Good Friday Morning! I feel as though I make this comment regularly, but there is always a new story every few days in the Trump era. It makes picking writing topics easy because there is invariably something to discuss, but it’s tiring as a citizen.
The NFL protests and the Las Vegas shooter stories so consumed the media that another white nationalist rally in Charlottesville barely caused ripples. Those stories pushed out two weeks of constant hurricanes. And both those stories are fading while the Harvey Weinstein sexual harassment scandal engulfs Hollywood and the news media.
The best analogy I have for this is an ever-increasing set of waves crashing into shore. Instead of slowing down, the waves are coming faster and faster and collapsing on top of each other. In weather terms, if you saw this many waves on a beach with clear skies, you’d know a major storm was off-shore. I infer the ever-quickening news cycle in America portends the same. A storm is offshore…
I’ll begin this week with the Weinstein story, cover the most recent jobs report and an update on the Kaspersky story I noted last week. Links follow.
New this week at the Conservative Institute
My second syndicated column defends the Second Amendment. NYT opinion columnist Brett Stephens, formerly of the WSJ, wrote an op-ed on why the Second Amendment should be repealed. Stephens’s opinion is notable because he’s the token conservative columnist for the NYT (along with Ross Douthat) and he’s a highly regarded and gifted writer. I respond to him and explain why we need the Second Amendment. I see it as a bedrock principle of the American Founding, Stephens does not.
Harvey Weinstein: Fall of a Hollywood mogul who is taking News Media with him
The fall of Harvey Weinstein is something to behold. On October 5th, the New York Times and The New Yorker both published bombshell stories accusing Weinstein of paying off and covering up more than a quarter century’s worth of rape, sexual assault, and sexual harassment against a plethora of female celebrities, assistants, and employees.
For those that don’t know, Weinstein is a long time studio owner, power broker, and Oscar-winning Hollywood-producer. He’s launched the careers of multiple celebrities and donated millions to liberal politicians. His past and legacy speak for themselves.
The allegations are revolting and cover incredibly perverse behavior. Perhaps more revolting is not the man himself, but the culture his downfall reveals. TMZ reports his contract ALLOWED for sexual harassment lawsuits, his company expected the behavior and contractually built around it!
A question worth raising, and one that Brett Stephens goes into, is why did the story break now? I’m not questioning the victims; I’m asking where the journalists were this entire time. A story involving influential people, multiple cover-ups, spanning decades isn’t something that stays free of media attention. Hollywood celebrities, including the stars speaking now, joked about Weinstein’s behavior for DECADES (that link mentions a 1998 taping of Letterman where Gwyneth Paltrow jokes about getting harassed by Weinstein).
Weinstein’s fall from grace has revealed that: news organizations shut down and covered up prior investigations of Weinstein. The New Yorker, who broke the story with the Times, sat on this story for a YEAR. The New York Times had this same story written up by a journalist in 2004 and shot it down at Weinstein’s demands, along with several other Hollywood celebrities. The New Yorker only published the story after NBC News refused to run the story.
Weinstein built his platform and power through explicit aid from the news media and Hollywood. Which begs the question: If they were willing to cover up Weinstein, for who else are they covering?
Chris Hayes at MSNBC made an astute observation that I’ve been pondering myself: “Kinda wonder if Hollywood is staring down the beginning of a Catholic Church-style explosion of buried secrets…” With Amazon producer Roy Price (The Man in the High Castle) joining the list of suspended Hollywood elites for sexual harassment, I’m leaning towards, “yes.”
Remember, this is the same culture that hid Donald Trump’s Access Hollywood tape since 2005 and only aired it after he was getting close the November election. Sexual assault allegations destroyed Fox News Network’s entire lineup and the same news, and Hollywood elites pretended to be aghast. Now they will be judged by the standard they set for themselves.
The sad part: Hollywood isn’t mad or sad about Weinstein’s behavior – only that it was exposed. That suggests far more profound problems.
The September Jobs Report: The Hurrican Month
The September jobs report was the first notable jobs report in a while, if only because it was the first time the BLS has shown a loss of jobs since 2010. The September report showed the US economy lost 33,000 jobs, likely due to the impacts of Hurricanes Harvey and Irma.
I’m expecting the jobs number to get revised upwards eventually, or the October report to show a strong surge of employment. What happens during strong Hurricane seasons is that people can’t go to work, or their place of work is destroyed, which can temporarily deflate jobs numbers. CNBC had a solid note on this last point:
In August 2005, when Hurricane Katrina hit, payroll growth was just 67,000 in September but rose to 341,000 in November. Hurricane Charley in August 2004 saw payrolls gain 162,000 in September then 346,000 in October.
What is disturbing, however, is the jump in wage growth. As the WSJ notes, the rise in wage growth is also likely due to hurricanes:
Average hourly earnings for private-sector workers were $26.55 in September, jumping 0.45% from the prior month and rising 2.9% over the past year. The pop could reflect, in part, low-wage workers dropping out of the sample because they weren’t working due to the hurricanes. Wage growth has firmed since earlier in the expansion, but pay raises remain modest compared with historical levels.
The bulk of those losing work during this period was low wage hospitality and restaurant employees. Removing those employees skews the sample towards higher earners. Wage stagnation is one of the oddities of this recovery, while job growth has undoubtedly returned and exceeded pre-Great Recession levels, wage growth hasn’t bounced back.
Basic economics says that once your working population reaches “full employment,” that is everyone who wants work can get it, but the demand for employees remains high, it follows that wages should increase. To lure employees away from other firms, employers have to offer higher salaries and other incentives to pry away prize employees. America has reached full employment but is not seeing the wage pop that is supposed to come with full employment.
All that to say, that while the overall number of jobs in America is sound, it’d be a mistake to presume hurricane blips are nothing to ignore. The hurricanes shed an even bright light on the problem of wage growth and the problem that the recovery hasn’t encompassed everyone. There’s still work to do, even a decade after the beginning of the great recession.
Kaspersky is a tool of the Russian Government
Last week, I wrote about the news that Russians had used the Kaspersky Anti-Virus software to spy on and steal US Government secrets from NSA contractors. This week, we learned Israeli intelligence actively watched the Russian government using Kaspersky to spy on Americans:
It was a case of spies watching spies watching spies: Israeli intelligence officers looked on in real time as Russian government hackers searched computers around the world for the code names of American intelligence programs.
What gave the Russian hacking, detected more than two years ago, such global reach was its improvised search tool — antivirus software made by a Russian company, Kaspersky Lab, that is used by 400 million people worldwide, including by officials at some two dozen American government agencies.
The Israeli officials who had hacked into Kaspersky’s own network alerted the United States to the broad Russian intrusion, which has not been previously reported, leading to a decision just last month to order Kaspersky software removed from government computers.
We should expect the US Government to entirely ban the use of Kaspersky by all government employees and contractors. It wouldn’t shock me if this rule spread to all major US businesses and corporations. If you know the Russians are targeting US Government secrets, that means they’ll target private companies as well.
Best links this week
Trump’s Tweets Are Damaging the Republican Character – David French, National Review
How Do Americans Feel About The NFL Protests? It Depends On How You Ask. – Kathryn Casteel, FiveThirtyEight
America’s Many Divides Over Free Speech: A new survey explores the country’s views on hate speech, political correctness, Nazi-punching, job terminations for offensive speech, and much more. – Conor Friedersdorf, The Atlantic
Read Excerpts From Senator Bob Corker’s Interview With The Times – The New York Times
How Obama knee-capped his own health reform – Kimberly Leonard, The Washington Examiner
History as Tragedy and Farce: The Rise of Nationalism – Mark Malvasi, The Imaginative Conservative
Che in our faces and more: Guevara, Trump, Corker, Tillerson, Bannon, Stephens, Mozart, Pipes, and more – Jay Nordlinger, National Review
Satire piece of the week
U.S.—Since the shocking revelation last week of Hollywood boss Harvey Weinstein’s decades-long reign of habitual sexual harassment and assault on coworkers and associates, during which he allegedly paid off at least eight women to keep quiet about the abuse, a source close to the nation’s most popular late night hosts revealed that they are all so disgusted by Weinstein’s harmful and deviant actions that they refuse to even mention his name.
“Even though they lampooned people like Roger Ailes and Bill O’Reilly after similar allegations, what Weinstein has done is so grotesque and at odds with their values that they won’t so much as utter his name on their shows,” the source with direct access to Jimmy Kimmel, Seth Myers, Jimmy Fallon, Stephen Colbert, and James Corden said, adding that it is “utterly detestable” to them that one of the most powerful men in Hollywood used his immense wealth and influence to shame and silence his victims for three decades.
Thanks for reading