Bill Owens: Confounding And Confusing Events 7/12/19

Jul 12, 2019

Several recent Supreme Court decisions have altered my opinion about the motivations of Justice Kavanaugh and Chief Justice Roberts.  Justice Kavanaugh overturned a conviction of a man who was prosecuted seven times before a conviction was returned by a jury that was ultimately sustained on appeal in the state courts.  The basis of the appeal was the systematic exclusion of black jurors, with Justice Kavanaugh writing the majority opinion in a 7-2 decision, he found that based upon existing law (precedent) that this was an unconstitutional activity by the prosecutor.  In my view, the key aspect of the decision was his reliance on precedent.  In the recently decided census question case and the gerrymandering case, Justice Roberts sided with the liberal segment of the court on the census question and with the conservative members of the court on the gerrymandering issue.  Many independents are saying that Judge Roberts is now the swing vote on the court, and that certainly seems to have some credence, and hopefully he does take up the mantel of Justice Kennedy if for no other reason than the integrity of the Court. 

A discovery of bones in 1858 has led to a number of revelations about the Neanderthals.  Most recently it has been disclosed that DNA from those bones connects them with hominins that lived much later and in different geographic areas, as well as an indication that these ancient hominins interbred with a number of related species.  Our family tree just keeps getting more confused, does yours? 

POTUS and the President of China met at the G-20 on Saturday, June 29th, under the cloud of the Chinese President’s previous statement that the Huawei sanctions needed to be lifted in order for there to be a trade deal.  Mr. Trump and the Chinese President agreed to restart trade talks with Mr. Trump apparently relenting, at least to some degree, on Huawei’s purchases in the United States.  It is unclear exactly what this means as no details have been released which has been an ongoing issue in these negotiations as 40,000-foot discussions dissolve into chaos when they get to the ground level.  It remains to be seen if Mr. Trump has again been outsmarted by the Chinese (and maybe North Korea as well) by relenting on Huawei, or whether or not the Chinese are serious in terms of trying to reach a compromise, which means the Chinese would have to give up something.  It has been reported quite frequently that the Chinese are reluctant to concede to American demands because of their tremendous positive impact those same actions have had on their economy and their people.  Hopefully, someone has an innovative approach that gets this done.  Mr. Trump also agreed to withhold further sanctions, and the discussions seem to indicate that Mr. Trump contemplated continued tariffs on the Chinese, which makes it hard for me to believe that the Chinese will agree.

On Fox News, “The Five” it was disclosed, admitted may be more appropriate, that if President Obama had contacted the North Korean President and gone into North Korea that they would have been howling about it.  This only tended to confirm what everyone believed about Fox News, and about MSNBC, this is not news reporting, this is pitching your side.  It will be interesting to see how MSNBC and CNN handle this disclosure, hopefully they will make the same admission.  Unfortunately, this candid admission makes watching these stations for news purposes totally ridiculous. 

Factory orders declined for the third straight month which is not a particularly good sign for the economy, particularly when you look at other economic factors.  Of interest, is, of course, recent polling which shows that Mr. Trump gets little benefit for a good economy, and one can only assume that if the economy tanks as we roll into 2020, that the consequences could be dire.

The British pound is weakening as the likelihood of Boris Johnston becoming Prime Minister grows which means a no agreement Brexit.  We haven’t heard much from Mr. Trump recently about a “quick” deal with the British on trade (our largest trading partner according to POTUS, but no one else), as I assume it is because all of the other trade deals he has been working, have gone so smoothly. 

The US is again confronting Canada about what is known as the Northwest Passage through the Artic.  The opportunity to utilize the Northwest Passage is, of course, occurring because of the melting of Artic ice which the current administration denies has anything to do with climate change or global warming, yet, they see this as an important economic issue and are attempting to utilize this shortcut between North America and Asia.  Canada has a long-standing claim to the Northwest Passage, but in May, Mr. Pompeo asserted that the claim was illegitimate.  The artic is governed by the Artic Cooperation Agreement, and Canada’s claim is based upon the fact that the passage is through 20,000 islands that makeup the Canadian Archipelago, as well as thousands of years of use by the Innuits.  The details are certainly complex and involve difficult questions of international law, but I raise the issue because it is another example of the US taking a shot at Canada, when in all likelihood, if the passage becomes operable, it will be operable to many nations including the United States.  Negotiation would be a good place to start, but that does not seem to be within the DNA of this administration.

President Trump met with the North Korean leader in a surprise move following the G-20 summit, shaking hands in the demilitarized zone.  Clearly, this is an innovative attempt by Mr. Trump to restart the negotiations, and we should all wish him luck. 

On the environmental front, a new report from scientists at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology claims that if we plant one trillion trees, we can substantially reduce carbon dioxide in the global atmosphere. Those countries with available space include the US, Russia, Canada, Australia, Brazil and China.  As the scientist point out, this is a very cost effective and non-confrontational way to have a positive impact on climate change.

POTUS claimed during his 4th of July speech that the Continental Army took over all the airports.  You heard me.  Must be fake news, but is it the statement or the reporting. 

Mr. Owens is a former member of Congress representing the New York 21st, a partner in Stafford Owens in Plattsburgh, NY and a Senior Advisor to Dentons to Washington, DC.

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