Friday, August 13, 2021

Last Call For Return To Sender, Con't

OK, can we get rid of corrupt Postmaster General Louis DeJoy now please?

Postmaster General Louis DeJoy purchased up to $305,000 in bonds from an investment firm whose managing partner also chairs the U.S. Postal Service’s governing board, the independent body responsible for evaluating DeJoy’s performance.

Between October and April, DeJoy purchased 11 bonds from Brookfield Asset Management each worth between $1,000 and $15,000, or $15,000 and $50,000, according to DeJoy’s financial disclosure paperwork. Ron Bloom, a Brookfield senior executive who manages the firm’s private equity division, has served on the postal board since 2019 and was elected its chairman in February.

DeJoy’s financial adviser purchased the bonds on the open market, Postal Service spokesman Jeffrey Adams said, and Bloom manages a division of Brookfield separate from the one that sells public securities.

Two ethics experts interviewed about the transaction disagreed over whether the bond purchases could cause conflict-of-interest issues in the agency’s top ranks. One argued that the transactions raise questions about oversight and governance at the nation’s mail service, which has taken on newfound prominence during the coronavirus pandemic and after the November election, in which nearly half of all voters cast their ballots through the mail. The other said financial connections between government officials could give off the appearance of conflicts without necessarily causing ethics problems.

Other elements of DeJoy’s financial ties have drawn close examination from ethics watchdogs. DeJoy-controlled companies lease four office buildings to global shipping behemoth XPO Logistics, DeJoy’s former company. XPO pays DeJoy more than $2 million annually in rent, The Washington Post previously reported. Brookfield also owns more than $500,000 in shares of XPO, according to its securities filings.

“I’m stuck on DeJoy’s purchase of bonds from the company in which his quasi-boss is a managing partner,” said Kathleen Clark, a law professor who studies government ethics at Washington University in St. Louis, “because I wonder whether it affects Bloom’s ability to protect the public interest in his assessment of DeJoy’s performance as postmaster general.”

DeJoy’s personal spokesperson, Mark Corallo, referred questions to Adams of the Postal Service. He told The Post that DeJoy’s Brookfield bond purchases adhere to ethics regulations because the Postal Service does not do business with the firm.

Bloom in a statement released through Adams said his private equity division of the company sits “on the other side of an information wall” from other parts of the company that make investments, and that he had no knowledge of DeJoy’s purchases.

Brookfield’s private equity practice acquires and finances private corporations, among them a nuclear power infrastructure firm, Brazil’s largest private water company and an automotive battery manufacturer, according to its website. Brookfield has separate practices for public securities — which invest in publicly traded assets — real estate, infrastructure, renewable power and insurance solutions.

“I receive no benefit whatsoever when Brookfield bonds are bought or sold,” Bloom said in an email to The Post on Wednesday. “Brookfield has no business relationship with the USPS, therefore there is no basis for a conflict.”


This would be one thing if it was an isolated incident, but the guy has multiple ethics problems and conflicts of interest. It's far past time to pull the plug.

Let him go, Joe.

The Good Package, Con't

Blue Dog Dems in the House are about to destroy both the $1 trillion infrastructure bipartisan package and the $3.5 infrastructure reconciliation package, and unless Nancy Pelosi can get them in line fast, the Biden presidency is over.

Moderate House Democrats say they would sink a crucial fiscal blueprint outlining $3.5 trillion in social and environment spending unless a separate infrastructure bill is approved first, a new complication for the divided party’s drive to enact President Joe Biden’s domestic agenda.

The centrists’ threat directly defies House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s announced plans, and she is showing no signs of backing down. It also completes a two-sided squeeze on the California Democrat, who has received similar pressure from her party’s progressives.

Democrats can only pass legislation in the narrowly divided House if they lose no more than three votes. Solid Republican opposition seems certain.

“We will not consider voting for a budget resolution until the bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act passes the House and is signed into law,” nine centrists wrote in a letter to Pelosi obtained Friday by The Associated Press.

Congressional passage of the budget resolution seems certain because without it, Senate Republicans would be able to use a filibuster, or procedural delays, to kill a follow-up $3.5 trillion measure bolstering social safety net and climate change programs. That measure, not expected until autumn, represents the heart of Biden’s domestic agenda.

Pelosi has repeatedly said the House will not vote on the $1 trillion package of road, rail, water and other infrastructure projects until the Senate sends the House the companion $3.5 trillion bill.

Pelosi has set that sequence because her party’s progressives have worried that if the infrastructure bill is approved first, moderates unhappy with the separate $3.5 trillion measure’s cost would feel free to vote against it, causing its defeat.

A senior House Democratic aide said the party doesn’t have enough votes to pass the infrastructure bill this month. The aide contrasted the nine moderates to the dozens of progressive Democrats who would vote against that measure unless it comes after the House gets the Senate’s $3.5 trillion social and environmental bill.

The aide was not authorized to publicly discuss the party’s internal dynamics and spoke on condition of anonymity.

“I am not freelancing. This is the consensus,” Pelosi told Democrats of her plans in a conference call this week, according to a person familiar with the private call who described it on condition of anonymity. The speaker added: ”“The votes in the House and Senate depend on us having both bills.”

Leaders of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, which includes nearly 100 House Democrats, say many of their members have indicated they would vote against the infrastructure bill until the expansive $3.5 trillion legislation has cleared the Senate.
So right now, Pelosi lacks the votes to pass either bill. If Democrats wreck this, I don't see how we keep either chamber of Congress in 2022.  This is a disaster brewing, and Nancy Pelosi now has to solve it somehow.

Or we're all toast, and we get nothing.

Now, Pelosi has been in worse situations, and shepherded the Affordable Care Act through, and a hell of a lot more. But we're going to need that magic one more time, it seems. I know she's capable of it, and I'm expecting a deal soon.

We'll see.

Af-Gone-istan, Con't

As Spencer Ackerman notes, the Taliban is sweeping through Afghanistan now and will almost certainly have taken Kabul by the time our 20th anniversary observance of 9/11 rolls around next month. The Afghanistan debacle is a disaster twenty years in the making, a war we lost in slow motion more than 7,000 days ago, spanning four presidents and most of my adult lifetime, and we did this to ourselves. 
But it is the people of Afghanistan left behind to fall into the abyss of Taliban rule that will pay the ultimate price for our hubris as a nation.

THE U.S.’ TROOP WITHDRAWAL FROM AFGHANISTAN is almost at hand, as is the Taliban’s reconquest.

The Taliban have made eye-opening advances in the country’s northern provinces, which they were never able to subdue before the U.S. invasion. They began the week by overrunning or capturing six capitals in five days. They ended it by taking Herat, Lashkar Gar, and the crucial southern city of Kandahar. Zalmay Khalilzad, the longtime U.S. envoy, flew at the start of the week to Doha, Qatar, where the Taliban maintain a diplomatic office, to see if anything remains of the peace process – and, reportedly, whether the insurgents would be kind enough not to sack the U.S. embassy and cause a combination Saigon/Benghazi moment. “He will press the Taliban to stop their military offensive and to negotiate a political settlement,” the U.S. State Department said in their Monday announcement, “which is the only path to stability and development in Afghanistan.” In essence, Khalilzad is asking the Taliban not to win the war.

Nothing is inevitable. But it’s important to be clear about what an outright Taliban victory will mean: revenge killings, refugees and repression, including gendered repression. I’ve spent no serious time in Afghanistan – two months total out of 20 years, and never did I see the country beyond its Kabul, Khost, Paktia and Parwan provinces – so I don’t want to front like I have an emotional connection to it. That said, I met people in Afghanistan, people who treated me warmly when they didn’t have to, and I’m thinking of them with some dread.

When the U.S. withdraws from a war, the ensuing suffering of innocent people becomes, to the “national security” community, an argument for re-escalation. Think of the Yazidis stranded atop Mount Sinjar and the role that story played in returning the U.S. to war in Iraq. (And buy Samuel Moyn’s forthcoming book Humane for an excellent critical exploration of such issues.) We tend to conceive of this kind of suffering not as the result of the war, but as an alternative to it. That has a certain intuitiveness: you cease fighting in a place and disaster emerges there.

But it’s a mistake to think of the disaster as a departure from the war. Remember that the Taliban offered terms in December 2001. Donald Rumsfeld rejected them. Everything that followed made the Taliban stronger. The idea that continuing the war for a twenty-first year will make the Taliban weaker could only occur to an American Exceptionalism junkie in withdrawal. It’s easier to wish-cast about glorious wars that might have been than to cope with the fact that America’s works were an avoidable disaster that built nothing enduring except human suffering. It is far easier to consider the bloodletting that follows the U.S. presence to be merely the result of its absence. But to take that position is to wash the blood from American hands that waged the war, all the while claiming that the retreat is the contemptible hand-washing.

One of the consequences of waging Forever Wars is that they obscure what it means to lose a war. This is what it means: the Enemy wins. The Enemy’s victory will likely be terrible. Among the reasons it is so terrible is that the United States of America is an accessory to it.

Look at who the United States tries to save and who it doesn’t. The Biden administration is engaged in a valiant effort – one that did not happen during the brief interregnum between Iraq Wars – to resettle Afghans who worked for the U.S. military. It is a baseline obligation and a matter of honor.

It is also a moral floor that functions as a moral ceiling: The U.S. will save only those who lent it a service. It is not throwing open the doors to refugees who didn’t work for the United States. Those refugees are bound for, among other places, Iran, whose government, according to the United Nations refugee agency, “has consistently welcomed Afghans fleeing protracted conflict and violence for over 40 years.” The United States, which has fueled that protracted violence and conflict for over 40 years – first through the CIA-Saudi-Pakistani anti-Soviet coalition; then for the past 20 years’ war – cannot say the same.
What is coming is slaughter, butchery, and horror that has been two decades in the making. In every way we made this situation worse, and we've been making it worse really through seven presidents and four decades, and nearly my entire lifetime since 1979.
The butcher's bill we're going to see over the weeks and months ahead will be the fault of the Taliban, yes. But they will have 335 million American accessories.
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