Old Howard Union

67 – Federal Officers in Portland & Executive Action, What is the Truth?

This past weekend federal officers in unmarked vehicles bearing no identifying markers, besides “POLICE”, descended upon Portland, Oregon to quell mass unrest, and detain protestors. The only question is – what is the truth? A tacit reading of both The New York Times and The Wall St. Journal point to two very different interpretations of the ‘facts”. While the former purports a beginning of a secret police, detaining without warrant, the latter describes federal officers responding in tandem to violence, detaining protestors and reading their Miranda rights. So what is going on and what does it have to do with the Presidents recent executive orders?

Show Notes

Please note – If you use news articles for your research and your sources are behind paywalls.

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  1. Federal Agents Headed to Chicago, Elsewhere in Attempt to Reduce Violent Crime https://www.wsj.com/articles/federal-agents-headed-to-chicago-elsewhere-in-attempt-to-reduce-violent-crime-11595357926
  2. The Mess in Portland https://www.wsj.com/articles/the-mess-in-portland-11595286956
  3. Trump Moves to Exclude Unauthorized Immigrants From Counts for Congressional Seats https://www.wsj.com/articles/trump-moves-to-bar-who-are-people-in-u-s-illegally-from-being-counted-in-congressional-apportionment-11595352083
  4. Trump’s Executive Order Calls for Limiting Federal Funds to States if They Can’t Protect Monuments https://www.wsj.com/articles/trump-signs-executive-order-to-increase-penalties-for-damaging-monuments-11593211631
  5. Trump’s Occupation of American Cities Has Begun https://nyti.ms/3eHOymV
  6. Trump’s Legal Authority to Deploy Agents to U.S. Cities May Be Limited, Experts Say https://nyti.ms/32IKvES
  7. Trump Seeks to Stop Counting Unauthorized Immigrants in Drawing House Districts https://nyti.ms/3fO7BO1
  8. Were the Actions of Federal Agents in Portland Legal? https://nyti.ms/30lFbEp
Old Howard Union

64 – The Economic Turmoil Today, and a Word on the Post Office.

The current crisis that has the United States and many nations around the world in a state of standstill has crippled the economic productivity of many communities. More importantly, the workers of the country are hurting in what may be one of the worst economic downturns in history. During this all, an old political rivalry between the President and the… Post Office?

Show Notes

Please note – If you use news articles for your research and your sources are behind paywalls.

~Right click on the headline and select “copy link address”

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~*Before* you hit enter add “outline.com/” BEFORE the https://. Then hit enter.

1. House Democrats Close In on New Stimulus Proposal https://www.wsj.com/articles/house-democrats-close-in-on-new-stimulus-proposal-11588851736
• The bill being drafted by Democratic leadership is expected to include more than $750 billion in aid to state and local governments, as well as another round of direct support to Americans, according to interviews with lawmakers and aides. Leaders also say they are interested in extending enhanced unemployment benefits, but haven’t provided specifics.
• Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R., Ky.) has taken a wait-and-see approach on new funding, after Congress passed more than $3 trillion in aid in a matter of months, responding to deep layoffs across the economy. He has called liability protections for businesses his central demand in new talks. Meanwhile, Mr. Trump is seeking payroll-tax cuts and other tax relief, an idea panned by members of both parties in Congress.
• She is calling for guaranteeing workers’ wages for three months, up to an annual salary of $100,000 a worker.
2. Claims Data Point to Record Wave of Unemployment https://www.wsj.com/articles/unemployment-benefits-weekly-jobless-claims-coronavirus-05-07-2020-11588813872
• WASHINGTON—U.S. workers have filed nearly 33.5 million applications for unemployment benefits in the seven weeks since closures were put in place to combat the coronavirus pandemic, showing a wave of layoffs that likely pushed April job losses to record levels.
• Recent layoffs are expected to cause nonfarm payrolls to fall by 21.5 million and the unemployment rate to climb to 16% in the April jobs report
• Thursday’s unemployment benefits data raise the possibility that the worst of virus-related layoffs are in the past, and that job losses will ease in May. Benefits applications filed for the week ended May 2 were less than half the peak of 6.9 million touched in late March. Before March, fewer than 700,000 claims were filed weekly in records back to 1967.
3. The Daily Shot: Nearly a Decade Worth of Job Gains Wiped Out in a Month https://www.wsj.com/articles/the-daily-shot-nearly-a-decade-worth-of-job-gains-wiped-out-in-a-month-01588844292
• According to the ADP private payrolls report, nearly a decade worth of job gains have been wiped out in a month.
• As we saw last week (#6 here), the US fiscal response to the pandemic has been much larger and faster than it was after the financial crisis.
4. North Carolina Businessman Tapped to Head the Postal Service https://www.wsj.com/articles/north-carolina-businessman-tapped-to-head-the-postal-service-11588818025
• The U.S. Postal Service’s governance board tapped a North Carolina businessman and Republican donor to be the next postmaster general, as President Trump seeks to push the organization to raise rates for package delivery.
• The coronavirus outbreak has resulted in plummeting mail volumes and the Postal Service recently predicted that the pandemic will add $22 billion to the agency’s continuing operating losses over the next 18 months.
• stimulus package authorizes the Postal Service to borrow up to $10 billion from the Treasury Department to fund operating expenses, and the group is currently in discussions with the administration over the terms of the loan.
• Mr. Trump has said he doesn’t want to authorize any lending to the Postal Service unless it charges more to deliver packages. The president has long complained that the Postal Service isn’t charging Amazon.com Inc. enough to deliver the products it sells to people all over the country. He has proposed that the Postal Service quadruple its delivery charges.
5. Unemployment Numbers: 3.2 Million New Claims as Layoffs Persist During Pandemic https://nyti.ms/3dmPk8L
• Economists expect the monthly jobs report from the Labor Department, due Friday, to show that the unemployment rate in April was 15 percent or higher — a Depression-era level. The figure will almost certainly understate the damage.
• Many businesses, particularly small ones, may not survive, while others are likely to operate with reduced hours and staff. The job search site Indeed reports that postings are down nearly 40 percent from a year ago.
• Most Americans remain uneasy about reopening, with 67 percent saying they would be uncomfortable going into a store and 78 percent saying they would be uncomfortable eating at a restaurant, according to a survey that The Washington Post and the University of Maryland released Tuesday.
• So far, only 43 percent of the more than one million Floridians filing verified claims have begun to receive benefits.
6. Trump Says His Administration Is Talking to Republican Senators About Work Visa Issue https://nyti.ms/2yA9TzG
• Four Republican senators sent a letter earlier in the day urging Trump to suspend all new guest worker visas for 60 days and certain categories of new guest work visas for at least a year, until unemployment returns to normal levels.
1. US Consumer Borrowing Fell for First Time Since 2011 https://nyti.ms/2SMU1AK
• U.S. consumer borrowing fell in March for the first time in more than eight years, with the category covering credit cards dropping by the largest amount in over three decades, the Federal Reserve reported Thursday.
• Consumer borrowing declined by $12 billion in March, the first time overall debt has fallen since August 2011, according to the central bank. The decline in percentage terms was 3.4%.
• Borrowing in the category that covers credit cards dropped by $28.2 billion or 30.9%, the biggest percentage decline since January 1989.Borrowing in the category that covers auto loans and student loans was up $16.1 billion or 6.2%.
7. US G.D.P. Declined in First Quarter, With Worse Economy to Come https://nyti.ms/3aPRXhM
• U.S. gross domestic product, the broadest measure of goods and services output, fell at a 4.8 percent annual rate in the first quarter of the year, the Commerce Department said Wednesday. That is the first decline since 2014, and the worst quarterly contraction since 2008, when the country was in a deep recession.
• Widespread layoffs and business closings didn’t hit until late March in most of the country. Economists expect figures from the current quarter, which will capture the shutdown’s impact more fully, to show that G.D.P. contracted at an annual rate of 30 percent or more, a scale not seen since the Great Depression.
• The Congressional Budget Office last week released projections indicating that the economy will begin growing again in the second half of the year but that the G.D.P. won’t return to its pre-pandemic level until 2022 at the earliest.
• With each month of unpaid bills and rock-bottom sales, more businesses will go bankrupt or decide not to reopen. More workers will drift away from their employers, turning temporary layoffs into permanent job losses. More loans will lapse into delinquency, endangering banks and the broader financial system.
• Those consequences have led President Trump and other elected officials — particularly Republican governors in states with relatively few coronavirus cases — to push to reopen the economy as quickly as possible. Several states have started to do so, and others, including large ones like Texas and Florida, will begin to at the end of the month.
• But economists and epidemiologists say moving too quickly threatens both public health and economic growth.

Transcript

Writing

Piece 49 – Damn the Iran Deal, The West Should Not Give An Inch By. Raimondo Graziano

Damn the Iran Deal, The West Should Not Give An Inch

By. Raimondo Graziano

 

The United States has been known from time to time to wage wars based on the premise of regime change. That of toppling governments that do not align with the views of the United States based on the followings premises- antipathy toward democratic values that the West as a whole holds close to its heart, violent and virulent actions taken against the people of whatever nation it may be, and when the national security interests of the United States are jeopardized. In this The United States is acting on the right side of history, not only for it’s own sake but for the sake of the West as a global institution responsible for the longest sustained peace in history, democratization for the vast portions of the people of the world, and for the unleashing of sheer human potential.

As the first among equals, the United States holds the unique responsibility of ensuring peace across the world and the continued dominance of the West as the captain of the ship dubbed human history. With that stewardship comes harsh realities and sometimes even harsher choices. We have had leaders who would defer these responsibilities and we have had leaders who have stepped up. We have had leaders that have done both at the same time. In some cases their decisions have been for the better and others for the worse, far worse. Perhaps the harshest lesson we can learn from history is that appeasement in the face of a belligerent, anti-democratic actor can lead to utter catastrophe. I need only say Neville Chamberlain, our good friend from across the Atlantic, who spoke of “peace for our time” referring of course to the chancellor in Germany, Adolf Hitler. Appeasement is the way forward for those who haven’t the stomach for the necessary task of confronting aggression wherever it may be coming from.

Whether they are motivated by domestic politics, the specter of reelection, or simply fixated on legacy building. Who doesn’t like the still quiet of peace? It is something that everyone can readily get behind. However, peace at any cost is never the answer. Today we face a similar threat, though perhaps we wouldn’t like to admit it. Iran is a rogue actor in the Middle East and has funded numerous terrorist organizations throughout the region and around the world, they have leadership both within their armed forces and politically that speak enthusiastically about the demise of Israel and the West. They threaten and intimidate Europe with their medium and short range missiles, saying they can increase their ranges to put the whole of Europe at risk. They have been accused, with evidence of pursuing nuclear weapons and with their coziness to rogue organizations, this is recipe for calamity. It is probable that they have attacked oil refineries in the region, they have seized a British tanker and have refused to let it go, while the British have released their own, which was seized in the first place for violating sanctions rightfully slapped on them.

The JCPOA or the Iran Deal as it is referred to was a hardly fought diplomatic effort which in the end did not guarantee that the nation would not seek nuclear weapons, nor was their any provisions regaridng their human rights abuses or their funding of extremist groups – it simply put a cap for a number of years, and in return sanctions were lifted and their capital frozen from the sanctions, measuring in the hundred billion dollar range was released to them. Not to mention no addressing of the short range or medium range ballistic missiles. All in all it punted the issue down the road for some other administration to deal with while our esteemed politicans had praise heaped on them by the mainstream media for their efforts at securing peace. This was not peace, this was appeasement. Now the current administration has pulled out from the deal, rightfully. Iran has begun enrichment once more and has stepped up their dangerous and reckless behavior in the region once more using the Strait of Hormuz, where a large portion of the worlds oil supply moves through, hostage – using it as a bargaining chip or an overt threat more aptly put. They have effectively signaled their unwillingness to comply with the accord, and they stick to it in nothing but ink on paper. Lest they forget that the deal has other signatories, they care not for the deal or they would adhere to it regardless of the United States’ involvement.

The harshness of sanctions is the right path forward, a pressure campaign meant to cripple their capabilities to continue to sow discord throughout the world. Their behavior cannot go unchecked and it is the United States who has the heavy burden of leveling these actions, holding them accountable. This will give the United States no great honor or accolades from the international community nor support from our European allies who are poised to lose the most should Iran continue its belligerence. They would rather appease further and undermine the United States and its diplomatic efforts. Sanctions may be a harsh tool, but they are a diplomatic tool, a bludgeon, nonetheless. France today is offering an aid package to Iran to account for the lost revenue from oil Iran has suffered because of the sanctions. The aid package would effectively blunt the blows The United States needs to deliver to secure true and lasting peace. France, thinking itself the steward of the European Union, seeks to go the route of appeasement, just as Chamberlain, another steward of Europe, did nearly eighty one years ago. Less than one year later, the world was plunged in darkness. Damn the Iran Deal, let it whither and die the rightful death it deserves, the West should not give one single inch.

Writing

Piece 44 – An Open Letter to the President

 

            An Open Letter to the President

                    By. Raimondo Graziano

Mr. President, I have a few concerns regarding your actions and conduct during your tenure thus far as President of the United States. Your actions and conduct are oftentimes unbecoming of the seat in which you reside, from your consistent attacks on your political rivals bordering on accusations of treason against members of the opposing party to failing to honor and respect our cherished allies abroad. Then there are the attacks on the press for their, alleged unfair coverage of yourself.

Your berating of immigrants and rhetoric concerning migrants coming over the Southern border and dog whistling to a particular class of individuals who feel that the source of their economic anxieties comes from the stealing of jobs by immigrants – which the facts and the evidence say are false. You have politicized numerous institutions in our country and continue to do so through your actions, and through your rhetoric. You tell lies and half-truths near daily and work to undermine faith and confidence in government and openly defy the orders leveled by the co-equal branch of government – the Congress. The way in which you treat the power and stature of the executive branch is breathtakingly out of step with tradition, and you indeed push the norms of the Presidency to new heights often and readily without respect for tradition, the rule of law and the unspoken customs of our system of governance.

Myself and many Americans are indeed fed up with Washington, the inconsistency of Congress, and the sheer corruption that runs rampant in that degenerate city built upon the backs of the working class and home to the nation’s wealthiest elites – while surrounded by a city of poverty. Indeed, the United States and its citizens are tired of the establishment and the practices that it employs. You have a unique opportunity, or perhaps you had a unique opportunity to bring together the people of the country in their hatred of a system built to tear them down. You had the opportunity to expose the corruption inherent within our government and perhaps you have, though not how you intended. You have shown us corruption with your numerous cabinet appointments who bend the law and through your nepotism in regards to your family and your continued hold on your personal business.

What is perhaps most saddening though is the false hope that you have given to so many. Your populist message resounded with those who feel that they have been left behind. You are indeed a transformative figure in American history, and the effects your tenure in office will have on our people, the nation, politics and the world is still too young to be fully grasped – but you have changed things. You did break the back of the establishment; but only to enrich the wealthy and yourself, and the people that you perhaps, that you maybe care for will be the ones that will feel the effects of your misguided policies and actions. Your presidency is still young, and although there is much against you, and much that is valid against you, I cannot help but feel as though you, like those who you victimize and dehumanize, have been subject to the same treatment.

Perhaps in your own way you do care for the country, I only hope that in your remaining time in office you can better articulate these sentiments and work to bring this country together against those who would do us harm. Your actions that are good and that are in line with protecting American supremacy are overshadowed often by your disregard for the norms of office, and by your categorically antithetical to American ideals actions and statements. Maybe you can find the unique opportunity presented to you – that you could use your position of prestige and privilege to unite the country against those who would see us destroyed and those who would seek to enrich themselves. Perhaps such a change of pace is wholly impossible, or perhaps, you may change. Only time will tell. Mr. President not only is your own legacy on the line, but the lives of millions.

You can bridge these divides and it will be a difficult stairway to climb, but as you’ve said, nothing in this country, in America, is impossible to achieve because at the end of the day – all of us here, all of us, are Americans and we are imbued by our creator with a revolutionary spirit. There is no doubt you are a man with gall, a man who could give a damn about what anyone thinks of him, because why else would you behave like you do? That in and of itself is admirable, and something I’ve wanted in a President for some time. And although your critics would disagree, you too sir, are an American with this same capacity for revolutionary change and firebrand spirit. It is never to late to make amends and heal our divides, especially from your unique position as the President, and in no small part to the historic nature of both your candidacy and presidency.

Writing

Piece 43 – Tensions with Iran, A Turning Point By. Raimondo Graziano

 

Tensions with Iran, A Turning Point

By. Raimondo Graziano

In recent weeks tensions between the United States and Iran have reached a fever pitch. The relations between our nation and their own have always been strained, and we are, as is often the case, partly responsible for the situation that currently exists today. After all it is our deposition of their democratically elected leader, decades ago, that spurred on the revolution in the late 70’s. And it is the withdrawal of the United States from the JCPOA, negotiated under the former President and withdrawn from by the current, that has created both an air of uncertainty and a potential international crisis, regardless of the merits of the deal that was struck.

Now, nations have come to trade blows with one another in the past while limiting the severity of escalations, in many cases it is a ruse to bring one and the other to the negotiating table to hammer out differences. What is different now is the degree at which escalations are increasing, and tone with which this war of words is being wage has taken a sharper lean. One expects belligerence and bellicose rhetoric from the President of the United States, after all it is his way. Though for an internationally recognized moderate like Hassan Rouhani, it is an alarming escalation.

The door for diplomacy is closed in his words due to the ratcheting up of sanctions by the Americans, meant to cripple the Iranian economy. If the door to diplomacy is closed, what then? In recent weeks there have been attacks on oil tankers in the Gulf and in oil fields in Iraq, a downing of an American surveillance craft, an execution of an American prisoner and numerous other acts of aggression by the Iranians. We are perhaps stumbling into a war, whose reach and scope would be catastrophic. It is true Iran is the world’s largest purveyor of state sponsored terrorism. Our allies in the region are itching for a conflict to settle their own personal scores with the nation. Saudi Arabia and Iran are locked into a proxy war in Yemen over their numerous differences. Israel has threatened aggression before for their fear of annihilation of the state – a threat propagated by the Iranians themselves. It is obvious that conflict is in the air.

What’s troubling is not only the potential for miscalculation and careless loss of life, but the strangle it will have on global oil markets as the strait of Hormuz is a critical point in the infrastructure of global oil shipping. With more troops being sent to the Middle East to counter the threats posed by Iran, a regional power in its own right, the threat of war looms. It will not be like Iraq, nor Afghanistan nor is the conflicts context similar to that of the war of words between the President and Chairmen Kim. The nuances ate stark and the implications grave. Of course, we must push for diplomacy and engage our allies in this effort, but above all we cannot become hostage to Iranian demands and increasing belligerence on their part. From the threat of raising the threshold of production of material that could be used in the production of nuclear weapons, to the threats leveled at Europe to further test their ballistic missiles if they are not granted waivers from sanctions for trade.

The West cannot be held hostage and capitulate to the demands of a regime which seeks the downfall of Western institutions and the propping up of its own allies – the likes of Russia, China and other authoritarian regimes. Let alone the human rights abuses perpetuated by them. If we capitulate, then what is the West then but a vestige of a forgotten cause? With this in mind, we too have to keep a check on Saudi Arabia, our hopelessly convenient ally in the region on their own abuses and misgivings. The West must take a stand on all fronts. Diplomacy always, but prepared for any eventuality. We must move forward with caution and resolve.