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Bill Owens: Confounding And Confusing Events 8/31/20

I was listening to NPR, last Thursday, as the Florida Commissioner of Education was interviewed.  He did a wonderful job of speaking the talking points, but when confronted with the tough questions he just simply rolled over those same talking points.  As an example, he was asked if a child tested positive in a classroom wouldn’t you have to test all the other children and the teacher, to which he responded “no”, because the teacher was standing at the head of the class, and when a follow-up question was asked about wouldn’t it be possible that the other children were infected, his answer was “no”, all they had to do was stay home if they had symptoms.    Obviously, if  one child tested positive, there is at least the possibility that they had been sick for some period of time and capable of spreading the disease and the other children wouldn’t know until they experienced symptoms. The logic of this is simply mind boggling. You choose your one-word description, I have chosen mine. 

One of the great American mysteries which was the disappearance of colonists in Roanoke, Virginia in 1587 and a new book claims to have solved the mystery.   The book asserts that when  Captain  John White  returned to the spot of the settlement from England, there was virtually no evidence of the colony other than a tree with the word “Croatoan” carved in it.  The author speculates that the colonists who had little in the way of supplies and food were absorbed into this native American tribe during the  years that White and a small group were away.  It does strike me that if that’s, in fact, what happened, why White did not go to the settlements of these native Americans and discover, at least some of the colonists still alive. I am not quite so sure the mystery is really been solved.  Then again, maybe DNA might help. 

The city of Danbury, Connecticut, after experiencing a tirade by the comedian John Oliver (who I don’t find particularly funny), which trashed the city, decided to take an innovative approach.  They renamed their sewer treatment plant in honor of him.  It is good to see people having a sense of humor and giving back, in kind, to those who harass them.  Kudos to Danbury.

The Republicans conducted their convention this week and POTUS spoke every night, to say that this is something different is an understatement.  No sitting President, nor candidate has ever done this before.  We assume that the President believes his personality to be such a magnet that it will dramatically increase viewership.  It should be noted he had a bad week last week with Steven Bannon being arrested on a Chinese billionaire’s yacht, COVID still going strong, millions unemployed, and of course, the Senate Intelligence Committee Report, which essentially confirms illegal activity in the last election by the Russians as well as a determination by a government agency that two persons serving in senior positions at DHS are illegally serving.  Of course, all of this is ignored by his supporters as one would expect, including our own Congresswoman, Ms. Stefanik, who was one of the lead cheerleaders when she spoke at the convention this week.  Of great interest was comparative viewership – D’s exceeded R’s daily and in the aggregate and Joe’s speech was watched by more than those watching Mr. Trump (even his supporters cannot stand to listen).  

The White House is pushing the idea that it’s Social Security Tax moratorium should ultimately be borne by the employer.  This means that the employer could be paying twice, the first time when the employee receives an increase in net take home pay because Social Security has not been taken out, and the second is when that sum must be paid presumably at the end of the year.  So much for Mr. Trump’s small business concerns.  We are still struggling in our business to understand what the rules are, and whether or not this is a mandatory action, nonetheless, it screams loud and clear – election year scam, again, to be borne by small business.  Where is Ms. Stefanik’s voice on behalf of her small business constituents. 

The fed announced a new strategy for dealing with the labor market as it attempts to bolster employment, that will place less emphasis on controlling inflation.  This is a major shift since the fed has had as a major tenet controlling inflation, and not so much on the workings of the labor market.  It will be interesting to see how this evolves over the next year or so, since this is not likely to change even if Mr. Biden is elected President.  Of course, the fed will continue its low interest rate strategy which, in reality, is part of its new strategy.

Both conventions are now concluded, and there was a striking difference between the tone in each.  The Republican convention was filled with Dooms Day warnings about the election of Joe Biden, while the Democratic convention was clearly anti-Trump, was nonetheless more positive.  It is completely disingenuous for the parties to accuse the other of bringing bad tidings as most of the convention advertising and general campaigning is in the negative, and has been now for many years.  Our Congresswoman has now joined the chorus, and although she attempts to create a façade when in the district of bipartisanship.  As I pointed out before, she is in the top 20% of conservative and pro-Trump voters in Congress.  This is not the voice of by-partisanship, nor reason. 

I was reading a George Will column in the Press Republican on Friday, in which he was discussing elections to the Yale Corporation, Board of Directors which is not particularly important to most of us.  As usual though, Mr. Will had some interesting insights that broaden this discussion.  He posed a question about how we are handling experiences that may, in fact, conjure up prejudice using the example of the Art-History Department at Yale, and its abandonment of a survey of European artists because it was simply a group of white men.  Although I understand taking down statutes that are offensive, changing terms that are offensive, etc., I think in many cases it would be more important, that we use these situations to educate us all, and to pose the tough questions.  We are not going to change racial prejudice unless we change the hearts and minds of all of us, and that really can only be accomplished by causing us to honestly think through our own attitudes and actions so that our behavior changes.  Might not police departments ask academy attendees to think about their reaction when they see a black, Hispanic or other minority engaged in an activity and what their responses are to that.  The situation in Kenosha when Kyle Rittenhouse walked down the street passed at least 3 police officers carrying a long rifle, at times with his hands up, would have been dealt with difficulty if he were black.  The denials by officials makes them appear foolish.  The officers on the scene should be reflecting on their actions and ask the tough questions. 

Employment numbers continue to bounce around with more than a million more claims for unemployment filed last week and a number of large employers – Coke, United Airlines and several others terminating thousands of employee’s.  On the flip side the stock market soars.

The Director of National Intelligence says no more in person briefings.  Looks like POTUS didn’t like last weeks Senate Report on Russia.  Our Congresswoman on the House Committee – silent.

Bill Owens is a former member of Congress representing the New York 21st, a partner in Stafford, Owens, Piller, Murnane, Kelleher and Trombley in Plattsburgh, NY and a Strategic Advisor at Dentons to Washington, DC.

The views expressed by commentators are solely those of the authors. They do not necessarily reflect the views of this station or its management.

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