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Confounding and Confusing Events 10/25/21

In an ominous sign, China and Russia are conducting joint navel drills in the waters off Eastern Russia and China, primarily in the Peter the Great Gulf. This joining of military forces is potentially symbolic of a closer alliance between the two main military powers other than the United States. Given the actions of China towards Taiwan and Japan, it is clear that China, and now Russia, are likely to be more aggressive in the Pacific which is problematic and may portend generally for greater joint activity which we will have to be on high alert for. This has both military and economic consequences.

The University of Southern California has decided to issue honorary degrees to displaced Japanese students Nisci, which is the title given to children of Japanese immigrants who were prevented from finishing their studies by President Roosevelt’s Executive Order in 1942. It appears that the then President of USC was infamous for his anti-Semitism and the study of Eugenics, and apparently had an equally profound dislike for any other immigrant group. It is worth noting that, like most of us, he was an immigrant too from Europe. This is the least that could be done for people who were treated so abysmally.

Colin Powell passed away recently, and a headline generated by the Associated Press read, “Trailblazing General Leaves Behind Mixed Legacy of Service, Scandal”. We also learned that the statue of Thomas Jefferson was being removed from the New York City Council Chambers because of his ownership of slaves. This posits an interesting contrast. First, virtually every other news outlet did not lead with a headline with regard to General Powell which mentioned the issues related to the invasion of Iraq, but rather his accomplishments. What this points out to me is that virtually all of us have done good and bad things, and while it is important to know about the acts and omissions of leaders, to cast people out because of something which was common at the time, or that they believed to be acceptable, fails to take into account the good things that they did. I recognize that this may make me sound a bit conservative, but I think it is something we all need to think about, and we need to reflect on it in terms of our own lives, where I suspect most of us would find things that we would rather not have broadcasted to the rest of the world. And it is our history. Just saying.

Industrial production fell 1.3% in September from the previous month which had been revised from an increase of 4% to a 0.1% decline. Manufacturing fell by 0.7%, and motor vehicles and parts production by 7.2%, largely due to the shortage in chips. The overall third quarter numbers, however, were more positive with a rise of 4.3%, leaving a 5th consecutive quarter with a gain of 4 or more percent. The supply chain continues to be a problem, and accounts for much of the decline in production.

The U.S. Supreme court based upon the Court established theory that policemen cannot be sued for excessive force when confronting suspects, which is known as the Doctrine of Qualified Immunity upheld the dismissal of several lawsuits. The court specifically held “on this record, the officers plainly did not violate any clearly established law” and upheld the decision based upon prior precedent. I wonder if the Supreme Court will apply prior precedent (effectively upholding Rowe v. Wade) to the abortion cases which are currently before it and will come before it in the next term of the court. If there is a lack of consistency, it will raise serious questions about the Court’s integrity.

The UK’s trade data is flashing warning signs as the recovery from COVID is sputtering, and in large measure, exports are declining as exporters are finding it harder, slower, more expensive and more difficult to export. England before it terminated its relationship with the EU had many companies which garnered substantial revenue from their exports to countries in the EU which has 445 million consumers. The inability to ship freely has been costly because it has created reams of paperwork for British companies as they try and remain in the export game. For many, it means that their profits on those exports have essentially evaporated. When you add that to the supply chain bottleneck, as well as the shortage of truck drivers and gasoline, you can see a real problem emerging. Brexit may not have been a good idea.

A recent story in the New York Times indicated that three senior Democrats, John Yarmouth of Kentucky, Mike Doyle of Pennsylvania and David Price of North Carolina were retiring from Congress (not seeking re-election in 2022). All three of these members have served for many years, but expressed concern about the lack of bipartisanship, the strong pull of Mr. Trump and the potential for the negative impacts of redistricting. It is important to note that all three, although left of center, were not far off the center line, and certainly not in comparison to where the Democratic party is now going. The other factor is that these men also understood that there is a need to compromise, and practiced that art on a regular basis. The article pointed out that the moderates or the center is clearly disappearing, which is not a good thing for the country as a whole. By the way, I knew all three personally and visited with them on a regular basis each week that I was in Washington.

A group of dads at a Louisiana High School formed “Dads on Duty”. The basic premise is – who is better to protect their children than they are? Reports from students, faculty administration and parents all were filled with praise. The school is calmer, safer, and functions better. This required flexibility by all involved - a job well done, and worthy of emulation.

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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