represent the Jews are quick to bring up Israel whenever Jews anywhere else in the world are attacked.

Meanwhile, here in Halifax, James Petras is still listed as a faculty member at St. Mary’s University.

Chipping at ICE

As horror stories from America’s southern border continue to proliferate (an example: some young children who have been reunited with their mothers no longer recognize them) calls to abolish the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency (ICE) have gotten louder.

Libertarian Lucy Steigerwald, in The Week, makes the strongest #AbolishICE case I’ve read:

…It is an expensive, abusive, and unnecessary agency. We should get rid of it.

ICE has only existed for 15 years, during which time America’s spending on immigration enforcement, tracking, and surveillance has swelled like a tumor. The U.S. spent $187 billion on immigration enforcement between 1990 and 2013, according to the Migration Policy Institute. Deportations increased more than tenfold between 1990 and 2011. And ICE spends $2 billion every year to hold immigrants in private detention centers known for human rights abusesOne report found that, over seven years, ICE workers were accused of roughly 600 instances of sexual and physical abuse in detention centers. This is made worse when you realize that private contractors have been benefiting from the detention centers.

We now have a tangled monster of a system that incentivizes indefinitely holding people who have committed a civil infraction by crossing the border. We are spending a lot of money to punish families for nonviolent offenses — for doing a perfectly rational thing like trying to find more work, or trying to get their children out of violent, cartel, civil war-ridden countries.

Why do we even need ICE? The agency’s main job is to find and apprehend illegal immigrants who are already in the country. In theory, this is different from Border Patrol, which is meant to patrol, well, the border, but technically can operate anywhere within 100 miles of the border. As the American Civil Liberties Union has frequently pointed out, two-thirds of Americans live within 100 miles of the border, which means two-thirds of Americans are already under the jurisdiction of both ICE andBorder Patrol. This essentially makes ICE, and its $3.8 billion annual budget, redundant. I can’t think of anything ICE does that brings added value to the country, but I can point to numerous instances of the agency unnecessarily harassing Americans.

[…]

People often claim the left loves big government. But right now, those lefties are saying the government should be a little bit smaller, and a bit less cruel. We should listen.

The problem is, many Americans read “Abolish ICE” and see “abolish borders.”  That’s the argument pushed by immigration restrictionist Mark Kirkorian and echoed by many Republicans, who are already trying to capitalize on it for the November midterm elections.

The point of abolishing ICE is to end all non-criminal deportations of illegal aliens. That would mean that every foreigner who manages to slip past the Border Patrol or who overstays a visa would be permitted to stay forever, so long as he isn’t convicted of an especially heinous crime.

That would render our entire body of immigration law meaningless. The numerical caps on various categories and the requirements to qualify would be irrelevant because there would be no agency to enforce them. #AbolishICE means nothing if not unlimited immigration and open borders.

Unlimited immigration is a defensible, if misguided, goal. But its proponents are not arguing for it honestly, explaining to voters why they should open America’s borders to the world’s poor. Instead, they’re trying to fool voters by hiding behind a hashtag.

ICE, like all tools now being wielded by this venal and incompetent administration, is doing tremendous damage, and if the midterm elections are a referendum on Trump, Democrats will win big.  But if the midterms are a referendum on whether the border should be enforced at all, they will lose.

“A really futile and stupid gesture”

It’s Bret Stephens, whose very presence in the New York Times is an affront to Democrats, so they won’t listen to him.  But he argues that rabidly opposing the Supreme Court nomination of Bret Stephens is likely doomed to fail and will probably hurt some Democratic Senators’ re-election chances:

Kavanaugh will almost certainly be confirmed. Democrats who had pinned their hopes on flipping Senators Susan Collins and Lisa Murkowski probably aren’t going to get their wish, since both Republican moderates voted to confirm Kavanaugh to his current judgeship in 2006 and have since spoken approvingly of his nomination. Rand Paul can also be counted on to feign political independence, but he usually falls into line.

Of course it’s possible Kavanaugh will make a bad public impression, like Robert Bork. Or maybe there will be a #MeToo revelation, like with Clarence Thomas. Or maybe Democrats will figure out a way to kick a vote past the midterms. In which case, Democrats can seize their chances. For now, however, the first question Democrats ought to ask themselves is whether they really have political capital to waste on a losing battle.

[…]

A plurality of Americans already want Kavanaugh confirmed, according to a Rasmussen poll. The numbers will likely improve once Americans get a closer look at this temperate, intelligent, decidedly non-scary nominee. And Democrats will again play to type as mindless obstructionists and one-note alarmists — the same overheated opposition that, as the Times’s Jeremy Peters reported last month, only hardens support for Trump.

Stephens also argues that Kavanaugh – like Roberts and Gorsuch, and Ginsburg and Breyer – is undeniably qualified for the job.  Really, aside from Harriet Miers, I can’t remember a SCOTUS nominee who wasn’t qualified.  (Mind you, some Trump nominees for lower federal courts almost make Jim “The Hammer” Shapiro look good.)

Incidentially, the late arch-conservative Antonin Scalia was confirmed 98-0 for his Supreme Court seat by the U.S. Senate, and only three Senators voted against confirming The Notorious RBG.   Imagine that happening with anyone in 2018 America.

After Kennedy

Because of the two defining features of modern American politics – Republican ruthlessness and Democratic strategic blunders – President Trump will almost certainly get to choose a more conservative replacement for retiring Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy.

There is one way the Democrats’ minority in the Senate would prevent a new Justice from being confirmed before the midterm elections, by taking the risky and unprecedented step of simply refusing to show up for work:

Currently, Democrats control 49 Senate seats — two short of the simple majority they would need to filibuster a Trump nominee. So how could they “technically” block the president’s pick? And even with all the outrage on the left, why are they still unlikely to do it?

Earlier this month, University of Miami political scientist Gregory Koger, a specialist in filibustering and legislative obstructionism, explained on Vox.com that, according to Article 1, Section 5 of the U.S. Constitution, “a majority … shall constitute a quorum to do business” in the Senate — meaning that Democrats can basically shut the place down by refusing to vote on anything.

With only the barest 51-vote majority — and one of their own, Arizona Sen. John McCain, on extended leave in Arizona as he grapples with what is likely to be terminal brain cancer — Republicans would have difficultly mustering a quorum without at least some Democratic help. “In the month of June, there have been an average of 1.8 Republican absences across 18 roll call votes,” Koger wrote, “so even if McCain returned to the Senate, the majority would struggle to consistently provide a floor majority.” If McCain doesn’t return, and all 49 Democrats refuse to participate, the 50 Republican senators left in Washington would fall one short of a quorum. (The Senate precedents on quorums do not mention whether Vice President Mike Pence could contribute a 51st vote.)

In that case, “the Senate can do nothing,” Koger concluded. “No bill can pass, no amendment can be decided on, no nominations can get approved.” The Senate would screech to a halt for lack of a quorum — and Democrats could conceivably delay a confirmation vote until a new Senate, perhaps with a narrow Democratic majority, is seated next January.

[…]

The fact that Democrats can shut down the Senate, however, doesn’t mean they will. “This would be a confrontational tactic,” Koger explained. “Confrontational” is probably too gentle a word for it. Obstructing a president’s Supreme Court pick by completely shutting down the Senate would require political winds that were blowing strongly in Senate Democrats’ favor. It’s not clear they are.

For one thing, 10 Democratic senators are running for reelection in states that Trump won in 2016, and Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota, Joe Manchin of West Virginia, and Joe Donnelly of Indiana all voted to confirm Gorsuch. Would every one of these at-risk senators be willing to imperil their reelection chances by striking over Trump’s next nominee? Democrats can’t afford a single defection.

Politico has a short list from whom Kennedy’s likely replacement will be appointed – most of whom certainly appear qualified, though we all know this has much more to do with partisan politics than it does with legal qualifications.

One further point for despairing liberals, from conservative Marc Thiessen: it is by no means guaranteed that a Republican appointee will be as doctrinaire as they think.

…Trump will have to break the mold of his Republican predecessors. Over the past three decades, presidents from his party have picked seven justices, and several have turned out to be disappointments to conservatives. President Ronald Reagan picked three justices (Sandra Day O’Connor, Scalia and Kennedy), but only one, Scalia, was a consistent conservative. President George H.W. Bush picked one solid conservative (Clarence Thomas) and one (David Souter) who was not. George W. Bush did better, appointing two conservatives, Samuel A. Alito Jr. and John G. Roberts Jr. But even Roberts disappointed conservatives when he cast the deciding vote to uphold the Affordable Care Act in a stroke of judicial activism. If Trump picks not one, but two reliable conservative justices, he will secure the best record of Supreme Court appointments by any modern Republican president.

The new guy, like Gorsuch, likely will not be a Souter.  But I wouldn’t be surprised if Roberts provides Republicans with some unpleasant surprises in the coming years.

Trump chose border chaos

True to form, the President insists that it wasn’t his idea to separate parents from their young children trying to cross the US-Mexico border.  His little hands are tied by a law put in place by his Democratic predecessor, so he has no choice.

Even here in Canada, Trump has apologists who raise this point in the comment section of almost every Facebook post about it.  Ilya Somin of the Volokh Conspiracy – hardly a Democrat-friendly blog – says it’s nonsense:

…There is no law requiring family separation at the border. And even if there was, that still would not be enough to justify the administration’s cruel policy.

The federal law criminalizing “improper entry” by aliens does not require family separation. The law also provides for the use of civil penalties, as well as criminal ones. While it states that the application of civil penalties does not preclude application of criminal ones, it also does not compel federal prosecutors to pursue both. Until the administration’s recent policy change, civil proceedings were in fact the usual approach in case of families with minor children, under both Democratic and Republican administrations. The use of civil proceedings generally does not require pretrial detention, and therefore obviates the need to detain either parents or children; some civil defendants were detained, nonetheless, but in facilities where families can stay together. The Trump administration, by contrast, has sometimes even forcibly separated children from migrants who have not violated any law, but instead have legally crossed the border to petition for asylum in the United States.

The Trump administration claims that their policy is required by the 1997 Flores court settlement. But that settlement in no way mandates family separation and detention of children away from their parents. To the contrary, it instructs federal officials to “place each detained minor in the least restrictive setting appropriate” and to release them to the custody of family or guardians “without unnecessary delay.” The settlement also mandates that federal immigration officials must “treat all minors in its custody with dignity, respect and special concern for their particular vulnerability as minors.” Detaining children under harsh conditions, separated from their parents, is pretty obviously not “the least restrictive setting” possible, and it most definitely doesn’t qualify as treating children with “dignity, respect and special concern for their particular vulnerability.”

Even if the law did clearly direct criminal prosecution combined with automatic family separation in pretrial detention, it does not follow that the administration had a legal duty to adopt a “zero tolerance” policy that prioritizes prosecution of this particular type of offense. In a world where the vast majority of adult Americans have violated federal criminal law at some point in their lives, and there are so many laws and offenders that prosecutors can only target a small fraction of them, federal officials inevitably have vast discretion in determining which offenses to pursue and to what degree. First-time illegal entry into the United States is a mere misdemeanor carrying a penalty (up to 6 months imprisonment or a small fine) lower than the penalty for possession of small amounts of marijuana (1 year). The relative penalties suggest that federal law considers the latter a more serious offense than the former. Yet not even hard-core drug warriors like Sessions urge the federal government to adopt a “zero tolerance” policy under which we routinely prosecute all small-time marijuana users. In practice, the feds only target a tiny fraction of them. And when they do, they don’t separate their children from them, and detain the children under harsh conditions.

Trump and Sessions are not obligated to do this.  It is a choice.  And while most Americans are appalled by what is being done in their name, his base remains on board:

American voters oppose by 66 percent to 27 percent Team Trump’s policy of separating children and parents when families illegally cross the border into the US, a Quinnipiac University poll released Monday said.

But Republicans overwhelmingly support the policy by 55 percent to 35 percent, the only group to back it.

Why Kim K. went to the White House

Never change, New York Post:

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It’s the kind of story that could only exist in the crazy year of 2018, but Kardashian’s visit was actually in the service of a noble cause:

The mother-of-three requested the White House meeting after hearing about the plight of Alice Marie Johnson on social media late last year.

“This is so unfair,” Kardashian tweeted in October 2017, along with a link to an interview Johnson, 63, did on Mic.com.

Sources told The Post that Kardashian argued that Johnson — a Memphis great-grandmother convicted of a drug conspiracy — had paid her debt to society after 21 years behind bars and deserves clemency.

The meeting went “well,” sources said, and now the decision is in Trump’s hands.

After the meeting, Kardashian headed to Ivanka and Jared’s DC home for a private dinner.

It was to be a continuation of the White House meeting, since Kushner is a passionate advocate for criminal justice reform after living through his father’s imprisonment.

Usually, liberals say they’re concerned about the United States having the highest incarceration rate in the world, but on Twitter their top priority is laughing at and mocking a much-maligned, vapid celebrity.  And also Kim Kardashian.

Actually, not just on Twitter.  Also CNN:

…one particular CNN reporter didn’t take this prison reform summit seriously.

During a panel discussion on both Trump and the White House’s reaction to the Roseanne Barr controversy, Acosta slammed the “lack of seriousness” coming from the president.

“Forget about the fact that Kim Kardashian is here at the White House today and what planet that is anything resembling normal because it’s not. She shouldn’t be here talking about prison reform. It’s very nice that she is here but that’s not a serious thing to have happen here at the White House.”

[…]

Besides the fact that Acosta never took issue with the countless celebrities that had visited the White House under President Obamaincluding Beyoncé and Jay ZGeorge ClooneyOprah WinfreyLin-Manuel MirandaBradley CooperRihanna, and Zach Galifianakis, Acosta seems to have forgotten about his own 2015 interview with singer John Legend.

Acosta sat down with the Grammy-winning artist and discussed his music, Black Lives Matter, and yes, prison reform, something Legend at the time was planning on meeting with Obama about. And Acosta was genuinely engaged with Legend during the interview and took him seriously not only as an entertainer but as a political thinker.

The same can’t be said about his treatment of Kim Kardashian.

So why the drastic attitude change?

If your argument is that Legend is some intellect singer-songwriter and Kardashian is some air-headed reality star, that misses the point. Look at what they have in common; they’re A-list celebrities with huge followings who have sincere passions that involve politics and in this case, both are using their celebrity status on prison reform. And despite her husband’s recent outspoken support for Trump, Kardashian and Legend backed Hillary Clinton during the 2016 election. Which begs the question why Acosta would take one seriously and not the other.

You know my feelings about Trump.  But if he can be President, why can’t Kim Kardashian help nudge the United States toward criminal justice reform?  It wouldn’t be crazier than everything else that’s happened these past few years.

The conservative case against capital punishment

As the President talks about expanding capital punishment to drug dealers, and Oklahoma resorts to increasingly desperate measures to carry out the ultimate punishment, Sarah Quinlan of RedState.com makes the unimpeachable case that anyone who supports limiting the power of the state should oppose giving the state the power to take a life:

On March 14, the Daily Beast published the story of Carlton Michael Gary, who in 1986 was sentenced to die for rape and murder (and who investigators say was linked to a 1975 New York murder, though no charges were ever filed). Police claim they discovered his fingerprints at three (of seven) victims’ homes, and the sole survivor identified him. However, DNA tests determined semen at the survivor’s home does not belong to Gary; the survivor mistakenly identified another man first; and footprints did not match Gary’s shoe size. Yet Gary was executed on March 15.

Last year, Arkansas executed Ledel Lee, a man with significant intellectual deficits, despite discrepancies between the crime scene and the eye witness’ version of accounts, and forensic evidence did not match Lee.

In 2004, Texas executed Cameron Todd Willingham after he was convicted and sentenced for allegedly setting a fire that killed his three daughters. The New Yorker covered his story in 2009, and it is still well worth the time to read it today: Even during his life, there was controversy regarding the arson investigation and evidence used to convict him, and subsequent reports after his execution have since found even more inconsistencies and problems. Willingham maintained his innocence until his death.

One innocent person wrongfully executed is one too many. One person taken off of death row after being exonerated demonstrates the government cannot be trusted with this power. How can the same people who rightfully view the state with suspicion now put faith and trust in the government to get this right every single time, when the stakes are so high? The cost of being wrong is truly unbearable.

Smoot-Hawley-Trump

A history lesson, courtesy of The Economist:

…few economists think the Smoot-Hawley tariff (as it is most often known) was one of the principal causes of the Depression. Worse mistakes were made, largely out of a misplaced faith in the gold standard and balanced budgets. America’s tariffs were already high, and some other countries were already increasing their own.

Nevertheless, the act added poison to the emptying well of global trade (see chart). The worldwide protection of the 1930s took decades to dismantle. And bad monetary and fiscal policies were at least based on the economic orthodoxy of the day: economists would tear each other apart over the heresies of John Maynard Keynes. On protection, there was no such division. More than a thousand economists petitioned Hoover not to sign the Smoot-Hawley bill. Bankers like [J.P. Morgan partner Thomas Lamont, who begged President Hoover to veto the bill] sided with them; so did editorialists by the score.

[…]

Smoot-Hawley did most harm by souring trade relations with other countries. The League of Nations, of which America was not a member, had talked of a “tariff truce”; the Tariff Act helped to undermine that idea. By September 1929 the Hoover administration had already noted protests from 23 trading partners at the prospect of higher tariffs. But the threat of retaliation was ignored: America’s tariffs were America’s business. The Congressional Record, notes Mr Irwin, contains 20 pages of debate on the duty on tomatoes but very little on the reaction from abroad.

A study by Judith McDonald, Anthony Patrick O’Brien and Colleen Callahan* examines the response of Canada, America’s biggest trading partner. When Hoover was elected president, the Canadian prime minister, Mackenzie King, wrote in his diary that his victory would lead to “border warfare”. King, who had cut tariffs in the early 1920s, warned the Americans that retaliation might follow. In May 1930, with higher American tariffs all but certain, he imposed extra duties on some American goods—and cut tariffs on imports from the rest of the British empire.

He promptly called a general election, believing he had done enough to satisfy Canadians’ resentment. America, wrote the New York Times, was “consciously giving Canada inducements to turn to England for the goods which she has been buying from the United States.” Canadians agreed. King’s Liberals were crushed by the Conservatives, who favoured and enacted even higher tariffs.

All this, of course, is history. There are plenty of reasons to think that the terrible lesson of the 1930s will not have to be learnt again. …

That article was published in 2008.  Welcome to 2016.

Screenshot from 2018-03-01 14-54-50

POTUS allegedly was advised by his protectionist advisors to impose steel tariffs of 24 percent but chose 25 because he likes round numbers.

 

Proving Trump right

When he’s not boasting about how he’d totally run into a mass shooting situation unarmed and generally being a national embarrassment, the President occasionally stumbles into making a good point.

After Charlottesville, Trump took to twitter (of course) to defend statues of Confederate generals, and wondered if activists will move on to demanding the removal of monuments to people who didn’t take up arms against their country:

…in a burst of tweets on Thursday he renewed his criticism of efforts to remove memorials and tributes to the Civil War Confederacy.

“Robert E. Lee. Stonewall Jackson – who’s next, Washington, Jefferson? So foolish,” Mr Trump tweeted.

“Challenge accepted,” declared some activists in California:

After two days, reaction to Wednesday’s Arcata City Council decision to remove the statue of President William McKinley from the Arcata Plaza features both celebration and dissent. The council had the choice to authorize the statue’s removal or to let Arcata voters make the call. At the urging of Councilmember Paul Pitino and dozens of speakers that night, the council gave McKinley his marching papers.

Statue opponents have since taken rhetorical victory laps on social media, while statue supporters are claiming that pro-statue opinion wasn’t given a chance to be heard, and that this resulted in the council making a decision that had widely been expected to be put before the voting public.

The Arcata City Council voted 4–1 to delete McKinley, along with the plaque designating the Jacoby Building as a historic landmark, after lengthy public testimony condemning the statue as a symbol of racism, repression, genocide, imperialism and of being an ongoing, government-sponsored insult to indigenous people. Speakers offered a mix of history, humor and caustic criticism in support of statue removal.

City Councilmember Michael Winkler, the sole elected official to support a ballot measure instead of a council decision on the matter, claims Mayor Sofia Pereira allowed a “disruptive, intolerant” mob to dominate the public process (see below). Winkler further likens the anti-McKinley forces’ comportment to that of the Tea Party and President Donald Trump.

[…]

…McKinley served in the Union Army during the Civil War, gaining a field promotion for battling the Confederacy. He later became America’s 25th commander in chief.

Sterling attended Wednesday’s meeting, and shared the view that the council’s decision was taken without benefit of democratic process. He objected to the sole pro-statue speaker, citizen Owen Moore, being repeatedly interrupted and jeered into silence by the crowd.

Sterling said one of the anti-statue activists made a “racist” remark about Moore, objectifying him as a “white guy.” When Sterling objected, the activist tried to physically fight him in Council Chamber. At that, Sterling decided not to speak. Other McKinley statue supporters in attendance apparently made the same decision, leaving without incurring the wrath of the crowd by offering an unpopular view.

If you think the United States’ very existence is an unredeemable sin, I guess it stands to reason that you’d draw no distinction between someone who fought to break up the country and someone who fought to preserve it.

Here in Halifax, while I’m sympathetic to calls for the Cornwallis statue’s removal (I support moving it to the Citadel), I am under no illusions about it ending with him.  My money’s on the next target being the Churchill statue in front of the old library.