Frantic Friday Reads: You Gotta Fight the Powers that Be

Good Afternoon Sky Dancers!

Every day we become more aware of ways that the rule of law is being threatened in our country by today’s Republican Party and its leaders.  There is so much slipping away from the ordinary people in this country that it’s difficult to keep track of it all.

This study by the FED shows how the recently rising economy is doing anything but bringing every one with it  It’s deeply troubling as all leading indicators now point to a recession on the horizon and all Trump policies point to a huge push over the edge.

Amid what is likely to become the longest period of sustained economic growth on record, a new report shows that millions of middle-class and low-income Americans still aren’t on solid enough ground to weather a sustained downturn.

Since the Federal Reserve’s annual report on household well-being began in 2013, the survey (most recently of more than 11,000 Americans) has become a key measure of whether the benefits of the recovery have reached beyond the upper end of the socioeconomic spectrum.

Although this year’s report painted a positive picture overall, officials said, it identified underlying fragility and exposed pockets of distress. In line after line, the report lays out the everyday concerns that plague U.S. households.

Almost four in 10 people (39 percent) said they wouldn’t be able to scrape together the cash to meet a $400 emergency expense. Even without any sudden expense, about 17 percent of adults said they would miss a payment on at least one bill during the month surveyed.

More than 6 in 10 said losing their job would mean they couldn’t cover three months of expenses, even if they took out loans, sold assets or borrowed from friends and relatives.

Only 36 percent said their retirement savings are on track.

Almost a quarter of Americans skipped some form of medical care in the past year because they couldn’t afford it. Separately, 1 in 5 faced major, unexpected medical bills. About 4 in 10 of those folks were still carrying debt related to those bills.

The survey covers 2018, when the unemployment rate averaged 3.9 percent, the lowest since 1969, and the economy grew 2.9 percent, matching its post-Great Recession high. Average hourly earnings grew 3 percent, easily the fastest rate since the recession’s end. But those figures are broad national averages — if gains are going disproportionately to the wealthy few, trends among the majority of U.S. workers could be missed.

This is going on while the checked flag of recessions indicators is waving madly (via CNBC): “US manufacturing activity dives to more than 9-year low on trade war worries, survey shows”.  The only silver lining in this is it’s likely to take a huge bit of wind out of any Trump re-election sail.

U.S. manufacturer growth hit a multiyear low in May, the latest sign that the trade war may be slowing the economy.

The U.S. manufacturing PMI (purchasing managers index) was 50.6 in May, the lowest level since September 2009, according to results from financial data firm IHS Markit released Thursday.

“Growth of business activity slowed sharply in May as trade war worries and increased uncertainty dealt a further blow to order book growth and business confidence,” said Chris Williamson, Markit’s chief business economist.

U.S. overall business activity growth also faltered to a three-year low as the seasonally adjusted IHS Markit Flash U.S. Composite PMI Output Index dropped to 50.9 in May, indicating the slowest expansion since May 2016.

“The slowdown has been led by manufacturing, but shows increasing signs of spreading to services…Trade wars remained top of the list of concerns among manufacturers, alongside signs of slower sales and weaker economic growth both at home and in key export markets,” Williamson said.

And then, there’s just general lawlessness and ignorance of the law going on right and left these days.  Here’s some of these headlines.

Axios: “Scoop: Trump’s plan to let adoption agencies reject same-sex parents’

Obama banned adoption and foster-care agencies from receiving federal funding if they refused to work with same-sex couples. Religious organizations have consistently bristled at that policy, arguing that they’re being forced to contradict their beliefs.

  • Administration officials said the White House is weighing two options: either rescinding those rules altogether, or adding an explicit exemption for religious organizations. 
  • The debate is mainly about which approach would hold up better in court, the officials said. A religious exemption seems to have the upper hand for now, but that could change

Washington Post‘He always brings them up’: Trump tries to steer border wall deal to North Dakota firm

President Trump has personally and repeatedly urged the head of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to award a border wall contract to a North Dakota construction firm whose top executive is a GOP donor and frequent guest on Fox News, according to four administration officials.

In phone calls, White House meetings and conversations aboard Air Force One during the past several months, Trump has aggressively pushed Dickinson, N.D.-based Fisher Industries to Department of Homeland Security leaders and Lt. Gen. Todd Semonite, the commanding general of the Army Corps, according to the administration officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive internal discussions. The push for a specific company has alarmed military commanders and DHS officials.

Semonite was summoned to the White House again Thursday, after the president’s aides told Pentagon officials — including Gen. Mark Milley, the Army’s chief of staff — that the president wanted to discuss the border barrier. According to an administration official with knowledge of the Oval Office meeting, Trump immediately brought up Fisher, a company that sued the U.S. government last month after the Army Corps did not accept its bid to install barriers along the southern border, a contract potentially worth billions of dollars.

 Brian Faler / Politico writes:   IRS could be forced to release Trump’s taxes in the heat of 2020

President Donald Trump’s bet that it’ll take years to resolve a coming court fight over his tax returns could be wrong.

Federal courts are already ruling quickly against Trump in his other attempts to block Congress. The Supreme Court could also be a dead end if the case doesn’t present new legal issues or divide appellate courts. That means there’s a decent chance the White House could lose the fight and be forced to hand over Trump’s tax records before the election.

“He’s gambling,” said Michael Stern, a former senior counsel in the House of Representatives’ Office of General Counsel. “I don’t think anyone would say that it’s impossible for there to be a final order for him to produce the tax returns by the middle of next year.”

That could potentially be disastrous for Trump and other Republicans by focusing public attention on the long-running mystery of what’s in his returns just as voters are heading to the polls — and would likely leave the GOP wishing Trump had ripped off the tax-return Band-Aid sooner.

It would also be ironic because Trump once criticized former Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney for releasing his own tax returns too close to the 2012 elections.

Pete Williams / NBC News: Trump doesn’t seem to understand what ‘treason’ means

 Once again on Thursday, President Donald Trump used the T-word, this time saying that former FBI officials who were involved in investigating his campaign committed treason.

Asked at a White House event which of his adversaries he had in mind when he accused them of treason, he said, “A number of people. They have unsuccessfully tried to take down the wrong person.” He then specified former FBI director James Comey, former acting FBI director Andrew McCabe, former FBI lawyer Lisa Page, and former FBI agent Peter Strzok.

“That’s treason. They couldn’t win the election, and that’s what happened.”

But that isn’t what the Constitution says treason is. It doesn’t mean being disloyal to the president. And it certainly would not apply to any actions against a private citizen, which Donald Trump was as a candidate for president

Remember the War Criminals that Trump Wants to Pardon?

Zachary Cohen / CNN:
Lawyer for Navy SEAL accused of war crimes also works for Trump Organization

An attorney for Navy SEAL chief Edward “Eddie” Gallagher also represents the Trump Organization, CNN has learned, just days after reports surfaced indicating the President is considering pardoning Gallagher of charges that could constitute war crimes.

Gallagher faces a slew of accusations connected to violations of military law while he was deployed to the Iraqi city of Mosul in 2017, including premeditated murder in the stabbing death of an injured person in Iraq. He has pleaded not guilty.

Trump Organization lawyer Marc Mukasey started working on the case in recent months, according to sources familiar with the situation.

Former NYPD Commissioner Bernard Kerik, a former business partner of Trump ally and former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, also is helping with Gallagher’s case. Kerik, who once served three years in federal prison for charges including tax fraud and lying to officials, was nominated as homeland security secretary by President George W. Bush but withdrew from consideration due to potential tax violations.

He has regularly appeared on Fox News as a surrogate for the President.

New York Times:
Trump Officials Prepare to Bypass Congress to Sell Weapons to Gulf Nations

The Trump administration is preparing to circumvent Congress to allow the export to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates of billions of dollars of munitions that are now on hold, according to current and former American officials and legislators familiar with the plan.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and some political appointees in the State Department are pushing for the administration to invoke an emergency provision that would allow President Trump to prevent Congress from halting the sales, worth about $7 billion. The transactions, which include precision-guided munitions and combat aircraft, would infuriate lawmakers in both parties.

They would also further inflame tensions between the United States and Iran, which views Saudi Arabia as its main rival and has been supporting the Houthi rebels in Yemen in their campaign against a Saudi-led military coalition that includes the United Arab Emirates.

American legislators from both parties remain incensed by the Trump administration’s equivocal response to the grisly killing last October by Saudi agents of Jamal Khashoggi, a Washington Post columnist and Virginia resident. They are also frustrated by the administration’s role in supporting the Saudi-led coalition in the Yemen war, a four-year conflict that the United Nations has deemed the world’s worst humanitarian crisis, with thousands of civilians killed and millions suffering from famine.

New York TimesTrump Gives Attorney General Sweeping Power in Review of 2016 Campaign Inquiry

President Trump took extraordinary steps on Thursday to give Attorney General William P. Barr sweeping new authorities to conduct a review into how the 2016 Trump campaign’s ties to Russia were investigated, significantly escalating the administration’s efforts to place those who investigated the campaign under scrutiny.

In a directive, Mr. Trump ordered the C.I.A. and the country’s 15 other intelligence agencies to cooperate with the review and granted Mr. Barr the authority to unilaterally declassify their documents. The move — which occurred just hours after the president again declared that those who led the investigation committed treason — gave Mr. Barr immense leverage over the intelligence community and enormous power over what the public learns about the roots of the Russia investigation.

The order is a change for Mr. Trump, who last year dropped a plan to release documentsrelated to the Russia investigation amid concerns from Justice Department officials who said making them public could damage national security. At the time, the president was being encouraged by a group of Republican Congress members to declassify the information.

Mr. Barr, who has used the word “spying” to describe how the Trump campaign was investigated, has been deeply involved in the department’s review of how intelligence was collected on the campaign. Mr. Barr has told Congress that he personally authorized the review. While he has asked John H. Durham, the United States attorney in Connecticut, to spearhead it, a Justice Department official said that Mr. Barr has personally met with the heads of the intelligence agencies to discuss the review and that the project was a top priority after the release last month of the special counsel’s report.

Are we winning yet?

Have a good weekend Sky Dancers!  What’s on your reading and blogging list today? 

 


24 Comments on “Frantic Friday Reads: You Gotta Fight the Powers that Be”

  1. bostonboomer says:

    We’d better hope some whistle blowers start coming forward from CIA and FBI or we’re going to be a wholly owned subsidiary of Russia.

  2. dakinikat says:

    • NW Luna says:

      These “Fact Checks” could be far more efficient. Just write “Tump Lied About Everything Again.”

  3. Pat Johnson says:

    Frankly, who is going to stop him from doing any of those actions that trouble the rest of us?

    From where I sit, no one. He has the GOP in his pocket. The GOP Senate is wholly owned by him. The DoJ just became his personal field of attorney’s. The SC is stacked in his favor. His rotten base is still swooning. His canine will never invoke the 25th amendment. Fox News has him covered. And now Mueller has decided that he will not testify in public where we can at least hear of his crimes close up.

    Like it or not this is “Trump Nation” now and there is not a damn thing we can do about it.

    This is how bad it is.

  4. dakinikat says:

    I’m not sure what to think of this …

    • NW Luna says:

      Hmmm, I think it’s a good law. I went to the ref (AL.com) in that Hill link:

      Alabama lawmakers pass bill to end marriage licenses

      The legislation came in response to the legalization of same-sex marriage by the U.S. Supreme Court in 2015. In Alabama, some probate judges stopped issuing marriage licenses four years ago because they did not want to sign same-sex marriage licenses.

      Under the bill that passed today, couples wanting to get married would submit to the probate judge a form that includes an affidavit saying they meet the legal requirements of marriage and the probate judge would record that as the official marriage document. The House passed the bill, by Sen. Greg Albritton, R-Range, by a vote of 67-26. It had already passed the Senate. Probate judges in some counties are still not issuing marriage licenses. The current law does not require them to issue licenses, but says they “may.”

      Under Albritton’s bill, probate judges would be required to accept and record the official marriage documents. “It allows everybody in the state now to go to their local courthouse, or wherever, to accomplish this without traveling somewhere else, which is the intent of the law,” Albritton said.

      The bill also would end the requirement that a marriage be “solemnized” by a minister or another person qualified to do so. Albritton said he thought it was appropriate to separate that religious component of marriage from the state law.

      Among those voting against the bill today was Rep. Neil Rafferty, D-Birmingham, who is gay and married his partner of 15 years in December.

      “I feel like while in and of itself it is not prejudiced, I feel like it was born out of prejudice though,” Rafferty said. “That’s just kind of my ultimate feelings, why I ultimately couldn’t support the bill, even though in and of itself it does create a system that treats everyone equal before the state.”

      WTH? A gay married man doesn’t like it because it treats everyone equally and isn’t prejudiced? Makes no sense. I like that it no longer requires that a marriage be “solemnized” and so it get rid of the religious requirement. I’m mind-boggled that it even was a requirement! It sure isn’t in my state (thank the goddesses!). Alabamians can always have a marriage ceremony with their gawd’s representative if they so desire that — it’s not like this new law prohibits it.

  5. dakinikat says:

    • NW Luna says:

      My thoughts exactly about Mueller’s weak excuse of no wanting a political “spectacle.” He’s either timid, blackmailed, or has stupidly idealistic views (though how he could after writing his report I do not know).

      • quixote says:

        I’m not so sure about this. He’s fine with his words being public, hence publish the whole transcript. Without visuals it would cut down on the whole media circus. It would stop them from playing the same gotcha phrase a million times on infinite loop. It would reduce grandstanding by Congresscritters. It would force people to pay attention to what he said because there wouldn’t be anything else. … I think?

        It might actually be a very good idea. Or am I missing something?

        • Enheduanna says:

          I like your point about the grandstanding Congresscritters – the GOPers are ridiculous. Also the extent to which we’re having to endure all these hearings is relentless. I honestly don’t know what’s best anymore – it all makes my head hurt.

          I think staying out of the limelight helps him maintain an objectivity that is crucial to accepting his findings.

        • bostonboomer says:

          Remember, he’ll be making an opening statement in public; and there’s no time limit on the statement. He could go on for an hour if he wanted to.

  6. NW Luna says:

  7. NW Luna says:

    Celebrate!