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Confounding And Confusing Events 8/30/21

It appears with the FDA approval of the vaccines that there has been some initial indication that more people are willing to get vaccinated. This was a big stumbling block for many and hopefully vaccinations will increase. There has been more and more written providing complex scientific analysis of the variant and potential other variants. As the database grows about the variant and the impact of vaccinations, scientists are learning how to best attack this problem. Of course, new knowledge also causes confusion for the public which provides fertile ground for those against vaccinations and constitutionalists. Locally it does appear that we are seeing an increase in vaccine numbers at the various clinics which is always a good sign. I’d recommend Spencer Platt’s recent article in Vox News.

On the Cuomo front, Mr. Cuomo on his way out the door issued a pardon that appears to have enraged many people. Governor Hochul is holding her own Counsel at least for now, and is determining how to respond, if at all. The headlines, as usual, paint a very negative portrait, however when you read the full story you see that this man was the only one left who was still incarcerated for this crime whereas all of the surviving participants had in fact been paroled. This is another one of those situations in which unfortunately the headline and the reaction politically needs a little more in-depth analysis to determine exactly how one should respond.

Back to Afghanistan. The withdrawal continues and the commentary cascades. It is difficult to assess when you do not have all of the necessary intelligence and other information and thus, I have been trying to listen to people who actually have information and experience as opposed to the talking heads on either side of the aisle. It appears that the consensus among those who have the background and some information is that no matter when this process started it would have turned chaotic. The examples given include if we had started a month ago, and advised that we are going to begin this extraction process that the Taliban simply would have allowed it, this assumes they would have sat and waited. It is clear in retrospect that in fact there were plans to handle the evacuation process in place by the U.S. military otherwise what has happened in the last several days of tens of thousands of people being extracted and planes being at the ready would not have occurred. There is, in my view, no way in which this could have been done “well” as we are facing an enemy that is relentless and ruthless, and one that it appears, has the backing of at least a substantial number of Afghan citizens. Ultimately the Afghan military and government failed everyone and bear the brunt of the blame. It also appears U.S. Intelligence failed to properly assess their capability and willingness to fight.

As this story progressed this week the devastating bombing was responded to with at least 2 deadly attacks on Taliban leadership.

It appears in reports that the Taliban are actually experiencing resistance in some parts of the country that is armed and pushing back strongly against the Taliban. There have been numerous demonstrations throughout the country particularly by younger people who object to the Taliban rule. All of this may point ultimately to a more balanced government particularly when one takes into account the fact that the Taliban are really an amalgamation of factions and not a well-organized structure although they seem to be able to mount significant military campaigns. Governing, however, is different than rebellion and insurgency, so there may be a glimmer of hope here that out of this will come in the next 6 months or so, a coalition government that may be able to actually run the government for the benefit of the people.

The U.S. Court of International Trade recently announced that it was doing away with a rule that allowed for challenges to tariffs, particularly in the lumber arena, which had been a device utilized by many Canadian exporters of lumber to the United States to challenge, and in many cases, rid themselves of the tariffs. It is an unusual move, but it appears that with the softwood lumber wars continuing, that the U.S. government is looking for ways in which to put more pressure on imports from Canada. I have indicated in previous commentaries this makes absolutely no sense from so many levels including the fact that lumber prices had soared, are now dropping, however tariffs only increase prices in the U.S. Even if eliminating tariffs would have some negative impact on U.S. softwood lumber producers, they represent a small segment of the economy. The second issue of course is Canada’s long-standing relationship with the Unties States at many levels including their participation as our allies in Afghanistan.

Chairman Powell indicated this week in his remarks that the Fed in attempting to balance COVID and the economy and is rethinking the issues related to its Easy Money Policy and that it may take several more months than originally contemplated to begin backing off.

The Supreme Court on Thursday also struck down the CDC eviction moratorium. In my view that moratorium was shaky legally and made more so by the fact that it essentially deprived landlords of due process since it allowed tenants to self-identify or even worse not even have to establish any hardship. It is certainly understandable that one might find a reason for those having hardships such as being unemployed, illness, etc. that was provable to be exempt from the evection process, but a blanket approach I think is offensive to anyone’s sense of due process. The Supreme Court earlier struck down portions of the New York ban, but again focused in my view, on the due process aspects of it for landlords. There is always a difficult balancing act and in the early days of a pandemic level event when none of us knew exactly where this was going, this certainly was not unreasonable, but allowing it to go on for so long I think thrust it into the realm of the unreasonable relative to landlords.

The Canadian election moves forward with polls this week showing a toss up between Liberals and Conservatives, however, the NDP has also gained strength which makes a liberal leaning coalition likely as Conservatives will not be able to form a government.

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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