Revolted Colonies

U.S. Politics and Culture

Month: July 2018

We’ve Got a Rising Tide, But It’s Not Lifting All Boats

Friday’s business news: The U.S. gross domestic product (GDP) topped 4% in the second quarter of 2018. Together with stout investment markets, robust consumer spending and low unemployment, most of the economy is humming along. After eighteen months of the Trump administration, the future ex-president has proclaimed our economy to be “the envy of the entire world.”

Indeed, there is a segment of the economy, the property class, that is doing well. It is euphoric over the quarterly report. CEO pay has skyrocketed. The sun may be shining on the hill but the valley is still under cloud cover. Wages rose 2.6% last year, a major gain. Real wages only grew .2% for a comparable period. Even gross wages have been stagnant this year, and unemployment ticked up in June. The numbers get worse when broken down demographically; no surprises there.Another story explained that in France and Germany, the land of our future ex-allies, finally wages have begun to rise. They’ve risen slowly, considering that those countries have been at full employment for a while. Full employment usually results in higher wages, but that’s not how it’s been working out in Western Europe, at least not as rapidly as it has done historically.

European economists ask why wages have not moved up along with growth and employment, a question we Yanks need to think about, too. The European Union dispatched a team of prominent economists to tackle the question. The European economists didn’t agree because first, they’re European and second, they’re economists.

In Europe and America, collective bargaining has lost much of its starch. Unionism is out of political favor, due only in part to corrupt union leadership. Employees without organization cannot match their boss’ negotiating power. Last month, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that a non-union public employee can’t be required to pay union dues. The upshot is that public employment unions will have less money to work with on business matters. As a result, public employment unions will become a lot quieter and not just on political issues. The ruling affects the union’s bargaining power.
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The European economists also considered freelancers who’ve gone off to work for the,m (Uber and AirBnB). In the US, freelancers have become a distinct segment of the economy and should create upward pressure on pay. Freelancing has grown rapidly in Europe. Still, wage hikes remain slack.

Another theory is that increasing inequality between management and labor suppresses wage hikes. If workers are needed, that demand should push wages up. However, the concentration of wealth continues to increase at Mr. Moneybags’ end of the pond, while real wages are stuck in shallower water. Yes, we have a record flood-tide but only particular boats are rising with it. Inequality may not be the cause; clearly it is an effect. It may be both.

The story is the same all over the developed world. Ownership is not multinational; it’s global: hoarders without borders. At some point workers will stop spending money they don’t have and will run out of plastic power. They will buy fewer homes, see doctors and dentists less often, eat at home more, and hold off buying the new car. The consumer economy will contract, kickstarting a new cycle of boom and bust. It doesn’t have to be that way. As long as the workers are fat and happy, the boss will continue to be fat and happy, but slightly less so.

Disgrace Under Pressure

We had another scintillating week in the American Swamp. Here’s how it unfolded.

Monday – Packing

Future Ex-President Trump (FEPOTUS) announced that DC Circuit Judge Brett Kavanaugh was his nominee to the Supreme Court seat, abandoned by Anthony Kennedy. In his remarks, Kavanaugh emphasized the sacrosanct relationship with his daughters. He also mentioned that more than half of his court clerks have been female. When he later limits women’s reproductive rights, he can say that he is doing it out of love.

In advance of the NATO summit, Ambassador to NATO, Kay Bailey Hutchinson went on record in support of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, in contrast to FEPOTUS’s characterization of NATO as obsolete.  FEPOTUS is expected to shove the NATO members out of the way, perhaps not physically as he had done to Prime Minister of Montenegro last year.

Before leaving on his flight, FEPOTUS had a conversation with his nemesis, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein. More about that later.

Tuesday – Unpacking

The nomination carnival began, with Brett Kavanaugh glad-handing his way around the Senate precincts. Majority Leader McConnell commended him after last week warning that Kavanaugh would have a rough confirmation process, owing to unresolved issues from his confirmation to the Circuit Court. McConnell did it to cover his ass if the nomination founders, which it might. Kavanaugh went on record in favor of nearly absolute presidential power, including the right to dismiss a special prosecutor without cause.   At the moment, a statement like that is not hypothetical.

Elsewhere: the executive branch failed to meet its deadline to reunite children with their migrant parents. No excuse offered, no explanation given.

FEPOTUS, unaffected, was winging his way to Brussels for the NATO summit. FEFLOTUS Melania Trump spent most of the flight writing and rewriting the back of her wardrobe. Trump chose to wear his persecution complex on board. He previewed his villainization of the allies for not paying their fair share of defense costs (untrue). It is widely understood that the most immediate threats to the West arrive via computer. Yet, he made no remarks of prior or future Russian cyber-bellicosity. Oh right, he is going to visit Professor Putin after he schools NATO. He and Vladimir will meet behind closed doors and without a record being made.

For good measure, he pardoned Dwight and Steven Hammond, ranchers convicted of arson, whose anti-government actions sparked the Western militia pile-up and seizure of federal lands.  Trump continues tearing down the rule of law.

I have a good mind to jaywalk.

Wednesday – Keep Your Enemies Closer

FEPOTUS wasted no time attacking the NATO allies. He accused them of taking advantage of the U.S. He went hard at Angela Merkel, who is in the middle of an electoral challenge from the far right. He targeted her for allowing Germany to be “completely controlled” by Russia through its Nord-2 gas line. FEPOTUS hit Germany in its soft underbelly. The gas line is controversial in Europe.  His complaint is that the U.S. is taking a double hit: paying for NATO while the Russian Federation profits from the pipeline. But wait, didn’t he want us to be Russia’s friend? FEPOTUS wants to be Russia’s exclusive Sugar Daddy.

Thursday – Omission Accomplished

The NATO summit ended with FEPOTUS declaring victory, pyrrhic like the one over North Korea, which recently called his administration gangsters. He announced that the NATO allies would increase spending. Like all of his “deals,” this one is short on details. There was no agreement as to what, when and how much the allies would spend. He also proclaimed his belief in the alliance, which only last week was “obsolete.” He was disturbingly silent on the issue of cyber-warfare, a global concern and concurrently the subject of Congressional hearings. Not that there is any action plan of course.

Friday – Strzoking Out

Like any good novel, this week’s loose threads pulled together in the last chapter. The leading event of the day was the appearance of Peter Strzok, the disgraced FBI deputy chief, before a joint meeting of the House Oversight and Judiciary committees. Strzok opened with a statement attacking the GOP for taking his text messages out of context and for demonizing him and pouring abuse on the FBI.

Strzok mentioned candidate Trump’s vilification of the gold-star parents of a Muslim officer killed in defense of the country as being the impetus for the exchange of remarks with Lisa Page, a colleague and paramour.  He recalled that the event was appalling to many Americans and was expected to torpedo the Trump candidacy.

The texting occurred at a time when people still thought that Trump would and could blow himself up.  Even if Strzok wanted to put his thumb on the scale, he said, FBI checks above and below him would have prevented his doing so. Like many other public officials, he had a strong negative reaction to candidate Trump over several of his abhorrent remarks. Many others made public remarks, which were put into the record by one of the Democratic members of Congress.

“My presumption [was] based on that horrible, disgusting behavior that the American population would not elect somebody demonstrating that behavior to be president of the United States,” Strzok said.

Many of the GOP members of Congress, who had been kicked upstairs into the House  after mediocre careers as prosecutors, used the hearing to flash their cross-examining skills on Strzok. Things got ugly early. Retiring Rep. Trey Gowdy, in full dudgeon from the start, made his disdain clear, saying that he did not give a damn what the witness appreciated. Representative Louis Gohmert from Tyler, Texas, brought on the hearing’s lowest moment, in accusing Strzok of perjury.

“When I see you looking with a little smirk, I wonder how many times did you look so innocently into your wife’s eyes and lie to her about Lisa Page,” Gohmert said.  The room exploded in denunciation.  One member of Congress declared Gohmert fit for an insane asylum, and another said that Gohmert needed medication.

On the other side of the pond, FEPOTUS was ripping embattled Prime Minister May for screwing up Brexit.  She did not take his advice, he puffed. London protests were so large and impassioned that the meeting was moved to Blenheim Palace, in the Oxfordshire countryside.  The Queen agreed to meet with FEPOTUS, but not before a robust discussion with her personal secretary. It was agreed that one of Her Majesty’s Corgis having a kidney stone attack was not a “proper excuse.”  After his unwelcome reception in England, formerly known as England, FEPOTUS jetted off to one of his UK properties, the Turnberry golf course, to spend a weekend among Scots, who loathe him. This gave him a weekend to practice squats for his supplication to Putin in Helsinki.

Against this backdrop, Special Prosecutor Mueller filed an indictment, this time against twelve Russian members of the GRU (KGB) for their roles in hacking 2016‘s election.  The indictment was packed with detail.  In fact, it was the subject of Monday’s chat between FEPOTUS and Rosenberg. In view of these new charges, the conventional wisdom was that FEPOTUS should scrap the meeting with Putin, which advice he ignored.

The latest indictment pleaded that one congressional candidate knew about the hacking during the 2016 campaign and asked to be let in on the dirt. If one congressperson knew, it is possible that many did.   One cannot help but consider if the Republican outrage shown at the hearing going on up the Hill had something to do with their complicity in Russian meddling. Several senior congressional representatives, Gowdy among them, have decided not to run again. There may be a blue wave coming but there will be some red rollers mixed in with it.

This revelation may also explain why Devon Nunes, FEPOTUS marionette, subverted his committee’s investigation, and he continues trying to throw sand in the gears.

Paragraph 44 has received the most fevered attention. It says:

Certain ORGANIZATION-produced materials about the 2016 U.S. presidential election used election-related hashtags, including: “#Trump2016,” “#TrumpTrain,” “#MAGA,” “#IWontProtectHillary,” and “#Hillary4Prison.” Defendants and their co-conspirators also established additional online social media accounts dedicated to the 2016 U.S. presidential election, including the Twitter account “March for Trump” and Facebook accounts “Clinton FRAUDation” and “Trumpsters United.”

Speculation is that “co-conspirators” refers to Roger Stone, one of FEPOTUS’S closest allies. He came up through the ranks with Roger Ailes, the late and unlamented creator of Fox News, and old Russia hand, Paul Manafort.

Kennedy: Did He Jump or Was He Pushed

We are a nation of Kennedys  too soon gone. Anthony, thirty-two years a Supreme Court Justice, retired last week under peculiar circumstances. He disclosed no illness or flagging mental powers. He had hired clerks for the October term. He had been an active participant in his final term, not an old man limping across the finish line. 

The Janus decision, undercutting the power of public employment unions on first amendment grounds, was followed directly by Kennedy’s terse statement, which offered no explanation for his abrupt leave-taking. 

Snipers have focused immediately on the relationship of the Trumps and Justin Kennedy, former head of private banking at Deutsche Bank. Recently, Deutsche had been punished heavily for money-laundering. Furthermore, it had loaned Trump a billion dollars to finish construction on buildings that were tapped out. Trump had to pledge other assets to collateralize the loan. 

There is no proof so far that Justin Kennedy was driving the financing. He may even had left the bank by then. The optics are bad but was there a problem?

Once a Supreme Court Judge has to explain – “I know how it looks” -it’s too late.  It could’ve been nothing more than 45’s passing comment to Kennedy about Justin at the State of the Union-“He’s a nice boy”- to start the poor bastard rolling and tumbling. Kennedy quit long enough before the Midterms that his successor could be seated before the polls opened: a done deal. 

Trump might’ve turned the screws . Kennedy had no other reason to go. It’s somebody else’s court but he was the judge most courted. As the swing vote, his support was pivotal to most of the decisions that electrified America in the last fifteen years.    

Down he went, leaving 45 with daylight ahead.  Kennedy left his legacy in unreliable hands for no apparent reason. 

So, did he jump or was he pushed?  

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