Forecast 2019: Ding Ding ! Margin Call USA
Forecast 2019: Ding Ding ! Margin Call USA by James Howard Kunstler
Welcome to the American hall of mirrors… and mind the broken glass all over the floor. That’s Nature’s way of saying the country has run out room to punk itself. 2018 was the consolidation of bad faith in everything we do: politics, the news media, economics & finance, show biz, regular biz, jurisprudence, medicine, education, and relations between men and women — the year of peak dishonesty and self-deception. Of course, the trouble with dishonesty is that it doesn’t comport with Reality, and Reality being Mother Nature’s husband, bats in the cleanup position. Entering 2019, the bases are loaded with delusions, misdirections, and turpitudes. I shall get right to it without further throat-clearing.
The nation’s focus remains clamped to mercurial character in the White House. If you subscribe to Strauss and Howe’s theories about The Fourth Turning, then you might see president Donald J. Trump playing the archetypal role they call “The Gray Champion,” an elder figure of the “transcendental” Boomer generation sent by fate to rescue a floundering society at a grave moment in the seasons of history. Yes, I know: we might have been better off calling Ghostbusters. A cardinal precept at this blog is that fate is a trickster. You order a Gray Champion and room service sends up a Golden Golem of Greatness.
To put it mildly, Mr. Trump has failed to charm at least half the country. They are embarrassed at his physical presence: his lumbering gait, like unto a behemoth land mammal of the Oligocene; that swaying bay window stomach half-concealed by the flaps of his suit-jacket and bisected by the oddly elongated necktie; the pained smile he puts on for the photo-ops; his man-spreading when seated with the world’s poohbahs, and that strange confection of sculpted hair, like the spun sugar on a Croquembouche, or the pouf on some horrifying plastic dashboard figurine. His manner of speech, the weird, palindromic repetitions, the childish artlessness of his casual utterances, the absence of Beltway focus-group cant, and of course the reviled Tweets — drive his opponents up a tree. The gilt-plastic trappings he surrounds himself with also offend them. For all I know, they hate his cologne, too.
His adversaries say he is “undermining institutions.” By this perhaps they mean the beloved DC gravy-train of regular institutionalized grift divvied up between elected officials, Wall Street, the War-and-Intel matrix, and the unholy infestation of lawyer-lobbyists slithering around the Swamp. Just look what happened when Mr. Trump threatened to end US military operations in Syria: apoplexy among the Neocons and Progs-for War — though none of them could coherently state what our strategy is there (is it to overthrow Assad so we can have another failed state in the Middle East?). Whatever Trump proposes in the way of policy is inadmissible because, according to the Resistance, Mr. Trump should not be allowed to propose policy, or order it, or direct it. Because he is… Trump….
Whatever you think of his agenda, Mr. Trump made the fateful mistake of bragging on the bubble economy that is now collapsing, and it will probably un-do him more effectively than all of the attempts to pin some actual crime on him by Robert Mueller. The Special Prosecutor has spent two years and has come up with little more than a handful of rinky-dink “process crimes” — mainly lying under oath, engineered by Mr. Mueller’s legal team and old friends in the FBI and DOJ after-the-fact. The Mueller investigation started with a false predicate — collusion with Russia — and entailed loads of prosecutorial mischief. We approach the climax of all that in early 2019. Mr. Mueller will issue his report before March. Maybe it will contain surprises, but the investigatory process involves so many people that it’s hard to believe no hints of any “bombshells” have leaked to the papers and cable news outfits. Rather, Mr. Mueller will depict a whole lot of nothing in the darkest possible light for the convenience of a house impeachment process, the holy grail of the Resistance, though the exercise is likely to fail if it gets to a senate trial.
But before that, there is the question of Mr. Mueller himself. My view is that Mr. Mueller has run a colossal cover-your-ass operation for the many documented misdeeds among the FBI and DOJ in cooking up this mess starting in the spring of 2016. His appointment in the first place was a gross error, considering his mentor relationship with James Comey and prior association with his putative supervisor, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein. RR remains in that position despite being a witness in matters pending before Mr. Mueller (and other regulators such as federal prosecutor John Huber and DOJ Inspector General Michael Horowitz), including the FISA warrant scandal, the Uranium One deal, and the tortured doings of the Hillary Clinton and her foundation.
January will kick off with the congressional extravaganza I’ll call Investi-Gate, as committees headed by Democratic chairs Gerald Nadler (Judiciary), Elijah Cummings (Oversight), and Adam Schiff (Intelligence) swarm the President and his associates like army ants on a drove of peccaries. They’ll haul in everybody and his uncle to keep the show going for their pals in the media. The star attraction will be Trump ex-lawyer Michael Cohen, though he will appear as a convicted liar. He may even defy the committee by not answering their subpoena before he has to report to federal prison in March. After all, Rod Rosenstein successfully defied more than one summons to congress for months on end. What will the House committee chairs do to Cohen? — threaten him with jail?
The house committee Investi-Gate circus is a sure thing, though, don’t forget, minority members can also call witnesses, and there is room for blowback on the venture. Republicans still chair the senate committees, and there may be a mud-fight between the two houses. Otherwise, expect a whole lot of grandstanding at the expense of paying attention to any of the nation’s serious business. Mr. Huber and Mr. Horowitz will also release reports in early 2019. Much of the recent criminal misbehavior in FBI / DOJ / Mueller orbit lies within their commissions. Abundant evidence has already been published concerning the conspiracy to defeat Mr. Trump by subterfuge in the 2016 election, and further illegal attempts to injure him in the years following. Some of the characters in this horror show have already testified to grand juries.
Gen. Flynn was sent to the doghouse by Judge Emmet Sullivan at his December sentencing hearing for the purpose of rethinking his guilty plea. The idea is to persuade him to go to trial and force Mr. Mueller to go through a discovery process (of evidence) that could easily derail Mr. Mueller’s case and reflect poorly on the Special Counsel, perhaps even lead to legal problems for him in the way of malicious prosecution. Gen Flynn’s case also resolves one way or another in March.
Finally, Mr. Trump will be free to declassify a trove of documents in all these matters after Mr. Mueller reports. Doing so prior to that might set up the president on an obstruction of justice charge. If there’s anything germane in those docs, they could change the whole dramatic arc of the story that took over two years to develop. There’s plenty of chatter across the web about Mr. Trump invoking martial law or declaring some kinds of national emergency, plus loose talk about military tribunals and “thousands of sealed indictments,” but I’m not persuaded that there’s any reality to that.
Politics That Maybe Matter
This country faces a lot of practical problems that are not likely to be addressed if congress is preoccupied with Investi-Gate, and depending on how ferocious the action gets in bear markets, currencies, and banking, which could alter the entire picture (more below).