Monday, October 3, 2016

The Month That Was - September 2016

Sydney M. Williams

The Month That Was – September 2016

                                                                                                                                 October 3, 2016

“My favorite poem is the one that begins
‘Thirty days hath September…,’ because it actually tells you something.”
                                                                                    Groucho Marx (1890-1977)

“You can fool all the people some of the time and some of the people all the time,
but you cannot fool all the people all the time.”
                                                                                    Attributed to Abraham Lincoln (1809-1865)

Americans are fed up. They are incensed and demoralized. Government is dysfunctional. Free-market capitalism is under attack. The economy is limping along, with workforce participation at forty-year lows. Interest rates are at 5,000-year lows. The federal deficit is approaching $20 trillion, which does not include an estimated $4 trillion in underfunded public sector pension liabilities, nor un-funded Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, ObamaCare and myriad entitlement programs. Apart from a few legislators like Paul Ryan (R-WI), neither Party seems willing to address these coming, devastating train wrecks.

Police are called racists for doing their job. Our foreign policy has alienated friends like Israel and emboldened enemies like Russia, China and Iran. We don’t know which side we are on in Syria. Islamic terrorists continue to attack us and others. We saw Islamist-motivated attacks this past month in New York City, Sea Side Park, N.J., and malls in St. Cloud, Minnesota and Burlington, Washington. Yet politically correct Washington hesitates to call them by name, for fear of treading on sensitive Muslim toes.

The “Summer of Love” – 1967 in the Haight-Asbury section of San Francisco – was always a misnomer. Like today, many of those who then converged on streets in a haze of marijuana were angered. They didn’t like government insensitive to the treatment of Blacks and women. The Vietnam War was seen as a consequence of collaboration between big business and government. Anti-war protesters, many of draft age and from financially secure families, disrupted commerce and confronted and abused police.

Today, it is laboring Americans from the middle and southern parts of our country that are irate. They are sick of elites who have abused their positions – those that today populate big government, big law firms, big business, big media and big banks. In the 1960s, dissenters were called “hippies.” Today, they are “deplorables.” The word “hippy” derived from “hip” or “hep,” a term from the mid 1940s, denoting a person who was “with it,” often African-American jazz musicians. The word “deporables” stems from Mrs. Clinton’s recent characterization of the 50% of Trump supporters she claims are misogynist, xenophobic, Islamophobic, racist and sexist, a concept inherited from Mr. Obama, who said of those Pennsylvanians who did not vote for him in the 2008 primary that they “cling to guns, or religion...”

“Deplorables” descend from Richard Nixon’s “silent majority,” those he referred to in his August 1968 speech, when accepting the Republican nomination for President: “…the quiet voice in the tumult of shouting. It is the voice of the great majority of Americans, the forgotten American. They are not racists or sick; they are not guilty of the crime that plagues the land.” Today’s middle Americans are equally upset...and equally innocent. They may not be able to articulate all that is wrong, but they know the Country is not working as it should. They see decent men and women elected to Congress, promising to do good. And then they watch as they are sucked into the cauldron of corruption that is Washington. They see a tax code designed for the wealthy and powerful, and regulations written to protect favored industries and businesses. They see people like Trump legally benefit from complex tax laws, and others like the Clinton’s grow rich based on political connections. They watch politically-correct elites in Washington and the media fuss over gender-neutral bathrooms, while they struggle with inner-city violence, failing schools and a lack of good-paying jobs. They see lower level employees fired at Wells Fargo, while the boss retires with millions. They watch a supposedly unbiased moderator deliberately try to sway a Presidential debate.

…………………………………………………………..

Donald Trump may not be the ideal candidate to put the Country back on the track of political freedom, domestic and international security and economic opportunity, but at least he is not part of Washington’s elite. His supporters, this “silent” group, are likely more numerous than polls or media would have us believe. As for the ‘Debate,’ it matters not who “won,” because it was the American people who were the losers. On one side was a smug, mendacious woman and on the other a thin-skinned, narcissistic, ill-spoken man. One wants to keep us on the current path – a road that has made her rich, but that has done little or nothing for the people. The other promises change, but cannot explain what that entails. For voters, it has become a choice: the devil you know or the devil you don’t. The media hovers overhead, providing a smoke screen for Clinton’s transgressions, while portraying Trump as a maniacal buffoon.

Professional agitators, like Al Sharpton, take to the streets whenever there is a police killing of a young black man. Evidence serves no purpose to those whose narrative is that cops are evil and the system is racist. Last week the New York Times reported that the wife of the man killed in Charlotte, N.C. had sought a protective order against him a year earlier. Now, he is portrayed as an angel. There are educational, family, moral and cultural challenges facing inner-city children that have been ignored by authorities. Victimization raises the potential for financial rewards, which is why these modern-day ambulance chasers depart safe abodes for the streets of Charlotte, Philadelphia, Tulsa, Columbus, Pasadena and El Cajon. It is the Ferguson effect, led by anarchists like Black Lives Matter. It is not justice they are after; it is fame and wealth.

Elsewhere domestically, Hillary Clinton fell ill during a 9/11 ceremony, but then recovered to battle Donald Trump in the first Presidential debate. President Obama had his first veto overturned when Congress voted to permit victims of 9/11 to sue Saudi Arabia, as 15 of the 19 al Qaeda hijackers on that date were Saudi citizens. It will prove to be a Pyrrhic victory for Congress, as it will alienate relations, prompt other nations to sue us, provide income to a few lawyers, and do nothing for the victims and their families. Nevertheless, the bill passed 97-1 in the Senate and 348-77 in the House. Both the Clinton and Trump charitable foundations are under investigation, the first for “pay-to-play,” and the second for alleged violations of New York State law. Both foundations symbolize the divide, where the the rich and politically-connected play by different rules.

Overseas, John Kerry and his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov negotiated a short-lived ceasefire in Syria, between Assad’s forces and ISIS. It was broken a few days later when American planes were accused of attacking Syrian troops. Colombia, the second most populous Spanish-speaking country, and the drug cartel FARC agreed to “live in peace.” This comes after fifty-two years, 250,000 dead and more than 7 million people displaced. Mr. Obama’s “Pivot to Asia” has morphed into “Philippines pivot to China,” according to a Financial Times headline. Disgraced Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte left no doubt as to where Pacific power now lies: “China is now in power, and they have military power in the region.” North Korea tested its fifth nuclear weapon and its second this year. It raises the question: Where is China? At the UN, Mr. Obama gave his swan song, Iran’s Hassan Rouhani provocatively challenged the West, and Israel’s Benjamin Netanyahu sounded noble, brave, and alone.

At a G-20 summit in China, Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull warned leaders they must “civilize” capitalism, whatever that means. What the world needs is a revitalization of free-market capitalism. Warts and all, it has been the one system, along with trade, that has lifted people around the world out of poverty. Median household income in the U.S. finally returned to pre-recession levels; though, adjusted for inflation, it is still below income earned in 2007. Driverless taxis, on a pilot basis, made their appearance in Pittsburg. BlackBerry, once a household name in cellular technology, will no longer make smartphones. Bayer AG bid $66 billion for Monsanto. Two European companies, Sanofi and Henkel, issued notes with negative interest rates. Indicating that Wall Street is not the place it once was, Dealogic reported that revenues from U.S. equity capital markets were the lowest in 20 years. Deutsche Bank, Germany’s largest bank and the 11th largest in the world, was threatened with insolvency when the U.S. Department of Justice levied a $14 billion fine – an amount larger than the market capitalization of the bank.  (Suggesting that the demand was more political than appropriate, the DOJ quickly dropped the request to $5.4 billion.) The Federal Reserve passed on lifting rates. Crude oil prices were up 10% in the month, but gold was up less than a dollar. The yield on the 10-Year fell one basis point to 1.66 percent. Stock prices were flat to down, with the S&P 500 falling 2.68 points to 2168.27.

In tennis, Angelique Kerber of Germany won the U.S. Open beating Karolina Pliskova of the Czech Republic in three sets, while Stan Wawrinka of Switzerland beat favorite Novak Djokovic of Serbia in four sets. After twenty-two years in St. Louis, the Rams are returning to Los Angeles. Tim Tebow hit a homerun on his first pitch as a professional baseball player.

In other news, Mother Teresa was granted sainthood. Hurricane Hermine became the first hurricane to hit Florida since Wilma in 2005. Goldman Sachs banned its partners from contributing to politicians running for state office. Lloyd Blankfein, Goldman CEO and longtime Clinton supporter, must have decided that bribery should be limited to federal officials. Mark Zuckerberg and his pediatrician wife Priscilla Chan started a $3 billion initiative to “cure, prevent and manage” all diseases by the end of the century. Good luck on that. I hope it works. A commuter train smashed into the Hoboken station killing one and injuring over a hundred. Colin Kaepernick, the San Francisco quarterback infamous for kneeling with head bowed during the playing of the national anthem, has seen his jersey become become the number one seller in the NFL store. Woke(adj.), meaning to be aware of every civil and humanitarian injustice, was added to Dictionary.com, along with cisgender(adj.), which describes anyone not transgender. And I found myself in the odd position of rooting for Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), as she grilled Wells Fargo CEO, John Stumpf.

Shimon Peres, the last of Israel’s founding fathers, died at age 93. Peres helped Israel gain nuclear deterrence, to make less likely a second Holocaust of the Jewish people. Arnold Palmer, the man who popularized golf for the masses, died at age 87 of heart complications. At age 88, playwright Edward Albee (“Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf”) died. And conservative activist Phyllis Schlafly, at age 92, succumbed to cancer. Miami Marlin’s pitcher Jose Fernandez, age 24, was killed in a boating accident.   

Autumn is a beautiful season. Days are crisp, while nights are perfect for sleeping. Migrating birds provide an opportunity to witness one of nature’s great wonders; they fly south without need of our computerized navigation systems. Trees regale us with color before doffing their leaves ere a long winter’s nap. It is sad, in the midst of such wonder, to witness so much discontent when we should be calming our souls for the short days and long nights that lie ahead. Nevertheless, I know we will make it through and feel certain that better days lie ahead. I just wish I felt better about our choices in November. Anyway, on to October.

 


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