Frantic Friday Reads: You Gotta Fight the Powers that BePosted: May 24, 2019
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.
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
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.
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?
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.
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.
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?